Zombies Ate My Baby Unicorn

Setting: Late afternoon

Location: Playground

Contestants: Zombies versus the Unicorn Realm

Zombies have invaded the unicorn realm. Their numbers quickly multiply with every brain they eat. Will the unicorns ever be able to drive out the zombies and regain their territory? Or is this tranquil land of unicorns destined to be turned into a zombie nation?

I stood looking on as the kids played out an epic struggle.

The zombies had breached the outer walls of the once-peaceful unicorn castle. The unicorns, taken by surprise, scattered. The boy unicorns tried their best to defend and take back the castle, while the girls and the unicorn children headed for safe ground.

“The babies!” cried the girls. “Save the babies!”

They each grabbed a baby or two and ran across the castle bridge as zombies followed close behind.

I butted in. “Michelle. Time to go. Your mom is here to pick you up.”

“Aww…!” said Michelle.

“Quick! Toss me the baby!” said Alice.

Michelle tossed the baby to Alice, then ran off. Normally, the tossing of babies would be highly inappropriate. But when you’re being chased by brain-eating zombies, desperate times call for desperate measures.

A girl named Cassie had fallen behind the rest of the girls. At first she had gone unnoticed in the commotion until one of the zombies smelled her. She turned to run, but was cornered by another zombie. The two zombies began to eat her brains.

Cassie went down. She lay against the side of the jungle gym, eyes closed.

“Zombies ate my brains,” she explained to me. “I can only be saved if someone puts a flower to my nose. Then I’ll be reborn as a baby unicorn.”

She waited a little while before someone came and put an imaginary flower to her nose. Cassie ran around, flapping her wings, whinnying. Oh, didn’t you know? All baby unicorns have wings, and can fly.

Alice, meanwhile, had been doing her best to protect the babies and fend off the zombies, but had suffered multiple wounds in the process. “If someone bites me one more time I’m going to die!” she said. She hid underneath the slide – I mean, the castle moat – and tried to recover from her wounds.

A zombie jumped down from the castle and started moving towards her. Alice screamed.

Just then, “Jason,” a swordsman fighting for Team Unicorn, jumped in.

“I’ll protect you!” he said, battling the zombie.

Meanwhile a group of about four soldiers fighting for Team Unicorn had regrouped and attempted to penetrate the zombie lines.

“Shields!” they shouted, as they raised their shields, defending themselves against the claws of the zombies.

The tide of the battle had turned. The zombies, who had once been on the offensive, were now losing steam as the unicorns fought back.

Suddenly, a zombie named Mick ran up to me and started eating my brains.

“No! My brains!”

Satisfied, Mick ran off to find his next victim. Right behind him, though, was a member of Team Unicorn.

“Flower!” he shouted, tossing imaginary flowers at me so that I’d be healed.

“Great,” I said. “I always wanted to be a baby unicorn.”

The battle continued, with each side making small gains. It was so close, so evenly matched. Just when it looked as if the zombies would drive out the unicorns and make this land their own, the unicorns would make a stand. And just when it looked like the unicorns would drive out the invaders and reclaim their castle, the zombies held their ground.

“Jason,” I said. “Time to go.”

“Okay, coming.”

But he was so preoccupied fighting that I don’t think he really heard me.

“Go, Jason, your mom is waiting!”

He turned to the kid standing next to him. “Take my swords,” he said. “Use them wisely.”

More and more contestants for both sides were going home for the day being lost in this gruesome battle. Neither side was backing down, and neither side was able to make a sizable gain. Many brave souls were lost. Oh! the horrors of war.

And so it came down to this: two unicorns, and one zombie.

The lone zombie was outnumbered 2-to-1. But he was no ordinary zombie. He was Mick, the amazing zombie. Quiet, polite, yet crafty, Mick had a reputation for being an extremely dangerous, and well-mannered, adversary. He always seemed to be the “bad guy” in the games, but it was a role he thrived in, and seemed to enjoy. He’s a nice kid. Well-behaved, and even-tempered. But don’t let his countenance fool you. He’s a bloodthirsty, merciless zombie.

Cassie and Alice, the two remaining baby unicorns, huddled together in the quiet sanctuary of the high tower.

“Where is he?” whispered Cassie.

“I don’t know,” replied Alice.

They had chosen a good place to hide. The high tower had naturally good defenses. While the other parts of the jungle gym castle had bars bridges that were relatively easy to climb, this portion of the castle had no easy access. There were really only two ways into the tower, both of which would be difficult and slow to cross – not ideal for a zombie raid. The first route was a swirly staircase type thingy that bent in weird shapes. This was likely the easiest passage, but the girls would have a clear view of anyone trying to enter this way, and would have ample time to either escape or make a counter attack. The second route was through a set of bars one would have to swing across. Many had attempted this daring crossing, and few had been successful. The bars were just a bit too high and difficult for 2nd graders zombies and unicorns alike. Even if Mick were able to make it across, he would be in plain view of the unicorns, and they would be alerted early on to his presence.

But Mick had a daring plan of his own. He found a third entrance into the tower, an entrance no one had thought of. He had decided to climb up onto a part of the tower where no bars were. It was a difficult climb, especially since it was so much taller than him. But it was also in an area that was blocked from the unicorn’s view. No one in the high tower would be able to see him approaching through this blind spot.

“I still don’t see him,” whispered the girls. “Maybe he’s gone.”

It took some time, but Mick was eventually able to get up onto the tower. The high tower, once thought to be impenetrable, was breached. The girls screamed as Mick popped up seemingly out of nowhere, and proceeded to eat their brains.

The zombies won that day.

In this day and age we frequently need expensive gadgets and gizmos to keep us entertained. It’s always nice to see kids make up epic adventures all on their own. No rules, no toys, no guidance from adults, just their imagination.

We walked back from the playground with the three remaining kids.

“What’s wrong with Cassie?” asked one of the other workers as we walked by.

“She’s tired,” I said. “She was flying around all recess.”My coworker looked at me, puzzled. “She was a baby unicorn,” I added. Adults. Sometimes they need to be told everything.

Kids, 2nd time around

The regular school year started, and I thought I was going to be with the 5th or 6th graders again, but this time around I’m with the 2nd graders. I didn’t know what to expect at first. It was an interesting start to the school year.

There was a girl we’ll call “Michelle.” Michelle had a catch phrase that she said all…the…time. It goes like this: “Hiiiiiiii….” she’d say, waving her hand slowly across her face. She’d wait for me to return the greeting then say, “The meaning of ‘hi’ is “hiiiiiiiiiiii,” and wave her hand again across her face. No matter how many times she did it, she thought it was the funniest thing in the world.

There was a girl we’ll call “Yuna.” She said to me, “I’m going to follow you everywhere because I like you.”

“You’re going to follow me everywhere? Gross. Don’t follow me into the boy’s bathroom.”

“Everywhere except the boy’s bathroom!”

“Oh. Okay.”

The kids like to lean against me and lay their heads on me whenever we’re watching a movie or something. “I get this spot, you get that spot,” they say, talking about me as if I’m a couch. It’s cute, but we’re not supposed to let them do that since it’s important we keep lines between leader and friend, so I have to push them away.

One day a girl we’ll call “Kelsea” came up to me. “I have something for you,” she said. She put down her backpack, opened it, pulled out a picture, and handed it to me.

“You drew this?” I asked. It was a picture of a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream with a cherry on top, along with a cone of vanilla ice cream. (Those happen to be my two favorite flavors.)

She nodded. “Do you like it?” she asked. She signed it for me and drew a heart.

Yuna continued to tell me how much she liked me. “I’m going to follow you everywhere because I like you,” she’d say. “Everywhere except the boy’s bathroom.” She’s very touchy-feely. Most kids are, but she’s particularly so. She’s always trying to grab my arm, hug me, and hold my hand. She’d hold my hand everywhere if I let her. (We’re not really supposed to let them do that.)

“Mis – ter – Ro – bert!” she’d say, banging her head into my side with each syllable. “What are we doing today?”

One time she said to me, “I like you better than Justin Beiber.”

“But Yuna,” I said, “you don’t like Justin Beiber.” She told me before that she doesn’t like him. (“He sounds like a girl,” she said as her reason for not liking him.)

“Yeah. So that’s why I like you better. His hair is yucky. I like your hair better.”

We’re not allowed to hug the kids, and we’re supposed to push them away if they try to hug us. But Yuna has a way of sneaking in hugs. She’s so quick and stealthy about it that I don’t have time to push her away. And she usually does it when I’m preoccupied with other things, so I don’t even know what hits me before she’s gone.

Yuna had attached herself to me, and just as she said she would, followed me almost everywhere. I didn’t mind really. She behaved pretty well, listened better than most of the other kids, and although she made it clear that she liked me, she knew where the boundaries were. It’s fine when kids like you, but it’s not good for them to get clingy. It’s unhealthy. So I’m glad Yuna never got clingy or possessive, she never got jealous or anything when I would spend time with the other kids, and she never had a problem hanging out with kids her own age.

Like all kids, my group loves to ask questions.

“How old are you?” asked Yuna.


“My dad is older than you,” she said.

“I certainly hope your dad is older than me.”

“Do you have a wife?” asked Kelsea.

“No, I don’t have a wife,” I said.

“He’s too young to have a wife,” said Yuna. “He’s only 24!”

“Do you want a wife?” asked Kelsea.

“If God gives me one someday.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” asked a girl we’ll call “Alice.”

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend either.”

“Do you want a girlfriend?” asked another girl. With the kids throwing so many questions at me all at once, it’s sometimes difficult to know who asked what.

“Only if God wants me to,” I said.

“Who’s the girl of your dreams?” asked Alice.

Gee. Kids are not at all afraid to ask whatever questions come to mind, and boy, do they have a lot of questions. I don’t mind though. They’re so open and honest. I wish more adults would be like that.

“I don’t know,” I said. That last question caught me off guard. But I try to answer all of their questions as best I can since I think it’s a good opportunity for us as adults to teach kids and instill in them good moral values.

“Well… the girl of my dreams will be someone who loves God more than anything. She’ll have a heart to help people. She’ll be beautiful because God makes girls beautiful. And she’ll be someone who likes me for who I am, even when I make mistakes and do stupid things.”

One day Yuna came up to me during study hall.

“I forgot my pencil,” she said.

“Ask one of your classmates if they have an extra pencil you can borrow.”

“…You do it!” she said.

“No, you do it.”

“But I’m shy! You do it for me.”

“You’re not shy. You talk to me all the time.”

“I’m not shy to you or to teachers, but I’m shy to my friends,” she said.

Kids are cute. When you care about someone, it’s easy to get over-protective. You’d give them the world if you could. But you have to have them learn to do things for themselves, or they’ll grow up depending on people for everything.

I called one of the other kids, and I asked him if he had an extra pencil. He said yes.

“Yuna has something to ask you,” I said, bringing her forward. Ha! And she thought she had suckered me into asking for her.

“Go ahead, Yuna.”

She sighed and muttered something.

“Louder,” I said.

“Can I borrow the pencil…?”

“Say please.”

“Please?” she said grudgingly.

One day I got a hair cut, and when the kids saw it, they hated it.

“Why did you get a haircut? I liked it much better before…!” they said.

“Your haircut is yucky. It’s gross.”

“You should never get a haircut again!” said Yuna.

Then she added, “Even though I don’t like your haircut, I still like you.”

“Thanks, Yuna.”

Everyone except for Michelle hated it. She stared up at me, with that adorably goofy, toothless, mouth-wide-open smile of hers and said, “I like your haircut.”

I think the reason the kids don’t like it when I get a haircut is because they get so used to seeing me one way, and when it changes suddenly, they get concerned, as if the Mr. Robert they had grown accustomed to is going to be somehow different as a result of my shorter hair.

The next day Yuna said to me, “I like your hair now. This is like you had it before. This part,” she touched the front of my hair where I do that little flippy thing. “I like this part. You didn’t have it last time.”

“You’re my number one favorite leader,” said Yuna. “And if I could make a copy of you, then there would be two of you, and you would be my two favorite leaders. And if I could make another copy, you would be my three favorite leaders.”

The kids are cute, but that’s not to say they always act like little angels. They’re noisy during study hall, and have short attention spans, which makes them inept at walking in lines. I don’t hesitate to put any of them in time out when they deserve it. Even Yuna. But kids still like you, even after you discipline them. They’re slowly getting better at walking in lines and being quiet during study hall. It’s a work in progress.

Like all kids, they don’t always listen well, and they do misbehave, including Yuna. She can be demanding and snotty at times. But that’s part of the experience. Everyone has faults, and everyone at times will let you down. If you’re there for a person when they’re behaving right in your eyes, but disown them when they’re not behaving the way you want them to, where is the love in that? God is always patient with us, no matter how often we may fail. Likewise we should be patient with people, even when they’re giving us difficulties.

One day I was asked to help out with the 6th grade, since they were short a person and I was already familiar with them from having worked with them during the summer.

“Why are you leaving us!?” asked the 2nd graders.

“I have to go and help out the 6th grade today.” I told them that another leader would be there with them.

“But we don’t know him very well!” they said, as if this were a very serious concern for them. “We’re not used to him. We haven’t spent much time with him.”

“You’re not used to me either,” I said.

“Yes we are!” When this happened, it was only our third day together, but they were talking to me as if we’d known each other all year.

“It’s just for today. Okay? I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Kelsea got up and hugged me. We’re not really supposed to let the kids hug us (although I’ve seen teachers and even my bosses hug kids on occasion.) I tried to explain this to Kelsea and the other kids.

“This school has weird rules,” they said.

“Well, the rules are in place for good reasons, so we have to obey them.”

From that point on instead of hugging me Kelsea would come up to me and sort of lean toward me while scrunching up her shoulders. It’s her way of hugging me without using her arms, so as not to break the rules. Kids. They’re so creative.

One day when Michelle’s parents came to pick her up, I said, “Bye, Michelle. The meaning of ‘bye’ is ‘byyyyyyyye.” I waved my hand in front of my face, just as she always did. She started giggling non-stop.

“Okay. Go! Your mom’s waiting.”

It’s easy to see why Jesus loves the little children. I love them too.

Ashlyn the Whack-a-Mole


During the summer I helped out at my church’s Vacation Bible School, and I led a group of kids grades 1-6. On the first day we stood in the church’s courtyard listening as a game was being explained. Each group leader was given a sign that said their group’s name on it, while each kid was given a paper bag to hold their toys and things. As we stood listening I indiscriminately patted the little girl standing in front of me on the head with my sign. We’ll call her “Ashlyn.” Ashlyn turned around, looked up at me, smiled, and returned the favor by patting me ever-so-gently with her paper bag.

It became a game for us. I would tap her on the head, and she would playfully tap me back. Her taps were so gentle, it was as if I were being tapped by an angel. One time I tried to tap her, but she was ready for it, and she ducked. I tried again, and she ducked again. She kept ducking lower and lower to make me keep missing.

I asked her, “You know that game whack-a-mole?” She nodded. “You’re like the mole.”

She paused for a second before realizing that I had just called her a mole. She smiled, then scrunched her face up to try to look mad. But she laughed, and she obviously liked it.

She and I became friends. We would tease each other, and continue our “whacking game.” Her taps that had started out so gentle turned increasingly violent, and pretty soon she was hitting me full force as hard as she could. Every week when we saw each other, she’d say, “I remember you called me a whack-a-mole!” Then she would turn to her friends and proudly say, “He called me a whack-a-mole!” This continued for a while.

One night we were doing arts and crafts. I said something to her, but she turned away without saying anything. Usually she liked talking to me, but I noticed she hadn’t said anything to me for a while.

“Huh. That’s strange. She’s acting weird all of a sudden.” But I didn’t put too much thought into it.

But she continued to give me the cold shoulder. When I’d say something to her, she’d shrug and mutter a short answer while avoiding eye contact. But then she’d be extra nice and happy towards everyone else.

“Wait a sec…is she…ignoring me?”

I asked her how her craft was coming. She shrugged. A little later I tried saying something to her that she would normally laugh at. Nothing. But of course she was being super nice towards everyone else.

“Yup. She is definitely ignoring me.”

I took a moment to marvel at my own incompetence.

Congratulations, Rob. You’re on a roll. You got an 8 year old to give you the silent treatment. You really know how to make a woman mad. What amazing thing will you do next?”

Sometimes I just get so exasperated with myself.

Now that I had gotten that off my chest, I replayed the day’s events in my head, trying to figure out what I did to deserve the wrath of Ashlyn.

I realized what I’d done. She was eating nerds, the candy, and asked me if I wanted some. We teased each other all the time, so without even thinking about it, I called her a nerd. She obviously liked it when I called her a mole. But I guess when I did that, she knew it was a joke. When I called her a nerd, I suppose it sounded a bit too real.

“Are you mad I called you a nerd?”

She looked away without really looking at me.

Pretending not to be mad when she obviously is. Man. She is really good at this. I think this proves that women are just born with this ability. 8 years old, and she’s already mastered the silent treatment. I’d hate to see what she does when she’s older.

“Okay, let’s think about this clearly. She’s upset, and for understandable reasons. What I did may have been stupid, but it was an honest mistake. I meant no harm. I’ll just try to fix it.”

As we were leaving to the last activity of the night, I went over to talk to her.

“I’m sorry I called you a nerd. It was just a joke because you were eating nerds. You’re not a nerd. I think you’re really cool.”

She looked at me, then looked away.

Well,” I thought. “I apologized, tried to fix my mistake, and continued to be nice to her even when she was cold to me. There’s not much more I can do. If she still wants to be mad, all I can do is let her.”

By the next week (it’s a good thing we have a week in between these things) she had gotten over it (I think, anyway. With girls, it’s hard to tell.) We became friends again, things returned more-or-less to normal, and we resumed our whacking game.

One night after the activities were finished we were playing in the courtyard. Ashlyn got her friends to grab my arms and legs and pull me down. Ashlyn had hit me many times before, but that had always been on my legs or torso, since she was too short. With her friends holding me down, though, I was finally short enough for Ashlyn to reach my head, and she relished the moment.

“Now you’re the whack-a-mole!” she said, whacking my head.