Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Real Dads Get Their Nails Did

Kid With No Edges

As summer wraps up, the twins are preparing to enter first grade in the fall.  Their experience in kindergarten was wonderful and they excelled in all avenues they encountered.  A big part of that, both Gina and I fely, had to do with the fundamentals they learned in Pre-K.  They came into kindergarten with the know-how already in place and were able to build on that strong foundation.  Now I know only a fraction of children are able to take advantage of the program, so I can't consider it a necessity, but it was certainly something we wanted Rosaline to take advantage of as well.  Unfortunately she was born two weeks late, just missing the cut off age limit.  We had petitioned to get her in, but were informed this week that they're already at capacity and can't make the exception for her.

Sounds like no big deal, she'll be a normal kindergartner in 2017, right?!  Well. .. Rosaline is her own drummer.  And by that I don't mean she's marching to her own beat, I mean she's animal from the Muppets wailing away and completely unconcerned with what ever anyone else is doing.  In the past 4 1/2 years she's shown herself to be completely unique and a point of concern for us, as her parents.  I often joke that my goal is to get three though college and keep one out of jail, and it's funny. ... but it rings a little true I'm afraid.  She's just so full of life and energy that she bounces off the surface of the planet like a racquet ball.  Trying to get her to stop for a moment in order to learn something is like asking the moon to come back and stay a while, it just isn't going to happen.  It's to our own detriment that the twins were exceptionally good at "learning" the traditional way.  Both are eager to please, both have great retention skills and both think logically.  This means that for me, a logical mind, it's easy to work with them and help them excel.

I got it in my head that it's our duty to get Rosaline up to speed if the pre-K program can't take her.  The last thing I want for her is to struggle in kinder early where her sisters succeeded and get down on herself comparing to them.  So I thought, in addition to our nightly bedtime story, we'll work in some mind games, like puzzles.  So last night, I sat down with her and a puzzle.  Oh ... my ....god.  I was desperately trying to explain the concept of working the edges first so you can give the image a boundary and work your way to center.  This did not register at all.  She's trying to shove straight edges into squiggly holes and putting trains upside down, in the sky, so they'll appease what she thinks I want her to do. ... it was maddeningly frustrating.

And then Gina said something to me.  "Kyle," she said.  "You're trying to put boundaries on a child who doesn't understand the concept of edges."  "Yes, I know," I snapped.  "No, you don't."  She continued, "in her world there is no edge to what she can do or what she can perceive.  In her world it's limitless, there's no reason for an edge to exist.  She see's the world in sections and pieces - focusing on this train and that tree - and she may work to an eventual ending point.  But to see the world - and in this case the puzzle - as a bordered, bound and measurable piece is not a reality that registers with her."  In essence, she's not logical, but the world doesn't have to be.

It was an "aha"moment for me.  While the world and I (and especially her future teachers) might try to teach her logic and force her mind to process the way we do, it's actually detrimental to the beauty of who she is.  We want her to be logical, but she's fantastical.  We want her to have order, but she sees beauty in chaos.  I want her to sit. ... but she's designed to fly; and god damn me for ever thinking I needed to bring her down to my level "for her own good".  If anything, I should be working on how to fly up there with her. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I'm Going To Miss This

On Sunday we took a trek to my mother's new house, her planned retirement destination.  For the next year or so it will be a weekend retreat of sorts, but by all accounts it is the place that she will call home as my kids grow into adulthood.  Because Gina was out of town, I naturally forgot important things to take along, like sunscreen. ... and a pack n' play for the baby to nap in.  So as afternoon took it's grasp and she became more and more agitated, I retreated to a quite room, cuddled her in my arms and rocked until her eyelids dropped and we became one unit at rest. 

I often get asked if four children is overwhelming.  Like I have some brilliant response. "How do you do it?", the press.  Well, this moment is how. ... this moment is why.  Because the only true purpose of my life is these children.  Because as I hold her, her trust in me inspires greatness in me.  If I fail myself, I can make excuse.  If I fail my wife, I can beg forgiveness.  I fail my child. ... there is no coming back from that.  I hold in my hands, in my opinion, the most valuable thing in the universe.  An irreplaceable, unquantifiable, unimaginably perfect item.  And she trusts me as she slumbers to do everything physically possible, and perhaps even more, to protect her, to love her, to see her through.

How do I do it?  How can I not?  There's not a damn thing in the world that could stop me?

And an occasional cold beer helps a bit too.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rosaline Wisdom

Rosaline: "Why do they call it a substitute teacher?  Don't they know that a "toot" is a fart?!

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Sunday Aventure and the Flip Flop Man

Here’s the problem with weekends: they’re too damn short.  I don’t mean that simply as a tongue in cheek “we work to much” statement, although we do so someone oughta to do something about that.    I mean it as a reality, we have only 2 days available to sort out all of our actual lives before getting back to the work world which has replaced our actual lives.  What tends to happen then, at least with young families, is a horrifying pattern of the same things in slightly different places.  Breakfast, soccer, make up gymnastics, lunch, birthday party, dinner, bedtime.  Sometimes there’s a movie rental in there, maybe a round of golf or a Sunday brunch, but for the most part it’s pretty consistent.  That’s why I really relish opportunities to shake it up drastically.

On Sunday, Gina and I woke up with a plan: today was going to be an adventure day.  We rounded up the kids, threw on some clothes and bagged some cereal for the road.  We got to the train station just before 9 with plenty of time to catch the 9:13 to Downtown LA.  We thought, let’s get the kids out of their suburban bubble and show them things they’ve never seen before.  It was just after the last of the car doors closed and we all stood their looking at the homeless man yelling at himself on platform 2 that we really thought: um, was this a wise choice?  Next we fumbled through the ticketing machine and the security guard who came to help us clearly had the same concerns. “You all be safe today,” he called as we walked away, clearly concerned for the worst.

As crossed the bridge towards our platform, the kids skipped eagerly along and Gina and I glared at each other intently.  What were we doing?  Four little girls, taking them to downtown?!  But here’s what we were doing: creating a memory.  I recall walking Olvera Street with my parents.  I remember traversing through Chinatown, exploring Little Tokyo.  I remember these things because my parents exposed me to them.  I learned things that can’t be taught.  I experienced a broader sense of the world around me, and I desperately wanted to give that to my kids as well.

The train ride (their first) was everything you hoped.  We explored the upper levels, played Eye Spy with the passing world, we tested the limits of the silent commuters around us, and when we emerged at Union Station it was like we’d entered a foreign world.  Literally it was a completely foreign environment for the girls; people dressed differently, talked differently. … acted “differently”.

We made our way to Chinatown first, only a few blocks to the northwest of the station.  It was during this passage through the homeless encampments and past unidentifiable odors that it dawned on me – my memories of this place were bright and cheery, but only because my parents absorbed the fears and concerns that it brings internally.   So I didn’t allow my trepidation to manifest externally, I didn’t want to jade this experience for them.  And I’m so glad I didn’t, but damn did I hold tightly onto their little hands the whole time.  We walked the shops, explored some live food markets with bizarre fish and angry chickens.  We even bought a couple of baby turtles to come home and live in our pond.

We then made it Olvera Street where the girls explored the outdoor shops, delighted in the live dancing in the historic courtyards and enjoyed a wonderful meal in a crowded cantina with mariachi playing all around us.  They bought some little fans and trinkets to remember, then we headed back to the station for our 3:15 home.  As we waited outdoors near a public fountain, it was then that Rosaline realized she had misplaced her fan.

“That man over there has a fan,” Arianna announced nonchalant.

Gina and I turned to see a homeless man, with one leg of his pants missing and a flip-flop sandal secured to his head with a rubber band.  He held Rosaline’s pink flamenco fan, open and fluttering, covering his face just below the eyes.

Of course. … this is Rosaline, this is where her fan would end up.

Gina walked her over to the man, had her ask for her fan with pleases and thank you’s and he graciously abided.  And it was in that moment that another lesson was taught.  The unfortunate people can be scary.  They’re unpredictable, troubled and desperate.  But their human; they deserve respect.  And even if a man has flip-flop on his head, you ask with a please and afford him a thank you.

And just like that, we were back on a train, headed home.  We were up 3 fans, 2 turtles and countless memories from our Sunday adventure.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Taking A Moment to Make A Moment

Friday began this past weekend of in exhaustive fashion.  Rosaline's preschool had coordinated a field trip to the San Diego Zoo, so we took the big girls out of class for the day (shhhhh) and I took of work to have a family outing.  It really was a great day, but that much walking and the warming Southern California weather just took the life out of everyone.  By the time we got into the car it was nearing 4 and we were now subject to the So Cal commuter traffic.... and still some 90 miles from home.

After about 2 very rough hours we had just passed our half way point when Rosaline declared an emergency.  She had to go number 1.  NOW!!!!

I don't know how it is that there is not the slightest inclination that urine is building in a four-year-old's bladder until just before that moment it's ready to rupture, but I'm sure there's a scientific explanation behind it.  As we inched along towards the nearest exit with signs of life, we finally made it to a dismal gas station with a restroom.  This is how bad it was: when Gina returned and the other two admitted they really needed to go as well, Gina flat out denied them. She was never going back in that place again; we'd find an alternative solution.

As we headed back on to the road Gina and I decided, it was getting late, kids were hungry, kids had to pee, adults couldn't stand the thought of another hour staring at taillights - it was time to eat.  So we pulled into a TGIF and bellied up to a table.

The experience was sub par.  We ordered an appetizer, it never came.  My chicken was literally not cooked at all (even the manager was shocked how raw it was) and there was a general blasé hanging over some very tired girls.  However, towards the end of the meal and older couple, just finishing from a nearby table, stopped to interrupt us.

"I'm sorry, but I just had to talk a moment to tell you what a wonderful family you have here.  To have so many, and so young, behave so politely in a restaurant is really amazing.  What ever you are doing, keep doing it."

It was a rough day.  If she'd seen us 45 minute earlier at a dead stop on the 15 screaming "DON'T YOU DARE PEE YOUR PANTS!" I doubt she would have such kind verbiage.  But for me, to hear someone with no vested interest take time to express "job well done". ... it can really give you that confidence that you're not completely screwing them up after all.

Of course then she left and dessert followed about 12 seconds later.  At that point my "wonderful children" were reduced to a snarling hoard of rabid monsters diving over the table and licking the coating off the dish. ... if she'd come up to converse with us at that moment she might have ended up a casualty.  Life's all about timing, right?!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Girls Are Gross

For all the shame brought on boys for being gross, I think it's time we shed the light on girls.  They're disgusting.  Maybe even more so then boys.  And thank god, because sometimes they make me look good.

Everything the girls get baths or showers.  It's a rotating privilege for who gets to share the tub with Lorelei each night.  Earlier this week it was Arianna's turn.  So she's sitting cross leg on one end while Lorelei is in her seat at the other.  I'm bent over the tub, scrubbing the baby when Arianna suddenly stands up in the water, aims her cheeks at me and let's a fart out right in my face.  Yes!  The same girl who had to take off the Disney princess dress just to get into said tub, is now releasing flatulence directly in to my mouth.  So classy.  I give her the stare. .. because there is a specific stare that one gives when this exact scenario plays out.

"What?" she replies, "I didn't want to do that in the baby's clean bath water."

It sounds considerate on the service. ... but I could tell by the smirk that she knew exactly what she had just done.  Watch out sweet little girl.  You've just signaled that the game is one. And perhaps the only thing grosser then little girls. ... are their fathers.