Friday, August 22, 2014

FatherGoof on Carpools in the Baltimore Jewish Times

In my real life, I am in the media fairly often. But, for the first time MSM has decided to turn to me as an expert of parenting. This article in the Baltimore Jewish Times quotes me:

“The combination of phone, email and text keeps my carpooling schedule in check,” says father of two Aaron Mannes. “My carpool involves several children in several locations. There needs to be a lot of technological communication going on to make it all work. Some of my biggest questions of the day include, ‘Do I take the minivan?’ and ‘Which child has a doctor’s appointment today?’”

“....Often, I’ll get an afternoon email from working parents asking if I can pick their child up,” he says. “I have run carpools where my kids are not even involved.”
Mannes shares his carpooling adventures in a parenting blog, “For Fathers Only.” Under the pen-name Father Goof, Mannes reveals the comical ins and outs of the everyday dad.
“I’m not going to lie; talking about carpooling is good material for a blog,” says Mannes. “I try to make it both funny and sweet. It is a great way to cap off my day.”
...As great as the new technological wonders are, fathers like Mannes joke about wanting more.
“Through technology, my children always know where I am,” says Mannes. “I am always getting texts asking how close I am, and I can tell them instantly when I am stuck in traffic. I am still waiting for the day when Google makes those self-driving cars. That would make my carpooling life so much easier.”
Read the whole article here.

Being cited in the Baltimore Jewish Times allowed me to conduct a little social media experiment: how long before the GrandGoofs (who live in Baltimore) would hear about this. Turns out, not long. A friend of my mom called within hours, "I saw your son was written up in the Jewish Times, wow! He's pretty famous!"

(Baltimore is kind of a small town.)

The truth is, I do carpool because I am the least gainfully employed and since I work alone, and find driving boring, I need to remain amused. Since I can't listen to my audiobooks in the car with the kids (they just don't care for Anthony Trollope or Makepeace Thackery) and I don't really listen to music, I amuse myself by badgering the children.

Here are a few popular tales from our carpool adventures:

Since our carpool partners are part-Canadian I try to use drive time to educate them about their heritage.

No story is complete without an archenemy, and my carpool foe is a particularly evil little boy I also have my Carpool favorites.

Here is one of my very first stories about carpool.

In the Name of Science
The truth is, that I view carpool as a long-term science experiment. I want to see how much craziness I can introduce to our carpool partners before they decide that carpooling with me is simply not worth it.

So far, it appears the threshold for my antics is very, very high - because if you've got kids, reliable carpool is worth its weight in gold.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Monkwatch! Our Summer Camp Game

Over the summer, when the little Goofs aren't at sleep-away camp, on a family vacation, or lounging around the house binge-watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch (thanks Amazon Prime!), they go to a regular summer day camp.

Day camp is the worst part of their summer, but these things are relative of course - their summer camp is awesome with a combination of low-key sports, creative activities, and just general horsing around. The little Goofs go to Jewish Day School and attend a Jewish sleep-away camp so there is a fair amount of overlap in the kids going. At their day camp they have a whole different set of friends who - shockers - aren't Jewish.

Once I asked GoofBoy about staying in touch with his camp buddies during the year. He was philosophical. "Dad, when I have a friend over we hang for about five hours. But at camp, I hang with these guys for eight solid hours. This isn't like school where we have stuff to do and only hang at lunch. This is camp, we just play and goof off the whole time! So that's like 160 hours, a year of hang-time. Except for maybe Carpool Buddy, I don't see any of my year round friends that much!"

I've said it before, I'll say it again, the kid isn't just smart, he's wise!

Many of their friends go to all kinds of specialty camps for basketball, robotics, you name it. Part of me worries that my kids are falling behind not getting these intensive courses. But on the other hand, they would want separate courses which means extra driving for me. Fortunately, they've rendered the point moot. They want to keep going to their regular summer camp. Why mess with a good thing?

Regular camp has regular overnights. Part of me should be upset that after four weeks away from home, the little Goofs cannot wait to go on the overnights. Is it because home life is so terrible they can't wait to escape it? I don't worry too much about it. After spending a big chunk of the summer completely on my own, I was not thrilled to suddenly have all these people in my house again.

The regular summer camp has an interesting feature, it is next to a Buddhist Center and as we drive in we occasionally see monks in flowing orange robes. They are exotic and inspiring figures, so I instituted Monkwatch - where we try to spot monks. The kids also play when MamaGoof drives, but she doesn't care - it's kind of a daddy thing, I get pretty bored driving carpool.)

Many days there are no monks to be seen. But some days we see one meditating outside. Often there is a monk clearing out the back parking lot with a leaf-blower. Did he do something bad in a past life to warrant leaf-blowing duty? It doesn't seem like a very contemplative role, but that's the point of being a monk I guess, finding serenity and meaning where others cannot.

We've had a number of false alarms. One morning we thought we saw a monk, but it was just a guy in an orange polo shirt. Another afternoon, we thought we saw a monk, bent over working in the garden but as we drove by it turned out to be a traffic cone.

It turns out, the Buddhist center also has special summer programs. Buddhism has dietary restrictions that nicely dovetail with the laws of kashrut, and it would be a great chance to make non-Jewish friends. But no overnights, so the little Goofs weren't interested. Too bad, they'd be adorable in little orange robes.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Case of the Haunted Camp: A Cupcake Club Mystery

I wrote this as a letter to GoofGirl at sleep-away camp, where - with a bunch of her friends - she established the Cupcake Club. She complained my story was too long and didn't finish it. I post it here with her permission.

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It was just another day at Camp Ramah, full of games and swimming and other activities. The Cupcake Club members were heading to their activities when they saw the Rabbi – he’s in charge of the camp – having a long conversation with a man in a fancy suit they had never seen before.

The Cupcake Club knew better than to eavesdrop (that means to listen in on someone else’s conversation) but they could tell the strange man was doing most of the talking and the Rabbi was just shaking his head no.

It was a fun day and that night there was a special bonfire activity. People were singing and telling stories, when an eerie white shape ran through the camp.

“A ghost!” people screamed. He only ran around for a few minutes but people got really scared. The Cupcake Club team was scared too, but they knew it was important to help out. So they tried to calm down younger kids. Everyone went back to their bunks and the activity ended early. The Cupcake Club discussed these recent events.

“I’m sure it was part of the activities, like a surprise,” ME suggested.

“I don’t think so, because even the counselors seemed scared,” MY observed.

Over the next few nights, the ghost kept coming back, breaking up evening activities and even running by bunks and scaring kids at night. Soon nighttime activities were cancelled. The Rabbi held a special religious ceremony to get rid of ghosts.

One day, as the Cupcake Club headed off to swim, they saw the Rabbi talking to the man in the suit again. They were yelling.

“Rabbi, you are going to have to sell this property. The campers are terrified and parents are starting to worry. You can’t have a haunted summer camp!”

The Rabbi yelled back, “I’ll never sell this camp Mr. Vandersnoot! This is a special place and you aren’t going to build a golf course here!”

“Something fishy is going on here,” said GoofGirl, “And I know just how to get to the bottom of it.”

At dinner the Cupcake Club had an emergency meeting.

“I’ve watched a lot of Scooby-Do, so I know what we should do about this!” GoofGirl began.

“Oh, oh! Can I be Scooby?” AV asked.

“OK, but I have to be Velma,” GoofGirl answered.

“I’ll be Fred,” 3C said, “Because he’s in charge and drives the van.”

“Of course you are. Then MY you can be Shaggy and ME will be Daphne,” GoofGirl directed.

“I don’t want to be Daphne! She’s boring, I want to be Velma because she’s smart!” ME complained.

“Our Daphne will be really smart, just as smart as Velma, ok?” GoofGirl explained. ME nodded. GoofGirl continued, “OK, first two of us will need to distract the counselors so the strike team can sneak out of the bunk and catch this ghost!”

“Oh, I think I can do that!” 3C grinned, “ME, will you help me?”

The girls made their plan.

Back at the bunk, 3C rushed to the counselors screaming, “She keeps taking my pillow! That pillow is my husband, we have a sacred vow!”

ME rushed up, hold the pillow tightly, “The pillow loves me, and I love it! We should be together!”

They began bickering and GoofGirl, AV, and MY quietly sneaked out of the bunk while the counselors tried to settle the great pillow divorce.

Outside, using hand signals, GoofGirl directed the strike force to the bunks for the little kids. She had figured out that since they scared easier the ghost would go there to really spread panic.

They found a good spot and MY (a skilled gymnast) climbed up a tree with strong branches, while AV hid behind it. GoofGirl walked farther out on her own. She was wearing bright clothes and her headlight. Soon she heard and eerie noise – it was the ghost!

It looked like a big white cloud floating through the woods. It came towards GoofGirl. She began running. She knew the ghost was following her.

When she got to the tree where her friends were hiding she turned and faced the ghost. She was scared, but she knew she had to do this. The ghost was almost right on top of her making spooky sounds, but when GoofGirl stood her ground the ghost stopped, almost confused.

Then MY flicked on a powerful flashlight surprising the ghost and AV burst out with a yell and rammed the ghost full speed with her head! It fell over and started yelling.

The white sheets fell off!

“MR. VANDERSNOOT!” GoofGirl yelled. All the noise had woken up the whole camp. Kids, counselors, and the Rabbi were all there.

“That’s right!” Vandersnoot said, “I was going to scare you all out of here so they’d sell off the camp and I could build a luxury golf course! And I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Finding a Historic Gem with GoofGirl: Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum


Before she went off to camp GoofGirl wanted an adventure. Her brother and I had gone to an Orioles game the week before. Now it was her turn.

She asked about, "A walk where there was a lot of history."

She's very much my daughter!

"Like a battlefield?" I asked, hopefully.

"Yes."

Yes.

"Well there are three wars that have been fought around here, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the War of 1812. Pick one."

"War of 1812, but not Fort McHenry, I've already been there."

So I did some research and found Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. A War of 1812 skirmish was fought there. But that's not all. There was a Native American village, a colonial settlement, an elegant estate from the 1930s, of the Chesapeake Bay shoreline, and a working archeological dig.

How had I, a native Marylander who is always looking for interesting things to do and is obsessed with history, not known about such an incredible place!

I began plotting:
If we left at 6am, we'd get there at 8 and we could sneak in before it opened and see the native American village and maybe some of the archaeological digs. Then we'd catch the first round of the historic re-enactment and then have time to see the Patterson Estate. We could catch another round of the re-enactment, and have time visit some of the exhibits.
GoofGirl was looking forward to it, but was perhaps not quite as excited as I was. As is often the case when dealing with me, she had to be the adult: "Daddy, we don't have to see everything. We can go back another time."

And we couldn't see everything, because the day we were going was also a re-enactment, part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (which was mostly fought in 1814.)

It was crowded and we didn't get a good view of the naval skirmish, although we saw the cannons firing. We had a nice time walking through the market looking at handcrafted products inspired by their early 19th century counterparts. Fascinated by the toiletriesof two centuries ago, GoofGirl lingered.

Then there was a re-enactment of the land battle, which I watched with utter fascination. For GoofGirl, a little of this sort of thing goes a long way.

Then, in the huge crowd, we happened to run into one of the staff archaeologists. Naturally, I peppered her with questions. To my delight, GoofGirl had a great many as well!

“What kinds of things do you find?”

“What do you learn about the people who used to live here?”

“Do you match the artifacts with records from the archives?”

“What’s a good day for you?”

And so on.

Eventually, we freed her. But we agreed that we’d have to come back for one of the days when the public can join in on the digging.

Then, as things were winding down, we explored the Native American village. The park was closing. GoofGirl took me by the hand and said, "OK Daddy, this was really interesting, but I think we've seen enough for one day. Let's go home. You've been good, so I'll let you listen to NPR on the drive back."

Friday, July 04, 2014

Free at last! Free at last! Father Goof is free at last!


The little Goofs are at sleep-away camp and Mama Goof is in Los Angeles on family business. So this 4th of July Father Goof is celebrating his freedom.

Freedom from carpool, laundry, constant requests to purchase apps, and cries of boredom when electronics are banned.

And what am I doing to celebrate this freedom?

Whatever I want!
  • Leaving newspapers on the dining room table!
  • Leaving the toilet seat up!
  • When I bring stuff into the house, I just put it down in the foyer and put it away when I am good and ready!
  • And, best of all, I can eat whenever I want!

Not whatever I want – I’m a grown-up, if I want to go eat chips just before bed or cookies for breakfast, who is going to stop me? Besides of course my own neuroses that said cookies will go straight to my hips.

But to eat when I want, ah now that’s freedom.

I’m a good parent, so when the little Goofs are home, we have family dinner, whether I am hungry or not. But now, a late, late lunch and a super late dinner on the couch watching Family Guy re-runs – if that isn’t pursuit of happiness, I don’t know what is.

Is my use of freedom kind of pathetic? Maybe, who cares? As one ages one learns to set the bar low. What should I be doing? Engaging in picaresque adventures through the Washington suburbs? Going to strange dives, meeting colorful rogues and brawling and carousing with them? Do you know me? I don’t do these things. Even in my youthful adventurous drives cross-country I stayed in Holiday Inns because I liked the breakfast muffins.

What I could be doing is meeting up with old friends for dinner and drinks. But for the most part, their kids haven’t gone away and they continue to labor under the tyrannical yoke of parenthood. 

The revolution has only just begun, no dad is free until we all are free.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Demotion

FatherGoof has not been blogging much because he's been occupied with some real life stuff as well as some kid stuff (more on that anon). But Father's Day seems as good a time as any to get back to telling the world about my adventures in parenting.

Also, Father's Day made me think of a concept that crops up in my research on the Presidency - what renown scholar Richard Neustadt calls the shift from leader to clerk. Basically, since FDR Presidents have been a lot more powerful, but they are also expected to do something about everything. Before FDR, Presidents had a great deal more leeway to pick their areas of intervention (Coolidge famously took a nap every afternoon and believed most problems took care of themselves.) Before FDR the President had the option of exercising leadership. Now the option is gone and the President is expected to lead on everything. So while the President is more powerful now, he is really just a clerk rushing around serving everyone who demands his attention.

I thought of this on Father's Day as the day unfolded. My preference would have been to sleep in, workout, have beers with lunch and loaf - dealing with as little of anything as possible. But that isn't how things played out. GoofBoy wanted to take me to an Orioles game, and my family treated me to a big French toast breakfast this morning (bloated with French toast, unsurprisingly I did not workout). These are all good things, and I don't want to sound ungrateful, but they were not what I wanted. (My kids get plenty of my time on their terms, so Father's Day as a day off from parenting is a perfectly reasonable expectation.)


Of course, Dads get big breakfasts on Father's Day, so I had to have a big breakfast. Dads take their kids to ballgames for quality father-son time. So I took my son to the ballgame. (Yes, he proudly bought the tickets with his Bar Mitzvah swag. But I drove and had to manage the logistics.)

And that's the difference. As Dad, it has been my pleasure to take my son to baseball games (at my convenience) but now it is an obligation. Declaring that I want a giant French toast breakfast was my prerogative.  Now it is thrust upon me, as a virtual requirement. It brings the Leader/Clerk dichotomy home. Matters of discretion have now become duties. When I could generate the specials and surprises, I was DAD master of fun and adventure. Now I am but a driver on a pre-set itinerary. So if for presidents it has been a shift from Leader to Clerk, for me as dad it has been a shift from Shepherd to Chauffeur.

On the other hand, it was fedora day at Camden Yards, and I got this Oriole colored fedora and that's pretty cool.