Attack of the Joker


I’m usually not opposed to a good prank.  I like the guys from the Impractical Jokers television show, have owned at least one whoopie cushion over the years, and used to spend a great deal of time and energy trying to scare the crap out of my wife whenever the opportunity presented itself.  I usually prefer it when I’m not the target of this mischief, but think that I do a pretty good job of laughing at my own misfortunes when the situation dictates.

I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s Day, however.  A day devoted to tomfoolery and hoaxes should have a good origin story – a pagan ritual to fool evil spirits or a medieval fable about a jester tricking a king into letting him run off with the royal daughter.  Instead there’s a Flemish poem about a foolish noblemen from 1539, something about the Gregorian calendar that doesn’t seem to make sense, and a theory that when Noah mistakenly sent out the dove before the water had completely abated, the date was April First.

It’s an annoyance, a day of deception without any real purpose.  Not long ago I heard a very legitimate sounding radio advertisement promoting the grand opening of a clothing optional Chinese Restaurant called Wang’s Palace and I have no idea if it’s a real place or not.  I can’t wait until tomorrow when I can go back to believing everything that I see on the news and the internet.

My daughter did not share my feelings. A day that not only tolerated obnoxious behavior but actively encouraged it being one that she had been excited for all week. Upon awaking this morning, the first thing I found was a note on my nightstand.  Her handwriting still resembles something a drunk chicken would scratch in the barnyard dirt, but after some decoding and a bit of imagination it was revealed to say : “Happy April Pranks Day. Watch out for all my traps.”

Thankfully she hasn’t seen any of the Home Alone movies and most of her traps turned out to be pretty benign.  Before taking the dog out I had to empty crumpled up newspaper from my boots and everybody’s sneakers were filled with crayons.  I spent way too long looking for my keys before noticing the giggling from under a nearby table and both my wife and I had the contents of our underwear drawers emptied onto our pillows.  She spent close to an hour hiding in the dog’s crate while I pretended not to know where she was.


a merry prankster
a brilliant hiding spot


It makes me a bit nervous about the years to come.  She hasn’t developed the sophistication of an evil genius quite yet, but the inherent deviousness is there.  All it will take is a little bit of inspiration before we start finding plastic wrapped toilets, taped water nozzles and ice cube trays filled with dish soap.  I’m going to be paying a lot closer attention to my surroundings this time next year.


attack of the joker
evil genius at work




Superman Stole My Sleep


I had a surprise waiting for me last night when I went to bed.  A four foot, bed hogging miniature version of myself snoring loudly right where I was prepared to lie down.  Normally these types of late night shenanigans would be frowned upon, an admonishment about staying in her own room followed by a march back across the hall.

Instead I let her sleep.

Alaina has always been surprisingly easy at bedtime. She drags her feet a bit, makes up silly excuses to stay up, and is sometimes reminded that if I can hear her singing she obviously isn’t brushing her teeth, but there really aren’t that many nights that she gets back up after story time and lights out.

Last night was different, a full scale meltdown occurring because I refused to let her trade out one of her stuffed animals for a Superman fighter jet that she insisted on sleeping with instead.  A fighter jet with sharp wings that, like any rational parent, I was convinced that sharing a bed with would lead to her poking her eyes out.  Why parents have this completely irrational fear of our kids poking their eyes out I can’t explain.  In my forty three years on this planet, I don’t believe that I have ever encountered somebody that actually poked one of their eyes out as a child, but the certainty that our diligence is the only thing keeping it from happening is a common bond that all parents share.


Superman stole my sleep
weapon of eye destruction


I let her stay because when I left her room she was a blubbering mess, unable to deal with life’s unfairness and the terribly mean father that she had been burdened with.  The kind of mess that had a high potential of leading to an equally unpleasant morning when this little bundle of emotion needed to get up and get ready to face a full day of school.


superman stole my sleep
too much to bear


I also let her stay because I really didn’t mind, either the room intruder or the tantrum thrower.  She’ll be turning six in a few months and I’ve been increasingly cognizant of the fact that my little girl really isn’t all that little anymore, that I’m closer to the end of things like tuck-ins, bedtime stories and arguments over the appropriate number of stuffed animals than I am to monitors and waking up my wife for 2 AM feedings. It was nice to see her acting like an overtired, spoiled little five year old, as weird as that may sound.


I let her stay and today have the puffy eyes, bruised spleen, and crick in my back that comes with sharing my bed with a cover stealing, leg kicking little cuddle monkey that left me approximately six inches of room on our super king sized bed. She’ll be back to sleeping in her own bed tonight, Superman will stay in his box with the rest of the superheroes, and I’m not in the mood for any crap.


stealing my sleep
so sweet – when they are sleeping






The Real Progressiveness of The Beauty and the Beast


Judging by ticket sales numbers and the packed theater that we encountered Saturday morning, it seems that the majority of movie goers have chosen to ignore calls from ultra-conservatives to boycott Disney’s new live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.  If you missed it, the “controversy” surrounds villainous sidekick LeFou, played by the voice of Olaf, Josh Gad, Disney’s first openly gay character.  Apparently there are some that are upset at Disney for trying to push their LGBT agenda on our poor, unsuspecting children.


Disney promo – Beauty and the Beast LeFou


My child was completely oblivious.  LeFou acts stereotypically effeminate, stares longingly at his good buddy Gaston (Luke Evans), and dances with another man for less time than it took me to type this sentence.  If I hadn’t been looking for it, it’s possible I would have been just as unaware.

To tell the truth, it wan’t even the gayest thing that we watched together this week.  During a recent episode of the cartoon Star vs the Forces of Evil, one of the characters looks around at a boy band concert to find that everyone else in the audience is part of a couple and kissing their partners, including two same sex couples. The main character in Nickelodeon’s The Loud House has a best friend whose parents are a gay, interracial couple.

One of the main story lines of this season of Supergirl has revolved around the coming out of Alex Danvers, adoptive sister of Supergirl Kara Danvers, and her relationship with policewoman Maggie Sawyer.  After watching the episode where they officially became a couple, it led to this conversation:

“Wait, girls can have girlfriends, not just boyfriends?”

“Absolutely.  People don’t choose who they love.”

“Oh, OK. Why isn’t Wonder Woman ever on this show?”

“I don’t know honey. That’s a great question.”


CW promo ep 2.13


There is a moment in Beauty and the Beast that I think is important, one that matters precisely because it has evoked no controversy whatsoever that I have heard. When the curse is finally lifted and The Beast reverts back to his human form, so too do all his servants. This leads to joyous reunions between the wardrobe, Madame de Garderobe,  ( Audra McDonald ) and her harpsichord husband Cadenza ( Stanley Tucci ) and the candelabra Lumiere ( Ewan McGregor ) and his wife the feather duster Plumette ( Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Its a more romantic moment than anything that happens between the titular characters and departs from the cartoon by showing both of these couples to be inter-racial. This is something that shouldn’t be a big deal, but not very far in the past would have led to calls of boycott of its own.

As absurd as I find some of the things that people are still outraged by, our children are being exposed to more diversity than ever before, both on screen and off.  How they react to that diversity will be determined by how we react to it.  Sometimes the biggest sign of progress is when there is no reaction at all.





Playing The Guilt Game


Pretty much right from their first breath, children are experimenting with different ways to get us to do what they want.  Different timbres and pitch rejected or filed away for further use based on the effectiveness of each individual scream and cry.  Later on it becomes tantrums and hissy fits, the more public the better. Incessant, ear bleeding, aneurysm inducing whining. Two of my daughter’s preferred techniques were either to simply continue asking over and over until all will to resist was ground down and washed away or to use some variation of “pretty please” followed by a combination of various treats to go “on top.”

Amateur inveiglements now set aside for the most effective form of psychological manipulation that one person can inflict upon another – the  guilt trip.

When she started kindergarten, I talked about what that was going to mean for our time together.  I don’t get home from work until after bed time most nights of the week, so there are several days when the morning routine is our only time together.  I talked about the teenager’s sharp words about time spent with her and how deeply they cut.  I talked about my guilt.

Attempts to maximize this time that we do have together have led to a pretty full schedule of fun whenever I’m not working.  Wednesday afternoons at the park, wings and movies with the teen, roller skating just about every weekend.  It’s also led to expectations that I can’t always meet and opportunities for the little to try out her new means of persuasion.

She has less than adequate comprehension about things like money and bone weary exhaustion on a Sunday morning.  What she knows is that she wants to do something, that there will be several days past before I’m able to bring her someplace again, and that by reminding me of this, there’s a pretty good chance that we are going to go.


the power of guilt
trying to look sweet and innocent


So where did she learn such Machiavellian machinations?  How to harness the power of guilt for her own purposes?

The same way that all children do eventually.  They learn it from us. It’s the basis for almost all behavioral modification, whether consciously or not.  When a child does something good we shower them with words of praise and approval.  When they are bad we take away that approval and show disappointment.  Punishments and the learning of consequence of action are part of the process, but I’m starting to believe that when a child chooses not to repeat an act that they had previously been punished or reprimanded for, avoidance of that feeling of guilt, of having that approval taken away from them based on their actions, is just as much a reason for the change in behavior as any other.


This morning I woke up in a pretty foul mood.  I didn’t feel well, my back hurt, and it was too damned early for any reasonable person to be awake.  My daughter naturally decided that this meant it was the perfect day to practice jumping from one section of the couch to the other, over and over, and blatantly ignore my increasingly loud demands for her to stop.

I soon snapped and she immediately fled up the stairs in tears, scared by an outburst that was uncharacteristically incensed.  I stayed downstairs, morosely clinging to my moral superiority until she returned, head hung low, and promised to behave if it meant we could spend some more time together before I left for the day.

Some time playing something a little more fun than the game of guilt tag that I think that she had already won.


Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Frozen Stones


I’m pretty sure that as a kid I must have liked the snow. I’m old enough to remember digging tunnels after the blizzard of ’78, enjoyed jetting around the yard on the back of my father’s snowmobile, and surely must have built at least a few snowmans that have since melted from memory. We had some good times with a tube, a tractor and a cornfield as teenagers, but I also fell off a ski lift and still have scars on my face from a horrific sledding disaster. Myself and Southern Comfort are more to blame for this disfigurement than the snow, but it’s not completely without blame.

As an adult I have no use for it whatsoever.  It’s cold, wet, and hurts my back to shovel.  It interrupts my satellite television, causes power outages, and sucks to drive in.  Ten years ago my wife-to-be and I joined some co-workers on a snowmobiling weekend and came home both physically and emotionally battered.  Every vacation since has been to a southern  destination.

My five year old and the puppy are too young to know better. They both love this late season storm that has once again turned my yard into a frozen playground for them to frolic in, oblivious to the wind, the sub arctic temperatures and the White Walkers that lurk beyond the treeline.



They also don’t listen very well.  Like all kids, within the first fifteen minutes of being outside Alaina will have:

1.  Made a snow angel, causing snow to somehow get between her skin and the multiple layers of clothing she has on.

2.  Eaten snow, hopefully from nowhere near the dog’s preferred bathroom area.

3.  Tried to throw a snowball at me, usually from a distance of less than two feet and missing by three.

4.  Either taken her hat off and thrown snow into the air directly above her head or removed her gloves and placed her hands directly into the nearest snowbank.

5.  Had to pee.


when it snows


I just stand here and smile through chattering teeth. I applaud every “cool trick” that I’m told to watch, dodge the occasional ice ball that actually has a chance of connecting with my face and daydream about the spring that I know will eventually arrive.  I yell at her to put her hat back on, yell at him to stop eating deer poop and yell at some stupid groundhog in Pennsylvania that predicted this mess.


when it snows


I think about how much more fun life is at five years old and I wonder if it’s actually possible for someone to freeze their stones off.  I fear that I may find out because neither one seems ready to go back inside anytime soon.



Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms