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.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

And Then There Was Doug

We've clearly got issues.  On top of four children we are now up to two dogs, two cats and a beta fish who may or may not have recently suffered a stroke but none of us want to flush him yet because he still flops around when we put food in his tank.  We seem to have this "more the merrier" feeling about life and at some point we need to stop. ... and I thought we had. Despite jokes about going for a fifth (my mother keeps telling us we can still write off one more on taxes), we're convinced that we've reached the stopping point with children.  As for cats, I'm already convinced we have two too many and as for dogs, there's just to many paws, tails and shit to pick up in the backyard.  But there, here comes Doug.

Yesterday on the way to school, the girls came across a vibrant little Aussie Shepherd mix who had clearly lost his way.  He was dirty and matted, but very sweet.  He came with a collar and we determined he was micro chipped, but here's the thing:  collar with out a tag is useless.  Even more useless?  A micro chip that no one registered. ... what the hell is the point of that?!  Gina was going to take him to the shelter, but the shelter said they'll hold him for 2 weeks and then, if not adopted, he may be euthanized.  Here's the truth, my wife is a softy.  Like melted pudding in the desert soft.  All she heard was "we're gonna kill the bastard" and she couldn't bring herself to leave him at the shelter. 

Instead they brought him home, lit up the community facebook pages with pictures to try and find the owners and even had me canvas a four mile stretch yesterday hoping someone driving around looking for him would spot us.  So far, we're striking out.  I'm concerned because the longer he stays with us, the more attached we'll all get (let's face it, we're all soft) and if we never find his family then he'll probably become part of ours.  He fit in nice with the other mongrels, the girls taught him to shake paws, and now we've already been calling him Doug. .. in less then 24 hours.  See my concern?

Today the girls are taking out their posters (see below for the dead ringer likenesses) and we're hoping for the best.  But don't be surprised if future posts refer to three wagging tails instead of the usual two. .. I know I wouldn't be.

One of these doesn't belong here. ... yet.
You better only call if he's yours!
We "fawnd" a boy dog. ... with a detached head.

We may have found a three legged rabbit as well. ... or just a blue flower

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Three Graces

One of my sister-in-laws is an extraordinary artist.  Over the years you've been reading this blog I've shared a handful of examples, so you may already know this.  You see, she's made a habit of using my children as sources for quite a few of her pieces.  I'm always in awe of how brilliantly she captures them and how intriguing it is to see their essence reflected through her unique eye.  However, a few weeks ago, she contacted Gina and I to seek permission to start a new piece.  My first reaction found it odd, as she'd never reached out to ask permission to paint my children before (and I never thought she would need to, either).  But when she revealed the image she wished to paint it became clear why she was cautious to proceed. 

Every Wednesday, Gina goes to Orange County to teach several of her yoga classes, and she has the kids stay at my in-laws while she's doing so.  It's a weekly ritual and all parties lend a hand.  On these nights, just before Gina picks them back up, the girls all take a shower upstairs and wash their hair. My in-laws have a beautiful walk-in stone shower with exceptional lighting and colors.  It was this image that my sister-in-law wanted to paint, but given the nature of the girls being exposed, she didn't want to cross any boundaries.  I appreciate that.  I'm also sad that this is what the world is now.  You can see the finished image below.  It's not unlike hundreds of masterpieces hanging on the walls of the Louvre or the Academia d'elle Arte.  It captures beauty, and warmth.  It takes you to a place of wonder and familiarity.  It exudes love and youth, joy and mystery.  But we now have to post trepidatiously.  We have to wonder if some creep behind a screen sees something more, something sinister, something that a decent person could not imagine.  For that I appreciate my sister-in-law's concern. I take comfort in her desire to protect my children in spite of the artists draw inside her that yearns to create a magical image.  And because of that, I trusted that she would take care with my children.  That she wouldn't allow something unintended to emerge.  That she would create something so brilliantly that one could not see anything but the intended beauty and warmth. And personally, I believe she did.  I share with you here, The Three Graces by Alkisti Richards