Friday, August 26, 2011

Conditional Love

One of the greatest things about kids is the intense, very definitive joy they see in the world. Things are often either loved with great passion – or completely and utterly distained. It is black and it is white. Things are usually either entirely IN or they are entirely OUT.

For example, some friends have a son who is absolutely crazy, just gonzo, about anglerfish, those creepy-looking deep-sea fish with huge teeth, transparent head, and a bioluminescent growth atop their noggin with which to lure prey. He draws anglerfish, he studies anglerfish, he recites anglerfish data. For his birthday, most of the gifts were anglerfish presents (or at least related to deep-sea diving), so much so that our own erector-set like gift was rather conspicuous in its lack of scales, over-sized teeth, or bioluminescence. Bottom line: that kid is NUTS for anglerfish (or he was, at least a week ago – who knows what he’s onto now, viperfish maybe). Best part? His parents have absolutely NO idea why.

And our girls are no different. For years they have been obsessed with mermaids (thank you Disney for reinvigorating the previously downtrodden mermaid branding industry…). They are crazy passionate about them, studying books about them, gleefully pointing them out wherever we go, and even calling out which ones they are.

For example, let’s say we pass by a mural with four mermaids on it. Lillian will call out, “Mermaids! I’m the blonde one, and the one with the crown!” while Sylvia chimes in with “I her! And I her too!”

You see this exuberant joy also come squirting out all over the place for a new toy, or a certain food, or a character or animal on TV. But then, suddenly (and believe me, I look forward to this day with mermaids – and even more so the Disney princesses), one random day, that particular thing is out, just ‘poof!’ gone.

“No, I don’t like that book anymore.”

“But I thought you loved this book?”

“No, it’s for babies.”

“Oh, okay…”

“Dad, I don’t like pants. Boys wear pants.”

“Oh, okay…”

“No, I don’t like mac ‘n cheese anymore.”

“What?!?!? You love mac ‘n cheese.”

“No, I don’t. Not anymore.”

“Oh, okay…”

Of course, these conversations usually happen just AFTER you bought the companion book, or took advantage of the sale on pants at Target, or just stocked up on a case of mac ‘n cheese.

This passion also works with friends. Lillian in particular likes to spout off about her best friends, sometimes cranking out a list of four or five girls, that she immediately then edits down or up, depending on who she forgot or who is in/out that week. Sometimes this list (or her ongoing list of boyfriends – yes, that’s plural as there is usually between three or five of them) is, days (or even moments) later, quickly appended depending on how things go at school.

Sylvia though is a little more deliberate and focused. She has one best friend: Natalie, or ‘Nat-Nat’. And so, in Sylvia’s world, Natalie is the thing she just adores the most. She LOVES Nat-Nat. She literally squeals with delight just seeing the girl. If we set up a play date, she can’t stop asking when it’s going to happen.

“Natalie coming over today?”

“No honey, that’s on Thursday.”

“Oh. [Pause as the little wheels in her brain grind on.] Is today Fursday?”

“No, today is Tuesday.”

“Oh. [Pause. Grinding…] When is Fursday?”

This has lead Sylvia to quantify her loves, based on their relation to the power of her affection for Nat-Nat. She started to say things like, “I love Natalie most in the world!” But then Lillian (as she often does) corrected her; “No, you CAN’T love Natalie more than you love mom and dad!”

Thus Sylvia began to let us know things like, “Daddy, I love you even more den Natalie.” And “Momma, I don’t love Natalie as much as I love you.” We could start to tell if we were having a good day or a bad day, based on where we fell on Sylvia’s 'Nat-Nat Meter'. If we were above Natalie, we were good. If we’d slipped down below Nat-Nat, we’d done something wrong.

This also led to good-byes like, “Bye Mamma, I love you more den Natalie!” This then led Lillian to chime in with things like, “Bye daddy, I love you more than ice cream!” This all continued to escalate into longer and longer good-byes with bigger and bigger examples of their unfettered love. Some recent greatest hits included being loved more than:

  • Trips to the park/zoo/children’s museum, etc.
  • Cotton candy, chocolate, Smarties, and various other treats
  • King’s Island amusement park
  • Froot Loops

But my favorite came from Lillian the other day. I don’t quite know where this one came from, but I just loved the sound of it:

“Good bye mom, I love you more than cheetahs!”

The best part is, I don’t recall Lillian even mentioning that she even LIKED cheetahs, but there it was: she loves her mom even more than the fastest land animal in the world.

And you have to admit cheetahs are damn cool. They are sleek and lean, run up to 60-mph, are natural born killers, and always have that uber-cool, Shaft-like “Damn right, I’m a cheetah and you know it,” look in their eye (if you don’t believe me, next time you see a photo of a cheetah lounging, just mentally play the Shaft theme song in your head – it totally fits). 'They are some bad motherfu- Hush yo’ mouth! I’m just talkin’ about cheetahs!' So, especially as a cheetah fan, I find that to be loved even more than a cheetah is high, high praise indeed.

And it's especially rewarding as a parent who can’t run 60 miles per hour, doesn't exuded Shaft-like coolness, and isn't literally one bad cat, that someone, even if ‘just’ a little person, lets you know that you are even better than a cheetah.

But, now that our love from Lillian is apparently quite secure, it’s time to go check the Nat-Nat Meter and see how we’re doing with Sylvia today…

Friday, April 22, 2011

Introducing: Parent Pro – the Parent’s Friend

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lillian's P-Bomb

Not to be outdone by her F-bomb dropping sister (see previous post), big sister Lillian apparently felt a need to get in on the 'trucker mouth' action as well.

This incident happened just two months after Sylvia's F-bombs and I can't help but think that the events were related. Perhaps Lillian was just simply inspired by the impact of and attention garnered by Sylvia's potty mouth, and thus she just HAD to go out and find her own distinct... 'signature' to stamp on my memories of her childhood (and add to the building case against us with Child Protective Services).

Sally was away on a business trip, and I was scrambling to get the girls out the door to school one fine morning. As is most often the case, Lillian was dutifully doing everything she could to get ready and was following instructions to a 'T'. Sylvia, as is most often the case, was fluttering around like the little butterfly that she is, head in the daffodils, ignoring everything I said.

Here's a snippet from any random morning in our house; "Sylvia, get your shoes on. Sylvia, I asked you to get your shoes on. It's time to go to school. No, NOW. Sylvia, get your shoes on! No, YOUR OWN shoes! Yes, wearing my shoes really is silly, but Sylvia, please get your own shoes on now. Yes, Lillian you did do a good job getting your shoes on. Yes, I love the sparkles on them. Wait, where is Sylvia? Sylvia, it's NOT coloring time. GET YOUR SHOES ON!" Now repeat this for eating breakfast, getting out of PJ's, getting on each individual article of clothing, brushing hair, brushing teeth, getting her backpack, etc. and you'll start to get a picture of a typical morning here.

This particular morning, I was asking Sylvia to get her coat on, for the fifth time, when Lillian suddenly piped up with, "Sylvia, get your coat on and stop being such a PUSSY!"

I was dumbstruck, more so than when Sylvia dropped her F-bomb. I mean, I know we let the F-bomb slip now and again and thus I could fathom where Sylvia got that word. But Lillian? Calling her sister a... 'pussy'? I stood there silent for a moment, really sort of dumbstruck, just wondering, 'Where the hell did THAT come from?"

"Er, ah..." I stumbled. "Lillian, wait. WHAT did you just say?"

She registered my tone and the severe emphasis I put on the 'WHAT'. She looked me in the eye, rather sheepishly, and said, quite sincerely, "Nothing."

"No, that wasn't 'nothing.' C'mere. Let's talk."

Our previous rush out the door now halted, I switched into loving, nurturing parent mode, rather than my previous (and usual) ushering, prodding, cajoling, pleading day-to-day parent mode. I calmed my voice, relaxed a bit, and got down to Lillian's level to talk to her eye-to-eye.

I slowly explained what that word meant and that people used it as a not very nice word for a woman's vagina and that people also used it as a not very nice word for people when they aren't doing what they want them to do. And (now well-versed in how to handle another 'trucker mouth bomb') I said it was an adult word, not a good word at all for kids to use yet, generally pulling out all the little tidbits of parental guidance that I'd gleaned from our issue with Sylvia. I then also mentioned that sometimes Lillian might hear that word being used for a kitty, as in 'pussycat'.

I got the girls off to school and all was well... save a constant fear that I'd get a call from the school soon about Lillian using an inappropriate word in the art room or cafeteria or in the midst of some wonderfully nurturing touchy-feely Montessori festival about 'love lights' or a 'peace rose' or something. I could hear, echoing through my head, Lillian barking out 'Ms. Beth, I asked Malijah to hold the peace rose to share his love light, but he's being a PUSSY!' At the end of the day, I cringed a little picking Lillian up from her school, steeling myself for her teacher to stride over to my car or, worse still, ask me to park the car and meet her inside 'to talk about Lillian'.

But, there were no calls during the day, no impromptu conferences, and no shameful notes in Lillian's backpack when she got home. The day was, apparently, wonderfully normal. Happy with my parental super powers exerted to squash the evil P-word from Lillian's lexicon, I fed them dinner, got them to bed, and got ready for another day.

Rushing through another morning of getting the girls off to school the next day, all was going well. Sylvia was listening (well, a bit - let's say she was listening more than usual), we were cranking through getting ready, and things were generally going well. I had the girls fed, dressed, combed, and ready for another day of school and we scooted out the door and into the garage, when our cat Periwinkle ran into the garage with us.

Always the empathetic one, Lillian immediately feared for the cat's safety and yelled out into the dark garage, "Dad, Periwinkle just ran in here!" She then followed that with a rapid-fire burst of, "Here pussy! Here pussy! Have you seen my pussy? Where is my pussy! Here pussy! Dad, can you see my pussy over there? Here pussy! Has anyone seen my pussy? Where's my pussy?"

Always quick, I replied with a stern, sage, "Uh... errr... uh." But, I quickly regained my composure. "Lillian, STOP! Do NOT say THAT word."

I started to get down to Lillian's level and get all nurturing again. But Lillian piped up first; "But dad, you said yesterday that that word could be used for 'cat' too. And that's how I was using it. You said that. Yesterday." And I had to give the kid props. She was good...

"Yes, you're right honey, I did say that. And you are using the word... like I said people use it."

"Then it's okay right!?!?!"

"Ah...", here I was again at a loss for words. She was right. And she had used the word just as I told her it could be used. All that I could say was, "Honey, just don't use that word. Not yet. You'll have PLENTY of time to use that word down the road, in all sorts of ways. But do me a favor and just don't use that word until your bigger." I knew how specific Lillian could be and that she would immediately ask me what age she could start using this magnificent new word. "So, ah..." I had to buy time. "Don't use that word until you're... like, twelve." (Hey, I was trying to be somewhat realistic here and knew that she wouldn't buy - and I wouldn't believe it myself - if I tried to say 'eighteen'.)

She nodded okay, and then I got the girls off to school. And while I continued to steel myself for it, there hasn't yet been a note, a call, or even a peep from Ms. Beth about Lillian dropping any P-bombs in the midst of any Montessori school-wide World Peace Love Light International Hug Your Friends Day Celebration.

Well, not yet at least...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fuc-Yoo Mama, Fuc-Yoo!

Note: This story has been told verbally many times now, but it's time that the tale be posted here, on the Interweb, for ALL to see and enjoy (and to allow even more people to question our parenting abilities).

Sylvia was two. TWO mind you, when we had driven from Cincy up to Indianapolis for a family event. We were staying at Sally's mom's and, the weekend over, I was taking our bags out to the car as Sally sat in her mom's living room, amicably chatting away with half her family. The girls were playing and there was a din of chatter from Sally's mom, a few of Sally's aunts and uncles, her sister, a cousin, and a niece and nephew or two.

I threw a few bags in the trunk of the car and then came back inside to gather up the last little tidbits of our familial traveling detritus. But as I re-entered the living room, it was stone cold silent. Not a word was being said. No one was speaking.

I looked quizzically around the room as I blew through, en route to the back bedroom to get the last of our bags, then came back through the living room again. Still not a word. I asked Sally what was going on and she said, "I'll tell you in the car."

As you know, whenever someone says, "I'll tell you in the car," it's not going to be good. No one waits to tell you in the car that they were just nominated for a Pulitzer, or won the lottery, or realized what an absolute genius their kid is because the tike just recited a soliloquy from Hamlet. (And, in this case, quite the contrary.)

In the car, I learned that Sally had been asking the girls to get their things ready, 'C'mon girls, get your coats. Pick up the toys,' etc. She asked Sylvia to get her shoes on. Sylvia - as usual - didn't. Sally asked her again. Sylvia didn't. Sally asked her once more.

Sylvia - who was two mind you, TWO - turned, pointed her finger directly at Sally and replied, clear as a bell, in front of all those people (including her own grandmother, great aunts and uncles, an aunt, etc.) "Fuc yoo Mama, fuc yoo!"

Sitting in the car, the chilly silence of the room now made absolute and total sense to me.

"Wait, she really said it? I mean, it wasn't something that sounded like-"

"No," Sally replied, "She said it." Apparently Sylvia's body language, tone, the context, and the irascible little finger had made it all pretty clear and absolutely irrefutable. Our beautiful little blond, spritely two year old girl who loves fairies and princesses had just, in front of half of Sally's family, told her mom, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off.

'Hello, Child Protective Services? Yeah, hi. I have a couple of parents that might need... uh, CPS' help. You see their two-year old girl just told her mom to...' You get the picture here.

As I now hesitantly drove the car back toward Cincinnati and the girls watched 'Cars' (again) on the car's DVD player with the volume purposely turned way up, Sally and I muttered back and forth in the front seats.

"Did she really just..."
"And it was definitely...."
"In front of the whole family..."
The answer to all was an undeniable YES.

I flashed back a few weeks before, during a lovely family breakfast. The sun was out, the birds were twittering, and young Sylvia was just learning how to exert herself with her rather controlling big sister Lillian. Lillian would always tell Sylvia what to do and how to do it, but now Sylvia was finally pushing back, saying things like, 'No Yillian, me no like dat!' I was proud of her and her new efforts to be her own little woman.

On that morning, Lillian told Sylvia that they were going to do something together now, and Sylvia replied, "Uc-yoo, Yillian, uc-you!" After nearly choking on our Cheerios, Sally and I immediately looked at each other, eyebrows furrowed and shared a 'Did she just say...?' sort of look. We immediately laughed.

"That sounded like she just said...."

"Oh my god, I know. Didn't it?"

We looked at each other, again with furrowed eyebrows.


"Couldn't have been."

"No way."

We went on about our day and all was well. After all, there's no way a two-year-old could have learned THAT word, THE WORD. Right?

Back in the car, wondering when the CPS helicopter would descend upon us, we realized that oh yes, she certainly HAD learned that word - and since the breakfast incident her enunciation had improved too! 'Congrats, Parents-Of-The-Year, that little Sylvia is really sumpthin'! Now, please duck your head as you enter the CPS helicopter.'

We finally devised a strategy on how to respond. We turned 'Cars' off for a moment and asked for the girls' attention. Sally and I spoke in tandem, like a right and left hook from a boxer, each one of us spurting out a sentence or two at a time.

"Sylvia, you used a word back there that's a very strong word."

"A word for adults. A word that only adults should use."

"And it's just not a word that children should be saying yet. A word you shouldn't say until you're much older."

"Much older. It's inappropriate to say it now."

"Really inappropriate."

"And definitely inappropriate to say it to momma."

"And certainly in front of the whole family."

"So that's a word that you should absolutely not use."

"For a very long time."

Sylvia was quiet, clearly hearing the stern, serious tone of our voices, and just taking in everything, her little brain replaying, reviewing, absorbing - as always.

Meanwhile though, Lillian's brain was tied in knots. In the midst of our stern words to Sylvia, Lillian was racing: "What is this word?!?!? What is it!?!? I didn't hear it, what is it!?!?!" Lillian was desperate to hear this wonderful, powerful, parent-shaking word, but we didn't dare go there.

I think Sally said something like, "Honey, it's a word that you don't need to know right now. It's inappropriate for children." She had to say something because I was being hit with one of those parental bouts of laughter where you're trying so hard to stay all parentally stern and serious, but you're laughing inside so hard you're nearly crying. Lillian's intense and passionate curiosity about THIS WORD, just about had me in stitches.

"You'll hear it, and learn it, soon enough Lillian, trust us."

We having now satisfactorily addressed the issue - and essentially run out of things to say about it, after reiterating our base message three or four times to Sylvia - the car got quiet. Sylvia never said a word.

Then Lillian piped up, "Can we turn 'Cars' back on?"

Yes honey, we certainly can. We turned the DVD back on, feeling better now to have addressed the issue and moved on, back to some sort of normalcy. I felt the CPS helicopter back off a little.

But, under the din of Lighting McQueen and Chick Hicks' banter, Sally and I kept talking about it. At one point, Sally rightly, and incredulously, asked, "I mean, where do you think she heard that word!?!?"

I thought back to the time that, in the midst of 'daddy-daughter wrestling time' Lillian launched herself in a 'Super Jump' from the couch, driving her skull into my right eye socket (awarding me my first parental black eye). I certainly bellowed THE WORD on that day, and loud enough for the neighbors to hear. But Sylvia was too little then, just about 18 months, and that had been a few years ago now.

But then I thought back to the nights that Sally and I often had beers while the kids played or watched a show. We'd talk about work, family, life, the house, etc. and sometimes, especially when talking about work, we tended to get a little animated, a little fired up. I could recall THE WORD coming out of our mouths on more than a few occasions.

And then there were the 'Friday Night Dance Parties' when we'd have Sally's music on while we were getting ready to go out or just blowing off steam, the girls running about, jumping on the bed, or just generally 'shakin' their booty'. Too often, Eminem or Kanye or someone else would come on, maybe talk about what they'd like to do in the back of 'their Hummer truck'...

The more and more I thought about it, the more and more I realized how often THE WORD is out there, all around us. And, I have to admit, Sally and I were both pretty amazed that Sylvia had gravitated toward this one special word (one that we certainly don't use daily but that is also, I now know, out there) plucked it from our lexicon, and applied it in - for her and for her little defiant moment - an absolutely correct context.

Regardless of our 'pride' in this special little, never-to-be-forgotten moment of familial bliss, Sally was still pretty mortified. After all, it was her daughter that just dropped, right in front of literally half her extended family, what was, as Ralphie in 'A Christmas Story' put it, 'THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the F-dash-dash-dash word.' Soon after, Sally got a call from her mom about it. Sally absolutely fretted over it. She, as a good mom does, worried about it. She looked up advice online (Search: 'Toddler with trucker mouth') and dug into her little library of parental help books to find out what exactly had gone wrong and just exactly how to correct it.

Me, on the other hand, well, I (gently) made it the subject of our humorous little Christmas letter. Worse still, I eventually even wrote a blog post about it.

I think I hear that CPS helicopter in the distance again...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wee Mr. McMurphy's Magic

Having kids in your life brings the magic back into your world. Take, for example, Wee Mr. McMurphy.

Now, I like to tell friends of mine that are about to have a baby that there's no real secret to parenting. I say, "For thousands of years, far less capable people than you have been having kids, kids who turn out just fine, so try not to worry about it too much." After all, if you care even a bit about that kid, you'll do just fine. There is no magic potion or secret to raising kids. 'Feed, care, love - repeat' is pretty much the mantra.

But as the care-givers and providers in the relationship, we're all too often bogged down with taking care of the kidlets (and keeping up with mortgages, battling our all-consuming email In Box, rushing off to make our troga (treadmill yoga) class, and all the accompanying drudgeries of the modern American full-time parental home owner) to stop for a moment and see the magic that they see everywhere. It's far too easy to just stay head-down, buried in the minute-to-minute-to-minute constant tasks of what's next: Are the girls up? Yes, check. Get them fed, check. Find suitable clothes, check. Make them wear said suitable clothes, check. Hair and teeth? Brushed, so check. Get them into car...

On the surface, the days can blend into a never-ending series of menial tasks to be completed, only to all return the next day, Sisyphus-like, to be completed all over again.

But as your kids get a little older, they start to bring a new joy back into many things that, as an adult, long ago lost their specialness. Yesterday, St. Patrick's Day, for example.

Now, I'll admit I'm personally more than a little baffled at the whole St. Patty's Day thing. If I recall correctly, the day is hardly even noted in Ireland, but in the U.S. it's a pretty significant celebration (and huge if you live in such places as Boston, New York, or Chicago), wether or not you, like so many Americans, can actually claim to be a quarter or an eight or a sixteenth Irish, or not. As you get older though, you start to see it as nothing more than a rather odd anachronism back to days when Irish immigrants needed something to celebrate, but that now has degraded into not much more than an excuse to go out, get plastered, and pretend to like some American's attempt at 'corned beef & cabbage'.

But then our girls started coming home from school, talking about 'McMurphy', the leprechaun that (thanks to our girls having great and very engaged teachers) started visiting their classrooms. As the days counted down to St. Patty's day, McMurphy started visiting their classroom more and more each night and getting into more and more mischief. He apparently moved various items in the classroom, messed up projects they had completed (just slightly of course), kept losing his hat or his shoes or other little items around the room, and - most laughably - would apparently pee (green of course) in the potty at night, leaving it there for the kids to discover.

Lillian's utter joy at all these events was palpable. She would rant on, rapid-fire, with hardly a breath between sentences, to tell us all that McMurphy had been up to the night before, how leprechauns sneak into rooms, how fast they are, what kind of jigs they dance, and all the very latest on leprechaun culture.

So, the night before St. Patty's Day (and with Sally out of town on business), I realized that Wee Mr. McMurphy needed to make a visit here as well.

With all things parental though, a great idea immediately started to go south. After the girls were down, I immediately fell asleep too, instead of staying up to plot out McMurphy's doings. I got up early to take care of this, but then so did Sylvia, pattering her way into my office at 5:30 AM. I brought her back upstairs to try to put her to bed, but she only flopped and tossed and turned. Finally, I admitted defeat, took her downstairs and made her some breakfast (the term 'breakfast' for Sylvia being used in only the loosest terms as lately we can't get much more in her than a sippy cup of chocolate milk). It seemed McMurphy's chances to visit our house were disappearing faster than green beer at a Boston bar.

But then, an unheralded miracle: Sylvia walked herself back upstairs and went back to bed.

I didn't miss the opportunity, immediately springing to action to do SOMETHING for St. Patty's day (above and beyond the greenish outfits or meager accessories that I'd found for the girls to wear later that day). But I was stumped. What to actually DO? I hadn't had any time to think things through. Then it hit me - the green pee!

I quickly went to the cupboard and grabbed the #1 best possible weapon in the 'Parent's Arsenal of Duplicitous Tricks': food coloring.

I grabbed the green one and went straight to the bathroom. Soon two drops of green food coloring were suspended in the bowl's water, slowing dispersing in a dark, VERY green cloud. I stared at it a moment. 'Too green?,' I wondered, then pushed it out of my mind. What next? What do leprechaun's DO?

I remembered the #2 best possible weapon in the 'Parent's Arsenal of Duplicitous Tricks': glitter.

Off to the basement's craft bin to find the glitter. I found the three vials; silver, gold, and red but then was stumped. 'Did I use gold for the Tooth Fairy? Or was that silver?' McMurphy's glitter would have to be different and we had no green... 'I think the Tooth Fairy was gold...' I grabbed the silver.

Back upstairs, I sprinkled it around the potty. 'Too much? Did I over do how much a leprechaun would REALLY leave? Stop over-thinking this man!' The girls would be up in a few minutes and the mad rush to get to school would be on.

'WHAT do leprechauns DO??? Tricks! They play tricks on people!'

I saw the girls shoes by the door and immediately tied them together, sprinkling leprechaun dust all around them. ('Leprechaun dust? Do Leprechaun's have 'dust'? Stop over-thinking this man!') Three balls of socks left on the couch, normally a nuisance, presented a new opportunity. I un-balled them all and then re-balled them in mismatched pairs. Genius! Leprechaun dust marked the scene of the crime.

'What else!?!?'

Too late... my alarm went off and it was absolutely time to get the girls up, or else we'd never get to school on time.

I went upstairs, and pretty much pulled the girls out of bed. Sometimes this is a major fight, but at least this time I had the 'ace in the hole' of being able to at least mention it was St. Patty's Day, the mention alone of which would provide some impetus and energy to get them up. Ever so slowly they emerged from the sleepy cocoons of blankets (Sylvia, as always, especially slowly). And with Sylvia still groggy from her early morning wake up, things again quickly started to go south.

I knew, were this a normal morning, it would immediately take a downturn into fighting, crying, uneaten breakfast and tangled, misshapen hair. But not this day, not this glorious St. Patrick's Day!

Sylvia, in my arms, was whimpering and Lillian was already bossily complaining. But I just smiled... and waited. Lillian said, "I need to use the potty." I blurted out, "Don't forget to turn on the light!" which was asinine, since she always does.

She did.

And she screamed.


"What?" I asked, blithe-fully ignorant.

"He came to our house! He peed in the potty!"

"WHAT!?!?" I hammed, running to the bathroom.

"Look, look! Green pee! He PEED in our POTTY! He came to our house!"

Immediately the morning took on a new excitement and energy, as the girls ran around the house looking for other traces of Mr. McMurphy. They found the shoes and squealed. They found the socks and their voices reached such a pitch that I feared windows might shatter. And then they started to run around the house, looking for more.

"Daddy, my book! He read my book!"

"Uh, what?" I hadn't touched a book...

"My 'Where's Waldo?' book! I always shut it but now it's open. He read my book!"

"Uh, okay..."

They ran upstairs to search their rooms for more mischief from Mr. McMurphy as I recalled her teacher having made green milk. As I dropped a few drops of green food coloring into a half-full cup of milk, I heard, "My slippers! He messed up my slippers!" That was followed by peals of laughter too. There was something about Sylvia's room that they said he changed, and then more back in Lillian's, the back to Sylvia's. They were accruing a list of leprechaun deeds that I hadn't even thought of, much less done.

I set the milk on the counter and waited for them to come back downstairs for their breakfasts. Soon they did, and they squealed again at the discovery. "He drank green milk and left some!" That inspired more running around to find more traces of Mr. McMurphy.

I thought, 'Green milk? Why not green apple juice?' and set about creating another half-empty cup. This scene ended up being like something out of a bad sit-com though, as I snuck out the apple juice, then hid it behind my back as they tore through the kitchen. Then I pulled out the cup and nearly poured the juice as Sylvia stumped in, asking, "Da-dee, when McMurfee coming to my class at big girl school?" I replied something like, "I think today honey," then went back to trying to pour the juice as she walked out. I poured it quickly, feeling like a safecracker or jewel thief, then again hid the juice as they both tore through the kitchen again, seeking out more leprechaun traces. Soon I managed to get the green food coloring in the cup and get the juice bottle put away.

Then, as if scripted, Sylvia asked to be picked up. I nonchalantly picked her up and went about my business with breakfast, waiting. Soon she said, "What dat?" and pointed to the green juice. I called Lillian back into the kitchen and again screams of excitement filled the house.

Eventually, I was able to get them dressed, fed (partially at least), combed & brushed, into the car, and off to school. Apparently, I later heard, they told each and every classmate and teacher every single detail of Mr. McMurphy's romp through our home.

But I started to realize that there was a time when, as a wee lad myself, I believed in leprechauns too, when St. Patrick's Day wasn't about idiots of various and random heritages in a drunken stupor on a non-holiday that even the Irish don't care much about, when it was about magic; about dancing leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold.

'Oh yeah,' I remembered. 'I used to like St. Patrick's Day too.'

So, while there isn't a lot of magic that goes into parenting, there's certainly a hell of a lot of magic that comes back out from being a parent.

And I haven't even STARTED on Christmas yet... :-)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lillian's Story (Abridged)

"The other day, at school, we were doing recess and we were all ninjas, me and Jayannah and Addison and Marino and Malisia and Cadin and we were all ninjas and I was the Pink Princess Ninja and Jayannah was the Purple Princess Ninja and Addison - she's the one who has a hat with tiny, teeny, tiny teeny little candy canes on it and you met her once after school when she was wearing a black coat - she was Violet Princess Ninja and the boys were all regular ninjas, except Cadin who was the Golden Wolf, and whenever he howled, like this, 'How-how-HOOOWWWWLLL,' it meant that danger was coming and so we all had to be ready to fight bad guys and so Cadin would go 'How-how-HOOOWWWWLLL' then we'd all get ready with our karate to fight bad guys and we fought bad guys and saved the world."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Assault and Batteries

One of the many great things about fatherhood is the ego-boost you can get from your admiring kids. For example, my girls believe that I can fix just about anything.

Now, if you know me you know that I’m not the handiest guy on the planet. I can hammer a nail, but it will take me a dozen strikes (and maybe another nail or two) to get it in. I can saw through a piece of wood, but it won’t be straight. I do technically know how to install a ‘molly bolt’, but woe be it to the drywall that I drive it into – and to the person standing under whatever the molly bolt was holding up when it pops out four or five months later.

But the girls don’t see this. What they see is a guy that makes toys speak again, builds entire dollhouses, and, wizard-like, knows the intricacies of the magical toy-healing potion known only as ‘super-glue’ (or, in Sylvia’s case, ‘slooper-goo’).

So, they often give my little ego a nice boost by occasionally saying things like, “Daddy can fix anything!” (Oh girls, if only that were true! We’ll both wish it so when you go through that first really traumatic break-up in high school…)

Thus, life with kidlets being what it is, my work desk often resembles something like an elf’s station in Santa’s Workshop. Currently my ‘fix-it’ workload is pretty light, as I see a maraca, two streetlights from a train set, a princess cell phone, and one Richard Scarry book in need of repair. Often, that pile can be three to four times larger, and it usually is. Plus, there is… ‘The Fix-It Basket’.

Current contents of The Fix-It Basket: two belly-dancer tops and a Garfield (neither of which I can do much for, as those are sewing items and are thus waiting for Grandma to come again), two more silent cell phones (hmm… why wouldn’t I just let them stay silent???), some electronic toy with a button that says ‘Giggle!’ on it (again, maybe silence is a virtue here), a headband missing a bow, a hook for a tennis-ball toy that I installed in the basement (and whose molly bolts keep popping out), a part of a cat toy, a beaded key ring, and some various parts to toys that I’d already fixed – but then realized later that I’d forgotten a part or two (see paragraph #2 above…).

But herein lies a challenge for the modern dad: the amazing diversity of batteries that are out there these days. When I was a kid, there were five basic types of modern household batteries. Life was simple: A-D, done. Then, as electronics became smaller, along came the Double-A, then the Triple-A. Still, it was all pretty simple though. No longer.

Today, I can spend weeks with ‘L1152’ or ‘CR4403’ on my To-Do list, constantly eyeing Target, Home Depot, the grocery, and virtually everywhere else we go trying to find the one obscure, tiny, disc-like battery that will fit into some tiny toy or book that's supposed to have stars twinkling on the last page. I’ve broken down a few times now (often after finding only the L1150 and not the L1152, in the sixth store I’ve looked in) and ordered batteries online, sometimes loading up on each type based on the assumption that I’ll need that size and style of battery for SOMETHING soon.

But, while the frustrations of battery hunting these days can sometimes pile up, it is always SO worth it when you finally find the right one, work through your selection of tiny screw drivers to open the tiny back cover of a certain toy, fumble through getting old batteries out and new batteries in, and then hand the now-happily chattering toy back to one of the girls.

They take it, look at it suspiciously for a second, then push a button. When they hear the toy start speaking to them again, their eyes light up and they immediately look at me with a look that says, “Holy crap dad, you really did fix it! This is amazing!” Then they run off through the house, showing off the newly repaired cell phone or talking doll to their sister, mom, and whoever else is around.

So, it’s pretty amazing to be able to ‘fix everything’, even if that ‘everything’ is just for now.

A Real Trucker

When we get in the car and hit the highway, Sylvia's latest joy is to call out whenever she sees a truck. She'll yell, "Truck! Look mama, a truck - big truck! There's a truck, there's a truck... truck! Another truck! Truck! Truck! Truck!"

There's only one little problem with her doing this...

At this point in her speech development, she can't quite make the 'TR' sound, so instead substitutes the 'F' sound.

So, you can only imagine what our car sounds like whenever we hit the road. (And we're thankful that, thus far, we haven't had any new friends or grandparents or business associates in the car with us when she does this.) And when she does this, Sylvia just sounds like... well, like a real trucker.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kids Are NOT Dumbells! (But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them as such…)

It’s tough to maintain any level of fitness when you have kidlets at home. They (rightly) take (and deserve) all your time, energy, and focus so that your life pretty much becomes a cycle of sleep (when you can), work, kids, sleep, work, kids; repeat – day in, day out. There is little time left for most of your own pursuits, including working out.

So, you cut back. If you used to run 10 miles every day, maybe you now sprint three miles every other day. Used to pump iron four days a week for two hours at a time? Now it’s three times a week for 40 minutes at a time. Triathlon training, fencing, ice dancing, competitive yo-yo whatever your thing was, it generally changes quite drastically when you add kids to the equation.

But to supplement your now meager, ‘catch as catch can’ workouts, you get creative. After all, you’re around your kiddos so many hours a day – why not USE them for your fitness?

Thus I humbly present to you a comprehensive workout for moms and dads, ones that hit nearly every major muscle group (at least broadly) and will help a dad or mom from becoming that total pudge-ball slouch that they so readily fear.

[But first, a disclaimer: before starting any workout regime, consult your physician. And before starting this workout regime, also consult your partner, your parents, your pediatrician, and your psychologist – at minimum. Maybe post some stuff online too, just to cover all your bases. Also, while this is all in fun and it goes without saying; just don’t drop your kids. Ever. (So, it can be said that this workout also helps focus your concentration and also develops grip strength.) And if you don’t realize that this is actually all tongue-in-cheek, then don’t even try it – unless there’s a soft, comfy drop zone of mattresses, pillows, etc., in which case I even MORE highly recommend it.]

Chest – Lie down flat on a steady surface, grab a kid, hold them up above your chest with arms extended, lower to chest, and push back up. Works the pectoral muscles and has added benefit of evoking a torrent of giggles.

Shoulders – While standing, grab a kidlet with both hands wrapped around the chest. From a waist-level position extend the kid straight out with elbows locked. Focuses on the deltoids – and also provides a great opportunity for an improvised game of ‘peek-a-boo’ and/or ‘where’s baby’.

Triceps – This one takes a little more focus and care to get into proper position. From a standing position, you grab the kiddo by the hips, swing them up behind your head (they are upside down), then extend the arms so that the kiddo is raised up and down. Keep your shoulders locked and only utilize your elbows to workout your triceps. Generally also works out your kid’s laughter muscles too.

Legs – Grab a kid (or better yet, two – one in each arm) and walk up and down the hall, driveway, airport terminal, Target electronics aisle, or amusement park line in a lunging motion. This one is great for the quads (thighs) and glutes (butt) and even better for small funny bones. I do this one so much that it’s on the girls list of regular requests; “Daddy, do lunges! Do lunges daddy!”

Biceps – From a standing position, lay a kid across your extended arms, sort of cradling them with your hands (hands only). Now swing them up, bending only your elbows, in a classic curling motion. Results in buff biceps and peals of laughter, especially if you ‘zerbert’ at the top of the motion.

Back – Actually, I’ve got nothing here. I haven’t figured out something for the back that isn’t just too elaborate or ridiculous to even attempt with a child. But, whenever you’re at the playground and spy the jungle gym or a low-hanging swing crossbar, crank out a couple of pull-ups.

Some of the benefits of this workout:

  • Family bonding time
  • Increased focus and grip strength as you just don’t drop your kid, especially after reading some faux workout on some guy’s blog
  • As far as an actual workout goes; Hey, something is better than nothing, right?
  • And, the best part, the kids absolutely love it and have a ball… which is really is the point here

Workouts to NOT mimic with your kids:

  • Medicine ball throws
  • Step aerobics (kids just don’t make good step stools, and doing this will generally result in Child Protective Services kicking in your door)
  • Spinning
  • Zoomba
  • Tybo
  • Anything that would normally require some sort of Pilates machine

So, with this strenuous workout now in hand, go forth parents and get your workout on!