Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boredom Emergency

Driving home with GoofBoy, he asked for my iPad to play with while we drove. The drive was going to last less then five minutes and I couldn’t reach it easily so I said no.

“Child abuse!” he shouted. “I’m calling bubbe!”

My mom was a social worker who served children in foster care. (Bubbe is the Yiddish word for grandmother and implies an old woman with a shawl over her head. I pressed for the kids to call my parents bubbe and its masculine equivalent, zayde. The former took, my father fought off the latter. My youthful and professional mother hates this.)

“You want to tell her,” I asked.

“Yeah, so she can report you.”

I passed my phone back to him and he called her.

Bubbe it’s your grandson. I want to report a child abuse incident!”

“Really,” my mom answered (it was on speakerphone), “What happened?”

Your son," he began, "Won’t let me play on his iPad while we drive and I’m getting bored,” he explained.

“Is it child abuse?” I asked hopefully, “Will you have him taken away?”

“I’m afraid not,” my mom replied, “and while it is nice chatting, I was just out the door. Sorry kid, but being bored isn't child abuse, it's part of life.”

“Darn,” I said, “I’m sure a few weeks away from my precious son would help me reconsider my miscreant ways.”

“It’s ok bubbe I’ve got his phone now. It has games too.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coconut Fears

On one of our regular trips to LA, I noticed GoofBoy looking warily at the ubiquitous palm trees. His efforts to give them a wide birth made orderly family locomotion impossible.

"Buddy, what's going on, why are you walking so weird?"

"Dad, aren't you worried about the coconuts," he answered, glancing nervously upwards.


"Remember what we heard on the radio?"

Months earlier, while driving to school, some DJ mentioned that every year coconuts kill more people then sharks. GoofBoy can't remember his chores, his homework, or the names of his friends, but this factoid stayed with him. As he mentioned it, I remembered joking about it: "Oh-oh, watch out for the coconuts."

When he and carpool buddy get out of hand I threaten to bang their heads together like a pair of coconuts.

GoofBoy hadn't gotten the joke, and instead had mulled over the danger for months - and completely inaccurately.

"Buddy, do you think coconuts kill people by falling on them?"

"Uh-huh," he said nervously.

"Buddy, the people who die from coconuts die because they are allergic to coconut and they eat something with coconuts in it. Also, those aren't coconut trees, they are palm trees. So you have nothing to worry about. You don't have to worry about walking under them."

"Wow, so coconuts are a sneaky double-threat?"

"Buddy, didn't you hear what I said. There are no coconut trees in Los Angeles. Nothing to worry about," I said exasperated.

He didn't mention it again, but I did notice furtive glances upward throughout the trip.

I let it slide. I remember misinterpreting parental instructions. My mom told me not to run in front of cars. I interpreted that as meaning that cars, like dogs, could smell fear and that if I was going out into the street I should walk slowly and confidently. Fortunately we lived on a quiet street.

Still, I didn't tell GoofBoy that in Miami (where MamaGoof and I are enjoying a little getaway) coconut trees are common. I wouldn't want him to worry.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our Purim Shpiel

The phone ringing while I am preparing breakfast for the little Goofs is rarely a good thing. This morning it was Carpool Clan's mom.

"This is a strange request," never a good beginning - put it probably doesn't mean she will ask me drive carpool - which means I don't have to put on pants soon.

"Do you have a set of handcuffs?" she continues.

"Ah..." Two thoughts go through my mind here, first do you really want to borrow handcuffs from someone who owns handcuffs? Second, which Carpool Kid had driven her over the edge and needs to be taken into custody. My interest here is not strictly academic, there is a betting pool on this (I've got 300 quatloos on the new guy).

"The little one needs it for his Purim costume," she continued, aware of how such a request must sound without context.

Purim is the Jewish Halloween/Mardi Gras: up is down, right is wrong, and a people characterized by a low tolerance to alcohol tries to keep up with their Eastern European neighbors. It is wacky day for a wacky people.

It can also be a hassle, particularly the costumes. Interestingly, GoofGirl hasn't been a problem. Last year we went to the party store without any ideas. She picked out a tail and some cat ears and announced she was going as a cat. Couldn't have been easier!
GoofBoy on the other hand yelled out, "Daddy, can I make a costume with this pimp stick?"


"Why not? It looks cool." It said "pimpstick" right on the package. No good would come from any aspect of continuing this conversation. There was nothing about this that I wanted to explain, so I pulled rank and threatened major sanctions if he didn't just drop it. This time he obeyed.

Instead he found a Mohawk wig and a costume gold chain and said, "Can I go as Mr. T?"

"How do you know who Mr. T is?"

"World of WarCraft commercials."

Now I have another conundrum. Mr. T is African-American, is it OK for my son to dress up as an African-American? He won't be wearing black-face or anything truly offensive. Barack Obama is president, we live in post-racial America. The guy who does Obama impressions on SNL isn't African-American. Besides, Mr. T is a public figure. And I pretended to be my hero Eddie Murray when I was a kid playing modified baseball in the parking lot at the abandoned glass factory next to the Midas Muffler (if you hit the d it was an automatic grand slam.) Another white kid pretended to be Ken Singleton.

In one of those odd coincidences an acquaintance who is Jewish and African-American was also at the party store buying Purim costumes for his kids. He heard everything and only laughed (of course he was wrangling his own kids).

GoofBoy had no idea that any of this could in any way be an issue. Which I guess really says it all.

To help GoofBoy get into character for his costume I found some old videos from the A-Team online. But I also found this incredible video.

What gets me is that Mr. T is wearing short shorts and tube socks - he dresses like I did when I was eight!

This year Purim has been easier. GoofGirl is going as her brother, which is easy since they are twins separated by three years and GoofBoy is going as Bill Gates, which in his mind means wearing a hat.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Less Goofy, More Sweet

GoofBoy and I were playing ball at the middle school close to our house. He likes hitting and I like pitching. Nothing is more satisfying then fooling an elementary school kid with a change-up. Well, nothing except knocking his “fastball” deep into the outfield.

Really, I want him to hit my pitches and I do my best to put them where he can hit them. This is exhausting since I also have to run down his line drives.

As we were playing a family walked by – dad, grandpa, son and dog. They stopped to watch us for a few minutes and I invited their boy to join us. As he came out to play with us it became evident that he walked and talked funny. He had something, I didn’t ask what. While he held the bat and threw awkwardly, he was really strong and hit and threw hard. More importantly, he seemed to have a great time and his presence meant I didn’t have to cover the field alone.

After a while grandpa joined in, since both GoofBoy and our new friend could hit to both sides of the field this was a welcome addition. Dad had to stay and hold the dog.

After quite a while they left. I pitched a bit more to GoofBoy and then we headed home. As we walked home we talked.

“Hey buddy,” I asked, “Is it ok that I invited that other kid to join us. You didn’t feel like I was ruining father-son time?”

“No dad it was fine. He had a good time with us.”

“And buddy, you could tell he was a little different…” I trailed off, leaving the question unasked.

“Yeah, he sure was different from me. He could hit.”

"You are one great kid," I told him, "Even if you can't hit an old man's change-up."


I’ve been writing a lot about GoofGirl. She is really funny right now – and I just love her to death. Meanwhile, GoofBoy is growing up. Lots of his humor is more self-consciously funny and he is developing his own inside jokes with his friends. This is natural and as it should be, but it doesn’t provide for terrific blog material. But he is also decent, sweet, and kind. That’s worth a post or so.

And I love him to death too, even if he isn’t producing much blog-worthy material.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Punctuation Lesson

We had dinner at a nearby shopping center this evening. The shopping center features establishments called Bark! and Cartoon Cuts! Whenever I see the first I, well, bark and the little Goofs demands to know, "Why do you have to do that?"

"Because the sign told me to."

GoofGirl then asked why buybuyBaby didn't have an exclamation mark (I have a certain past with the place.

"Because an exclamation mark might turn the store name into a command. People would think they should go there to buy babies. Think about it," I explained and that said the store name, but with an exclamation mark, "Buy... buy baby!"

The little Goofs laughed to hear such a sport and began repeating it to each other.

I pressed my luck, "Isn't it interesting how a little mark, not even a word or letter, can change something's meaning? Punctuation is really a guide to tone, to how something should sound to your inner ear..."

"Oh Dad!" GoofBoy groaned, "Why is it you have to make everything so boring."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Horror for Kids

"Daddy, I don't want to go to the beach anymore."

"But you really like the beach, why?"

GoofGirl paused for a minute, submerged her head in her pillow for a moment and said, "I saw this video on your iPad, a lot of people were on the beach and suddenly there is a monster and there is blood and the monster is eating people."

"Sweetheart, did the monster have the mouth of a shark and the legs of an octopus?"

"Uh-huh," she said, almost crying, "How do know?"

When we saw the SyFy channel was running a movie called Sharktopus about a genetically engineered shark-octopus hybrid invented by the Navy to fight Somali pirate there was no question about what MamaGoof and I would be doing that evening. It was everything we could have hoped for, the bad acting, the unnecessary but constant presence of girls in bikinis, and Eric Roberts playing a hard-drinking mad scientist and wondering how it all came to this.

I must have grabbed the trailer on my iPad to send to friends and well...

"Oh, nina, I'm sorry, you should not have seen that. It wasn't for children, but it was just a movie it wasn't real."

"Daddy, did you watch that movie?"

"I did, with mommy. It was called Sharktopus."

"Why, it was horrible!"

"No sweetheart, it wasn't horrible. It was really dumb," I explained.

"Why did you watch a dumb movie?"

"Sometimes it is fun to watch a dumb movie and make fun of it."

"Why did they make a dumb movie?"

"I don't think they knew it would be dumb when they made it. It just came out that way." I wasn't quite ready to explain Roger Corman to her.

"So there is no such thing as sharktopus?"

"No, it's a ridiculous idea. Half-shark, half octopus - that's crazy and it definitely isn't kosher."

"OK daddy, can you come into my bed with me."

"Sure sweetheart." I got off the floor and lay down on her bed beside her. We sat together for a few minutes quietly and then she pounced on me. Looking down on me, she grinned and hissed, "Sharktopus!"

"You aren't scared anymore are you?" I asked.

"No! And if I do meet a sharktopus, I'll get him with a guillotine!"

I hate to tell her she can't just guillotine her way out of all of her problems, but we've discussed enough weighty matters for one night.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Daddy Report Card

I was really nervous when GoofGirl told me I was going to get a report card on being a Daddy. She is a serious little girl, and she took this very seriously. She wasn't just throwing something together. She understood that report cards are important, formal documents and need to travel through proper channels - i.e. a mailbox. So she made one and put it on my nightstand.

You don't just put random pieces of paper into the mailbox. They need to go into envelopes with addresses and stamps. I opened the envelope with great trepidation. My scholastic record has not been great in the past.

I did great! See, A# (which I think is even better then A+)!

I showed them to MamaGoof, proudly. She rolled her eyes, "She wants something and knows I'm not going to give it to her!"

So GoofGirl gets an A in power politics AND flattery.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 04, 2011

Guillotine Redux

GoofGirl's obsession with guillotines has continued unabated. She discusses them frequently, had her Hebrew teacher teach her the word for guillotine in Hebrew (karat rosh - head chopper.) We even read You Wouldn't Want to Be an Aristocrat in the French Revolution (the "Wouldn't Want to Be Books are awesome). Now she plays "French Revolution" with her brother, she is always Robespierre.

When she had another playdate with Guillotine Buddy, while he was lying on the floor she grabbed a sofa cushion, held it to his neck and grinned, "Pillow guillotine!"

We are currently reading the classic Beverly Clearly Fudge series. Fudge is a precocious little guy who constantly ruins his older brother's life. It is a really good series although some parts of it are odd. In one of the novels the main character, Fudge's older brother, talks about the prospect of getting mugged in Central Park. He treats it as no big deal and talks about how neat it was for his friend because he got to go to the police station. GoofGirl was horrified, "This doesn't happen does it? Not in America?"

Growing up in NYC in the 1970s.

Anyway, when Fudge makes mischief GoofGirl gets angry. "I can't believe Fudge did that!" she will yell, "He is so stupid. I'd put him in the guillotine!"

"Now sweetheart," I tell her, "You can't solve all your problems with a guillotine."

And she built a far more in-depth Lego guillotine - with a lot more historically accurate details!