It always gives me pleasure to pass along important skills and values to the next generation.

That’s what I was thinking Tuesday as I bent over our kitchen table with an Exacto knife and hollowed out the center of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps’s autobiography in order to conceal candy inside.

'Send us high-fructose corn syrup!'

My niece and nephew are at a sleepaway camp with strict rules against care packages containing candy or food.  As I’ve done each of the last three summers, I took this policy as a personal challenge.  This year in particular, I threw all caution – and responsible parenting – to the wind, and enlisted the help of my own children.

In past years, I have smuggled candy inside magazines, canteens, and socks.  Some packages were intercepted and confiscated.  Others sailed through, no problem.

This year we started with my son Jesse’s suggestion for concealment vessel– stuffed animals.  

My daughter Lulu and I headed out to find just the right creature. 

We agreed the ideal one would be cheap, somewhat stiff, and capable of concealing enough candy to make the project worthwhile.

would have been perfect

Initially we went to a toy store.  It was too high-end.  The stuffed animals  cost $30 to $50, and were too soft and cuddly.  Great for bedtime, no good for contraband.  If we used one of these, I told Lulu, our true designs would be immediately apparent even to a rookie postal inspector.

Next we tried RiteAid and CVS.  We were hoping for cheap, Valentines Day-style teddy bears.

Struck out there, too.

We went to a party-planning store which was filled with piñatas, plastic cups, balloons, napkins and crepe paper.  But in the words of U2, we still hadn’t found what we were looking for.

We wound up at the 99-cent store at Willoughby and La Brea in Hollywood.  Bingo!  We found three sturdy hardcover books for a dollar each.  Then we went home and started cutting out identical rectangles from the centers of about 150 pages, leaving the rest of the pages intact.

No Limits, by gold medalist Michael Phelps, may be an excellent book, but I will never know.  I shredded more than half of it, to conceal six small Twix bars, side by side, in the book’s cozy, literate center.

My children were fascinated by the project, and by my laser-like focus.

They voted enthusiastically for slicing up the other books, too – Obama Nation by Jerome R. Corsi, and the Holy Bible.  I nixed the idea, sensing that the Bible, in particular, could get me crossways with God, or more frighteningly, my wife.

You may ask, Didn’t this entire project send a bad message to your children?

It sent MANY bad messages, not just one.

Let me list some of them.

Authority figures are bad.

Rules are meant to be broken.

Candy is good.

Books should be destroyed.

Sleepaway camp is like prison.

Michael Phelps has nothing valuable to teach us.

Contraband is fun.

Let’s face it; the only other application for these new skills I was teaching would be, well, smuggling drugs or weapons into prison.  Which is not my main ambition for Lulu and Jesse.  (Although I do think they would be good at prison smuggling, based on the dexterity and competence I observed during Operation Candy Bar.)

It has been hypothesized that there is a connection between high sugar consumption in childhood and drug addiction in adulthood.  Drug addiction, too, isn’t at the top of my aspirations for my children.

inspirational AND useful

Further, Operation Candy Bar involved the desecration of books.  There are few things I like better than books.  Wasn’t it bad for the kids to watch me trashing page after page of an Olympian’s (presumably) inspirational narrative?

Yes, yes, yes already.

Damn it – as my wife says, Take yes for an answer.

But I went ahead anyway, with some nebulous, underlying theory about civil disobedience, sticking it to the man, and taking care of imprisoned family.

Not that summer camp is prison.  But there are similarities.

I will let you know in future posts whether Operation Candy Bar succeeds.

In the meantime, next week’s family activity … how to make a shiv!


About kittroyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles.
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  1. kittroyer says:


    “Good stuff. Glad your clients have taught you some practical skills. (rim-shot.) But seriously, I dimly remember that the thesis of “Preparing for Power”, a book on boarding schools (like the one, ahem, Aleen graduated from), was that by learning how to break the ‘right’ (i.e. ultimately inconsequential ones) rules, prep students learned skills vital to becoming part of this country’s elite. Kudos, sir.”
    — Tom H.

    “now i know who to call when i get sent away.’ — Robby K.

    “One never knows what skills the future may require. My older Soviet friends were pretty adept at smuggling things in and out of the Gulag and across international borders. Perhaps, meanwhile, the pages you excised from Michael Phelps’ [ghostwritten] autobiography were the ones in which he described his escapades with pot. So maybe you did your children a favor after all. The world works in mysterious ways.” — Bill T.

    “My dad used to slice open tennis balls, fill them with candy, and then send them to us at camp in a can of three. Got through every time.” — Valerie S.

    “How about the good lessons – challenging authority and creatively deriving and executing a plan!”
    — Andrew A.

    “Gum taped to comic book pages worked in my day. At the camp I went to they would tell us confiscated candy went to an orphanage in Spooner [Wisc.]” — Maurie S.

    “When I was 7, I went into the ice-cream place and I put my finger in the middle of the ice-cream bar and broke it. I said, ‘This is broken, can I have it?’ I always got for free, and now I’m a fatty!” — Toni H.

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