Get the Hell Off My Shelf, Elf

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Our Elf on the Shelf finally showed up for the Christmas season. Late, as usual. Something about work obligations and a general lack of sleep.

I guess I’m excited to see the little guy. My kids sure like him. The Elf made some appearances last year before Christmas, but the kids were a little too young to truly understand the magnitude of the Elf’s presence. At 3, the Elf was just another cute Christmas decoration with a vague connection to the fat man that brings presents.

But the creepy little dude in pajamas is back. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. In principle, I’m fine with any sort of mythology that reinforces good behavior with my kids. I’ve been known to tell them that the Easter Bunny cries himself to sleep if they don’t eat all of the green beans on their plate…and clean up their room.

But my kids don’t get that the Elf on the Shelf is supposed to be Santa’s little Narc. Ask them why Chippie the Elf has showed up, and they’ll say, “to bring us chocolate!”

Which is total bullshit. Daddy gives them chocolate. The Elf is supposed to be the heavy, the bad cop. I don’t need another person in my life to swoop in and hand out sugar and presents. I need someone to make the kids scrub their fingernails and go to sleep at night. I thought Chippie was my guy, but apparently, he’s just another sap.

And don’t get me started on the overzealous Elf on the Shelf parents. To you mother-fuckers who have gulped down the Elf on the Shelf Kool-Aid, I say stop it. Stop finding really cute ways to hide your Elf. More importantly, stop sharing pictures of your Elf hiding in really creative, mind-blowing ways on Facebook. If I see one more picture of an Elf sitting at the center of a Last Supper recreated flawlessly with action figures and Barbie dolls, I’m going to lose my shit.

Who the hell has the time and energy to bake the Elf into the center of a soufflé so that the kids discover Santa’s little Narc is watching them as they eat breakfast? Who does that?!

I can barely remember to move my damned Elf night after night. This morning, I had to stuff the Elf down my pants to get him out of the room before my kids noticed that Chippie was too damned lazy to land in a different spot after his commute from the North Pole.

And what’s with those naughty Elves that have cereal fights in the middle of the night? Parents, why would you create another mess for yourself to clean up? Do your kids not drop enough Cheerios on the floor every goddamned morning? Or maybe your Elves are so full of Christmas magic that they clean up after themselves.

Now that’s an Elf on the Shelf I could totally get behind; An Elf that cleans the house when you’re not looking. Maybe even whips up a couple of PBJ’s every once in a while. Maybe my Elf is broken. He just sits there, smiling, judging, not lifting a Goddamned finger to help out.

Thanks Elf. Now stop giving my kids chocolate.

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Do You Know the Street Value of this Candy?

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In order to combat the multi-billion dollar slave-labor juggernaut that is the Halloween Candy Industry tonight, for Halloween, when trick-or-treaters come to our door, I’ll be handing out little plastic baggies of homemade kale chips. They’re delicious and nutritious and the only slave labor used in production was my own children, so you can feel good about eating them.

I’m kidding. But we live in an uber hippy town, so there’s a good chance my kids will come across a bag of kale chips during their one-night assault on dental hygiene. Maybe from the bus of gypsies that’s always parked around the corner. I hope it’s really a baggie of kale and not something else.

Our dentist is doing a candy buy back program. Bring in your piles of candy and they’ll give you…what exactly, I don’t know. Floss? It’s cute in a futile sort of way. I imagine this being about as successful as the government gun buy back programs. I might take in the shitty candy that nobody wants—I’m looking at you candy corn—but there’s no way I’m giving up my peanut butter cups. You’ll have to pry those from my dead, diabetic hands.

Fuck I love Halloween. I love wearing really inappropriately sexy costumes (I was a stunning Dorothy one year). I love trying to convince my wife that it would be in her best interest, nay, the best interest of mankind, if she wore a stripper Wonder Woman costume (or any saucy costume that has quick rip-away Velcro). I love that the kids get to wear their costumes to the grocery store or Home Depot for an entire week before Halloween without anyone thinking they’re weird. I love that for one night, I get to walk around my neighborhood toting a cooler full of beer and cops just smile at me. I love telling my kids bleak stories about the Halloween Scares of the ‘80s, when all apples hid razor blades and we trick-or-treated in the mall because our neighbors were psychopaths. But mostly, this Halloween, I love watching my son get dressed up as a ghost in a costume he made with his mother’s help, and try to walk through walls.  It’s funny because he can’t walk through walls, even if he has a sheet over his head. But you gotta let kids learn these things for themselves.

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The Foot Lickers

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When you bring your baby home from the hospital after he’s born, your mind is reeling with the possibilities of parenthood. Mostly, you see rainbows, imagining afternoons at the park playing baseball and making macaroni necklaces for Christmas presents. What you can’t imagine is that at some point during your tenure as a parent, you’re going to have to say the phrase, “son, don’t lick your sister’s feet.”

You’re not an idiot. You know there will be ups and downs. There will be tantrums in the Fun Depot. Smoothies spilled in the car. Maybe some light biting. But having to tell one child not to lick the other child’s feet never even crosses your mind.

But it’s going to happen. The first foot-licking incident will be accidental. They’ll be wrestling barefoot and an errant foot will cross in front of someone’s face and that kid will seize the opportunity and stick his/her tongue out and take a lick. It’s an act of curiosity mainly. The other child will giggle and then it’ll be an all out foot lick fest, at which time you’ll have to say, “son, don’t lick your sister’s feet.”

It’s such a weird thing to say, you’ll actually pause and think, “I can’t believe I just had to say that.”

Soon you’ll be saying it so often, you’ll have to write it on the dry erase “rule board” next to other gems like, “don’t put mom’s pearls on the kitty,” and “don’t tell strangers their hair looks funny,” or “glow sticks are not food” or any number of bizarre societal norms that most of us take for granted.

But the foot-licking thing will be the weirdest. At least for a while. Then the kids will come up with something even weirder that makes you long for the simplicity of the foot-licking days. I don’t know what that thing will be yet. I’m just warning you, it’s going to get weird. Then it’s going to get weirder.

 

F#@king Pickles

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This one’s for the new parents out there: At some point during your parenthood, you’ll decide it’s a good idea to try to make your own pickles with your children. Maybe you and the kids planted a little starter garden and you got a bumper crop of cucumbers that you don’t know what to do with. Most likely, you’ll see an article in a glossy parenting magazine that declares making pickles is the easier than making toast and including your children in the process will guarantee hours of quality family time that will spark long-lasting love and admiration from your children. This article will subtly imply that when you’re too old to take care of yourself, your children will recall the day you helped them make their own pickles and be so overwhelmed with joy and love that they’ll build you an in-law suite complete with a Jacuzzi and on-call masseuse.

In this article, there will be a big two-page photo spread photo of a beautifully multi-cultural family laughing and looking gorgeous while making pickles in their brightly lit kitchen. You will hate that family in that picture because their countertops aren’t covered in stacks of art projects (which are actually, accidentally glued to your countertops so why bother trying to sort them?) and three weeks worth of mail that you haven’t gotten a chance to look through yet. But still, you think, “hey, that looks like fun. We should make pickles.”

But listen, it’s a trap. See how that family in the magazine is smiling? There won’t be any smiling when you do your pickle project. One kid will throw a shit fit because you cut the pickles in the wrong shape (“I said trapezoid!”) and the other will refuse to wash her hands and decide she has to lick every cucumber before it goes into the jar.

And then there’s the recipe. The one in the magazine calls for ingredients like dill, or garlic, or saffron. You don’t have dill or saffron because when you go to the grocery store, you can barely make it out of there with milk and eggs before your kids pee on the floor or lick all of the free cheese samples. Saffron is for people who shop without kids. Forget about saffron.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because your kids have their own idea about what sort of ingredients should go in the god damned pickle jar. Shit like sticks and action figures. I’m not kidding. This will happen. One of your kids will try to slip an action figure into the pickle jar. You’ll be so fatigued by the end of the pickle project that you won’t care. You’ll just close the lid on the jar and set the cucumbers and tiny construction man action figure in your fridge to age.

Oh, and your house will smell like fucking pickles for the next six hours.

Consider yourself warned.

 

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.

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.

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.”