Let Me Start By Saying — This week, over at the great Let Me Start By Saying, I make a thoughtful, reasoned argument for why you shouldn’t eat babies. I feel this is a pretty logical point, but there appears to be some pushback. Read the entire debate here to find out exactly how I lose. . .
Island Packet — If it wasn’t for all the blackmail, sign-ups for this Lego Robotics team would be going pretty well.
It’s not a problem with Legos (which my 10-year-old and I love) or extracurricular activities (which are good) or robots (which are mostly good, with the obvious exceptions of Siri, the Matrix, Mechagodzilla and those little red ones that claim to vacuum your house but are hopelessly baffled by stairs). No, it’s a problem with humans, and the pressures they create. Because my son’s Lego Robotics team currently lacks one key component: a coach. And I’ve been warned that without a coach the team will be canceled, deleted, become as hopeless as a Roomba trying to reach a second floor.
This, of course, is bad. Obviously I don’t want my son to miss out on extracurricular Lego camp, for two reasons: 1. His is a mechanical, engineering-oriented brain that would benefit from such imaginative exploration, and 2. It represents several weekly 90-minute blocks that he’d be out of the house, and thus not asking me endless questions about dragons while I’m working.
But — and there’s really no way around this — I can’t coach a Lego team. There, I said it. Yet the emails about my son’s team needing a coach have gone from gently encouraging to increasingly insistent to essentially bulletins from a shattered dystopian future where there are no Lego Robotics teams, or, if I’m reading this right, human joy. “If we are unable to find a parent coach THESE TEAMS WILL BE DISBANDED and refunds will be issued,” reads a typical email.
Island Packet — There is no joy on Earth so powerful, no happiness so unchained, as that seen in the eyes of a 10-year-old who has just learned he gets to dump a large bucket of ice water on his father’s head.
You should have seen this kid’s smile, his maniacal, delirious, 75 percent unsettling smile. I think he’s still got it; he’s upstairs asleep with it. Sci-fi evildoers from the ’70s smiled like this, but they also had villainous goatees so it looked kind of natural. I’ve special-ordered this little punk Lego trains two days before Christmas and didn’t get half the wild-eyed glee I got by saying the words, “Hey, remember those ice bucket videos we were watching? Sophie and Eva’s dad just challenged me.”
His eyes, wide. His hands, shaking. His brain, whirring and whizzing with possibility. “This sounds like fun! Can we do it now?”
NickMom — Look, there’s no doubt that moms have it rough out there, but life’s not exactly sunshine and butterflies for us dads, either.
Island Packet — Every day, a tiny yellow bird tries to break into my house.
For the past two weeks — although I assume it was happening long before — this festive little stalker has been trying to gain entrance, every morning, every afternoon, every night. He is relentless. And adorable! And precious. And psychotic! I’ve seen him (I assume it’s a him, because only guys would be dumb enough to do this repeatedly) trying to shatter his way in through the glass, “Die Hard”-style. I’ve watched him fling himself against the front door (which didn’t work), the sliding glass door (also didn’t work) and the other sliding glass door (which is troubling, because that means he’s done some research into our multiple entrances). I’ve watched him stand outside the front door. Waiting. Watching. Always watching.
Naturally, as is often the case when confronted by a 9-ounce creature who communicates via musical whistling, I’m terrified. Why does this bird want in so badly? Did he used to live here? Does he think I’m his mommy? Does he think I am in possession of delicious breadcrumbs? Do birds even eat breadcrumbs? These are the questions I am currently wrestling with, although if I ever open the door I will apparently be wrestling with a bird. If I win, though, I’ll be sure to (puts on sunglasses) tweet about it.
Island Packet — If anyone out there ever needs moving help, if you find yourself in need of serious box-toting muscle and seemingly boundless energy, may I humbly suggest forgoing all those moving companies with their sons and calling my 10-year-old and his cousins Sophie, 11, and Eva, 9.
Because these children are machines, ferocious and unyielding. I’ve moved many times, and I’ve seen grown men pout about couches and tables. Last week I saw a 9-year-old ask me, “You think I can get that piano bench upstairs?” (I’m seriously thinking of encouraging them to skip college and open their own moving business, which will not only be a lucrative use of their youthful energies, but save us $7 million in tuition fees.)
Here’s how this went. We were near the end of a lengthy and rocky move, one that covered multiple states, found me nearly plummeting off Eagle Mountain in a Penske truck and — sorry about this, pet people — resulted in the accidental execution of many fish. That part was not my fault, and I’ve suffered severe aquatic-based formerly Catholic guilt for like two weeks. (Unrelated: What would be the penance for accidentally killing fish with misdirected engine heat? I don’t think that’s in the handbook, though I like to imagine it’s something like “Recite the lyrics to that ‘Little Mermaid’ song three times.”)
Island Packet — I sing to my 2-year-old every night at bedtime. Usually it’s a combination of one or two or 18 songs from “Frozen,” a Jimmy Buffett song about a house party gone awry (role models, people) and “Goodnight Sweetheart.” Now, I am not what musicians or artists or humans with ears would call “a good singer,” but I’m apparently especially lousy at “Goodnight Sweetheart.” The other night, midsong, my 2-year-old stood up in his crib, leaned toward me, put his hands gently on each side of my face and said, “Stop.”
That was 8 p.m. At 7 a.m. the next day, he requested a shower, asked for diaper cream, told me he didn’t want to wear a diaper (thanks, but not your choice, Poops), announced he wanted a waffle and fetched one from the freezer (we eat really healthy), got a chocolate milk box, put the straw in and waddled out to the porch table to await his warm waffle. In the span of a few hours, he developed an ear for pitch and also grew up.
He’s doing other helpful things now too, like talking in complete sentences (“No, I want Daddy to do it”), remembering where he lost things (“My baby blanket is in the pool!”), and using the same words to describe things as the rest of us. That doesn’t work all the time; last night we argued for 10 minutes about whether an animal in his ABC book was a zebra or a horse. I went with zebra, because it was black and white, it was on the page labeled Z and also — this part is key — it was a zebra. The 2-year-old, with enviable sincerity, looked at me with cold gunfighter eyes and said, “Horse.” This went on two and a half million more times. I actually just gave up and let him believe ungulate-related lies, because I was tired of losing an argument to a person who eats Pop-Tart frosting with a spoon.
GateHouse — You win, soccer!
I learned something in the World Cup in 2010: Turns out that if you furnish a scorching last-minute sudden-death winning goal, and add the subtle, unrelenting pressure of most of my friends and all of Twitter, I turn into a dynamic, perspiring World Cup fan! At least for a few days, or weeks, or years, or however long this thing goes on. I haven’t the foggiest idea.
But that’s OK, because I’m still new to this soccer thing, this severe, rash-fueled case of World Cup fever that makes me want to occasionally punch random strangers in the throat. But I confess to being baffled by my sudden enthusiasm, and by “enthusiasm” I mean “the fleeting brush of elevated interest I feel because everybody else is watching it and I’m a unrepentant meerkat who wants to know what the group is talking about.” Because, like all of America, and despite what the more self-satisfied portions of America might claim on Facebook, I don’t generally pay the remotest smidge of attention to soccer unless a soccer game is interrupted by a camel invasion, Alison Brie photo shoot or velociraptor attack, and even in the case of the latter I’d probably just watch the highlights (“Just look at the way those raptors are using cooperative hunting to distract the American goalkeepers, right before slicing them to pieces with their sharp, slashing claws! Amazing, isn’t it, Jim?” And then the camera would cut to Jim, and we would see that Jim has just been sliced to pieces by velociraptors. I am pretty sure it’s paragraphs like this that made me not get the callback about that ESPN job.).
Island Packet — Everyone agrees that running is dumb, even people who run a lot. Especially people who run a lot.
I run for two very simple reasons: 1. “Exercise is important” or whatever, and 2. I’m a joke at all other sporting activities. Seriously. I’ve tried them. Running is the only one that I have not completely botched, owing to the fact that it’s extremely difficult to screw up putting one foot in front of the other 12,000 times. Well, I guess you could run smack into a water tower, or into an open sewer drain, or the waiting open mouth of an alligator. Real talk, though, I’d take an activity with potential alligator chompery over having to shoot a free throw in public.
There is one major problem with running, though: It takes FOREVER, especially how I do it. Anyway, as such, I need a baby sitter. And weirdly enough, I’ve been helped out by a friend named Hadley, who is someone I’ve known for many years, not one of which has involved me thinking of her as a “kid person.” More of a “cat person,” really. Well, now she has a dog, I guess, but you don’t have to change cat or dog diapers, if you’re lucky.
GateHouse — I fear only two things in this hard cold world: Heights and spiders. That’s it. Well, I’m also sort of afraid of whales. Because they’re monstrous, and they live in the hard cold sea. I know everyone’s all like “But they’re harmless filter feeders who live on krill and plankton and sing songs to each other and occasionally save the Starship Enterprise,” yeah well that’s what the liberal media wants you to believe. What if they’re actually eating dolphins and cows and old pirates? You just don’t know about whales, is what I’m saying. (I’m also afraid of opening tubes of cinnamon rolls, because you never know when that POP is coming. Oh, and clowns, God, how did I forget about clowns? And the Incredible Hulk. And hot air balloons. Riding on a hot air balloon, are you kidding me, it’s like climbing into a basket containing your own death and then sending it 5,000 feet into the air. I’d rather swim around in a clown car full of whales.)
Anyway, apparently I’m not alone in these fears — well, at least one of them — because there is a new app designed to help people squash their arachnophobias.
The app is called Phobia Free and before you ask, no, of course I haven’t downloaded it. This is for two reasons:
- It’s like four bucks, and I don’t know how much you think newspapers pay these days, but I assure you it’s less than four bucks and
- That would indicate I want to cure this fear of spiders. I don’t. I’m comfortable with it. It and I have made it 38 happy years, we see no need to go “improving ourselves” now.