Archive for August, 2008

How about a play date, Dad?

August 27, 2008

Today was a good day. 

I got home from work tonight to find that the population of our home had grown significantly. When I stepped through the threshold I noticed that, instead of two boys, we had four boys and one toddling 2-year old girl. I have seen this before- it’s a phenomena that every parent has dealt with- so I didn’t turn and run but instead resigned myself to the task at hand and joined the fray. For those of you who have yet to enjoy this type of event (play date), let me highlight some of the events that I witnessed in a two hour period.

Break:

I heard screaming in the basement so I ran downstairs in order to apply pressure to the wound that I was positive Mack must have sustained while at play. Instead, I found him in the prone position being beaten vigorously about the head and shoulders with a foam replica of King Arthur’s sword “Excalibur”. His buddy was delivering the blows with such ferocity that I actually stood back to admire the sheer magnitude of his determination to drive my boy through the basement floor. Eventually I quit admiring the kid’s work ethic and stepped in to make peace between the two warring factions. I think Mack was pretty fortunate as I am sure his buddy had plenty of steam left in him.

Break:

The two youngest boys created an alliance against the two older boys in order to protect themselves. I still think they were a bit outgunned, but I admire them for drawing together like they did. To protect themselves, they built a cave made of pillows in the spare bedroom. Only a team of 5-year olds would consider this an adequate self-protection measure, but they were convinced that their impenetrable pillow fortress would hold off the attacking hordes. It took approximately 3 seconds for the big kids to compromise the perimeter and rain down destruction on their domain. The youngest kids scurried under the bed; I cleaned up the pillows.

Break:

One of the children requested a drink. I took him to the refrigerator and showed him three possible alternatives. He had to thoroughly examine each of his choices to include having me read the nutritional information of each while deciding. It took him 11 minutes to make an informed decision (he chose water). As an aside, were you aware that an open refrigerator door can actually bring the temperature of a 3,000 square foot home down to a glacial 57 degrees?

Break:

A swarm of locust flew through my living room, devoured my love seat, and escaped out the front door. How did this happen, you may ask? It was possible because every single exterior door and window in my home was left open to the elements. Why locust, you may ask? Isn’t that an every 7-year thing, you may argue? Nope, not when you’re Shane Groah. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the locust shot out from a volcano that suddenly appeared in my back yard. These are the things that don’t surprise you when you’re Shane Groah in the middle of play date hell.

Break:

While I was vacuuming the remnants of my love seat off the living room floor with my Dyson super vacuum (Mr. Dyson is a genius, second only to Mr. Carlo Rossi), I noticed a wad of gum slightly smaller than a world globe fastened to our rug. I broke out my tape measure to get data points. From my calculations, a child would need a mouth slightly larger than the opening of a common trash can to chew such an enormous mass of Hubba-Bubba. I find this only slightly less perplexing than the Stonehenge monuments and area 53.

Break:

Cayden just shot by me naked, wearing nothing but an Indian headdress and a pair of his Mom’s pumps. How can a child run that fast in uncomfortable shoes?

Break:

I made the mistake of following Mack into the basement where all of the children mustered during the fire (don’t ask). I almost threw up when I reached the bottom of the stairs. The look on my face must have been fairly unsettling because all 5 children stopped in their tracks to observe me. Every single container, drawer, box, cupboard, and closet had been emptied and their contents had been scattered across the floor. Not sure who was responsible, but someone named Snoop-D- Double-G tagged my back wall like a subway car and a group of homeless people were standing around a burning trash barrel where my sectional used to be. If it wasn’t for the small herd of llamas grazing peacefully in my gym, I would have gone completely berserk, but for some strange reason grazing livestock always puts me at ease, so I was able to hold it together. (Disclaimer-this portion of my post may be slightly embellished, but not by much).

So that pretty much ended the play date. As always, my kids helped to repair our home and what we couldn’t do ourselves we contracted out to professionals. Most of the kids went home tired, but happy- all except the kid who got bit by the baboon (they’ll never win that lawsuit; I don’t even own a baboon). The kids have another play date next week, but fortunately it’s at a friend’s home and not our own. I pity that family, but better them than me.

 Just a few words on birthday parties…

Many of you will feel the need to stage elaborate birthday gatherings for your children, especially if you have kids between the ages of 1-7 years old. We have done so for the past 8 years and, by my calculation, we have at least 3 more years of pain to endure. In fact, Cayden’s birthday is coming up at the end of August and we have already begun the birthday planning process (BPP). It is imperative to start the BPP early due to the nature of initial desires expressed by your child. For instance, if we executed Cayden’s present requirements, he would be the Incredible Hulk and his friends (all 1,600 or so) would be dressed as the City of San Francisco. Cayden would then spend the evening toppling them over like tinker toys or bowling pins. Of course there would be cake and ice cream, his preference being that both be served while he and his crew of miscreants ride the full-sized roller coaster that, in his spare time, Dad built from scrap lumber.

Obviously, you start months out to whittle down your child’s expectations before the big day.

Most parents, when faced with birthdays, do one of two things-  they outsource the birthday party to a professional or they attempt to save some money by hosting the party at their home. My list of items below has elements applicable to both options.

Here is the formula that most parents follow:

Select (20) of your child’s closest friends.

-Please note- your child does not have 20 close friends, but when asked he can recite the names of 80 children- the likes of which have never been mentioned in your household.

-Mackinley normally invites his entire classroom plus some nameless kids he once saw at Target and one or two who drove by our home with their parents last Easter. Point being, be prepared to help construct the guest list; my advice is to invite kids based on the intrinsic value of their parents (i.e. invite your friends’ kids).

Send each child a custom-made invite ($).

-Note- even though your child will express initial interest in putting these together, their zeal will fade shortly after the first one is completed, leaving you holding the bag for the completion of the remaining 19.

-Some parents do create “no kidding” custom invites, made from scratch with all types of high speed arts and crafts paraphernalia. I curse these overachieving do-gooders because they make me feel like a crappy parent. I beg you, in the name of all that is holy, to buy the pre-packaged invites with balloons or clowns or “what not”. You’ll make your peers feel better about their own parenting choices, thus sending your approval ratings through the roof.

-Buy some thank you cards while you’re at it. It is very important to send these out immediately after your guests depart. Birthday protocol demands that the postmark be no later than 48-hours post-party execution. In my home, we thumb our noses at protocol. “Thank you” cards sit on our kitchen counter for several months until the point when it would be bad taste to send them. If any of you are interested in purchasing some slightly dated “thank you” cards for a 3, 4, 5 or 6 year old birthday party, let me know; Otherwise I’ll use the envelopes to mail in my house payments, which is historically how they are put to use.

-Gather mailing information for all attendees and place your invites in the mail. Do this even if the attendee in question lives next door to you; etiquette demands that you waste a stamp during the delivery process.

Patiently await RSVP’s from (40) disgruntled parents/legal guardians who just got told what they will be doing on their Saturday afternoon two weeks from the day they reluctantly presented the invite to their kids.

-When I receive a piece of mail inviting me to Chuck-E-Cheese on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I want to scream. Personally I would rather endure a Brazilian bikini wax than spend the afternoon dodging barefoot children and a 6-foot tall sweaty man in a rodent suit, but that’s just me.

-If you want to alleviate some parental dismay, put this simple statement at the bottom of the invite “Parents are not obligated to stay”. You just gave your peers a couple hours of free babysitting and you are officially a martyr.

If you decide to hire a professional, research and reserve a spot at one of many establishments aimed at entertaining hordes of children ($).

-The most desirable establishments have mechanical animal bands, casino-style gambling, and sport large ceiling mounted tunnel complexes that can swallow a four year old child for up to three hours. Don’t let this stress you out; there is only one way out of these establishments so your kid won’t escape, but then again, neither will you if the place catches on fire. Maybe you should have the party at home?

-You can forego professional help and a potential death trap and host the party at your home. This may or may not be the cheaper option, depending on the level of damage resulting from swarms of kids stampeding through your house.

Either way you’ll have to do some shopping:

-Visit the dollar store and purchase gobs of cheap, gimmicky toys and candy that will inevitably end up under the backseat of the family minivan 6-seconds after their child leaves the party.

-Place said items in fancy, decorated, custom baggies ($). These are known as “goodie bags”. Yes, as the party sponsor, you are obliged to reward attendees for coming to the expensive venue that you just mortgaged your home to reserve.

-Note- parents will judge you on the contents of the goodie bags. If you’re too frugal, they will resent you; if you get too elaborate and set a new “goodie bag benchmark”, they will resent you even more. Screw this up and your Saturdays will be void of birthday glee, as you will be black listed from attending follow on parties.

-Go to the local party store and purchase the following:

-Themed plates/ napkins/ balloons/ crepe paper/ flatware ($)

-Make sure the theme is age-appropriate to the birthday boy/girl. For instance, “My Little Pony” plates will make your son hate you up until his college years so disregard those great discount items placed near the cash register.

Piñata- Can’t go wrong with a Piñata, they are expensive but the inevitable slap to the groin with a rigid piece of timber puts you in the running for $10,000 dollars on America’s Funniest Home Videos- just make sure your camcorder is charged and ready to capture the painful expression on your face.

Games- Do not attempt Pin-the-Tail on the donkey! Trying to entertain the younger generation with games of yesteryear will only earn looks of disappointment and disgust.

-Remember you’re the one who bought the Nintendo for your kid when he/she was 6-months post womb; time to step up to the plate and out do the wonders of modern technology.

-This issue is easily resolved by renting a high-dollar, inflatable kingdom that the whole neighborhood can bounce around in. Your grass will eventually grow back, most likely just in time for the college graduation party.

-Oh, and by the way- no clowns, no ponies, no clowns riding ponies- the whole concept is creepy. Grown men in big floppy shoes and stubby little horses, they’ll give your kids nightmares for months so throw away your hard earned money on something that won’t make your guest wet their pants and run into the woods screaming.

Chow- This is pretty easy. Everyone knows what kids will eat. If you have that one strange child whose favorite food is pork roast in a sweet basil glaze, forgo his or her desires and order 2-3 large cheese pizzas.

-Cake and ice cream are self explanatory, just don’t get too elaborate, now is not the time to showcase your culinary skill. Go with basic chocolate cake and ice cream. The kids are so enamored by the fact that their food is on fire (birthday candles) that there is no need to impress them with what the candles are held in place by.

After purchasing all of the items to host a party you will come to the realization that YES! you can still afford that $50 bicycle that Suzy/Johnny so desperately wanted, but only if K-Mart has a low interest payment plan and you’re able to work that second job.

By now your finances are shot, so you and your spouse decide to shoot for the moon; in the hopes that you will qualify for bankruptcy.

Once your home is decorated, take a few moments to stretch, catch your breath, and hug your loved ones.

The party begins…..

Man-Cation

August 17, 2008

Not sure if anyone is aware of this, but recently the boys and I got an opportunity to escape for a Man-cation. That’s right, it’s not a typo, I said “Man-cation”. The ladies were not on the invite list for this one. It seems my good buddy’s parents live a couple of hours down the road and they have the perfect spot for boys of all ages to enjoy themselves. Six acres on the water with plenty of woods, a swimming pool, boat dock, etc.-  this place had it all. So all the men folk climbed up into my big red truck and drove to southern Maryland. Now, I am aware that I could have taken Connie’s minivan, gotten better gas mileage, and enjoyed the comforts associated with a fully-loaded, luxury vehicle, but minivans just don’t have that “Man-cation” feel we were looking for. Besides, nothing counteracts testosterone like a “Soccer Mom” bumper sticker and baby on board warning triangle, so I believe the $3,200.00 fuel bill was money well spent to maintain the manly aura of our adventure.

The three men under the age of eight (Mackinley, Larry- formerly known as Cayden, and Jack) were extremely excited to venture into the wild with us. Mack must have heard us talking about the stark conditions that we would be enduring because, when he jumped in the truck, he was better armed than most presidential security details. I patted him down prior to deploying in order to prevent the local authorities from apprehending him and placing him on the terrorist watch list, but he still had a few pieces of hardware stashed on his person- just in case.

The ride down was pretty uneventful. We talked sports, home improvement, and commented a few times on how smart we thought men were- basically the stuff guys talk about when women are absent. We made sure not to say anything negative about our spouses (not that we ever would), but considering the current audience, even the slightest barb was sure to find its way back to our better halves, so best to keep our mouths shut. When we arrived into the wild, we were greeted by my buddy’s parents, who turned out to be phenomenal people. The wilderness was not as wildernessy as I had anticipated as we approached a great big house, great big swimming pool, on and on and on. The closest we would probably get to roughing it would be the trek to the refrigerator to get a cold one. Perfect.

Like most men, we wasted no time in getting started. As men, we do not feel the need to engage in obligatory small talk, so a quick handshake and a hug were all that were needed when the grandparents greeted us. You could tell they wanted to talk to us, but men don’t have time to sit around and blah, blah, blah all afternoon. So all that nonsense about heat advisories, poison foliage, big foot sightings and boat engine failure would have to wait until after we completed our hike through the woods past the giant footprints, next to the pretty flowers we picked, to get to the boat we would be going out on all afternoon (by the way did anyone bring sun screen?) As I said, no time to talk; we’re on a man-mission.

So off we went, cruising along the water in our 17-foot boat in the blazing heat looking for fish to terrorize. We were smart enough to bring a cooler, but stupid enough to forget the bottle opener. At one point, I considered sticking the top of the bottle against the propeller in order to neatly chop off the cap. Obviously my brush with heat stroke had warped my sense of judgment, making me oblivious to the fact that I would likely chop off my hand. Mack came to my rescue, however, and produced an edged weapon that came complete with an old-school bottle opener. Good man. Beer effectively canceled out the impact of boating on the surface of the sun for everyone over the age of 21, but three of our crew were still far from the legal age of consumption. We monitored them closely, but warm Dr. Peppers did not have the same cooling effect as Mr. Budweiser so we knew we had to act quickly before they melted before our eyes.

This is the part that I chose not to tell Connie when I returned from Southern Maryland. We had long given up on catching fish (they had obviously swam out to cooler waters and besides, Mack’s casting technique was more frightening than enticing thus the chances of running into a fish capable of chasing down his bait was highly unlikely). So we put down the rods and decided to go swimming. To test the depth of the water, I used the “boy-cast & retrieve method”. Simply explained- toss the lightest individual into the water and then pull them back into the boat. Cayden’s waif-like build won by a landslide so I tightened up his life jacket and hurled him over the side; he was delighted. Next thing you know, my buddy Chris and I are chucking all three of the boys out of the boat and they are doing their best to get back in, laughing hysterically I might add. From a distance this must have looked a bit bizarre and I am sure the other boaters were perplexed at the sight of two guys apparently chumming the water with 5-8 year old kids, but I assure you it was all in good fun and completely safe. We got a lot of dirty looks that day.

We eventually made it off the water and spent the remainder of the afternoon swimming in a tamer venue (Chris’s parents’ shaded swimming pool). We also made the boys drink water (a lot of it) as we slathered them in sunblock. Of course, all of this happened after 5:00 p.m. so our display of responsible parenting was more for us than them.Besides, we both knew that the sight of “lobster boys” would raise some questions so at least this way we could say “Of course I put sunblock on them” with a degree of sincerity.

All said and done, I think Chris and I did a tremendous job with the boys over the weekend. Sure, we had a couple of minor hiccups (i.e. complete lack of proper hydration and melanoma avoidance measures), but all said and done, not bad for a couple of guys, right?

The rest of the Man-cation was totally benign, completely void of hazards, almost tranquil, and unless Connie finds out about the fireworks, cigars and one slightly dead muskrat then that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Little Boy Beliefs…

August 16, 2008

Kids are great for a number of reasons- one of those being that they are not bound by the laws of nature or logical thought. Their reality is not born of experience or wisdom; in fact, their reality is comprised of nothing more than what they think (frightening) and what they gather with their 5 senses. I have listed some of the beliefs that my boys hold as the gospel truth. I am sure there are plenty more but this is a quick list, right off the top of my head.

Those shiny rocks we found in the backyard are precious gems capable of being cashed in at Toys-R-Us for all manner of exciting items.

Our band (The Land Brothers, aptly named because they both live on land) will propel us to super-stardom even if we never learn to play our instruments.

Every fish that hits our bait has the potential to be the fabled Moby Dick and should be fought with extreme zeal. (Surprisingly they react this way regardless of how many tiny fish they catch in a single afternoon).

Santa has no budget, thus it is not unreasonable to ask for a brand new 4-wheeler, dirt bike and Escalade all on the same Christmas list.

(Cayden) If I do not brush my teeth often enough they will turn green and I will become a pirate. (The idea of becoming a pirate is quite appealing to him so we must force him to brush twice daily).

Ice cream and Ritz Bits sandwiches are sound substitutes for most meals.

Whupped (Whipped) cream was created by the hand of God.

Clothes become unfit for wear the minute they touch human skin, therefore they must be placed on the floor where they mysteriously migrate to the laundry room… if you wait long enough.

The toilet is a hella good time and a great place to power wash personal items. Simply throw items in the bowl (i.e. marbles, coins, 400-yards of dental floss, car keys etc.) and flush.Dad will get them back in no time. All that he has to do is rip the toilet from the floor and curse a lot.

(Mack) Seven is the perfect age for a real handgun.

Department store clothing racks make great hiding places… just look at Dad’s expression when he can’t find us- proof enough.

Mom and Dad are fascinated by our excrement; It is imperative that they examine every specimen immediately upon completion of each bowel movement.

It his highly plausible that one could dig a hole through the earth’s crust, mantle and core eventually reaching China, using nothing more than a spoon.

One can create a superpower potion by mixing together every liquid item found in a common household refrigerator.

Mr. Bubble tastes delicious plus it allows one to blow bubbles without the aid of accessories.

All that it takes to be a kung-fu master is the right costume and a Ninja Turtles DVD.

Dad’s power tools are weather-proof.

Safety gear such as helmets, knee pads, and elbow guards are for sissies. Real men skateboard as close to nude as possible.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, it‘s actually more like a vine that miraculously sprouts from the depths of Dad’s wallet.

Every action, good or bad, should be rewarded with candy.

The shiny plastic cards in Mom’s purse are powerful deities.

Camouflage bathrobes and Spiderman slippers are the height of sophistication and the mark of a true aristocrat.

Amazing, magical things happen after midnight. That’s why Mom and Dad make us go to bed early.

Play dates are not a privilege, they are a child’s right, articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

If you ask repeatedly and moan intermittently, a “No” will transform into a “Yes”.

When Dad/Mom asks us to clean our room it means to stuff everything into the closet and smile innocently.

Whenever you’re about to get caught doing something particularly heinous, simply hug whatever parent is about to lower the boom and tell them you love them one-million, billion. Saps fall for it every time.