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Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • Jeff Vrabel: Is there anything cooler than a triceratops?

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  • So naturally, there is an animatronic triceratops in my house.
    It’s right there, 6 or 8 feet behind me, staring at me with dead Rock-A-Fire Explosion eyes that are currently locked open as if to say “That’s right, go ahead and keep thinking we’re extinct.” It is a large thing, maybe 3 feet tall from foot to the summit of its crested defensive shield. It’s quite lifelike, or at least as lifelike as a 3-foot-tall animatronic triceratops sitting in your office in 2012 can be (and when I say “office” I mean “space that contains one old desk and 1,900 plastic baby toys”).
    And being a children’s toy that is in my house, it naturally makes unholy amounts of noise, hideous shrieks and hollers that are quite ill-befitting the animal’s herbivorous nature. When you turn this thing on, it basically becomes a self-aware hell beast that makes robot sounds. It sounds like what would happen if a water buffalo gave birth inside one of those old metal garbage cans that Oscar the Grouch lived in, and it does this several dozen times a day, whenever one of my children activate it, which they do, all the time, constantly, because, in their defense, it is a animatronic triceratops in their house, and it is awesome. It’s just about the best toy ever, and yet here I am, passive-aggressively grousing about it in newspapers. Luckily, one of them can’t read yet, so I’m at least 50 percent safe here.
    The triceratops appeared on my porch one Sunday morning, as triceratopses will do, and before I continue I should say that I haven’t the foggiest clue how to pluralize triceratops. When you are a child growing up with a fierce dinosaur interest (which I did, because every time I played a sport I ended up somehow bleeding from the nose), you do not learn such things. You learn that dinosaurs are awesome, bloodthirsty monsters. You learn that they dominated the planet and engaged in great dinosaur battles and were wiped out when a behemoth rock smashed into the Earth from space. You do not learn about grammar.
    Anyway, the triceratops is here because some friends of ours were getting rid of it — their boys are older now, and past the age where a animatronic triceratops is a cool toy to have in the house. Being good friends, they asked if we wanted it (translation: “Will you get this damn thing out of our attic?”) and offered to drop it off (“We seriously want this out of our attic like now”) and even threw in a bonus firefighter costume (“We found it in the attic”).
    And we accepted it, because there is only one kind of parent who turns down a personal life-like dinosaur for their children: a jerk parent. Or people who like to enter their offices without being momentarily frightened by a miniature dragon with its eyes frozen open, whichever.
    Page 2 of 2 - But here is the thing: The triceratops is cool now. It’s new. It’s a novelty. My older son climbs on it and pretends he’s riding it to various adventures, and the younger one tries to jam blocks and books and dirt into its mouth, which he knows how to do because that’s pretty much what he does to his own mouth. It’s a grand adventure and it’s like having a little “Jurassic Park” in my little work-room, only with less Goldblum.
    Yet there’s a catch. At some point (12:35 a.m.) the children go to bed every night, and they go to school during the day, leaving me alone in a room with a dead-eyed dinosaur with a copy of “Hippos Go Berserk” jammed in its mouth, staring at me, pleading for help, or escape, or a better-tasting board book. It’s starting to get to me. Its eyes follow me around the room; sometimes, and I can’t prove this, but sometimes I swear it moves a few centimeters closer to me. I’ve literally looked back at it like 20 times while writing this column, and I’m not nearly drunk enough for that yet.
    So for much of my day it’s the triceratops and I, hanging out, trying to be good parents and playmates, staring at each others waiting for the kids to come home. It occurs me, though, that there will come a day when my own boys are past the age where an animatronic triceratops is a cool toy to have in the house, and that day will kind of crush me.
    Jeff Vrabel could spell “pachycephalosaurus” at the age of 5, because he was a huge nerd. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com and/or followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.

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