Category Archives: McClatchy-Tribune

Toddler iPad Addiction Is Real, And The Evidence Is Currently Screaming In My Lap


Pictured: Not my toddler, but this game is all I hear in the house anymore.

Island Packet — The Internet is chock plumb full of awful parenting advice, blank scare tactics and a bunch of stuff that people just make up (like there’s really a guy named “Benedict Cumberbatch”), but now and again it hits on something: It was on the Internet that I first read of “iPad addiction,” a new addition to the ever-turning Carousel of Things to Fear Regarding Your Toddler. (Since I live in the Lowcountry, I’m still keeping my No. 1 as “snakes and spiders,” and yes I realize those are two things but I’m convinced they are in cahoots.)

The cause of iPad addiction is simple: Parents in need of a few sweet moments of work or dishes or not-playing-robots time grant the child a brief electronic distraction. But the effect is simpler: Before long the child gets really super crazypants attached to the device, and when you try to eventually take it away for something imprudent like “a bath” or “eating,” the child contorts his face into a demonic visage of rage and shrieks murderously, for like a half an hour, in your face, even during a bath.

Or at least that’s what my son does.


Why I’m Not Powering Down My Toddler’s Approved Electronic Device

This man is all that stands between my 2-year-old and a deeply unpleasant 20-minute landing process.

This man is all that stands between my 2-year-old and a deeply unpleasant 20-minute landing process.

Island Packet — You’ve no doubt been in awkward situations before; you may have had to endure uncomfortable meetings or entrances or appearances. But there’s nothing that tops the stabbing looks you get when you stroll onto a plane carrying a squirming, lip-quivering and visibly mucus-covered 2-year-old.

Due to my wife’s lively work schedule, and the fact that she’s far too smart to actually board a plane with a tempestuous toddler, I recently flew to Chicago with the baby and, for one leg, his 9-year-old brother. I did this both to hit up a family reunion and because of my love of extreme inconvenience. I did this because when I booked the flight the younger one was still of “lap-baby” proportions. When I booked the flight he was an infant; when I boarded the plane, he was a giant moody red-haired potato.

This was supposed to be so easy.

Read more.

What A Weekend Without The Kids Is Really Like

Well for starters, here's something I didn't once think about.

Well for starters, here’s something I didn’t once think about.

Island Packet — Since this is a parenting column, I thought I’d write about something unusual that happened last week regarding my children:

They left for four days.

Everybody left, my wife too. They all flew to visit family in upstate New York, a trip I skipped because of work and because, at some point, I was presented with an option to avoid a round-trip one-connection flight with a 2-year-old. I love that little shriek machine to death, but come on. I’ll spare you the details of trying to change a loaded diaper in the sprawling comfort of an airline lavatory, but let me put it this way: Have you ever had to put on a full suit of chain mail in a phone booth? Because that’s a three-month summer vacation to Tahiti compared with changing a diaper in an airline lavatory.

The balance of this column may put off anyone with an aversion to being apart from their kids for more than short spells at a time; it may also burn feverish jealousy in those who don’t. So let’s get out of the way that, of course, I missed them and of course I was happy to have them home. But that interim period, those four days of not-Temple Run and not-daily dishes and not-cleaning up flying globs of peanut butter … well, it wasn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.


“Mr. Vrabel? First Of All, Your Son Is Fine…” #ridiculousinjuries #boars


This story will eventually involve a rubber ducky.

Island Packet — The phone buzzed, and it was the school’s number. “Mr. Vrabel?” said the slightly too-calm voice on the other end. “First of all, your son is fine …”

Now, there are multiple thoughts that fireball through your brain whenever someone in a position of authority says “Your son is fine,” and the first one is almost always “AAAAAAAUGH HE’S OBVIOUSLY BEEN CARRIED OFF INTO THE WOODS BY A MANIC WILD BOAR,” which is odd, because I actually don’t think wild boars do that, or even get manic.

But whenever the phone rings and those are the first words you hear, it almost always means that someone is bleeding and that person is probably related to you. It’s gratifying, of course, to hear that everyone’s OK, but though the “logic hemisphere” tells you that the outcome is decided and the danger has passed, the “illogical storytelling chaos hemisphere” likes to sprint through the many colorful scenarios that could end in that sentence — most of which, if you’re me, involve dinosaur attacks.


Josh Ritter Has Recorded American Music’s Most Upbeat Divorce Record

Josh Ritter

Island Packet — Some artists spend their whole careers deflecting explanations about what they’ve written, preferring to leave such details up to the adaptable whims of the listener or the perpetual appeal of mystery. In announcing his new record — the sterling, stop-reading-this-and-go-buy-it-already “The Beast In Its Tracks” — Josh Ritter dragged the explanation on stage and threw a spotlight on it.

“I wrote and recorded this record in the 18 months after my marriage had fallen apart,” he said in the album announcement/message to fans. “All heartbreak is awful — my broken heart wasn’t unique. But writing these songs was helping me get through the night, and I didn’t have the strength to care or question.” And thus was born what the media/Internet christened Josh Ritter’s Divorce Record.

But if you’ve been following Ritter’s career — if you haven’t, you should immediately seek out his 2002 debut “The Golden Age of Radio” and listen onward through 2007′s “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter” — you know that the Idaho-born singer is not one for self-immolation, or even allowing himself too much time on the dark side of town.


School Picture Day: Forever Capturing Your Smile, Or Whatever The Hell That Is You’re Doing

Sixth grade.

Sixth grade.

Island Packet — Generally speaking, we don’t order or display school pictures very often, for one simple reason: I have seen mine.

My mom has hanging in her house the complete and unabridged collection of Godawful Jeff School Photos, everything from a mint 1980 Floppy-Haired Kindergartener to a 1986 Inconceivable Geek With Monstrous Plastic Brown Glasses to the 1991 Moody Teen Who Is Scowling Because His Parents Made Him Get Braces in the 11th Grade. The pictures are arranged in chronological order in an oval, ostensibly to simulate a clock and the passage of time. It’s a treasured and invaluable part of my mom’s home decor, and I want to smash it with a hammer and light it on fire, then smash the smashed pieces with a hammer and feed them to a moose, or any kind of animal that eats hopelessly nerdlinger school photos, I’ll have to look it up.

I bring this up because we got our school pictures from my younger son’s day care last week. Read more.




Right, Like You Haven’t Fed Your Kid This Type Of Bacon Before


Stop looking at me like that, Paltrow

Island Packet — I casually mentioned to a friend last week that I’d made my son waffles and bacon for breakfast that morning. I also casually mentioned that I’d done it a few days before, and a few days before that, and probably a few times the previous week as well. My older son does not have an adventuresome palate, so when his dad finds something the boy will eat that doesn’t originate from exhaust-belching factory machinery with the words “VAT OF NUGGETS” on it, he sticks relentlessly with what works. So, sure, I said, waffles and bacon. Get some OJ, throw some fruit out there, breakfast of champions. Let’s get this kid to third grade.

But my news seemed to come as a solid surprise, like, wait, you make him waffles and bacon? Every day? Sure, I replied, feeling really pretty jaunty about myself and my breakfast-related fathering, given all this sudden affirmation and everything.

Well, obviously, this was a bit of a communication breakdown. It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about actual waffles and actual bacon, while I was talking about something different — namely waffles that can be waffled in a toaster and come from Sam’s Club in a box of 35,000, and precooked bacon that can be re-cooked in a microwave and come from Sam’s Club in a box of 47,000.


What to do when you hate the books your kid is reading


Island Packet — First, the good news: The 9-year-old loves books. Always with the books. He’s a big reader — at bedtime, in the backseat and at the breakfast table, which is why many of his favorites are frequently drenched in syrup. There are certainly worse things to be into, such as firecrackers or the Disney Channel or almost literally anything else, so I understand that complaining that your kid reads too much is a little like whining how you can’t get him to put the carrots down long enough to shovel a Baconator in there.

But the problem isn’t that he’s reading too much, it’s that his current favorites — a series of adventures starring a mouse in some sort of mystical dragonworld — are, to borrow a phrase from the world of literary criticism, rhinoceros poop.

These are such terrible books. They have terrible titles and terrible art, and they use terrible words. They have no discernible storyline, characters arrive and vanish for no reason (one turtle just up and leaves, which is odd, as turtles aren’t known for their speedy departures) and each chapter is about two pages long. Read more.

It takes a village. Just not one built using Minecraft.


This thrilling-looking excitementfest is what it’s keeping my son up late at night.

Island Packet — For going on nine years, the video game situation in our house has been happily deplorable.

By “deplorable,” I mean we don’t have video games. We are sans Wii. There is no Xbox here, no PlayStation. One time a friend brought over some device that you control by hopping around your living room like a hysterical lunatic, which wasn’t something I could see doing regularly. Somewhere in the attic there’s an ancient blow-on-the-cartridge-era Nintendo, which essentially represents the precise moment my video game evolution came to an end. And that’s it for video games. Somewhere, we are being pitied by the Amish.

Yet it’s hard for me to stand atop Hippie Mountain and say, “The scourge of video games shall not touch this castle!,” because in place of the Xbox, we’ve become obsessed with something called Minecraft. And apparently if you are the parent of a boy between the ages of 3 and 18, there’s a solid chance you just went, “Oh my God yeah, Minecraft!” — especially if you’re the kind of person who talks to your computer a lot. Read more.




The Mayan Apocalypse is coming. It’s probably time to call Britney.


This image contains coded patterns which mystically herald the coming of the Apocalypse or some crap.

Island Packet (Stolen Hastily From November 2009) — ‘What do you think about this 2012 madness?” Paul Mitchell asks me via the newsroom’s instant-message system earlier this week. Paul Mitchell is a line of high-end hair care products, but he also is an actual human person who works in the newsroom. At one time Paul, being of a considerably younger vintage, failed to correctly identify Bruce Springsteen on the television. Illogically, we’re friends anyway.

The movie looks like silliness, I reply, but on the other hand, “Independence Day” was a pretty great movie in which many objects were indiscriminately exploded, such as the White House and Lone Star from “Spaceballs,” so it might be fun.

“Not the movie,” Paul says, an icy fear creeping noticeably into his online voice. “All I gotta say is I’m panicking if that mess comes my way in three years.”

Paul was, I surmised, referring to the Mayan prophecy that says the end of times will take place in the year 2012. It’s also the hook of “2012,” a new movie by destroyed-landmark fetishist and director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”) that stars John Cusack, both of whom, it turns out, appear in a strong percentage of Mayan prophecies. In their lore, Cusack is actually immortal.

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