A Fail-Safe Guide To Your Kid’s Christmas Pageant

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Illustration by Sam Woolley
Illustration by Sam Woolley

Your letters:


Went to my kid’s Christmas show this week... is there anything more embarrassing than watching parents run over each other to take video of their child on a monster iPad while their kid twirls around and pretends to sing ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’?

My son’s preschool actually went ahead and asked parents to not take ANY videos during the ceremony. They were like, “We’ll take a video of the whole thing and you can have a copy if you want it. Just please don’t whip out a big stupid iPad and hold it up all morning like a clueless idiot.”

And they were right to enact that policy, because otherwise the whole pageant turns into a scrum of mama and papa-razzos jockeying to get a decent shot of Little Draxton picking his nose during “Away In A Manger.” I’ve been guilty of it myself, holding my phone up in my seat and/or crouching over to the side of the church/school cafeteria, trying to get the iPhone camera to focus properly on my kid, only some other loser kid gets in the way, or some other parents cuts in front of my phone to go use the toilet. The whole thing is an exercise in wasted energy and sullied memories.


After 10 years of schlepping children in and out of preschool, I have learned some valuable tips about handling the annual Christmas pageant, and here they are:

  1. Drop mom and the kids off while you park the car. Not only does it give them extra time to secure a proper seat, but then you get to park alone and openly curse at all the other parents in the parking lot. These people drive like animals.
  2. If possible, do not let older siblings attend. All they do is bitch and moan and, most important, lose the pageant program. Those things are valuable. I need to know where we are in the show so that I can estimate how close we are to the end, when I can scurry off for punch and cookies. Older siblings give no fucks. They’ll rip up your program and then fart in the pew.
  3. Wear a large jacket in order to save valuable seating. “Why yes, these 40 seats ARE reserved by my single duster coat.” Please note that your dibs expire when the show starts. If your wife’s nephew’s third cousins all show up late, they’re on their own.
  4. Sit on the aisle. Not only does this give you immediate access to the exit, allowing you to duck into the shitter to check your phone for half the show, but you also get pole position for snapping photos of your kid walking by in a Christmas outfit. “Oh look, it’s Zaxxtyn! And he’s dressed as a shepherd!” Please note that your child will almost certainly find a way to NOT look directly into the camera as he passes by. By the time he sees you and starts to wave, he’ll be obscured by eight other kids wearing reindeer deely-boppers.
  5. Do not take video/pictures the whole time. One of the problems with having a smartphone is that you take 500 pictures when, like, two will do. I have BLOCKS of photos from specific events in my library, where the thumbnails all look virtually alike. It’s like a bad Warhol exhibit. Just take a couple photos and then be done with it.
  6. Clap and laugh a lot. Oh, look! All the kids are wearing red noses! SUCH MIRTH.
  7. Volunteer to bring donuts.* That way, you have full control over the donut selection. Don’t leave the donut spread to some amateur. What if they bring fruit instead? What a load of shit. You just sat there for 45 minutes. You’ve earned the right to eat half a dozen crullers.

*When people bring donuts, they also usually bring that big box of coffee, with the screw top lid on the side. I cannot pour coffee from these things without fucking it up. One time I spilled coffee all over another parent’s golf chair and they said it was fine but TOTALLY wasn’t. This is a cardboard box filled with boiling hot fluid. One tip and the coffee comes GUSHING out. I demand a safer, more idiot-proof container for communal coffee.


As a Fan Of Sport, I could see myself getting into soccer, but absolutely cannot stand when players try to draw a foul (like this!). There are a handful of subtle changes you could make to address the issue, but here’s my proposal: Clown medics. When a player flops, a team of clowns rushes onto the field in a tiny ambulance and proceeds to wrap the player in big cartoony looking bandages. Players then have to finish out the game with one arm in a sling and maybe an ice pack tied to the top of their head. It would either eliminate diving, or make it a lot more satisfying to watch.


That wouldn’t work because so many soccer players are European and clowns are actually respected in Europe (see: Lewis, Jerry).

The real problem with flopping isn’t the players, it’s the refs who gets suckered by that shit. I watched a Premier League game this weekend (I swear it’s true) between Man City and Chelsea and it was a good game in part because the refs barely called anything. Guys were flopping and falling all over the place and the refs were like, “Nope. Tough shit. Keep playing,” and the crowd was LIVID. I’m shocked a ref didn’t get glassed during the second half. But the game was better for it.


So if you want to put an end to flopping, the easiest way to do that is if the refs are trained, en masse, to not call it. Knowing what I know about the quality of officiating across every professional league in the world, you’d have an easier time traversing the South Pole while riding a fucking housecat.


How many standard 2" x 1/2" ice cubes is the ideal amount to go into a 16-ounce glass of ice water? My wife alllllways only goes with two to three cubes per glass upon initial dinner fill up. I am more of a four-to-five ice cube kind of guy. Big discussion at the dinner table tonight.


FILL THE WHOLE GLASS. That’s what I do. If you have an icemaker, it gets gummed up after three months of use, and the best way to keep it running is to divest it of ice. So I fill the glass all the way up, even though my wife considers this to somehow be gluttonous. Like too much ice will make me fat. Girl, I’m saving the icemaker AND I’m keeping my drink eternally cool. You can’t water down water! THAT IS SCIENCE. Also, my gigantic ice cocktail will sweat a goddamn lake of water all over the table, which is fun. I need TWO cocktail napkins just to handle the condensation. It’s so badass.

By the way, I have a completely different answer if you make ice with a tray. In that case, you gotta ration that ice so that you don’t have to refill the stupid tray, because that’s a pain in the ass. When I lived alone, I refilled the ice cube tray once a decade. But if ice is no object? GLASS OF ICE.



How do you feel about the prospect of a dramatic music score added to a live sports broadcast, either in addition to or in place of the broadcasters?


You’re talking to guy who got visibly angry when SportsCenter started adding music to highlights, so no. No, I don’t want any additional bells and whistles on my football game. All I want is the crowd and the sideline mic catching players screaming f-bombs at one another. When it comes to ambiance, I am a 70-year-old man. No music. No asshole Jumbotron extolling the crowd to make noise. No Cleatus. No kids trotted out onto the field during a TV timeout. Actually, NO TV timeouts. IN MY DAY GAMES WERE PLAYED IN AN ABANDONED GRAIN PLANT AND IT WAS PERFECT.


Let’s say that Goodell has one of his bright ideas and makes all officials across the league get a Twitter account and the handle of each member of the crew is displayed on screen during the games. Which fan base has the most mouth breathers blocked by those officials for constantly harassing them over miniscule calls during a game? Gotta figure the favorite for this honor is New England, but I think my dark horse pick would be Cincinnati.


You’re basically asking which fanbase is the most paranoid and obnoxious when it comes to blaming the refs for everything, in which case…

  1. SEATTLE. You know it’s true. Combine all their entitled bandwagon fans with a deep-seated paranoia about East Coast Bias AND some mild tech proficiency, and you have the perfect breeding ground for referee truthering. These people haven’t stopped bitching about the refs since 2005. It’s an illness. So Seattle is No. 1 overall, followed by:
  2. Baltimore, because Baltimore is basically the flyover country of the Northeast Corridor, so those fans basically take any call that goes against them as some kind of Freemason conspiracy to cut poor Baltimore out of everything. And you know what, Baltimore? It’s true. We ARE all conspiring against you. Every night, all the other cities get together in a big treehouse and LAUGH at you, because you’re so dumb.
  3. New England, who probably deserve to be No. 1 because of their general obnoxiousness and because, ever since #Ballghazi, fans there have become completely unhinged and see any bad call as the shadow hand of Goodell trying to punish them for their greatness. HE FACKIN’ HATES US BECAUSE HE AIN’T US, etc.
  4. Oakland, because the rest of the league really DOES hate that team, and because Al was a thorn in the NFL’s ass for decades. Raiders fans definitely lead the league in saying, “Hard to win out there when you’re playing the other team AND the refs.” That gag never gets old.
  5. Pittsburgh, because they suck and are generally unreasonable people.


I came up with a dad joke today. I realize how bad it is but I’m proud of it and think it is hilarious: “Did you hear about the Dr. Pepper truck? It was in an accident. No one was hurt, but the bottles were pretty shaken up.” Being a parent has ruined my sense of humor, hasn’t it?


I like that dad joke! That’s a quality dad joke. You can pull off any dad joke if you present it AS a dad joke. If you’re like, “Here’s this bad joke that I know is a bad joke and I’m gonna tell it because it’s so bad it’s funny,” you’re not really telling a dad joke. You’re telling a hip, ironic, anti-joke. Come to think of it, that might actually worse than just telling the joke with a straight face. I’ll all confused now.

Frankly, the only respectable dad joke I have in my arsenal is farting. All I have to do is ask my kids, “GUESS WHAT?” and they know exactly what’s coming next. They don’t even flinch anymore.



I’ll be honest. I like to spit A LOT when I’m doing what passes for athletics at my age. Sports are the only socially acceptable place you can spit all over the place without anybody batting an eye. Thanksgiving football game? Spitting. Beer league softball? Spitting. Pickup ultimate? Totally. I even spit riding my bike. Spitting is about 12.5% of the fun of playing sports. Do you think basketball players wish they could spit? It’s the only major sport where sides aren’t spitting all the time. I’d be jealous of the hockey players who get to spit inside. Btw, Spitting into an empty cup DOES NOT count. That’s gross.


The best is when you’re running outside, like in a park. You’re surrounded by nature, which gives you carte blanche to spit at will. I feel like a total stud. GRRRRRR I’M WORKIN’ SO HARD I DON’T EVEN HAVE TIME TO SWOLLOW BRO. It’s immensely gratifying, especially if no one is around. My wife caught me spitting on our own lawn once and nearly had me arrested.




Is it not a punishable offense to add food to a pan before turning on the burner? My wife is cooking something she calls stir fry, wherein she cuts up some chicken and vegetables directly into a skillet.... then brings the skillet to the stove to turn on the burner and begin heating everything. To me this is wrong on many levels, starting with the cold pan followed by the low heat cooking method. I call it stir simmer. She never preheats the skillet. Should I file for divorce? We’ve been married for 10 days.


If you’re gonna call her out for it, make sure you have evidence backing up your claim. There are actually a handful of recipes that call for starting from a cold pan (these pork chops, for instance). But in general, it’s fucking nutso to do this, and most of the Internet will back you on it. Send your wife some links as a hint, and if she still chooses to do this, usurp all cooking duties until further notice.

Not only should the heat be on before you start cooking, but your pan should be REALLY hot. As detailed in this lovely book, the reason that restaurants tend to make better food than you is because of the heat. They have the kitchen power to heat a pan to roughly the temperature of a solar flare, and they have the kind of pan that can withstand such awesome amounts of heat. Everyone has had that terrible moment where you jack up the heat way high on a pan and everything burns and the whole goddamn place fills with smoke, which spooks you into ever working with high temperatures again. But you need to fight through that shit. Try buying a decent pan and cooking your old lady a proper meal*, and see if she’ll come around to your way of thinking.


*That proper meal should not be a stir fry. Here is a hot [no pun intended] take: Stir fries are shitty. This isn’t 1998. If you want meat and vegetables together over rice, you’re better off making a curry, or something that has an actual sauce. Most stir fries are dry and lifeless and need a gallon of soy sauce to taste like anything. Make shaking beef instead.


My grandmother is locked in a jail cell with a bathroom, basic survival provisions, and the original Legend of Zelda for NES with no contact to the outside world. She has one week to beat the game or her whole family dies. Am I going to survive this scenario?


Nope. Not a chance. You are dead meat on a hook before she can even get figure out how to get past the fucking welcome menu.



Does telling your kid that Santa only brings presents to good little boys and girls work?


It works for roughly 10 seconds before the kids resume doing whatever awful thing it was that they were doing. The only threats that work with children are threats that you are willing to follow through on, and no parent is ever gonna deprive a kid of Christmas gifts. In my experience, the following threats are hollow:

  • No Christmas gifts
  • No TV. Their screen time is MY screen time. I’m not fucking with that.
  • Canceling a playdate or birthday party. Again, this hurts me more than the child because I want the child out of my hair for three blissful hours.
  • Any long-range consequence that will not be immediately felt, because children never remember why they fucked up, not even when you ask them point blank after the fact.

ME: Do you know why Dad is mad at you?



None of those things are effective. If you need your kid to fall in line, try the following instead:

  • Delete an app (but not Minecraft because then they’ll die)
  • Throw out candy
  • Threaten to go somewhere without them. This one’s the easiest and most effective.

ME: We’re going to the store.


ME: Okay, then you stay here. I’ll leave the door unlocked so the Babadook can come snatch you away.


THEM: Wait! (furiously put on jackets and shoes)



The only consistent truth about college football is that people are unhappy with how the champion is crowned. Conferences were born, realigned and expanded. The BCS was added to bring clarity. Playoffs were intended to give a fair shot to the top contenders, but now even more teams want in. I have one weird trick to get a clear answer: There are 128 D1 FBS teams. You know what 128 is great for? A bracket. Just have a random draw across the board. After seven weeks we have our title game. People love it for basketball. Even when the best team doesn’t win (2014 UK), the outcome is fair and undisputed.


I can’t agree. The current setup works just fine. Like the NCAA tournament, there’s still plenty of bitching about who gets into the field and who doesn’t. But in the end, when Alabama has won this stupid thing yet again, will anyone outside of State College give a flying shit about PSU’s grievances? No. And neither should you. Going to four teams was enough to end the scourge of co-champions for good. So Penn State can fall into a chasm for all I care.

The playoff committee may be stupid and vague and stocked with some of the lamest cronies* the world has to offer, but their job is basically to put together the most exciting pair of games possible, fairness be damned. Their priorities lie with me, the TV viewer, which is all I ever wanted from college football. Before the playoff, I had one meaningful bowl game, and legitimacy of that bowl game’s champion was often far too easy to question. There was juicy controversy but no good resolution. Now I get three decent bowl games, and no one will be able to dispute Bama’s dominance once it’s all over. Oh God, wait a second. That’s terrible. I take it all back. Why didn’t WMU make the playoff? BAMA AIN’T PLAYED NOBODY!


*The worst of these cronies is committee chair Kirby Hocutt, who spent all of last week making the rounds on TV and radio and dodging questions about how the conference championships might affect the seedings. Hey asshole, why bother going on TV to answer questions if you can’t actually answer them? “O ho ho Rece, I simply can’t comment on what happens if Washington wins by 70 points and Jake Browning discovers Amelia Earhart’s corpse this weekend. It would be pure speculation!”



I know they were last seen relaxing on a beach, but aren’t Billy Ray and Winthorpe almost definitely in prison at this point? It was probably the most blatant example of insider trading the SEC would have ever seen.


You act like the SEC actually punishes rich-ass bankers for their shady dealings. Are you new here? The reason the end of Trading Places is so satisfying is because the Dukes were getting away with this kind of shit for years and years, only to have Billy Ray and Winthorpe use it against them and enrich themselves in the process. They totally get away with it. The system works! Corruption is fine so long as it’s cool people profiting from it.


Is it possible to be a fan of a fan? For example, two years ago during the Seattle/New England Super Bowl, I rooted for the Seahawks because my friend is a diehard fan. I had no stake or bet on the game and since my buddy was there watching with us, I decided to be a fan for him. Is this a rational normal thing to do or am I a cheap bandwagoner and not a true sports fan?


No no, that’s completely normal. If your friend is a fan of another team and isn’t a complete fuckhead about it, there’s no harm in temporarily rooting for his team so that he can have his moment of sports ecstasy. It’s like if the Vikings made the Super Bowl. You’d all root for them for the sake of your good pal Drew, right? Right? No? Dammit.

I have a confession to make. I had a friend who was a Boston fan and back in 2004, I was happy for him when the Red Sox won (against the Cardinals, although my hatred of THAT team had not come to fruition just yet). I even called him to congratulate him and all that. It was a nice moment. I regret all of it. If I had a time machine, I would call that friend again and yell at him and warn him about Boston becoming ground zero for asshole fans and bad Marky Mark Oscar bait.




What is the real place that has been recreated the most for movies/television? It has to be the Oval Office, right? No other place is as identifiable and non-accessible to film in.


Outer space! They have to recreate outer space for every movie: 2001, Alien, Gravity, the government tape of the moon landing, and OH MY GOD I’VE SAID TOO MUCH.

(huddles in bunker)

(strokes gun)

(stares at door, waiting for Big Government to come)



We are having guests over for dinner. We didn’t ask them to bring anything, but they brought a respectable dessert. Problem is, I bought a dessert I was planning to serve and have been drooling over all day thinking about. I’m fine serving their dessert, but can I choose to eat mine or will we never see them again if I do?


Serve both. Take a helping of both desserts, devour the one you bought, and then give the other one a couple of courtesy bites after you’ve eaten yours. Make sure you’re like, “Oh my God, this is SO good!!”, and then they’ll do likewise with your dessert, and then you can bust out the key dish.

In general, you should never worry about a party or dinner having too much food. No one is gonna complain about a huge repast of cakes and pies and after-dinner cheeses. If people bring extra shit you don’t need, all the better. You can always politely force them to take half a cake home to throw in the garbage after the fact. It’s when you try to skimp on food that people leave your house silently fuming and drive to the nearest Five Guys.


We have two emails of the week so let’s get right to them. Here’s Ashley:

So last Sunday I had a couple teams Fandueling and they’re doing poorly. I’m joking around being dramatic and asking Jesus to come help my teams and whatnot… but it’s getting to the end of the 1 o’clock games and I have not been blessed with any new touchdowns. So I switch tactics and call out for Satan to use his dark magic to give me fantasy points. Sounds weird typing it out now, but at the time it seemed reasonable. Not even thirty seconds later McCoy scores this 3rd touchdown… add a few garbage-time points in other games and I’m in the money ($16 total winnings). How screwed am I? I did not draw a pentagram, sign a contract in blood, and, as far as I know, was not at a crossroads of any type. Also I was clearly joking and I feel like the Devil should get that? I’m no saint but if this is the thing that damns me to eternal torment I’m going to feel like a real asshole.


You’re fine. Go ahead and try making the same deal with Satan next week. You’ll think that’s your key to BIG MONEY, and that you’ve finally cracked the DFS code. And then everyone on your roster will get hurt and you will realize that no one—be it Up There or Down There—can save you from the House fucking you over.

Now for the other one.


I work odd hours in an office, so I was leaving the fairly empty building one night recently and got into an elevator with an older co-worker (I’m late 20s; he’s in his 50s). He asks, “You taking off?” I begin to reply, “Yea, I’m ducking out,” being colloquial, except I Freudianed the fuck out of my sentence and said “Yea, I’m DICKING out.” There was a pregnant pause, then I tried to correct myself and only ended up saying just the word “dick.” I repeated it twice more before the door opened and I scrambled out into the lobby. I saw the co-worker again and it was cordial, nothing unusual. What’s he really thinking?


That you are CEO material.