Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spreading Smiles at the Expense of Others

This morning, as I was pulling together breakfasts GoofGirl was lurking around the kitchen. She does this quite a lot – she really wants to be helpful (at synagogue she no longer attends religious services, she makes a beeline for the kitchen to help out.)

But this morning she had another agenda. When I stepped out of the kitchen, I came back and found she had placed a banana next to the bagel I was taking to the car, along with a pink “Smile!” card which said:
You’ve been tagged with a SMILE card because someone thinks you’re special. Now it is your turn to pass on a smile. Keep the kindness going by doing something nice for someone. Leave this card behind to keep the spirit going.
I had two divided reactions. Part of me thought, “How sweet.” Another part of me thought, “Great, something else to do.”

GoofGirl’s class had learned about how one person doing a good deed can inspire another to do a good deed, and so on – making the world a better place. I know from my reaction to my son’s community service program, that I am a bad person – but I also love how their school assignments turn good deeds into an obligation.

I’m sure many kids forgot about their cards, and many parents lost them as soon as they received them. That would not do with GoofGirl – she would monitor the project. I bought some time, reminding her that I work at home and probably wouldn’t see anyone today.

“You could make someone brownies,” she proposed, “I’ll show you how.”

Always an agenda with that girl.

The easiest thing to do would be to pass it off to MamaGoof in the evening, I was planning on making dinner that night anyway. But that felt dishonest. I’ll be going to my office tomorrow and I’m sure I can find someone to do something nice for there. The little Goofs like hearing about my office (I think it gives them the illusion that their father is in fact a normal adult.)

But I was inspired and made dinner anyway. I am not a good cook – my primary talent is applying heat to frozen things. Fortunately, I had just done a Costco run and we had lots of frozen goodies.

Meanwhile, at her office MamaGoof was commiserating with her friend who has a really lazy husband. If your wife doesn’t have a friend like this you should urge her to get one. It is important that she have a friend with a husband so useless around the house that you look good. If you can’t find such a husband, the show Everybody Loves Raymand will do, although you might also help out a bit more. Truly if you are the least helpful husband you know you are probably setting some sort of low standard.

I’m not unhelpful, but I do everything wrong (I don’t open snack bags properly and it just gets worse from there.) Also, when MamaGoof walks into a room she immediately sees several thousand things out of place. I miss these things.

But next to my wife’s friend’s husband, I am Mr. Considerate – especially when MamaGoof comes home to a prepared meal. I guess the “Smile!” card worked, keep the kindness going indeed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GoofBoy & Girls: Planning Ahead

GoofBoy is heading towards adolescence. Not yet, for him this is all far away. But he is ten. For him the teens are decades away, but as one gets older time goes faster (I was told this in college and it has haunted me ever since – not that it has kept me from wasting time, I just fret about it more.) According to my subjective perception of time, GoofBoy will be an adolescent in about a week.

The school is already beginning a program to teach the children about what is coming next. It is taught by the gym, sorry - phys-ed teacher. My recollection of gym leads me to believe nothing could be more horrible. Gym teachers were angry men with enormous voices and little patience for the weak. Apparently they are much nicer now. I feared them, but GoofBoy loves them. In fairness, I was also very strange – GoofBoy isn’t.

Presumably, I will still need to offer some guidance as my son enders the churning waters of puberty. Teenage boys are extremely stupid versions of the male gender (and that’s saying something.)

One area where I can offer no counsel is girls. He has tried to read the section about girls in The Most Dangerous Book for Boys but his sister won’t let him.
“Anything he needs to know about girls, I can tell him. I am a girl!” GoofGirl declares. With her instincts for agenda setting, she will be a combination of Cyrano de Bergerac and Cus D’Amato to GoofBoy’s dating efforts.

GoofBoy is pretty ambivalent about girls now. He doesn’t dislike them, it is simply a matter of whether or not they are interested in sports, Magic and whatever else is rolling around in his brain. If they are, great, if they aren’t there just isn’t a lot of common ground.

Still, I think he knows what he is doing. A few years ago I arranged for him to go to a friend’s house for his sister’s fifth birthday. But he didn’t go, he insisted on sticking around. He organized games, took the girls outside for a bug hunt. Then, he finished off the festivities with a big pillow fight in which half a dozen girls pounded him with pillows and jumped on him.

He’s got a plan, and at eight years old he’s got better moves then I had at five times that age.

I wonder if he worked it out in advance with his sister?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The One Eyed Man is King

“Talk to your son,” MamaGoof ordered over the phone.

A few seconds later, GoofBoy’s tremulous voice came on the line.

“Dad… Dad…” he was on the verge of tears.

“Buddy, don’t worry about it. We love you no matter what. Now, what’s going on?”

“Dad… I need glasses!”

“Buddy, I have glasses. Your mom has glasses. We told you that sooner or later – and probably sooner - you would need glasses.”

“But now I’m going to have these things on my face…”

“Are you worried about the other kids picking on you?”

“A little…”

“You go to a Jewish Day School – almost all the kids are near-sighted and awkward. I think you’ll be fine. Besides, glasses are fun!”

“How?” his words are still full of tears.

“You can use the glasses to focus sunlight and set stuff on fire! I used to burn holes in leaves and I used to chase your uncle around and try to fry him. But don’t use it on bugs, that’s just mean.”

“Really?” tears are starting to become laughter.

“Oh yeah! Plus, I kept all my old glasses. I tried to put them together to build a super-laser. I still have them, maybe we can work on this together.”

GoofBoy is laughing now. In the background I hear my wife yelling, “What are you telling him?”

“Buddy, are you ok now?”

“Yeah,” his voice has dropped again, “It’s just that they said one of my eyes was bad. I hate being told I’m not ok…”

“Wait, it’s just one of your eyes?” I asked.

“Yeah, one eye is fine and the other has a syndrome.”

“That’s astigmatism. But if it’s just one eye, then you don’t need glasses.”

“But the doctor said…”

“Buddy, listen, you are so lucky and I am so jealous. If it is just one eye you can wear a monocle!”

“Like the King of Tonga or Colonel Clink?” he asked, getting excited.

In the background I hear my wife shriek – she knows whenever the king of Tonga comes up in conversation trouble is brewing.

“Buddy, I’m so proud. Maybe you can be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s youngest monocle-wearer!”

“Mommy, Daddy says instead of glasses he is going to get me a monocle!”

“Give me the phone,” MamaGoof commands.
Before she starts yelling at me, I make my plea, “I know what you are going to say. But – would it make a difference if I told you knew just where to get a kid-sized top hat, cane, and cape?”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Addressing Art Issues

I've written before about Shabbat Overload, the overwhelming amount of Jewish ritual objects created by children in pre-school and elementary school. But this is only a fraction of the problem. An artistically-inclined child can easily draw a half-dozen pictures a day.

GoofBoy has gone through Star Wars phases, super-heroes, and now is primarily drawing funny monsters. GoofGirl has, unsurprisingly gone through kitty, flower, and pony phases. But she has been doing a great deal of self-portraits.

GoofManor is literally littered with piles of drawings, as though inhabited by pre-school hoarders. The obvious and sensible thing to do would be to throw them out, but we can't quite bring ourselves to be sensible. What if one of the little Goofs becomes a brilliant artist (or world-renown gangster - I have high hopes for GoofGirl) and their childhood art becomes really valuable?

I came up with the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of taking pictures of the art that was interesting. Piles of junk on my hard-drive are much less inconvenient then piles of junk around my house. This process, however was time-consuming and we only took it on in occasional spasms of frustration.

But now, the little Goofs can operate my cel camera. So I asked GoofGirl to go through her recent masterpieces and divide everything into three piles: keep, take a picture, and just throw out. She did a great job.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cats & Dogs: Boys & Girls

When she was a little girl my mother believed that dogs were boys and cats were girls. Clearly, biology was not as advanced in the late Middle Ages as it is now. Nonetheless, there is something to that ancient wisdom.

GoofGirl’s favorite stuffed animal is a “kitty” – a cat – and she obsesses over all Hello Kitty products, while GoofBoy sleeps with stuffed dogs (and bears). But besides their respective preferences for those animals, there is their behavior. GoofBoy is a dog and GoofGirl is a cat.

When we go away without them, we will come back and GoofBoy runs to us, throws his arms around us and says, “I missed you! I missed!”

GoofGirl sniffs and turns her nose up at us and – after an appropriate wait, sometimes several days – she allows us to approach her and make amends. Fortunately, she hasn’t expressed her displeasure at our leaving by pooping in the corners – yet.

GoofBoy, like a dog, constantly wants to play.

“Dad, let’s go play ball. Wouldn’t that be great? Or we could play badminton – I bet you’ll win this time. Or how about that bamboo stand on the trail. Didn’t we have a good time the last time we went there?”

No begging or imploring for GoofGirl. She takes my participation in her planned activity for granted and simply positions me as necessary.

GoofBoy has a simple, direct and uninhibited enthusiasm. One night, he begged us to take him to a local restaurant because a radio morning show was doing a promotion there and “The guys on the radio always say how much fun it was. I don’t want to miss it! I’m sure we’ll have a good time.”

He always wants us to come to school to see his presentations and activities. GoofGirl, on the other hand, always tells us that, “Parents don’t have to come.”

But like dogs and cats that have lived together a long time, when they fight it is only for fun. And neither sheds – that job is left to me.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Nieces are Nice!

One of the great pleasures of Thanksgiving this year was seeing my niece (let’s just call her NieceGoof). She is two and a half, which is just an awesome age. She is mobile and good-spirited. She runs around looking into things. When you say a new word to her she repeats it with a big smile on her face as though full of joy and wonder about the possibility. And for her, it really is.

One thing that is funny with two year olds is how they go to the same place over and over again. At my parents’ condo they have a few toy figures of African animals kept in a cabinet. My niece goes to the cabinet, announces each animal and puts it on the table. She does this every time she visits. Her grasp of what each animal is has improved – slightly. For a long time the lion was just a “rawr!” Now it is a lion.

When I told her zebras have stripes she was thrilled, “Stipes!” she yelled.

She also remembers me, I taught her peekaboo. I’m good at peekaboo and my kids won’t play it with me anymore. As soon as she sees me, she puts her hands over her face. That could also mean she thinks I’m hideous.

GoofGirl is really taken with her cousin and uses her as a lab for her baby-sitting techniques. Although she is only seven, GoofGirl has shown real talent for it and takes pride in it. GoofGirl watched her little cousin while the grown-ups gorged – carefully walking her up and down the stairs.

Later that night, GoofGirl took a bath with NieceGoof. I missed it – since I was busy being the greatest dad ever – but I heard that NieceGoof thought it was hilarious when her big cousin poured water on herself. But NieceGoof laughed even harder when the water was poured over her head!

The Ravens won – but I’m sorry I missed this.

It was nice to be reminded that two-year-olds are wonderful – especially when they belong to someone else.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sentimental, Cheesy Thanksgiving Post

Thanksgiving, what am I thankful for?

For one, I am thankful that NaBloPoMo is almost over because I am running out of material fast. I am always thankful that we are invited out to Thanksgiving because MamaGoof just doesn’t need the pressure-filled hassle. I am thankful the weather tonight is supposed to be good because - the thing, tonight…

I am thankful that turkey is special for Thanksgiving – because otherwise I don’t really like it all that much.

I guess I am thankful for the existence of blogs, which allow me to be attention-seeking without doing so in person and annoying everyone I meet.

That isn’t very serious, is it?

Obviously there are the BIG things – wonderful wife, fantastic kids, loving family, work that I love and suits me, and of course my health.

It is all too easy to take that stuff for granted. This year, I will try not to.

I remember years ago, very unhappy with my job passing a homeless person. It was a sharp reminder that the worst day of my life would be one of the best days of his.

I’ve been lucky and I’ve been blessed. For that I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GoofBoy's Thanksgiving Surprise: Ravens Tickets

As a kid I hated surprises, but that’s because my parents would always tell me there was a surprise later, leaving me to wonder about it for hours. A really good surprise is just that – there is simply no idea that it is coming. It has been one of the best tools in my dad-kit and I’m dropping a big one soon.

Years ago I took GoofBoy up to my brothers to watch Return of the Jedi, without giving him any advanced warning. It blew him away.

The Goof trip to the beach this summer was another surprise bomb. We told the kids only about two hours before we left – and then only because we had to pack the car.

But I have a big one coming up!
I have scored tickets to the Ravens game tomorrow. GoofBoy has no idea. But when, after Thanksgiving dinner, my brother heads out the door (he has season tickets) GoofBoy and I – with no explanation – will head out with him.

Friends and regular readers know that this is especially big since I don’t particularly like – or even understand – football. But I will get a blog entry out of it – so that (and my son’s sheer joy) will make it all worth it.

Operational Details
In my day job I study terrorism, and that comes in handy for planning surprises. An effective surprise requires a high-level of operational security. No detail can be neglected or the whole thing can fall apart.

When my brother and I planned a surprise party for our parents’ 200th wedding anniversary we had code words, we took advantage of a weekend when my parents were away so that we could go into their house and get their address book.

For Operation Lenore I had to work with my mom to develop a credible excuse for why we had to take two separate cars to Thanksgiving. I spoke with my mom to make sure other guests were in on the surprise. She suggested I call them myself – but the more people I call the more likely GoofBoy will overhear.

“Loose lips sink ships,” I told her. Working this phrase effortlessly into conversation is one of my life’s greatest pleasures.

“Also, Mom – the codeword is ‘Nevermore.’” I told her.

“Why do we need a codeword?”

“Secret plans need codewords!”

I could actually hear my mom’s eyes roll over the phone.

Follow Operation Lenore in Real Time
I will be Tweeting and Facebooking the action – including, hopefully, pictures. If you aren’t already follow Father Goof on Facebook or Twitter to watch this awesome day unfold.

Someone should be very thankful!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: Peter and the Starcatchers

Not satisfied with being a best-selling humorist who makes me want to give up writing every time I read his books (when I catch my breath from laughing) the illustrious Dave Barry has decided to dominate another genre. His series, co-authored with Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatchers was a lot fun.
The whole series (four books in all) is a prequel to the story of Peter Pan. Peter is an orphan who gets tied up with a earth-based front of an inter-stellar war. In the process he acquires the powers of flight and eternal youth. I won't say anymore. It is Harry Potter-esque, but without wizards (there is some magic but it isn't as pervasive.) We listened to the series, which was read by Jim Dale (who is also narrator of the Harry Potter series) and it was odd how certain voices and characters seemed interchangeable. Molly Astor (I don't give much away when I reveal she is the mother of Wendy Darling) sounds a lot like Hermione. Her father is Dumbledore-esque - although a non-wizard Dumbledore is much cooler. Anyone can be a genius wizard with magic - try doing it without magic though!

Dale, by the way won an "Audie" award for his narration of the series.

The books aren't perfect, there are tedious bits. But there is also a nice Dickensian gloom to parts of it, also there is real sadness when Peter realizes that he won't grow up but the girl he loves will. Best of all, are the bad guys. In book 3 we learn what they are really about and what they really want and it is super creepy and almost metaphysical. I like books where there is something really big at stake.

Probably the best endorsement I can offer is that the series ends around 1900. The little Goofs and I have been speculating that since Peter is ageless, perhaps he can come back to help out in World War II.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rockin' Fatherhood Electronically

The other day GoofBoy received several calls from a friend who was in a panic because he had left his workbook at home. The friend was asking if we could fax him the workbook pages he needed. There were two problems with this. The lesser problem was that GoofBoy had already done his homework so we would be faxing the answers. The second problem was that I hate our fax machine (almost as much as I hate our photo printers.)

I was pretty sure that the process that would begin by tearing pages out of GoofBoy’s workbook and then involve waking up the hamsters that power our antique fax machine was going devour the rest of my night, and probably end in tears (possibly mine) when I (or the hamsters) inevitably destroyed GoofBoy’s homework and ensured that GoofBoy’s friend didn’t get the assignment either.

But I had a brainstorm. Using sticky-notes I covered GoofBoy’s answers and snapped pictures with my phone. One app allows me to turn everything black & white. Another app allowed me to fax it directly from my phone! It cost a dollar, but that was money well spent if it allowed the fax-rodents to continue their slumber. GoofBoy’s friend’s mom (a way smart, high-powered attorney) called me and thanked me. I told her how I had sent it straight from my phone and she was impressed. Plus, she agreed to host GoofBoy for a playdate.

This afternoon, GoofBoy came home started on his homework and began wailing like a manatee. He had left the book he needed to read and summarize for class at school.

First thought was to run to the library and check out a copy. But it is kind of dreary out. Quick visit to Amazon and the book was on my iPad and GoofBoy is good to go!

Kindle copy of The Magician’s Elephant - $6.44. Not having to run out on a cold wet night while still getting a blog entry out of it - priceless.

I remember my parents scrambling to get things for my homework (although these memories are vague and I stopped doing homework by the age 10.) Electronics just makes all of this much, much easier. No last minute drives, no trips to the baroque library photocopier (run by cousins of the hamsters in my fax) – this is all good.

I have a nagging worry (and really, is there any other kind?) Does all of this innovative, super convenient electronically aided parenting allow us to shield our kids from the consequences of their actions?

That seems like an awful big burden to put on little kids. It is still good that they can come to a grown-up who can make everything all right. And for me, honestly, it is nice to be the dad and know that at least sometimes I can make things all right.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Timeless (and Clueless) Boys

As the father of a son and a daughter, I am fascinated by the differences between boys and girls. I am aware of the basic differences of course – anatomy, tolerance for dirt, interest in references to obscure television shows from youth, and of course the complex social interactions - but the developmental stuff fascinates me.

GoofBoy is heading towards that exhilarating time of adolescence (the school is getting ready to discuss this – better them then me, I offer no sure counsel!) But, like most boys, he seems to want to put it off. I am pretty sure I can handle an adolescent boy – they are like other males of the species just dumber.

An adolescent girl is another thing altogether. I have a few years, but less then I would hope. Apparently girls are entering adolescence younger and younger. Discussions of boyfriends have thankfully not started. GoofGirl is afraid of churches because, in movies she has seen, that is where kissing occurs – I consider this fear quite healthy, at least for the time being.

Still I often read and hear about girls entering adolescence early. Fortunately, for dads out there, while the girls are trying to grow up too fast and showing an interest in boys all too soon. This is not being reciprocated. Wonderful, dunder-headed boys haven’t changed a bit. I am certain that if you dropped GoofBoy into the 1950s, 1930s or even earlier he would find some other boys and they would immediately wander off into the woods to throw rocks and break stuff. The freedom to explore enjoyed by kids decades ago, along with the lack of bathing would probably lead the boys to prefer the past to the present. If he could take a solar panel with his DSi he would be in heaven.

Boys are timeless.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bike Riding - My Parenting Failure

I took my daughter bike riding this afternoon. I hate doing this because it reminds me of my failures as a parent. She is seven and she still needs training wheels. GoofBoy is ten and he hasn’t mastered it without training wheels either. Plenty of kids younger then the little Goofs have mastered bike riding. It would probably help if I rode bikes myself. But I don’t.

The problem is that we don’t live on a quiet street and, more broadly, no one ever lets his or her kids out of sight anymore. So bike riding – like every other activity off of our property requires my supervision. So it just doesn’t happen that often and thus the kids don’t get good at it.

When I was a kid, after some initial instruction (that mostly involved my dad yelling at me) I was on my own. I fell down a lot. But ultimately I got it and was free to bike around the neighborhood and beyond.

Not so much now. Teaching the little Goofs to learn to ride bikes is very much on my to-do list, but that is kind of the problem. It is just another item on my to-do list – along with work and grad school and life.

I have to take them somewhere bike-friendly and supervise. I manage to do this a few times a year. GoofBoy, having lost his training wheels, got discouraged, and never even asks anymore. GoofGirl still has training wheels and loves it – she asks often. When she is going full speed, she yells, “It’s like I’m flying!”

Once they get it down, they will love it – but they can’t get it down without my help and there is only so much time in the day (and sometimes I'm kind of tired).

So while GoofGirl was having a good time peddling around, I was just reminded of one more thing I haven’t done and what she is missing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shabbat Overload

It is almost Shabbat - the Jewish day of rest. It is more then a day off, it is a day of no work, of contemplation, of special ceremonies. Special objects help to sanctify the day: candle holders, challah (bread) covers, kiddush (wine) cups and so forth. Judaism is loaded with these ritual objects. Major holidays have them as well - Seder plates for Pesach and of course menorahs and dreidels for Hanukah. Off-hand there are over a dozen common ritual objects associated with Jewish practice.

At Jewish pre-school and day school art projects often involve making these objects. They are precious. But at the rate of one of these objects per kid, per year... we will need to buy a new house (how many challah covers do I need?).

This is by no means all of our home-made Judaica, just what was quickly on-hand.
Some parents pick the best and throw the rest away. Some parents run their live in an orderly, rational fashion and plan family vacations months in advance (and don't spend their free time blogging in order to embarass their children.) I am not some parents.

Fortunately, the flow of precious objects is slowing. As a fifth-grader GoofBoy isn't doing much of this anymore and GoofGirl is doing less. Also, I can give them to my mom - I've always been in the habit of messing up her house.

But I also feel bad for the Carpool Clan - as massive as our strategic reserve of Judaica - with four kids (and Carpool Destroyer only in kindergarten) I am surprised their house hasn't exploded showering the neighborhood in dreidels and etrog cases.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

GoofGirl, Toys and Serious Games

“The problem is, your daughter doesn’t play with toys,” one of GoofGirl’s friend’s mom was explaining when I was trying to set up a playdate.

“Let’s give it a try, I’ll talk to her,” I replied and the mom agreed. Playdates are key, kids entertaining each other are kids that don’t need to be entertained.

“Mi nina, your friend says you don’t play with toys,” I began.

“Daddy, we were going to play with toys. We were going to have a toystore in our game in the last playdate. But we didn’t get to that part. It will be the first thing on our agenda for the next playdate. I made a list,” GoofGirl explained. She runs heavily structured playdates – organizing them well in advance.

But it is true, GoofGirl doesn’t really play with toys. She definitely plays and has a huge imagination. But regular playing with toys is not her thing.

She had a great collection of Little People including a dollhouse, the zoo set and a store. GoofBoy and I played with it all the time – the plot usually involved the dad had gone crazy from watching too much TV and imagined he was the Crocodile Hunter and ran next door to the zoo and tried to wrestle the crocodiles. It was, in great part, an excuse for me to do bad Australian accent.

I only saw GoofGirl play with her little people once. She stood them in a big triangle and then rolled a ball at them to knock them down.

She begged us for a Playmobil Egypt set. So we got it for her. After she put all the stickers on, she played with it once. She put an obelisk on Hello Kitty’s head, turning her into a monster that attacked the Pharaoh’s palace. (Little wonder GoofBoy is having Hello Kitty nightmares.) Apparently she is taking her Jewish education to heart, smiting the Egyptians with a new 11th plague of Japanese animated characters.

She does have hundreds of stuffed animals and they get play-time, although they may regret it. She and a friend will play school – it is a school that focuses on gymnastics and Hebrew. The discipline is very strict, punishments are vengeful, and the reward for good behavior is additional Hebrew lessons. I get exhausted just watching.

Li’l Special Forces
She has started playing with other toys more recently. We have six or seven thousand little bears. Under GoofBoy’s tutelage they are in a state of constant warfare with the Lego people, the Playmobil, and various plastic animals. I think on their own they would all live in peace, but GoofBoy is a warlike deity.
After the OBL raid, GoofGirl became interested in special ops. She took command of a platoon of the little bears and our helicopters. When GoofBoy plays war, he goes right into battle and soon his room is strewn with the corpses of little bears and Lego people. Not GoofGirl, she focused on the training. The little bears had to practice quickly getting into the helicopter and getting out with all their equipment (stolen from the Playmobil pirates.) They did this endlessly. When they finally did it to her satisfaction, she let them have a slumber party in the helicopters. Anyone at SOCOM will tell you this is quite a treat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Alcohol and Kids

At a regular pediatric check-up as the doctor attempted to ascertain our family lifestyles, she asked about our alcohol consumption habits.

“Several nights a week my wife and I split a beer, on weekends we might have a bit more.”

“That’s fine,” the doctor nodded, “It is important that the adults in their life show moderate, responsible alcohol consumption”

“Right, and sometimes we give them a little taste…”

The doctors eyes became huge, “How very European of you!” she exclaimed as she considered whether or not to call child protective services.

MamaGoof and I enjoy an occasional drink, and we are beer enthusiasts and discuss in great detail the attributes of our libations. I grew up sipping wine at the dinner table. Pretty much every Jewish kid I know remembers getting drunk from super-sweet Manischevitz (#1 kosher wine in America!) at Pesach - the ceremony calls drinking four cups of wine. One consequence of this annual binge was that I could never find the afikomen. (Quick explanation: parents hide a piece of matzah during the Pesach meal and the kids find it and hold it for ransom. I cannot hope to explain the cultural meaning here.)

But maybe this early exposure works as a sort of inoculation against alcoholism. So we’ve taken the same attitude.

One evening, GoofBoy was little and before GoofGirl was born I had had a bad day at work (back then I went to an office like a regular grown-up). I poured myself a big cup of ice and whiskey and began sipping. GoofBoy toddled up, looked at me and said, “Uh!”

So I gave him the glass for a sip, figuring he wouldn’t like it and make his little sour face. Instead, his eyes got big and he said, “Mas! Mas!”

So I gave him some more. Turns out he had been teething so the whiskey and ice felt great on his sore little gums. He had had a lousy day too. So we sat there, quiet, sipping our whiskey and watching the sun go down. Then MamaGoof got us in our jammies and enjoyed the quiet.

A few years later, as I was sipping Scotch a toddler GoofGirl asked for some. I told her just a taste and gave it to her. She took a little sip, pursed her lips, shook her head and announced, “Scotch is spicy!”

That night, as it happens MamaGoof and I went to a Scotch party featuring many different fine scotches. I tasted many different fine scotches (Momma Goof drove and was a bit more moderate.)

The next morning, I lay in bed, the sunlight violently accosting my skull, and the first words I heard as MamaGoof went to change GoofGirl’s diaper was my daughter saying, “Mommy, scotch is spicy.”

“Go tell that to your father.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I will fear no evil: for Nerf art with me

Sunday afternoon, a bit before Ravens kickoff, I was working quietly in my office when he came in.

“Dad, Nerf Gun fight or bamboo stick battle?”

Apparently the option of being left alone wasn’t on the table.

We went outside, he took pity on me and gave me the multi-shot Nerf gun. He underestimated my resolve. Rather then half-heartedly shooting and then submitting to his response barrage I engaged. I chase, and when I was out of ammo I ran. I climbed up the play-set, hid behind trees, and Matrix-style dodged his Nerf shots.

GoofBoy laughed so hard at my exertions that he fell down.

I channeled my inner Jules from Pulp Fiction (warning – the linked clip has some nasty language) and began marching toward the prone Goof, firing remorselessly and reciting the 23rd Psalm:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
I stood over him, firing Nerf darts execution-style as my son lay on the ground, convulsed with laughter.

Then we whacked each other with bamboo sticks.

That evening, MamaGoof brought out the toy catalogues and asked what they wanted for Hanukah. GoofBoy talked about Legos and a guitar, but his eyes kept shifting back to the Nerf Guns.
The technology now available is astounding. There are Nerf gatling guns, sniper rifles with laser scopes, and multi-shot semi-automatic Nerf weapons (not sure if I like them since they don’t have the satisfying click when they are cocked.)

He didn’t want to ask for one. But he looked up with resolve, “Dad, maybe we could save our money and buy the big Nerf rifles?”

“Buddy, I have a credit card. I could go to Target right now and buy all the Nerf guns.”

“Really, I thought your credit card was only for coffeeshops.”

That made me glad I had vanquished him that afternoon.

Pumpkin Cannon & Other Tales of the Fall

They had me at “pumpkin cannon.” As soon as I read the article, I knew I had to go. So, one fine crisp fall afternoon a few years ago I gave Mama Goof a break and took the kids up to Thurmont to fire a pumpkin cannon.

The farm had more than just artillery. There was a corn maze. There were snacks. GoofBoy was still at an age where spending money was a novelty in and of itself, so – just to be able to use some coin – he bought his little sister a lollypop.

To warm up for the main event, we practiced on the apple gun. Noise sensitive GoofGirl thought the pumpkin cannon was too loud, but she liked the apple gun, which had two barrels. She likes close-in fighting, and she really enjoyed the solid thunk of an apple against the side of the little pirate ship.

Then we got in line for the pumpkin cannon. Everyone in line razzed whoever was firing and GoofBoy and I joined in the fun. Some people didn’t even try to hit the pirate ship target; they just aimed the cannon high in the air to see how far they could launch a pumpkin. I wondered if it could hit aircraft (Camp David isn’t far away…)

When it was our turn, I had little doubt that I would prove – and my past experience gave me no reason doubt it – that I could not hit the broad side of a barn. I aimed half-heartedly, fired and turned away from the great blast. I prepared to face the line and accept my jeers. But instead, there was a collective “Oooh!”

I didn’t see it, but my pumpkin had hit the flag on the pirate ship. GoofBoy was impressed.

There’s more
The little Goofs said they wanted to climb the mountains. So, a few turns and surprise – we came to an entrance to Cunningham Falls State Park. We parked and a trail lay before us. There was a sign noting that we were in a hunting zone. But, miracle of miracles, there was an information number posted. A quick call and we learned there was no hunting on Sundays so off we went. We hiked up for a while, the leaves crunching beneath our feet. Then the little Goofs got bored. So we headed down. On the way down we encountered a stream. Have I mentioned before that for my kids streams are absolutely the most fun thing ever?

After a long time of searching for stream creatures and throwing rocks in the water we headed back to the parking lot. There was a structure by the parking lot. It was a set of cages for birds that had been injured and could no longer survive in the wild. There were owls, eagles, and hawks – huge and beautiful seen close up. After appreciating the birds for a bit and almost ready to head home a park ranger pulled up.

It was feeding time. The ranger tossed dead mice and rats into the birds’ cages and the birds gobbled them up. The little Goofs looked on fascinated.

We drove home. I was pretty proud of myself, having arranged a day of adventure that would live on in Goof family history. When I got home the kids looked at me and said, “Now what are we going to do?”

At dinner as we relayed our adventures to Mama Goof, I asked GoofGirl what her favorite part of the day was. She answered fast with a huge smile, “My brother bought me a lollypop!”

Months later, GoofGirl was discussing with me what she and her friends were going to do when they grew up. I hadn’t heard this discussed before (besides her saying she wanted to marry her brother – she was only four so this was sweet!) So I asked her about her plans.

“I want to take care of injured birds.”

“Really? Where did this come from?”

“Remember, at the park when we say the ranger feeding the birds?”

“Oh wow, you remember that day. I’m so glad.”

“Yeah, and I can feed them dead rats!”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

GoofBoy wonders, Who can stop Hello Kitty?

That GoofGirl has an odd obsession with Hello Kitty is understandable. (She shrieked "My dreams have come true!" when she first saw a commercial for Build-a-Bear featuring Hello Kitty.) Apparently all little girls go through this phase.

But GoofBoy also is obsessed - though not in quite the same way. Years ago, when I was in college my brother was in high school. When I was home on break, my parents would make me ferry him to and from school. I think they resented me sleeping till noon every day while they went to work. He went to a Quaker Friends School - but I got bad vibes from the place. I was convinced that the benign exterior was just a cover and that inside the building the monster Cthulhu lay dreaming. (An earlier bed-time might have served me well.)
GoofBoy has a similar obsession with Hello Kitty, convinced she is a cover for something deeply malign (this Devil Hello Kitty vanquishing the other stuffed animals only confirms his suspicions). So, in honor of the late Bil Keane who used to turn over the Family Circus to little Billy, I am again letting GoofBoy vent in this space. Take it away Little Goof:
What is Hello Kitty? I have no idea what it is but my sister girl is obsessed with Hello Kitty. In my opinion though Hello Kitty is Godzilla in disguise so every Hello Kitty product sent to the USA is a tiny piece of Godzilla. Sadly the Hello Kitty toys in Japan are not Godzilla (mostly because they’ve had enough of him.) Now once every piece of Hello Kitty A.K.A Godzilla is in the U.S it will attack our biggest city New York as a huge furry monster that’s cute, rampaging through New York with a screaming sushi ball. The military will call King Kong to fight this monster but King Kong will flee to the Canada so his brother Sasquatch or Smashquatch will help him destroy the hideously cute Godzilla. But they will not prevail. Godzilla will destroy Sasquatch and King Kong. The United States will, as a last resort, call Aquaman to use his powers to summon whales that can smash their heads on Godzilla. Thus concluding that Hello Kitty is Godzilla and that Aquaman’s whales get at least 1,000,000,000 concussions a day.
You said it little Goof!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dad Training Needed

I wish there were a dad camp (not a retreat where we discuss our feelings) but rather an intensive course where I could pick up certain basic “dad skills.”

I have no knowledge or skill at any sport. I am a good dad, so I sit out in the heat watching him play baseball and soccer or in the cold for flag football. I can play catch, but that is about it. I can’t help him with his skills – I have no idea how he should swing or how to throw a curveball. In my own Little League career, my primary skill was getting hit by the pitch. During his games my big piece of advice is to tell him how John Lowenstein would keep his wrists loose by flushing the dugout toilet. He laughed the first time he heard this.

With football, except for my stubborn insistence that Johnny Unitas was the greatest quarterback of all time and that Art Donovan used to play with a cast on his broken arm and use it to deck opposing players, I know even less.

I’ve had nightmares where I’m handed the clipboard and appointed coach because the other parents are all busy. I’d like enough information to handle that contingency.

It would also be handy to know enough about these games that when he started talking about professional sports, I had some capacity for response. Sure I could read the sports pages and watch the games – but that is a lot more commitment then I am willing to make. I haven’t followed baseball since the strike in the early 1990s and I haven’t followed football since ever. (Oddly, I do know a bit about boxing in the 1940s and 50s, but that is because I read old books by A.J. Liebling.)

However, this might hurt me on another level. I let him participate in a fantasy football league on the condition that if he ever gave me trouble with homework I would take over his team and accept any trade that was offered. He know that my ignorance of football would mean he'd have a team of all kickers within an hour.

I could also use some guidance on buying boy stuff – sports equipment, weapons etc. For example, GoofBoy is interested in fishing. I have no problem with this, but that means I have to buy him a rod and other fishing equipment. Here again, I know nothing.

It isn’t just sports stuff where I could use some help. I wouldn’t mind knowing a bit more about my video camera. I know how to turn it on and on a good day I can load the video onto my computer. But I don’t know how to frame a shot, so when we watch it looks like some form of cinéma vérité filmed by people with degenerative nerve diseases.

I should probably also learn to play poker…

It isn’t just skills, it is an attitude, a can-do pioneering spirit – maybe a certain aloofness. Also, I should know how to carve a turkey.

I notice that this is heavily boy-centered (not that girls can’t play sports – I’d be just as hopeless helping GoofGirl). I should probably balance it with classes on how to buy shoes and polish nails but Mama Goof already has that stuff down (and more!).

Somehow, while also proving more than capable of holding good jobs and running things women have held onto that innate knowledge. But for men, the era of Johnny Unitas has past. What came naturally to our fathers has been lost. I bet I’m not the only dad who could use a crash course – an Executive MDA (Masters of Dad Adroitness).
Maybe Art Donovan could teach a course.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hebrew & Hieroglyphs at Open House

Today was open house at the little Goofs’ school. Unfortunately, I had many other things on my plate today (all unpleasant unfortunately) but GoofBoy insisted that I come and see his presentation on Egypt – a project that he started several thousand years ago.

I am a good dad so I went. GoofBoy and his partner (not Carpool Buddy, we advised the school not to put them in the same class less they conspire and mount a coup – same goes for GoofGirl and 3C, maybe even more so) were the third presentation.

Each presentation was about fifteen minutes of kids speaking in Hebrew about some aspect of Egyptian civilization. I don’t know any Hebrew. I spent forty-five minutes sitting in an uncomfortable elementary school desk listening to a bunch of kids go on in gibberish. What a treat.

Not that I’m unimpressed with my son’s knowledge – but I could have skipped the other two presentations, and frankly a little of this sort of thing goes a long way.

For his project my son is studying hieroglyphics – which as far as languages go makes Biblical Hebrew seem downright practical.

I don’t want to come off as too cynical. I am always proud of him. But also, I got to school during recess so I went outside and watched them play soccer. It was a few minutes before GoofBoy realized I was there. But when he looked up and saw me, his face burst with joy. Making him happy makes me happy. He had a great day, so mine wasn't half bad.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Chicken Pox on Your House

Growing up, chicken pox was a rite of passage. Everyone got it, and it kept you home from school for a week (which is approximately forever to a third-grader.) As it happens I got chicken pox during the blizzard of 1978, when school was closed for a week. So while the other kids played outside in a winter wonderland I had to sit inside trying not to scratch myself. I’ve been angry about that since.

But kids aren’t getting chicken pox anymore because they are being vaccinated. So GoofBoy and GoofGirl will never get a sense of the Biblical plague of being covered in boils. We are healthier, but are we poorer for it?

Fortunately, a small number of progressive parents are striving to bring back chicken pox. There are a number of good arguments against vaccines. First, vaccines are a form of witchcraft and that can’t be good. Second, too much use of vaccines will only encourage the disease to get stronger. I’m sure in our lifetimes we will see outbreaks of turkey pox, or worse – the dreaded ostrich pox.

Finally, kids seem to hate getting shots. I don’t know why kids hate shots so much. I try to explain how the tiny needles used now are nothing, when I was a kid they used harpoons and javelins. Recently we took the little Goofs for their flu shot. GoofBoy was stoic, but GoofGirl panicked, tried to escape and ran around the health center yelling variously, “Help! Help!” and “You are terrible parents!”

It did not help at all, that I kept laughing.

So I sympathize with the anti-vaccination parents.

But what impresses me is how these anti-vaccination parents go the extra mile. They really want their kids to have absolutely everything they had as kids. Not only do they spare their children the horrors of vaccination, they pro-actively seek to infect their children with chicken pox – which isn’t easy since no one gets it any more. Enter, the Internet. Now, folks can use Facebook and Twitter to share news of chicken pox outbreaks. You then contact the infected and they will send you tissues with infected saliva or partially licked lollypops so that you can then infect your own children.

This is not only disgusting, it is also illegal (bio-warfare and all) and, best of all in sort of an ultimate irony – it isn’t even effective. Chicken pox is transmitted through air, not saliva. Still I am impressed with the can-do spirit these parents possess. Because in doing what they think is right for their kids they are effectively treating themselves to a week or so at home with a whiny, pox-covered kid.

There is another word to describe that kind of dedication…

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Goofs in Autumn

Like leaves on trees the race of man is found, —
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground;
Another race the following spring supplies:
They fall successive, and successive rise.

The Illiad Alexander Pope translation

Monday after school my son and I took a walk in the woods. He had been up late the night before watching his beloved Ravens lose a lead and then snatch victory from the jaws of defeat – from the hated Steelers no less. But I hadn’t run that day and had to get outside. So he was game. We walked and talked. He told me about his day and school. He’s had a tough time with homework this year, but it is coming around. He likes math! He likes everything.

He liked the autumn leaves. Late in the day, the sun doesn’t blaze high above. It sits low, almost level with the trees, spraying the orange leaves with light. It was getting chilly, but the woods felt warm in all that bright.

We saw lots of deer. We saw a pair of bucks with substantial antlers. Later a group of deer snacked just off the trail. A warmly dressed man, walking his dog watched them. His tiny dog, ancient instincts alerted, strained at his leash to take them down.

The next day there was no school, so Carpool Buddy and 3C slept over. Everyone stayed up late and woke up early. The boys went to a laser-tag birthday. Everyone was tired, but I insisted on driving into the mountains to see the leaves. They complained and refused to get out of the car. We drove home.
I hadn’t seen enough. The colors were less then the day before but still vibrant. I dragged the kids back to the woods near our house – they complained.

Why I love my kids
Walking through the woods there was an island of green. It was a grove of bamboo. I had seen it many times, but the kids had never explored it. They were renewed, examining the shoots, looking for bamboo sticks for weapons, and speculating about pandas living in our woods (ok, that was my idea.)

As tired as they were, they were still capable of being amazed by something new.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Book Review: Percy Jackson holds up to Potter

We’ve been listening to the Percy Jackson series in the car. It is a series of kids books that relies heavily on Greek mythology. The Greek pantheon is real and Mt. Olympus is now on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. The series is about a young man who never seems to quite fit in. He has a wonderful mom, but doesn’t know his father. It turns out that his father is a major deity. The sons of the denizens of Olympus are heroes who, like the figures of myth, have great capabilities and have adventures on behalf of the gods.

It would be easy enough to deride it as a Harry Potter knock-off. Obviously there are innumerable parallels to the world of Harry Potter – even down to the main characters. Young heroes train at a special camp, hidden from the world of mortals. In fact, much of the world of gods and heroes is hidden from mortals. The writing in Percy Jackson is not as strong – although some of that may be due to the fact that it is narrated in the first person by the main character. A teenage boy describing the world in rich, complex and neutral tones would be unlikely.

But while Percy Jackson suffers in direct comparison, it definitely has a charm (it can also be funny – although sometimes it tries to hard.) I keep recalling a literary critic comparing Dickens to one of his leading rivals. The rival could create planets, but Dickens created whole universes. But sometimes those mere planets were awfully compelling. By building upon an established mythology, the Percy Jackson series seems more limited then the universe of Potterdom. After all, Rowling’s work included a number of terms that have joined our vocabulary (although the only one springing to mind is “muggles.”) There were wonderful evocative names for people and things in Rowling's universe.

But the magic world was only partially connected to ours. In Percy Jackson the affairs of the Olympians are inextricably linked to those of mortals. There is a sense of something palpable at stake. Choosing to build on well-established archetypes helps teach children about them (plus it gives them at least a sense of Greek mythology). The Dumbledore-esque teacher of heroes (who – and I like this – is not nearly as formidable as Dumbledore) explains that Olympus dwells wherever the heart of western civilization dwells – and to find it, look at the architecture. Something at stake indeed!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Forget Terrible Twos, Think Ferocious Fives

A colleague at work has a new two year old. He was worried about “the terrible twos.” I told him it was a myth, anyone who talks about the terrible twos hasn’t met a three year old yet.

“Two is nice,” I continued, “Maybe worse then infanthood because they are mobile and surprisingly fast. But they are also learning new stuff almost every minute and talking in that cute mushed up way that is perfect for Twitter.”

“Three year olds are cute too, but they are a lot more energetic and capable. This continues through four year olds who develop and out and out death wish. Five is insane. Five year olds have incredible levels of hormones coursing through their systems. They are articulate, smart, willful, and – worst of all – easily bored. They are smart enough that the simple stuff that amused them only months ago for hours at a time won’t cut it anymore. But, they can’t entertain themselves yet. They are also enormously destructive - especially when they want to be helpful.”

“I remember my son at that age regularly demanding, “’Daddy! Play with me!’”

“That’s another thing,” I explained, “Children are like dictators, they cannot be appeased. I’d play with the kids for forty-five minutes and then need to attend to grown-up stuff – like blogging about my kids. They would whine and cry, ‘You never play with us.’ I would take them out from morning till afternoon to the zoo, on hikes and all sorts of adventures. We’d get home and they would look at me and ask, ‘What are we going to do now?’”

My colleague gulped, “Does it get better?”

“At five, it plateaus. They don’t get more energetic and they start to entertain themselves. Around seven they mature and become really nice. My son is ten and my daughter is seven. It really is a golden age.”

“So five bad years, then smooth sailing,” my colleague summarized.

“Not exactly, because then they turn into teenagers. I try not to think about it."

Box Tales

We had a new refrigerator delivered recently.

After the workmen put took it down to the basement I realized something was missing. The box! I wanted to play in it.

I asked the delivery-men and they said it was in the truck, I could have it if I wanted it.

MamaGoof did not care for this plan. In a last ditch effort, I tried to get the deliverymen on my side, employing my idiot Spanish, "Para los ninos!

Bad move, MamaGoof actually speaks Spanish, plus she is commanding in any language.

"No! Es basura!"

It was clear to the delivery-men who was in charge, and they drove off, no doubt taking the box home to their children.

Too bad, the little Goofs love to play with boxes. But I am a good husband and I haven't said a word about how their mother deprived them of such an awesome adventure.

I'm just biding my time, until I really mess up.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Silent Lunch Hijinks

The teachers at GoofBoy's school have initiated a new policy.  Every Friday is silent lunch.  The kids sit quietly - sounds good so far!  But, the teachers have groups of them get up and try to make everyone else laugh through "physical comedy."

GoofBoy's group got big laughs by pulling their pants up high (aiming for their belts to straddle their nipples).  Other groups ran into walls and fell down, butted heads, and did kicklines. It sounds like a boy dominated activity - it wasn't clear what laugh strategies the girls pursued.

I have to say, this is brilliant.  I remember once in school getting caught making faces at another kid.  The two of us were given detention.  But not just detention, we were required to make faces at each other for 40 minutes.  Worse, the teacher (who tended to be a figure of fun for wearing his pants up around his nipples) brought other teachers and administrators into the room to watch us make faces at each other.

We weren't allowed to repeat faces either - but there are only so many ways those muscles move. (I was saved, I can puff up my cheeks like a blowfish - or Dizzy Gillespie - also back in the day I could turn my face purple at will.)

When it was all done, I was mortally embarrassed and my face hurt.

But what GoofBoy's teachers are doing is pre-emptive embarrassment. It also wears them out a bit, so they aren't on a sugar high all afternoon.  Best of all, there are cameras all over the school.  This stuff is going to be on YouTube soon enough. That might be illegal. But at least they could share the videos with the parents.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Dreaming of Dogfish Head (beer)

I am a fan of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales. I love their beer. Even their beers that aren’t good – like a recent mint stout – are spectacular failures. They do amazing things, like resurrect beer recipes from thousands of years ago or make an IPA with more hops then anyone has ever attempted before.

Sometimes, as I sip (nay, gulp) Raison d’Etre I want to weep with joy.

I also follow Dogfish Head on Facebook, and every once in a while they are hiring. Could I change my life completely – MamaGoof and I abandoning our professional training in order to become stockboys at the Dogfish Head warehouse.

I broach the topic with the Little Goofs:

“What if we moved to Rehobeth so mommy and I could work at Dogfish Head?”

“Daddy, you are obsessed!” GoofGirl scolds.

“Dad, is this like the time you listened to that book about cod and all you could talk about was buying a boat and working the sea?” GoofBoy asked.

“I think you’d like there. We’d have to live in a smaller house, but it would be near the beach.”

“What’s the catch?” GoofBoy asked, he knows me.

“Mommy and I would drink beer all the time, so you would be raised by seagulls.”

“Caw, caw!” he answered.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

How Many Kids? An Interdisciplinary Approach

I have an ongoing discussion with friends about how many children is the perfect number to parent. Their responses usually follow their occupations. A physicist friend suggests only one because with any more the potential combination of interactions and relationships, factoring friends and relatives, is far too complex for the human mind to grasp.

A statistician I know suggested 2.7, with a margin of error of 1.1.

Interestingly a mathematician got really excited about two children because it is the only even prime number – although ideally he said he would like to have 3.141, but unfortunately children only come in whole numbers.

My mechanic suggested three, so you have one for spare parts.

I have two, but feel strongly that three is the ideal number of children. Four is too many, because then the kids have a super-majority and you have to rule by fiat. But with three you get complex alliances and you can usually peel one off in order to create a semblance of democracy while really retaining control.

Mama Goof however does not want to see our house run as a political science experiment. Not that she is opposed in principle to our having a third child. Her conditions were simple, “You want another kid – you carry it and give birth!”

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

GoofGirl the Showrunner

As the sun set and dusk fell, GoofGirl was wandering around our backyard, alone but chatting (she gets that from me). She had just been inside, made a circuit around the house and went back out without saying a word to anyone.

GoofBoy had a buddy over. He had come over to work on an interminable Egypt project that has been going on since the school year began. They are apparently reconstructing the Nile. Their one solid finding is that Google translate does not include hieroglyphics. But they are done for now and are blasting monsters with fireballs on the Wii.

I go outside, “Que haces mi nina?”

“Daddy, I’m playing and in my game I’m in a TV show. Do you want to hear about it?”

“Of course!”

“In the TV show I’m in, my brother is still my brother, but you and mommy aren’t my parents. In the show, my parents got divorced and I live with my mom in a mansion in the country and my brother lives with the dad. We aren’t supposed to know about each other, but my mom told me I had a brother so I go to look for him. My brother doesn’t know he has a sister, but he really wants one. “

“Do you find him?”

“Yes, but it takes a while. The first episode is like a movie of me looking for him. I know his scent, and I have a special robot dog-nose in my purse that helps me find him. But it doesn’t take me to his house, it takes me to his school, in New York.”

“Wow, and this is just the first episode?”

“Right, in later episodes when we finally get together we go to spy school. It is like regular school, but we learn gymnastics, karate, gun shooting, chemistry, and disguise. We capture bad guys. We climb up buildings and drop cages down on them.”

“What kinds of bad guys do you fight?”

“All kinds. Daddy, where do you get the gun that shoots so you can climb up a building?”

“You mean a grappling hook, I have no idea.” Even if I knew I wouldn’t tell her. The last thing GoofGirl needs is a grappling hook.

“Daddy, you know why I kept going inside?”


“Because there are parts of the show where my brother is sitting around, wishing he had a sister. So when I went inside I wasn’t me. I was like the camera making those scenes.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween is too Scary

On Halloween night MamaGoof and GoofBoy stayed up late to watch Monday Night Football. But MamaGoof loves her horror flicks so she kept switching over to Halloween.

I think she was hoping for some company. I can’t watch horror movies because I find the genre derivative and pedestrian. Because life is too short, I could be watching Fellini. Because…

I get scared.

How scared?

Just going to the Halloween Movies website freaked me out. I watched some of Halloween 3, which objectively is an abominably stupid movie and not scary, with Mama Goof. I had nightmares. (I had to have her find me the link to the movie because I was afraid to go to the site again.)

I already find the real world terrifying enough; I don’t need to contemplate a whole parallel world of evil that seeps into our own.

But watching horror movies alone is no fun, so MamaGoof hoped that maybe GoofBoy could be her horror-buddy. (GoofGirl is too young, but based on her obsession with Scooby-Doo and skeletons there is hope.)

Unfortunately for MamaGoof, her son takes after her dad. He got scared, whimpering. MamaGoof’s misfortune was my fortune. All the dumb things I’ve done as a dad – finally MamaGoof did something dumb – leverage for me.

So I took GoofBoy upstairs put him to bed and curled up with him for a while. I told him it was ok to be freaked out. I told him how MamaGoof and I are watching American Horror Story together (a messed up family moves into a haunted house in LA). It is just like MamaGoof and hot spices – what is a bare minimum for her to even notice is my maximum tolerance.

So even though MamaGoof finds American Horror Story more moody then horror – I am waking up at night thinking about it. As I told GoofBoy, I watch every episode thinking, “Just move out of the house! Get a new realtor – run away, do something!”

Then, to take his mind off of it, we discussed which presidents and vice presidents had the funniest names. We narrowed it down to Schuyler Colfax and Calvin Coolidge. We drifted off. We both woke up this morning to nightmares featuring Calvin Coolidge. It fits, he was a loner, a quiet type…