Toy Week: The Names

Toy Week: The Names

My 6-year-old drew this picture of her toy sloth, Softie.

The girls’ naming process for their toys has evolved over the years. Just a short while ago, everything was Sheesho, Shoshi, Shashu—stuff like that. I couldn’t keep the names straight, but neither could they. A little bear would be Sheesha in the morning, then Shasho by the afternoon.

Now, they have Sugar Cube the penguin and Panda Bell
the panda bear. The names are pretty cute, though sometimes they still change.

The only toy that’s had the same name since it was christened is an anatomically correct baby boy doll the girls years ago decided to name Sacky. No clue why.

On that note, remember, remember, that it’s still Movember.

Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

We’ve had a lot of fruit flies in our house this autumn, and a few weeks back, I wrote about my wife discovering the apparent source: a peach that had been overlooked for a week in my 6-year-old’s thought-to-have-been-empty snack bag.

We’ve nonetheless continued to battle the pests, and we’ve been swatting at regular houseflies, too, in numbers we’ve never previously seen. It’s not biblical plague proportions, but the bugs are certainly annoying. My 1-year-old son has started suddenly flinging one arm out like he’s snatching something out of the air—a move I thought was a random baby exercise until my wife pointed out: “Honey, he’s imitating you.” I do tend to grab angrily at passing insects.

A few days ago, my daughters were playing under our dining room table—a large, solid, wooden circle that’s at least 100, maybe 150 years old.

It’s got wooden wheels and a system for expanding, leaf by leaf by leaf by leaf, into a massive dining platform. There are nooks and crevices underneath to hide pegs and latches and all sorts of hand-carved and -forged details.

The girls were chatting and laughing and then went silent. Mostly silent. They started whispering and giggling in about an 80 percent attempt at being secretive / 20 percent attempt at catching my attention that they had a private joke.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

They erupted in guffaws.

“Girls? Girls … .”

I was sure they were up to no good, so I approached the table. One of them said, faux-guiltily, “We hid this.” A hand popped out from under the tablecloth, between two chairs, holding something oblong and black and—oh no.

“Is that a banana?”

More laughter. Harder laughter.

“How long has it been there?”

The reply was vague, which isn’t unexpected from kids who still occasionally mix up yesterday and tomorrow. I got the impression that the fruit had been there for more than several weeks. Months, maybe. My oldest daughter theorized that she had stuffed it there around when we first moved in—about three years ago. I know that’s impossible.

I took the thing—shriveled, hard, grotesque, like the body of some lost wanderer dredged up from a bog. A mummy.

“We don’t hide food,” I said, which was a false statement. We, as a family, hide food all the time. My son stores bread crusts, tortilla pieces, and cereal—pretty much anything on the grain tier of the food pyramid—between our futon and a recliner. Which puzzles me. We feed our kids well. We feed them often. But still I shove the vacuum attachment into the gap between the seats and listen as the diverse array of baked goods rattles up the hose and into the canister.

They can’t be storing away food for the leaner months. We don’t have leaner months.

My best guess is that it’s a game, with the food serving as just another toy. A perishable, fly-incubating toy. There were obvious signs that the hidden banana had been a popular spot, like a Make-Out Point for insects.

Some days, the dolls and blocks and games don’t cut it. That’s when the pots and pans come out. Or one girl slips her feet into my sandals and starts talking with as deep a voice as she can: “Hey, I’m Daddy.” Or, apparently, a lunch item is secreted away, like some disgusting parody of an Easter egg hunt.

I’m thankful for their ingenuity and imagination. But I prefer it when they choose to apply that creativity to stuff that doesn’t rot.

Toy Week: The Truth Hurts

Toy Week: The Truth Hurts

I’ve been a best man several times.

Because of that frequency, I developed a sort of signature bachelor party that involved going to the beach for a bonfire and attacking the groom-to-be with water balloons if he failed to correctly answer questions about his soon-to-be bride.

When I was engaged, my best men (I had two) threw a similar celebration/hazing for me, quizzing me on facts they’d learned via an interview with my fiancee. The emcee equipped the other guys with ammunition, made me stand a certain length away, and then began reading by firelight.

The first question: What was her favorite childhood toy?

I paused for just a moment, then replied: “It was, uh, this stuffed dragon.”

My tongue had hardly left the roof of my mouth to make the final “n” when I heard a rush of air. A water balloon less arced than rocketed into my crotch, where it failed to pop. It was just a solid projectile smacking me in the groin.

There was silence as I doubled over. But still I looked up and maintained eye contact with the emcee. The other guys, all in a line, held their water balloons—the attacker was obvious due to his empty hands. Even the nearby breakers seemed to pause as everyone waited for the judge’s verdict.

A pallet cracked as it was consumed by flames.

“Actually,” the host said, “he’s, uh, he’s right.”

I tried to plead some sort of penalty for the offender—I can’t be bruised and battered like that for the honeymoon, I argued—but nobody cared. They weren’t there to be impressed by my knowledge of my future wife. They were there to pummel me.

Since I have three children, I obviously recovered. And since that was almost a decade ago, I’ll make a confession here: Before my bachelor party began, my fiancee told me—just in case anyone happened to ask—about her favorite childhood toy. So maybe I cheated. A little.

My best friends in the world might not have cared about the condition of my guy parts, but I care about theirs. That’s one of the reasons I’m participating in Movember, which aims to combat testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and negative mental health issues.

You hear that, J.I.? I hope your testicles are doing well.

Toy Week: How Do You Figure?

Toy Week: How Do You Figure?

My wife’s family does a gift exchange for Christmas, for which each person draws another person’s name and handles the gift for him or her. It’s a way to save money and avoid clutter—and the little kids are excepted. Anybody can buy for them.

Before Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law circulates a list for everyone to write down gift ideas for themselves. I filled in mine two weekends back, and then was talking to my wife about it.

“I put some Pacific Rim action figures on my list,” I said.

“Oh.”

“Does that disappoint you?”

“No … just … where would they go? You already have a bunch of toys in the garage.”

She’s right, but those are my Lord of the Rings sets, several of which I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to open. The Nazgûl looks so awesome in its box. Plus, those toys had been at my office for a long time, and they came home during a move, and I haven’t got around to finding them a permanent home yet. After several years …

I actually split my time between two offices, and I have a lot of toys on my respective desks: A complete set of Homestar Runner figurines, a set of Umbrella Academy figures, and a Davy Jones action figure from Pirates of the Caribbean sit one one. The other boasts Batman, Iron Man, and a few My Little Ponies.

I grew up on action figures. More than one closet at my parents’ house is still filled with Star Trek: The Next Generation toys and collectibles, including an entire set of Playmates figures still in the packaging and a second entire set for display purposes. Sooner or later I’ll figure out a way to display them all.

No, I don’t really need them, but I do enjoy them. I don’t make them walk around on my keyboard or anything, but I do fondly admire them from time to time, and I like to explain what they are to guests who give me puzzled looks.

They’re sort of like geek badges, I guess, especially the obscure ones: I know what these characters are from. Do you?

After my conversation with my wife, I looked back at the all-family wish list. For herself, she’d listed certificates for restaurants or movies for date nights with me, her husband.

That really put things in perspective.

Still, I hope I get to unwrap at least a kaiju this Christmas.