Monday, February 1, 2016

The Dangers of Second Hand Whale

Subtitled: My Daughters Toys May Be A Bad Influence.
Sub-subtitled: My Children's Plush Pushers.

We have four children, that you know already.  But when you have a four children, you also lose a little bit of your sense of pride.  Suddenly, you're willing to take anything anyone is willing to give, loan or throw away.  You want some old clothes?  Yes please!  You want a kids drawing table missing one leg? Why thank you very much.  Did you catch that sofa on the side of the intersate?  Sure did, honey - I'll take a U at the next light!

Fortunately, people seem to love us (and by us, I mean my children. ... as for me, I'm tolerated), so there is no shortage of hand-me-downs clothes and second generation toys to enjoy.  One of the people that I know (kept non-descript for obvious reasons) has been kind enough to share with us things their 13-year-old granddaughter no longer has interest in.  To date it's been mostly clothes and accessories, but this last week was a sack full of old stuffed animals. 

The girls were over the moon, so this weekend we dumped the contents out and held a draft, where each of them took turns picking from the lot until they were all gone.  One of the ones that Genevieve was particularly excited about was a medium sized Orca whale.  Your opinions on Blackfish aside, there's not much cuter then a smiling killer whale stuffed animal.  Her only concern was a small tear in the mouth, but Gina was quick to tell her that the next available appointment for surgery in the laundry room would fix her new aquatic friend right up.

However, last night as I was tucking them in, there was more to be concerned about.

"Daddy," she said.  "I think this whale is supposed to talk."

I advised her that was unlikely, but she was adamant.

"There's a battery pack inside his mouth," she persisted.

I took the doll and sure enough, when I squeezed it I could feel a hard, rectangle like shape just under the eyes.  To her horror I jammed my fingers down the rip in it's mouth and fished around until I could feel the hard plastic piece.  Even before I pulled it all the way out, I could feel the metal gear, the press lever.  And as it came out I was holding a fairly new Bic lighter in my hand.  Turns out we found out where the previous teenage owner was keeping a portion of her stash.  Needless to say, after the girls went to sleep, I went back through and did a pat down on all of their "new" toys to make sure what ever the lighter was intended for was not hiding elsewhere in my childrens' rooms. 

It was not.  Sadly.

So now comes the uncomfortable conversation with the gift giver.

"So. .... your granddaughter. .... she might want to buy a Zippo next time."

Friday, January 29, 2016

Centennials

The twins had a very special day today - the 100th day of school.  Their kindergarten does something very cute at this milestone; they have all the students dress up as though they were 100 years old.  It's quite adorable. ... and I'm really not a fan of saying "adorable". ... ever.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Oh Fish

There's something about the alien species on our planet that captures the wonder in every child. These silent creatures swimming beneath the waves, visible but allusive, are mesmerizing. 

Gina had a baby shower for a friend this weekend, and since we were all in Orange County already the girls and I opted to find something to busy ourselves in the area while we waited for her to be done.  What else do you do with three little girls (Lorelei decided to go where the boobs were going)?  Shopping in Newport Beach,  of course!  Well, Fashion Island has plenty of upscale shopping but it has something much more valuable to a father with little kids looking to kill as much time as possible: fountains.  Big fountains, little fountains, climbable fountains and fountains that you want to climb on but the sign clearly says not to fountains!  It's like a kid mecca right in the middle of rich people shopping, who clearly were wishing to have avoided children all together!

One of these fountains was actually a massive koi pond with large stepping stones so that children could walk right through the middle.  These large colorful fish are magnetic for a 6 and 4 year olds attention.  Of course, the only logical thing to do when these peaceful fish swim by serenely is to damn near jump IN the water trying to touch them.  Rosaline and Genevieve proved quite adept at doing so.  Arianna, however, despite being my main daredevil with snowboards and roller coasters, seemed to have some trouble.

Every time she would lean down to touch a fish, the fish would naturally jerk away.  A clear sign to most that "I don't want to be touched."  To a child's mind, however, this simply translates "Na, na, na, na, na you can't catch me. ... now try harder!"  Arianna's response, though, was panic - as she would pull away in trepidation every time the tail of a fish would flutter away.

She became quite upset, especially as the other two had been very successful with their fish touching.  I tried intervening and helping her out, but her dilemma was simple: "I want to touch the fish but my body won't let me!" 

Oh what to do when we want something that our body won't let us do!!!

I finally had to get down to a last chance opportunity.  "You have one more shot, and then we have to go."  This was expertly negotiated into a two more chances opportunity.  First one was a strike, but at least we touched water.  Second attempt. ... we breathed heavily. ... we waited patiently. ... and then we pounced.  And we touched a fish. ... and it turns out it wasn't really all it was cracked up to be.  Moving on.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

See You Next Year

I'm very grateful for the way 2015 has played out.  I got a promotion at work, bought a new car, knocked a couple of strokes off my golf swing. ... oh, and that damn beautiful little baby.  I'm very excited for what 2016 will bring (hopeful not another baby ;) and I hope you continue to ride along with us.  Happy New Year everybody!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Irony

I've spent the last two days driving to multiple stores across Southern California, trying to get my hands on a total of 3 "Baby Alive" dolls for the girls.  Yesterday alone I hit three stores and logged nearly 100 miles to find the final 2 that we required.  In all of this, the irony is not at all lost on me that all the girls asked Santa for this year were Baby Alive dolls. ... meanwhile we have a real live baby sitting at home.  How come no one wants to change her diapers?

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Real Head Scratcher

It was bound to happen; all that long blond hair was just screaming for some company.  So, yesterday, while getting ready for school, Gina discovered Arianna had some new friends. ... lice.  Hooray!  By the time she called me in a panic she had already found some on Rosaline as well and was in full HAZMAT mode with Genevieve quarantined until inspections could be complete.  She quickly realized that she couldn't take on all three of the girls while juggling the baby as well so she called me about midday ("if you can come home now that be great, if not you better show up with a giant ass Starbucks and a bottle of wine"), so I came home early and we made it a real family affair.  I even learned something new: did you know a "nit" is a lice egg and that's where the expression 'nit picking" comes from?  Well I didn't. ... know it all. 

The girls were real troopers, it took us over four hours to finish combing, washing, combing, spraying, combing, rinsing, combing and gooping their little tote heads.  Finally we tagged 'em and bagged 'em for bed.  It was then that I realized we may have just stumbled upon the best Holiday Card ever!!!

 
No?  Yea, that was Gina's reaction too.  Bummer.  After all that work I thought we could share this experience with the world, but Gina's afraid of the stigma - so we'll keep it on the down low and just publish on the blog ;)
 
To make the girls feel a little better about the whole situation, I figured I'd get their elf in on the action too.

 
The only potential backfire here is them believing that Santa is responsible for their infestation. ... we told them Santa would give them presents if they're good and coal if they're bad.  So this must be what you get when you land in the grey area.  Maybe next year they outta step it up.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Our Hearts Grow Three Sizes Each Day

You may have seen this, rolling around the web the last 48 hours.  A five year old girl who lost her family in a fire and herself suffered severe burns and disfigurement is asking the world to send her cards for the Holiday.  You may have clicked the link, you may have read the story, you may have viewed her pictures and, like us, you were probably moved.  Now the question: did you write her a card? 

I saw this yesterday, like many, and when I got home I brought it to Gina's attention.  I'm big on the girls understanding - to a degree - the less fortunate in the world around them.  This expression often lends itself to the poor or the hungry, but fortune is just as much the blessing that tragedy has not struck you personally.  But explaining this. ... it's hard to play down for 6 years old and 4 year olds.

Arianna: "What are you talking about?"
Me: "A little girl who is sick; we're going to write her some Christmas cards tomorrow to make her feel better."
Genevieve: "How is she sick?"
Me: "She got burned honey."
Arianna: "Why?"
Gina: "Sometimes things just happen, we need to remember  how lucky we are that they didn't happen to us."
Arianna: "What about her parents?  Did they get burned too?"
Me: "Yes, they did."
Arianna: "Are they going to be ok?"

- And this is where you pause.  Death is hard to explain to a child.  It's often something we skirt or play down.  We'll see your goldfish again in heaven; they've gone to a better place; ect, ect, ect.  But to talk about a parent dying. ... that's a tough image for them to swallow. -

Me: "Actually, sweetie, the parents were burned really badly and they died.  (her face contorts to a whimper) but she's going to live with her Aunt who lovers her very much, just like your Aunts and Theas love you.
Arianna:"Ok."

- And this is where they ask to see the pictures.  Judge me, if you will.  I understand those that may.  Kids are supposed to be shielded, we save the TV violence for after 9pm, right?!  We rate the movies high so they can't get in until their 17.  We dumb down the seriousness so the cat that gets blown up in the cartoon gets put back together again so he can return in the next episode.  But it's fake.  It's not real.  It doesn't teach them anything.  It doesn't grow their heart and compassion.  So we went through the photos; this girl their own age.  Her face and body scarred.  Her arm amputated below the elbow.  And it was real.  And they felt.  And they understood.  And today, when we sit down to write her as many cards as their little fingers can muster, it comes from a place of genuine understanding and compassion.  This won't be an exercise in "cutesy, holiday" revelry.  This will be a human experience, of three little girls reaching out to another little girl who has suffered.  This will be three little hearts, bleeding in support of another child that they desperately want to help.  We talked, a while past bed time, about how doctors can help her to get better.  That they can ease her pain and help some of the scarring.  How they can make "robot" arms so she can do some of the same things as them.  We watched videos of Oscar Pistorius running (we skirted his current activities) so they could see that she won't have to be limited by her amputation.  But, we explained, it's up to us and people like us to fix her heart.  Doctors can make our owies better, but it would take love from other people (even strangers like us) to help her sadness. 

It was heavy.  They cried a bit.  They gestated on it all.  But as a father who's raising children to be caring adults, it was a growing moment.  And I'm proud of that.  I'm proud of them.  When kids cry over toys or sweets or not having enough of the excess, it makes me nauseous.  To see my children cry because they felt for another, a stranger, someone they had never - and would never - meet. ... I couldn't be prouder of the people they'll become.  Hearts that big don't shrink, and it's my purpose to make certain of that.