Are these marshmallows local?

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I phoned it in on dinner tonight. An uninspired mash-up of hot dogs, mac and cheese, and steamed broccoli. It’s a meal that screams, “I’m too tired to give any thought into the nutritional value of food, but too broke to order pizza.” My kids immediately called me on my apathy, refusing to eat a bite. I explained to them that hot dogs and mac and cheese were in fact their favorite foods. That they’d asked for this very meal on a number of occasions, but they were too quick for my logic. My son had the best excuse: “Well, it’s Fall. And when it’s Fall, I change the food I eat. I don’t eat hot dogs in the Fall. Or mac and cheese. Just chocolate. And juice boxes.”

That’s a preschooler’s notion of “eating seasonal.”

And he says this while wearing his sister’s oversized pink sunglasses…and no pants…

How the hell do you respond to that?

I’m stunned, and frankly pleased with his creativity, so I just switch from beer to bourbon and decide to have a fire in the backyard fire pit. Fun fact: if you eat four marshmallows, you’ll ingest one gram of protein. So it’s not a total loss.

Reason Why Hanging with Preschoolers is Awesome #6

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Sometimes, if you push your kids past the brink of exhaustion and keep them up really late, like 9pm, they start to mumble really cute things like, “You know who I love? I love everybody,” and then out of nowhere, they’ll be like, “Daddy, daddy, check this out.” And then they show me how they play piano on their toes.

It’s like hanging out with a couple of stoners. And it’s awesome.

Peeing in the Afterlife

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So the tough questions keep coming from my kids. Again, it always seems to happen when they’re in the jogging stroller, so I’m thinking about giving up running altogether. Yesterday, my boy shot this gem at me:

“Daddy, do ghosts have penises?”

Now, typically, if there’s a hard question that’s science-based like this, I’ll look it up on the internet and discuss the answer with my kids. I don’t really know what dads did before Google. Did they just make the answers to obscure questions up? Probably. But I’m a “modern dad” so I look this shit up. Big mistake here.

When you Google “ghost penis” you get an Urban Dictionary definition (“a clumpy fold in your pants that looks like an erected penis”), a news post about a ghost hunter who catches ghosts with his penis, and a story about a man who tried to convince a woman her vagina was haunted. You can’t make this shit up, people.

Now, what my kid really wanted to know was how ghosts went to the bathroom. If they’re just floating cloud-like figures without much shape and, presumably no penises, are they destined to spend the afterlife holding in a wicked pee?

Alas, this is yet another question that I don’t have a good answer to. I tried the whole make-believe angle:

Me: “Buddy, ghosts are just pretend. Like in movies.”

Him: “Yeah, but in movies, do they have penises?”

I tried the Socratic method:

Me: “What do you think?”

Him: “I don’t know. That’s why I asked you.”

And eventually just got practical and told him that no, ghosts don’t have penises, but they don’t eat or drink anything either, so they don’t really need to go to the bathroom.

Problem solved…until tomorrow, when he asks me another penis related question that I have neither the desire nor know-how to answer.

Parenting is hard.

Reason #5 Why I’m a Shitty Dad

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Yesterday, my kid had to eat a stale cracker he found mushed in the bottom of his cup holder in the mini van. Because I forgot to pack any food on a long excursion to the pool. That’s right. I forgot food.

That’s the second time I’ve forgotten to feed my children. The first time, they were babies and wouldn’t stop crying. I tried peek-a-boo, I tried their favorite monkey toy, I tried putting them down for a nap, I tried hitting myself on the head with a book, I tried holding them, funny faces, sad faces…nothing worked. They just cried and cried.

“Wait,” my wife said. “When was the last time you fed them?”

Right. Food.

It takes a special kind of idiot to forget to feed his kids. Twice.

 

I See Dead People: Really Hard Questions From My Kids

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My kids are at the inquisitive stage when they want to know absolutely everything. This is a problem for me because I know almost nothing. If you have a question about ‘80s sitcoms about kooky butlers, I’m your guy. Want to talk about the mid-90s Atlanta Braves team that climbed from worst to first, I can go on and on. You got a question about nature, birds, cars, trees, electronics, prosthetic legs, tax codes, the sleeping habits of monkeys, or anything else my kids seem to give a shit about, and I’m stumped.

For whatever reason, it’s been an inquisitive week. I guess it’s an encouraging sign of development, but let’s be honest–it just makes my life more difficult. Because do my kids care about Mr. Belvedere or Otis Nixon? No. They don’t. They seem hell bent on only asking me questions that I don’t have an answer to, which only underscores my suspicions that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing as a parent.

So here are the top three questions that stumped me this week.

 

1)   “What’s dirt made out of?”

“Umm…smaller pieces of dirt?”

I don’t fucking know. I don’t have a phd in, um, dirt. Are dad’s really supposed to know everything? Everything!

 

2)   “Daddy, what’s a girlfriend?”

This one I just ignored. The key to avoiding awkward conversations with a four-year-old is shock and awe. They’re persistent little bastards, so you can’t just change the subject. They’ll keep pestering you with the same question over and over unless you present them with something so fantastic, it gives them short-term amnesia. I recommend setting something on fire, or showing them a nice piece of road kill. Be careful though. Using road kill as a distraction to avoid a talk about sexual relations could lead to the following question:

 

3)   “Daddy, what happens when you die?”

Yeah. This one came out of nowhere while I was running. The kids were in the jogging stroller, talking, getting all existential apparently, and my son lobs that grenade at me.

“What do you mean, buddy?” I ask.

“Like, if you get eaten by a giant snake. And die. What happens?”

“Well, uh, your body gets buried into the ground.”

Simple, to the point. Case closed, right? Wrong.

“And then what?” the persistent little bastard asks.

“Then your soul goes to heaven.”

“What’s a soul?” This is my daughter now. Because the conversation isn’t deep enough as it is.

“Well, uh…”

I’m not sure exactly how I explained it. I was running, and tired, and scared I was going to completely fuck up my kids’ perspective on life and death. You get one shot as a parent to have the first life/death discussion. I expected more time to prepare. I expected to have notes. Maybe some scientific or religious tomes to reference. Actually, I expected my wife to handle it. Alas, my wife doesn’t run. So I’m there alone.

Here’s what I did. I made up an analogy on the fly that equated the soul to the Apple TV box and the body to the TV. It sounds ridiculous, and I’m not proud of using television to explain the great mystery of the soul, but you gotta work with what you have. I stand by my decision.

Then they wanted to know more about what happens to the body. Specifically, “Why do we bury dead bodies?” I went into some deep Lion King circle of life shit that I think kind of made sense to my kids. They definitely sunk their teeth into the notion that burying a dead body feeds the earth and makes flowers grow. For the remainder of the run, my daughter kept pointing to flowers and saying, “look daddy, there’s a dead body.”

Someone out there help me out. Tell me I’m not the only one that’s botched the big death question. Better yet, tell me about the questions your kids stumped you with.

 

Four Reasons Why I’m a Shitty Dad

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Okay, I’m not the shittiest dad in the world. There are plenty of deadbeats out there that make me look good. I don’t beat my kids. I haven’t turned my basement into a meth lab. And not once have I ever seriously considered leaving one of my children at WalMart and just driving away. Not seriously. Nope. Never.

But I don’t deserve that World’s Greatest Dad mug, either. I screw up a lot. I forget to put mittens on my kids when it’s cold. I rely heavily on Disney Jr. for a few minutes of peace and quiet. And I’ve got a prison-style “notch in the wall” calendar running down the days until my angels start kindergarten. I’m not proud. I know I have room for improvement. I’m trying, honest, I am. And in the spirit of AA-style full disclosure, here’s a list of the top four reasons why I’m a shitty dad. Judge me if you will.

 

1)   I cooked an entire meal for my children using only the microwave.

The meal consisted solely of cheese-like products and a cornucopia of preservatives. It was like a science experiment–can children subsist entirely on ingredients no one can pronounce? Yes they can. They’ve stopped growing, but they’re still alive, so…

 

2) “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to drink beer.”

That’s a direct quote from my son. My beautiful, impressionable, 4 year old son. Yeah. That happened. It was like a fucking after-school special (I learned it from watching you, dad!). We were heading out for a walk with another family. It was a long walk, like 500 yards around the block, so I brought beers. My son looked at the cans in my hand and asked, “why do you have 10 beers, daddy?” First of all, I didn’t have 10 beers. I had three. But the impression on my kid was the same: beer=fun. More beer=more fun. Awesome.

 

3) I’m not good at teaching my kids stuff.

See the above anecdote about counting cans of beer. Yeah, they can’t really count. They don’t know their ABC’s either. They used to know their ABC’s, when my wife took care of them every day. But since I took over, they’ve been dropping knowledge like a punch-drunk boxer. They can name every character on Jake and the Neverland Pirates (even the obscure, one-episode mermaids), but ask them what state they live in and they’ll probably say, “Cheese.” Sometimes I try to teach them things, like new words, or how the earth rotates around the sun, but usually, my daughter just interrupts me and gives me the definition of some word she makes up on the spot. It typically goes like this:

“Daddy, do you know what Simisimiwanka means?”

“No, honey, what does simisimiwanka mean?”

“It means give me a cookie.”

 

4) You gonna eat that?

We’re sitting in a crowded restaurant and my son’s sandwich shows up and he looks at the plate with this puzzled expression, holds up a piece of celery like it’s a god-damned moon rock and says,  “Daddy, what is this?” He says it really loud, so everyone can hear.

Awesome. Vegetables are so foreign to my kids, they literally don’t recognize them.

An awkward exchanged ensued where I had to explain to him what celery is, how it’s a vegetable, and why it isn’t coated with sugar and processed into a substance that can be squeezed out of a tube—like the only other vegetables he’s ever had in his life.

Just another day in the life of a lazy, shitty dad.

Insane in the Membrane

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Ever since I became a dad, I’ve spent countless hours wondering what the fuck is going on inside my children’s heads. Okay, maybe not hours. Minutes. Lots of minutes. Because kids are weird. They do weird shit. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think my kids are any weirder than your kids. They talk to squirrels and pretend to be watermelons and will only eat food that’s orange—but from what I understand, that’s standard operating procedure for an American four year old. I’m proud to say my kids are normal weird.

Still, I want to know what they’re thinking. Call it simple curiosity, call it an attempt to better understand my offspring.

Now that the kids are starting to learn how to draw, I’m finally getting a window into their complex minds. So far, it’s fucking scary in there.

Take my daughter. Cute as hell. Likes to wear dresses and put pink ribbons in her hair. If you asked her what her favorite activity is, she’d probably say petting the kitty. Typical girl shit. She’s made of sugar and spice and everything nice, right?

Apparently not. Now that she has the motor skills to draw, does she draw rainbows? Stick figures holding hands in a meadow? No. She keeps drawing these really disturbing monsters with exaggerated fangs. The picture above, on the chalkboard, is a family of potato monsters. She also draws pumpkin monsters. Kitty monsters. Flower monsters. They all have the same happy but crazed look to them. The kind of monsters that are singing a song about butterflies one minute, then trying to give the neighbor’s dog a juice box enema (which pretty much describes my daughter, too).

The kids do a lot of art projects at school, so I know it’s only a matter of time before the teacher pulls me aside with one of my little Picasso’s creations and asks why on earth, would she draw a picture of a potato monster drinking moonshine and puking butterflies?

For the record, I don’t even serve potatoes in my house.

Meanwhile, all my son will draw is rainbows, which makes sense, because I’m pretty sure it’s just a bunch of bright colors bouncing around the inside of his brain. Just like his dad.

The Basement Tapes

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After several weeks of traveling the family is home and trying to get back into a routine. For the kids, that means “playing” with the cat by setting elaborate traps using catnip, a ball of yarn and a basket. There’s also mandatory band practice. The travel sabbatical was inspirational and I believe Toots and the McGoots is entering a prolific period of creativity. My sister-in-law gave the kids kazoos, which adds another dimension to the “sound wall” that Toots is known for (some of our recent basement sessions are reminiscent of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds era). And Addie is stepping into the role of lead vocals and really owning it. Last night, we worked on one of her original songs called “No Squirrels Allowed,” which is about a tiny squirrel overcoming his fear of ziplining. On the surface, it’s a cute song about a squirrel, but dig deeper and you’ll find it’s really about rampant age discrimination at amusement parks.

Sure, we have our creative differences, but what band doesn’t? I often wonder if The Stones also had epic battles over who would get to play the xylophone. Did Mick Jagger also stomp away from band practice, crying and screaming he didn’t want to play with Keith Richards anymore? Did he also get lured back to band practice with M&M’s?

Catch the Wind

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After the kids ate all of the tiny chocolate pieces out of our trail mix, my wife declared that she had no reason to live. It may seem melodramatic to an outsider, but you have to understand we’d been in the car for a total of 67 hours at this point. Our kids had spent 65 of those collective hours singing made up songs about pooping on each other. Sometimes they sang songs about the imaginary squirrels and mice that live in my daughter’s head. But mostly it was about pooping on each other. Toots and the McGoots’ next album is going to be dark.

Just a few minutes prior to the trail mix incident, we watched two seriously cute chipmunks frolic in harmony at a rest stop, only to turn on each other over a leftover Cheez-It. They battled it out Thunderdome style.  We were beginning to turn on each other in much the same way when my wife noticed the lack of chocolate in the trail mix. She only buys the trail mix so she can eat the M&Ms. Her theory is, if the M&M’s hang out in the same bag as nuts and raisins, they become healthy too. Good by association. I’ve learned not to question her leaps of logic.

So it was looking dire in our minivan stuffed with over-priced inner tubes, a cooler with melted ice and questionable yogurt products. The landscape was classic Southern Utah—sand, scrub brush and the occasional mirage. It was the perfect place to bury a body. Not that any of us were thinking that.

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But then the scenery changed and great spires of colorful rock popped out of that depressing sand. My wife rolled down the windows and cranked Drivin’ n Cryin’ and suddenly, all was well. A happy family of mini-van gypsies cruising toward their next adventure, singing “catch the wind.”

Does this meatball make my head look tiny?

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Groms in L.A.

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So California has swings on the beach, which combines my daughter’s two favorite things: Making me push her on the swings and getting filthy dirty. Like “stumbling around Burning Man” dirty. We’ve only been in Los Angeles for three days and she’s already turned into the stereotypical beach hobo—seaweed in her hair, a strange collection of “treasure” (shells, empty cans, and the occasional discarded CD case) in a bag, and the uncontrollable need to yell at the seagulls.

The beach time has been epic. I’ve concentrated on building elaborate sand castles with real working draw bridges and my kids have concentrated on crushing those castles like a pissed off Godzilla. For my effort, I get to carry them both across the hot sand at the end of the day. Every day is Father’s Day.

But, the kids got called “groms” by real life So-Cal dudes and I got to pay $4 for an ice cream sandwich, so I feel like we got to see “the real L.A.”

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We also rode bikes to Santa Monica to check out the pier, where the kids rode their first roller coaster—my daughter said it tickled her tummy. My son said it tickled his penis. Not sure what to make of that.

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To continue an uncomfortable streak going, he also decided to poop in the most inconvenient place—the Santa Monica Pier free public restrooms, which my wife described as such: “They’re like, kind of nice prison bathrooms.” Imagine chain-link fence walls.

The 11-mile bike ride back from the pier to our borrowed apartment took 7.5 hours because the kids had to stop every 32 seconds to go to the potty. I guess that’s what we get for shoving Gatorade down their throats to keep them hydrated. But we got to stop in Venice Beach and see the guy that roller skates and plays electric guitar—classic Fletch! And Liz bought everyone “I Love LA” t-shirts. They only had a women’s tank in my size, but I wear it with pride.

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Also, a quick note to Californians.

Dear Californians,

I don’t think you should have a vanity plate if you drive a ’90s model convertible Sebring. Your car already says everything you could possibly need it to say. The vanity plate is overkill. That is all.

Sincerely,

Daddy-Drinks