Monday, November 26, 2012

Addiction Figures

Up until the Christmas of 1978 I played with the normal toys an 8 year old boy would at that time. I played with Matchbox cars, sticks, rocks, cap guns and I had the standard GI Joe and Action Man dolls.  But that Christmas morning of 1978 opening a Star Wars Luke Skywalker 3 1/4 inch four points of articulation with the a telescoping light saber was an event that, although I did not know it at the time, was going to change my life. Action Figures as we know them today is largely due to the success of the Star Wars movie and Kenners' license to manufacture the toys. Between 1978 and 1982 our house must have had dozens and dozens of action figures laying around.

I eventually out grew playing with the figures, my interests switching to super hero comic books. In 1984 Mattel released a set of action figures based on Marvel Comics Secret War comic books. My mom could not believe that a 14 year boy was asking for action figures for Christmas. She did not understand the overwhelming need of a comic collector to posses a plastic replica of Wolverine and Captain America. I was able to secure two of each figure, one to play with and one to keep in it's package. Collecting toys was now one of my hobbies.

Over the next decade better designs and processes allowed for more articulation of parts and better paint detail in the figures. The figures were almost like pieces of art; sculptures with a little bit of playability. Throughout the late1980s and early 1990's collecting figures became a serious business. It also became a serious addiction for me.

I spent weekends searching the shelves of toy stores looking new and possibly rare toys, variants and misprints were key to a good collection. I knew some of the employees at Toys R Us that would allow me to check new cartons for "short packed" characters which were more rare.  I would make sure that the blister pack and cardboard backing would stay in mint condition. During that time I had hundreds and hundreds of action figures laying around.  Most were kept in boxes, while other hung on the walls of my apartment.  I was single at the time (I did notice that I did not have many second dates) and had no other responsibilities. I was able to use some of the money from the sale of rare figures to put down on a car and pay for a vacation which was justifying my behavior to friends and family.

I ended up selling most of my collection in the late 1990's.  I quit cold turkey. The hobby was costing me 30 to 50 bucks a week.  What I did not sell I donated to the Children's Hospital.

I was action figure free for a while.

Once I had kids action figures started to creep their way back into my life but now they were called "guys." A Star Wars "guy " here and a Ben 10 "guy" there. Some of these "guys" were designed for little kids without much of a cool factor, while other "guys" were designed for a more sophisticated consumer without much playability. I was able to control my urges to buy every "guy" under the sun.

Last month Mattel through the group MommyParties reached out to me to see if I would be interested in hosting a Batman Power Attack party. It is like they knew I was a recovering Action Figure Addict and that I could not say no.  They agreed to send me 10 new Batman Power Attack figures as well as party favors if I would host a party for kids to try to the figures.

The stuff that MommyParties and Mattel sent me was awesome. For a brief moment I considered keeping all the figures for myself. Oooh mint condition blister packs you are such a flirt. Why does the smell of cardboard and plastic have such an effect on me?

But I was good.

My boys, Maxfield, Wyatt and Jackson invited Zach, Gianni, Josh, Cristian and Gregory over for the party. Cristian and Gregory were probably the two that were most stoked about a Batman party, being that they are the die hard super hero fans.  The kids ate chips and popcorn and drank juice while I gave them a brief history of Batman (the greatest super hero ever). The Batman Power Attack figures are bit larger and more durable than most of the action figures out there. The have just the right amount of articulation for the toys function or ability.

The figures were not too juvenile for the older 8 year old boys and not too scary for the Jackson and Gregory both just turning 4. All in all the kids seemed to have a good time.

Disclaimer-My opinions are my own. I did not receive any type of compensation for hosting the party besides the action figures and party favors. I did receive a few extra figures which I plan to donate to Toys for Tots. I did give my son Maxfield the Killer Croc figure which was the short packed figure. I cringed when he tore it from the blister pack. I also had mild heart palpitations when the dog started to chew the Robin figure that Jackson received. I ca not be held responsible for any of the boys who attended the party becoming addicted to toys nor for them not getting second dates when they are in their early 20's. I do want to thank Mommy Parties and Mattel for the opportunity and the toys. I also need to thank the boys' parents especially Tony P, Bill Z. and Lee G for letting their kids come over to play Batman.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


"Jackson put gum up his nose." Lauren said as she entered the house.

She was returning home from, what was clear to me, a frustrating trip to the store with the three boys.  I have a sixth sense for these things. I can sense, well it is not really sense but more of just know, that anytime you try to take three boys to a store it will be frustrating. I also can tell the level of frustration based on how Lauren enters the house. When the first words out of her mouth are one of the kid's names or the phrase "You will not believe what THIS one did" it usually is not a good trip.

"Did you get it out?" I asked from my reclined spot on the couch. I lowered the volume of the football game that was on the TV. My Sunday afternoon plans were to lay on the couch, eat chips, drink a couple of beers and watch football.

"No. I was driving when he did it." She said. "He says it came out and he swallowed it."

Wyatt bounded into the room. "Dad, Jackson put gum up his nose."

 "I told him not to do it." Max said as he followed Wyatt.

"I heard. What kind on gum was it?" I asked hoping to get an answer from Lauren.

"Just gum, Dad." Wyatt answered.

"What difference does it make?" Lauren asked.

"Well, if it is a Chick-let type of gum, it would be small and could really get up there. But if it is a big piece of Bubble Yum, or something I should be able to see it."

I called Jackson over, leaned him backwards over my lap, and looked up his nose. I could see a very small white blob of snotty gum jammed way up into his right nostril. I was afraid that the gum might make its way through the nasal passage and to his throat, which could cause him to choke. It looked bad and I knew we needed to get it out.

The football game, the chips, the beer and the laying on the couch would have to wait.

The gum was lodged too far up for his fingers to be able to reach it. We made many failed attempts at trying get him to blow his nose. I tried snatch it a few times with a standard pair of tweezers but between fidgeting, screams and tears I could not get the gum out.

Our neighbor, Lisa, is a nurse (I like to think of her as Jackson's personal ER consultant) Lauren called Lisa to see if she had a larger/longer pair of tweezers. Lisa  did not have larger tweezers but she came down to take a look up Jackson's nose. She agreed that the gum needed to be extracted. Lisa called Amy, who is also a nurse, to see if she had larger tweezers. Amy did not have the tweezers but she was in the area and so she stopped by to look up Jackson's nose. Everyone agreed that Jackson would need to go to the ER to have the gum removed.

The football game was already half over. After looking up Jackson's nose so many times the chips and beer lost their appeal. Laying on the couch would have to wait.

Lisa agreed to take the older boys to her house so Lauren and I could take Jack to the ER.

We got into the car and started the 20 minute drive to the hospital. I was feeling kind of annoyed at the whole situation.  Gum up the nose is not a priority in a hospital. I knew, that even on a slow day we would be waiting for a really long time. I also knew that they would probably have to strap Jackson down, a scenario I did not want to witness, so they could get gum out.

I looked into the rear view mirror at Jackson who was feeling a bit frightened at the idea of going to the hospital. He looked worn out. Lauren was upset with the whole ordeal. I started talking to both Jackson and Lauren hoping to take every ones mind off of the ER visit, besides I needed to vent a bit.

"Jack, this is why you do not put gum in your nose. We now have to take you to the hospital. Hon, you should make sure we have our insurance card. They won't hurt you Jax, but it will be scary. Are you going to put gum up you nose again? Are you? I know you didn't mean to get the gum stuck but if you don't put it there in the first place, it will never get stuck. Do we have enough money in the checking account for the co-pay? I think the co-pay is a 100 bucks. Jackson, one small piece of gum is going to cost me at least a hundred dollars. Do you know how many trains a hundred dollars could buy? I can't believe a stupid piece of gum is going to cost us 100 bucks. That's a lot of trains. You know Jax, if you could get that gum out of your nose before we get to the hospital I would give you money to a buy a train. I won't give him a a hundred dollars but I would sure as hell buy him a train. We could go right to the toy store right now if that gum comes out."

"A Thomas train?" Jackson asked. He suddenly perked up.

"What ever train you want pal."

What happened in the back seat is kind of hard to describe. There was grunting, snorting, hocking, huffing, puffing, sniffing, slurping, blowing and all kinds of other noises. Lauren and I could not believe he was working so hard at getting the gum out.  I pulled the car over so Lauren could get in the back seat to help him. She held his unobstructed nostril as Jack blew. Within a minute or two a long piece of snot covered chewing gum was dangling from his nose. Lauren, with only a deft move a mother could pull off, used her nails to remove the rest of the gum.

We cheered. We clapped and congratulated Jackson. Yes, we cheered for a three-year-old's ability to blow gum out of his nose.

We went directly to the toy store and bought a Thomas train as trophy for his accomplishment.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Last Time I Cried

Over the past 10 years I can remember crying in public on only a few occasions. One of those occasions was when I built a paver patio at our first house. At that time I promised myself I would never take on another project like that.

 I don't know if it is:
A.  the passage of time or,
B.  the attractiveness of my wife or,
C.  my stupidity,
 that makes me forget these promises, but somehow Lauren convinced me that we should build a slate patio.

Lauren dug out the approximate area she wanted to cover. with the slate.

We ordered the slate/flagstone from The Flower Station. They were nice enough to place the stone close to the work area.
We dug some more. We had to level the area to prep for the five yards of modified gravel needed for the foundation.
The last time I built a patio, it was during this phase that I had my breakdown. I pushed through it this time. We centered the foundation for the fire pit the best that we could and started the process of placing the stones.

Placing the stones was like putting together a puzzle. This proved to be the most challenging part. The stones are heavy and awkward to lift. There was lots of moving of the same pieces over and over again to make it all fit.

The Patio/Fire Pit turned out looking pretty good.
The kids like it, I like it, and Lauren loves it.
And this picture makes me realize the answer is B.