Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Like Good, American Raccoons

    My wife hates the raccoons in our neighborhood because they break into our trash cans in the middle of the night, eat the leftovers and leave food packaging strewn across our yard. It’s very festive, actually. It looks like a ticker-tape parade was held by Lean Cuisine.
    “What are we going to do about these raccoons?” Bridget asked me the other night as we picked up frozen pizza wrappers, fish stick boxes and empty juice boxes.
    Well, they’re eating our leftovers,” I said. “If we do nothing, they’ll eventually die of coronary heart disease.”

Friday, July 02, 2010

Did I Say Finesse?

    Talking with your kids about sex and sexuality requires a deft touch - a kind of "finesse" if you will. 
    Or you could just handle it the way I do.
    Yesterday, Gabriel stopped me in the kitchen as I gathered towels and sunscreen for the pool.
    "Hey, dad. What's a condom?"
    "A what?" I asked - even though I had heard the question clearly. I folded the terry cloth towels to buy myself some time.
    "A condom," Gabriel answered. "I saw a commercial for condoms. What are they?"
    I paused and looked at my ten year-old. I considered lying for a moment because that's...what's the word I'm looking for....easier.
    "It's a piece of rubber that men wear on their penises so that the women won't get pregnant."
    He considered this for a moment.
    "We live in a really weird world."
    "Yes, we do," I replied.

Monday, April 26, 2010

House of a Thousand Screws

    This Christmas, my in-laws gave my six year-old daughter Riley a stained wood playhouse. And this playhouse isn't one of those ten-piece plastic playhouses that you can pick up at Target. No, sir. This playhouse has a porch. This playhouse has an actual porch with white wooden columns. This playhouse has a bay window on one side, for god sakes. 
    And though this playhouse is magnificent and my daughter really, really wants to play in it, I haven't even contemplated building this architectural treasure before now. Why, you ask?
    This playhouse is held together by a thousand screws.
    As I looked at the directions over eggnog last Christmas, I noticed that the manual clearly states that building this playhouse requires two adults about six to eight hours of work time. And it occurred to me to ask myself:
    What have I done to piss off my in-laws?
    Clearly, I did something.
    I am famous in my town for not having tools. Hell, there are even some rumors flying about that I lack opposable thumbs with which to grasp tools. This is a lie, of course. I do have opposable thumbs. They just happen to be, God help me, on my feet. I sometimes even use my foot thumbs to pick up and eat Cheetohs that have fallen to the floor while I watch television. This is the real reason, if you must know, that my feet are vaguely burnished orange.
    Whatever. The point is that I never, ever build stuff. 
    And yet Riley got the gift of this house and I got the gift of...screwing. My in-laws have even let me borrow a drill with a phillips-head driver on it, so that I don't have to screw screws in manually. I am grateful for that.
    Because I am on hour seven right now...of screwing. All of the wood is pre-cut, so there is no measuring or cutting to distract you from, say, screwing screws into boards. Also, there's no painting of any kind, either, so you can pretty much just concentrate on the screwing.
    You get the idea, probably.
    This thing gets potentially worse, too. It's been raining in Florida, so I've been building the house inside of my garage. I've just realized that once I'm finished, I have to get this resined behemoth out of my garage, over a chain-link fence and into the back yard. I'm not even sure this thing will fit under the opened garage door. My 10 year-old son Gabriel suggested with a laugh that I might have to unscrew sections of the house in order to get it out the garage.
    "Heh.That's pretty funny," I replied.
    We laughed together for a moment.
    And then I taught him how to use the drill.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Burned-Out American Bulbs

    My wife and I built our kids from scratch. We started with the basic supplies, followed the time-honored blueprint and, after a period of incubation, manufactured three wiggly autonomous machines capable of intaking fuel in huge amounts and converting it directly into poop and frustration.
    We built these machines but we cannot program them.
    This weekend, for instance, I went into my sons' room. My 10 year-old son Gabriel sat on his bed playing a Nintendo DS game.
    "Gabriel," I said clearly. "Put down the video and clean your room. Breakfast will be ready in 10 minutes and I want your room to be clean by then."
    He gave me a look which, in retrospect, was very reminiscent of the hourglass I used to get whenever I started a Windows 95 program. I went back to scrambling eggs for breakfast. Ten minutes later, I walked back into the room and both Gabriel and his seven year-old brother were watching television. No work had been done. I decided to try another programming language.
    I yelled.
    Both boys jumped to their feet and started milling around their beds. They weren't actually picking anything up, but were confusedly making paths around the room, approximating the work of cleaning up. They looked like Roomba vacuum cleaners with broken sensors. I left them and went to eat my cold eggs.
    A few minutes later, Gabriel walked up to me. He had a light bulb in his hand.
    "Dad, what am I supposed to do with this burned-out light bulb?"
    I stared at him for a moment. I considered legitimately answering his question, but I was no longer positive that clear English was the solution to our dilemma.
    "Send it the Smithsonian Institute for their collection of burned-out American light bulbs."
    He gave me a suspicious look.
    "The Smithsonian has a collection of burned-out light bulbs?"
    "Nope," I answered. "They just throw them away."
    And then I walked away without waiting for his epiphany. When I imagine it now, I like to think the light bulb came on in his hand.