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,, 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:

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.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

The “stall” in hacky-sack or soccer juggling parlance is a slick move as any late 80’s/early 90’s University of Vermont hippy worth his weight in patchouli and Phish bootlegs would tell you.  Basically one’s foot catches the ball/sack on its free fall in such a way that the foot moves downwards at exactly the same speed the ball/sack had been previously traveling.  Suddenly, foot and ball/sack pause together as if hovering, until the foot re-launches the ball/sack[1] upwards.  A power knee stall takes this move into an evern more impressive dimension, but I’m ready to move on.

When the bedtime hour arrives at our house, Greta has become a master of her own stall move.  As the eldest of her siblings, she has the right to be last to bed.  But still, she stretches those last few minutes into marathon sessions sometimes.  She’s crafted a routine that has become standard operating procedure.

First, we lay in bed together.  She wants to pretend that we were asleep, but we woke up because we had a bad dream and we have to tell each other what the bad dream was about.  I try to avoid zombie apocalypse scenarios – to ensure she will eventually fall asleep – and focus more on nightmares appropriate for a four year old.  My examples might involve something like an ice cream cone that topples over.  Or crashing on a bicycle.  Or a toilet that overflows a bathroom, creating a river pouring through the ceiling of our garage.  (Oh wait, that last one actually just happened in our house on Friday night.)   Greta will then share her bad dream, which oftentimes resembles my bad dream but with slightly different details.

To distract ourselves from the bad dreams, Greta calls for a moment of silence for us to reflect on happy thoughts.  After sufficient time has passed, she always makes me go first and divulge what my happy thoughts were.  On a good night, I try to come up with something new and unique.  On most nights, though, I fall back on the old reliables: unicorns, rainbows, butterflies, flowers, fairies, ice cream, playgrounds, etc.  Following my lead, Gigi’s turn will coincidentally involve purple, pink, and polka-dot versions of whatever we’ve just discussed.  It’s classic.

For the grand finale, we negotiate a song list.  If I’m grumpy or if she’s at her max, we pick one song and call it a night.  If we’re in a good place, I try to max the concert at three songs.  Most frequently, the trifecta involves “Do-Re-Mi,” the infamous “Cheerios” song we invented a couple of years ago, and “Show Me the Way to Go Home.”

Next come hugs and kisses, an exchange of “I love you”’s, activating the sound machine, and turning on the glow in the dark lady bug.  The door closes.

Every once in a while, as THE WIFE and I are cleaning the fallout from dinner and just dying to sit on the couch, we’ll hear whimpering from the corner bedroom.  Usually, the excuse is a forgotten stuffed animal.  Other times, she has to pee.  Or she’s thirsty.  Or she’s upset because I didn’t sing one of the songs she wanted.  The more tired she is, the more obscure the excuse.

We’ll see how long this current routine plays out.  I’m not sure how old Gigi will be when the routine becomes too juvenile.  Fortunately, if my oldest daughter is anything like her mom, then at least I know we will debate that it is time for bed when she falls asleep on the couch. 

Sweet dreams and happy thoughts.  I’m off to get some Zzzs. 

[1] Yes, I was grinning every time the opportunity to write “ball/sack” occurred. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe

Any John Grisham fan worth their weight is quite familiar with the concept of a billable hour.  I track every single task I perform at work in increments of six minutes.  One tenth of an hour.  Or what I like to call the “point one.” 

Lately, I’ve realized that my children (or at least Gus and Tilly) also kind of operate on a billable hour basis when it comes to stability of mood.  Every six minutes, the vibe around them ebbs and flows in an unpredictable direction.  During the span of a “point one,” any one of the kids can go from happy and fun to miserable and hysterical, or vice versa, or they may just maintain the course for another six minutes of whatever they were just doing. 

Tilly, by far, is the most volatile of the three regardless of the age differences.  Her temper is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  The closest comparison I can think of is the Bigfoot caricature in the beef jerky commercials.  In one moment, the Tills could be hugging and kissing you while grinning and playing.  But in the next moment, she will flail uncontrollably on the floor and contort her body like she has tetanus while screaming at a Spinal Tap 11 level if you snatch a knife/bleach/any aerosol containing a hazmat/loaded pistol/INSERT any inherently dangerous object out of her hands.  And yet, six minutes later, Tilly could easily be laughing at Elmo or Cookie Monster like they’re throwing back martinis together at Hooper’s Tavern. 

Gus is also a fickle character.  Most of his frustrations arise when Tilly is somehow involved.  But he is definitely not innocent in all of their transactions.  The two of them abuse each other pretty frequently in creative ways.  In fact, while enjoying lunch al fresco on our deck today, I went inside to get some more food for my gentle angels.  When I came out, Tilly was smashing her plastic plate over Gus’ head repeatedly as Greta sat by while casually sipping on a juice box.  Gus resorted to his trademark cry move where his shoulders come up, he furrows his brow, and his lower lip moves upward in a pout.  Usually, a good hug and cuddle sesh gets him back on track whereupon he’ll track down Tilly and exact his revenge.   

Greta’s billable hour rate is probably closer to half-hour increments as compared to Gus’ and Tilly’s point one.  She is also the easiest to coax out of a funk mostly just because we can actually have an interactive conversation with her to sort out whatever the crisis may be.  To her credit, Gigi mostly stays above the fray of her younger siblings.  But hell hath no fury like the scorn of a woman if someone dares take whatever toy lay before her.  In those instances when a snatch has occurred and Greta issues a report to the parental authorities, her interests are so plentiful that it’s pretty easy to distract her back into a better mood.  Barbies, princesses, Hello Kitty, Dora, Lala Loopsie, Care Bears, My Little Pony, ice cream, rainbows, unicorns, etc. are tops on the list.    So long as you can come up with some idea that incorporates one of the aforementioned topics, she’ll generally snap out of whatever bad mood she is experiencing. 

When all three of my trifecta are in a good, happy place, there is no place that I’d rather be.  Naturally, the equilateral triangle is the rarest of the possible combinations.  But when the phenomenon occurs, it’s as if you’re taking in a gorgeous sunset with a fantastic glass of wine, a view of Santorini’s caldera, and Enya is playing as the wind blows through your hair.  Or maybe you’re just able to look at Facebook in peace for two and a half minutes. 

As for an appropriate distraction strategy, the key seems to be keeping all of them entertained simultaneously without relying on the same activity to occupy their attentions.  Planting only a single toy in the middle of the trio is a textbook rookie mistake.  Tilly will simply sprint into the middle first and steal that shit with ease as she sprints away chuckling from the scene of the crime.

The better play is to have several of the same toy.  So, for example, if balloons are what you’re thinking, I recommend having at least ten.  That typically will buy you at least a .4 or maybe even a .6  stretch of straight giggles and no crying.  Of course, a fight will absolutely break out the second someone won’t give up the purple balloon, or the balloon with rainbows on it, but that problem can be avoided if you get ten of the exact same color/design. 

Well, this is my life now I suppose, however mundane it may sound.  The lesson is that the law firm of Greta, Gus, and Tilly are not to be approached with ease.  Fight the law and the law usually wins, as The Clash tells us.  But at least I know the mood will change after six minutes or so.    

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Baby Steps to Big Boy Steps

Here's Gus around the time he first started school at Early Invervention.

Gus was about a year old when he attended his first Early Intervention class outside of our home.  I was fortunate to have a flexible work schedule at that time on Mondays, which enabled me to be the one who accompanied him most frequently to school. 

After delivering our student to the classroom, I would sit in a tiny chair in the corner as far away from the action as I could get.  Gus would participate in activities under the watchful eye of a teacher designated to be his buddy for the morning.  He would start off enthusiastically in the new project before him, but inevitably he would realize that I wasn’t next to him anymore.  He’d stop what he was doing and suddenly scan the room in a slight panic to find me.  Making eye contact, I’d smile and wave back at him encouragingly hoping that he wouldn’t bug out.  Content that I had not abandoned him, Gus would return to the activity at hand.     

I think on paper, the teachers expected at least one or two classes before a new addition can be left alone by his or her parent.  During the first couple of classes, I would slip out the door at an opportune moment and sneak over to a room where I could look through the window to observe.  Once Gus realized that I was gone for real, though, he would start to cry as his teacher consoled him and attempted to steer his attention back to the activity.

The torture of watching my boy bawling would lead me back into the classroom where I’d comfort Gus and apologize for having deserted him.  The pattern repeated itself for many consecutive classes.  After a while, the teachers and Michelle staged an intervention to inform me that the person having the most difficulty with letting go was actually just me.  After accepting that I was the obstacle to Gus’ independence, I bit the bullet and finally stayed behind the glass window.  Not long thereafter, Gus survived and so did I.

Up to that point in his Early Intervention, all of Gus’ therapists came to our home where Michelle was able to be our eyes and ears about 99% of the time.  Having been rarely present for the home visits, I was mostly ignorant of the true effort that went into the various therapies he was receiving.  While Michelle had been a first-hand witness to the true effectiveness of say PT or OT, I remained somewhat of a skeptic in those early months.  I was never against Gus receiving Early Intervention at all.  And I definitely liked all of the therapists I had met.  But sometimes I might wonder silently if imitating animal noises or reaching for toys from his belly really constituted a “therapy” that required the time of an expert.  Still, I demurred because everyone who had an informed opinion of the situation unanimously agreed that Early Intervention was the appropriate place for us to be.  

Once I started to tag along with Gus to his classes, though, my outlook changed quickly.  I was then actually witnessing firsthand the Early Intervention folks when they were in action both with Gus and his classmates.  I began to fully appreciate the depth of what these teachers were doing.  As if it’s not difficult enough to manage typical toddlers (think “herding cats” and then some,) imagine a room of kids with all sorts of special needs sitting with ease in a circle singing and signing "Twinkle, Twinkle."  All the while, each of the professionals are smiling and laughing along with the kids, calmly addressing whatever disruption might spontaneously ensue.  Meanwhile, I could see Gus' advancements progressing in and out of school.  Although it may resonate as hyperbole with the reader, I came to believe sincerely that these therapists were mini-miracle workers.

With every passing week, the trips to Brockton became routine.  As Gus received his schooling, I would socialize with the parents of other kids enrolled at the center.  There was always a feeling of “safe” that I experienced with these other moms and dads.  The school was a location where the kids and parents alike were guaranteed to be free absolutely from the fear of judgment or misunderstanding from any onlooker.     

Gus eventually added a yoga class to his circuit of therapies, which quickly became a major highlight for me to observe.  I mean seriously, does it get any cuter than watching two year-olds assume a Namaste pose or slither like a snake on the floor?  Ask him to do downward facing dog and see what he does.

In the last few months, unfortunately, my work commitments prevented me from being the caregiver to accompany Gus on his Monday visits.  Still, Michelle kept me in the loop every day at dinner time about Gus’ ups and downs with his beloved ladies of Early Intervention. 

On the very day of Gus’ third birthday this week, his educational responsibilities will transition by law from Early Intervention to the Town of Easton.  I’ve already stashed boxes of Kleenex in various strategic locations throughout the house for my baby mama come Tuesday.  A school bus or van will make its inaugural pick-up of our big boy  at 7:10 a.m.  And just like that, the page to a new chapter in our family’s lives will begin.

Meanwhile, a six week-old baby in our community could very well begin his or her first session of physical therapy in a living room that morning.   I want that baby’s potentially skeptical mom or dad to know a few things.  You are definitely doing the right thing for your child.  You are all extremely lucky for the access to a most phenomenal team of professionals who will quite literally change your child’s life for the better.  And you will look back in three years with wonder at how fast the time flies.

Special thanks, gratitude, appreciation, and love to the folks at BAMSI who have taught Gus so much and helped him to prepare for the next stage of his life.  I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank Kristie, Caitlin, Lauren, Mary, Aline, and Nina for every minute of their expertise, time, patience, encouragement, affection, and hard work spent with our little boy who is now officially a Pre-K student!  Last but not least, I thank Jen for all of her efforts in coordinating this somehow enjoyable chaos that has been the last three years of Early Intervention. 

As much as it will probably kill me inside, I promise that I will not get on the bus with Gus this week even if he turns to look for me.  

Gus on Graduation Day from EI last week.