Viva Las Vegas

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Whether you like Vegas or loathe Vegas, you cannot deny that the city is perfectly located. After dragging my family through the desert for several days of hiking and camping in a series of National Parks, everyone was dying for a bit of air conditioning. Enter Las Vegas, land of the well-air conditioned space. We picked the hotel with the most kick ass pool and spent 48 hours trying to get the desert sands out of our nooks and crannies. It was love at first sight for my kids. My daughter was impressed that music played everywhere (even in the potty!) and everyone wore glitter. The kids ate giant meatballs and helped me crack crab legs at the overpriced buffet and spent hours in the wave pool and lazy river. Taking little kids to Vegas is a concern for some parents, mainly because there are hookers everywhere and there’s a good chance you’ll see someone spontaneously combust thanks to a dangerous combination of cigarettes, gin, and polyester. But I see these nuisances as potential teaching moments. In New York New York, there are women who dance on the casino tables in lingerie. My son took one look at the show, and asked, “why is that lady dancing on the table?”

“Because she didn’t go to college, son. Because she didn’t go to college.”

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Road Games

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In Boulder we counted how many Punch Buggies we saw, then we moved on to Mini Coopers. We had epic thumb wars in Moab, and the world’s shortest staring contests outside Canyonlands. (Some new info: my daughter blinks 211 times a minute).

At one point, we tried to teach the kids some Spanish but they just kept making up their own words and teaching us: “chiminobo” “it means lets go to the volcano.”

We had an ice cream eating contest outside of Zion, then Liz tried to see who could stay quiet the longest. That game was over before it started.

At one point, my son tried to see how many Scooby Snacks he could eat without throwing up. Normally, Scooby Snacks are not part of the Averill Recommended Diet, but we let it go. “They’re just graham crackers” we told ourselves. Graham crackers coated in sugar. It’s like meth for 4-year-olds.

Also in Zion, my son tried to see how many tantrums he could throw before I threw him off the side of a cliff. He almost found out.

Now, the kids are watching cartoons in a swank hotel room in Las Vegas and for some reason, my son feels the need to tell me, “daddy, you are not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,” about every 30 seconds. As if I needed a reminder.

All this is to say, “Happy Father’s Day” to all the dads out there. In the words of fine ‘80s television: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life. The Facts of Life.”

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Going Pro

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The first leg of our trip was in Boulder, where everyone commutes by longboard and adults lay in the grass and read books by the river on a Tuesday. The highlights play out like this: we saw a vegetarian stuff himself into a box, took a couple of runs through the campus of my alma mater (go Buffs!), ate at the same crappy Chinese place that I used to eat at daily while I was in graduate school (a big shout out to Tra Ling’s, where the food comes by the scoop, and the scoops are only a dollar), scrambled to the top of Red Rocks using a climbing technique I call, “shit, I hope this works.”

From there, we were lucky enough to hit Vail just in time to catch a piece of the Go Pro Mountain Games. If you’re not familiar with this festival, just imagine every Abercrombie and Fitch model descending upon one of the most expensive towns in America to compete in professional mountain sports like kayaking, slack lining, and mountain biking. It’s intense. Lots of people with tattoos who are “spiritual, but not religious.” Our minivan was the only vehicle that didn’t have a kayak on top.

We got to watch a bit of the kayaking action and a little bit of the slacklining. We ate PBJ’s while watching a couple hundred people do a massive yoga class in the middle of the village. They were all very bendy.

After stuffing our backpacks with free samples of beef jerky and organic energy drinks, the kids were psyched to try ziplining for the first time, climb the fake rock wall, and ride the gondola to the top of the mountain where we had a mid-June snowball fight. After pushing our kids beyond the point of exhaustion, we averted a massive tantrum at 10,000 feet above sea level by plying them with M&M’s. It’s comforting to know that even in strange locals, where social status depends largely on body mass index, old tricks still work. My kids will do anything if there’s the promise of hard chocolate on the other end of the deal.

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Daddy Drinks Goes West

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The family is at the precipice of the Great American Road Trip: Three weeks, one minivan, two four-year olds, half a dozen national parks, and 2,000 pounds of luggage. There is no event or catastrophe that we don’t have supplies for tucked away in one of our purple suitcases. Lantern, check; snow mittens, check; malaria pills, check; snow chains, check.

We’re hitting the big sites between Colorado and California  (Las Vegas!, Pikes Peak!, L.A.!) but also hoping to tackle some classic American adventures like panning for gold and maybe starting a small forest fire with an illegal fireworks display.

So far, we’re only a couple of days into the trip, so we’re still in the honeymoon phase. I haven’t even started drinking liquor yet. Okay, I’ve had a little liquor. But not during daylight hours, so that’s good.

A couple of questions I’m curious about answering as we make our way further West:

1)   How will my kids react to all of the free porn that litters the sidewalks of Las Vegas?

2)   How do you get busy with your hot wife in a tent with two kids sleeping between you?

We’ve learned so much already in just a couple of short days. For instance, flying with two four-year-olds is fun if let your wife sit with them while you sit in a completely separate row and drink beers and play Transformers. Also, the cup-holder of a child’s safety seat is not a good place to store a handful of smashed turkey for two days. And this is interesting: if you buy hundreds of dollars worth of food and camping gear at Target, the check out guy will ask if you’re a doomsday prepper.

Feel free to write that info down.

Some pictures.

Optimus Prime likes cheap beer.

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This is just one of the carts we needed.

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How cute are these kids?

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Bat-Woman

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I had a nice moment with the kids the other day. They were telling me about the squirrel that comes to the feeder outside their window at school. They’ve named her Gary-etta. Addie said Gary-etta comes to the feeder to get food for her kids at home. I asked why the dad squirrel, Gary, didn’t come to the feeder. Coop said, “Gary stays home and plays with the baby squirrels.”

Awesome. We’ve completely upturned generations worth of gender stereotypes. Mission accomplished.

When you ask Addie what she wants to be when she grows up, she says, “A mommy. And a doctor. A doctor mommy. I want to do them both.”

Cool.

Ask Cooper and he says he wants to be a daddy with no career attached. Then he goes on to tell me all the things he’ll do better than me when he’s a daddy. Like this: “When I’m a daddy, I’ll know how to make ginger bread houses.”

Touche Cooper. Touche.

I made the mistake of asking my kids what they thought daddy does for a job. Coop said, “Daddy, your job is to clean up after Murray (the cat) vomits.”

I like to think there’s more to what I do on a day to day basis, but the boy did a pretty good job of summing it up concisely.

Of course, there are some gender-specific characteristics that seem to be ingrained in our children no matter how hard we try to subvert the paradigm. The boy loves to pee on the tree in the front yard…preferably with as many neighbors walking by as possible.

And the girl, well: “Wait daddy. I changed my mind. I want to be a Princess when I grow up. A Princess Doctor Mommy.”

I always thought raising a girl would be exponentially harder than raising a boy, but I didn’t think the difficulties would start until High School. Sadly, the trouble is already brewing. The other day, Addie came into the living room wearing a cape and a mask. I said, “What’s up Bat-Girl?”

She said, “No daddy. I’m Bat-Woman.”

She’s four. Imagine what our conversations will be like when she’s fourteen.

Six Signs You’ve Been Spending Too Much Time With Your Kids

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As parents, we consistently struggle to spend quality time with our offspring, but is there such a thing as too much quality time with your kids? With all due respect to the attachment parenting aficionados out there, hell yes. If you’re a stay at home mom or dad, you’re often spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week with your kid. I like my kids, but I also like riding bikes and having sex, and I wouldn’t want to do either of those things every single day all the damned time. My God, think of the chafing.

And that’s really what we’re talking about here, “parental chafing”. When you spend hour after hour with your kids, your patience gets thinner, your temper gets shorter, and your outbursts grow more frequent. You’re emotionally and psychologically “chafed,” so every little thing (fixing dinner, giving tubbies, mediating a property dispute between the kids) becomes as annoying as a marathoner’s sore nipples.

The trick, is to catch yourself before you go over the deep end become that mom from Mommy Dearest, or any Dad from the ‘50s. So, here are five signs you’ve been spending too much time with your kids. If you recognize any two of these signs, fly to Vegas without your children immediately.

1)   You have a temporary tattoo on your arm that says “I Heart Ballet,” even though you do not heart ballet. It will last for the next seven days.

2)   Your diet consists solely of tube yogurt and string cheese. Actually, anything shaped like a penis. Mini carrots. Hot dogs. Is anyone else suddenly concerned by the phallic nature of kid-friendly foods?

3)   When you’re in bed with your significant other, and things get heated, you accidentally recite the theme song to Doc McStuffins: “It’s OK if you giggle, this will only tickle a little.”

4)   Taking the trash to the curb while drinking a beer feels like a night out.

5)   You’re covered in glitter, but you have absolutely no recollection of how it got there. Like you’ve been roofied by fairies.

6) You’ve started prescribing “Time Outs” left and right, mostly for incidental infractions like “using too many conjunctions in a single sentence,” because the only peace and quiet you get is when your child is being punished in his/her room.

Shit Cats Like

 

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You know what cats like? Surprise parties. Thrown by 4 year olds. Take my cat, Murray. Murray loves it when the kids wrap milk cups and action figures up in construction paper (like presents), put on costumes and party hats, then hide behind the couch cushions all quiet like ninjas, only to jump up and yell “SURPRISE!” when Murray saunters through the living room to get a drink of water. Yeah, cats love shit like that.

My kids have recently discovered how much fun it is to fuck with the family cat. On any given day, they’ll spend a total of 3-4 hours coming up with new ways to “play with” the cat. Here’s one of their favorites: they like to collect acorn tops, then find the biggest one and make Murray wear that acorn top as a hat. It’s humiliating. I can see it in Murray’s eyes.

They also like to try to wrap him up like a present. They’ve gotten the bow on, but never been able to tape all the corners of the paper down because of Murray’s spirited protests.

My cat also loves impromptu breakdance sessions, which my kids call “meow meow dance parties.”

They love to see how Murray looks in their mother’s jewelry. (He looks pretty).

My daughter has figured out that she can pick the cat up now (“look daddy, he loves it!) and she’s drunk off her newfound power, placing Murray in awkward places (in the bathtub, on her pillow, on her pillow in the bathtub) just because she can. It’s only a matter of time before I find the cat in the refrigerator, wearing a fabulous bracelet.

Seriously, watching my kids have  a “play date” with Murray makes the water boarding scenes in Zero Dark Thirty look like a damn Saturday Morning Cartoon.

But it’s all done out of love. Whenever we’re out running errands, the kids spend most of their time trying to get Siri to get in touch with Murray because they miss him so much, screaming from the back of the van, “text Kitty.” “Text Kitty.” “Siri, text Kitty.”

 

 

The Game of Parenthood

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Does anyone else think the Man in the Yellow Hat gives Curious George a little bit too much freedom? If you leave your monkey home alone while you run laps around the park, he’s going to turn his bedroom into a worm farm. It’s gonna happen. Maybe I’m just a helicopter dad, but what kind of a parent lets their monkey take a rocket into space to resupply the international space station? I understand the laissez faire parenting style is a key plot device, but still, I think social services should pay the man a visit.

As you can see, I’m highly judgmental of other parents. But let’s be honest, one of the great joys of being a parent is that we get to secretly judge the parenting skills of our peers.

I mean really, what kind of a parent lets their kid climb up the slide?

Judging other moms and dads is like a sport for me. If I spot a parent giving their kid juice instead of water, that’s one point for me. If I see a bag of chips with a kid’s lunch, that’s one point. What’s that? You don’t feed your kid all organic, locally raised poultry? Two points for me. Your kid’s bedtime is “fluid”? Three points for me.

Should parenting be a competition where we keep score and declare a winner? Hell yeah, it is. And don’t start throwing stones—you all do it too. If we didn’t judge other parents, how would we know that we’re doing a good job ourselves? By raising healthy, happy kids? That’s too subjective.

And don’t worry, if you’re playing by the same rules and point scale that I use, there’s a good chance you’re beating me in the Game of Parenthood.

I have a good friend who lives down the road—he’s another stay at home dad—that can’t help but be a better dad than me. He rarely uses the microwave, cooks breakfast every morning, has his kids in bed by 7:30 nightly, and doesn’t use lollipops as currency. The bastard even bakes. He’s definitely winning.

Little does he know, I get the most satisfaction out of judging people who are obviously better parents than me. Why are they trying so hard? It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Right?

Alas, my judgmental days may be over. My kids seem to be picking up on the habit, and they’re not quite as subtle as I am. Recently, when my daughter saw a college kid with a pink mullet, she smugly informed the room, “that girl has weird hair.”

So I think I’ll take it easy on the Game of Parenthood. I mean, I’ll still judge the hell out of all of you, I’ll just keep it to myself.

Okay people, what habits of other parents do you secretly judge?

Diaper Ninja, or Why Life is a Musical

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Maybe our life isn’t as polished as the “twirling on a mountaintop” kind of musical we’ve all grown accustomed to, but it’s a musical none the less. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino did a musical. It’s like that. Loud with lots of blood.

Case in point: My daughter just performed a rousing rendition of “God Save the Queen,” only she went method and sang it as if she were a cat. Lots of meows. Lots and lots of meows.

Case in point number two: My son likes to put a night time pull-up over his head and pretend he’s a “Diaper Ninja.” Then he gets the Swiffer and runs around the house smacking imaginary ants before they can get to his sister. But he sings and dances to Mumford and Sons while he does it, so the whole scene takes on a sort of West Side Story meets Power Rangers vibe that’s really sort of sweet if you can get past the disturbing Diaper Ninja imagery and ant brutality.

So yeah, life is like that kind of musical. Good thing we’re in the world’s greatest Preschool Garage Band, Toots and the McGoots and have the raw talent and creativity to mold this chaos into a work of art that will stand the test of time.

Frank and Beans

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Something I never thought I’d have say to another person: “Dude, put your pants on. You’re gonna burn your penis.”

Because most nights, my son wants to help me cook dinner. But some nights, he doesn’t want to wear clothes. As if trying to keep all of his fingers off of the hot stove wasn’t enough, now I’ve got another appendage to worry about. I’m not sure why the kid likes to be naked, but from what I can tell from informal surveys, it’s a universal issue with preschool boys. I mean, I get it. Penises are fun, why wouldn’t you want to just hang out with it? But I’m getting a little tired of looking out the window, and seeing my kid with his pants down in the front yard…peeing on the fence…waving at the neighbors.

Sure, he’s young enough now for the little old ladies walking their dogs by our house to laugh it off. But the kid’s getting older. It’ll go from awkwardly cute to awkwardly illegal pretty damn quick.

I blame my wife, who insists that his predilection for nudity is perfectly normal for a boy his age. Maybe. But I’m skeptical; she wasn’t raised with the sexual hang-ups and body guilt that have made the fully-functioning adult that I am today. I had the benefit of being raised in both a traditional Southern household and a Catholic household. In my mind, anything you do naked is a mortal sin. Even taking a shower requires three Hail Mary’s. We thought the Jesus statue at our church was a little risqué. I mean, why can’t he wear a t-shirt?

So I’m doing my best to negate my wife’s well-adjusted approach to innocent nudity and instill the same hang-ups in my children that I enjoyed. I may permanently fuck them up emotionally and psychologically, but at least I’ll avoid having to explain a second-degree burn to my son’s Frank and Beans to the suspicious ER doctor…and subsequent Social Services advocate.