Monday, April 26, 2010

Sorry, no new Dadlosophies this week. Look for the next post by 11am on Monday, May 3. Have a Great Week!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Divas in Munchkinland

This weekend featured my daughter's seventh birthday. This year, my little girl had a unique request for celebrating her special day--at least for a seven-year-old. A few months back, Emerson asked if my wife and I would rent a couple of rooms at a hotel with an indoor pool and let her and her friends have an overnighter that would involve swimming, fingernail painting, movies, popcorn, and more girlish screaming and giggling than the human eardrum is capable of withstanding. Our initial reaction to her idea was to say "No." Hotel rooms for first-grade girls? What is this, "Divas in Munchkinland?" But then we did the math. A couple of hotel rooms and some large pizzas actually priced cheaper than renting out one of those inflatable fun houses or reserving space at the parental hell-on-earth known as Chuck E Cheeses. So, having a change of heart, my wife did some research and found a good hotel that fit the bill. Last Friday, having secured a location, Meredith and a couple of mommy volunteers who had seriously underestimated the nerve-severing task they were taking on, headed off to a nearby Fairfield Inn with Emerson and her little posse.

Where was I in all this? I had two assignments. One, I was to look after my boys while Mommy and the mini-divas did their "girl thing." Two, I was in charge of pizza delivery. It was my job to make sure that pizzas arrived on time. I didn't disappoint. In fact, I was early. Much of the credit for my punctuality goes to my sons. Knowing that there would be a pool at the hotel, William and Carson were both dressed in their bathing suits by ten o'clock that morning. Carson even spent a good portion of the afternoon wearing a floatation device around the house. To my knowledge, no other human being has ever been so water-safety conscious while eating Graham Crackers on the couch and watching re-runs of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The boys and I eventually arrived with our pizzas around 5 p.m. Going directly to the indoor pool, we entered to be greeted by the most overwhelming scene of chaos and ear-piercing screeching I've ever experienced. It's one thing to put ten screaming, hyper little girls in a room. It's quite another when you put them in a confined pool area that echoes like the grand canyon, multiplying the volume of each scream, yell, laugh, and "Look at me!" a hundred fold. I wasn't in the pool area more than five minutes before I was scanning my cell phone, hoping to find Dr. Kevorkian's number on my speed dial. No such luck.

Then came the real horrifying part: I had to get in the pool with my sons. Meredith and the other mom had not brought their swimsuits (cowards!). Meanwhile, any other adult who might have otherwise entered the pool area had fled for their lives rather than be crushed by the wave of birthday anarchy rushing in on the tide of Emerson's birthday entourage. That made me the only grown-up in the pool. No sooner had I descended into the waters of despair than I heard little voices screaming, "Get him!... Jump on Mr. Howard... Let's see who can climb to the top of his head first!..." Before I knew it, I found myself entangled amongst tiny arms from every direction. Six and seven-year-old girls hung from my arms, my shoulders, my neck. At one point I could only see from one eye. I felt like Jackie Chan trying to fight his way through an army of Kung Fu warriors. As my useless cries of "Let go of Mr. Howard's esophagus," went unheeded, I looked to see Carson and William standing on the side of the pool, wide-eyed and terrified by the carnage. Eventually, I was able to shake off my assailants and make it to safety. Like a soldier who had just reached a bunker after dodging fire on an open beach, I sat there on the side of the pool, breathing heavy and thanking God that I'd made it out alive.

Other than my near death experience, it was a great night. We eventually made our way up to the hotel rooms where I delivered the pizzas, rubbed my temples, and attempted to go to my "happy place" as the giggles, screams, and squeals continued through pizza-devouring, cake-eating, and gift-opening. I heard terms like "Silly Bands" and "Zhu Zhu Pets." I learned that necklaces made from bottle caps are cool, and that iCarly is now the coolest girl on television because Hannah Montana is "so kindergarten." All in all, it was an enlightening glimpse into the world of seven-year-old girls. Finally, leaving the girls to enjoy their sleepover, William, Carson, and I said our good-byes and headed back to the house to watch Kung Fu Panda.

After all the madness, another birthday is in the books. My little princess is growing up more and more. I've still got a few years before she's a teenager; even more before she's ready to leave for college. But I try to remember that it will come faster than I realize and that I'd better savor each day I have with her. Thanks mainly to Meredith, this year's birthday was clearly a success. It was also educational. I now know that a Zhu Zhu Pet is a mechanical rodent that often has an easier time winning your child's attention than you do. Silly Bands are cheap rubber bands that parents are forced to pay $5 a bag for because some marketing genius has convinced kids that they "just have to have some." And I learned that a part of the human brain dies when exposed to long periods of little-girl screaming within an echoing chamber. Oh well, happy birthday, Emerson. I love you. But next year, maybe we can go back to one of those inflatable fun houses.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I never played soccer growing up. I was raised in a hometown where we stuck to the big three: football, basketball, and baseball. No one I knew played soccer. My high school didn't even have a soccer team until I was a junior in college. If you had asked most of my friends about Pele, a few would have known that he is a soccer player from "some country in South America." Most thought Pele was a game played on horseback. Today, things are different for my kids. Soccer is gaining popularity. I hear more parents talk about their children playing little league soccer than I hear say anything about pee wee football. Whenever I mention this fact in a group conversation, some mom or dad inevitably informs me that they won't let their little boy play football because he might get hurt. What? You gotta be kidding! How much damage can two first-graders sustain running into each other at the break-neck speed of .02 miles per hour? If you ask me, nothing says "good ole American Saturday morning" quite like the sight of six-year-olds racing up the field in over-sized pads, their helmets bouncing about so as to resemble a collection of bobble-head dolls.

But I digress. The point is, I don't know a thing about soccer because I never played it. Well, that's not entirely true. I do know that only the goalie can touch the ball with his hands. I also know that the World Cup is soccer's biggest event. And I know that, internationally, soccer fans can become very violent when their team loses (or even if it wins). I'll never forget watching highlights of a game between Colombia and Italy on ESPN. After the game, Latinos and Italians stormed the field and began engaging one another in hand-to-hand combat. It was like watching West Side Story--only with much less singing and dancing. In other countries they call such a scene passion. In the States, we call it a race riot.

Given my lack of soccer knowledge, it is somewhat ironic that I find myself coaching this sport I know very little about. My kids wanted to play soccer, so I let them play. Then they asked me to coach. "How hard can it be?" I thought, "It's four and five-year-olds kicking a ball." That was three years ago when Emerson started playing. The past two seasons I've coached her team. This year, I'm coaching William's. More than that, I'm coaching by myself. That's right, no one volunteered to be an assistant. It's just me and a bunch of pint-sized soccer players. Their noses run faster than their feet and they enthusiastically kick at everything that moves (soccer balls, each other, grasshoppers, water bottles, Coach Kindred's shins, innocent spectators who aren't paying attention, elderly people too slow or feeble to get out of the way... you name it). How hard can it be? Pretty darn hard! I'd say it ranks somewhere between passing a kidney stone and eliciting an intelligent political opinion from a Hollywood actor. I don't know that you can really say you've earned your Daddy Badge until you've tried teaching the concept of teamwork to a group of preschoolers as they cry, chase butterflies, steal each others' soccer balls , and continually interrupt you with phrases like I have to go poo poo... Jeremy pushed me... are we almost finished?... and I think someone farted. (Aah, the camaraderie of sports).

Still, I love my kids. Each one contributes to the team in their own way. William, Macy, and Beckett are my three best players. They go after the ball with reckless abandon. If we ever do score a goal (no such luck the first two games), chances are good it will be off the foot of one of those three. Then I have my role players. Michael has taken it upon himself to be the team's designated crier. If the ball hits him, he sits on the ground in the middle of the field and cries. If the ball rolls past him he cries. If no one kicks the ball in his direction he cries. If Coach Kindred yells, "Michael, get up, buddy; here comes the ball," he cries. No doubt about it. Thanks to Michael, crying is covered. Then there's Tuesday. Her job is to stand in the middle of the field terrified, wishing she were somewhere else. A couple of my kids are great at running off the field impulsively, leaving our team two men down just as the other team is about to score. Meanwhile, each of the kids who has played goalie has brought their own special touch to the position. Macy boldly dares opposing players to take a shot by standing off to the side of the goal with her back turned while she eyes the concession stand two fields over. Austin ruthlessly attempts to stare down the ball. Watching it intently, never bothering to move, as he follows it with his eyes into the goal. And then there's the one or two goalies who have mastered the art of ducking and squealing with horror as the ball races past them into the net. Yep, make no mistake. Each player brings his or her own bag of talents to the table. I just haven't quite yet figured out how to mesh all the crying, squealing, and genuine disinterest into a winning combination.

And so, Saturday cometh. And with it my little soccer warriors will once again don their tiny shin guards, drape themselves in black uniforms, make sure they've peed before hitting the field, and take to the turf in pursuit of four-year-old soccer victory. Will we win? Maybe, provided the other team has just as many issues as we do and their coach is equally as overwhelmed. Regardless, we'll have fun. We'll kick the ball up and down the field. Our goalie--once again under the mistaken impression that we are playing dodge ball--will avoid the other team's shots, no doubt allowing multiple goals. But in the end we will be satisfied. Because, win or lose, there will be snacks after the game. And, as long as there's Sun Chips and juice, who cares what the scoreboard says. Everyone will be happy. Everyone, that is, except Michael. He'll be crying.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Belated Easter! No new dadlosophies this week due to the Easter holiday. Read my next post next Monday, April 12. It will be online by 11am.