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.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Quick Thoughts While Tilly Naps, Greta’s at a Party, and Gus Tosses Books Around the Living Room

In Tilly’s Star Wars lingo, “Upffffffffffffff” is when she wants you to pick her up when you’re standing, while “Upeeeeeeeeeees” is when she wants you to pick her up out of her high chair.  You need to know these things…

The first non-children’s song that Gus sings along to is Ryan Macklemore’s “Same Love.”  He likes to chime in on the “to” part with great enthusiasm during the lyric that goes “Even if I tried, even if I wanted to…”  His lips stick out in an exaggerated way and he looks really cute.  As Shosh would say, “Hilar.”…

Greta is a happy hummer when she’s absorbed in a project like coloring or puzzles.  You can’t help but smile when you hear her.  Her hums kind of have like a feng shui effect on me.  I think I should record her some time so I can play it as background music at work…

I know everyone is probably worried sick, but my right quadriceps injury is feeling much better thank you.  Not sure if it’s an IT-band issue or the quad itself.  It only hurts now when I squat down.  Moments like the quad make me realize how miraculous it is for any professional athlete to be playing sports after they turn 35.  I’ve managed to complain about the quad every day for at least the last two weks so I’m gonna memorialize it here in the blog for posterity’s sake.  I can’t imagine what I’m going to be like when I’m 80…

Matilda Carol Teravainen a/k/a Tilly a/k/a Tills a/k/a The Mountain Goat…

In addition to discovering the joy of peeing on the potty, Gus has discovered the joy of pulling out his junk from beneath his diaper and displaying his Texas Belt Buckle.  Although I’m happy that he’s becoming acquainted with his equipment, I’m still at a loss for words when attempting to explain how that’s not exactly what is meant by hanging out…

Greta DOES NOT like when people clap or cheer for her.  Moving on…

I do not like touching any of the following: wet sponges, cotton balls, and juniper branches…

Gus is graduating from Early Intervention in 10 days!!!!!!!  This is probably worthy of a single blog unto itself but I wanted to make the announcement nonetheless…

Gotta go, Tilly's waking up.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Little Dose of Perspective

If I had a dollar for every parent of a teenager who one -ups me if I complain about problems related to kids four years old and younger, I’d probably have enough for at least one large “Truck Stop” breakfast burrito at Boloco on a wheat wrap with salsa and a large coffee.  (I’m addicted to those things.)  The one- upper usually rolls their eyes and says something to the effect about how their kid doesn’t talk to them, never comes out of his/her room, plays video games for hours at a time, costs them so much money, blah blah blah. 

My immediate reaction is “Hey wait a second here, I was complaining first and you just totally crapped on my pity party.”  Then, I get even more pissed because they’re complaining about kids who 1) can talk 2) don’t have teeth coming in 3) don’t have ear infections on a weekly basis 4) don’t need asses wiped 5) can eat at a restaurant – okay I’ll stop there because this list could go on indefinitely and the point of today’s blog is not to complain.  In fact, I’m trying to accomplish the exact opposite.
The one-upper is totally right.  It’s all about perspective.

When I pull into the driveway after work, Greta will suddenly burst through the front door and come running up to meet me before I’ve even opened the trunk to get my gym bag.  If I’m lucky, she gives me that great hug that my cousin Sean so perfectly described to me a few years ago. 

If Greta closed the door behind her, Gus and Tilly are usually standing at the door like zombies from The Walking Dead clawing at the window and making weird groan noises.  If Greta left the door open,  Gus usually stumbles out because Tilly is pushing him from behind as he’s trying to negotiate that first step out of the threshold. 

Once I get two steps inside the house, I ditch whatever bags I’m carrying and start emptying phones, receipts, keys (rarely cash) from my pockets.  Greta strolls closely alongside me, which is nice because Gus and Tilly usually grapple like Hulk Hogan and the Iron Sheik for dibs on getting picked up. 

My arms full with Gus and Tilly, Greta dominates the conversation (she currently has a monopoly on speaking in full sentences) with topics like: Gus scratched me in the eye; Tilly smashed a doll over Gus’ head; Mommy won’t give me an ice cream, can I have one?; did you hang up the Hello Kitty picture I colored for you at your office today?; Sam took me to the library today and we saw a turkey in the road, etc.  In other words, she genuinely wants to share events from her day with me without my asking.

Somewhere along the way, THE WIFE and I exchange glances, hellos, and maybe a kiss.  I express to the kiddos how I need to change out of my clothes.  When I try to put Gus or Tilly down, they start weeping like their mother during an episode of Parenthood or sentimental videos on Youtube.  I wilt almost immediately and just carry them upstairs with me to my bedroom.  All the while, Greta marches dutifully next to me going on about the chicks that hatched in her classroom or asking me if she can wear her pajamas during dinner. 

By the time I’ve stripped down out of the monkey suit, Gus or Tilly is usually prying an electrical socket out of the wall (I’m very much over this phenomenon and can’t wait for this to become uninteresting) and I’m jumping into preemptive hazard removal mode.  Still, I remind myself – the kids just want to be near me – how lucky are you!? 

Tonight, I actually took a dump while all three of the kids circled around me in the bathroom.  Tilly even sat on my lap while Gus pointed at my penis saying “Pee pee.”  I can say with absolute certainty that there are zero other people in the entire universe who want to be anywhere closer than 100 feet from me while I sit on the bowl.  Inevitably, mayhem ensues when the cabinets and drawers open.  A hair dryer’s electrical cord almost always ends up around someone’s neck and I’m suddenly shuffling with undies around my ankles over to rescue the victim.

Moving on, we somehow make it eventually to dinner, which is a whole situation unto itself.  The probability of having all three kids actually placing food into their mouths with nothing flying in the air and not having a meltdown is as frequent as an eclipse.  Chances are, someone is on a hunger strike or lobbying to eat Goldfish or yelling at the top of their lungs or spontaneously taking off their pants or all of the above. 

With uncanny timing, THE WIFE (totally oblivious to the sensory overload enveloping me) usually picks this moment as the appropriate time to ask questions of varying import.  Have I finalized a decision on a religious institution yet where Greta can go to Sunday school?  Do I know where the obscure component to an item in the house that hasn’t been used in two years is located?  Have I booked a hotel room yet for a wedding taking place in 2014? 

All of this is simultaneously wonderful and awful and heartwarming and taxing and madness in the moment.  But by the time the kids are finally fed, bathed, and sleeping in their beds, the chaos that was only an hour or so ago becomes mostly all good in retrospect.   

Before another month goes by when I am ready to post my next blog, I want to take this moment to record a couple of my mental snapshots that could vanish without any notice.

I love the way that all of my little crazies sleep in their beds.  Greta sleeps diagonally with a lucky stuffed animal in a choke hold beside her.  G-man sleeps face down and butt up with everything tossed outside of his crib.  Tills sleeps likes she is in zero gravity, moving around constantly and flipping out if a binky becomes misplaced, all while she has somehow unzipped her sleep sack.

And some random ones for the road.  Tilly’s guilty run of glee after she’s been caught in the act of doing something she’s not supposed to.  Gus’ proud celebration after he pees in the potty.  Greta’s colored pictures on my pillow that I find before going to bed. 

One-upper parent of teenage children, I concede.  Little kids, little problems.  I’ve stopped to smell the roses.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Oh Boston, You're My Home

I was born in New York by two parents from New York who each had siblings and parents from New York.  Thus, I was born into a family that rooted for Yankees or Mets and Jets or Giants.  When my parents relocated with my brother and me to New Hampshire, it was too late for any New Englanders to convert me to their one true religion: rooting for their hometown teams.  For better (the Yankees) or worse (the Jets,) I cannot fathom ever rooting for the Sox or Pats.  It’s just not in my DNA.  For example, “Sweet Caroline” makes me want to vomit and I strongly dislike the Bosstones. So as a consequence of my Yankee/Jet connection, I’ve suffered tons of abuse (I told you I was a Jets fan already right?) from my friends in New England since grammar school.
After graduating from UVM in 1997, I moved back home to Hooksett for the summer to make some money and regroup.  Like most college graduates, I was clueless as to the next step.  Fortunately, a couple of my high school buddies approached me with their idea about moving to Boston together.  That summer, we found an apartment in Fenway.
At first, living in the Green Monster’s neighborhood felt a little bit like being a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  In fact, I completed my first night out with the guys by sleeping in a Government Center jail cell.  Notwithstanding the rocky start, Boston began to grow on me after just a few weeks.
I celebrated my first Patriot’s Day as a Boston resident in 1998.  After experiencing the marathon as a spectator, I knew I had to experience it as a runner.  I ran as a bandit the following spring.  In 2002, I ran again but this time with a bona fide number. 
I finally graduated from law school one month after my last marathon.  That year, my first job as a lawyer was with the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecuter.  During that time, I worked with and befriended (or at least became acquainted with) a lot of state troopers and local police from Cambridge, Watertown, and Somerville among other towns.
In 2004, I took a job in private practice back in Boston where I’ve remained ever since.  Around the same time, I moved to South Boston and met Michelle. 
Michelle had lived in Southie since college besides living for a year in Watertown.  We got engaged in 2006 and bought our first home in Southie on the same day.  Greta was born in Boston two years later.  (Gus and Tilly were also born in Boston.)
When Michelle was pregnant with Gus, we relocated to Easton and began the adjustment to our suburban lifestyle.  In the ensuing three years, I think what I’ve come to miss most is simply the proximity to walk around in any of the city’s neighborhoods including but not limited to Boylston Street and Copley. 
But fortunately, I still work downtown.  And we go in occasionally as a couple or a family for various adventures.  My favorite Christmas present the last two years from Michelle was a “getaway” weekend where I stay solo in a Boston hotel to write and take breaks for inspiration a/k/a walk around the city or hop in a bar for a beverage.
On the day before this year’s marathon, Michelle and Greta were gone for the day.  I decided to take Gus and Tilly to Castle Island.  We stopped in Dorchester on the way out of town to visit my brother and his wife.  My buddy Phil heard we were in the neighborhood and invited us for a visit to his firehouse a few blocks away.  He offered to give us a special tour for the kids.  Unfortunately, the kids were too tired to make it work so we drove home.
Throughout that Sunday, I didn’t give much thought to the following day’s marathon. In all honesty, Patriot’s Day celebrations have been sporadic for me.  I can’t even remember the last time I actually went down to Boylston Street to watch the runners cross.  Part of the reason for the hiatus was definitely because of a “been there, done that” attitude, but also because I get just plain jealous whenever I watch any race that I’m not running.
On Monday around three o’clock, I was working in my office near South Station when I noticed the sounds of sirens and speeding cars.  A co-worker mentioned something about an explosion at the marathon.  Shortly thereafter, I noticed my cell phone wasn’t working right and next thing you know our office was evacuating. 
Once home, Michelle and I watched, listened, and read about all the horrors with reactions that probably mirrored exactly what you all experienced.  My first instinct was to check up on the status of any friends or acquaintances who may have been running or celebrating up there.  I also learned that Phil had been working directly across from the first explosion and thankfully, he was safe. 
Thoughts raced through my head as I waited for sleep that night.  Over the next few days, I struggled to comprehend the heinousness of the tragedy. 
On a primary level, I have been heartbroken for those who perished or were maimed by the bombings.  I am also devastated for the victims’ loved ones.  I can only imagine and hope never to experience the impact of such an atrocity on their lives. 
On a secondary level, I felt violated personally even though I do not personally know one person who suffered a casualty.  I realized my outrage was because the city where I’ve lived and worked and have come to love for the past 15 years, was attacked for no justifiable reason whatsoever.  It hurt even more because the Patriot's Day holiday celebrates exactly what is so wonderful about life and humanity. 
For whatever their reasons, the runners undertake a totally unnecessary challenge to their mind, body, and soul that requires months of commitment and training.  The spectators come to witness the runners’ confrontation with adversity and to encourage the athletes to succeed.  The symbiotic relationship between runner and spectator is almost a metaphor for life itself: we are either the one undertaking a burden to overcome or supporting those who need our help.
My head still swirled with contemplation.  Then Friday and the manhunt arrived.  I immediately thought of the police officers with whom I worked and met during my days at the DA’s office.  Without any verification, I know that many if not all of them were involved in what we witnessed.  Michelle and I rejoiced when the boat was discovered.
I admit this may sound kind of dumb.  But as a result of my sports teams’ allegiances, I’ve always felt a sort of disconnect between my identity and where I call home even though I’ve only really lived in New England my whole life.  After the events of this week, however, no such disconnect exists any longer.  I am now and will most likely forever be a Bostonian.  I write that admission with pride and satisfaction.  I just wish I realized it sooner.
We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the first responders for their bravery, as well as for the exceptional jobs that they performed this week.  That means people like you, Phil, in addition to the police officers who assisted with the successful operation in Watertown on Friday night.
We should tip our caps to the public officials who simultaneously coordinated the community’s safety  and the accompanying investigations.  Too often, we voice our complaints when they are acting as politicians but fail to recognize when they acted as true leaders.  Kudos to the governor on down.
Also, let’s not forget about all of the medical professionals who pitched in this week, particularly during the immediate aftermath of the bombings.  They likely saved scores of lives because of their expertise.
Last but not least, we owe a big high five to the Hub and her people.  Boston is a city full of characters and character.  This week reinforced that sentiment, no doubt. 
On a closing note, I’ve decided to make a go of the marathon one more time next year.  Any of you feel like beginning the training with me in cold and wet December?  No?  Oh, you must not be from Boston.

Phil is in the center of this image.  You can see him without a hat in his black firefighter's coat and a silver B on his back.  We're all so proud of you buddy.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Forward

I contemplated writing something like “The Winter That Never Dies” or “The Spring That Never Came” so that we might remember the strange weather of 2013’s first quarter.  Ultimately, I didn’t pull the trigger because I was afraid to jinx us and cause a sudden April snow storm. 

In any event, I don’t have a specific story for this particular post.  Instead, we’ll just go with the old “throw a bunch of crap that’s been marinating in my brain before I forget” montage.  While we’re at it, let’s sprinkle in a little Mad Men influence in light of tonight’s season premiere.


In an effort to encourage Gus and Tilly from tossing their sippy cups overboard at the dinner table, THE WIFE and I constantly propose toasts and cheers with all the kids.  (Perhaps the rapid intake of wine is an ulterior motive as well, but I digress.)

Gus pronounces “cheers” in a pseudo Mass accent, which alarms and endears me at the same time.  It sounds like “chee-ahs.”  Next thing you know, he’ll be asking for “tonic” after his trip from the “bahth room.”

Greta, meanwhile, is getting much better at drinking out of a big girl cup.  She knocks it over only infrequently now, which is nice.  As for the vessel of choice, she’s rocking either a Hello Kitty shorty cup (her rocks glass) or a tall, pink Disney princesses collage (her high ball) that used to light up with a flip of a switch before it sat through an accidental dishwasher cycle. 

Tilly, when it comes to toasting, is far and away the most enthusiastic participant.  As soon as she detects that someone has lifted their glass to cheers, her eyes widen and she rapidly grabs ahold of her drink with one hand.  With a crazed-looking grin, she will swing her sippy cup wildly (still one-handed) as if she were imbibing with other Vikings in a medieval tavern.  We could do this for hours and she wouldn’t complain, I’m convinced.


We have a hand-me-down crib from friends of our friends, which we’ve been using for Tilly.  (Gus has Greta’s old crib.)  I’m pretty sure the manufacturer is out of business and this model has been recalled for safety reasons. 

Irregahdless, Greta gets a kick out of climbing in with Tilly to jump around, yell, laugh, and drive me crazy.  The other day, the jumping finally took its toll so Tilly’s been sleeping in a pack-n-play this week.  I told THE WIFE I’d try to fix it over the weekend.

Saturday morning arrived and THE WIFE abandoned the house with the kids (solid move, props to you WIFE) so I could attempt a repair amidst peace and quiet.  Naturally, I squandered the free time on other less pressing chores. 

I finally began fixing the crib yesterday afternoon but only after all three kids were back.  Of course that meant they were all up in my grille.  My head and arms were buried below the undercarriage like a mechanic under a car, as my belly and legs jutted out exposed to elbow drops and body slams.  Little faces peered in under the bed skirt, while my tools suddenly vanished and reappeared intermittently. 

After lots of twisting and pulling, pushing and manipulating, swearing and punching, I could not get the damn thing to reattach.  Greta had been working with me throughout the ordeal.  She was begging for a chance to use the Allen wrench to tighten up a bolt somewhere but I kept putting her off as I attempted to diagnose why the crib would not stay together.  Finally, Greta says “Hey dad, can I tighten this bolt?  It’s loose.”  When I saw what she was talking about, I realized that was exactly the fix we needed.

Long story short, one c-clamp, ten cable ties, a few bungee cords, some duct tape, Gorilla glue, and the advice of a four-year old later, we were able to put Tilly back in her crib for bed last night.  Thanks Gigi for helping me fix the crib that you broke!


Almost immediately after we got home from Easter dinner at Nana’s, Gus wiped out on a shirt I hastily dropped on the ground while disrobing.  He split his chin open and incited temporary mayhem.  What’s a major holiday anyway without any blood stains on a seersucker bow tie?

As THE WIFE and I debated whether our first ER visit was necessary, we iced him down and gauzed him up.  Fortunately, G-man handled the situation like a champ and stitches were avoided.  He’s already healing pretty well.  Rain check on that ER visit.


Greta’s standard outfit for practicing dance around the house is a bathing suit.  She will enter a room unannounced until we notice the attire and begin flattering her with compliments.  Then I play her “ballerina music” and we watch the performance.  Here was today’s outfit and yes it’s on backwards:


Does anyone in America own a computer printer in their home that works on a consistent basis?  I’m pretty certain that ours worked for a day or so.  We may have even printed one or two pages.  Our “fancy” printer hypothetically has a scanner/copying function, though I wouldn’t know because neither command has ever worked for me every single time I have needed it. 

Every few months, I come back to the printer and hope that someone has fixed it since my last unsuccessful attempt.  Here’s hoping someone out there will give it a go the next time they’re over our house.

At least the printer’s heavy enough to keep the cabinet from moving when Tilly opens the drawers and crawls into it during one of her explorations.


That ends this week's snap shot of our family status circa April 7, 2013.  Enjoy the MM premiere tonight.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Toy Story T-Family Style

Hasbro, Mattel, Fisher Price, whomever – you can all send me a thank you note and royalty check later.  I have four ideas for toys and one for a product catering to parents that I’ve never seen and need to be made.  I have no idea if the goods would ever succeed on the market but I know at least my family would buy each of them, so that should obviously be sufficient grounds to at least launch some focus groups and an exploratory research panel.  Here goes.

1.) A freestanding drawer constructed of real wood that appears to have a truly functional purpose in the real world, as opposed to a plastic version that may fit nicely next to a toy kitchen.  The height would be adjustable but ideally at a level that is at the tippy-toe reach of a toddler. 

When the toddler reaches blindly into the drawer, he/she will find (toy) sharpened pencils and pens that he/she may chew, jam into their eyes, or use as a stabbing implement on his/her unsuspecting sibling.

I'd call it the "Juvenile Delinquent's Junk Drawer."

This drawer exists in real life next to our refrigerator and it’s one of Tilly’s hot spots on any given day.  Unfortunately for all involved, the pens and sharpened pencils are real.  The drawer is now empty.

2.) A freestanding door and door jamb that sits in the middle of a room.  A parent could adjust the resistance to control the level of noise made upon closure, which might range from silent to annoyingly loud slam. 

The door would have to at least have the appearance of genuine wood.  However, the edges would be made of some type of foam so that any fingers getting caught in between a door and a jamb would not be amputated. 

Gus would pay $1 million for this toy.  And it may occupy him for twelve straight hours, so long as an unattended stairway is not within sight.  Let's call this one "All Jambed Up."

3.) Notebooks, sticky pads, or packaging of any translucence that is actually a vegetable or fruit pulp with nutritional value.  The key to pulling off this sham is leaving the item in a location that suggests it was abandoned accidentally, say while attending to the diaper of a different child in the house.

Like a barn mouse, Tilly sniffs out these little gems from miles away.  I’ll stumble upon her as I turn a corner dirty diaper in hand after having just changed Gus and there she is, gnawing away on a grocery list or sticky notes from a deposition transcript I took home from work.  Maybe the product will be called “Edible Papyrus” or something to that effect.

Maybe we could resurrect fruit roll-ups and fashion them into some type of Trapper Keeper.  That would be like Tilly’s Thanksgiving/Christmas meal all combined into one secret snack club.

4.) A toilet bowl complete with water and flushing mechanism.  To ensure the bona fide appearance of this number one Christmas gift in 2013, I don’t recommend locating it in a bathroom.  Instead, I’d stash it in a closet or something with the door left slightly open.

Gus eyeballs the bathroom door in our house whenever he’s doing rounds just in case someone didn’t close it all the way during a hasty exit.  Upon seeing any daylight at the entrance, he charges in there and immediately inspects the john before he promptly splashes his arm shoulder-deep as if digging for catfish in a riverbed.

The "Hideaway Head" could retail for a cool $59.95 at Target on Black Friday.  Could you imagine the unintentional comedy of the television commercial?  

5.) The Dexter edition industrial-size plastic wrap wallpaper for moms and dads.  This product would be a transparent adhesive that lies invisible over kitchen walls, window sills, moldings, and other fixtures to protect them from the shrapnel in any meal involving kids under five within a twenty-five foot radius of the kitchen table.

I swear we painted our kitchen within the last two years even though it's beginning to look like an abandoned dining room from a house in Chernobyl.  We might as well let Crips and Bloods tag the place as if it was a subway car because it would look a thousand times better than the current state of dried-up, partially chewed remnants of fruit morsels and Cheerios that pock mark the vicinity at random locations from five feet and below.

3M is probably working on a prototype of this product as we speak.  Home Depot can set up a nice display at its entrance.  The DIY network might even have an episode to show nincompoops like me how it's so easy to install myself.

And there we have it.  If I see any of these products on shelves this year, I expect at least a free sample.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Glass is Half Full

I’ve been at a loss for words the past several weeks.  Bad funk.  As for writing, I wasn’t struggling to come up with any ideas.  I just knew that I would likely regret whatever it was that I wrote because my pants were so full of poop. 

There is no dramatic backstory to explain.  No specific incident or anything like that.  Actually, my bad mood (not the first, not the last) developed mostly as a result of the banalities of my daily routines.   

One morning probably in February, my mind suddenly became overwhelmed with the grind of crying/teething/fighting kids, a house crumbling from damage caused by said kids, too much Disney/not enough Hemingway, grilled cheese sandwiches smooshed in hair and wiped on walls instead of meals with peaceful conversations, low energy, winter blues, etc.  And repeat the next day.  Every day.  Every week.  Then start again the following week.  Blah, blah, blah.  The only respite was going to work, but really, how messed up is it that a job becomes the place to recharge one’s energy? 

Fortunately, I maintained perspective.  We have our health.  We have a roof over our heads.  We have food in our bellies.  We have clothes on our backs.  As cliché as that may be, everything else is truly just gravy. 

But being American, I of course want everything, right now, because of my self-perception that I’m the hardest worker I know.  These yin and yang debates raged on mostly inside my head, while I toiled through the daily drudgery. 

I felt myself becoming unlike myself.  Almost like when Jack Butler (Mr. Mom) yells at Kenny for coloring outside the lines and enjoying the same television shows as his one year old.  Although I wish it was that lighthearted in my case.  (Again, no real drama but my heart is guilty for slacking off in the patience department to name one example.) 

Eventually, I think I just annoyed myself into a better mood.  I decided to be Billy Ocean when the going gets tough. 

I’m launching a system upgrade.  Dad version 4.0.  (Greta turned four last month.)  Hopefully, the new software will be the kind that doesn’t wreak havoc on the server causing an eye-rolling, belly aching uproar among the employees and calls every day to Help Desk people named “Joe” and “Bob” in sub-continental Asia.

With that confession out of the way, I’m ready to emerge from hibernation.  I’m re-booting the computer now.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

My buddy Joe was one of the first to get his driver’s license out of the guys I hung out with in high school.  Whenever I hear C+C Music Factory (which is extremely rare come to think of it,) my mind teleports to riding through the streets of Manchester in Joe’s Mazda 626 while Gonna Make You Sweat blared out any attempted conversation between the passengers.  Ah, the nineties.  I digress.

Tilly has recently transitioned somewhere from Australopithecus man to Homo habilis man.  Assuming the memory serves me correctly from World Cultures class, Australopithecus was one of the more primitive primates from whom humans evolved.  Homo habilis was the first species in the evolutionary chain who used tools.  I think.  Or maybe it was Homo erectus.
Irregardless, Tilly has begun mastering pulling herself up to stand.  The other day, I saw her standing at the toy tool table.  She was firing away at the circular saw until Gus came along and nudged her out of the way.  Tilly then grabbed a toy hammer and whacked away at her brother’s leg.  Hence, homo habilis.

Notwithstanding her evolutionary progression, Tilly’s eating quirks are probably more akin to Cro-Magnon man or possibly Neanderthal.  First, the volume of food she consumes is akin to the intake of a Biggest Loser contestant the night before they begin a competition.  Second, her table manners are atrocious.  We basically need a high-powered hose to blast away all the food scraps and crumbs that accumulate between her fingers, in her hair, on her cheeks, and in the folds of her neck after a meal. 

Most entertaining, though, is the sound that Tilly makes once we’ve begun to feed our little beast.  The only way I can accurately describe my baby’s happy hum while eating is well, um, the sound I imagine of a woman taking a bubble bath with several lit candles around her after a couple glasses of Chardonnay as she watches that movie about male strippers starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey.  I’m just saying. It’s funny and uncomfortable to witness at the same time.
That’s is for this week.  I’m off to download “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” because I can’t get it out of my brain.

Thoughts Too Long for Side Note at Side Bar:

THE WIFE graciously granted me a short parole this weekend so I could catch at least one of the four NFL playoff games.  I headed to Owen O’Leary’s, which is an Irish Pub and Restaurant just over the border between Easton and Brockton.  I’d never eaten there but I drive by it literally every single day, so it’s been on the list of places to check out for a while.

Upon entering, I deduced quickly that the average age of the clientele was somewhere between seventy and eighty years old.  Mind you, I was there on a Sunday at four o’clock, but I was still surprised at how much of a hot spot this was for the “well into retirement” crowd.

So this place is an old school type of family restaurant with very affordable entrees and Keno to boot.  The ambience is kind of dark and sleepy.  The décor is kind of outdated but clean and presentable.  Most of the couples ignored each other and their food because their eyes were transfixed on the monitor to see if they hit on their seven pick exacto.

I ordered the shepard’s pie and a stout.  Neither disappointed.  Good stuff.  Rumor has it that OO’s has a younger crowd during Pats’ games and when Stonehill’s students are back in session, but I’ll believe it when I see it…

I caught the Seahawks-Redskins game and just before it began, Erin Andrews (formerly of ESPN, Dancing With The Stars, and the unfortunate victim of a peeping Tom with a camera as she changed in a hotel room) came on the screen with a Fox pre-game report.  I couldn’t help but notice that everyone in the place all took a brief pause to look at the gorgeous woman.  I forgot how attractive she is…

I ask this sincerely because making fun of health issues just isn’t funny.  Has anyone heard Boomer Esiason’s voice lately?  Somebody give that guy a lozenge.  Just listening to him gives me a sore throat.  I’ll feel like a complete jackass if he genuinely has a throat sickness or something, but assuming that’s not the case, he needs to take some time off from work like yesterday.  Every time I hear him on the radio, I crave a hot toddy…

Speaking of the radio, the best report I heard after leaving the restaurant went something like this, “Thanks Jim.  I was just standing near the bench of the Seahawks and [the field goal kicker I think] was having his groin stretched feverishly.”  Personally, I’m pretty sure I know how I’d react to someone stretching my groin.  For said person to stretch my groin feverishly, well, I’d probably start making sounds like Tilly does when she’s eating a nice meal…