Friday, December 23, 2011

Gifts Are For Getting, I Mean Giving

Two days to Christmas. Still trying to get into the spirit. Tried to kick start the season's magic this morning by surprising a few of the people I encounter during my everyday work routine.

First stop, the gym. I’ve been going to Gold’s in Southie for about six years. Up until Dave began working at the front desk, there’ve been a handful of stooges who never look up or acknowledge your arrival/departure. But my boy Dave is always friendly and chats if you engage him. Poor guy opens the gym at like 4 a.m. every morning. Hardworking kid.

Today, I was stoked to give a card to Dave with a bunch of scratch tickets. I walked in and sure enough, one of the original stooges was covering for him – of course with her head down reading her phone not saying a word to me as I passed by. O for one.

Next stop, the garage across the street from my office. There are two wonderful attributes about the garage where I park. Number one, it’s cheap. Twenty dollars a day. That’s pretty damn good for downtown. Tough to beat. Number two, this place looks like it could fall apart any minute. Customers aren’t even allowed in the basement anymore. It would be an absolutely perfect scene for a zombie apocalypse movie. The structure is so decrepit and creepy. Water dripping randomly from ceilings. The occasional rat scurrying from one dark corner to another. My spidey sense is always tingling if I’ve worked late at night during the dreaded walk to the car.

To access a parking spot in the morning at this place is a total shit show. There are about six men who simultaneously coordinate where to move your car. Usually, I park on the third floor roof. Generally, the handlers bark orders to you in heavily accented-English until you move the car to a spot where a different guy yells at you about why you’re parking there. When you tell him that so-and-so behind him told you to park there, an argument in a foreign language inevitably ensues. It’s awesome. Seriously, though, the guys work through all of the crappy rain in the spring and fall, freezing temps in the winter, and stifling heat in the summer. Their only refuge is a small shack with a desk, two lawn chairs, and a space heater or fan depending on the season.

So for the garage guys this morning, I bought six hot chocolates from Dunkins. When I walked the trays of cocoa over to the elder statesman of the crew, he shrugged me off because he was upset one of his underlings did not instruct another motorist to pull his car further up, thus leaving too much room between parking spots in one of the aisles. I continued on to one of the friendlier dudes and offered a cup. He looked at me slightly befuddled, not quite understanding what I was doing. I placed the trays on the desk in their shed and walked away. Merry Christmas. O for two.

Final stop, Boloco. I order a large “Truck Stop” burrito on a wheat tortilla with eggs, cheese, salsa, potato, and bacon with a large coffee every morning I work in Boston. And I mean every morning. I’m addicted.

Usually, I am greeted by the store manager Beatriz or my man Laz. Both of them wrap a mean Truck Stop. We’re at the point now that they start making my order before I’ve even placed it. We chat small talk as I pour my coffee and they work their magic on the goods. The crew is super nice. I look forward to the familiarity of our routine as we begin our work days.

The night before, I stuffed ten scratch tickets into a Christmas card. I wrote a note to Beatriz and Laz that they have full discretion to distribute the tickets as they see fit. Unfortunately this morning, Boloco was a little busier than normal because my stop to get the hot chocolates set the whole schedule back. Laz was not in sight but luckily Beatriz was present, and she seemed pleasantly surprised. I didn’t swing and miss this time, but it was more like a foul tip to stay alive. Alas, the Christmas spirit was still sputtering inside me. At least I have Christmas morning with the kids to look forward to, which is a good segue.

Greta watches this cartoon show called Olivia. (Damn, the theme song is stuck in my head now.) Olivia is a little girl pig who’s got a great imagination. Every episode, she takes a quick pause in the action to declare one of her rules in life. I’ll take her cue from there.

Rule of life number 700. Here’s my philosophy on gifts. Keep in mind, I freely admit I am a high maintenance pain in the ass when it comes to receiving a gift. But I try to apply these same rules when giving a gift.

A. As Paul McCartney so eloquently put it (at least I think it was Sir Paul), the best things in life are free. Homemade presents are almost always the best. They’re thoughtful. They’re creative. They’re cute. And, as is self-evident, they don’t cost anything. Translation: they don’t impact the Teravainen Family budget. While I may not have appreciated the “free” kind of gifts when I was single and child-less, I do appreciate a cost-free gift when it looks like THE WIFE has purchased enough toys to entertain a small village’s entire child population.

A sub-paragraph to this section also includes the classic “This coupon is redeemable for a foot massage” et cetera that every lame husband or boyfriend will cut from construction paper and color with markers when they were light on funds and/or made it to the store just after it closed the day or hour before said gift-giving event was to occur. (Seriously, who doesn't like a foot massage?)

One other codicil in this arena is if the gift giver possesses a special trait for which they’ve received special training or education. For example, the guy who knows how computers work. If and when I ever win the big one, I will definitely hire a full-time help desk employee who is immediately accessible and does not begin our conversation by asking if I restarted the computer. At this time, I have an iTunes account on three different machines with overlapping but not universal databases of downloaded music. I stand a better chance of explaining the theory of relativity to a CVS cashier than I do of somehow consolidating all of the songs onto my current laptop. I digress.

B. “Things” are a dangerous hit or miss. I pretty much possess any tangible item that I either want or need. In other words, if there’s something I want, I go and buy it for myself. (Again, see the disclaimer above as to my pickiness.) By extension, I loathe trips to any stores that don’t sell either liquor or books. Consequently, a trip to a location with parking for more than 1,000 vehicles, long lines at a customer service desk for exchanges and returns, or decorations for a holiday taking place three months from now, is generally not what strikes me as a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

A sub-paragraph to this section would be how I detest clutter. If I was ever a contestant on Fear Factor, I could handle lying in a coffin full of snakes or centipedes (though it would be extremely frightening.) I could even endure standing at a very tall height, which gives me vertigo or initiates what I imagine the beginning of cardiac arrest feels like. So if you wanted to give me the bends and incite a severe anxiety attack, lock me in a hoarder’s bedroom. When television shows depict homes for sale and there’s hardly anything in the place except furniture and a token decoration, that’s my nirvana. Thus, fewer things means less clutter.

When applying this rule to children, you get a mixed bag. Greta will probably build a mound of all the toys she gets from Santa this Sunday, and roll around in them like she's just won the lottery. But Gus will probably enjoy rolling over bubble wrap with an equal amount of glee. Rule of thumb: go with your gut.

C. Edible/drinkable gifts are definitely appropriate. Presents that may be consumed can also double in the (A) category to the extent that homemade perishables can be considered free, if the ingredients are already lying around in one’s pantry or crispah (that’s Masshole for fridge.) Plus, a cake or cookies only take up space temporarily. Hence, no clutter - phew.

Bottom line, food and drink are functional. Alcohol and desserts are fun. They’re even better when others can share in the experience of enjoying the gift together. And if you can somehow combine booze with sweets, an orgy may ensue.

D. Here’s my blatant contradiction to section A above, which also carries the hit or miss risk of option B. The adventure-slash-experience gift. Vacations, tickets to a concert or sporting event, and insert your creative excursion, are cool and exciting. However, these types of cadeaux generally lean heavier on the checking account.

A further obstacle with type D gifts for married men and/or fathers, however, is the amount of coordination required to lock the event on the books. Military strategists have easier times planning an assault on well-defended targets than some males do when attempting to schedule events that do not overlap with their significant other’s rigid calendar of social appearances and family obligations. Let's face it, guys like to propose a "let's meet for beers tonight" by e-mailing each other at work around 3 p.m. and taunting those who might have problems getting clearance. Ladies prefer a six-month lead time, though one year's notice is better because it might be book club night and they're supposed to bring an appetizer on the night you want to get drunk with your stupid buddies you "see all the time."

E. When in doubt, cash is king. Yes, this option may be impersonal. Money isn’t fun to wrap, per se, but honestly how cool would it be to open eight boxes containing single bills in different denominations? Wait a second, I think I have a game show idea.

Cold hard cash also clearly undercuts all of the philosophical considerations that make the “free” gifts warm and fuzzy as explained convincingly in the aforementioned Section A. But everyone has bills to pay, mouths to feed, and rounds of mudslides to buy when you're lucky enough to meet with the guys at The Backroom, right?

By extension, gift cards are not a bad idea.


While my tongue-in-cheek diatribe above may suggest otherwise, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. After a roller coaster couple of years, my family of four and a half has truly gained an appreciation for the important things in life like good health and happiness. My sincere love and affection to all of our immediate and extended family, which especially include those of you we are fortunate to consider as friends. I hope THE WIFE and I are able to give back to all of you in 2012 and beyond as much as you have given to us during our years together. Cheers.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Ode to the Ole Sweet Tooth

One last reminder. Special guest DJ appearance this Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 10 p.m. Tune your dials to 91.3 if you're in Easton. Otherwise, fire up your Internets and type in THE WIFE will be broadcasting live for your entertainment.


Eighteen days status post-Halloween. A few notes for the old file.

Greta was a strawberry. She participated this year more enthusiastically than her two whole prior halloweens. In the weeks leading up to the big night, she said over and over “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” Once we actually made it to the front doors of our neighbors, however, Greta stood paralyzed and unable to say anything. The neighbor would say or try any of the old tricks, but my girl wasn’t budging. She would just hold out her bag without ever breaking eye contact, staring the treat giver into submission. Once she felt the thud of a candy, Greta was outta there. Well then.

Gus was a green dragon. He was a trooper, tagging along for the ride in a wagon. He was actually pretty tolerant of wearing the costume. Overall, his participation was very similar to Greta’s the year before: but for Mom and Dad dressing him up in a silly suit, he would have been happier just lounging at home. Maybe next year, Greta will actually say “Trick or treat” and Gus will be walking up to the doors next to her, while their baby sister squirms in a hand-me-down costume.

Before I go on, here is where I mention how freaking lame the people are who were home and just kept their lights off. Other than religious objections which I’m not talking about, who would be so lame as to not at least fill a bowl with the cheapest candy you can find on sale at CVS or Shaw’s and leave it outside on a chair? I was shocked by the number of non-participants in our neighborhood. And I’m pretty sure they’re not Jehovah’s witnesses. Anyway, whatever the Halloween equivalent of Bah Humbug is, that’s what I say to you non-Halloweenies. So there.

By now, THE WIFE and I have unsurprisingly done a number on the kids’ candy loot stash. Greta and Gus pulled in a good haul this year. They scored us lots of the old favorites. Some of our neighbors (the high rollers – definitely not us) even went so far as to give out full-size candy bars. No way we were feeding our kids that crap. Only we get to eat that crap.

Generally, we raid the bags after they go down for bed. THE WIFE and I definitely don’t go digging within ear shot of Greta. If she hears a candy wrapper crinkling, Greta will hunt you down and shame you into returning the candy to her stash. As we’ve been sniffing through what remains, it dawned on me to tally a list of my first round draft picks.

1.) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. C’mon, you didn’t expect anything else here did you? Seriously, though, the bar for me doesn’t go any higher than a Reese's. And, I swear the Halloween edition of the R.P.B.C.’s has something in them that make the cups better than at any other time of year. I know Hershey’s would never reveal if they mix up a different batch for the October editions, but they are my kryptonite. Best.

2.) Kit Kats. I don’t think KKs get as much street cred as they deserve on the Halloween scene. Very underrated. Chocolate over a crispy wafer. Pretty damn good.

3.) Watchamacallits. Truth be told, Greta and Gus didn’t score any this year. And I’m not sure they are even sold in Halloween snack size batches. But I love these candies.

4.) Almond Joy. Another candy that flies under the radar if you ask me. Damn good.

5.) Snickers. If I’m at a candy vending machine and I’m hungry, I’m buying one of these. I imagine these rank higher on the list for others because they always seem to go faster than anything else. As far as getting a good bang for the buck, Snickers are a solid choice in my opinion.

And that’s where the list ends. Milky Way, Rolos, 3 Musketeers, 100 Grand, and Hershey’s chocolate bars are all decent, but they don’t crack my top 5. Agree or disagree? Would love to hear you weigh in.

Now I'm off to the dentist. And the gym. After just one more Reese's.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On the Radio, Oh Oh

18 years ago, I was 18 years old. Back then, I was absolutely confident that I knew everything I ever needed to know. By the time 2011 arrived, the only thing that became certain to me was that I barely know anything.

For the time being, though, let’s suspend reality and travel together back to 1993. THE WIFE and I had begun our freshman years of college in Vermont, she at Castleton State and me at UVM. Heavy woolen sweaters, Birkenstocks, and flannel shirts were de rigueur. Kurt Cobain, Chris Farley, Jerry Garcia, and Tupac were still alive. Pearl Jam was still making music videos and absolutely owning the “Grunge Era.” The only reality tv in existence was Season 2 of The Real World. O.J. Simpson was still a free man filming Naked Gun movies and Miller Lite ads. I did not own a computer, mobile phone, Facebook account, blog, or an e-mail address. I did own a bulky camera with film that I wound after snapping a photograph that only became visible usually weeks or months later after dropping it off at the pharmacy for developing.

At school, I was officially “undecided” in my major, with a lean towards pre-med. Sports medicine, I thought. Or maybe gynecology. [Shrug and an eyebrow raise.]

THE WIFE, on the other hand, declared her major to be communications. She was going to be Veronica Corningstone, your trusted local female news anchor.

I made it through one semester of chemistry and two semesters of biology, before realizing that classes with labs really sucked and bullshitting measurements was really tough to pull off. Pre-law, it would be then.

THE WIFE, meanwhile, kept her original focus alive. Somewhere along the way, she got a gig as a part-time radio disc jockey at the local college radio station WIUV, 91.3. She divided her air time between The Lemonheads, Arrested Development, The Samples, Big Head Todd, Dave Matthews Band, and Lenny Kravitz, while discussing that night’s parties at the Rugby house or The Pickle Barrel. (I admit I just googled bars in the Killington VT area on that last one – I don’t know if it even existed back then. THE WIFE is asleep already and I don't think that detail is wake-up worthy.)

After graduation, we both left the Green Mountain State and headed to the Bay State. While my med school intentions were long gone, THE WIFE’s potential to be a media member was still alive. She took a job at a Boston radio station selling air time.

Eventually, the 90’s became the 00’s. Real World season 47 made way for Jersey Shore. E-mail, Internet, cameras, and social media of any kind all fit on one single, wireless telephone that fits in one’s pocket. Untalented people obtained their own television shows on E!, Bravo, or MTV by 1) making sex videos that go viral on the Internet 2) being a rich, dumb, and bitchy wife, or 3) pulling up your shirt to show abs a lot.

While all of this was happening, THE WIFE’S career had steered totally into sales and Internet advertising by the late 2000's. Her D.J. days were long behind her.

Then one day in 2009, Greta and I were about to pick up THE WIFE from work. I found a Memorex cassette while searching for car keys. We got in the car and pressed play.

I heard a voice. It was familiar yet it sounded different. A young woman and her girlfriend Mary were discussing how they were intending to spend Spring Break. Then, a song by Phish or The Pixies played. Hey, I knew those girls!

Greta and I picked up THE WIFE. I said Gigi really missed her, so she should sit in the back seat. With the ambush succeeding, I pressed play on the tape again. Shocked, THE WIFE laughed and asked me indignantly where I found this recording. We reminisced about the good old days. My brain took notes.

Fast forward to today. THE WIFE is knocked up with our third bun in the oven. We live in the burbs. We drive a fucking minivan. Our tunes in the car consist mainly of Yo Gabba Gabba, Bingo the Dog, or Are You Sleeping? 1993 is 18 years ago. We are suddenly Old Man and Old Lady Dinkins, cursing at kids that light fireworks in our neighborhood on the Fourth of July because it might wake up our babies! Obv, we're cool.

Fortunately, we stumbled upon a time machine where THE WIFE can be 18 years old again. Thanks to the power of Facebook, e-mails, and a very flexible music director in his sophomore year of college, THE WIFE will return to the air waves once again on November 19, 2011 from 10 p.m. to midnight. DJ Baby Mama will be broadcasting live that night and time from Stonehill College’s campus in Easton. For those within the 5-mile radius of the radio transmission, the frequency is (ironically) 91.3 FM. For those further away, THE WIFE will be streaming on-line at

This is most likely a one-time event, so be sure to tune in. Orientation and a tour of the studio were last week. THE WIFE is ready to get it going. In the interim, feel free to e-mail her with some suggestions as to music. She hasn't heard about this new fangled thing called an iPod yet. Hopefully, you'll be along for the ride next week to see how it goes.

Greta and Gus, please burn the broadcast onto a CD so you can play it 18 years from now and we can talk about the good old days again!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Waving The White Flag

Well, it’s official. I’m a eunuch. The minivan has assumed its position as the T family truckster, at least for the next three years of our lease. I’m doing my best to avoid being seen near it - let alone in it - or God forbid, driving it.

In a minivan, I just feel emasculated. I’m a soccer mom. I’m swerving in my lane because I’m oblivious to any traffic around me. I’m trying frantically to play a DVD as the kids scream for Nemo as I schedule a parent-teacher conference on my cell phone. I’m yelling at my kids in the back seat to “stop touching your brother’s seat!”

Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand the functionality and the convenience of a minivan a/k/a the F.U.V. I will not debate anyone on those points. And as far as cost goes, it’s the most sensible decision from our budget based on the monthly payment and gas mileage. I get it. The F.U.V. totally makes sense from a graphs and charts perspective.

Just please don’t be offended when I decline the cup of pink Kool Aid (now) fellow F.U.V.ers who try to push the envelope by suggesting how awesome it is to have a Caravan/Town&Country/Siena/Odyssey/Astro, etc. Let’s just call it what this automotive transition is for me – another surrender to un-cool.

As for my car resume, it’s generally unimpressive to those with fancy pants tastes. But to the “cool” car enthusiasts, the history is rich. In order, they’ve gone like this: Toyota Corolla FX hatchback (used); Chevy Malibu Classic (used); Chevy Corsica (used); Dodge Aries K (very used and short-lived unfortunately); Ford Escort (used); Mercury Mariner (lease); Honda Civic (lease); Ford Ranger (used); and Chevy Malibu (work lease). Most of them had affectionate nicknames: Uncle Buck, the Bubonic, or Bu (original Malibu); T-minus Escrat (Escort); the Grand Marnier or Marinara (Mercury); and Ricky (the Ranger.) All of them hosted great memories and adventures.

Granted, most of my rides were not exactly hot rods that a bikini-clad woman might lay on awkwardly while a hip-hop star rapped about the rims during a music video. Nor were my wheels ever the kind of car that one would cruise in during high school to attract attention on Elm Street in Manchester on a Saturday night, by whistling at girls with (very) high bangs well supported by product.

But I’ve always loved my cars. The older, rustier, more dented, or otherwise shanked they were, the more I enjoyed being in them. I especially loved pulling up in one of my beaters at a stop light next to a car occupied by an attractive woman or women. I would flash the gap-toothed grin that said “Who is this mystery guy in a shitty car that’s still smiling like he’s thinking he’s all that?” As one might expect, the usual reaction was the other car driving quickly away from me as soon as the light turned green but you get the picture. It was all about my perspective.

Okay, after writing the last paragraph, it’s dawned on me that perhaps my level of coolness has never really attained Arthur Fonzarelli-like status. Or at least, it’s not the kind of car that dictates whether one qualifies for cool points or not. Sounds to me like it’s mostly about the driver’s state of mind. [Sigh.]

So where’s that cup of Kool-Aid anyway? It’s time to go for a ride.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Status Update

I haven’t captured much about the kids lately so it felt overdue to reduce a few recent trends to writing for the history books. I feel like [insert cliche] we’ve blinked and they suddenly aged like the curious case of Benjamin Button except just the opposite.

At two years and eight months old, Greta is fast forwarding into a mini-person before my very eyes. Her personality and disposition just blow me away.

I need to videotape our conversations more. When she wakes up in the morning, we always talk about her dreams. Usually, it’s a combination of butterflies, Santa Claus, Tinkerbell, lady bugs, ice cream cones, and how she doesn't need her diaper changed. I’d tell her my dreams about suddenly realizing I forgot to put clothes on before a court appearance, but it would only confuse the conversation so I just ask her to tell me more.

I love that when I come home from work, and it’s been about 22 hours since I last saw her when she went to bed the night before, but Greta just picks up conversation with me as if we were talking two minutes ago.

GRETA: Daddy, can I tell you a question?

ME: Of course. What is it?

GRETA: I saw the hummingbird today.

ME: No way. What color was he (already knowing the answer)?

GRETA: Purple. Daddy, do you know what would be really cool?

ME: What?

GRETA: If we go outside and paint. Or go on the swings.

She kills me. A few more tendencies that need to be memorialized, though I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

Greta finally includes the number ten when she counts now. Before, she jumped immediately from nine to eleven. And if we’re ever up to the teens with her numbers, “eleventeen” always makes a candid appearance somewhere after twelve.

Oh, and Greta has named her baby sister in mommy’s belly “Boya.” No clue where that came from, but Baby Tiebreaker is only Baby Boya during conversation in the house. Done.

What else? Her favorite instrument is the "titar." Augey and Daddy have a "peenus," while Greta and Mommy have a "gina." And her grandfather "Ukki" is in every plane that flies over our heads.

At the same time, however, Greta is vigorously resisting using the potty. We have tried every trick in the book. A poop and pee chart in the bathroom with a crayon and stickers taped next to it for the next time she goes. A bag full of tantalizing prizes within eye shot of the changing station. Promises to bring her to the store if she just sits on the bowl. Big girl panties with cool characters. But no, she doesn’t budge. Her response is “I’ll try it next week.”

As for my G-man, he has gone from crawling backwards into crawling forward in a frog-hop/breakdance worm. You gotta keep an eye on him, or he’ll suddenly be heading out a door towards whatever attractive nuisance is in sight.

Gus has had a few other milestones lately of his own. Holding and drinking from a sippy cup. Blowing kisses when you only ask him, instead of doing it in front of him first. Waving hi. He has even just started to pull himself up to stand. THE WIFE picked up G-man's first high tops to help with placing his feet down flat.

When people talk about appreciating the little things, Gus seems to remind us of that with every new discovery.

Yet, Gus is no little angel either. He is known to grab Greta’s hair by the handful and yank it out much to his sister’s chagrin. He’s also not afraid to rake his little fingers down into the eyeballs of whomever is holding him. I had a nice little scratch on my face courtesy of the G-man recently. But it's all good.

Meanwhile, THE WIFE and I still find ways to lovingly annoy the crap out of each other. For example, she hates that I don’t push the bathtub switch all the way down when I’m draining the bathtub.

WIFE: You’re doing it wrong.

ME: Don’t tell me my business devil woman. I know how to drain the tub best.

WIFE: Your way takes too long to drain the water.

ME: But I like hearing the noise of the water going down the drain.

WIFE: (audible sigh/groan and accompanying eye roll)

My biggest gripe lately is the constant state of laundry that our house is under. There are always a pile of folded clothes on the couch in the living room and a basket on the floor. When you go into the kids’ rooms, multiple piles of shirts and pants are organized in a sporadic manner that only she knows why – but they never seem to make it into a closet or drawer. And forget about our bedroom. It’s just a minefield of clothes that might be clean, but most likely are dirty, yet I don’t dare say anything out of fear for the sigh/groan and eye roll. (I will never understand why we can’t just spend one day every two weeks washing the clothes all at once and putting them away.) What can I say? It’s paradise over here.

So there you have it. A quick little snapshot of the state of affairs from the T-family abode. Anyone want to tell me any questions? Come on over so you can fold some laundry with Greta and I…

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Turns out that Baby Tiebreaker is a … girl! The most recent ultrasound showed a healthy and rapidly growing little lady. Far and away, the baby’s health was our paramount concern, so the good news to date is obviously encouraging.

As far as the baby’s gender tilting the balance of power at Casa de Ts in favor of the girls, I’m still digesting. My brain is still a bit in denial that we’re having a third. Any thoughts beyond that have been scattered and still under development so we’ll have to circle back in a future post when my mind is more clear on that front.

I confess, though, that one thought keeps popping up and I’m almost ashamed to admit it. I can’t help thinking how I will not be passing on my last name.

Granted, for my last name not to “carry on,” I’m assuming: a) my girls will be straight, get married, and go traditional by assuming their husband’s last name; and b) August doesn’t have children. For today, we’ll keep the tone light and address only assumption “a” as assumption “b” is a deeper and more loaded topic.

I suppose the other caveat to assumption “a” coming true is that my daughters opt out of the whole hyphenated last name thing. But given the option to hyphenate versus adopting their husbands’ last names, I honestly hope that they would go with the latter.

Now before any neo-Feminists out there start burning push-up bras and penis effigies, I’ll be the first to admit that the tradition of assuming a husband’s last name is most likely rooted in an antiquated system when daughters were often treated like chattel and fathers sold them off in marriage like baseball cards or used cars to perhaps not-so-deserving grooms. I get it. But that’s not how at least most of us roll these days.

The wife’s adoption of the husband’s last name, it seems, is a compromise masquerading as tradition that no one seems to really know why but we just do it anyway. Perhaps an analogous comparison could be drawn to a fiancé spending thousands of dollars on a silly ring as “consideration” to lock in the engagement with his prospective fiancée. Most of us follow tradition, well, because that’s just what everyone does and we don’t want to rock the boat. Conformity is just plain easier.

But somewhere along the way, I assume, a crafty young woman with a desire to honor her original surname invented a hybrid of last names by combining her maiden name via hyphen with her married name. I appreciate the innovation. I respect the loyalty to her roots and family. I understand that overall, it’s not that big of a deal. But I’m still not a fan.

Hear me out. I’m not a fan of the “Baxter-Birney” because I’m chauvinist or old school or anything like that. No, my beef with hyphenated last names is much simpler. Where does it end? Allow me to illustrate using random NFL players’ names.

Let’s say Mike Sims-Walker and his wife have a son named LeDennis Sims-Walker. Meanwhile, Maurice Jones-Drew and his wife have a daughter named DaMichelle Jones-Drew. Assume LeDennis and DaMichelle get married. Is DaMichelle going to follow her mom’s lead and go hyphenated as Mrs. Sims-Walker-Jones-Drew? Let’s imagine she does.

Now assume BenJarvis Green-Ellis and his wife have a son named Dneywa (pronounced “Da-Wane” even though spelling suggests otherwise), while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and his wife have a daughter named Lashofanda. Next thing you know, Dneywa and Lashofanda are getting hitched and sure enough, we have Mrs. Green-Ellis-Rodgers-Cromartie.

You see where I’m going right? If we take LeDennis’ and DaMichelle’s son and marry him to Dneywa’s and Lashofanda’s daughter, basically their children are screwed. They’ll need to wear a XXXL-size jersey when playing sports just to fit half of the last name on the back. Their driver’s licenses will have to fold out like an accordion. They’ll need extra sheets of paper on every standardized test to fill in all the circles of their last name in number two pencil. You get the picture.

As for passing on my last name, what really is the big deal anyway? It’s not like my buddies call me “Teravainen” the way we refer to Noonan, Parker, Erwin, Oster, Martell, Fallis, or others who regularly answer to their last name. And to be honest, my last name was a pain in the ass for so many years. It’s been mispronounced and misspelled my entire life. I don’t think I was able to even write it until some time in junior high school. Plus, it’s not like my last name will end with me – I have plenty of relatives with the possibility of passing on Teravainen as a last name.

The truth is probably twofold. First, I have come to treasure the uncommonness of my last name. It’s kind of a badge of honor for me. I like when people recognize its Finn roots. I don’t even flinch when I hear someone say “Ter-uh-vay-nee-in” because it happens so frequently. So I suppose the second part is I always envisioned sharing that pride with my kids who would in turn similarly enjoy passing Teravainen on to their children.

Like I said earlier, I’m ashamed to even admit that this thought process has gone through my mind. When looking at the big picture, I could have much bigger problems. Thank you for just bearing with me and playing the part of therapist for a little bit. Much appreciated. I’ll move on now…

On second thought, maybe Teravainen-Johnson doesn't sound so bad after all.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Groans and Greetings for Gray Balls

My first high school crush Carla dumped me during our sophomore year. A few weeks before the break-up while we were still on summer break, I nearly maimed myself biking home from her house on my 12-speed when the brake handle became detached and lodged itself in the spokes of my front tire as I coasted down Union Street near Crescent. I’m pretty sure this is the second time I’ve blogged about the bike accident of 1990 – what can I say, I’m apparently still traumatized by either the crash, Carla breaking up with me, or both.

The reason I bring this event up again in the first place is that my buddy Chad was with me when Carla delivered the news to me by phone. I was in my bedroom using a phone that was not cordless. In other words, I couldn’t leave the room and Chad got to witness the drama firsthand. Anyway, after comprehending that the break-up was irreversible, I asked Carla what was wrong with me in my pathetic state of sorrow. Upon hearing my question, Chad began to smirk and opened the space between his thumb and index finger while placing it on his forehead. He then mouthed the words “your hairline” or something to that effect.

Back then, due to the size of my forehead and the high location of my hairline, my buddies and I were fairly certain I was going to be the first bald one of our crew. Fast forward twenty years (that’s right class of 93, our sophomore year in high school was that long ago) and I still have grass on the green without assistance either from Rogaine or Maury's wigs. Even better, I have yet to discover a gray pūb in the Chewbacca wheat field.

While I acknowledge this fight against aging and vanity is futile, there is one particular trait I earnestly look forward to acquiring as the years accumulate. It's actually a badge of honor in my opinion. Three words. Old. Man. Strength.

When I think of Old Man Strength, three people immediately come to mind: the father of William Wallace’s best friend in Braveheart whose character was named “Campbell”; Julio Franco; and my old next door neighbor in Hooksett whose true identity I will protect by simply calling him Mr. V.

Campbell (portrayed by Scottish actor James Cosmo) is a paragon of Old Man Strength. Campbell’s not as svelte or handsome as he probably was in earlier years. The beard is gray. The hairline has receded. He needs to sit down for a rest a little more frequently than he used to. But he’s still a total badass and answers the call of duty when pressed into a fight. For chrissakes, he gets his hand chopped off in one battle, then comes back to the next one with a swinging mace attached at the severed wrist. That’s the medieval version of Old Man Strength, I believe.

Julio Franco was a professional baseball player who played for something like 100 years. He retired in 2008. I know little about Julio except that he was super ripped well into his 40’s and could still probably tear Dustin Pedroia into several pieces with his bare hands. Just trust me, Julio’s an appropriate spokesperson for Old Man Strength.

As for Mr. V, he is quite possibly the best example of Old Man Strength I can conjure in my brain. First, Mr. V's had bulging biceps that have intimidated me since I was 6 years old. Second, he is a master carpenter, plumber, electrician, and builder of anything. Third, he hunts animals and eats his kills – I believe a mounted boar’s head hangs in his garage (or at least I imagine one in there) as affirmative proof of his fearlessness. Fourth, he is the nicest and sweetest guy you’d ever know. Put it this way, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, I’d definitely seek refuge at his house.

[While we’re on the topic of Mr. V, I feel the need to confess that I used to climb up onto the bumper of his silver utility work truck when it was parked and no one was looking, so that I could peak in through the back window at a Playboy centerfold taped on the back of the partition between his front seat and the rear back area. (The Internet was still a whole decade away.) Furthermore, I also apologize once and for all about the snow ball I threw at his brand new car around 1984. Once I saw Mr. V jam on the brakes and get out, I booked it into the woods and didn’t come home for a couple hours. Although I may not have known then what to call Old Man Strength, I was smart enough to understand it was a force not to be messed with. Anywho, where were we?]

Old Man Strength is almost like a consolation gift for men as they advance in years from young buck to grizzled veteran. While they may require the assistance of Lipitor, Flomax, and/or Cialis, a seasoned pro with Old Man Strength can still answer the bell and rise to the occasion when necessary. It’s a kind of phenomenon whereby this reservoir of youthful testosterone remains stored in a reserve just waiting to be tapped in case of situations that may vary from a simple “rub some dirt on it if it hurts” to an outright challenge of one’s masculinity.

He with Old Man Strength has acquired the skills to sniff out a bluff in poker. He with Old Man Strength can both drive and navigate the [station wagon/minivan] towards the destination while the rest of his family sleeps during the road trip. He with Old Man Strength can go shirtless at a family cookout without shame, even if his moobs could really use a manssiere. Perhaps most importantly, he with Old Man Strength has learned how to conserve his energy for the witty back-and-forth that precedes a fight until the very last second when he gets the first punch in and lets all of his buddies jump in to prevent the exchange of any more punches.

As for me, I still cry whenever The Notebook is on. Unopened boxes of furniture from Ikea make me shudder with fear and loathing. I watch Project Runway enthusiastically. Not only do I rarely wear a tool belt, but I’ve never changed a spark plug. Hell, I can't even grow a respectable mustache let alone a beard.

Clearly, I have a ways to go before attaining Old Man Strength status. But at least I’ve got a hairline that might be receding....

Friday, August 26, 2011


I had no idea anyone outside of the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. read the blog. In any event, I'm happy to have you all along. Special shout out to the Ethiopians for paving the way into Africa, as well as the Russians who help us double dip into Europe and Asia! That still leaves South America, Australia, and Antarctica for continents not yet infiltrated by De Novo.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Tiebreaker

In high school, a couple of my buddies invented a card game called “Schnoog.” We usually played it on Friday after school before we headed out for the night. When someone proposes to play the game, he picks up the deck and makes an inhaling snort noise through the nose. If others want to join the game, they echo the original snort of the dealer with a snort of their own. It’s a simple game that I could explain to you if we were sitting at a table drinking beers, but the rules are irrelevant for the purposes of this post.

One of my favorite parts of the game, though, is when we are down to just two players left and each of them flips a card over. If they both got the same card, everyone in the room immediately starts to yell “Tiebreak-errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”until the two players flip over a new card. It sounds mundane perhaps, but this is the highlight of any Schnoog game – trust me.

So, imagine that THE WIFE and I are playing a game of Schnoog. I pick up the deck and snort. THE WIFE comes over to the table and snorts back. We sit down. We are down to our last card. Each of us flips a card. One card is Gigi. The other card is G-man. That makes two ladies in the house, and two dudes in the house.

EVERYONE: Tiebreak-errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

Now hold that last syllable until January 2012 because that is the date when our next baby arrives. (Waiting a couple beats.) Yes. You read that correctly. Baby Tiebreaker is due to arrive in the last week of January next year. Here we go again!

What possessed us to have Irish triplets, you may ask? Where do I start?

Before we married, we didn’t have a fixed number in mind as to the number of children we would have. We knew we would have kids, but the plan was basically one at a time. We figured the amount would just kind of work itself out.

So there we were earlier this year with two bambinos. We had our one girl and our one boy. We were very happy with our family of four. Our transition from the 2 v. 1 zone to 2 v. 2 man D had adjusted pretty smoothly. We were in a good rhythm. With every passing week, we were that much closer to emancipation from all the many accessories associated with a baby: diapers, cribs, formula, bottles, bibs, onesies, the list goes on. We were also that much closer to sleeping late and our kids being able to feed/dress/bathe themselves.

Plus, the prospect of adding another kid to the mix is – frankly – an expensive decision. A bigger family truckster is the most immediate cost increase. (The minivan is a foregone conclusion at this point – don’t get me started.) And eventually, baby three is another athlete/musician/artist with summer camps and equipment. Another college tuition. Another wedding. Why not just stand put? What else did we need?

You name a material possession, an experience, or even just bare necessities, and I’ll name a way that it could be upgraded and costs more money. Would we prefer to eat organic at every meal and snack? Yeah. Would we love to own a vacation home someday? Sure. Do we want to travel with the kids to foreign countries every once in a while instead of Santa’s Village? Obv.

But now, a word from the devil’s advocate. Could we survive by eating food with high fructose corn syrup? Yeah, at least in moderation. Could we get by from freeloading off others with beach and lake houses? I’ve been doing it for 36 years, so what’s another 36? As for traveling outside the states, there’s always studying abroad when they go to UMass or whatever other short list of colleges we’ll be able to afford.

If money was really the only reluctance I had towards fathering a third child, I didn’t think it was a good enough reason. There is never enough money to do everything one wants.

The consideration of whether to expand the population, therefore, shifted to one of more important analysis. Did we have that loving feeling for a third? After Greta was born, I was almost concerned I couldn’t love another child as much as I loved her already. And yet when Gus arrived, my heart felt as though it doubled in size. I had more than enough room to share in there between the two kids. This time around, my parental spidey sense tells me a dad’s love can be felt equally as strong three ways.

In the end, for me at least, what pushed me into the “yes” category for having a third, was something that just kind of itched inside my core. It didn’t quite feel like we were done. I don’t know how else to explain it. A family of five just felt right for us.

So will Baby Tiebreaker push our balance into an estrogen-dominated household? Or will testosterone rule the roost? We had our second ultrasound a few weeks ago (THE WIFE is 17 weeks along now) and the tech gave us a 60/40 prediction, so we have an educated suspicion of where the pendulum will swing. But we’ll wait to tell you all until the next ultrasound, when we will supposedly have 99% accurate reading.

With that being said, our population expansion will stop at three. Honestly. That’s it. End of story. (How crazy do you think we are?) And of course, we hope it’s a story that concludes with the words “happily ever after.”

Baby Tiebreaker, we can’t wait to have you along for the ride, even if part of that ride involves multiple years in a Honda Odyssey…

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vacation 2011: The Finale

Last week seems like ancient history already. Before my memory deteriorates any worse than it has already, here’s the finale of our vacation diaries.

Day 5

Remember the ancient days of the 1990’s (or the medieval years even before) when the operation of cameras involved loading film, rotating a knob to latch the film into place, clicking a button, finishing the film, removing the film, and praying when you retrieved the photos from CVS about three weeks after your shoot, that the one shot you took while standing at the Eiffel Tower, Fenway Park, or Millis Hall came out well? A given roll of 36 could include shots from Christmas, New Year’s, and a random trip to Colby or UNH in February when you road-tripped with a bunch of friends using an actual atlas or directions written down on a napkin during a “house phone” conversation. There was no “upload to Facebook” option available with click of the button.

How did we exist as an image capturing society before digital cameras and cell phones with delete buttons conveniently located for that unflattering photo of a double chin, or the “eyes were closed” shot? Not only did women dare to pose for pictures back then without doing that awkward one leg in front of the other thing that anyone on Us Weekly does, but many of them didn’t even wax their eye brows (which is most likely why you don’t see many of the shots capturing the au naturel caterpillar look popular circa pre-1997), but that’s another story for another day.

Back in my day (imagine me saying this in Grandpa Simpson’s voice,) photographs of multiple, obnoxiously-sized penises drawn in black marker on the face of a buddy who passed out in a place not called his bed may never have developed because the film’s negative accidentally ran through the laundry, as opposed to today when said photograph would sandbag said buddy from ever running for political office because it was on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube within four seconds of the shot, easily becoming accessible during a simple Google image or video search.

Where the hell am I going with this? Oh yeah, photography. Back to the Hall of Justice…

Photographic footage of Griswald Vacation 2011 is minimally available because THE WIFE realized she forgot to pack our camera and I refused to turn around when she discovered it six minutes after leaving the house because it was: a) non-essential; and b) a hindrance to making good time on our drive north. Needless to say, my executive decision to keep going and not turn around after the discovery made for a “frosty” first half-hour of the drive on 24-North and even onto 93-North. The decision also led to photographs from our cell phones with unimpressive resolution, as well as videos that will most likely never be seen from anywhere other than the phones themselves because THE WIFE and I are so minimally skilled in these types of computer endeavors.

As for Vacation Day V, it went like this: departure of the Zillas, beach, naps, and dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Café Noche. The restaurant was great for families but see the Day 4 post for my fears about family trips to restaurants. Gigi was pretty well behaved but the G-Man was wiggling around as soon as we sat down. I plowed through my Margarita and food, then restrained Gus in a half-nelson while waiting for THE WIFE and Greta to finish.

Fortunately, the night was salvaged with an ice cream trek to a really cute 50’s-style ice cream soda shop and diner in Albany, NH. Our waitress wore a poodle skirt, which Gigi loved. The waitress asked if we had a dog. I said no, but we had a fish, and Greta said his name is “Fishy Teravainen.” I beamed with paternal pride while the waitress had no idea what Gigi just said.

Fortunately, our ice cream order was easy to understand. THE WIFE and G-man split a black raspberry fro-yo, while Greta unabashedly double dipped between my peanut butter cup frappe and her raspberry swirl kiddie cup. To put an exclamation point on the night, Gus spit up all over the front of my shirt before we left. Of course, I didn’t notice until after I spoke to the owner for a good five minutes. I’d say that was a successful night.

Day 6

Prior to this day in the history of the T-family either as a unit of 3 or 4, there were many occasions when I wanted to get on the road at the crack of dawn. However, THE WIFE always vehemently rejected such suggestions – to the point that she might as well have hissed and spit at me when I proposed that we feed the kids in the car while we drove. But on Day 6 of vacation 2011, the situation was somehow different because we were heading to Santa’s Village. That day, THE WIFE wanted to make “good time” for the first and only occasion I’ve ever known her. She was actually planning to leave with the kids in pajamas, and feed them breakfast in the car. Unprecedented.

As we prepared, THE WIFE reported an ominous forecast for the day: temps in the 90’s and high heat. She was already stressing about the kids becoming dehydrated. Meanwhile, it was 58 degrees in Madison. We proceeded to pack all sorts of sun block, bathing suits, towels, and warm weather gear, in addition to the 47 other bags full of “necessities” for a standard day trip.

The drive from Madison to Jefferson was scenic and beautiful, not that Gigi observed it because she watched endless episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba! on the portable DVD player. But it kept her quiet. We arrived by 10:15 a.m. A personal best for THE WIFE: only 45 minutes after we originally planned on being there!

The weather upon our arrival was overcast, breezy, and about 62 degrees. Good thing we packed towels for the water park because we were able to use them as blankets for the kids.

Undeterred by the elements, and encouraged that Greta didn’t puke once we got in the parking lot, we headed towards the entrance. We of course picked the line where some dude’s credit card was denied five times as dozens of families in lines around us blew past as if in an Easy Pass lane. Classic moosh.

Finally, we made it through. Greta declared that she was ready to sit on Santa’s lap (last year didn’t go very smoothly.) We headed for the token St. Nick photo shoot location immediately while Greta’s courage remained high. As we waited, a cookachoo (our code word for weirdos) family started chatting us up about their neighbors’ Christmas lights display this past winter. Cookachoo Dad was killing it with a solid Kenny G perm, a Tom Brady jersey (of course he was a Pats fan,) and the left-ear-only earring dangling multiple inches from the lobe. (Yeah I’m going to hell, I know.)

After the Cookachoos shot the breeze with Santa for a half-hour after their family pic, we finally got our turn. Naturally, Greta refused even to look in Santa’s direction when we were all in the same room. As we approached Santa, she clung to me for dear life but eventually relented and sat on THE WIFE’S lap to pose for the requisite picture. Gus-man, meanwhile, was ready to dive head-first into Santa’s beard. Somehow, we pulled off the pic without any casualties to Santa or the kids.

From there, we did the rides, the unhealthy food, the waiting in lines, etc. Greta went on the Rudolph Merry-go-round about four times. Fortunately, the kids didn’t become either sunburned or dehydrated.

We also got to cross paths with my buddy Bones (another Westland manor alumnus,) his wife Mrs. Batch, and their three sweet kids, who just coincidentally decided to take a family trip on the same day we were there. They were gracious enough to invite us back to where they were staying, so we got to relax, drink a few beers or juice boxes, and shoot the breeze.

Another successful day.

Day 7

The final day has arrived. For the record, we will miss the Dunkin’s we’ve patronized during the course of our stay. They are batting about .993 on our orders, which is no small feat with THE WIFE’s scrutiny of her “extra skim” portion of her iced coffee order.

Gigi and I headed down to the beach for a brief final visit while Gus-man catches his morning siesta. The kids there already were not playing Marco Polo. They were playing Marco Scutaro. (You gotta love New England.)

After some swimming, playing, and a final survey of the frogs, Gigi was ready to go. We went back to the house for lunch and the final pack up. No one was in a rush to go home. I think that means we had a great time as a family. Mission accomplished.

[Special thanks to Pep for making our family excursion possible. So, um, is your place available again next summer? Just curious.]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Chronicles of New Hampsha Continued

Day 3

Back to the beach. Déjà vu all over again. The weather was great. Greta got brave and swam with me out to the floating dock. We climbed on top and waived to Mama and Gus. Though she refused to do so herself, Greta ordered me to jump off. I complied. We headed home after lunch for naps.

At dinner time, the Zilla family arrived. (Their true identities will be withheld because the patriarch of the family – we’ll call him Crandall – did not have the next day off as far as his employer was concerned.)

We had been looking forward to the Zillas’ visit all week. The origin of the connection between the Zilla family and the T family started with my UVM freshman French class in which Monsieur Crandall and I were technically enrolled. I say technically because I generally went to class and he generally did not. (Mon dieu!)

Crandall and I eventually lived together two different times after college first at the fabled Westland estate and then in Southie on Pacific. The bromance continued as we both married Michelles. The Michelles not surprisingly formed independent friendships of their own, which seemed inevitable from the get-go. For example, due to the Michelles’ tendency to be chilly in 70-degree rooms and often nodding off before 11 p.m., we declared them the “Golden Girls” with names of Helen and Blanche.

More seriously, THE WIFE and I had the honor of witnessing and signing the Ketubah at the Zillas’ wedding (the rabbi made me get so close to Mrs. Z’s face to confirm her identity that I got anxious we were supposed to kiss or something – but don’t worry, we didn’t. ) Our daughters were born soon thereafter within four months of each other. Now, Greta, Jordyn (or “Jerdin” as Greta pronounces her name,) and August (or “Baby Gus” as Jordyn calls him) are fast becoming BFFs themselves.

After all three kids went down for the night, THE WIFE cooked a nice dinner and we enjoyed a few libations. In years past, the celebration may have gone until 3 a.m. with a skinny dip in the pond. But now as responsible parents, we retired for bed at midnight never either swimming or undressing.

Footnote to Day 3: Greta woke up in the middle of the night because she peed through her diaper. In my sleepy/slightly drunk haze, I put her into mismatched PJs and a swimmy diaper, which went undiscovered until THE WIFE changed her later in the morning.

Day 4

We woke up to rain but it let up enough for the dads to take the girls to a playground down the street. We decided to hit the outlets in North Conway, which was a “ten minute drive” according to THE WIFE. Due to traffic, construction, and a severely congested parking lot full of parents pushing strollers, our ten minute drive turned into an hour. Using the time wisely – Crandall, Helen, and Blanche brainwashed me with their propaganda about the sheer awesomeness of a minivan. Slowly and steadily, they conspired to erode my resistance to the soccer-mom-mobile.

On the return trip home, we took a late lunch at Muddy Moose. (The link is here:

When it comes to eating as a family in restaurants, I am admittedly apprehensive and generally avoid it whenever possible. The main reason I resist is due to my fear of ruining the meals of anyone else in the restaurant. An additional reason is the fact that I like eating my food. THE WIFE and I rarely actually eat during our meals with our kids, be them at home or elsewhere. Usually, one of us eats everything on their plate within the first two minutes of sitting down while the other gets a little more time (maybe five minutes) to eat, but it comes at the end of the meal when everything is cold and Greta’s running mashed potatoes through her hair like mousse or anti-frizz product.

When someone suggests that we should have lunch, I envision the situation where I have Gigi’s upper arm in an unnecessarily tight grip as I’m loudly whispering between gritted teeth about whatever seemingly convincing threat I can conceive (if you don’t sit and eat, we won’t have Christmas/celebrate your birthday/see your brother ever again, etc.) in order to get her to keep her shirt on/not put her feet on the table/eat a vegetable, etc. Nevertheless, we heard this was a family-friendly joint and decided to roll the dice.

As usual, my fears are all for naught. Aside from Greta’s chronic dropsies of the side pickle, the kids are angels. Crandall and I even manage to sneak in a Bloody Mary. After lunch, we piled into the minivan and sang Happy Birthday several times to everyone in the car. The kids were ecstatic.

Back at the house, everyone took their turns playing on the swing. As the night sky rolled in, Gigi hit her wall from having skipped her nap that day. When Jordyn and her daddy took a shower to get ready for bed, Gigi wanted to shower with them, too. When I denied the request, she melted down Chernobyl-like. The next morning, Greta confessed to me, “Daddy, last night I cried and cried and cried.” Blissfully, she fell asleep after several rounds of songs.

After the kids went down, the adults reconvened to eat and drink in peace. To drive Crandall crazy, we all began to check Facebook. He turned the tables and refocused the conversation on the assets of a minivan. And so the night went as we made our way through the myriad varietals of red wine in the house…

To be continued.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What News From the North?

For the family archives, I’m recording some of the activities from our first two days of the Griswald family vacation version 1.0. The day of travel up to Edelweiss from Easton doesn’t count because we only arrived, unloaded, and went to bed.

(Quick tangent, I pronounced a “vee” sound for the “w” in Edelweiss because I imagine that is how it’s supposed to be pronounced in German. THE WIFE scoffed at the sound of my diction and said aloud in her imitation intellectual voice as if attending a Harvard faculty cocktail party:

WIFE: Oh I’m sorry, did you just say eye-dill-VICE (emphasis on latter syllable and thinking she’s really funny)?

Me: (annoyed) Yeah. Um, I think that’s the way the word is supposed to be pronounced in German.

WIFE: (short pause while deciding whether to throw a challenge flag) Okay bug, I thought we were still in New Hampshire.

Suffice it to say, we’re staying in Edel-VICE for the rest of the week. And so our vacation begins…)

Day 1:

We decide to check out a free train ride a few miles from where we are staying, which sounds like a cute activity for the kids. THE WIFE and I are stressed because we want to make the 1:00 train as PB&J sandwiches are made and diaper bags prepared. Mind you, this isn’t a Boston-NYC Acela express with an obligatory ticket check-in/retrieval for a trip where we need to arrive in time for a business meeting. No, this train simply pulls into the station where we board without a ticket, before departing into the woods for twenty minutes, stopping, and then returning in the opposite direction to the same place where we boarded. It’s fair to say I need to decompress.

On the drive to the train station, Greta is spitting like an oscillating garden sprinkler on anyone and anything within a two foot radius. Half-heartedly, I ask her to stop. She ignores me. I ask again more sternly. August’s face gets sprayed. This time, I yell at her at a volume that startles THE WIFE and makes both kids cry. Rumor has it, my father of the year nomination is officially revoked.

Fast forward to the train depot. We are officially 15 minutes early. Good thing I yelled at the kids.

The train pulls up. Two open air cars sandwich a small engine. I put G-man on my lap. Gigi, still scarred from the car ride, sits with mom. The train lurches forward and we’re off at a blazing 3 to 5 miles per hour. As the ride progresses, the family loosens up as the woosh of moving air blows the hair of all four heads.

Gradually, G-man becomes fascinated by the passing branches overhead that he sees through the lattice ceiling. We pass by a pond full of beaver lodges and we explain to the kids that’s where the beavers live and sleep. Greta processes the information, though I’m not sure she’s seen many beavers in our animal books or flash cards. Duly noted. Along the way, we see a few herons flying by and Gigi says she saw a purple fish and a purple frog. At some point, an inch worm lands on the rail behind our seats and its methodical movements mesmerize Greta. Finally, we arrive back safely at the depot.

An old train car converted into a small diner invites us in where we take a booth for some ice cream. (See here: Everyone’s spirits are high. The first day’s adventure is a success. Now, we’re truly on vacation.

Day 2:

Weather forecast was iffy. 50/50 chance of rain. We are torn whether to declare a “beach” day or not. Screw it, we decide, I’ll pitch the tent and we’ll wait out any passing storm from there. Plus, we’re only a five-minute walk back to Pep’s Place if it pours.

Greta and I head down first while THE WIFE stays behind until Gus’ morning siesta completes. Greta is decked out in her standard swim gear: pink one-piece with ballerina skirt, clear jellies, lady bug flotation device, and single pony. We set up camp and get to work. The place is practically to ourselves as only one other mom with two boys are playing at the other end.

The pond is a quaint and quiet little Eden. No motor boats allowed. The water is flat as glass. Gigi charges into the water. As the sun and clouds flirt for position over each other, the hours pass and THE WIFE eventually arrives. Cue the rain. Good thing I have the tent. But the minute we set up for lunch, the rain subsides and the sun eventually comes out. G-man and his mama eventually get in on the water action. The kids are having a blast.

At some point, Gigi announces to us and everyone else within earshot on the beach that she’s pooping. Glad I’m here to help. We do the change-a-roo and back in action. Two o’clock arrives before you know it, so we pack up to head home for the kids’ naps. THE WIFE manages to catch a couple winks on the couch as I type away next to her. Aaahhhhh, I can get used to this.

To be continued…

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Toes Up

We started our first Teravainen Family Vacation yesterday. We are in Madison, NH for the week. I’ve been so amped to get up here and relax.

Both of the kids are asleep for naps. THE WIFE just went grocery shopping for the third time in twenty-four hours. I’ve got a new machine to write on. Now, I can finally write all sorts of blogs that’ve been swimming around in my brain for months. I’m thinking one post every day of vacation. Heck, I’ll double down on a good day. So here goes.

[Twenty minutes later after pouring a glass of wine, cleaning the house, and pacing for ideas…]

I've created a chart in MS Word and I'm trying to figure out how to paste it into the site. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Aaaaaahhhhs

On weekend mornings, THE WIFE and I play chicken as to who will get out of bed and retrieve the peanuts. Usually, we both feign sleep until the other can’t hold their morning pee anymore. It’s understood that whoever gets up first on Saturday gets to sleep in on Sunday. Today, THE WIFE budged first so I snoozed until 8.

By breakfast time, I stirred and came down for coffee. Greta requested tunes so I randomly wheeled around on the iPod until arriving on bands beginning with the letter R - or aaaaahhhhh as Massholes would say. I never noticed it before but a lot of great music lies in the aaahhhh section of bands in my iPod.

[Editor’s note: I may be repeating myself on some of the following from a prior post so forgive the premature dementia if that’s the case. If not, nevermind.]

Back in junior high and high school, recording mix tapes onto cassettes was much more time intensive than simply right-clicking on a bunch of songs and selecting “add to playlist.” First, one had to press record and give at least a second or two of lead time before pressing play on the song to be recorded, lest the mixer risk cutting off the song’s beginning. Next, you had to sit through the song’s entirety before recording the next one and so on. As the song played and recorded, the mixer had time to write the playlist on the little sleeve that rested inside the cassette case. If the lucky recipient was receiving the mix tape for a special reason, the mixer could inscribe a thoughtful message. Sometimes, there was a theme to the songs like great guitar solos, or the “best of” a particular band perhaps. Other times, we just made the token “gym mix” or “Spring Break 1992” or even the very risqué “sex tape” jams. (Sade was inevitably on the latter.)

Anywho, I still fancy myself a master music mixer. Today’s theme– as you may have guessed – will be songs found in the R-band section. Hence, for your reading and listening pleasure, here is the “Saturday Morning Aaaaaahhhh” playlist from yours truly to THE READERS. Band followed by album followed by song. In the spirit of the original mix tape method, I will attempt to write between songs.

Radiohead – The Bends – “Fake Plastic Trees.” Radiohead is one of those bands that always flies under my own radar. If pressed for my top five bands, I usually respond in no particular order Weezer, Cake, Smashing Pumpkins, The Beatles, and U2. (Again, premature dementia apologies if applicable.) But Radiohead has to be lurking out there as a strong sixth.

The Bends is a great album to start with if somehow you’ve never dabbled in Radiohead. I was really torn whether to select “High and Dry” over “Fake Plastic Trees” (which by the way is as strong a three- and four-hole batting order in the album’s song lineup as say, Ruth-Gehrig or well at least Texeira-Rodriguez) but Trees won out because I love acoustic guitar ballads. I also love the way my cousin Stevie covers this song.

If you do like Radiohead, please do yourself a favor and download Eric Gorfain’s string orchestra cover of Radiohead on the album, Strung Out on OK Computer. Strangely, I enjoy this album the most when I’m on an airplane. I could go on but the next song is starting already…

Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard – “Boy.” I heard this song on WERS a few months ago and it still does it for me. It has such a killer bass guitar hook, it’s impossible not to air bass guitar with a slight head bob to accompany the bent right hand simulating string plucks over your belly. Gus loves this jam, too, especially with exaggerated air bass playing for him.

Side note, the scene from “I Love You Man” when Paul Rudd is explaining how he’s “slapping the bass mon” to Rashida Jones just kills me. It feels like both of them are suppressing laughter but keep it together and pull off the scene. Great stuff.

Rod Stewart – The Very Best of Rod Stewart – “Young Turks.” Without lifts, honestly how tall is Rod? Do you think he’s over five feet? And how great is the name Rod? Honestly. Is Stewart’s first name actually Rodney? I need answers. Have you seen his house on “Cribs”? It’s large.

This song is one of my all-time 80’s favorites. I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean, but I feel like wearing a head band and leg warmers then running quickly in place like the video for “Flashdance” when it comes on.

Again, air instrument play seems essential to my evaluation of music and this song does not disappoint for air boards. While air guitar gets its appropriate due, air boards surprisingly provides a much better opportunity to express one’s inner white man’s overbite jam sesh. And “Young Turks” is a great song to profile the air board skills. (Ah Ha’s “Take on Me” is another prolific song for air boards.) Lastly, Greta is showing great promise of air board aficionado status. Moving on.

Ray LaMontagne – Gossip in the Grain – “Hey Me, Hey Mama.” Don’t get me wrong. I like Ray. He’s really talented. But I’ll only listen to him if I’m already in a good mood. Because listening to Ray in a bad mood makes me want to drink a bottle of whiskey and cry myself to sleep. Melancholy is the one word that keeps coming to mind when I try to describe his music.

With that said, THE WIFE and I saw Ray play when she was like 9 months preggo with Gigi and so I suppose there’s a little connection

Roger Sanchez – Another Chance – “Another Chance.” Another random. I just like this song. I heard it in Amsterdam at a club in 2001 so I think of wooden shoes, windmills, and bicycles whenever this song comes on. Not much else to say here.

The Rentals – Return of the Rentals – “Friends of P.” I forget where exactly, but there’s some kind of connection with this band and Weezer. I think a former member of Fweeze is in The Rentals.

So this song always appeals to me. I love songs with ladies singing back-up vocals. I love synthesizers (for air boards opportunities, obv) but also for the sound alone. Great jam. Now speaking of Weezer…

Rivers Cuomo – Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo – “Buddy Holly.” The song is a lot less catchy than its counterpart on Weezer’s Blue Album, but I like the rawness of this version.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way – “I Could Die For You.” The Peppers are another band that flies under my radar a la Radiohead. These guys have been around forever. And even though every one of their recent radio-play songs seem to refer in some way or another to California, I could listen to pretty much any of their albums new or old without complaint.

As for this song, again, ballads are a kind of kryptonite to me. And the next best thing to ladies singing back-up vocals are dudes singing back-up falsetto. Falsetto back-up vocals give the singer-along a chance to feel like they’re part of the song. Let Anthony Kiedis take care of the lead, while you can sing the back-up parts.

Lastly, “By The Way” is – by the way – a really solid album overall. Start to finish, this is a pretty damn good record. Check it.

Now to the finale. (Breakfast is rarely more than a eight or nine song endeavor, but then again it is the weekend so things do move slower.) You didn’t think we’d be in the Rs and I’d omit …

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – “Factory Girl.” Allow me to be Tim McCarver a/k/a Master of the Obvious for a moment. Hands down, BB is one of the Stones’ best albums ever. Two absolute pearls, “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man,” are both on it for example. But “Factory Girl” is probably my favorite song from here.

When the song plays, I picture the Stones all sitting around in a log cabin somewhere out in the woods. And I want to be in a chair sitting next to Mick to hear him singing. It’s only a little over two minutes long, but what a cool little ditty.

And that wraps up the “Saturday Morning Aaaaaaahhhhh” mix tape/playlist. Hope you liked the show. I know only a handful of the regulars leave comments on the site, but I’d love to hear feedback on any of the songs from THE READERS. Agree? Disagree? Did you listen to any you never paid attention to before? Any R-bands have a song that should be on this list? Let’s hear it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


August Thomas Teravainen will celebrate his first birthday this weekend! Let that sink in for a moment.

Our G-man has had quite a remarkable first twelve months to say the least. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to effectively write a post to celebrate his first year and I’m stumped. I worry I might crash the web site’s server if I wrote everything that’s made me smile, laugh, cry, love him, kiss him, hug him, or be so proud of my little boy since last July.

The discovery of Gus’ diagnosis with Down Syndrome after his birth, and the immediately urgent medical dangers he endured at that time, obviously and understandably dominated so much of our family’s focus when he arrived. Just looking at the blogs I wrote, one can see how much I at least concentrated so much about what we had to learn about DS and all of its baggage. I never overlooked Gus as an individual first and foremost. But my preoccupation about DS was never far from my mind.

As the weeks and months transpired from last July, the dust gradually settled – minus a little hiccup just before Christmas – and (thankfully) our family routines evolved and adapted to the point where we are operating today: situation normal.

So at least with respect to my own feelings and attitudes merely as a father who looks at his son, the part about the last twelve months for which I am most grateful is how the presence of an extra chromosome in August’s body is so rarely in my thoughts. While I intended at the outset not to be so focused on DS, only time would tell if our minds would comply.

Today, when I look at my son when he wakes up in the morning, I see a beaming and energetic one year-old so excited that someone has finally come to get him out of his crib after he’s been calling for so long. When I hold my son around me, I treasure his chubby arms around my neck and his chubbier legs squeezing around me for a tighter grip. When I make faces at and talk to my son, I appreciate every reciprocating smile, laugh, and gesture back at me.

Never in these moments does my mind betray me and say, “But he’s got Down Syndrome!” The thought is just baseless because Down Syndrome as a medical condition or whatever you want to call it, simply has no bearing on that previous instant when Gus and I just connected as a father and a son. I don’t know how else to say it except that when I see Gus, he is my little boy. Not my little boy with Down Syndrome.

Don’t misunderstand me. Our life is filled with reminders of a path that deviated from what we originally envisioned before Gus was born. Ten different medical specialists. Monthly doctor visits. Weekly visits by Early Intervention. Home physical therapy and occupational therapy. Thickener to mix with every bottle. Battles with insurance. The list goes on. But these are the adjustments a parent makes when his or her child is not typical, as I’ve written before. And as I said then, we’re okay because that’s what we signed up for.

I don’t mean to overstate August’s personal triumphs, especially relative to other children who are battling whatever medical challenges they confront however more or less severe. I’m simply celebrating my love, pride, and admiration for a precocious individual whose fierceness of spirit inspires me every day.

A few weeks ago, THE WIFE “checked in” with me to see if I was okay. She wasn’t sure if I was being grouchy as she loves to tease, or if there was something possibly important bothering me. I admitted I was a bit apprehensive that Gus was almost one and he wasn’t crawling yet. The subject came and went without much more discussion, as we reminded ourselves to be patient.

Almost as though the little bugger was eavesdropping on our conversation before, Gus decided to show me after bath time about an hour later how he actually could crawl. He just liked to do it his own unique way: backwards. Some people just like to moonwalk before they dance, or mooncrawl before crawling forward.

Nice job, my little man. I should know by now you’ll never cease to amaze me. Keep up the good work! Happy birthday. I love you.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wally World

Thirsty Third Thursdays may sound like a happy hour advertising scheme for a bar, but I know it better as TTT. THE WIFE is a loyal and proud member of this distinguished group of ladies. TTT has gathered almost every third Thursday of the month since around 1998, which means they've known each other for about 13 years longer than any of the "real wives" on a Real Housewives episode. The TTT meeting spot varies monthly, but it's usually at someone's home [minus the husband/kid(s)] or a bar/restaurant located somewhat equidistantly for all.

Back in the day pre-marriages and motherhood, TTT nights were often followed by Friday-morning absentee calls to work or adventures possibly inspiring Sex in the City episodes. But nowadays, the ladies are more likely to discuss homeopathic remedies for diaper rash or possibly even order a non-alcoholic drink - GASP - with dinner - at the risk of inviting whispers and murmurs speculating about whether the teetotaler is preggo.

On special occasions other than the third Thursday of the month, the TTT husbands and kids are eligible to participate in group activities and random family adventures. For example, last weekend, many TTT families ventured north to Storyland in New Hampshire. It would be the T family's first amusement park experience.

Nana and Pep volunteered to watch Augey since he is too small for any rides, so THE WIFE and I went back to a 2 v. 1 zone and brought Gigi solo. Easy, right?

Well, our morning got off to a rough start. The GPS took us around Maine or Canada until we got help from a helpful convenience store cashier during her smoke break. Possibly spent from the awful commute out of Boston the day before, Greta was cranky and whining as we finally saw the park entrance beckoning from afar. Naturally, THE WIFE and I started to imitate our daughter's complaining, which only made Greta more annoyed. As we literally pulled into the parking lot, Gigi showed us whose boss and projectile vomitted about a gallon of milk and mostly-chewed Goldfish crackers like a rotating sprinkler head throughout and around the backseat.

We parked as I dropped F-bombs. Horrified, THE WIFE sprinted out of the front seat and grabbed Greta from her car seat. I started working on the back seat while suppressing my gag instinct from the rancid odor. Eventually, I checked on Greta's status. THE WIFE was scrubbing furiously. But upon closer inspection, it wasn't our little girl she was cleaning with a vengeance - it was Greta's shirt with her name on it, the one all of the kids were supposed to be wearing that day.

ME: What are you doing?
WIFE: I'm cleaning her shirt.
ME: You are not making her wear that shirt. It smells like hot stinky cheese.
WIFE: She is NOT missing out on the group kid photo!
ME: That's cruel and unusual.
WIFE: (flashing a death stare)
ME: As long as it's just for the photo, she'll be fine.

And so we passed through the maze of minivans and station wagons with white silhouette stickers of family member caricatures on rear windows that are apparently all the bumper sticker rage these days, entered through the turnstyles, and finally met up with the crew.

It was a blast. Gigi loved the rides, which kinda shocked me because she's such a scaredy cat right now. She especially enjoyed just hanging and playing with the other 17 kids in our crew who were all impressively well-behaved and sweet to each other.

I realized there are three major benefits to group adventures like this with fellow parents:

1) Total lack of worry for an unforeseen meltdown. In the company of single or childless friends, it's kinda difficult to convince them that your kid really is awesome if he/she is sobbing uncontrollably while running around the house naked because they "don't want to wear a diaper." Moments like that are pretty effective birth control, actually. But in the company of fellow parents still in the trenches of tantrums out of nowhere themselves, they hear a kid freak out, turn to see if it's one of theirs, and continue with their conversation as if nothing happened once they see it's someone else's. Safety in numbers, I suppose.

2) A surplus of surrogate parents. All parents have the green light to discipline and supervise as necessary. So, if Gigi tries to walk on the railroad tracks or into the swan boat pond because mom or dad are asleep at the switch, Auntie Jess or Uncle Ryan have a free pass to grab her by whatever body part they can catch to prevent catastrophe. No questions asked. Again, safety in numbers.

3) Collective amusement from humor appropriate only among your contemporaries. For example, one mom was really bent out of shape that Humpty Dumpty had hair. We agreed it was most likely a toupee and concluded that even nursery rhyme characters were not above the difficulties of vanity and aging, which led another dad to conclude that Humpty was in all likelihood wearing a merkin. Great stuff.

By the end of the day, we all managed to avoid any catastrophes at the park. The big hits for Greta were meeting Cinderella in person and driving in the pumpkin carriage to get to the castle, riding in the flying fish, and drinking a juice box. By contrast, she is probably scarred forever by the talking tree that has given her nightmares since.

As for the family truckster, the 80-degree heat and closed windows unsurprisingly did little to improve the scent situation of our back seat. I febreezed excessively that night and fortunately all was forgotten by the next day. As we headed back south towards home, still reveling in our collective buzz from the overall success of the joint family adventure, THE WIFE and I smiled at each other in agreement. "That was fun." "Yeah," I agreed, "we had a great -" and then Greta puked one more time for good measure. As I was saying, great weekend.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Alphabet Soup

Over the last two years, THE WIFE and I have read our fair share of children’s books to the kids. The most common book we’ve read to the kids are the ABC books. We’re pros now. Basically, all you need to tell me is the theme of the book and whatever letter happens to be on the page you’re viewing, and I can predict with good probability what word matches the letter described.

For example, E is rarely anything but an elephant or an egg, the O is almost uncannily an octopus, and the Z is either a zebra or a zipper. A is almost always an apple, B is often a ball, and Y is a yo-yo 99% of the time. X is mostly an x-ray, though xylophones and “x” marks the spot are making strong showings as of late.

The other night, Gigi snagged “A is for Annabelle” by Tasha Tudor, which happens to be an ABC book that totally throws a knuckler at my ability to predict the word for each letter. The original copyright is 1954, which gives some perspective. This book just intrigues me every time it’s in the night reading rotation.

First of all, the dedication just sets the tone. It makes me chuckle like Beavis and Butthead. “To dearest Muff…” I make sure I read that clearly every time just to put a little adolescent smirk on my face.

A, as one may suspect, is for Annabelle. From here, I’ll just touch on the words that will in all likelihood never appear again in future ABC books.

C is for cloak. Unless you’re Nina Garcia’s niece or a really big Harry Potter fan, this word is not likely to be in the 2011 child’s early vocabulary.

K is for kerchiefs. Whenever I think of this word, it reminds me of sitting in a pew during mass one Sunday as a kid with a runny nose. My dad, of course, was prepared and had a handkerchief in his pocket to help me out. The hankie, though, was crusty and hurt my nose when I placed my nostrils to it, so the thoughtful gesture actually worsened the loose mucus situation on my face and I should have just used my sleeve in the first place. Anyway, that was probably 1983 and officially the last time I ever put a man tissue on my nose.

M is for – yes again(!) – muff. Spectacularly, this euphemism for pubic hair that triggers suppressed giggles in adolescent boys and immature 36 year-old men alike, appears for the second time in the book. I can guarantee you will never find that occurrence in any book published in the 21st century. By the way, a muff is a brown, furry uni-mitten that “is so warm and so cosy.” Great stuff.

N is for nosegay. Hmm, you say? Oh, it’s a “bright fragrant posy.” Of course.

O is for overskirt. As if it’s not difficult enough to dress my daughter in a t-shirt and shorts, I couldn’t fathom having to put this seemingly superfluous piece of material on top of a dress. Thankfully, we live in 2011 Southeastern Massachusetts and not south of the Mason-Dixon line in the 1860's.

P is a parasol. Again, unless a toddler happens to catch a Project Runway repeat featuring one as a runway accessory, “parasol” isn’t making a kid’s top 1000 most frequently spoken words. First of all, umbrellas clearly own this product’s market share. Second of all, tan is in – fair skin is out. See Snookie/Jersey Shore and spray tanning.

T is for tippet, or some kind of a shawl I think. Saying the word out loud reminds me of whip-its. Also known as hippie crack. You know, five bucks a nitrous balloon at Phish concerts. Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa. So lightheaded and funky for like ten seconds. You feel like you’re on the verge of passing out. Right? I mean, not that I’ve ever tried. Just heard about it – from my buddy. George Glass. He’s not from around here so you don’t want to waste your time tracking him down. Anyways, moving on.

Last, but not least, Z is not for zebra. Z is for zither. A stringed instrument that lies flat on a table. Strangely, this IS something I could see becoming more commonplace in the 21st century. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lady Gaga had a zither player on the payroll for her Monster Ball tour.

That concludes my first official children’s book review. Based on Gigi’s impressions to “A is for Annabelle” combined with my muffled amusement, I give this a final rating of 4 out of 5 stars.