Category Archives: Kids

The Black Socks Scandal of 2011

Generations of men have walked down North Pearl Street during lunch to buy socks at B. Lodge. I joined their ranks this week. Even Garrison Keillor, visiting Albany 20 years ago, hit Lodge’s for a pair of socks. Red of course — and naturally, he talked about it on the radio.

We have a sock crisis in our household. It seems that black socks have been mysteriously vanishing. My guess is that the boys are helping themselves to whatever they can find, declaring the socks communal property. Calling it stealing would be too harsh.

Some cite the old axiom that the washing machine is eating them, but I know better. So I plopped a dozen pairs of black socks on the counter.

The man at Lodge’s has seen it all. He claimed he had this problem once and solved it by getting black socks with a red stripe on them. “My sons wouldn’t take them because they didn’t look cool.”

Maybe I’ll try that. I’m way past worrying about looking cool — and besides, a guy who spends too much time thinking about his socks has bigger issues.

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True Confession

There’s an app for everything these days — even one for helping you unburden your cluttered Catholic conscience. A new download, called “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” helps users navigate the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s like a workbook to prepare you for penance.

One thing the app doesn’t do is replace the actual act of going face-to-face with a priest. Too bad.

When I was a wee lad — probably eight years old — my mother took me to confession at our local church. I was a little shaky on memorization and couldn’t recite the Act of Contrition. The priest, rather than helping me out, yelled at me from behind the darkened screen and told me I’d better get my act together.

I was a bit rattled, but it’s what came after that knocked my socks off. My mother stormed from the confessional and dragged me out of the church. The priest told her I didn’t know my prayers. Imagine the embarrassment of going to confession and hearing that your kid’s a lousy Catholic.

We were told at religious education class that what happens in the confessional is confidential. Apparently not.

Looking back, I probably deserved a kick in the ass for not working hard enough, but after that I always avoided the confessional. It’s funny the things that stick in your head forty years later.

The Long Trail

I judge my winter camping trips with the Boy Scouts by the condition of the outhouse. This year it was pretty darn good. The smell was tolerable, probably because it’s been so cold, and besides a little ice on the seat, it was not bad at all. I took a picture, of course.

The cabins at Woodworth Lake are cold and rough around the edges, but warm up nicely when the stove’s well stoked. There’s a peculiar smell to these weekends, a mix of dirty socks, wood smoke, and grilled cheese that clings to your clothes when you leave. It’s a reminder of your adventure.

Many scouts have come before, and a lot of them inscribed signs that ring the cabin. Mostly they’re simple, but others look like they had some parental input, with neat lettering and a gleaming coat of polyurethane.

The oldest one I could find was dated 1994, from Cub Scout Pack 40 in Amsterdam.

That doesn’t sound like long ago, but a lot can happen in seventeen years. The boys would be in their twenties now, setting off down the road of life. Some will be businessmen, some work with their hands. Some will find success, others trouble. But long ago they all shared a cold winter weekend in the woods. They may not remember every detail, but I’d bet they would recognize the smell of that cabin.

Here’s Your Shovel, What’s Your Hurry?

At the TV station, we used to get complaints about running spots for our school closing coverage. The problem? The commercials would always show how thrilled children are to have a snow day. In the ads, they’d hear that school was cancelled and begin wildly celebrating. Like here:

The people who complained about this were usually educators. They felt we were sending the wrong message by suggesting that a day off from school is a reason to dance around your living room.

I suppose we could have shown children bitterly disappointed that school was postponed, screaming and crying over being forced to stay home. That might have been funnier because it goes against type — but the truth is,  to a ten-year-old a snow day is like hitting the lottery.

Me? I’ve come to see snow days as a throwback to agrarian times, when children were a source of labor. Closing school means that someone will be around all day to help clear the driveway.

For the next few years I won’t have to worry about buying a snow blower. Unfortunately, when the kid leaves for college is when I’ll least be able to afford one.

The Nutmeg State

Fox 23 wants you to keep an eye on the spice rack this holiday season — not because you could run out of something you need to bake Christmas cookies, but because your kids may be stealing the nutmeg to get themselves baked.

Last week the station breathlessly reported that teens were snorting, eating, and smoking nutmeg for a pungent and powerful high. The evidence of this behavior? They saw some videos on YouTube.

The story is a carbon copy of the vodka eyeballing piece they did in June, except the YouTube clips of kids holding vodka bottles up to their eyes are much funnier.

While not shy about suggesting this is a big and dangerous problem, the station said they couldn’t find a single instance of someone being treated at a local hospital for ingesting nutmeg.

When I worked in TV, it was my job to make sensationalistic promos for news stories. It was sorely disappointing when our news department did well-thought out and reasonable stories about important topics — instead of ridiculous scare pieces about non-issues like nutmeg smoking.

I’m not in favor of irresponsible journalism, it’s just that the crazier the story, the more fun it was to do the promo. And it was easier! I would have had a field day with this nutmeg thing.

But what do I know? Kids do crazy things. My advice is to go home tonight and give them a big hug — and while you’re hugging them see if you smell nutmeg. If you do, for God’s sake, lock that stuff up somewhere safe.

Trial by Fire

Me and my pal, Doug, used to light small fires behind the shed in my backyard.

Sometimes it was just sticks and twigs, but now and then we’d douse a model airplane or car in Testors glue and ignite the whole mess. Then — and a psychiatrist would have a field day with this — we’d extinguish the fires by urinating on them.

So anyway, one day we were on our way to the backyard and made a terrible mistake. Walking along the side of the house, we were lighting matches and tossing them on the ground ahead of us as we made our way to the burn site. We were in exactly the right spot for Doug’s mother to see us from the kitchen window. Uh-oh.

Doug’s mom could have just handled things discreetly, taking us aside to explain that what we were doing was wrong and sit us down and give us a glass of milk and warm cookies.

But no, Doug’s mom was not the TV mom type, instead, she was more of the run out of the house screaming type. She charged across the street and grabbed us by the collars, depositing me with my father before dragging Doug back home to face his reckoning.

My father sprung into action immediately, Pushing me through the house and down into the basement. The basement! Holy, crap! Why are we going to the basement?!

He yanked me into the room where the furnace sat, and threw open the access door. He pulled me to the floor and help my hand close to the hot blue flames.

“You want to fool around with fire? If I ever catch you playing with fire again, you’re gonna get burned.”

I’m not sure that was the approach I would have used, but I’ll tell you this: it certainly worked. We were done lighting stuff on fire. We were not done blowing things up with firecrackers — nobody seemed to have a problem with that — but burning things? Never again.

Roller Coaster Abuse

At the Great Escape yesterday, I wanted to see how many trips you had to take on The Comet before it started getting monotonous. The answer? Twelve.

It was early and there was no line, so it was on and off and on and off, front car, rear car, middle car, arms up, arms down, eyes open, eyes closed, and various combinations thereof.

I was supposed to be there as the responsible adult for my teenager and his friend, so I camped out at a picnic table and read a book. On my way to the bathroom, I nearly collided with a park worker dressed as the hated Mr. Six. The Six Flags “More Flags More Fun” commercials make me want to strangle someone; I had an urge to throw Mr. Six under the wheels of the Storytown Train, but instead just went back to my reading.

When my son was eight or nine we spent most of a day riding the Great Escape roller coasters over and over. It was September and crowds were light, so we rode every coaster as many times as we could. On the way home he was feeling woozy, and by bedtime had a headache. All I could think was, “Oh, my god! I’ve given my kid a roller coaster concussion!”

How am I going to explain this when my wife gets home from her trip out of town?

That night, I woke him up every hour to make sure he wasn’t exhibiting dizziness or confusion; since these are also the same symptoms you get from being woken up once an hour, diagnosis was complicated.

I decided the next day that he probably didn’t have any roller coaster brain damage, but whenever there’s a moody outburst or he forgets something, I start to wonder. Could this explain that grade he got in Spanish? We may never know.

Shame on Subaru!

I first showed you this commercial back before I moved over here to the TU. Sorry if you’ve been down this road with me before, but Subaru is running the spot again and it’s still driving me NUTS.

Let’s see if you can tell me what’s wrong here:

a. That’s a 2009 Forester, not a 2010 Forester
b. The aftermarket axles on the car in lane two are prohibited from many Pinewood Derby competitions
c. The boys are wearing Brownie vests

If you selected “c” you are correct. The boys are wearing Brownie vests.

Look, maybe this is not a big deal, but what exactly was Subaru and their ad agency thinking by depicting boys in Brownie vests. Is this supposed to be a joke? Some sort of gender bending statement on male and female roles in society? Sheesh! Maybe next time they can have the young lads going around the neighborhood in their Brownie vests selling boxes of cookies.

As a proud father of Cub Scouts who has built supervised the construction of many Pinewood Derby cars, I’m offended. Please join me in expressing my displeasure by submitting a nasty comment on Subaru’s website.

By the way, if you’ve never been involved with Pinewood Derby racing South Park does a good job of capturing its true essence.

Topless Piñatas

Here’s funny story from sunny California, involving a store selling piñatas designed to look like exotic dancers — out in plain view of (gasp) children. People are upset about kids seeing these weird naked piñatas, but nobody has any problem with the idea of drunken men at a bachelor party taking a stick and beating on an effigy of a stripper. Women’s rights activists would have a field day with this one.

Reminds me of a story, of course.

The best birthday party ever was the pirate party for my son, who was probably seven at the time. We dressed the kids up as pirates, had a huge treasure hunt with maps, face painting, and games. It was an awesome hot summer day at the town park.

Something possessed me to buy a pig piñata at Party Warehouse — and that’s when the trouble began. I know you’ll think I’m making this up, but when they began swinging madly at this thing, they started chanting “Kill the pig.” Then, when my older son appeared at the town park with his friends, this wild gang of hyped up, sugar-fueled animals attacked them with water balloons and tried to drag them off their bikes.

Then, to top things off, a thunderstorm appeared from nowhere and the sky broke open. The parents looked horrified when they came to pick up their wide-eyed, filthy, soaking wet kids. It was, as David Paterson might say, chaos and anarchy! And a great success.

Sad Sack (or, should your kid wear a cup to school?)

The Poynter Institute, think tank and school for journalists, has a regular column on its website that offers hot story ideas for local TV news. They even give you examples of how stations have covered the subjects. Maybe this is one of the reasons newscasts look the same everywhere.

Today’s piece really caught my attention: Boys Injured by ‘Sack Tapping’ Game. What’s that all about? It seems that teenage boys are going around striking each other in the testicles. Not gently, either; these are more like sack smacks than sack taps.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing funny about having your sack tapped — in fact, it can be EXTREMELY painful. And apparently, also dangerous. Here’s a story from KARE 11 in the Twin Cities:

Another station actually conducted a “ball tapping” survey to assess the seriousness of the problem.

I suppose it’s just a coincidence that these stories show up during sweeps. Since I used to write promos, I couldn’t resist taking a swing at this topic:

YOUR TEENAGER IS AT RISK.

NOT FROM DRUGS OR GANGS — BUT A NEW DANGER THAT REALLY HITS HIM WHERE IT HURTS.

(INSERT VIDEO OF VICTIM SCREAMING IN PAIN)

IT”S  CALLED SACK TAPPING — AND IT TARGETS YOUR SON WHERE’S HE’S MOST SENSITIVE.

(INSERT ANOTHER CLIP OF SACK TAPPING VICTIM)

SACK TAPPING! IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES — UNTIL SOMEONE LOSES A TESTICLE.

TONIGHT AT ELEVEN ON (INSERT STATION HERE).

Drop me an email if you want to use this script. I work cheap.