Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day Feast

This morning the rosy fingers of Dawn touched our backyard, turning it into a giant pink popsicle. The world was sheathed in ice and, of course, schools were closed. I told my children that in the face of the beautiful but treacherous outdoors, we would have to stay inside and we might run out of food.

WARNING: If you are incapable of seeing humor in cannibalism you should probably stop reading right about now!

“If we run out food,” I told my children, “we’ll have to eat one of us. Who should it be?”

My children quickly agreed that it should be me as there is plenty of me to feed the family.

“But,” I countered, “men tend to be tough and chewy.” Then nibbling on my daughter’s arm, I observed, “You are nice and tender. But there isn’t very much of you. We’d get hungry pretty quick. That leaves you!”

I pointed to my son.

“No Daddy. Not me!”

“Well, if I am too tough, your sister is too little and you don’t want to do it – who is left?”

“Mommy, we’ll eat mommy.” There were three of us, that makes a quorum. So we went upstairs and stared at my sleeping wife. The force of our combined glare caused her to stir.

“Mommy,” the kids yelled (as though they were capable of any other kind of communication), “We decided if we run out of food we are going to eat you!”

“But first,” I added sheepishly, “can you show me how to change the propane on the grill? Oh, and where do you keep the mole sauce?”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration with Boys

In a dream I would be a big player invited to the inauguration. Instead I went to my son's school and watched it with him and his class. There is no place I would have rather been.

I can't say the kids were overly interested, even the news that the musical portion was arranged by the same man who composed the Star Wars music failed to impress my son and his posse. The 21 gun salute after President Obama was sworn in got their attention however, as did any mention of the 5000-plus Porta-Potties brought into town to serve the inaugural crowds. The boys were speculating that perhaps some of the salute would hit the Porta-Potties leading to a literal, ahhh... poopy-storm. I expect to see a version of this in my son's Captain Underpants fan fiction.

I didn't have the heart to tell them, it was just gunpowder, but no shells in the salute.

After watching the ceremony, the children sang a series of patriotic songs, America the Beautiful and Grand Old Flag. It warms my heart to hear the children of liberal Jews (an oxymoron perhaps...) singing Ronald Reagan's campaign theme song, I'm Proud to be An American. Of course this only balances the folkie This Land is Your Land and If I had a Hammer. (The folkie standards being passed onto another generation warms the heart of his Trotskyite grandfather.)

I would push for them to add The Battle Hymn of the Republic for a bit more balance, but it is a bit Christian for a Jewish Day School.

Still, I believe in musical deterrence. No one would mess with the U.S. if they knew we had a serious battle hymn.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inaugural Issues

The elections have been subject to intense discussion in the Goof home. For a while my son supported Huckabee, but ultimately they both came out for Obama.

Tomorrow we will get to the bottom of the last essential question.

Is Barak Obama a llama? Does he wear his mama's pajamas?

My children tell me this is ridiculous and insist he is a person.

But I have my suspicions, first off, how else do you explain the charisma - no human is that appealing? My theory received further support from this article I just read that describes him as "chewing purposefully." Supposedly this focused mastication is due to his chomping on nicotine gum as a substitute for smoking. Or is this just a cover for a llama chewing its cud?

We'll find out tomorrow if he spits during the inaugural address.

Update 1----

I hope nothing about my Obama/llama speculation is considered disrespectful. First, as the video below emphasizes I am not the first to raise this question.

Second, llamas are great animals - sure-footed beasts that were the animal backbone of the Incan Empire. Now shepherds use llamas, instead of dogs, to lead their flocks. The sheep naturally follow the llamas (looking upon them as some sort of mutton god) and the llamas readily fight off coyotes to protect their charges. I for one would readily follow a llama (plus their meat apparently tastes terrible.)

For that matter, they would be a great new symbol for a revived Democratic Party - they have all the characteristics of the donkey (particularly the stubbornness) and many more. It would be a more exotic symbol that, while firmly rooted in the party's tradition, would be an ideal symbol for a post-racial America.

Update 2----

Do not start showing your kids YouTube videos in the morning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fandom and Faith

As I write this, we are watching the Ravens-Steelers playoff game. My son is a die-hard Ravens fan and, well, the Ravens are losing. With four minutes left in the fourth quarter a turn-around is unlikely.

This is a problem. My son has trouble keeping losses in perspective. He cries when his team is losing, runs around the room uncontrollably when they score, and is absolutely inconsolable when they lose.

This isn't just for the teams he is committed to (Ravens and the Orioles - I've had to restrict Oriole game viewing because they lose about a 100 games a year.) In whatever game he watches he chooses a team. This applies to NFL games between out of contention teams that he has no interest in and college teams he had never heard of before the game started. He picks favorites by asking his little sister who to root for. She picks on the basis of uniform colors - the Ravens are "The Purplies." She watches too - she likes it when "the big guys fall down."

My son even got upset when his favored conference lost the Pro Bowl. I tried to explain to him that even the players don't care about the Pro Bowl.

As I am writing he is whimpering, "It is all my fault! Every time I watch them something bad happens. My team always loses. It is all my fault!"

Explaining causality doesn't help, for my son, his culpability in the loss is an article of faith. It may be true that to observe a phenomenon is to change it - but I think that only applies to subatomic particles, not to professional sports.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Robot Rampage and other Things Daddies are Good For

My little girl has not been my biggest fan lately. She needs mommy time and lots of it. Dad is not of interest. When I asked her about it she said, "I like you at school, when you aren't there."


Over the weekend my wife had errands to run and my son was off. She was furious at being left with me, sitting on the floor pouting. I offered to play with her toys with her. No interest. I offered to read a story. No interest. Finally, I ventured, "We could wrestle..."

"Okay," she said sullenly. Then, sadness forgotten, she instructed me, "Now you lie down here."

For her wrestling means I lie on my back with my legs a triangle. She gets on top of my knees and slides down. Reversals, pins, holds, and just generally tossing her around is a distraction from this primary purpose.

This is followed by a very specific sequence. I sit on the couch and she puts her arms around my neck and I carry her around. This is Backtime. When she is sated, she instructs me to sit down on the couch and she climbs up on my shoulders. This is the highlight, Necktime. During necktime she uses my head like a giant steering wheel to drive me around the room. But she always gives me directions faster than I can follow them. Then I start running around the room (with her on my shoulders) yelling "Robot rampage! Robot Rampage!"

The idea is that I am her robot, but she has overloaded my circuits. (There was an Isaac Asimov story about people riding on robots - although his robots never went on any rampages, thanks to the three laws for boring robot stories.)

This is not the end. But after I run out of breath, she directs me back to the couch for Shouldertime. Here she sits on my shoulder and pretends to be my parrot. She has to sit on both shoulders.

I'm also a horse

Last night, as she was sitting on the couch I began crawling towards her. A big grin broke out as she climbed down, came up to me and yelled, "HIIUP!" as she swung herself up on my back for a quick run around the living room.

The big finale is when she stands up on my back.

Mommy doesn't do any of the above (and frankly, why should she?)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Boys are from Rome/Girls are from Byzantium

So the little Goofs and I wander over to carpool buddy's house one weekend afternoon. This way Mama Goof will get a break. The carpool buddy clan actually has four children: carpool buddy who is Goofboy's age, a daughter who is Goofgirl's age, a daughter between the two (she's in the carpool too so we can call her "Carpool Gal"), and a younger son.

Goofboy and carpool buddy greet each other, grab a football, and go to the front yard. They practice running plays (which they have been known to do without a football at all - just spontaneously like characters in a musical, if they make musicals about football.) Then they square off for one-on-one bowl games. We don't hear from them again, unless there is a major wound. They are satisfied.

Goofgirl sees her friend and immediately they revive an ongoing dispute they have about who is who's friend. Apparently my daughter likes to blurt out at random several hundred times a day, "You aren't my friend!"

I am not sure if she is actually mad at anyone or if this is a sort of emotional sonar she has evolved in order to figure out who is paying attention to her. We had a little boy over and they played together for a long afternoon (they both like to wash their hands - an excuse to splash water.) But the next day at school, Goofgirl told him "You aren't my friend anymore."

The boy was crestfallen, having told his parents the night before that he hoped to marry my daughter.

Goofgirl's carpool clan counterpart (let's call her 3C) is made of sterner stuff. But she demands the truth, what did Goofgirl say! Carpool gal offered her services as a go-between. Of course, she had her own agenda - keeping the two mad at each other so she could play with one of them. Naturally, I stepped in, and using the same techniques I would have used with the boys, tried to identify an activity all three of them could jointly undertake. "Let's claim!" I proposed, "Let's race!"

I soon found myself but a pawn in a three-sided power struggle. 3C is a stickler for historical accuracy and had to get to the bottom of Goofgirl's verbal assault. Goofgirl denied everything, but carpool gal was more than prepared to remind everyone.

"Look," I said, "the important thing is not what my daughter said but that we find something fun we can all do together."

"No," 3C replied, "the important thing is what she said, because I think she said she wasn't my friend anymore."

"Right," chimed in carpool gal, "That's what she said, I heard it, she's not your friend anymore."

I look at my daughter, "Do you want to play here or not?"

"I do, but..."

"No buts, we have to find something we can all do together," I said firmly.

"She was going to say that she isn't my friend anymore," began 3C.

At this point I threw my hands up and walked away to have a beer with carpool dad. He told me that every night he cuddles up with 3C before bedtime and she proceeds to tell him, in exhaustive detail, everyone who has wronged her over that day. If he asks about events from days previous but mixes up names or specific events she corrects. It is for the best that 3C has no twin (besides the fact that I am running low on pseudonyms) because she would no doubt remember grievances suffered in utero. (Carpool mom is also pleased that they weren't twins, although she had another later so she might as well have gotten numbers three and four of the way all at once.)

I shared that when I bring Goofgirl home she details for me who did and who did not play with her in quiet room, which boys are smitten with her, and who can be in her secret club. I am strictly forbidden from belonging to the club (along with other stinky boys).

Historical Precedents

I told carpool dad about chat with my aunt, who had two boys and a girl. She said between her sons and the boys in the neighborhood there could be 40 kids in her yard. Games would be invented, leagues formed, championships held. Cars could be stripped to their component molecules and painstakingly reassembled. Fortifications were built, wars were waged, civilizations rose and fall. All before they were called home to dinner. My aunt never heard from from them (beyond the occasional sounds of heavy machinery.)

Injuries were taken in the time honored way of boys:

"Dude, is that blood?"


"Walk it off."

However, my aunt reported, a playdate involving a plural number of little girls quickly devolved into arcane disputes involving notes and phone calls to outside honest brokers (who were never truly honest.) I imagine in this day of text messaging this will only be more complicated. Hopefully by the time my daughter is a teenager this can all be done with telepathy (which I - as an old fogey - will never quite understand) and then she can fight with her friends silently. If she can keep it quiet I'll pay when she goes over her mental minutes.

Carpool dad and I sip our beers, talking about men and women and the evolution of civilization. Boys are builders and breakers (mostly breakers), girls have mastered intrigue (although maybe I shouldn't talk since my wife invariably fixes broken things at our house).

The girls have found some complicated game to play, that breaks every few minutes for negotiations. From the front yard we hear an oddly beefy sound - as though a football had hit someone in the head. Then we hear the immortal words, "Walk it off, or they might make us quit."