Tag Archives: humor

Christmas Trees: Should You Buy Real or Fake?

xmastree

There are two types of people in this world: those who buy real, live Christmas trees and those who hate joy.

The turkeys aren’t even in the oven yet for Thanksgiving, but make no mistake — Christmas is coming. And with it comes the age-old question of whether to buy a real Christmas tree or head to a department store to buy a plastic one. You can already see where I stand on this, which is firmly in the real tree camp. But when I posed this question online, I was startled by the number of you “Fakers” out there, who happily thumb your nose at Christmas with your artificial, pre-wired holiday spirit. 

But worse than that, I was devastated to find out my wife — who once shared my belief that the only REAL Christmas tree is a real Christmas tree — has gone to the artificial dark side.

Now, this isn’t a case of us living in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow for real trees, nor is it due to allergies. Those things are understandable and unfortunate. But alas, this ain’t that. This is about her being tired of picking out the tree, lugging it home, and making sure it’s straight and tended to. She doesn’t want to worry about watering it, dealing with the strings of lights, overloading outlets, and the kids and pets that inevitably tear it down. And she REALLY can’t stand the thought of finding pine needles in the carpet for the next six months.

There are certain things you discuss prior to deciding to spend the rest of your life with one person. We talked about the importance of raising our future kids as Patriots and Red Sox fans, and never dressing our family in matching clothes for family photos. You know, the important shit. And included in that was the promise that we would ALWAYS have a real Christmas tree.

But apparently unofficial vows made just before our legally binding wedding vows don’t count for anything anymore, because she’s bailing. On me, the kids, the tree, and Christmas in general. The only way I could’ve been more devastated is if she dressed my kids in New York Yankees gear and picked that exact moment for a family photo.

Now normally when these disagreements arise, I lose. Don’t get me wrong, I put up a good fight. But wives are formidable adversaries, and husbands have a tendency to strategically surrender so life can go on and occasional nookie can still be had. However, I just can’t let this stand. So sexy time be damned, I’m going to convince MJ of the multitude of reasons real trees trump fake ones, and keep the tradition alive.

So, the million dollar question, why buy a real Christmas tree?

First of all, the choosing of the tree is a time-honored tradition and beloved family activity in the Gouveia clan. Growing up, my parents would take my brother and I to the Christmas tree lot and immediately the entire scene became an exercise in debate and compromise. My mom wanted the short, fat trees. I wanted the perfectly dimensional tree that had no flat spots or bare patches anywhere. My brother wanted any tree that wasn’t the one I picked, and my father just wanted to point out the flaws in everyone else’s trees before he grabbed one we all didn’t love but could settle on. It was exhausting, frustrating, and time-consuming. And we all loved it. Still do.

Next we’d bring it home and get set up. We had a tree stand that was apparently made in the 19th century that was incapable of holding a tree upright. But that didn’t stop the three of us from manning the top and bottom, shouting “IS IT STRAIGHT?” to my mom, as she repeatedly said “A little that way…no the OTHER way!” I’m convinced this was retaliation for never allowing her the Liberty Bell shaped Christmas shrub she craved.

Next, after it was straight but still pretty tilted, we’d get the Christmas lights out. Naturally, those lights had been bunched up and thrown into a ball out of frustration the previous year, meaning the next 90 minutes consisted of trying to untangle the lights without one of us brutally murdering the other. Then my father would add tinsel. No one else liked tinsel because it’s messy and looks tacky, but I’m pretty sure it was his retaliation to my mom’s prior retaliation.

The rule in my house was the oldest child (me) puts on the first ornament, while the youngest child (my brother) gets to put the angel on top of the tree. As the oldest, I hated this rule with a passion because CLEARLY the angel on top of the tree is cooler. So after the prerequisite 15 minutes of me whining about unfair treatment at the hands of the “Golden Child” (my nickname for my brother), I’d throw on the most heinous ornament in our collection — a HUGE cigar that either looks like a ginormous erection or an unwieldy piece of poop, depending on your perspective.

Once it was all done, we sat back and took in the absolute, hands down best part of having a real tree — the smell. That intoxicating scent of pine for which there is no substitute. And yes, you can burn a pine-scented candle if you have a fake tree, but there’s no way it’s the same. Not even close.

Having a fake tree means a trip to the attic/basement instead of the Christmas tree lot. It means not bonding over rigging up the lights and skipping that feeling of accomplishment that comes with solving a particularly nasty tangle. You can also make watering the tree a chore for kids to learn responsibility. And the smell — sweet Georgia Brown the smell. That’s really the only reason you need.

You don’t buy fake, pre-carved pumpkins for Halloween, do you? Hell no. You buy fresh ones and get messy carving them every year. A little mess isn’t going to hurt anyone. So there are some pine needles? Big deal. And yes, I have pets and they like the tree. Did the cats chew on the lights? Yes, they did. But if you hate cats like I do, that could also work out in your favor.

A lot of this is tongue in cheek, of course, but I really am putting my foot down on this one. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real tree and it’s something I want my kids to have too.

So how about it folks, real or fake? Give me your reasons for each.

Share Button

The 11 Best Movie Dads of All Time

moviedads

Sometimes, when you have a lot of heavy crap going on and you just can’t write about it yet, you need need a distraction. And for me, that has always meant movies.

I love them. And the ones I don’t love, I love to hate. But ever since becoming a father, I’ve started paying special attention to one part of movies in particular — dads. I take a lot of inspiration from movies, and a recent discussion with my wife got us on the topic of some of the best dads in movies we could think of. Which, in turn, led to some pretty substantial disagreements in coming up with a Top 10.

She immediately jumped to classics such as Steve Martin in Father of the Bride. I’m sure she’s far from alone. But I didn’t like that movie in the early 90s when I first saw it, and I’m still not impressed with it. In making my own list, I noticed a few things that directly translate to my own role as father.

I tend to gravitate toward dads who aren’t perfect. Sure they have a lot of trouble out of the gate and beyond, but when push comes to shove they work to make sure they get their shit together. And although they might act tough, you can tell they love their kids completely and always do what’s best for them.

In making my list, the rules were simple. I need to have seen the film, and I didn’t include any animated movies (sorry Mufasa). Check it out and then we can argue about omissions and inclusions in the comments!

Continue reading The 11 Best Movie Dads of All Time

Share Button

Cold Weather, Heating Bills, and Why New Englanders Are Nuts

noheat

“It’s freezing in here, but don’t you DARE touch that thermostat!”

There’s a game people in New England play this time of year. A game in which the stakes are high, the temperature is low, and financial situations as well as pride hang in the balance. The rest of the country thinks we’re absolutely nuts, yet every year households engage in wintry warfare when cold fronts hit and tempers heat up, as families battle over the most pressing issue of autumn — when to turn on the heat!

I know, I know. Sounds trivial right. Most of you are saying “turn the heat on if you’re cold.” Well you know what I say to that? This isn’t Texas, Florida, or parts of California where 65-degree temperatures cause you warm weather schmucks to don winter hats and gloves and look like assholes.

This is October in New England and the decisions we make now could have long-lasting repercussions.

First of all, this area was settled by Pilgrims (who “discovered” it after Native Americans had been living here for hundreds of years), and the puritanical presence can still be felt to this day. Bars close at 2 a.m. and up until a few years ago you couldn’t buy beer on Sunday. But more than that, we’re cheap. Some of us try to call it “thriftiness” but that’s just a fancy way of saying we’re cheap. And there’s nothing we complain about more than heating bills in the winter. Depending on whether you have oil, electric, propane, or what have you, a Massachusetts heating bill during a cold snap can easily cost upward of $600 a month. Not to mention the cost of snow removal (minimum $50 per plow visit) depending on the length of your driveway.

Which means frugality + stubbornness = an unwillingness to turn on the heat until it’s deemed absolutely necessary. And by absolutely necessary I mean someone loses a finger due to exposure.

It was 60 degrees in our house today. I’m writing this in slippers, wool socks, fleece pajamas, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. My wife and kids are dressed in a similar fashion. We have scarves, long johns, blankets, and electric blankets at the ready at all times. If people didn’t know we lived here, they’d think we were homeless. We sleep in self-made cocoons and we’re careful not to leave any body part uncovered, for fear of frostbite. We use each other’s body heat to survive and the kids sleep in thermals to avoid hypothermia during the night. That noise you hear isn’t an appliance on the fritz, it’s the sound of our teeth chattering.

So why? Why do we do it? Why not just turn on the heat and end the misery? Because fuck you, that’s why!

Being the last of your friends and family members to turn on the heat is a badge of honor. Every time you hang out with people and talk about the weather, someone says “you turn the heat on yet?” I smile at the ones who look away in shame as they mutter something about “Well the wife was freezing” or “we had to because of the newborn.” Suckers. These clowns are luxuriating in warmth and enjoying feeling in their extremities, but I’m saving $37 and proving my hardy New England mettle.

But more than that, I’m passing on a rich tradition of misery and sadomasochism to a new generation, who will one day tell their crying children “that’s what blankets are for” and “we don’t live on the west coast, Sally” when they tearfully ask to turn on the heat.

Sure my kids are growing weaker by the second and my wife is seriously considering cutting me open like a tauntaun and using my innards to keep warm, but seriously — where would you rather be during winter? New England winters feature blizzards that cripple the local economy and bankrupt municipal snow removal budgets as your power goes out causing you to buy a generator which you use to power your TV so you can watch the Patriots game instead of heating your house. Now compare that to the cloudless skies of southern California where perpetual temps in the mid-70s make Christmas on the beach a reality. No contest, baby!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need another pair of socks because I can’t feel my toes.

Share Button

6 Things from My Elementary School Days I Wish My Kids Could Experience

dodgeball

My oldest son Will just started the first grade. And the first thing you’ll say when your kids start school is “holy crap, things have changed!”

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be one of those “things were so much better in my day” posts. Well, maybe a little. But while I fully realize many of the changes are positive and done for good reason, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic and, if we’re being honest, kind of sad my sons won’t have some of the same experiences I did.

6. The Oregon Trail
I never want to see harm come to my kids, unless it’s in the form of virtual dysentery via this classic Apple II game from the 1980s.

My kids will grow up with computers as the norm, but for me in grade school, computer class was UNBELIEVABLE! Unlike my 14-month-old who already knows his way around my smartphone, kids back then were just as amazed as adults as we all stumbled into the technological age together. But while businesses were using computers to work more efficiently, we were making our way along a 2,200-mile trail of incessant hardship to gain riches out west. Would we drown trying to ford the river? Would our oxen die? Could we hunt enough food to survive? The only way to find out was to insert that massive floppy disk and give it a whirl.

When I was six this game (and computers in general) was an otherworldly experience. My 6-year-old, however, has had a Kindle for more than a year and complains when the TV isn’t on an HD station.

5. Report Cards That Make Sense
I figured a lot had changed since I was in school, but getting my son’s first report card threw me for the biggest loop.

I was expecting what most people my age had – the old A, B, C, D, F system. Simple and reliable. An A meant I was getting $5, a B would earn me a buck and a “why couldn’t you get an A,” and a C meant I was grounded for a month. I assume D and F meant “find another place to live.” But when Will brought home his report card, it was some indecipherable chart with a color-coded bar graph that ultimately told me very little about my son’s progress. There was an ideal range to be in but it was OK if he wasn’t in the range in the first part of the year as long as he got into the purple section by the end of the year…frankly, I still don’t get it.

I’m sure it’s a much better system and I’m the problem, but in the end I had to keep asking the teacher “So…is that like an A? Or a B+?”

4. Peanut Butter
I tried really hard to remember any kids in my class with peanut butter allergies so severe they were life-threatening. I came up with nothing. But today, bringing peanut butter into a school is becoming a suspendable offense.

Look, I get it. Kids have allergies, allergies can be deadly, and precautions must be taken. I don’t want to see any harm come to innocent students. But at the same time, it boggles my mind that peanut butter is pretty much considered a Class D substance, considering how prevalent it was in the lunchtime repertoire of my classmates growing up. I’d eat that stuff by the spoonful! But now it’s not just straight peanut butter, but any food that might not even contain peanuts but was made on an assembly line that might’ve been subject to peanut products at some point dating back to the Industrial Revolution.

So while I understand the need for it, it’s too bad bringing peanut butter into school is right up there with bringing in a weapon.

3. Trading Lunches
This goes hand-in-hand with the peanut butter complaint.

Do you remember what would happen when the lunch bell rang and you got into the cafeteria? At my school it was like the opening bell on Wall Street had just sounded and the trading commenced fast and furious. On my best day I traded a PB&J sandwich, an orange, and a Yodel for three Fruit Roll-ups, a snack pack, and two Devil Dogs. But because of allergies, kids actually get in trouble when they trade lunches and it’s a punishable offense.

I was reading a survey that showed 41% of workers didn’t negotiate salary for the job they currently hold. I think this lack of lunchtime bartering means our nation’s youth is ill prepared to haggle later in life.

2. Gifted Programs
In the third grade, I was picked to go into the “Academically Talented Program.” I had no idea what this meant at the time, but I remember it was nice not being bored in class anymore and being challenged in a variety of ways. I wasn’t the smartest kid by a longshot, but I was an early reader and well ahead of the normal curriculum.

Now schools either can’t afford such programs, or reject them so no one is offended.

I’m all for inclusion, but not if it means holding stellar students back. In my own personal, non-expert opinion, I think we’ve stopped nurturing excellence in favor of promoting mediocrity. I get money is tight and gifted programs are first on the chopping block, but if kids excel it’s a shame they won’t have that avenue to pursue.

1. Dodgeball
Nothing brings up more controversy and emotions than this fantastic, oft-banned game.

Depending on where you landed on the dodgeball ladder, you either loved this game or dreaded it like the plague. I loved it despite not being great at it. Sure I took a bunch of balls to the head (giggity) and ended up with a red, swollen face and had to go sit on the sidelines in shame with those dreaded parquet markings implanted on my forehead. But on a few select occasions, I fended off three people by myself and basked in the glow of playground glory.

My son won’t have that opportunity because dodgeball has been banned everywhere in favor of youth sports that don’t keep score and hand everyone a trophy. I guess I’ll have to keep pelting him with red rubber balls on the weekends, as part of a dodgeball homeschooling program.

So good readers, what else did I miss?

Share Button

The 5 Stages of Spending Time Without Kids

nokids“Holy $*&%, I just need some time for myself and away from these kids!!”

How many parents have uttered some variation of that phrase at some point in time? I know I have. Hell, I just went through life with an infant again this past year. Between Sam’s multiple nightly awakenings, screaming fits, and teething, combined with Will’s adjustments to big brotherhood and the first year of school, I used to fantasize about a life of solitude in a quiet mountain cabin where no one could find me and I could pee alone.

But on the rare occasions we’re granted a parental sabbatical, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend — we miss our damn kids too much!

I don’t know about you guys, but it’s not too long after I’m sprung from the asylum that I start to — gulp — miss it a little. And then a lot. It’s like some sort of parental Stockholm Syndrome. I just spent 55 hours on my own, and here are the stages of kidlessness I experienced.

————————————————–

Stage 1: FREEDOM!!!!!!!!
The first stage is characterized by an initial and intense feeling of release. Like I’m Andy Dufresne finally escaping Shawshank Prison through 500 yards of shit smelling foulness. Or like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only if I skipped the torture and got to sleep with Sophie Marceau again instead. Whether your childfree time is going to last for a night or a week, it seems the possibilities are endless and you can do anything. Road trip, baseball game, bar, expensive dinner, or even a movie at the theater that doesn’t have cartoons — the world is your oyster.

Stage 2: Whatever I Want!
Sure, you’re going to put your Vegas trip into action soon. But that can wait for a minute, while you enjoy the little things you can’t do when the family is around. You know, the simple things you used to do when you were single. As for me, I immediately strip down to my boxers, stretch out on the couch, and watch SportsCenter while scratching myself at will. Either that or all the movies no one else likes. Then I have a dinner that consists of Kraft mac & cheese, beer, and Doritos. Normally I’d be chastised for my post meal bodily functions, but only the dog was affected this time (and she was guilty of a few nasty ones too). And then — as the grand finale — I take up the entire king size bed by sleeping diagonally, as opposed to sleeping on the sliver of bed I have after the wife and dog are accounted for. Sure it might SEEM slightly pathetic that a grown man can enjoy farting in peace, leaving the toilet seat up without reproach, and using a plethora of bed space so much, but best not to dwell on such matters for long. There’s work to do.

Stage 3: Reality Sets In
After you’ve eaten like a pig and reveled in smelling like one as well, it’s time to get serious about this temporary kid hiatus. That’s when you start thinking of all your friends and get ready to call them up to have a good old fashioned rager of a party. You call Jim but his oldest has summer baseball and his youngest has a ballet recital. No worries. Skip right to Brian, only to find out he’s going to a concert. Awesome, right? Because you haven’t been to a live show in years. The only problem? It’s a “Wiggles” concert. Andy and Jake moved away, Ted doesn’t want to stay out past 10 pm because he’s coaching T-ball in the morning, and Bill already went out for a night this month so he’s used up his privileges. Suddenly you realize two things: 1) You’re old, and 2) Spontaneity is officially dead. Which makes you sad. Which leads to additional mac & cheese, Netflix, and gas.

Stage 4: This Kind of Sucks
This stage sees panic setting in. You’ve gorged yourself, farted at will, lounged around in your boxers, and realized all of your friends are now lame. You start calling your wife and kids more often just to hear what they’re doing. While you’re watching TV, you see “Jake and the NeverLand Pirates” and consider watching it because you know how much your oldest likes it. But you’re barely even watching TV now because you’re mostly looking at family pictures hanging in the hall, as you make one more call to the family to see what they’re doing now.

Stage 5: COME HOME!!!
This is when things get really desperate. Suddenly your faltering plans don’t even matter, because you’re too busy playing with Transformers and sitting in the kids’ empty rooms getting emotional. You’re not even watching TV because you’re combing through six years of YouTube home videos. You know they’re due home today so you up your calls to every hour on the hour just in case they get home early. In a fit of total desperation and longing, you flip on Frozen and sing “Let It Go” with tears streaming down your face as you promise never to take your family for granted ever again.

When they finally pull into the driveway you sprint out barefoot because you’re so damn happy to see them. You rip open the door of the minivan to see your precious little angels, only to have the youngest sneeze in your eye and simultaneously take a dump the likes of which makes landfills blush, while the oldest bitterly complains you woke him up from his nap.

I need a break…

Share Button