Pooh Sticks Is a Thing… That Exists

Slater, T. (1994). “Winne the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore.” The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: A Classic Disney Treasury. Disney Press: New York, 152-153.

Has anyone ever heard of the game Pooh Sticks? And no, I’m not referring to some new juvenile self-harm game like when 13-year-old boys take turns slapping each other silly just for kicks and giggles. I’m referring to the classic A. A. Milne characters of Winnie-the-Pooh and his fellow stuffed, cuddly cohort from the Hundred-Acre Woods.

Basically, the game goes like this: you gather a bunch of sticks with your friends, take turns throwing the sticks off one side of a bridge, and then look out the other side of the bridge to see whose stick floats out first. Now, let’s not get overly caught up in the finer details such as: how do you know for sure which stick is yours? Does it really need to be called “Pooh” Sticks? Or should small children and creatures be playing on a bridge in the first place?

I think the point of Pooh stories are about the beauty of simplicity and the magic of curiosity in childhood. Pooh is basically conducting his own physics experiments while at the same time bonding with his fluffy wuffy buddies while also simultaneously filling children with delight and adults with bashful amusement. Our kids are always coming up with new games like this. Except usually they’re more like “Poke Each Other With a Stick” rather than “Pooh Sticks.”

I don’t really have much to say about this game Pooh Sticks or about Winnie-the-Pooh in general. I just found it all quite comical and thought I’d share the whimsy.

Whether it’s Pooh Cones or Pooh Sticks. The potential puns are limitless. I suppose, let’s just all be glad that Pooh-Bear didn’t invent the game Pooh Poo… Oops, now I am giving those middle school boys ideas to get in trouble with.

Stay curious my friends.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A. A. Milne

Personal Pet Peeves

“I’m really not comfortable with this…”

My wife always wanted to get a pet and name it Peeve, so that way, she could tell everyone, “Hey, this is my pet, Peeve.”

Well, I have some pet peeves of my own (why do we call it that anyways? It’s not like I cuddle my peeves and take them out for walks…). And this is my semi-customary opportunity to rant and complain into the empty void of the Internet where no one can hear me scream and no one cares either way.

Pets

Speaking of pets, I just don’t get it. What’s the point? My kids have been pestering me ad nauseum about getting a pet. But why? Why would I voluntarily go out and pay money for another living organism just so I can bring it home and pay lots of money to keep it alive? Why would I willingly bring into my nice, clean home something that is going to track in dirt, shed, and slobber everywhere? Why would I want to feed, potty train, clean up after, discipline, and take to the vet something that won’t even help pay the bills or wash its hands without assistance? I mean, come on, I have children to fulfill all those roles already. So, I certainly don’t need a pet. Plus, they always want to crowd your personal space and sleep in your bed. Again, kids.

Hammocks

Speaking of sleeping, my wife also loves hammocks, and I, in turn, also hate them. Some people’s definition of rest and relaxation would be taking a nap in a hammock while lying underneath a tree in the cool Spring air. That would be my definition of unlawful incarceration and inhumane confinement. I’m a human; not a burrito. Once you get into one of those things, there’s no getting out. It’s like a Chinese handcuff or quicksand—the more you struggle, the stronger the strangle hold. Anytime I’ve ever tried to lay in a hammock, my life has flashed before my eyes as I have a near-death experience. Look, I just prefer not to sleep while being swaddled by a fish net.

Soft Towels/Blankets

Speaking of swaddles, another thing my wife likes that I despise is soft fabric (is this a list about my pet peeves or about my wife’s irrational preferences?). Most of all, I hate soft towels and blankets. Feels like cruel and unusual torture. Maybe it just reminds me of pet hair. I don’t know. All I know is that when I die, don’t bury me in one of those padded, silk coffins. Straight-up, unfinished wood please. This was actually a pretty contentious subject early on in our marriage when my wife wanted to get a new color-coded, matching towel set from Bed, Bath & Beyond; and I wanted to keep using the same rough, scratchy towel that I’ve had since middle school. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I just don’t trust them—soft things that is. Especially if they’re too soft, like suspiciously soft. Makes me think, “What are you trying to compensate for? What are you hiding under those thread counts?”

Limp Handshakes

Speaking of soft things, I absolute cringe at a wet and/or weak sauce handshake (I’m actually not sure where my wife lands in this category…). Why even shake my hand bruh? Is that a handshake or a wet noodle? Is that a handshake or a limp biscuit? It’s like grabbing onto a dead, five-legged salamander. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to go all toxic-alpha and try to crush my hand. Just be normal. Better yet, just pound it dude. A fist bump is the superior greeting. All the social pros of a handshake greeting with none of the cons.

Handshakes During a Pandemic

Speaking of handshakes, just better not right now. Listen, here’s the thing, if we’re out in a public gathering, and you see me wearing a mask, please don’t rush up at me and start shaking my hand like we’re long, lost friends when we’ve never even met before. And definitely, definitely, don’t touch my kids. PEOPLE PLEASE! I’m talking to you! Strangers! Stop touching my kids! What is wrong with people? What social etiquette class did they play hooky during? In what dark parallel universe is it okay to just walk up to strangers and touch their children? So, again, please don’t touch me right now, and absolutely don’t touch my kids.

Don’t get wrong. I don’t think you’re a horrible person if you happen to like pets, hammocks, or soft things. Everyone is entitled to be miserable in their own special way. No judgment here. These are simply my own petty gripes. But seriously, don’t touch my kids. That’s all.

Signs of the Times

Or: Observational Evidence that the Worst of the Pandemic is Perhaps, Hopefully, Potentially Behind Us Notwithstanding Some Unforeseen Circumstances

Over the past couple of weeks, I have started to notice a few things that have put a smile on my face. And you actually know that I am smiling because I am fully vaccinated which means I’m now completely invincible to all viruses. It’s felt like a long, bleak winter trapped under an avalanche during the quarantine. But now finally there are signs, little flower buds pushing through the ice and snow to once again bloom in the warm sunlight.

You know that the worst of the pandemic is probably over when there is:

No More Plexiglass

Wawa took down some of their plexiglass barriers. I actually never minded the plexiglass. It made me feel more confident in the mornings when I had rushed out of the house without brushing my teeth wondering if my breath smelled bad. Nevertheless, it is nice to see my favorite quick stop for on-the-go beverages and snacks starting to loosen up and relax a little.

In-Store Dining

Dunkin’ Donuts has in-store dining available. We walk to our local Dunkin’ literally every week if not multiple times a week. It is our go-to coffee, donut, and just in general place. Our family loves Dunkin’ like a Winnie-the-Pooh loves honey or a sea cucumber loves algae or an infant koala loves its mother’s feces (good luck looking that up later). Now, we can once again enjoy our silky smooth cups of Joe and luscious Boston creams while being entertained by the sights and sounds of those patrons who run on Dunkin’. It’s like a free visit to the zoo but better because it doesn’t smell like manure.

Free Samples

Publix is handing out free cookies to kids again. Every other week or so when we’d roll our children down the aisles of our local grocery store in the rad two-seat carts that look like a race car, our kids would be disappointed as we passed by the bakery and there was no bubbly attendant to offer them a free cookie. But the cookies are BACK BABY! Now, the bakery is once again our first stop during a grocery run. It just makes the whole shopping experience much more pleasant when you have something to stuff your child’s face with to keep them from grabby, grabbing things and pointing and shouting at other customers who are wearing “alternative” clothing designs.

More Free Samples

Sam’s Club has free samples again. Albeit, they only put out one sample at a time, and the sample is covered by a plastic dome with a hand opening like some kind of sterile laboratory workstation. Nevertheless, the free food samples are basically why we have a membership. That, and we don’t have a Costco nearby… But whatever, I’ll take free food samples anytime, anyplace. My parents had a very difficult time teaching me not to take candy from strangers. I was always like, “Are you crazy‽ Why not‽ It’s candy! And it’s free! Of course I’ll have some!”

Even More Free Goodies

Our church recently began putting out the self-serve airpot pump thermal coffee carafe again. Basically, everything I’m excited about has to do with food in some way or another. Good riddance coronavirus. You’re kind of ugly and nobody likes you.

Still Yet More Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Car Seats

Both installing the car seat and buckling the child within the car seat are a literal pain in my back. You show me a car seat, and I will show an irritated parent ready to start throwing things. Car seats are meant to keep kids safe, but my experience has been that they are one of the single most dangerous obstacles that our family must overcome each and every day. First of all, good luck actually getting the seat snug and secured properly with those ridiculously placed straps and hooks that you can only tighten if you’re a contortionist for Cirque du Soleil. Secondly, you have to place your chubby toddler in the seat while bending over awkwardly on the verge of herniating every disc in your spine. And then, you’ve got to strap down that squirmy wormy, squishy meat tot with buckles that are clearly designed to pinch and tear away the flesh and fingers.

Mealtime

As babies, our kids seemed to eat anything. In fact, the trouble was getting them to not eat things such as socks and dirt. But as our oldest has grown, she’s become more and more picky. Right now, her one-year-old brother eats three times as much, consuming approximately his own body weight in food every four hours or so. She, on the other hand, has become quite the food aficionado of criticism. She will eat chicken nuggets but not tenders or strips. And I’m like, a chicken doesn’t have any of those things to begin with so why does it matter? She’ll eat mac ‘n cheese, but only that mac n’ cheese. Only this jelly on the PB&J. At this point, getting her to try something new is like trying to negotiate with D.B. Cooper who has already hijacked a plane full of hostages and parachuted out with all the money.

Peppa Pig

Don’t get me wrong. I love Peppa Pig. It’s easily one of the best kids shows out there, and it is just hilarious. There’s so much humor for parents, you can really tell the writers are all about using sarcasm to confuse their own children. But my one major gripe is this: Peppa’s favorite activity is jumping in muddy puddles. Seriously? Why would you do that to parents across the globe? Because if Peppa loves jumping in muddy puddles then you know what that means… it means my kid wants to jump in muddy puddles. But you know what? Muddy puddles are the worst. They seem like a cute, fun idea, like having an outdoor wedding. But in reality, they are a living nightmare. Puddles in a cartoon are clean and harmless. Real puddles in our city are not so much organic mud as they are an ungodly concoction of motor oil, tire shavings, bird droppings, tree pollen, and exhaust residue. What am I supposed to say to my kid when she wants to jump in that toxic sludge outside because Peppa does it? Either I crush her little dreams or I allow it at the risk of either someone calling child protective services or her gaining some special mutated powers.

Rubber Ducks

I’ve probably written about this before, but I’m too lazy to look it up in the archives, and who cares because this one is a real doozy worth repeating. Not just rubber ducks, but bath toys in general: they all get disgusting and moldy inside no matter what you do. And don’t you try and message me with all that vinegar and baking soda and other homeopathic baloney. None of it works. It all gets moldy no matter what you do. Look people, we live in the 21st century. We have the entire world’s information at our fingertips. We put a man on the moon. We live in a day and age where science can craft a vaccine for a novel virus in less than a year. And yet, we can’t figure out how to design bath toys better? The rubber ducky has its own Sesame Street theme song, but they never talk about the short life expectancy of a rubber duck, and how mortifying it is as a parent when you kid accidently sucks out all the black gunk from the dirty ducky butt like it’s some kind of sippy cup juice. The horror. The absolute horror.

The moral of the story? I’ll let you come up with your own this time.

Interesting Things I Just Recently Learned

This whole time, our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter has thought that a grilled cheese sandwich is actually a “girl” cheese sandwich. I’m not sure what a “boy” cheese sandwich would be. Are dairy products sexist?

Speaking of sexism, did you know the reason we have so much pollen in America is because of a major, national movement several decades earlier to plant only male trees? City planners believed that female trees were undesirable because of all the fruits that would fall on the ground and rot. They thought that the pollen would just blow away in the wind. Obviously, it has not just blown away. Our collective allergies can all be blamed on a bunch of old, white dudes who thought male trees were better. Who knew that certain trees even had genders? Trees are definitely sexist, and my sinuses agree.

Speaking of nasally things, some dogs, and even humans, have the ability (and/or can be trained) to smell certain chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even cancers! They can detect these diseases years before a doctor’s diagnosis. I definitely need to get one of these dogs (or humans) for when my kids say they’re too sick to go to school.

Speaking of illnesses, did you know that the coronavirus is just a myth? I know because a bunch of my acquaintances from high school who flunked science class say that the virus just doesn’t add up. I didn’t even know viruses could do arithmetic. Obviously, I’m being sarcastic now. The virus is real. Science is real. My seasonal allergies are real, and the struggle is real.

Speaking of struggles, my wife is experiencing considerable nausea at the moment. We believe it is possibly a side effect of being pregnant. Or maybe a parasite. But maybe those things are the same? She didn’t know it at the time, but I had been praying for another baby. Our daughter had also been asking for a baby sister. So gotcha. This is our secondary, official joyful announcement by the way.

Keep keeping things interesting, and stay frosty my friends.

The Stickers Strike Back

Not long ago, I talked some smack about stickers. They have struck back with a vengeance. Let me explain.

My wife got caught up in this chainmail, pass-it-forward, multi-level marketing, pyramid scheme—involving stickers. It’s like one of those weird infinite, sourdough friendship bread things that everyone thinks sounds like a fun and dandy idea—“Oh, what a lovely new hobby to take up!”—but then quickly turns into deep regret and overwhelming dread—“Oh, what have I done‽ Please, make it stop!”

For the record, I had nothing to do with it.

Anyways, to make a short story shorter, we ended up with way too many sleeves of stickers and now our entire house is made of stickers. I mean, I believe the very structural integrity and load bearing weight of our home is now mostly stickers: plain ones, colorful ones, glittery ones, three-dimensional ones, fuzzy ones, animals, cosmos, magic, princess, emoji, and plant-based stickers, probably CBD. Because stickers are like potato chips. You can’t just eat one. And our three-year daughter cannot just peel off one sticker, or even one sleeve for that matter. She’s gotta tear through every sticker like they’re winning lotto tickets.

I have found stickers in places…

Places you cannot imagine. Places where stickers ought not to be.

There are stickers on chairs and doorhandles; on the floor and ceiling (not sure how they got up there); on the fridge and toilets and sinks; on mommy’s purse and throughout the car; in my pockets and on her baby brother’s face.

But it goes far beyond that. I keep putting on clean clothes from the dryer to then find stickers within them. The other day, in particular, was an especially tangible occasion. I had gotten home from work and was taking a shower (yes, I do that from time to time). As I was lathering and cleansing, lo and behold, what did I find? But a sticker where the sun don’t shine. Ironically, the sticker was of a bright, smiling sun. Initially, my discovery was alarming—I thought, “Do I have the plague or is that a tick on my derrière? Oh no, it’s just another sticker…” The jolly, yellow star gleamed up at me with a mischievous grin, as if to say, “Thanks buddy for the wash and spa treatment!”

I shall spare you some of the finer details. Suffice it to say, 2020 will go down in our home as the year of two pandemics: Covid-19 and The Great Icky-Sticky-Fluenza.

Naturally Gifted

(Like Father, Like Son)

As an incredibly blessed parent, I try not to brag. I don’t want to be one of those parents who vicariously lives through their children, attempting in vain to supplant past failures, and overly boasts of their accomplishments as if they were their own. (Did I use enough ambiguous antecedents in that last sentence? I’m sure you can figure out who the unclear pronouns refer to. I’m not going to spend time rewriting sentences for clarity when that’s not what this is about. Do you realize how much time I could waste just going on and on and on about every little word and sentence. I could take at least some 87 words talking about it. Look, I’m just not going to overthink these blog posts. Okay? Hmm, maybe I should…)

Anyways, as I was saying before being rudely interrupted by the grammar sheriff, as a proud father, I try not to brag. But my son, soon to be one, is gifted at eating. Quite remarkable acutally.

It’s like we didn’t even have to teach him. He just figured it all out with almost no direction. Finger foods? Check. Fruit pouches with little slurp spouts? Check. Sippy cups? Check. Beverages with straws—obviously the decomposable, plant-based, non-marine-life-harrasing kind? Check. He just gets it.

But of course, greatest strength, greatest weakness.

With his prodigious penchant for food consumption also comes a few unsavory habits (see what I did there? “unsavory”). We’re currently trying to wean our kiddo off these shady lifestyle choices:

Eating leftovers.

By leftovers, I mean the food that has fallen off the table and onto the floor. Some people have a dog. We have a baby. He’s like a weird, squishy little vacuum cleaner. One of his favorite after-dinner pastimes is to try and crawl under the table and sample the variety platter of crumbs and collateral. When eating in his highchair, he often eats one, and then throws one down on the floor. I believe this is all part of his master plan to have readily accessible, self-selected hors d’oeuvres for later.

Eating dirt.

It’s not that he necessarily “loves” the taste of dirt and sand, but they’re also not really good deterrents either. The other day when we went to the beach, he tried a generous handful of sand, and then made the face of confused trepidation that you would expect. So, he was good, he wasn’t going to just eat more sand for the kicks and giggles of it. But then it was also the day he first tried potato chips. I personally have a weakness for those crispy, golden, fried spuds of nirvana myself. Perhaps it’s genetic. Either way, if a chip were to fall in the sand, he would do a quick cost-risk-benefit analysis and then determine that the right course of action was to push through and munch on. The chip was totally worth a little garnishment of sand.

Eating garbage.

By garbage, I mean basically anything and everything he can get his grimy, little paws on. Paper of all assortments and colors. Sticks, mulch, and grass. Carpet fibers. His sister’s polyester princess dress frills. Seriously little dude, you gotta stop doing that. Sometimes, opening up his diaper is like unwrapping one of those dollar store mystery bags. We’re really trying to set realistic goals for our children. Keep it simple ya know: try to stop eating random trash. We’re totally setting them up for success!

Eating people.

There’s always that one kid at the preschool who’s a biter. Look, we’ve really made some progress here so don’t worry too, too much. I’m sure by the time our son is ready for school he’s not going to want to gnaw on your offspring. But just in case, I’d send your child with some extra snacks. Think the “Sandlot” movie when the kids need to try and bribe the guard dog with a tasty beef treat. Did something like that happen in that movie? I don’t know; sounds about right.

Scars are there to remind us of the love.

Who’s on First for Toddlers

The following is based on a truish conversation and ongoing inside joke that I have with our 3-year-old daughter:

“Hey, Gracie girl, what’s under there?”

“Under where?”

“Under there?”

“Under wheerree?

“Under theerree.”

“Under there or under here? Under where?”

“Right there. Under there.”

“Oh… underwear!”

“Over there, under there.”

“Underwear is under there.”

“Wait, under where is there? Where is where? Here? Is where here or there?”

“No, here is underwear. Under there.”

“Under where?”

“Under there!”

“Under where?”

“Underwear!”

“Under where, under there! Ohhh… I see. Underwear is over there, under there.”

“What did you say?”

“I don’t know…”

The moral of the story: there are no monsters under your bed, just certain timeless mysteries about when hidden, delicate garments were last laundered.

A Spoonful of Ginger Helps the Medicine Taste Even Worse

Step right up! Guess what’s in the jar, and win a prize!

My mother recently visited and was finally able to meet her grandson. It was a very special and loving time. But I know that none of you are really interested in all that mushy stuff. In regard to my dear old mum, what everyone is really always wondering is: what crazy thing did she stow away in her luggage this time

More chestnuts? More rocks with included botanical garden? A pumpkin for the fall? Small, endangered animals? What‽

Well, this most recent visit did not disappoint and included the pleasant surprise of a somewhat large, plastic grocery bag, doubled, and filled with some kind of liquid ginger root soup concoction… Yes, you read that right. A bag of liquefied ginger potion, the purpose for which witchery I can only have night terrors about.

She told us that it was this homemade healthy ginger tea and that it both prevents and cures the coronavirus. So, of course, she made us all drink it; me, my wife, my sister, even my in-laws. (Don’t worry, I did not allow her to give it to our children.)

What did it taste like? Hmm… let me try… how can you explain something that tastes like equal parts moonshine, herbal tea, hot burning coals, iceberg lettuce, and dirt with grass roots still attached? This stuff simultaneously clears out all your sinuses with the force of a fire hydrant, starts a bubbling party in your gut causing a chain-chemical reaction that makes you believe you can breathe fire, and feels like it is cremating your brain cells to the point that you start hallucinating pink, flying unicorns in tutus sliding down a rainbow of licorice. I mean come on, usually the unicorns are not wearing ballet clothes. That’s just ridiculous.

“But wait!” I hear you asking, “How did your mom get through security at the airport carrying a gallon of what looks like corrosive bomb-making material in her extra-large carry-on purse when you’re only allowed containers of around 3 ounces?” Well, my friend, you don’t know my mom. And neither do I apparently, because if I could answer that question, I would probably be a millionaire and one step closer to uncovering all the mysteries of the universe.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against ginger. I just hate the way it tastes. Oh, also I despise its texture and overall appearance—that ugly root rope thing—and everything else about it. But that’s all; it’s nothing personal really, and it’s not like I have anything against those who like ginger either. It’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to like whatever disgusting thing they want to. Savages.

Also, if you’re surprised by the ginger tea-n-tea my mom was packing then here’s a short list of the other essential items she brought along: dried anchovies, octopus jerky, pickled cabbage, hot chili paste, approximately 50 garbage bags, a half dozen cooking aprons, two dozen old-man plastic clip-on phone cases, multiple packages of Baby Shark face masks, an unnatural and confusing quantity of socks, wallets, and hair bows, what will now forever be known as “the infamous magical paper towel” (an item which defies the laws of physics that I persistently attempted to throw away in the garbage but my mom swore that it was reusable and ergo the soggy napkin continuously reemerged like a phoenix from the ashes or perhaps better compared to one of those movie monsters like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees that just won’t stay dead because there needs to be a hundred sequels), and also other assorted unknown herbs and spices (I’m pretty sure my mom stole Mary Poppin’s magical black hole hand-bag that can fit an infinite number of items).

Anyways, my mother drank this stuff every night like it was a religious matcha ceremony. She would say, “It’s good. It makes me healthy. Makes me strong.”

And I’m thinking, “Well yeah, of course, duh. You’d have to be superhumanly strong to consume and endure that stuff every day!” You see, my mom is actually She-Hulk. Soon to be available for streaming on Disney+. Subscribe today with this imaginary link and save nothing on your first purchase.

Kids Are Weird

Hmm… that’s odd…

What is it with kids?

They are so weird. Brain-scratchingly odd. And I have some questions:

What is it with kids and stickers?

We have a book with stickers, and our child loves it. But here is what she’ll do: she will take the stickers off one page, and then… simply put the stickers on the adjacent page. So now, it just looks like the previous sticker page except worse. Is it a metaphor for life? Sometimes, it feels like I’m just moving stickers from one page to another. Like in doing yardwork where I’m just moving dirt from one place to another, or at work where I’m moving paper from one pile to another. But let’s be honest, we all love stickers. They are the best even if we can’t explain why. Part of my reason for having is kids is so that I have a socially acceptable reason to still use and wear stickers.

Why do babies want to eat literally everything?

Seriously, how long should it take a baby to figure out that something is not food? I’m like, dude, haven’t you realized yet that those carpet fibers, that door post, and all those plastic doll faces aren’t food? No, those random specks of dried leaves are not food. No, those shoes are not food. And no, mommy’s earrings and daddy’s beard are not food. And yet, try, try again our child must. I have to give it to him; at least he’s not a quitter. Resilience is important. But so is recognizing when it’s time to let go and move on, like when it’s time to stop gnawing on electrical cables before you turn into a barbecued squirrel on a power line.

Why won’t kids just go to sleep?

The struggle is real. The FOMO is real. How can I possibly be so tired and want to sleep so badly, and yet, these kiddos are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, wide awake, and wired like they’re hooked up to a drip coffee IV? Just go to sleep; please, for the love of all that is good and sane in the world, please just go to sleep. Currently, our nighttime routine is roughly around 12 hours, and it begins at approximately the moment that they wake up in the morning. Woe to you if you do anything to upset the delicate balance of their sleeping schedule causing us to stay up an extra untold number of hours trying to get them to fall asleep. If anyone ever figures this one out please let the universe know.