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Dad up! I once thought it took grit to man up. 

 

 
 

dad plane              adrift

Day 1: “Travel day” as my wife calls it. That means it doesn’t count towards the “hall pass” I was earning. (earning in my mind, that is) The visit is with all of her family in the outskirts of New Mexico with limited beer access, no Wi-Fi and only two local TV channels. In my mind, that would earn me six months without kids in a Las Vegas casino penthouse.
Our trip did not start auspiciously. My wife wouldn’t let us fake that our youngest, age 6, was a toddler so we could pre-board the crowded plane. Consequently, I was stuck in the very last row, a.k.a. deathrow, with two of our three restless kids.
I had to forego my Bloody Mary since I was constantly being bumped and judged by everybody that waited for the bathroom. I protected myself from the glares of passengers by reading the best book for travelling, Adrift. Author and shipwreck survivor, Steven Callahan, empowered me to battle my travel obstacles as I read how he avoided sharks, storms and dehydration in his tiny drifting raft for seventy-six days. My compact deathrow seat between whining kids and flatulating travelers waiting for the bathroom became more tolerable. Slightly. For nourishment I savored Cheese Nips I stole from my sleeping children.
Arriving did not mean our hardships were over. At Budget we found that my wife accidentally reserved the smallest and only car left, an Altima Coupe, to transport our family of five and twelve large “carry-on bags”. Fortunately, it was red, so my boys thought it was a Ferrarri. On our tight-packed trek through the icy terrain to our mountain lodge, I said nothing to my family. Fighting kids free of child car seats, bumped me repeatedly. I thought of my Adrift hero who spent so many helpless days being bumped by large fish as he dreamed of his next drop of water. I insisted on stopping for an 18-pack of beer at the last gas station. Even if it had to ride on my lap in our overstuffed Coupe, I could not survive five days at inlaws only on melted ice and doused dreams.
8:10pm – Upon arrival, my wife’s parents, sister and her children welcome us with hugs and the news that her parents have rid themselves of all but two television channels. Neither of those two are ESPN. There is brief chatting about the lack of plans for the week and all but me go off to bed at, yes, 8:30pm. I crack a beer and take a small sip calculating that perhaps rationing one or two each night will allow me to hibernate until our departure. I open my book, Adrift, and read for hours about how much worse it could be than having only CBS and PBS.
Day 2: I awake on the living room couch which I had found was the most comfortable spot in a crowded home. That is, until you are woken up pre-dawn by packs of excited children. The day is filled by the sounds of children fighting over video games, passive-aggressive dads grumbing, and wives telling the dads to “suck it up”. I try not to think about all the football bowl games I am missing while I count the minutes until I can open my first beer.
Day 3: I have befriended a fellow captive, my brother-in law, Paul. By some ironic twist of fate, both of us beer-loving, travel-loathing dads have married into a family of non-drinkers that enjoy spending time with each other many miles from our natural habitat. He invites me to “go shoot something” with him at a local paint-ball course in town. Not since my youth have I had any interest in holding a gun, but with two more days to go and dwindling beer rations, shooting pellets at the faces of unknown teenagers sounds better than watching time stand still. It turns out to be a great release of aggression.

534We return home to bury our noses in our books. I read how my castaway collected rain drops and visualized food while I sip a light beer and try to imagine sports highlights in the lonely darkness of 9:15pm.
Day 4: In the real world of civilization, I have calculated this would be a Sunday. Paul and I elect to stay home while the others attend church. I am ecstatic at the idea that there will be a football game on one of the two channels and no kids in the house. My hopes of being rescued from sports starvation are dashed when it is revealed that CBS is televising the only game that has no significance on this last day of the season. The “local” Denver Broncos are whipping the Raiders 34 to 0 in the first half when I figure I won’t keep a tight count on my beer in-take. In the early evening, I try to warm myself dinner without any microwave available. Not familiar with ancient cooking practices, I accidentally melt a serving tray and nearly destroy the in-laws’ oven. I throw a tiny tantrum in front of my wife and her sister: “All I wanted to do all week was watch a football game and now that’s ruined too!” They take pity on me and my harsh conditions and help me hide the remains of the destroyed serving tray. I fall asleep to the sounds of distant coyotes and local news.

582

Day 5: Last day before we go home. We drive two hours to visit other cousins in, even more remote, outskirts of New Mexico. For our boys this proves to be a happier place than Disneyland as a short walk from their home, there are bones from decomposing cows, horses and sheep in a field where people dump their dead animals and furniture. Boys plus dead things equal awesome. 569With a bag full of skeleton souvenirs and half a beer in my belly, I am starting to see the light at the end of my tunnel. I learn all about my in-laws’ fascinating family history and am thankful to see a beautiful part of the “real America” where Breaking Bad was filmed. We drive back to our home away from home to pack and convince the children to get a few hours of sleep before our 5am departure. I finish Adrift and wish I could somehow thank the author who got himself through seventy-five days at sea and me through five days at in-laws.


 
Day6: Travel home. Somehow the boys make it through a 4:30am wake-up, a one hour drive, a two hour plane ride to Vegas, a plane change, and another two hour plane ride home before finally losing it in the baggage claim. The brief layover in Vegas teases me with reminders of the kid-free hall pass I was earning in my mind. Sports bars, slot machines, shopping travellers without kids are all close enough to touch but way out of reach. At least, so says all the airport authorities who keep telling my kids to keep away. I don’t bother to herd my screaming, rowdy boys as my revenge on those enjoying a “vacation”.  IMG_20131231_082746

Land ho! While dragging heaps of luggage and delirious children to a distant shuttle, I realize it’s only 11am here. Still hours to go before kid bedtime. That’s just as harsh at home as anywhere it turns out. But at least I’m home where, just like in space, no one can hear you scream.

 

* I really hope my inlaws aren’t reading this. If they are then let me thank them for their always gracious hospitality and apologize for my perpetual crankiness.
I survived this trip to tell about it and I am less afraid to return to the open waters of visiting in-laws this summer. Can anyone recommend a good book?

Santa’s little tattler, The Elf on the Shelf, causes fear in all of us.  Last year I announced on the social networks that I was going to take care of the creepy, peeping rat in Goodfellas style.

elfonshelf

For those not familiar with the leering imp, let me alert you. In case the age-old Santa lie wasn’t enough to trick kids into behaving, there is a real representation; a weird doll to sit in their room and watch them for Godfather Clause. When your child is asleep, the “scout” reports back to the North Pole. Parents move the doll to a different place each night to perpetuate the figment. Oh, and if your kids think he’s cute or a fun toy, it should be known that no playing with, nor even touching the doll, is allowed.  I’m not sure why. Since his creation in 2011, he has been a very popular tool for deceiving and threatening our kids over the holidays.

True story: the day after I posted my plan to make Elf go bye-bye, the Elf was gone and could not be found. Be careful what you joke about online. I was framed! I had nothing to do with his disappearance, I swear! My wife and kids never prosecuted, but I could feel their judging eyes throughout the holiday season.

I was not absolved until he turned up in our recent garage sale. Wasn’t me.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but according to the plot of Double Jeopardy, I think I can now go badass Ashley Judd and take Elf out legally.

elf revenge(found this pic online. Not anyone I know, but proof enough for me.)

Well, it turns out my wife rendered Chucky’s holiday rival powerless before I could this year. As I was sharpening my knives for the stuffy dismembering, the kids broke the news that Mom spoiled the greatest ongoing conspiracy known to man. Aliens, WMDs, and dead Elvis got nothing on Santa. But no longer in this family. Ironically, my wife who is Christian, grew up knowing Santa was a lie while I, growing up Jewish, was raised to believe in the jolly stalker. I was looking forward to sharing that magical deception with my kids.

However with our first child, my wife, being the nice and always right parent, never wanted to deceive our daughter about Santa. Though I agreed a myth should not get credit for the things we worked hard to buy, I still wanted our younger boys to have the fun I grew up with. They believed it for 6 good years, which beats my wife’s previous record for keeping a secret – 3 hours.

It turns out that she cracked under interrogation this year and the Santa cover-up is now over. The Elf on the Shelf’s disappearance from last year, however, still remains a mystery. I only know none of us banished him to the garage. Perhaps he really did have the power to move himself until we stopped believing in him. Please don’t clap your hands to bring him back.

So, what do I do now? No Halloween candy left for bribing. No naughty list to use as blackmail. I suppose I’ll have to read one of those discipline books I’ve been receiving for Christmaskkah all these years.

Wait, there is another hope.

 

 

 

loser ribbonYou wake up at 7:30am. Your head is pounding. It’s not from the Halloween celebrating the night before, it’s pounding with some screechy Ariana Grande song that hasn’t left your head since your daughter’s carpool days ago. Now it’s Saturday. “Dadurday”. In just three hours you will coach your son’s soccer team to their eighth straight loss, capping a winless season where they were outscored 49 to 1. At least your nine weeks of hell as a volunteer coach will be over. (continue reading…)

child brain

Download the PDF file .

Thenkidshappened.com. Thanks Kym Campbell for illustrating these findings.

boxtrollsIf you think The Boxtrolls is scary, try taking ten 7-year-olds to see it. Yikes! But since I have to celebrate my kid’s birthday, it beat the horrifying alternative of hosting ten sugar-frenzied 7-year-olds in my home.

The Boxtrolls is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should go before reading further. Once you have then – Spoiler Alert: The film industry is back to its old tricks; turning on us dads (continue reading…)

coachhug willferrell

While searching for coaching tips to help my hopeless, winless band of 6-year-old dirt-diggers, I discovered this must-read gem for all parents. I was frustrated and desperate thinking that my kids needed more motivation and guidance from me. This article made me see that’s not want they want, nor what they need. (continue reading…)

broken bart

Summer, you kicked my ass again. I thought this was going to be the year I finally beat my great nemesis. But after one broken arm, one murdered cat, excessive amounts of screen-time, and a blog untouched in six weeks, I accept defeat.  And, while some of you are flaunting back to school pics, I’ve still got weeks to go!

For a father blogger who is home days, summer break is my monster in the closet. I know it’s there. I know it will get me. But I inevitably pull the covers over my head and hope I survive to see tomorrow.

This year was going to be different. Or so I thought. (continue reading…)

I hope you appreciate, like “Voldemort”, I did not mention the title of the Disney song that must not be named. Please let us agree to never utter that three word phrase within an ear shot of any dad. Good.

Today I am super stoked The Lego Movie comes out on DVD. Maybe this time I’ll actually get to see it.

Yes, The Lego Movie is a bone of contention in my family.  I chose to watch football when my wife took the kids to Frozen. I didn’t mind skipping that one. But The Lego Movie was going to be Dad’s. I couldn’t wait. (continue reading…)

grinchIt came without sports. It came without a “hall pass”. I spent Dad’s Day with my family and I still had a blast.

Since I’ve been so vehemently opinionated about how I wanted to be celebrated, I must tell you how it went down after all. Let’s just say, like fatherhood, it may not have been what I expected. (continue reading…)

#2 dadIt’s two days till Father’s Day and I feel like Rocky in most of the Rocky films. I’ve lost my title. My dad mojo took a dive and there’s no 80’s montage to pick me up. It hurts. I have to look back, way back, to when I wanted it. When I had the eye of the tiger. Now…let’s get it back. (cue music) (continue reading…)