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.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Taking the T Family Temperature

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The post originally began drafting last weekend during the “Arctic Freeze.”]

At bed time last night, the cell phone thermometer read negative 8 degrees (Fahrenheit, so as not to confuse our international readers) with a forecasted low of negative 15 around 5:00 a.m.  By far, a record low for us since moving to Easton.  The historic low temp – at least since we’ve inhabited Casa de Teravainen – inspired me to record a new entry in the annals of the family blog.

I don’t specifically recall when I became aware of the term “trending.”  The web site, urbandictionary.com, explains that trending is a “mutilation of the English language that means ‘currently popular.’  It derives from a sad misunderstanding of the verb ‘to trend’ as meaning ‘to become a trend.’”  (Tell me that passage wasn’t written by a real life version of the dean character in “Scent of a Woman”?)  The articulate belly aching continues by blaming Twitter and pop culture for the root of all dumbness in modern day society. 

For better or worse, trending has gained traction in the modern day parlance of our digital media readers and writers.  The term also serves as a co-inspiration for today’s posting, along with the feezing temperature outside our windows.  Here goes nothing.

Temperature/Trend Level: Randy’s and Michelle’s Wasabi on NYE (Translation: A Forest Fire in Your Mouth)

Tilly’s speech is suddenly off the charts.  Far and away, the best example is when she says “Yessssssssssssssttthhhh” with a slight lisp…  Sully and Mike.  Either of the Monsters’ movies has to be the kids’ consensus favorite…  Pop Tarts.  No clue where that came from.  They sat for weeks in a box untouched in the pantry and suddenly they’re like Downton Abbey circa halfway through Season 2…  Tilly’s constant relocation of chairs for use as a ladder to wreak havoc on anything previously safe on a surface over three feet tall…  Gus’ plumber crack/pencil holder sightings are off the charts.  Granted, the five of us collectively probably show waxing/waning moons on a daily basis, but he really needs longer pants… 

Temperature/Trend Level: Siracha/Cholula/Our Fourth Child

Greta’s guitar playing, singing, and hip shaking performances after dinner.  Anyone outside of our party of five probably has a better chance of seeing a Sasquatch than seeing Greta sing live but all the more reason that the phenomenon be recorded in our history books.  Granted we’re not talking about a successor to Hannah Montana, but the songs about unicorns, rainbows, lady bugs, and butterflies might even make someone with a bitchy resting face smile…   Gus’ random utterance of “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas” still pops up even though we’re almost half-way through January.  It kills me every time I hear him…  Tilly’s transition from high pony to real pony…  Adult foot injuries from stepping blindly on Barbie accessories in the living room…

Temperature/Trend Level: Medium Rare Plus

Pee-pee and poo-poo on the potty for Gus.  He’s totally fine with going on the bowl.  We are asking him more often than he approaches us to announce that nature calls, but still, it’s an improvement…  Tilly’s transition from crib to big girl bed started off rocky, but it’s dramatically improved since we installed a lock and removed her door knob.  This topic could be in the Cholula club, but I don’t want to speak too soon…  Typical, topless cups are making a resurgence in the market share of our household’s drink containers.  Although Gus and Tilly drink most commonly from Nalgene cups, they at least try to copy Greta at dinner.  When they are all drinking from topless cups, my bonfire of covered cups will be glorious…  Speaking of beverages…


Temperature/Trend Level: Switzerland/Goldilocks’ Porridge Preference/Hot Cold Parkers

The average night’s sleep (for me at least) is probably between 6.3 and 6.7 these days.  However, I must disclose that THE WIFE gave me the only gift I wanted for Christmas (not what you’re thinking,) intercepting all kids before they could blitzkrieg our room, and let me sleep late once last weekend and this weekend.  It felt glorious to wake up at 8:30.  For reals.  That might be my go-to request gift on any occasion from now until 2022…  Sign language has really fallen by the wayside.  Although we all sign “I love you” as much as we say it, we probably only continue to use a handful of signs because Gus’ speech has been coming along.  Granted, it may be difficult for others to understand him as well as THE WIFE and I do, but we’ll take it….

Temperature/Trend Level: Last Saturday and Sunday morning/The North and South Poles pre-global warming

Cribs, booster seats, and sleep sacks are now officially endangered species in this house.  I fired up my Sawzall for the first time (Father’s Day or last year’s birthday gift) and tore through the crib Tilly was using before she upgraded to the toddler bed.  The crib was held together with zip ties and c-clamps, but it still felt good to saw into smaller pieces...  As for the booster seats, I really miss the seat belt feature because it kept the little ones locked into their spots at meals.  Toward the end, they were just unbuckling themselves so it became a moot point.  Now they just get up and walk around at will so much when we eat, it feels like I’m back at the Central High cafeteria during Mod F...  Red blends not named Decoy or the 90+ Cellars Shiraz Viognier combo just don’t do it for me anymore...  My outdoor Christmas light display this year was somewhere between pre-school art project and Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  It was a sad, sad sight.  Next year, I promise to channel my inner Clark Griswold. 


So there you have it.  I’d say my New Years Resolution will be to blog more frequently, but I never make it with resolutions past February.  Still, Happy New Year to THE READERS!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dasvidaniya Vasa Deferentia

Well, it’s official.  My sperm bank has closed for business.  Forever.  Seems like just yesterday that the blog's arrival in cyberspace had its premise based on a discussion of my swimmers: http://www.waitingforbabyt.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html

That’s right, my vasectomy completed about an hour ago.  Henceforth, the little guys will be swimming in a pool that no longer has any exit chute.  Apparently, they’ll snorkel around in circles going forward until becoming reabsorbed into the filtration system.  Visions of a garden hose flailing aimlessly in my scrotum keep playing like a projection reel in my head.

Sitting here on my bed with an ice back over my tender cajones, I have absolutely no regrets.  My party of five just feels right.  I have no inkling or desire to expand our family’s population.  I know better than to say never, but my trifecta of children suits me just fine.

After the kids were in bed last night, THE WIFE said, “You’ll never guess what Greta said to me today.”  “What?” I asked.  She said, “I want to have another brother.”  THE WIFE asked, “Why?”  Greta apparently said something like, “There are two girls with me and Tilly, so there should be another boy with Gus to make it equal.”  I laughed probably too quickly and loudly because I detected a look in THE WIFE right away.

“Don’t tell me you want one more,” I questioned with my eyebrows raised.  THE WIFE kinda shrugged and said she wouldn’t rule it out.  My eyes bulged as my brain branded THE WIFE temporarily insane. 

Meanwhile, my own level of sanity is the closest to normal that I’ve experienced in the last two years since Tilly was born.  THE WIFE and I are in a really good place.  The kids and I are in a really good place.  I feel like we are finally ready to rejoin society as a semi-functional unit.  Hell, I might even consider going to a restaurant with the whole family.  (Probably a Panera or Papa Gino’s only, but still…) 

I actually experience relief and joy when I walk in the door to my house after work now.  A few months ago, I’m ashamed to admit that dread predominated most of my commutes home.  Back then, it seemed like every entrance into the house was greeted by some fit or fits of hysteria before I could even take off my shoes.  Today, I might encounter someone mid-meltdown but my psyche has adapted so it’s no big deal if that’s the case.   

What has changed?  What’s been the biggest difference?  Honestly, I don’t really know and I don’t really care.  If I had to guess, it’s a combination of things.  Every day, the kids creep forward incrementally towards being that much more independent.  Every day, I creep forward incrementally towards being a little less selfish and a little more of a real man.  Communication between THE WIFE and I seems to improve and strengthen with every day. 

Would it be the end of the world if we ended up having another baby?  Well, for one – I would definitely need a permanent second job.  Seriously.  (Please tell anyone considering law school to go into the military instead.)  Two, THE WIFE and I aren’t spring chickens anymore – forty, gulp, is just around the corner.  I discovered my first gray hairs last week.  Three, THE WIFE has had three c-sections and I’m not sure how safe it is to have one more.  Four, we are only four years away from not having to pay for day care.  Five, I am going to toilet paper the front yard of my house the day when Gus and Tilly are out of diapers.  Six, we are only about ten years away from sleeping past 7 a.m. on a weekend.   I’ll spare you from the rant by concluding with this: I’m content.

Will Greta, Gus, and Tilly ever have one more sibling in the future?  Is it possible THE WIFE and I may find the urge to add one more personality to our organized chaos?  Of course.  We’ve always been open to the possibility of adoption.  But, for now, I love my family as is.  If the clock ain't broke, don't fix it.

Dasvidaniya vasa deferentia.  We had a good run.  You gave me three great kids.  Now, please heal soon so I can stack some logs and feed my fourth child.