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?!