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.

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sunday Brunch with an ear infection. ... make it a double

I'm a week late in writing this.  I had all intentions of sharing, but perhaps it took me this long just to get over the brunch that was never meant to be.

After several days of dealing with a baby with bronchitis, we had a particularly rough Saturday night.  Simultaneously we were dealing with a 72 hour shutdown of the major freeway in our area so we were, literally, cut off from civilization. ... sort of; we still had access to a local brunch.  So when we woke up Sunday (who are we kidding, we'd never fallen asleep) sitting outside on a particularly warm February morning and enjoying a bottomless buffet with bottomless champagne sounded truly amazing.  They have outdoor seating and with the rest of the world stuck on the other side of the closure, we would have the place to ourselves and the kids could run around to their hearts content.

Truth is, it started out just as we'd hoped.  Second group in the restaurant, whole patio to ourselves (girls were even allowed to take their own table by the lake) and mamosa's were served before we'd even gotten fresh silverware.  I took the kids and loaded their plates, sat across from my wife and we share a smile. ... a very brief smile.  Moments later Rosaline came up crying that her ear "itched".  Her cry turned to a scream and her "itch" turned to a "pain" and it was pretty obvious that something truly wrong was going on.

Check please.

With that, brunch was over.  The quickest and least satisfying hundred dollars I've ever spent.  With in the hour Gina was in urgent care with Roz and the other girls and I decided to get the oil changed around the corner (because urgent care was much more popular then brunch so there was no parking).  Turns out she had not a single, but a double ear infection.  So the remainder of our day was spent trying to find a pharmacy located in the lock down zone so we could get her medicated and turn off the screams coming from the back of the car.

Not exactly the Sunday we'd envisioned. ... and we were still very hungry come Monday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Low Bar

This weekend began the festival season for Gina, so while she got home late at night, she was gone just as early the following day.  It was a good trial run for Lorelei, this being her first festival season stuck at home with me and the big three.  Nothing of consequence happened in Gina's absence, so I don't have any great stories to tell.  This is more of an OpEd piece today.

On Saturday we attended a birthday party for some friends and as I walked in the door I heard the familiar "father of the year right there" comment.  Now, they're newer friends of ours, so this is really the first time they've seen me go solo for a weekend with the four tote heads in tow; but I think that makes it even more disheartening.  Every time Gina's gone and I'm alone with the kids, someone thinks that's amazing, or odd. ... or just wrong.  I mean, how can a father possibly take care of four children under 7 for a whole weekend?  That's just cray-cray!  You'd have to be a parent or something to survive that!!!

Why is the expectation so low for dads?  Why is it that something my wife does every single day blows the minds of others when I do it for single weekend?  Add in that my wife has to juggle school and shopping and gymnastics and soccer and play dates and PTA meetings, doctors visits and yoga classes and dentist trips.  I slept in (relative to my normal 4:30 wake up), turned on a tv, scrambled some eggs and left for a 12:30 party with 4 very mismatch dressed kids in pretty crappily done pony tails. I didn't even wrap the present - Gina did that earlier in the week.  Father of the year?!!  That's just sad that these efforts would even qualify me for a nomination! 

But it's this dual expectation that we set in parenting.  We're amazed if a father shows up to the recital (oh what a doting dad with his camera); and then we're expecting that the mother to show up to rehearsals, make the stupid outfit, practice with the kid at home and still find time to change out of her yoga pants for the performance. How is that fair?  How is that balanced parenting? 

Obviously with the stay at home mom angle there is a little more expectation.  I work all week so my wife can have more time to manage some of the day to day efforts that keep our family running.  But when I'm not working, does that suddenly mean expectations for her cease too?  I'm a dad.  I should not be congratulated and praised for doing my job.  But that's how it seems to be looked at by the masses.  I've said it before, but I think we need higher expectations.  Partners are partners.  I don't think dads should be considered minority shareholders anymore.

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


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.