Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Top Ten Nicknames…

November 15, 2008

Last night, I crawled up into Cayden’s bunk bed to get what we in the Groah household refer to as “snuggle time”.  Snuggle time is a routine event- 3 minutes of holding, followed by about 2 minutes of back scratching, ending with a brief discussion on any thoughts that may still be cluttering the dudes’ minds.  I enjoy this ritual, so I was pretty happy when Cayden invited me to snuggle, so much so that I mistakenly referred to him as “Boo-Bear”.  Cayden quickly shot back with “Don’t ever call me that again, Dad”.  I sensed some tension, maybe even a bit of hostility in his terse reply, so we decided to forego the back scratching and head straight to the discussion portion of the evening.  So at 8pm, Cayden and I engaged in a discussion with the hopes of identifying a more appropriate nickname than Boo-Bear.  The following is a list of possible candidates and Cayden’s brilliant insights regarding their potential for boosting his street creds as a bonafide hard ass.

1.  Snuggum Wugums– 

Cayden- “That’s beautiful, and I don’t like beautiful. I’m a boy, try again Dad” . 

Sarcastic Commentary (SC)- Seems Cayden’s not in touch with “Sesame Street” level cuteness or his feminine side.        

2.  Sunflower– 

Cayden- “Don’t make me angry, Dad. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”.   

SC- You must have known it was coming; I can’t help myself.  In the Marine Corps this is referred to as “flicking someone’s nuts” or “busting their stones”.  Simply stated, Cayden let me know that cutesie nicknames were not appreciated and that to continue down that road would most likely result in physical harm.  He did emphasize his point by applying a vulcan death pinch to the inside of my elbow accompanied by a Hulk-like facial expression and a grunting noise.  Extremely intimidating coming from a guy who occasionally still solicits my help to wipe his butt.  I’m much larger than Cayden, thus willing to push the envelope a bit, so I offered option 3.

3.  Sugar plum

Cayden- Okay! 

SC- Honestly, what the hell, he damn near took my head off for suggesting Sunflower and Snuggums, but somehow Sugar Plum made the grade, who would have known? 6 year olds are so inconsistent.

4.  Destructo 

Cayden-“Raaaahhhhhhhh! I am Destructo, must smash, crush, crush, crush!” 

SC-  Nice going ass-wipe (me being the ass-wipe of course) What the hell did I just do?  Did I just give Cayden a license to break shit around my house?  It’s a fitting handle, I’ll give you that, but really, did I need to give him carte blanche authority to run amuck obliterating knick-knacks like it was his destiny to do so?  I don’t think so. Let’s look for something a little more benign. 

5.  Smelly Sock Snot Monster

Cayden- snort, giggle, snot-bubble, laugh” 

SC- He liked this one a lot, I think he would have gladly taken this one for a no-kidding legitimate name, but he had difficulty articulating it- too much “She sells sea shells by the sea shore” action going on.  Let’s try again.

6.  Nipple Lips Booger Boy

Cayden- “Gasp” (I think he was trying to laugh but no noise came out)

SC- Unable to provide input we moved forward in our quest to select the perfect nickname.

7.  Commander Ear Wax from the planet Altoid

Cayden-   “Dad, is an Altoid those things that Grampa gets on his butt from sitting to long?”

SC- I had no response, I’ll have him call Grampa in the morning for an explanation. 

8.  The Miraculous Mucous-Man (aka the Furious Rectum)

Cayden- “Dad what’s a rectum?”

SC- Moving right along. He can ask Grampa about that one too.

9.  Little boy with gigantic gourd and extremely short temper who is prone to fits of rage when everything does not go his way-Man 

Cayden-What are you trying to say Dad?”

SC- I knew it wouldn’t work but thought I would put it out there for him to chew on.  Who knows, maybe he got the underlying subliminal message that on occasion he can be a tad bit difficult.

10.  Poop-stain O’Hoolihan-

Cayden- “Dad can I put that on the back of my soccer uniform?”

 SC- Absolutely my son, as soon as mommy goes out of town. In fact, I’ll have some business cards made up as well. 

Cayden was satisified with our finished product, as such he slid into sleep fairly easily.  As I walked out the door, I tried out his new moniker to see how it would sound when we weren’t laying side by side giggling together in bed. 


Dad- “Good night Poop-Stain O’Hoolihan”

Cayden- “Love you Daddy” (giggle, snort, snot-bubble, laugh)


What do you know, it works…




Snappy comebacks…

October 15, 2008
On the way home from work tonight I started thinking about what I could post that would actually benefit couples who do not have the years of parenting experience that I have enjoyed.  Having sifted through the numerous possibilities, I decided to provide you (the new parent) with some basic but snappy parent comebacks.  More than likely you will use some variation of the responses that I am about to provide throughout your parenting careers.  So here it goes- how to answer/comeback from some of the questions/concerns you will face as a parent.
1.  Offspring- “Dad/Mom, I have nothing to do. I am bored.”

reply- “I got it! How about you mow the lawn, clean your room, fold laundry, repave the driveway and then rotate the tires on the mini-van? Or you could just play quietly for the next 30 minutes while I finish balancing the checkbook.”

2.  Offspring- “Can I ride my bike around the block?”

Translation: “Can I weave dangerously in and out of traffic on my bike, which I can barely manage to control, to an undisclosed location far from the prying eyes of you and mom and act like a I was raised by a pack of wolves?”

reply- “Absolutely, but first I need you to undo the mass of knots you created in your school shoe laces and then weave a basket large enough to hold the heap of toys that are sprawled across our living room.”

3.  Offspring- “Can I have a soda?”

reply- “I am all out of soda, son, why don’t you siphon the fuel out of the weed whacker instead, it has about the same nutritional value and I don’t have to travel to the store to get it.”

4. Offspring- “Can Billy (names have been changed to protect the innocent) come over to play Dad?”

reply- I don’t think so, son, your teacher called before you got home from school today and said that Billy’s probation officer revoked his play date privileges until he completes his community service obligation.”

5.  Offspring- “I am asking Santa for a real dirt bike.”

reply- “Don’t count on him bringing you one buddy, the elves are being sued for union violations.  Seems the motors they’re making in their engine plant are trademarked by GM and as a result of their irresponsible behavior several hundred of your closest friends are being laid off. Damn elves.”

6. Offspring- “I’m not doing my homework tonight!”

reply- “No kidding? Well I’m fine with your decision, just let me write a note to your teacher explaining that you would rather be unemployed, homeless and hungry than spend another 5 minutes watching her face flap about social studies.  Man, I hope she doesn’t take this the wrong way; it could really hurt her feelings.”

7.  Dad- “Mack did you lift a $20 out of Mom’s wallet?

Offspring- “No, Dad, honest- I never saw it. No way, not me. Mom’s insane, Dad, she loses money all the time, very irresponsible.You should put her in time out for her lack of accountability.”

reply-  “You know what? You’re right. I’ll talk to Mom, but first let me call the crime lab down at Quantico so they can send up a finger print expert to dust Mom’s purse for fingerprints, they owe me a favor anyway and it should only take about 5 minutes.  Those guys are awesome, I’ll know exactly who took the money and then Wham! Off to jail they go! Mack, why are you crying? Do you have something you want to tell me?”

8. Offspring- “Dad, can we going fishing when you get home from work?”

reply- “Sorry guys the bay is closed for maintenance.  All of the fish have been removed and sent to “Big Ed’s Fish Emporium” for a thorough detailing. I guess your teacher was right, they are trying to clean up the bay.”

9. Offspring- “Can we get a puppy?”

reply- “Can you spell the word ambidextrous? 

Offspring- “No”

reply- “That’s the same answer I was going to use next!”

10.  Offspring- “Dad, is the tooth fairy real?”

reply- “Not anymore, buddy, I accidentally left the bug zapper on last night, nothing left but some wing remnants and scorched dollar bills” (I am only joking I would never say this to my boys, I don’t even own a bug zapper. Fly swatter, yes; bug zapper, no)

Just to clear the air, I am a smart ass, I use and believe in the power of sarcasm.  Luckily, my boys have grown accustomed to my smartassedness and can come back quite quickly with witty responses of their own.  Furthermore, my initial response is rarely my final response; in most instances, I fold like a cheap suit.  If my boys want to do something as a family I rarely say no, because I am well aware that these times are fleeting.

I once had a buddy and his kids over for lunch. As I loaded the kids plates up with chicken nuggets and French fries my friend’s son asked if he could have more ketchup. He already had quite a heap so my buddy told him “No, you have enough”. I quickly countered with “Of course you can, Jimmy, ketchup’s almost free. Chug-a-lug buddy, enjoy”.

When I saw my buddy at work about a week later, he told me that he really admired my “Dadness”. When I asked him why, he said “because ketchup’s almost free”. 

Here is what it means- Try to say yes more often. If you’re about to say no, ask yourself “is someone going to lose an eye if I allow this to happen?”  If not, let it go, ketchup’s almost free.

I expected that one day I would be unable to help my kids with their homework. What I didn’t expect was that it would happen in third grade.  Nothing makes Dad look like an idiot more than having to google for instructions on how to complete his 8 year old son’s math homework.  Honestly, folks, if the great minds of yore were subjected to these types of academic acrobatics during their early developmental years, they would have all given up and pursued careers outside of academia.

A couple of nights ago, Mack and I were working on his spelling, something that I can still accomplish thanks to Microsoft word and spell check (as long as my laptop is within arms reach I can look very much like the smartest man in the world).  While working on the mechanics of the long and short “O” sound, I noticed several graphs in Mack’s homework folder.  Curious, I asked my son what the papers represented.  Mack broke out some audio visual equipment and quickly shot a power point presentation up on our wall. Next, he pulled a laser pointer from his pack and told me that he would appreciate it if I did not eat while he was lecturing. Then things got weird.

Mack explained that the first graph illustrated activities that children his age normally participated in and that the numbers associated with each activity represented academic value equivalence on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=rolling a booger; 10=building a cold fusion reactor).  Most of the activities that Mack had graphed such as tossing a baseball, playing army men and shooting a BB Gun were assigned academic values somewhere between booger rolling and paste consumption.  It would seem that these activities do little in regard to developing cerebral functioning and, as such, are not really valued in the fast-paced world of elementary education.  This is my own assumption, I’ve never received a note from Mack’s school saying not to do these types of activities, but the sheer volume of homework that he totes through the door daily seems to tell me just that.

On an average day, Mack brings home a couple of math worksheets, spelling exercises, projects and, oh by the way, translate Homer’s Iliad in Latin by Friday!  Of course, after an 8 hour day sitting in a classroom, Mack would rather eat a pile of steel wool, so you can imagine the amount of time I must invest to get him to produce even a marginal academic product- painful.  Sorry, I started to spin out of control. I get fired up when I talk about the number of competing interests that define my boy’s day.  Let me explain. If you’re a parent, this will probably sound familiar.

I get fired up because both Mack and Cay walk through the door at 3pm.  They go to bed around 8pm. Connie and I have approximately 5 hours per day to accomplish everything that needs to be done prior to sending the kids off to Dream Land.  So what needs to be done?

Like every other set of parents in modern day America, we have character building activities like team sports, guitar lessons, swim class, etcetera.  For a while, we even had the guys going to hip hop dance class and cub scouts.  Hip hop was Connie’s idea.  We are obviously attempting to cultivate the most well rounded children in the universe.  Maybe we have fallen prey to the idea that our childrens’ resumes are a reflection of our parenting ability and to not get them involved in multiple activities/sports/hobbies will send them spiraling into social disgrace. Sounds serious, doesn’t it?  Connie and I are by no means the most extreme parents in this regard either.  We know plenty of parents who go above and beyond in the activities category.  Their kids are headed in so many directions they need personal assistants, Blackberry’s and a case of Red Bull each morning just to keep them in the game.

So, add in the pile of homework I mentioned above, plus somewhere in there we have to feed, nurture, clean and love on our kids and suddenly that 5 hour block of time seems pretty inadequate.

Therein lies the dilemma, what’s most important at this stage in my sons’ lives.  Do I really need to worry about the progress they are making toward their college entry exams or should I be more concerned that neither of them has learned how to properly “hawk a loogie”?  Should I encourage them to spend time dissecting the quadratic equation or should I be kicking their butts in a hot game of Yahtzee.  Do Mack and Cayden really need to know how to “pop-lock” and spin on their heads or should I help them master the front yard cartwheel first?  Bottom line, what’s most important to the development of a 6-8 year old boy?

I wrestle with these questions mostly because of my own childhood experiences.  I think I played one year of t-ball as a kid and then didn’t see organized sports again until high school.  I wasn’t a cub scout, but spent an inordinate amount of time in the woods with my buddies hunting gardener snakes and building forts from scrap lumber.  I don’t remember homework in 3rd grade, to be honest I don’t remember 3rd grade, but I think I was learning how to color, not building graphs to reflect my poor time management skills.   That being said, even though I didn’t get the benefit of all of those organized activities and homework assignments, I still turned out fairly normal (fairly meaning almost normal).

Have we, as a society, complicated our childrens’ lives so much that they can’t find the time to enjoy just being kids?

Rules of Engagement…

October 6, 2008

For the longest time, my boys and I would engage in a little hand-to-hand combat after the evening meal. The protocol was quite simple. I would leave the dinner table, walk into the living room, push some furniture out of the way, and then flop my fat-happy self down on the floor. Once my carcass hit the carpet, it would only be a matter of seconds before little boy bodies were hurling themselves at me with reckless abandon. One of the great things about being a little kid is that your skeletal structure is mostly comprised of the same material that fruit roll ups are made of. That’s to say, when you hit an inanimate object, you don’t really break, you more or less bounce. On the other hand, I have 38 years of physical abuse in the bank, 20 of which were spent in the Marine Corps which is none too forgiving on things such as knees, spinal columns, and other miscellaneous joints. I am not made of Jello. I am made of muscle and bone held together by a very fine webbing of tendons and ligaments that are about as sturdy as a single thread of cotton candy. If stretched or torqued the wrong way, I am liable to experience incredible jolts of ass-puckering pain which will likely cause me to forget my name and curse uncontrollably. But still I fight.

Why do I challenge my boys to nightly grappling matches? The number one reason is because they are still young enough for me to appear to have super human strength and a degree of invincibility. This is something they will remember all their lives, the exact reason most men believe that even though their father is 95 years old, wheelchair bound and toothless, he is still capable of unleashing a serious can of whoop-ass. The other reason I wrestle with the boys is because it is what men do. You’ve all seen monkey island at the zoo, the only difference between them and us is that Connie will not allow us to fling poo.

So the boys and I are having a nightly match. I am flat on my back and have Mack wrapped up, completely unable to move. I often wrap my legs and arms around Mack and then make him work for several minutes to free himself; this is extremely good exercise. It was while I had Mack wrapped up that Cayden decided to come to the rescue. I have talked about how tough Cayden is in past posts, but what I didn’t mention is the fact that he is the dirtiest fighter on the planet. He does not follow any rules of engagement, meaning nothing is off limits, he is in it to win it. So Cayden runs into the room and makes his approach from the direction of my feet. At this point Mack is pretty much on my head so that didn’t leave a lot of openings for Cayden to get in his cheap shots. I saw him coming, I saw him pause, and then, terrifyingly, I saw him raise his shoe-clad foot above my groin. At that point, I knew what was coming so I tried to find my happy place quickly. Graciously, Cayden waited until I found Camelot before stomping on my groin like he was putting out a camp fire. Honestly, I have seen jackhammers beat concrete into dust with more compassion than Cayden showed me that evening. I am not positive, but I think he stomped my crotch at least a dozen times in a period of 20 seconds, could have been more, but I lost consciousness somewhere in the middle of my beating. The only thing that stopped Cayden from continuing was he had gone 15 seconds beyond his internal snack alarm and needed to refuel on some simple carbs, so off he went to track down some animal-shaped crackers.

As I applied ice to my crotch, I began to question our nightly ritual. Are the boys too big, too powerful, too vicious to fight with every evening? Or am I just getting soft in my middle-agedness? I went with option two and started training for the rematch.

Some Assembly Required…

October 4, 2008

I know I mentioned that Cayden recently had a birthday, but what I probably failed to mention is what we bought him. In our infinite wisdom, we decided that every boy’s dream is a brand new high-speed bicycle complete with trick pegs and padded handlebars. So off we went to where every parent goes in search of the perfect childhood gift, Toys-R-Us.


Luckily, I was at work and unable to help Mack and Connie make the choice, but they did a great job. They bought a tricked-out, orange, Mongoose 16 inch bike, completely assembled and ready to hit the open road. Cayden was thrilled with his new bike, but sadly our weekends are so packed with wonderful mandatory fun such as soccer, guitar lessons, boating and so forth that we were unable to eek out even five minutes of road time for Cay’s new hot rod.


However, Monday through Friday, Cayden had ample opportunity to try out his new ride. For some reason, he was less than thrilled by the bike’s performance. I had limited time to investigate the cause of his dismay due to the pressing concerns of Headquarters Marine Corps (my day job), but vowed to make it priority number one on my weekend to-do list.


So when Friday night rolled around, I grabbed a glass of wine and ventured into the garage to see what type of fatherly magic I could produce to make his machine function more efficiently. I flipped Cayden’s bike over so that I could over inflate his tires (the extent of my bike mechanic expertise). As an aside, the presence of testosterone is not an indicator of mechanical ability. Believe it or not, ladies, men are not born with an innate ability to fix complex machinery, but without fail we are expected to do so.

For example, one year our toaster damn near burned down our home so Connie asked me to fix it. Just to set the record straight, I have never been to “Toaster Repairman College”. I have no “Online Toaster Repair Technician Certificate”. In fact, chances are I’m probably the guy that broke it in the first place, but damn if I didn’t throw myself into the task at hand. To fix the toaster, I took the approach that most men take when asked to fix something they have no understanding of, I disassembled it. I took the toaster apart, or more accurately I broke the toaster into approximately 8,500 individual components. Next, I cleaned each piece extremely well. Then I organized all of the pieces and cursed at them, a lot. Finally, I hit some of the more offensive pieces with a 16oz. hammer, not exactly a finesse move, but I recalled seeing my father follow the exact same protocol while working on my sister’s Ford Thunderbird and it seemed to work for him. End result: 8,500 extremely shiny parts that would never again be capable of lightly toasting anything. Who was I kidding? What do I know about toasters? Until the minute I was asked to fix it, I was pretty well convinced that toasters worked off Pixie Dust liberally distributed by Keebler Elves. The only one who was surprised by my inability to repair the appliance was Connie; I think she actually believes that the presence of a penis signals mastery of the mechanical underpinnings of small, medium and large kitchen appliances.  She was extremely disappointed by my performance.


Back to my story…
After pumping the tires with air, I spun the back wheel to gauge my success. Surprise! It didn’t spin. The motion that did occur was actually more or less a wobble. It seems Cayden’s back rim was more warped than my sense of humor. When I examined the front wheel, I found it to be equally warped and, better yet, the front brake was permanently set to extreme friction mode. I thought about this for a minute as I took a pull from my chalice of Carlo. Cayden had defied the odds for a solid week. He somehow managed to propel himself forward on a bike with two extremely warped rims and a permanently set front brake. How’s that for determination? No wonder he was frustrated.


I could only imagine what Cayden must have looked like as he tried with all his might to keep up with his older brother, his knobby little legs pumping for all they were worth, sweat shooting from his furrowed brow, as black smoke billowed up from his locked front tire. How he managed to go anywhere is a mystery in itself; how he managed to move as fast as Mack is beyond belief. Needless to say, as I examined his bike that Friday night, I came to understand his lack of desire to compete in the Tour-de-France. By comparison, if Cayden would have had a completely functioning bicycle and applied the same level of physical exertion, he would have easily dusted Lance Armstrong.


Once I informed Connie of the issue, she immediately headed back to the store to replace the crippled bike. She returned shortly thereafter with a box. She did not return with a bike, but a box of bike parts that if placed in the hands of, let’s say, a brain surgeon, rocket scientist, or that kid who makes $9 coffees at Starbucks, would one day be a bike (please refer to the toaster story above to gauge my level of dismay at the thought of assembling my son’s bike). This is where the story takes an awful turn because, in our home, if it requires assembly then it lands in my inbox. I would turn it down and ask Connie to do it, but being of the male gender, I am completely incapable of turning down an opportunity to utilize every tool in my workshop arsenal, regardless of how much harm will come from my haphazard efforts. It is a vicious, painful cycle.


So, once again, I am in the garage and this time Mack and Cayden have come to bear witness. Mack knows me pretty well. He came prepared with a roll of paper towels, a fire extinguisher, a bottle of antiseptic and the phone set to speed dial 911. Together we cracked the lid on the Box-O-Bike. Have any of you ever purchased a non-assembled bicycle? There is a damn good reason they charge the average consumer money for pre-assembled ones. Located at the back of every store with a bike inventory is a team of seasoned bicycle assembly technicians whose sole purpose in life is to make the lives’ of dads a little more bearable, simply because they know that the average Dad has a better chance of creating a functioning time machine or discovering an alternate fuel source than getting their kid’s bike right on the first try.


Cayden, Mack and I spread out the parts, which took up the better part of my garage floor. We separated the bolts, nuts, washers, widgets and various “pieces of eight”- the likes of which I have never seen in any hardware store. With the sheer volume of parts, I figured the instruction manual would resemble a hard bound copy of War and Peace- not even close- I got a one-paged, blurry, photocopied how-to quick guide. Better yet, the one page instruction sheet was subdivided into directions in French, Spanish, German, Swahili, Pig Latin and I believe what appeared to be Teletubby. So, all said and done, I got about one sentence worth of viable information to help me put this monstrosity together. The bottom of this frustrating piece of literature told me to enjoy my new bike. Seriously, like the kid who would be riding this thing is the same guy putting it together. What that little salutation was really saying to me was this: “Hey Cheapskate, next time pay the extra ten bucks and ride the damn thing off the showroom floor”. Noted.


I gathered my thoughts, looked at Mack’s bike for an example, and went to work. Three hours later, Connie opened the garage door to ask me how things were going. The kids had long ago abandoned me, partly my fault as I stopped being fun to hang out with after the third bandage application to slow the bleeding on my severely skinned knuckles. I had pulverized the brake cable, once sleek and metallic, it now resembled a bird’s nest. I lost two bolts, one washer and the seat post. How I managed to lose anything is beyond me as my ass had been planted for the entire time on a plastic step stool which by now would surely need to be surgically removed from my rectum. I had used every tool in my workshop in an attempt to put it together (surprisingly many of these tools were not required by the super helpful bike assembly guide), but no joy, the object I was working on was not even close to being a bike.


Connie pulled me from the fire. She made me walk away before I did something rash. As I walked away from the debris, I started to wonder if Cayden would like a new skateboard. After all, how many parts could possibly come in a Box-O-Skateboard?

8:00 pm- I have just successfully completed the teeth brushing regimen that I must proxy every evening.  It includes several minutes of brushing the teeth utilizing the correct side-to-side, swirly, whoopty-do motion that every person has been taught at the dentist office but never uses once they leave that dreadful chamber of horrors. I’ve got news for you- we actually use that method. In our home, we believe that by utilizing proper brushing techniques we can reduce the chances of our children resorting to a life of crime. It may seem irrational, but it makes as much sense as any other parenting advice that I’ve read.  After several minutes of brushing, I move on to flossing. 

This is the part that I hate the most.  First of all, my hands are really large. I somehow managed to inherit my father’s bratwurst-sized fingers; they’re extremely attractive and make it oh-so-simple to floss the teeth of young children. Luckily, Cayden has the mouth of a Jim Henson Muppet and can flop his “pie-hole” open wide enough for me to use both of my hands if needed. Mack, on the other hand, can only open his mouth about a 1/4 inch when flossing operations are in progress. I find this strange because, like Cayden, I know he is capable of unhinging his lower jaw and swallowing prey nearly twice his size. But when I come at him with a thin piece of twine, his gapping maw transforms into a hole the size of the key slot on your kid sister’s diary. By the way, when flossing your kids, have a towel handy as dental floss triggers their saliva glands. By the end of the evolution, I am soaking wet to the elbows and, believe me, I love my kids, but nothing is more disgusting than a saliva trail from your kid’s mouth down the length of your arm.

Flossing operations are complete once all of the evening’s meal is dislodged from between their teeth. This is a prime opportunity to explain to your kids how important it is to chew your food a minimum of 9 zillion times before swallowing (sort of like the dentist endorsed brushing technique- we know it’s the right thing to do but no one does it). When explaining this important facet of responsible consumption, hold up one of the domino-sized nuggets that you pried from between your kid’s bicuspids- this is an awesome media aid when talking proper chewing technique. If they roll their eyes at you, threaten to put it in their lunchbox for school the next day. That always gets my kid’s attention.

So you would think that the routine is over, but not even close, in our home you take care of your damn teeth. On to the next phase: “The Swish”. After flossing is complete I break out a giant-sized bottle of cinnamon flavored PLAX. Quick question- why would a reputable company dedicated to the cause of good dental hygiene engineer a fluoride rinse that tastes like the sugary goodness that sends kids to the dentist in the first place? Why would a father with a fully functioning brain purchase said item and make his kids rinse with it every night?  Some questions in the universe are better left unanswered.  The swish normally goes pretty smoothly. Believe it or not, my kids will swish for a solid 60 seconds. The only down side to dental rinse is that they have not mastered the ability to spit the swish back into the sink in a gentlemanly manner. Both of my kids feel the need to power wash the sink basin with their cinnamon flavored PLAX.  Normally this means that the PLAX leaves their pursed lips with the equivalent pressure of a fully functioning fire hose.

Almost there…

Quick recap: I have brushed their teeth (American Dental Association approved stroking technique), I have flossed, and I have rinsed their mouths with a fluoride rinse.  We are so close to completion, just one more step.  We have a well so the water is less than stellar and does not contain fluoride like public water. As a substitute, we give our children delicious-tasting fluoride pills.  You mustn’t forget this step. This is the indicator that you’re almost home, the end zone victory dance that signals another successful day of parenting.  My kids like the pills so this step is easy, and sometimes easy is extremely rewarding, so take it when you can. 







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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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?


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…..

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.

Introducing Larry…

July 21, 2008

This is an important development in the Groah household so I wanted to get it out as quickly as possible. My youngest son will no longer be known as Cayden; he has chosen to relinquish his given name in favor of something much more exotic. Tonight at dinner, Connie and I were delivered the news: The boy formerly known as Cayden will now forever be known as “Larry”. Yes, folks, you heard me, Cayden has changed his name to Larry-  we had a formal ceremony and everything. We chanted, we danced around the table, we repeated some ancient incantations and before our very eyes Cayden transformed into Larry. Mack jumped in with potential name changes as well, but I quickly told him that parents could only conduct the official name changing ritual once very 24-hours. Tomorrow at dinner, Mack will unveil his new handle- can’t wait for that one.  I’ll bet my paycheck that Mack’s new name has the word “butt” nestled comfortably inside it.

Back to Larry…

I’m not sure of the significance of the name, but Larry seems extremely happy with himself. When we asked him what his last name was he told us Shields, so to complete the picture, my youngest son is now Larry Shields. Connie thinks his new name sounds like a 70’s era porn star. I think he sounds like a bar of deodorant soap (not sure why?). For the most part, Larry still looks, talks and acts like Cayden, but he does walk with a bit of a swagger and his voice is a lot lower.

We’ve been calling him Larry ever since dinner hoping that he would ask for his name back, but the kid is not backing down. I have a very real fear developing that my son, formerly known as Cayden, will be henceforth called Larry right into adulthood. I have seen this phenomenon before. In fact, my Dad’s real name is Wilton, but everyone calls him Joe, and my Mom, Mikki, was given the name Laura at birth. The Groah name curse continued with yours truly.  I was named after my Dad (Wilton) so my first name is Joseph, but they call me Shane. All these years, I thought my parents did this to me. Hell, I bet one night at dinner, I stood up, said my name is Shane, and they played along with it.

Connie and I need to sit him down first thing tomorrow before Larry draws a symbol with a crayon and starts making us refer to him as the boy formally known as Larry. How do you call a kid to dinner if their name is a crayon scribble?