October 31, 2011

Did Disney Ruin Your Halloween Too?

Thanks to Disney, Halloween is not scary anymore. It's true. Nearly every little girl under the age of 9 turns down the chance to dress as something spooky, like a witch or a ghost or your mother-in-law, and instead chooses to be something cuddly like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tinker Bell, Rapunzel or one of the other 800 Disney princesses. And, on the off chance she doesn't want to be a princess, she chooses to be Dora, the friendly neighborhood explorer.

When I asked each one of my girls what they wanted to be this year for Halloween, they responded as follows:

Anna: "DORA!"
Mia: "BLUB-ER-GUP" (which is 5-month-old speak for "princess")

What a disaster. There's no face paint involved with those costumes. No evil laughs. Nothing that will give you the goose bumps. You're more likely to be scared by a rainbow than you are by my little ladies. I wouldn't be surprised if next year one of them wants to dress up as a hug.

So I made it my mission to add a little bit of scariness to our Halloween festivities by having "The Inaugural Klems Family Scary Mask-Making Night." I made sure to load up on supplies: paper grocery bags large enough to fit over the giant heads of my children, crayons, markers, construction paper, pipe cleaners, bacon (to feast on), paint and anything else around the house that we could find that wouldn't cause their Mom to yell at us.

I waited until a night when my wife was out on the town, likely binge drinking with someone much handsomer than me1 and I went to work. I weaved the supplies throughout the living room floor and pulled the girls in.

"Let's make some scary, scary masks and then surprise Mom when she gets home. WHO'S WITH ME?"

"WE ARE!" they all shouted, except for Mia who farted in agreement.

Without time to spare, I let them get to work. I offered to help with whatever they wanted. I cut out eye-holes. I cut out big scary teeth to tape to the front of the paper bags. But then Ella, my 4-year-old, stopped me.

"Dad, I don't want to put those teeth on my mask."

"OK hun, what do you want me to cut out for you? A giant creepy red tongue? Some brown, dirty teeth? A black-and-blue eyeball that looks like it's getting CHEWED?"

"Can you cut a pretty smile out of this pink construction paper?"

Long pause.

"Well dear, that's not quite what I had in mind when I said we were making … "

"And can you twist these purple and pink pipe cleaners into arms and hands so I can still hug Mommy when I'm wearing the mask?"

Another long pause.

"But your goal isn't to hug Mom when she gets home, it's to scare her."

"Don't worry Dad, we're still going to yell 'BOO!'"

So I turned to my 2-year-old Anna and asked her if she made a scary mask.

"Daddy, my mask is really scary."

"That's GREAT Anna! I'm so excited. Are those red blobs on your mask blood oozing out?"

"No Daddy, those are hearts. And over here I drew a unicorn."

I wanted to shake my head in disgust. These girls were not only soft, but they were waving their softness in my face like a badge of honor. And unless you have a fear of pink or suffer from Unicornaphobia, you will be able to walk through my house without spotting a single scary thing (unless you count my wife's credit card bill that's laying on our coffee table).

Just as I thought the night was a total bust, my wife came home from painting the town red2. My pink, purple and heart-covered monsters quickly put on their masks and hid behind the couch. As my wife walked into the room, they jumped and yelled "BOOOOOO!" and erupted with laughter. I'd like to think my wife was a little scared. She probably was, though it likely had less to do with the masks and more to do with the 10lb diaper I'd neglected to change off my 5-month-old.

Maybe I'll never get the kids to dress like a monster or vampire, but I'll continue to try to get them to be a little scarier. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy my little princesses and explorers and hope that one day I get the chance to punch Disney in the face.

Happy Halloween.

1 OK, this is obviously not true. There's no one handsomer than me.
2 "Painting the town red" is actually a euphemism for "Visiting her sick sister in the hospital." But before you take her side, think about this: She kicks puppies. Hard.

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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October 13, 2011

Dads vs. Toys: Which Do Kids Prefer?

My house is overflowing with Toys. Dolls, blocks, doctor kits, Tinkerbell phones, Mr. Potato Heads, magnetic letters for the fridge—you name it, I've stepped on it. Our house holds so many Toys that we are considering buying a second house just so we have somewhere to live.

But Toys and Dads aren't really that different, when you think about it. We share a lot of the same traits and characteristics. We spend countless hours showering kids with our love and affection only to be stepped on, tossed around, bitten and ignored the minute Yo Gabba Gabba comes on the tube. In fact, the more I started to analyze it, the more I realized that Dads and Toys are cut from the same mold. Here's proof:

Toys are awesome.
Dads are awesome.

Toys are loud.
Dads are loud.

Toys let kids drool on them.
Dads let kids drool on them.

Toys protect kids from the bogeyman.
Dads protect kids from the bogeyman.

Toys are often left on the couch.
Dads are often found on the couch.

Toys have a holiday (Christmas).
Dads have a holiday (Father's Day).

Toys have a movie (Toy Story).
Dads have a movie (Field of Dreams).1

Toys cause Mom to yell "I told you to clean your mess up!"
Dads cause Mom to yell "Seriously Brian, you are the grown up here."

Toys are expensive.
Dads are … well, this is a bad example because Dads are cheap. In fact, Dads are the cheapest things on the planet. (Just ask my wife.)

Toys are generally found around the house naked.
Dads are generally found around the house naked.

Toys are left behind when kids go to college.
Dads are left behind when kids go to college.

Toys create fond memories and stories that kids will always cherish.
Dads create fond memories and stories that kids will not only cherish, but also pass on to their kids through their words, actions and love.

I'm sure there are plenty more similarities between Dads and Toys and it probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize they both have value in kids' lives (unless you are trying to create a specific formula that proves it, in which case, it probably would take a rocket scientist.), but there is one key difference:

Dads cure boo-boos. Toys do not.

And that's why Dads are better.2

1 "Is this Heaven?" "It's Iowa." "I could have sworn it was Heaven." "Is there a Heaven?" "Oh yes, it's where dreams come true." "Then maybe this is Heaven." (Don't be ashamed of your Dad Tears, fellas.)
2 Suck on that, Toys. 

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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October 3, 2011

Parenting and Stress

Stress is the worst. It causes your hair to change colors. It causes you to feel so sick to your stomach that you can't eat and yet, somehow, gain weight at the same time. It makes you want to haul off and slap someone whether they deserve it or not—and let's face it, they deserve it.

Before I was a Dad the only stressors I had in my life were picking a lunch destination, remembering my wedding anniversary, wondering when my high school band would reunite (Optimus Prime 4-ever!), hoping the college video of me dancing to N'Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" never surfaced on YouTube, keeping my softball on-base % high enough to satisfy SABREmetric fans and watching the Cincinnati Reds bullpen implode.

That was it.

I wasn't worried about much because, quite frankly, I didn't have much to worry about. Most everything else seemed fairly trivial. I led a fairly easy life.

Now that I'm a Dad, my whole life is a giant hairy ball of stress. From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed, all I do is worry:

Did I set the alarm early enough to get the kids to the sitter's and me to work on time?
Did I already snooze the allotted three times?
Did I actually wash my hair or just imagine that I did? I honestly can't remember.
Did I brush the kids' teeth?
Did I brush my teeth?
Is it OK that I'm the type of Dad that would let them stand in a bucket?
Is my wife walking around in a bra because she's into me or because our 4-month-old just spit up all over her shirt?
Should I take that slap as a "our 4-month-old just spit up all over her shirt"?
Is eating that Dorito off the floor a lesson to my kids not to be wasteful, or is it just disgusting?
Am I caffeinated enough to make it until the kids' bedtime?
Do I have enough Doras recorded on the DVR? Any space left for "The Big Bang Theory"?
Did I post any recent pictures of my kids on Facebook?
Are the pictures getting a reasonable amount of "likes"?
Will they get hurt? Can I keep them healthy?
Did we make a birthday card for Aunt Jennie?
Does the baby need a diaper change?
Did I make something for dinner that isn't named macaroni and cheese and the kids will actually eat?
Did that guy just see me rocking out to the Tangled soundtrack? Oh my god, did he notice that my kids aren't in the car and that it's just me?
Do we really need to stop on the side of the highway or can she "hold it" until we get home?
Will my kids get into good colleges?
Will I be able to afford their weddings?
Am I really cut out to be a parent?
Am I setting a good example for my kids?
Does the Karate Kid Crane Kick really work?
Will my kids grow up to be good, smart, kind, happy, respectful people who will take care of their old man when he starts to lose his mind?
Did I kiss them goodnight?

At any given moment of the day, I'm worrying about at least half of these—usually more. But you know what? I wouldn't trade the worry for anything in the world. A close friend without kids once told me there are two nuggets of truth every parent offered him about becoming a parent: 1) It will drastically change your life forever and 2) It's the best decision you'll ever make.

And they are right.

I couldn't imagine going back to my stress-free life. I certainly miss hanging out with the guys playing epic games of Halo, and then coming home and bragging about it to seduce my wife (only to find out that Halo-domination doesn't rate highly on her list of turn-ons—I will never understand women). And I try to sneak out occasionally to relive the stress-free "glory days." But the best stress relief is a good hug from the people who count on you day in and day out to carry the burden of stress so they don't have to.

That makes all the stress in the world worth it.

Of course, it sure wouldn't hurt if I received an e-mail from my college buddy Justin assuring me that the N'Sync video has been destroyed, set on fire, and buried at sea. Or, at the very least, edited to include the disclaimer "We were drunk."1

1 We were also drunk when we watched the all-day marathon of O-Town's "Making the Band," when we bought those sweet Hawaiian shirts and anytime we used the word "gnarly." I swear. You wouldn't believe how many Zimas we could pound.

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