Our family is now smack dab in the middle of summer vacation. The tempers are as short as the days are long. It reminds me a little bit of cabin fever in the winter, only with more humidity and less hope that the county will rescue us from our kids by sending them back to school early.
Mrs. Nostrikethat bears the worst of it– for reasons I still cannot fathom the kids will stop whatever it is they are doing to go discover her location, or frantically ask me where she went. According to the children Mommy’s location is a closely guarded secret in the same way that the location of their shoes is a secret: both are incomprehensible Mysteries of the Universe that can only be revealed by wandering around the house yelling “Mommy! Mommy!’
Lately the attention seems so intense my wife and I have resorted to engineering improbable escapes like the Penguins of Madagascar.
My favorite strategy for dealing with the Summer Doldrums is to take something fairly ordinary, like running to the grocery store, and turn it into an Adventure, like EXTREME GROCERY STORING!, which is basically a regular grocery store trip except we make monster truck noises while we’re doing it.
My other favorite thing to do is to schedule routine medical visits, because nothing says Summer Vacation like getting your Tetanus boosters before school starts.
A few months ago our 6 year old started telling us that things look fuzzy.When we arrived at the ophthalmologist office I grabbed a clipboard and got to work with the new patient forms.
I did not realize I had struck comedy gold.
What follows is the actual conversation with my 6 year old while filling out the forms.
So… have you experienced any of the following: blurred vision?
“What does that mean?”
It means your vision is blurry.
“Like when I look at things through a funny mirror, or if I scrunch my eyes up, or if…”
…For the purposes of these questions, assume this is just you, nothing else. Okay?
Are you pregnant?
Do you have a baby inside you?
Barely contained six year old giggling.
What about diarrhea?
Laughing so hard he falls off the chair, farts, and laughs some more.
Like most women, Mrs. Nostrikethat went through the phase in our relationship where she would randomly ask, “So… what are you thinking about right now?” Like most women, she soon realized she really, really didn’t want to know the answer.
Personality-wise, I have a hard time doing anything I even moderately care about with anything less than Total Commitment and Singular Focus. I am selectively obsessive.
So… watchya thinking about?
I was just wondering if I could generate infinite saprolings consistently by turn 3 or not. Why, what were you thinking about?
I was thinking about us.
Oh yeah… um, it’s funny like two minutes ago I was thinking about how happy I was, right? But now I’m thinking about a Turn 3 kill. Did you want to talk about something?
Unless I have something constantly rolling around in my head, it feels a little empty in there. I need to obsess over something like a Kardashian needs a tabloid industry. At the same time, I am almost reluctantly putting off getting started on things because I know the energy it will take because obsession is Serious Business. For example, TV-watching is now really hard.
There are a handful of TV series that I want to watch but can’t bring myself to start on. I live near D.C., so House of Cards is almost mandatory. Baltimore is not far away either, so I should catch up on The Wire. Most people are just happy to watch an episode here or there, but the last time I tried to catch up I found myself at 4AM on a Wednesday finishing up the 6th episode of Dr. Who.
Upon further reflection, I discovered I could actually break my life down into phases defined by the obession du jour.
The Larval Geek Phase
Some boys were into baseball cards, I used to memorize Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks. I had my small circle of friends in middle school and we would get together whenever our parents would drop us off. I was the Dungeon Master, which as an adult sounds way worse than what it actually was: a lot of work organizing everything.
I was so into being the “DM” that I started signing things at school “DM”, until this popular kid Zach caught wind. He said, “Hey why are you doing that? Is that like, Dungeon Master?” DAMMIT! HOW DID HE FIGURE THAT OUT?
Fortunately, even then I was good at thinking on my feet. “Um, NO! It stands for ‘Da Man’, because I’m Da Man, man.”
Screw you Zach. I heard you went bald in your 20’s and got really fat. Or I just imagined I heard that to feel better. Whatever. Jerk.
Later I got into Magic: the Gathering. In case you’re not familiar with the game, all you really need to know is that it’s competitive and that even the people that like it call it “Paper Crack.”
As in “Crack Cocaine.”
As in “Hey man let’s go smoke some crack!” “Sorry man I spent all of my crack money on Magic: the Gathering cards.”
What started as a fun way for my circle of friends to hang out quickly morphed into my next bona-fide binge. I learned to play tournament-level Magic and tried to convince my friends to do the same. Then I would bring my “professional” kit to play against their “amateur” kit, which turned out a lot like your high school Field Hockey team suiting up against the Oakland Raiders.
To this day, that group of friends still call me “The Fun-Sucker.”
During this phase I met the beautiful and patient eventually-to-be-Mrs. Nostrikethat.
The House-Hermit Phase
Despite all of my best efforts to sabotage our relationship, Mrs. Nostrikethat foolishly agreed to marry me. Somewhere between Magic tournaments a baby was born and I was cast out of the ranks of the young and nerdly for having incontrovertible evidence that I had actually touched a girl. I sold my cards for a few hundred bucks and floundered around for a while in a new-dad haze of sleep deprivation while snorting espresso powder and wondering what was the best way to get baby hork out of my leather jacket.
BTW- It’s “fire.”
One day a friend of mine said “Hey, I started playing this game, it looks like fun. It’s called World of Warcraft. You should check it out!”
5 years and hundreds of dollars later I awoke at the computer with a gaming headset on, clutching my mouse and screaming at the dog to heal the DPS.
My wife introduced me to the other two children she assured me we had.
They seemed nice.
I thought perhaps I should step away from the computer for a bit.
The day I sold my WoW account something inside of me broke. I have tried playing other games since then, but nothing has really stuck the same way. I even tried WoW again, but it was like going to your high school reunion only to find that your old crush did not age well at all and you dodged a major bullet there.
These days most of my commitments involve a lot more fresh air. I was, for a time, overly involved in scouting and ended up as Committee Chair, which as an adult sounds way worse than what it actually was: a lot of work organizing everything. Depending on how you look at it, I either went camping a lot or just got really bad at sleeping indoors.
Then there’s this thing with the kids’ swimming. I can’t just be happy with working the concessions at the swim meet. Noooo…. Concessions reeks of settling. No leadership opportunities in Concessions, no sir. What can you aspire to, Head Donut-hander? Not me, I am going to pick something with upward mobility, like officiating. Sure, the time commitment is about one hundred times more. And I have to wear a uniform. But I look smarter in a uniform, which is always a benefit when you are telling an irate parent their little Emma didn’t touch the wall with both hands at the same time.
So House of Cards? I’m sorry, It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just not ready for a serious relationship yet, where I can watch you every minute of every day until we are both consumed. Like Edward from Twilight, if I can’t have you… I’ll just suck the fun right out of you.
Please do not be alarmed by the construction scene in your driveway. I had to take immediate and urgent action to preserve what may be the most important artifact in American folk art since Arlo Guthrie’s early draft of Alice’s Socialist Revolution Restaurant was uncovered in a Topeka grain silo. I’m trying hard to be modest, but you’ll have to excuse me if I sound a little braggy because I’m just so gosh darn proud– unbeknownst to us, we have another artist in the family! I guess that extra dollar in the church donation envelope really paid off! As we speak, a crew is now carefully excavating my son’s work to ensure the creation survives intact. We’re calling it: Giant Chalk Weiner.
MoMA is expecting the concrete slab to arrive Thursday so they can work around the clock to have it ready for display on Monday because (quoting the director) “a weiner this significant just can’t be hidden from the public.” We are, of course, super excited to have our second artist in the family with a gallery opening, but this means that unfortunately we are going to miss your cookout this weekend. Of course, if you wanted to reschedule your shindig in light of this seminal moment in the art world, I could probably score you some tickets to the premier, on account of it being your driveway and all.
I wish I could take some credit here, but this is really all my son’s doing. You see, state law requires that I “attend” my children under 8, so I was strategically positioned in the cul-de-sac to where I could probably monitor what my children were doing, but definitely finish my Fat Tire Amber Ale. Therefore, when the words “Hey, I can draw a weiner–watch!” drifted to my ear, I didn’t immediately leap up to capture the moment for posterity, or at least a humorous Tweet, because I was fostering independence in my children by ignoring them completely.
Thanks for being so understanding about the mess. Katie Couric is going to stop by later to shoot an interview, can we use your house as a backdrop? Not the driveway of course, they won’t have the new cement poured until next Tuesday, maybe Thursday tops. We’d do the GMA shoot in our yard but my azeleas are a hot mess this year what with the long winter and all. Also, your new siding looks great!