Friday, March 28, 2008

Daddy's Little Helper

Most of our friends think that Bridget and I relocated our family to Florida because we had found better jobs and a bigger house in the sunshine state. Not so. We moved because we thought we could trick Bridget's Florida-based mother into babysitting. Frankly, we had depleted Virginia of willing babysitters.

Any parent will tell you how difficult and expensive it is to get a babysitter. And that's just for one kid. If you have two kids, the difficulty is doubled. If you have three kids, the difficulty is tripled. And if any one of those hypothetical kids is my five year-old son Julian...well, you should order HBO and upgrade your home theater system, because you're probably spending Friday nights at home.

That's not to say that the other two Grim Richard kids aren't a challenge. Tow-headed Gabriel, for instance, spent an entire evening convincing one babysitter that she had been calling his little sister Riley by the wrong name for two years. The babysitter apologized so sincerely to us that it seemed almost a shame to tell her that Gabriel was lying.


Julian, though, is the toughest babysitee of our bunch. Julian is, as I've detailed, the living personification of Loki, the Norse god of mischief and lies. He boasts a double-sided personality, a frosted shredded wheat soul that gives forth sweet, unconditional love on one side and brusk, fibrous tricks on the other side.

Maybe two weeks after moving to Florida, Bridget and I decided to go out on a date and leave the kids with their grandparents. We hoped that Julian would give them some kind of break on their very first night of babysitting. This was not to be.

While Bridget and I bought tickets to "Juno", our kids slipped into the brand new pajamas that their grandparents had bought them. Even later, while Bridget and I sat in the dark eating popcorn smothered with butter, one of my kids slipped out of bed, grabbed one of his/her grandmother's phones and reported a murder.

You probably think I'm exaggerating. You probably think I've run out of stuff to write and decided to crib a stale plot from some old television show. Nope. One of my kids dialed 911 and reported that someone was being killed. The police even dispatched a black and white to investigate. If you doubt me, you can ask Bridget's mother. But ask her later - she's still pretty busy explaining to her neighbors that no one has been killed in her house.

Officially, three year-old Riley took the blame for the whole mess. The dispatchers identified the caller as a small girl, so after making sure that no one was actually in jeopardy, the police officer lectured my daughter and then left. Mystery solved.

But this is what the grandparents and police officer didn't know. Riley doesn't know how to dial 911.

Nope. The actual culprit confessed later that night once I promised never to tell his grandmother. Maybe "confession" is too strong a word. Though Julian that he picked up the phone, handed it to his three year-old sister, dialed 911 and told Riley what to say, he still firmly believes that Riley "did it" and he "helped".

And, God help me, he's convincing. I couldn't figure out who to punish, so I just talked a lot and wagged my finger in authoritative manner. Besides, I don't think something like this will happen again.

Just in case, though, I'm making a list of family members who live in other states.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Okay, I admit it. I bought an iPhone.

Yes, I realize that I specifically counseled the readers of this blog not to buy iPhones. I believe I also referred to the iPhone as the "High School Cheerleader of Cell Phones" in an attempt to underscore the superficiality of spending $400 on a phone just because it looked cooler than other phones.

In jumping to that rash conclusion, I didn't give take into account two factors:

It is damn shiny and, God help me, so very pretty.

I'm glad that I spent the $400, actually, because not only did I pick up a sexy new phone, I also learned something important about myself. I'm not referring to the fact that I'm a shallow consumer tool with too much money and not enough common sense. I already knew that. I'm referring to a revelation that occurred as I transferred all of my contacts to my new phone.

As you may know, the iPhone is not just a phone. It's an e-mail client. It's a Web browser. It plays music. It takes pictures. It stops nipple chafing when applied directly to the male breast.

Okay. I made that last part up.

The point is this: getting an iPhone required me to punch in not only the name and phone numbers of all the significant people in my life, but their physical addresses and e-mail addresses as well. I also needed to put in the Web addresses of my favorite sites. I started to set everything up immediately after buying the iPhone, once I reached my car in the parking lot. I stopped about two minutes later.

Other than my wife's cell phone number - which used to be my number - I remembered exactly none of that pertinent information.

I depend on computers and cell phones so much that I have not bothered to remember any of the information of any of my friends. I don't know their phone numbers. I don't know their e-mail addresses either.

A couple of days later, the rest of the epiphany came into focus. My eight year-old son, Gabriel, was wrestling with subtraction problems. I easily walked him through the first twenty or so problems. Then we came to a thorny nest of problems where you had to "borrow" from the next column of numbers. Suddenly, I mentally stumbled in explaining the process to my son. I realized that I hadn't done even simple math in years without using a calculator. And right then, I realized that I'm actually getting stupider because of my electronic devices.

I have become e-tarded.