Friday, May 15, 2015

The Weekender

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... there was a couple.  Who were simply just dating.  Who were without children.  Who dared to have serious conversations, uninterrupted, while enjoying a meal that dared to be warm at the time of consumption.  Who slept - on a whim - for ten uninterrupted hours at night.  Who spontaneously ... did things without having to book a babysitter three months in advance.  Who ... went out to brunch on Sunday mornings and ordered Bloody Mary's instead of firing up the minivan to go to soccer practice, then to wiffle ball, then to swim lessons, then to a birthday party, etc.   Who debated about whether to eat dinner at Rainbow Dragon or Farragut House, instead of whose night it was to make pasta again and pack lunch boxes.

Then the couple got married.  And had kids.  The end.

(dramatic pause)

However, there is that once a year opportunity for THE WIFE and I to turn back the clock.  You know that trip I'm talking about.  The re-connector.  The "just the two of us" getaway.  The "oh yeah, this is why we love each other" weekend.  The two or three days when you ditch the kids with grandparents and possibly come home with a new addition to the family, assuming you were procrastinating on that vasectomy.  This much coveted, temporary, time travel away from reality is also know as ... the Weekender.

THE WIFE and I have our annual sojourn coming up soon.  And it got me thinking.  I need to prepare accordingly.

There are some classic do's and don'ts I follow when getting ready for a Weekender.  Here is a sample of the refresher course I read to myself in the mirror during the countdown to escape...

In the days leading up to a Weekender, it's important to maintain health at all costs.  Specifically, in the week before the trip, boost up the immune system.  DO take Vitamin C supplements and echinacea.  DO drink plenty of fluids.  DO get some extra rest.  In other words, DO wear a hazmat suit, if possible, when interacting with your kids and especially when conducting any pick up or drop off at day care or schools.  Then disinfect said child(ren) thoroughly upon returning home.  If outright quarantine is possible, by all means take advantage.

[I unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way shortly after arriving at the Chatham Bars Inn a few years ago.  A 24-hour stomach bug struck me just as we got settled into our hotel room.  All I remember from that weekend is watching Inception on demand while wrapped beneath a comforter as THE WIFE ordered room service.  Good times!]

DO avoid engaging in athletic or outdoor activities that you do not typically perform.  Sustaining a lower back injury during a first time cross-fit workout or pulling a groin during bikram yoga can severely impede late night - or God willing maybe even afternoon - activities.

DO make a little extra effort in your appearance for the weekend away.  Wax that back or nair the shoulder hair.  Manscaping is a good way to show your lady that she's not married to Wolverine.

DO NOT consume foods that cause chronic flatulence.  The rest of the year may be filled with unrestrained, spontaneous gas triggering dirty looks or wide eyed facial expressions, but the Weekender calls for impromptu morning cuddle sessions that DO NOT include Dutch ovens.

DO limit  conversation about the kids and child rearing during meals to ensure that there are other topics about which the two of you may focus.  For example, one's favorite Yo Gabba Gabba episode or whether Tilly is ready to sleep without a pacifier, are discussion pieces to be avoided.  Instead, focus on fun topics like "did you read anything interesting in Us Weekly today when we sat by the pool?"  Or perhaps, "Should we have red wine tonight or bubbles?  Or both?"  Then reminisce about the wine we drank during our honeymoon as we stared out towards the caldera.

DO NOT get jealous when THE WIFE begins to speak about how talented Adam Levine and Justin Timberlake are.  Although the seemingly innocuous statement is easily misunderstood code for "I would definitely swap you out for said performer and seven seconds of heaven," you must recognize that the observation could also mean "I want you to dance with me if we hear one of their songs when we go to a bar later this evening."

I would write more but I can't because one child is swinging from light fixtures and the other two are entangled in WWE techniques.  Get here soon Weekender.




Friday, May 1, 2015

Back in Black

I could bore you with reasons why there's been such a gap in any posts, but there's too much good stuff to catch up on.

"M Is For Metal" has become Gus' recent book obsession.  We temporarily lost the book a few weeks ago.  Gus noticed.  He started asking for the book when THE WIFE and I would ask the kids what they wanted to read before bed.  Or at breakfast before school.  (Yes, the kids like to have a quick read during their Cheerios or Puffs or Chex or whatnot.)

Finally, the book resurfaced.  And now all three kids can virtually recite the book word for word.

"M Is For Metal" is a cute but also fairly edgy ABC book that pays homage to some of the classic hard rockers of years past.  The book describes itself as "The loudest alphabet book on Earth."

Like most books of its kind, the outline follows a simple formula.  In alphabetical order, a short blurb takes inspiration from the respective letter in order while applying the musical genre's them.  For example, "O is for Ozzy who cleans up dog-doo.  He rests on the Sabbath and other days too."  The illustration depicts the former MTV reality show star clad in tatoos and slippers ironing, while surrounded by flying bats and a dog who, well, has clearly left a deposit near Ozzy's feet."  It's cute, I swear.

After a hundred reads or so, THE WIFE and I have taken a few liberties and added our own spins to various entries.  The kids have incorporated our creative additions and included them in their own unique ways.  Mostly, the humor is lost on them.  And the subjects of each entry are totally lost on them.

So, this morning as we proceeded through our ritual of breaking fasts, I decided to provide a little video perspective to help better explain the musical innuendo.  The results were amazingly entertaining.  The following is a loose transcript of the experiment.

"Q is for Queen, who were fruity as mango.  Scaramouche, scaramouche, can you do the fandango."  The accompanying illustration shows the band in their classic silhouette diamond pose from the Bohemian Rhapsody video but with different fruit on their heads.  And naturally, THE WIFE and I rarely resist singing the next few words in the song.

Me: There's Freddie Mercury.  He's one of the best singers ever.
Tilly: (confused) Are they boys?  Or are they girls?
Me: They're boys.
Greta: Why do they have hair like girls then?
Me: Well, that was kind of the style back then.
Tilly: (not giving up) Are they girls?
Me: They're boys, Tilly.  You see-
Gus: STOP IT!  READ THE NEXT PAGE, DADDY!

"W is for Windmill, that Pete likes to do.  But just who is Pete?  Who-who, who-who?"  Pete stands in his text book pose windmilling next to the blurb.  There is also "D is for Drums..." and Keith Moon is drumming wildly for the adjacent image but the percussion - inexplicably - is not exploding.

Me: Check out this clip of Pete doing the windmill and rocking out.
Greta: Why is he smashing the guitar?
Tilly: That's so silly, Daddy.
Me: I know Tills.  That's why he's so cool.
Tilly: I want to smash a guitar!  Can I smash a guitar?
Gus: STOP IT!  READ THE NEXT PAGE, DADDY!

"K is for Kiss, with make-up that runs.  Gene is the one with the longest of tongues."

WIFE: Look guys, this band always performed with the crazy make-up on their faces.
Greta: Are they boys?  Or are they girls?
Tilly: Make-up is silly.  Why do you wear spicy lip stick Daddy?
Me: It's chap stick, Tills.  Burt's bees.
Tilly: Yeah, but it's spicy.
Gus: STOP IT!  READ THE NEXT PAGE, DADDY!

"E is for Everyone stuck up the back.  This next song's for you ... it's called 'Back in Black.'"  Dunh.  Duh-nun-nuhn.  Duh-nun-nuhn.

Cue the questions about Angus in a school boy outfit and Gus ordering us forward to the next page.  Tomorrow morning, we'll be back for more ABCs from AC/DC and friends over eggs and bacon.  Hopefully, the volume will stay below 11.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Overdue Update

It’s been too long and I won’t bore you with my excuses.  Let’s just jump right in.  I’m ranting because too many weeks of unfinished drafts have passed.  So here goes. 

Greta is in kindergarten.  Gus is back at pre-K.  Tilly is pumped to have the house to herself.  Pause.  This is where my head is at on all three of my little people.

Gigi.  I can see how one may be dismissive about a child’s depth.  Can you really discuss philosophy, religion, politics, or fiscal responsibility with a five year old?  A conversation regarding a “high brow” topic might go like this:

ME: Greta, do you think NATO should get involved with the Ukraine-Russia crisis?  Where do you stand?  Should the U.S intervene?

G: What?  Where do you stand in a crane? 

ME: No, Ukraine.  It’s a country in Europe.  Remember, we looked at different countries on the globe?

G: Uh, we live on Gawaine Road.  Not in a crane - Dad.

On the other hand, here is an example of how Greta has matured to the point where her thinking already fascinates me. 

Weeks ago or maybe even months ago, Greta asked what it meant to be dead.  I pulled the classic stall tactic of answering the question with a question.  Why do you ask?  She said her friend’s daddy was in heaven and she was unsure what that meant.  Sizing up her brain with my fatherly x-ray vision, I was struggling with how to explain my spiritual beliefs and thoughts about morality while juxtaposed against my distrust of institutional religion.  After collaborating with THE WIFE, we settled on an explanation about how all of us leave this world one day and we believe they continue to exist in some way where they can watch over the people they love.  (Not exactly my theory but acceptable enough as a translation for the now.)  THE WIFE and Greta then started talking about angels with wings and I can’t help but think Greta was imagining some kind of metamorphosis upon death into a Tinker Bell fairy.  Greta then asked if our old cat Wally was in heaven and the conversation steered into whether we’ll ever get another pet.

A night or two later, Greta was crying in bed so I went in to check on her.  She explained how she was sad because she didn’t know how an angel could wear clothes with wings on their back.  I said something lame about how you get special shirts or something with holes in them, which made Greta feel worse because she wanted to know who cut the holes and then her concern transitioned into a downward spiral about her celestial wardrobe.  Long story short, I was amazed about how my little girl was suddenly capable of considering the very deep concept – if not the deepest – of life and death.  And she was thinking about it independently without provocation long after our initial discussion. 

This isn’t a “my kid is better than your kid” kind of statement because I’m sure most parents out there have encountered similar scenarios with their children.  This is just one of the reasons why I continue to love my daughter with all my heart.  Her manner of thinking and her thoughtfulness are already blowing me away.

Over the last five years, Greta has morphed from a shy and almost bashful personality into a more mature, outgoing, and confident individual.  She seems to have this amazingly inner happiness where she is able to find joy in the simplest of pleasures.  I love sitting at a table with her as she colors a picture and I can hear her humming happy hums.  I am so proud when I see Greta interact with other kids without holding back so much anymore, laughing and playing and pretending.  Just being a kid.  She is honest to the point where she confesses to transgressions before we even discovered the crime.  Best of all, she is kind, thoughtful, and sweet.

And now comes kindergarten.  On one hand, I am so excited for her.  She loves to learn.  She needs to be stimulated by her peers and out of our house, away from the chaos of her younger siblings and the distractions of television or iPads.  She yearns for art and recess and friends and music and reading.  Greta is so ready to take the leap to the next level. 

On the other hand, I am so scared that this is when I begin to lose her.  I’m so reluctant to accept that her development is officially traveling to a destination far away from me where my influence will gradually diminish into hardly anything at all.  I’m scared to death of the negative forces and peer pressure that she will obviously encounter in life, but hopeful that she is already savvy enough to make the right decisions.  I suppose this reality is precisely what every parent must endure when the school process begins because we can’t be there for our kids all of the time.  Still, the realization of this inevitability I’m experiencing as a dad is daunting because it is suddenly here and now.
For now, I’ll relish that Greta still cuddles with me on the couch and tells me she loves me.  Yep, I’m gonna be a sobbing mess on her wedding day.

G-man.  What can I say that you probably don’t already know about my little man already?  No doubt, Gus is a people person.  This kid has an unquestionably positive influence on almost anyone who crosses paths with him.  It’s kinda crazy.  You can see it in the eyes of those who truly know him.  He just has an uncanny way of reeling people into his energy.

Adults from any of our circles call Gus by name.  They may not know anyone else’s name in the family but they definitely know his.  Even some strangers go out of their way to say hello if he and I are out and about at a store or something. 

Since Gus began attending Parkview (Manch peeps, I call this place Parkside all the time) last year, I noticed how there are random little kids who nonchalantly say “Hey Gus” as we’re walking by at the ice cream joint or the playground or the tee ball field.  Some of them even come up and high five or hug.  It warms my heart because it makes me feel a little more secure that a growing alliance of “safe” peers are out there who might look out for him in the future when we’re not around to watch. 
Still, I remind you, Gus is not without a devilish side.  Many a time, Greta or Tilly come running out of a room crying after some kind of altercation with their brother.  And his new go-to saying that utters after he’s convinced to do something that he was previously resisting is this “Okay, fiiiine” saying that makes me laugh even though he’s kinda being a little punk.  Even better, he’s started asking “Why?” after any of my commands.  As soon as I answer, he just says “Why?” again.  It drives me nuts.  Moral of the story, don’t let him off the hook because of the charm and cute grin.

As for the barometer of where Gus is at developmentally, my assessment changes daily.  I’ve been buggin out lately when it comes to dressing and undressing.  At two and a half years old, Tilly will disappear for a few minutes at any given time in the day, then re-emerge from her bedroom dressed in some outrageous combination of snow pants and a tank top, or a cocktail dress at six in the morning, or nude for dinner, etc.  Meanwhile, at four years old, Gus still struggles to get a shirt over his head by himself. 

Situations like that make me feel like I’m doing a disservice to Gus.  Am I working hard enough to challenge him?  Am I perpetuating a delay because I’m choosing to do something for him that he should be doing himself?  Even though it’s faster and easier to just throw the pajamas on after a bath, I have to remind myself – wait.  Try to make Gus put those pants on.  Don’t let him coast by putting on the clothes for him.  Take the extra five minutes and work with him to practice.  It sounds easy on paper, but when I’m just dying to get the kids to bed so I can finally clean up from dinner and eventually sit down to chill out, the path of least resistance is to just jam Gus into his PJ’s and move on.   

Meanwhile, it seems like every time I suspect an area of Gus’ skill set has plateaued or stalled, a situation arises the next day when he contradicts my concern and reassures me that everything is headed in the right direction.  Something as simple as announcing that he has to poop makes me smile and run to the bathroom with him.  After dinner the other night, the girls were dancing and singing as our live entertainment for the evening.  Kitchen utensils were microphones.  Forward rolls and spontaneous ballet kicks were aplenty.  Next thing you know, Gus goes running up there for his own turn to sing.  He immediately demanded that we clap at the end of the performance, then marched triumphantly back to his seat.  Granted he smashed Tilly on the head with a wooden spoon on his way back from the stage, but it wasn’t on purpose.  Of course, if it was on purpose that would just be typical brotherly love anyway.

I can’t brag about this kid enough.  He warms my heart and makes me proud.  What else can you ask for?

The Tills.  One may have friends and enemies.  Or besties and frenemies.  Or a nemesis.  Tilly is my bestfrenemesis. 

Tilly is kinda like a chocolate covered pretzel.  Or a pickle with ice cream.  Or cornbread and hot wings.  Equal parts sweet and salty.  My yin and yang. 

When I get home from work, Tilly goes into a full sprint and barrels into me.  If I don’t position myself defensively, her head is a missile into my (snipped) nuts.

At dinner, Tilly is likely to ask “How is ya day Daddy?” in her ever expanding Mass. accent.  I’ll rattle off anything that might be interesting to her and the kids.  Maybe, “I saw the key-tar Bear today.”  Or “Uncle Tom and I had a coffee.”  Distracted, I’ll miss that Tilly is stealing the first sip out of my drink leaving some floaties behind as the cup goes back on the table.  If I do catch her in the act, I might stop and look at her sideways like “Yo dude, what’s up with that?”  But she just continues with her follow-up questions while jamming pink finger tips into my salad to steal some feta cheese or a mushroom.  She’s a thief that smiles while she’s stealing from you.

The fiery temper, however, is still within a lightning fast reach.  Our wake up call every morning typically arises with Tilly hammering away at her locked bedroom door (yes, I installed the knob back into the door but backwards so we can lock her in) demanding that she be released.  If I’m careless when getting the kids into the car, she almost always goes for anyone’s seat other than her own.  When I try to cajole her into her car seat, the back arching and protesting ensues until she’s finally wrestled into her straight jacket – I mean, the belts of her seat.  Let your guard down in the kitchen and I guarantee you’ll find her in the pantry like a raccoon in a garbage can aggressively trying to tear open some prepackaged food product intended for a lunch box. 

But just when my buttons have been pushed and my RPMs are approaching the red zone, Tilly will disarm me with one of her go-to comments: “Are you happy Daddy?”  The question always make me check myself and take a breather.  She can see it in my face that I’m struggling to maintain composure.  She is so damn good at reading body language or the temperature of a room, it makes me wonder if she’ll be some kind of undercover cop or a diplomat or a teacher.

With every passing week, I feel my bond strengthening incrementally more with Tilly.  She can drive me absolutely insane in one second yet in the next moment, she has won me over with a kiss or a bear hug.  I just get her better now.  I wouldn’t want her any other way. 

~~~~

So that’s where it’s at over here in our neck of the woods.  To be continued, to say the least.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Junk In The Trunk

No, this is not a post about J-Lo’s derriere, Lady  Gaga’s bucket, or Nicki Minaj’s posterior.  (Although put a headband on them and game over.)

In British parlance, I’m talking about the boot.  For Porsches, it’s located in the hood.  Speaking plainly, for those of us not driving 911s or living in the U.K., I’m referring to your good old trunk of a car. 

The cars that my parents owned during childhood were aplenty.  And most of them seemed to require an inordinate amount of maintenance.

The earliest lemon we owned that I can recall was a silver AMC wagon with wood paneling.  I’m not sure if this car ever started.  I just remember it sitting in the carport a lot and my parents stifling curse words within earshot of me and my brother. 

As Asian imports began to gain in popularity following the gas shortage crisis triggered by OPEC and oversized American cars, my family chose a sky blue (or maybe it was grey?) Datsun over a Honda.  Bad mistake.  My dad used to place a light with a hook in the engine to keep it warm during cold Granite State winter nights.  It made a lot of sense to me back then: the light was hot, it was cold outside, so naturally the engine should turn over when my dad tried to start it the next day.  It makes a lot more sense to me now because my dad did a lot of weird things like that in retrospect.  In any event, the Datsun also seemed to spend a lot of time in the carport. 

Next up, we transitioned to a Volkswagen Beetle.  It was yellow.  And it had a really cool sticker of a bass fish on the back.  I think it had a stick.  And of course, the trunk was in the front.  I don’t recall that car sticking around for very long, though, either.

Finally, my parents returned to the home country’s vehicles with a long string of American vehicles.  Mostly GM products. 

The forest green Impala had a long tenure at 2 Bert Street.  I remember lots of trips to and from New York.  A highlight was anytime we passed the Polar Bear billboard in Worcester.  I also remember lots of uncomfortably hot naps with my face leaning into the hard plastic of my sister’s car seat.  Now that car had a sizable trunk.  No Thule racks for my original family of five.  The trunk fit everything and the kitchen sink.  We even threw a canoe on top when a fishing expedition ensued occasionally. 

Sometime thereafter, we had a battleship grey Chevy Celebrity station wagon.  Before getting my license, I used to sit in the far back seat facing traffic traveling behind us.  Even with the seat there, our bags would be stacked Tetris-style around me as I stared out the rear hatchback.  Once 16 arrived, I got pulled over for doing neutral drops at red lights on Maple Street in Manchester with that ride.

Somewhere along the way, Chevy models came and went: Lumina, Corsica, Malibu, and Caprice Classic.  My dad really upgraded when he scored an Olds 88 with a sun roof and leather seats. 

The one constant throughout all of the rides used by my dad?  A ton of miscellaneous items stored at all times in the trunk.  Sporting equipment of all types but definitely balls from most any sport, a stickball bat, a Frisbee, and a racquetball racquet.  Jumper cables.  First aid kit.  Fishing gear.  A bottle of wine.  Tools.  Work files and folders.  A winter coat.  Extra sneakers.  WD-40 and quarts of oil.  A spare tire that probably would not have fit on the car in question.  A box of recyclables for the next trip to the town dump.  Soft cover books on philosophy or haikus and hardcover treatises on workers compensation law.  “You gotta have backup,” is one of the many mantras my patriarch is known to announce. 

None of this would surprise anyone who knows my father.  He is the same man whose only luggage checked on the plane during our most recent pilgrimage to Key West was a makeshift portable cornhole board folded in half, which contained assorted tools and plastic bags of screws and bolts so he could complete assembly once we arrived at our condo.

Before I go too far with the razzing, however, I am reminded of the old saying about glass houses and throwing stones.  To my amazement and dismay, the trunk of my own current Malibu (not the baby blue 78 Chevelle I drove to college) has evolved into a 2014 version of my youth.  Multiple frisbees?  Check.  Racquetball racquet?  Check.  Jumper cables?  Check.  You get the picture.  The only major differences appear to be my golf bag (Grizz isn’t a fan of the sport) and my cold weather sleeping bag.  (Hey, you never know when that could come in handy.)

Well, at least in this isolated sample of quirky automotive antics, I suppose we have a clear example of like father, like son.  A chip off the old block.  Following in the footsteps. 

Maybe some day, my little Gus man will be giving me shit for all the junk in my trunk.  That will make me smile. 

Dad, if you’re reading this, I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day in 2014.  I am not embarrassed to follow your example.  (I've even started wearing dark socks with shorts and sneakers.)  I love you. 

Now, if you could only teach me how to hit that hook shot while holding a glass of wine, smoking a cigar, while wearing a v-neck sweater and loafers…

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I Can't

THE WIFE has a tendency to say “I can’t” when someone gives her a good laugh.  The joke has to be on the better side to trigger the catchphrase.  Actually, when she says it, THE WIFE tends to repeat the words a few times while nodding her head side to side as the intonation of her voice ascends in pitch.  The funnier the joke, the more she says it.  Allow me to illustrate.

During any given telephone conversation with (former guest blogger) Kristen Frazier, for example, THE WIFE will pause whatever we’re watching when the call comes in.  As I’m staring at a frozen screen of Don Draper scowling or Walter White grimacing, I’ll overhear the following:

WIFE:                    Hi!

KRISTEN:              [Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice on the other end.]

WIFE:                    “I can’t.”  Ha ha ha.  (indicating no with her hear)  “I can’t.”  Ha ha ha. 

KRISTEN:              [More of Charlie Brown’s teacher.]

WIFE:                    “No!  No!”  Ah ah ah.  “I can’t!  I can’t!”  (her voice getting higher)  Ah ah ah.

And so on.

Anyway, neither Greta nor Gus have ever mimicked the phrase.  But Tilly, on the other hand, has taken it to a new dimension.

Tilly doesn’t say “I can’t” as a means to catch her breath and laugh at a funny.  She just says it matter-of-factly in a cute little high pitched voice.    

ME:                        TILLY, get back over here and give me back my sawzall right now.

TILLY:                     (her voice trailing as she jogs hurriedly away) I can’t.

<<>> 

Tilly’s addition to my clan of offspring definitely pushed our daily state of chaos from manageable into barely within our control/totally unpredictable.  (I was basically jogging into the urologist’s office on the day of my vasectomy.)  Part of the dynamic change was due simply to the numbers and going from man to zone coverage.  However, part of the challenge was because Tilly’s personality is so much more fiery than her siblings.  I’ve probably complained about this in multiple ways since she arrived 2+ years ago. 

In all fairness to Tills, however, I have become completely smitten with her over the last few months.  Citing to the “I can’t” example is just the tip of her iceberg.  The bigger picture is that she is such a funny and adorable kid.  I don’t know where to start so I’ll just fire off some of the endearing little tendencies she has, which make me want to kiss and hug her.

First of all, she is the only one of my kids with a Mass accent.  It’s wicked hard core (read: hahd coah.)  There is probably no coincidence that Tilly’s sitter, Sam, has one of the strongest Bay State accents I’ve ever encountered.  So when Tilly pronounces words, you have to picture an “ah” for words that contain an “er” or “ar.”  (Interestingly, Tilly does not substitute “er” for words that end in “a,” as discussed in detail during the infamous “Idears On An Accent” post a few years ago.  

Irregahdless, Tilly says “Nana” or “Greta” as English intends, rather than “Nan-ner” or “Gret-er” as many folks from Revere (read: Re-veah) or Quincy (read: Kwin-zee) might say.  We could go on forevah on Mass accents, but I digress.

Tilly is a bit of a paradox.  On one hand, she can be fearless.  I find her standing on kitchen countertops or tables fairly often.  She terrorizes Greta and Gus with her brute strength and bear hugs.  She is happy to make a run for it outside if THE WIFE or I leave the front door unlocked.  She couchdives when left unsupervised.

On the other hand, Tilly is still my baby child.  Another go-to phrase of hers is “I scared” (read: ska-yid).  During any Disney movie, Tilly will jump off the couch and bury herself into my lap and arms when the scary part  occurs.  Big dogs and loud noises also trigger the “I scared” declaration.

I have a freckle on one of my lips that Tilly pointed to and asked “What’s that?”  I told her it’s a freckle.  Every few days when it catches her eye, Tilly points to my face and says “Daddy’s freckle, I scared.” 

My little lady is also very affectionate.  She often puts her hands on my cheeks and kisses me (while dodging the freckle of course) without any notice.  When I get home from work, the biggest reception is almost always from Tilly.  She comes barreling in for a giant hug and a squeeze.  Then she holds my hand and drags me around the house to discuss anything noteworthy from the day.  “Look Daddy, Frozen!”  Or, “Gussy pinched me!”  Or, “I fed the ducks with Sam today!”

When she wants to be held, Tilly doesn’t say “Hold me.”  She says “I hold you.”  It kills me.  I love it.

And so on.

Everyone knows the youngest child always gets shafted in many ways.  They have the fewest baby pictures.  They wear all the hand-me-downs from older siblings.  They have to share their toys when the oldest had free reign at the same age. 

By extension, my blogs have probably shafted Tilly as well.  I write many fewer posts first of all.  When I finally get around to doing one, they rarely focus solely on my baby child.  She was due for some air time.  (Tills, when you read this as a teenager who can’t stand me, just know I am sorry for the delay.)

As I conclude my effort to count all the reasons why I love you Matilda, Tilly, the Tills, Matildees – well, I simply find that “I can’t.”  There isn’t enough space to write. 

I love you, honey.  You will always be my little baby.  Now don’t be scared of the freckle and give me a kiss!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Letting Go by Sevainen Terdannis

Nothing like dropping a pop culture reference five weeks after its occurrence, but here goes anyway.

I experience vicarious public speaking anxiety whenever I watch awards shows for some reason.  Can’t explain it.  Maybe I pretend that I’m the person who is giving the speech and I don’t want him/her to mess up.  Thank God I wasn’t watching the Oscars when John Travolta committed his now infamous gaffe when introducing Idina Menzel as Adele Dazeem.  Oh how I cringe so painfully any time I see footage of that video.  My stomach grows a pit every time.  In any event, this post’s by-line was an homage to Vinny Babarino and a nice segue to the meat and potatoes of today’s discussion.

For those without children or grandchildren under nine years old, Frozen is Disney’s latest epic fairy tale animated feature that recently eclipsed $1 billion in gross ticket sales worldwide.  The big song from the movie is “Let it Go” as performed by Menzel, which won an academy award for best song.  Menzel is the voice of Elsa who is one of the protagonists in the story.  The co-lead character is Elsa’s sister, Ana, who is played by Kristen Bell.

The movie is pretty cute.  And the soundtrack’s music is catchy to the point of flu contagious.  In fact, my family cannot escape listening to the album anytime we enter the kitchen.  All three of my kids are obsessed.  And THE WIFE is just as bad as the little ones.  I can’t explain it.  No children’s film has captured  our family’s attention in such an all consuming fashion.

To make things worse, I’ve been singing the fucking songs in my head while I type up reports at work.  I find myself humming the crescendo of “Let it Go” just before Menzel belts out the climactic portion of the chorus, followed by my walking out of the copy machine room re-enacting Elsa’s movements firing clouds of ice crystals to construct her snow castle.  It’s pathetic.  My only hope is reducing my inspiration to a post that may help to exorcise the demons of Frozen from my subconscious. 

Song 1: “Frozen Heart”

For the record, this winter sucked.  Lots of snow.  Lots of cold.  It ended unofficially, I think, about three days ago when the thermometer finally went into the forties.  I realize that complaining about the weather is about as entertaining and uplifting as watching a national Fox News broadcast , but the observation merited a discussion nonetheless.

Being cooped up indoors with the three kids was a challenge to say the least.  The nadir of my winter occurred during a puke bug attack about two months ago.  I caught some of Gus’ vomit in my mouth during a futile effort to carry him mid-blast during a sprint to a toilet.  Let’s just say that playing outside has an upside in many ways, not the least of which is fewer colds and illnesses for all of us. 

Song 2: “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”

Listening to Tilly re-enact the lines from this scene in the movie is priceless.  She starts off the song, Gus takes her cue and joins in, then Greta takes over and re-creates the choreography.  Once THE WIFE chimes in, all three generally complain and beg her to stop.  Great stuff.

Songs 3 and 8: “For the First Time in Forever” and the reprise

Here is a perfect example of my biggest gripe with fairy tale movies.  Why is it that every parent with a child who has some type of stigma (super long hair, turns into an ogre at sunset, turns into a peasant at midnight, shoots ice out of hands when upset) locks up their kid in an isolated castle or tower?  Kind of an extreme solution, don’t you think?  Why don’t these parents just address the “embarrassing” issue with an open dialogue among their family or friends?  I mean most of these parents are the rulers of their kingdom, so they could just execute or imprison anyone who makes fun of their kid because of their particular abnormality if push came to shove.

In Frozen, the king and queen (surprise, surprise) shutter their entire castle and lock up their eldest daughter indefinitely because Elsa accidentally shot her sister Ana with a snow beam while they were horsing around an ad hoc living room ice skating rink.  Fortunately, a friendly tribal elder of trolls cures Ana’s injury.  However, he has to erase Ana’s memory so the little sister doesn’t goad the older one into creating a zamboni that goes haywire and injures Ana again. 

As a result, Ana grows up with a complex that she has no friends or social life with no one providing an explanation why the castle is locked off from any outsiders.  So when Ana and Elsa host a party after years of isolation, Ana feels happy “for the first time in forever” even though she’s had a silver spoon in her mouth her entire life.  Ana occupies the highest rung of her kingdom’s upper class, yet she still needs more.  Talk about an entitlement complex.      

Song 4: “Love is an Open Door”

I swear I’ll move on from the spoiled brat theme, but Ana’s line about her whole life having involved “doors in her face” is a joke.  You’re a princess, God damn it.  Get over yourself.  Imagine how the chamber maid feels. 

Anyway, Kristen Bell deserves kudos for her singing prowess.  I was totally impressed by Veronica Mars’ pipes in this flick.  She really surprised me.  And if Bell could do a nude scene in House of Lies some day, I think I speak for every warm blooded straight dude that Christmas will have arrived early.  Sorry, but it needed to be said.

Song 6: “Reindeers Are Better Than People”

Perhaps, Hans, you are correct that reindeers are better than people.  However, Sven should’ve been a Siberian husky in my opinion.  Just saying.  On second thought, though, “Husky’s Are Better Than People” doesn’t quite have as good of a ring to it.  Moving on.

Song 7: “In Summer”

Olaf is the comedy relief character in the film.  I thought he was voiced by Jonah Hill but the actor is actually Josh Gad who nailed the character.  (Re-reading that last line made me realize how much of a tool I sound like, but I’ve gone this far so why turn back?)

The instrumental accompaniment in this jingle is exactly what I imagine a traditional musical’s “funny song” to be.  And I generally detest musicals, especially those that have jazz hands dance numbers involved.  But the lyrics are clever and entertaining enough to win me over.  Josh Gad’s big finish at the end is a perfect exclamation point.  Well done, Josh Gad.  Well done.

Song 9: “Fixer Upper”

The damage inflicted upon our house is well documented.  I’ve threatened to start deducting from college funds, but the kids haven’t budged.  Paint is peeling from walls.  Wood floors are dinged on the daily.  I take toys with wheels that crash and gouge into moldings  and huck them out the front door like Olympians throw hammers and shot puts.  But how many people can actually say they have ducks falling in through their roofs?  I mean seriously.

Songs 5 and 10: “Let it Go”

For the last two years, I’ve basically walked around at various times in a hazy stupor of sleep deprivation, grumpiness, seasonal affective disorder, unpredictable extreme highs and lows, temporary insanity, and/or frustration.  I repeat myself at least four or five times telling somebody not to (fill in the blank) pinch their sister, get out of the pantry, take off their pants, etc. until my voice escalates into a yell and expletives under my breath.  I hate myself about five minutes later.

Somehow, THE WIFE has stuck with me through it all as a spouse and a co-parent.  And the kids’ love and affection for me persists even after moments when I don’t deserve it.

Driving home from work the other day, I think I had an epiphany.  I need to grow up.  I need to be stronger.  I need to be less selfish. 

One of the (many) things that other parents didn’t tell me before I got into this whole having kids business is that the experience forces you to confront your selfishness.  The compromises a parent must make on a regular basis aren’t simply just sleeping less, suffering through an excruciating tantrum, or taking 45 minutes to put shoes on three kids’ feet.  It’s much deeper than that.

I’ve stated many times half-jokingly and half not, that I’m an 18 year-old stuck in a 38 year-old body.  The mantra was well intended as a reminder to be young at heart.  Be playful.  Stay fun.  Don’t age too fast.  The philosophy can be a blessing in some ways, but equally a curse as well. 

I’m quick to criticize THE WIFE when she dwells on something and refuses to move forward.  But I realize how hypocritical that is of me to gripe.

I’m not 18.  I’m not single.  I’m not an unemployed college student who can live off of loans and a monthly stipend from my parents.  I can’t just sleep in tomorrow, jet off to Europe for the weekend, jack up the credit card, and come back home whenever I feel like it.

I am 38.  I am married.  I am a father.  I have a job and a mortgage and responsibilities.  By the way, I asked for all of this.  And you know what?  It’s a pretty freaking good life.  Even with all of its challenges.  So I need to deal with it already!   

I don’t know why it’s taken so long for all of this to set in.  But I think, and I hope, that I am ready to move on.  In other words, Elsa, I’m going to let it go.  Let it go.  Let it go.  Here I stand.  And here I’ll stay.  Let the storm of ducks falling in through my roof rage on.  I’m never going back to 18 years old.  The past is in the past.  In the light of –

Alright enough already.  Can someone please get that damn song out of my head!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Tight White Tees and Ts

In the morning before heading out of the house, my dad usually conducted a ritual of interrogations before giving us clearance to join our schoolmates at the bus stop.  The daily questions included, “Did you drink your juice?”, “Did you clean your ears?”, “Did you have a proper breakfast?”, and “Did you brush your teeth?”  Aside from the probably less common ear hole hygiene inquiry, there was one other question my dad posed during the cold weather months that was a bit quirkier:  “Did you put on an undershirt?” 

Hold that thought from the 1980’s and time travel with me to 2014.

Many mornings, I zombie shuffle into the gym before work in the still dark hours.  At least once monthly, I forget to pack a critical toiletry or item of clothing for the gym bag.  Many a time I’ve either bummed shaving cream from whomever is standing next to me at the sink, gone commando because of forgotten undies, went beltless, or pulled a Nantucket wannabe going sockless in my dress shoes.  It’s always something.

Recently, I was in the locker room after a shower.  When I went to extract my clothes for the day, sure enough, I forgot the tight white tee.  While the threat of a sweat pit soaking through the button down is a terror watch color of red from May to September, we were in the midst of an arctic freeze.  Seeing as we were smack dab in February, the risk of a pit stain was low to very low.  So, off I went without any concern that I’d have to alligator arm that day.

Twenty minutes later, as I crossed Federal Street towards my usual breakfast haunt, I suddenly became very self-conscious.  I wasn’t worried about the turkeys being done with or without my parka pulled tight around me.  No.  What was it?  I felt, well, braless without my tight white tee.  That comforting layer of support around my upper torso and man boobs was conspicuously vacant.  And the absence of cloth didn’t feel good in a free balling kind of way.  It felt more like I was walking around with a broken fly, yet there was nothing I could do about it.

(Brief tangent: speaking of breast support, do women not named Autumn or Zephyr EVER forget to wear a bra to work, or does that warrant an immediate trip to the department store with the winter coat zipped up all the way?  Or is this kind of oversight only more likely to occur with an A or B cupper?  Or is cup size irrelevant in such a scenario?  Would any woman ever even forget a bra under any circumstance before heading to work?  I digress.)

During the remainder of my workday, I reflected on tight white tees while kicking myself for not packing one the night before. 

~~~~


Although I only occasionally dabble in the so-called “wife beater” – a terrible term I know but tank top fails to conjure the image immediately – they were more fun to wear when I was 20 and taking supplements.  I also can’t shake the thought of a permanent mustard stain.  In any event, I rock a regular old crew neck about 99% of the time. 


 As for the classic V-neck, I’m unaware of anyone within 20 years of my age who ever wore one on a consistent basis other than my old buddy Roshaun.   (He wore a vee with glee because of that undershirt’s oddball status.)  Hell, I don’t recall seeing anyone younger than 60 wear one since.



When it comes to Gusto, we follow a pretty standard “like father, like son” scenario.  My post-work uniform typically consists of a tight white tee and shorts or jeans after I’ve stripped off the work monkey suit.  So when I’m helping Gus into his PJs after bath, the first article of clothing that goes on after the pull-up is a 2T/3T crew neck.  The smaller, the better because of the support.  Once I wrestle the neck hole over his head, and guide his hands through the arm holes, we high five each other with a “Tight white tee!” celebration. 

Gigi also likes to point out when she’s sporting a tank top with frilly shoulder straps as her own version of the tight white tee.  As for the Tills, she’s typically donning a onesie over her diaper, which may or may not be prominently stained with cranberry juice that leaked through her overlaying top.   

Where the hell am I going with this?  Nowhere really, but any time I’ve nixed the idea of blogging about the undershirt, Gus or Greta will randomly come along and flash me to expose their tight white tee underneath.  It had to be done.  So to all you wife beater, vee neck, crew neck, tank top, or other undershirt wearing peeps, we Ts salute you on your tight white tees.  Stay warm out there.