LIES. LIES. LIES.
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.
9. They’re already done.
8. Seriously, they’re done. You take them home, and dinner is done.
Basically what I looked like in fourth grade, except my shirts were more colorful
Island Packet — Fourth grade is the worst. Don’t get me wrong. It’s the best. My son is in fourth grade now; his school is great, and his teacher wonderful. But it’s also the year an invisible switch flips, when new neurons in kids’ brains connected to previously undiscovered power sources, where you, as a parent, begin to realize, sigh, now I have to start shaping decisions and perspectives. This is obviously a lot harder than teaching baseball and Scrabble, which I am also not good at.
I’m biased, probably. A lot of things happened to me in fourth grade. We moved to a new town, a tiny cluster of houses, gas stations and precisely one stoplight in a sleepy and farmy corner of Indiana. At the time, this represented abandoning everyone I ever knew in favor of — and this is my real memory — a house that had mice on a road with no name. I got glasses that year, but when I say glasses, I don’t mean “the things you’re wearing to read this newspaper,” I mean “optometric dinner plates that Harry Caray would have rejected as too subtle, even in his current state.” I had my first encounters with bullies, school discipline and crushes. The combination of these things drop-kicked me into some new level of life, some invisible maturity bracket I mark, pretty arbitrarily, in fourth grade.
It’s also the year — at least in this house — that the construction of the rules of life begins, the year my oldest son is beginning to discern what is right and what is wrong and, most importantly, that stories can be malleable and dependent on point of view.
There is no way in hell I’m Googling “super lice,” so please enjoy this picture of a sleepy koala.
GateHouse — WARNING: Today’s column will include repeated uses of the phrase “SUPER LICE.” If you are like me — which you are not, unless you’re currently hopscotching around the room squealing “ew ew ew ew” and flailing your hands around like a Motown backup dancer from 1963 — you will receive this news with the kind of horror they get in bad old monster movies when the aliens attack, or whenever Mitch McConnell walks into a room. Pretty much whenever they put the word “super” before the name of an insect, you know you’re in for a long afternoon.
I’ll just come right out and say this: My kids had lice last year. Both kids. Two kids, two heads, 5,000 lice. We understood it with the older one, what with the way he runs into other things with his head a lot (true story), but we’re still not sure what happened with the baby, who’s usually too busy eating donuts to really interact with other children. The good news was we knew where the lice came from, we knew who passed them on, and my children are under strict orders to never again report to that bus stop.
(I am actually psychosomatically itching right now writing this column. I have a lot of problems. You’d be surprised how many of them are insect-based.)
Island Packet — What did you guys do this weekend? Did you sleep in, relax, maybe lounge about on the porch? Did you get some sun, go golfing, head out for a leisurely bike ride? Me? Oh thanks for asking, I had to explain to a fourth-grader why a sister passionately kissing her brother is weird.
Anyone within a certain age (30-50), gender (dudes) and personality type (not rugby players) knows that sentence means one thing: “The Empire Strikes Back,” which the little man and I watched this weekend. We did this for two reasons: First, he’s 10, and it is a crucial plateau in the emotional education of a 10-year-old to watch “The Empire Strikes Back” — all the pediatricians say so. (Sure, not any I could find around here, but I’m sure that underneath their responses of “What are you talking about?” and “Are you being serious right now? and “Mr. Vrabel, this is the third time we’ve had to tell you, please stop calling our office,” they were secretly agreeing with me.)
Read more here.
NickMom — Keith Richards teamed up with his daughter to write a children’s book called “Gus & Me.” That’s right, KEITH RICHARDS is now more appropriate for your children than Hannah Montana. Here are other kids’ books we’d like to see from our valuable rock stars.
Pictured: Not me. But mostly me.
Island Packet — Every now and again the boys and I visit the Bristol Skate Park on Hilton Head Island’s south end, a wonderful resource that’s free, close and often empty. We’re not professionals — the 10-year-old and I will grab our vintage Target skates (my son’s from Christmas a few years ago, mine from like the summer of 1945) and a few hockey sticks and zing around the rink, absent-mindedly whacking away at pucks happily thrown around by my 2-year-old. Sometimes I’ll even pick the little one up and skate around with him in my arms because no one ever taught me about safety.
Anyway, during one such visit a few weeks ago I ambled over to check on the 10-year-old and make sure he wasn’t bouncing his head off too much pavement. And I found him skating the same loop on repeat, practicing it over and over again — down the big ramp, up a smaller one, down the other side, up a curved hill that allowed him to turn to the opposite direction, up and down another small hill, then up to a fairly big one to where he began. “Try this, Dad,” he said with genuine enthusiasm, after spotting me. “Here, I’ll do another demonstration.” And he was off, down, up, down, up and around, up, down, back. He was getting it, and liking it.
Well, what could I do?
Well he wouldn’t have old Chomper here, that’s for sure.
Island Packet — Nine-year-old boys knock their teeth out a lot. That is simply scientific fact, one verified by my son’s dentist, who told me “9-year-old boys knock their teeth out a lot” both times I took my 9-year-old in to the dentist because he knocked out his tooth.
The first time was shortly before Christmas. You know how 9-year-olds theoretically have the power to walk, how they technically learned mobility 7 or 8 years before, but instead of using their legs to “cross a finite space” they “fall on purpose” and “flop around like panicking safari animals” and “act like someone has lit some of their socks on fire”? Yeah, he was doing that. So, surprise, he ended up taking a bite of floor, breaking his tooth off about halfway up, just shy of the nerve, in one of those severe-looking dental injuries that makes a parent think two things: 1. “GASP! MY PRECIOUS LITTLE MAN IS INJURED!” 2. (whatever the sound is when you run out of money).
GateHouse — GATHER AROUND AMERICA, I HAVE THE BEST NEWS OF 2014.
That’s right, 2014. No better news will come out this year. If I find that a mysterious rich uncle left me $55 billion and a yacht it will not be better news than this. If the Cubs decide to avoid baseball this summer and save us all the errors and collapsing it will not be better than this. If Sean Hannity plunges into a sinkhole filled with monstrous giraffe-sized worms who feast on pouting, it will not be better than this. OK, that last one will be pretty close, but still: Bring the children into the room, find a comfortable chair and grab a nice bottle of seltzer, for drinking:
The United States is facing a severe clown shortage.
HOW GREAT IS THAT? It’s working! We’re getting rid of clowns! Which is frankly long overdue, because it’s been like 300 years and several circus mergers since anybody needed them. And I say that as someone who has purposefully attended an Insane Clown Posse concert, which was — and this is not a joke — easily the most positive clown-related environment I’ve ever been in. (Seriously, however much Faygo you think those guys spray at an average small-market concert, it’s like a million times more Faygo. I didn’t know Faygo made that much Faygo. And the concert ended with like 20 guys on stage, mostly in face paint, and lights and confetti and lasers and Faygo and everyone hopping around stage performing a thrice-punctuated track called “Bang! Pow! Boom!” and it was maybe deeply entertaining? I don’t know, all the confetti was very disorienting.)
- Bring it on, Short Man, I ain’t scared o’ you.
Island Packet — Are you supposed to let your kids win at board games? Let me rephrase that: Are you supposed to let your kids win at board games if you can beat them at board games? Because frankly I lost a shocking amount of Candy Land to my son when he was 4, but in my defense, there is zero strategy to Candy Land, and that dude had no idea what he was doing. It’s not like I lost because of some series of tactical errors, right? The little mop-top just pulled the colored cards in the right order and avoided Gloppy when he needed to, right? Everyone just smile and nod, please, thanks.
On the whole, we’ve yet to establish a consistent routine about this winning-and-losing situation. Sometimes when we play games I’ll take a dive in Battleship, make a ridiculous accusation in Clue or make a lousy chess move or two to let the Little Man stay a competitive step ahead. Sometimes I’ll spot-decide that I should use this game of Ticket to Ride to teach that life is an unending thread of disappointments that he must begin enduring as soon as possible. Sometimes my 9-year-old straight up beats me at chess, which naturally makes me want to immediately crush him at Ticket to Ride.
But there’s no rhyme or reason to these games, and there probably should be, at least while I maintain the ability to keep an upper hand at some of them. Because there is one game at which he regularly throttles me, one game that I lose, regularly, badly, to a person who routinely puts his shirts on backward and ends 85 percent of all dinners by falling out of his chair.
The game is called Blokus.