Friday, March 30, 2012

On the Road. Again.

A little over a year ago, my family moved from Minnesota to Michigan. We traded bitterly cold Minnesota winters plagued by Canadian winds for the heavy lake effect snows of Michigan winters. At least we gained a beach in the deal. Although my boys were only four and two, the trip through five states in a moving truck remains the highlight of their lives. This is probably because I was in charge of the eating arrangements in the truck, which meant we mostly ate powdered donuts and jelly beans. Never in their lives have they been able to ask for another donut so many times and have the answer be yes. Although it’s been 18 months now, my sons will still sidle up to me from time to time and whisper, “Daddy, remember the ride in the moving truck?”

 This may be why my sons so desperately want to move again. The boxes had barely been unpacked (who am I kidding; they’re still not all unpacked) when they began asking if we could move a second time. This time they wanted to go to Indiana. I’m guessing they chose the Hoosier state because it’s one of the few states they can name.

I have nothing against Indiana, but I don’t want to move there. I see Indiana as more of a place that you drive through to get somewhere else than as a destination. So not knowing how my sons’ little hearts were set on making an interstate move, I turned them down, suggesting we enjoy our new house in Michigan before moving again.

Not to be deterred, my boys moved anyway. One morning while I was still in bed wondering why no young boys had jumped on top of me yet, they packed up their things and left. Every toy, puzzle, game, and article of clothing in their shared bedroom was taken one by one to Indiana, which was conveniently located in the basement.

I eventually made my way to their now empty room, where I beheld nothing but furniture (which I presume they would have also moved if they were a little stronger). My subdued early morning surprise gave way to resignation as I realized how we would be spending the next few hours of the morning.

The basement looked a lot like Indiana. After a massive tornado. Apparently the movers had not been careful in the unpacking process, so all of my boys’ earthly possessions were scattered throughout the room. This isn’t really something a father should get angry about, so I helped them move again, this time back to their bedroom in Michigan.

When we were all finished, we went out for donuts, just for old time’s sake. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I played chess with my two-year-old daughter yesterday. Before you think I’m raising the next Bobby Fischer, I should let you know that she is only aware of the game’s existence because her older brother plays. She also has her own set of rules, which makes for an exciting and interesting challenge.

We began by setting up the pieces. Now, I’m no chess purist; I really don’t mind if someone calls the rook a castle, and it does not even bother me that much if someone refers to knights as horses. However, my daughter’s naming system raised some eyebrows.

First we set up the “babies” (pawns) in the front row. I like to think I’m open minded, but I think something is wrong with using babies as the first line of defense against attacking hordes. This is chess, not France. Then we set up the back row, with the aforementioned castles and horsies. Next came the fighter jets. I’m not sure how a bishop can be thought to look like a fighter jet, but it really does make the piece sound far more exciting. Last came the princesses. Yes, princesses. My daughter insisted the King and Queen both shed their royal titles and become female. She might be on to something though, as I can think of far more reasons to chase a princess around the board than to chase a slow-moving king.

Once that was accomplished, we began playing. At first, my daughter’s strategy was fairly simple: she did whatever I did. But after a few moves, she grew tired of copying me and started making more unconventional moves. Imagine my surprise when her rook left its home in the back row behind a pawn, leaping across the board diagonally to take out my queen—or princess if you prefer.

Then she increased the pressure by moving several times in succession. It makes it difficult to formulate a strategy when your opponent can move three different pieces into position before you get a chance to respond. I attempted to counter her moves, but the body count was increasing quickly on my side of the board.

Finally came the coup de grace. My two-year-old girl grabbed my king (the other princess) and moved it directly off the board to the pile of captured pieces. Apparently my pieces were now abdicating. Enjoying my surprised response to this move, my daughter proceeded to remove the rest of my pieces in turn, while I watched them pile up like bodies during a medieval plague outbreak. 

The end came quickly and mercifully when my last baby stepped off the board to join its infant kin, and my daughter declared herself the victor by reaching across the board, saying, “Good game, Daddy.”

Even though I was bested by this out-of-the-box strategic mastermind, I can’t wait to play her again. I’m interested to see what she comes up with next.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pass the Kleenex

Have you ever noticed that young children perpetually have runny noses? Of course not. That’s gross to even think about. So you’ll have to take my word for it that kids get sick a lot. Like if colds were cheeseburgers, they’d all be on America’s Biggest Loser.

The primary reason for this, of course, is that young children routinely taste dirt, other children’s toys, and shoes. You know how some large stores have antiseptic wipes next to their shopping carts? That’s not so you can protect your child from the germs of the previous cart user, it’s so you can wipe off the bacteria colony left behind after your child licks the entire cart handle.

Parents with multiple kids are left with no choice once one child becomes sick. The rest are sure to fall; it’s only a matter of time. It’s sorta like a really bad sci-fi movie where some mysterious plague strikes a city’s birds, and before you know it the government is nuking an entire state to wipe out the disease.

But with kids, some parents make a conscious decision to spread colds as quickly as possible among them, knowing that having them all sick for two days is far better than having one sick kid every two days until the next leap year, as the virus slowly mutates and recycles its victims.

So don’t be surprised next time you see a family at the grocery store with three sick kids. They’re actually doing you a favor. But don’t follow them into the shoe aisle either.