Monthly Archives: September 2012

Mornings with Children | Day 16

DAY 16


There’s this old myth in my wife’s family that the homestead my mother-in-law lives on is haunted.  It’s been in the family for years and years and years and lies out in the middle of nowhere amidst corn fields and open sky; basically the perfect place for a haunted house to exist.  Now, whether you believe in ghosts or not, it doesn’t matter.  When someone tells you that a place is haunted and that they’ve seen ghosts walking around, you have a tendency to get a little nervous when they ask you to go upstairs and set up your babies’ cribs all by yourself at night.

Yes, I’ve seen horror movies start like this.

I shuffle up the cramped, narrow staircase, trying to keep my breathing regulated.  I thought I heard somewhere that ghosts could tell when you were afraid… or maybe that was dogs… or rattlesnakes.  I can’t remember.

I say one of those really ridiculous prayers that we say to ourselves whenever we think we’re about to be terrorized by some malicious poltergeist.  In my head I’m like, “Dear God, please cloak your divine sanctity bubble over me and protect me from the previously deceased occupants of this home, who are obviously horrible, horrible ghosts that want to do me harm.  Yes, I know I’ve never met them but I’ve never heard anything good about ghosts… except that Casper character and I think he was a cartoon and wasn’t based in real life.  In your name I pray, amen.”

Okay, cool.  I got my sanctity bubble on.  I’ve got the cribs set-up (you have a tendency to tear through any task at hand when you think you might be possessed) and I’m on my way back to the stairs when suddenly, and I swear to you up and down, this two foot tall demon-troll cloaked all in black suddenly leaps out at me from the bathroom at the end of the hall and I stumble oh dear Lord SANCTITY BUBBLE!!!!

And then the demon troll cloaked in his black cloak of evil says, “Daddy!”

It takes my brain a few moments to process what my eyes are seeing and it takes even longer for my heart to crawl back down out of my throat but the demon is just my son and his black cloak is just his wedding tux.



Last night both of our children had their very first ever sleepover at Grandma June’s house and it was so exciting and we were getting them all ready for bed when… we realized we’d forgotten their pajamas.

Parents of the year strike again!!  On next week’s episode we leave the kids outside and accidentally take the dogs to church!

My mother-in-law is th-th-thrifty as all get out so she just goes and grabs one of her mother’s 10,000 thread count Chinese silk sleeping shirts and puts it on Quinn.  The fabric is a soft baby blue with a shimmering pink collar and great big buttons running down the front.  This is not the first thing you’ll notice about the shirt though.  The first thing you’ll notice is that my daughter looks like a mudblood preparing to attend Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardy (I love you, Harry Potter).  The shirt is draped down to her ankles, dangling magically off of her tiny frame, the sleeves making those great big Dumbledorean hallows for her tiny pink hands to just peek out of.

I look around the house trying to find a wand but two concerns quickly cross my mind, in this order.  1.) What if she pokes her eye out with her Harry Potter wand (I love you, Harry Potter) and then 2.) What if I try to put her to bed and she suddenly screams, “AVADA KEDAVRA!” at me?

Mornings with Children | Day 15

DAY 15


My daughter has this really old, bald Cabbage Patch doll that she carries around with her everywhere.  Its’ plastic head is covered in dirt and scuff marks, it’s clothes are covered in food stains, dried milk and dog drool and it has these really horrific eyes that sort of do this lazy open-and-close movement when you shake it.  The only thing that makes The Doll or “Baby” as she calls it, more disturbing is finding it floating face up in the washing machine unexpectedly on laundry day.

She carries the thing everywhere, chanting, “Baby, baby, baby, baby”.  If she can’t find it she walks around chanting, “Baby, baby, baby, baby?” with a question mark on the end.  She goes to bed with it, eats with it, rides around in the car with it, etc, etc, etc.  If my daughter does it, there’s a good chance that her filthy friend will be by her side, dangling loosely from her hand, upside down, it’s head bouncing casually off the floor as she walks, thunk-thunk-thunk.

It was a gift from my sister and her fiance about three months ago; a gift I assumed, due to it’s obvious “used” feel that it had come from Goodwill after being donated by a little girl who’s only crime was loving too hard.  Today I found out that statement was only half right.

My to-be brother-in-law has a daughter named Kayden that will come and stay with him and my sister on occasion… and apparently she has her own room in the house… and apparently this room is filled with her own personal belongings… and apparently one day, this daughter came to stay with my sister and her dad… and apparently the little girl came upstairs and asked them, in the most casual of tones, “Have either of you seen my doll?”



Changing my son into his pajamas last night, I noticed that his entire body is covered in wounds; cuts, scrapes bruises, scabs, bumps and the like.  This kid looks like some irresponsible parent tossed him into a barrel and sent it rolling down a hill, end over end.

I look over at my daughter, who my wife is changing and I notice that she looks… well, she looks pristine.  She’s nice and shiny and polished.  I look back at my son and he looks like a dirty carnival toy that someone has left lying in the gutter.  And I mean that in the best way possible.  Someone once asked me if I knew, outside of the obvious, what the main difference between boys and girls was.  I told him, “No.  What?” and, after pausing for effect he says, “About five to six bruises”.

It’s not that we don’t take care of him or that he is somehow just “The Dirty Kid in Class”, he just loves to adventure and, like we tell him whenever he gets hurt and comes running and crying to us with a new wound, “When you adventure, you get hurt.  Do you think Indiana Jones walked out of The Temple of Doom without a scratch?”

OOPS!  And with that, I have to go.  My son literally just fell out the front door.

Mornings with Children | Day 14

DAY 14


I write this from the furthest, farthest, deepest seat in a minivan chugging down I-29, having just left Omaha, Nebraska.  My little sister is getting married this coming Saturday and we’re in town for the wedding, which I am exceptionally excited for… and rightly so.  I love weddings; family, fun, dancing.  It’s fantastic.  The thing, however, that I am not excited about is our two connecting flights back to Los Angeles.

I remember a time when flying simply meant sitting in a chair that was two sizes too small next to someone that stunk for 3 1/2 hours.  No biggie, though.  In that regard it was much like watching a milk tasting contest at the 4H county fair, minus the cotton candy.  But you figure, “Oh, well.  I might be uncomfortable but at least I can read a book or listen to some music or, at the very least, sleep.

And then your children are born and the first time someone mentions the words, “Baby” and “Plane” to you in the same sentence, your nipples invert and your pancreatic fluids dry up in a frenzy of raw horror.

Today was the third time flying with the kids and, just in case you were wondering, there was no reading.  There was no music.  There was no sleeping.  There was simply thrashing and screaming and fits of demon possession and torment from my son.

He throws himself from my lap and lays in the aisle of the plane, releasing a banshee’s squeal.  A couple people in my peripheral glance over… more choose to ignore it, being kind enough to pretend that they aren’t wondering if someone is slaughtering a hog in row 29.

I pick him up and wander the aisles with him for a bit, trying to satiate his need for… what?  Food  Comfort?  I look up and realize that everyone on the plane is staring at me like, “Who’s the crazy guy with the kid?  Did he find that kid in the jungle?  I bet he did.  That kid acts like he was raised in the jungle.  By wolves.  That had the rabies.”.

Meanwhile, my daughter sits on my wife’s lap, sleeping soundly, completely passed out, looking like a cherub.


This is my son.  This is just the noise that he makes.  After traversing the cabin for the better part of 20 minutes, we make our way back to our seats and my wife whispers, “Do you want to switch for a bit?”

Deus ex machina.  She’s a true Godsend.

I set Rory on the carpet and he rolls over onto his stomach and just starts punching and clawing at the floor like a possum trying to get into roadkill.  Jade passes our sleeping daughter to me and I’m so excited that I’m going to be able to sleep when… she opens her eyes and begins to wail.  “WHY HAVE YOU AWAKEN ME FROM MY SLUMBER!  I AM THE DRAGON!  FIRST OF MY NAME AND LAST OF MY KIND!  PREPARE! TO FACE! MY WRAAAATH!!”  And everyone is looking at me again like, “Good job Idiot-Dad.  Now we’ve got the double deucer to contend with”.

The plane finally lands in Denver.  We get lost in the airport for 15 minutes before stumbling upon our terminal.  Only one more hour and a half plane flight before we’re home.


I remember when I was younger, it would make me really uncomfortable when some dude would bring his daughter into the men’s public restroom.  It didn’t matter how old she was.  If she was advanced enough to walk, she was advanced enough to make me shudder.  I’d stare at the tile wall in front of me and bite my cheek, trying to force the moment to pass.  The worse was when she’d speak, “Daddy, blah blah blah”  AH!  My spout would dry up like a desert oasis and I’d be unable to proceed.  I’d hazard a glance over my shoulder, almost daring myself to get a glance at this mini-monster.  They were always different; blondes, redheads; brunettes.  But it didn’t matter.

I’d watch The Dad take The Daughter into the stall and I’d always wonder, “What goes on in there?  Those stalls are so tiny.  Is he going to the bathroom?  Is she?  How does she not fall in?  Where is everyone standing?”  These questions and more I had… and they were all answered today in the Denver International Airport.

Our plane from Los Angeles to Denver slams down early and our connecting flight from Denver to Omaha is leaving early so we’ve only got a very small window of time to find our terminal / eat / use the bathroom.  Sure, I could always use the restroom on the plane but… I don’t know.  I have what some may call “issues” of “phobias”.  I don’t like to pee on airplanes.  It’s not the scary flushing device that feels like it’s going to pull you through the drain or the way everything closes in on you until you can’t tell which wall the door was on.  I think it’s primarily that I associate them with flying outhouses… a conversation that is neither here nor there.

So passing through Denver’s Airport, which, incidentally, is my all time favorite airport, I’ve gotta pee.  I’ve got The Girl on my shoulders and I just think to myself, “Maybe it’s time to see what this fear looks like from the other end of the stick.”

Quinn and I walk into the crowded bathroom and it definitely feels like she’s getting unfriendly eyeballs from roughly 2 our of every 3 men.  I hold her hand tight, praying that she doesn’t touch anything and get syphilis.  My first reaction is to step up to the urinal and just tell her to “stay” like a bipedal golden retriever but I quickly shake awake from my stupidity as I imagine her twirling in circles in the center of the floor and then tugging on some stranger’s leg while he’s trying to drain the main vein and saying, “HI!”.

We hit the stall and she doesn’t have to pee so it makes our first foray into this “Toddler in the Bathroom” thing a slightly easier transition.  I set her on the floor and lock the door and she immediately begins trying to open it.  I say, “Just hang on.  Hang on”.  Sometimes I do this “game” where I try to just get them to stand still while I finish whatever it is I’m trying to do.

It’s definitely crowded so I’m sort of shuffling to twist my body around and, Instead of “hanging on” she walks over and places her hand on the toilet seat and I scream.  It’s a high pitched squeal; the sort of noise that would probably come out of Fran Drescher if someone poked her unexpectedly with a needle.  “EEK!”  I grab her wrist while I’m still peeing and go, “NO!  NO!  ICKY!” and who knows what everyone else in the bathroom is thinking.

I’m sure there’s some kid out there, staring straight ahead at the wall wondering just what is going on in here.


Mornings with Children | Day 13

DAY 13


My daughter is broken.  I don’t know when it happened or how it happened or maybe she was just born this way… I’m not really sure.  She loves spankings; revels in them.  Soaks in their cold sting and raw delight.  And yes, before we press on, I said the S-word.  I said “Spanking” with a capital S.  The Brookbanks spank their children.  Open handed, on the rump, thwap-thwap-thwap, spank our children and we do it without disclaimer or apology.

My son hates it and reacts accordingly; he throws himself to the ground, weeping and thrashing in over exaggerated pain, gripping his red butt cheeks, tears streaming down his face (ps, it really does hurt me more than it hurts you) but my daughter is another thing altogether.  She’s a dementor (Harry Potter reference) that thrives off of pain.

At dinner tonight my son put his foot on the table and we said, “Put it down” and he did… only to put it up a second time.  We say, “Your foot does not belong on the table.  Put it down or you’re getting a spanking”.  He knows the S-word and we’ve warned him twice now; a third time and his rumpus is fair game.  One, two, three, four, five little piggies slowly wiggle over the lip of the table and he plants his heel firmly on the tabletop.  My wife gets up, stands our son up in his chair and, “We said do not put your feet on the table.  You’re getting a spanking.”


Boy throws himself to the floor, waterworks ensue, screaming begins.  When he finally calms down and is ready to return to the table… you’d better believe that his feet stayed underneath him.

My daughter is another story altogether though, which is just a testament to children, even being as young as they are, having their own individual bends and personalities.  She puts her foot on the table and, being fair to her, we give her three chances as well.  “Quinn, put your foot down”.  Down and immediately up again.  “Quinn, put your foot down.  If you put it on the table again, you will get a spanking.”  Down and then immediately up again.

Alright.  This one is mine.

I get up and I stand her on the chair and I repeat the incantation, “[FILL IN CHILD’S NAME HERE] [FILL IN ILL-FATED BEHAVIOR HERE] and now you’re getting a [FILL IN PUNISHMENT HERE ie SPANKING or TIMEOUT]” and then thwap-thwap-thwap! and then…


She is laughing at me.  Full on laughing at me.  A 20 month old is laughing at me directly after I’ve spanked her.  My wife and I lock eyes and she covers her mouth because she’s about to start laughing and I look away because you can’t let the child think it’s a game.  Instead, I put Quinn back in her chair and I say, “You just got a spanking because you put your foot on the–” and before I’m even done talking her foot is back on the table.


My wife looks at me and whispers, “Harder??” and I pick up my daughter and Dear Heavenly Father I feel like a monster, I bend her over my knee and I spank her harder than I have ever spanked her before and her butt cheeks are red and I feel disgusting but I know / think / feel like I’m probably most likely doing the right thing and she begins to cackle and laugh and I turn her around and she’s smiling and her teeth are so white and she’s so happy and what is wrong with you child!

I put her back in her seat, pretending that I have some form of control on the situation and this time Quinnie Pig’s little pigs don’t return.

I can already tell that this is just going to get more and more interesting.




Rory has inevitably made a mess.  “Uh-oh” has recently become his go-to phrase for anything that he deems “Punishment Worthy”.

I intentionally turned my glass of milk upside down and spilled it everywhere.  “Uh-oh”.

I picked up the mouse from your desk and threw it on the ground.  “Uh-oh”.

I went into the bathroom, crawled onto the step stool and turned on the sink.  “Uh-oh”.

I’ve systematically created a giant, walking, talking robot that will destroy Japan.  Millions will die.  “Uh-oh”.

Granted, that last one hasn’t happened… yet… but if it did, I’d bet the farm that that would be his response.  We bend down next to him and say, “Rory, it’s only an ‘uh-oh’ if it was an accident” and he says, “Uh-oh” and we say, “No.  that wasn’t an ‘Uh-oh'” and he says, “Uh-oh” and I suddenly feel like I’m talking to that guy from The Princess Bride that just keeps saying inconceivable.

Mornings with Children | Day 12

DAY 12

I sling my purse / man bag over my shoulder, snatch my pecan flavored coffee off the kitchen counter, drop my phone into my back pocket and am officially ready to head out the door for my commute to work… just one thing left to do.
I head over to the table where both kids are eating their breakfast of various kinds of fruits, berries, bagels with cream cheese and a delicate portion of milk.  I stand behind my son and bend down over his shoulder so we’re almost cheek to cheek and I say to him, “Rory, daddy is going to work now.  I love  you.  Can you say, ‘Love you’?” and he stares at me and says, “Wuv Oo” and, while his inflection isn’t quite right, I know just exactly what he means.  I say, “Give daddy a kiss,” and I turn to him and that’s when I notice the crumbs…
No… “crumbs” is an inaccurate term.  The bottom portion of his face is covered in wet pieces of fruit, chewed up berries and some kind of unidentifiable grain.  A menagerie of multi-colored liquids drizzle from his mouth, down his chin, creating a long string of ooze dripping into large pools on his lap.  The bottom hemisphere of his head looks like someone threw a bucket of hog slop at him and he just let it fester.  Calling him a “Messy eater” would be an insult to messy eaters.
I’m lost in my thoughts, wondering just what the heck some of those pieces are.  What IS IT?  Where did it come from?  I imagine my lips pulling back involuntarily, showing that “Gross” look that people have when they see someone on Fear Factor eat a thousand year old egg.  Then I’m suddenly shaken out of my daze when he speaks.  “Wuv Oo” and I smile.  And then he puckers his lips and I remember I asked for a kiss…
I have one of those “Does it make me a bad parent if I ignore him?” moments.
“Wuv Oo”.  He puckers bigger.  He starts to lean in… and like a girl on a bad date, I dodge at the last second and kiss him on the forehead.  Give me a dirty diaper.  Give me poop and pee.  Give me vomit, blood, pus and bile.  Give me blisters and splinters and all forms of wounds.  I will deal with it.  But I never signed up for Fear Factor.  There’s no reason I need to eat the thousand year old egg.
I turn to my daughter, who is also eating at the table, albeit a bit more lady-like.  Granted, she still has smashed red berries all over her fingers and blue berry juice on the front of her shirt and her chin does have some milk on it but she truly is considerably more in control of her meal.  I stand behind her, wrap my arms around her little body, bend down so that we’re cheek to cheek and I say, “Alright, Quinnie.  Daddy is going to work now.  I love you.  Can you say ‘Love you’?” and she does.  “Wuf Yu!” and I say, “That’s right!  I love you too!”… and then I notice she’s eating something that looks like a giant wad of paper towel.
What concerns me the most is that A.) Quinn has a penchant for eating things that aren’t food and B.) I actually caught Rory eating a paper towel the previous night.
I say, more rhetorically than anything, “What are you eating?”
Instead of answering, she simply reaches her fingers into her mouth and pulls out an enormous piece of soggy bagel, displaying it proudly for me.
Okay, then.  Case closed.  At least it’s not a paper towel.
She sticks the soppy wad back into her mouth and I wave goodbye as I’m walking out the door.

Mornings with Children | Day 11

DAY 11

This morning I hear Quinn cry from the bathroom.  In the living room I drop what I’m doing and begin doing that parent half walk / half sprint / half run thing when you think your child might be in horrible danger but you don’t want to set  yourself into a total panic so you try to keep it all under control.  I round the corner in the hallway, imagining that she’s fallen off the step stool leading up to the sink or cracked her head on the tub or slipped on the floor.
Skidding around the corner and ready for anything, I leap into the bathroom and find… that she’s sitting on her potty chair with all of her pajamas on and is just really frustrated that she can’t properly go to the bathroom.
I kneel down and say, “Do you need to use the potty?  Here… let’s take your pajamas off”.  I unbutton the pink and white onesie thing that she’s wearing and she grabs my shoulders while she steps her feet out.  I grab the front of her diaper and zip-zip!, the sticky tabs peel off and the soggy yellow thing falls to the floor and Quinn shouts, “OH YEAH!”
She sounds so much like The Kool-Aid man that my wife starts laughing from the other room.
This morning while I was getting ready for work my son kept running through the house, grabbing his butt cheeks and screaming, “Poopie!  Poopie!”
Now, I’m not mind reader but… assumably, this means he has to go to the bathroom.  I kneel down next to him and say, “Rory… do you need to go potty?” and he screams “NO!” and then throws himself on the ground and begins wailing.
I walk away and this process repeats itself and is still going on when I’m finally heading to work.
Who knows, this process might just be his pre-game warm up.
BONUS!!!!!!!  EVENT 3 – BOY & GIRL
Two days ago I woke up around 7am with the strongest urge to pee I’ve ever had in my life.  I turned 30 and my bladder just went, “I’m done!  I give up!”  I walk to the bathroom and see that my kids’ bedroom door is open.
Now, this is weird.  This is completely unnatural… I can only liken it to you waking up and realizing that someone has entered your house, opened every window you have and turned on every single appliance.  You’d be like, “What the heck happened here?!  Was someone in my house!?”… which is pretty much exactly how I felt.  I slowly swung the door open and took a step inside… then another… then another… and the whole time I’m hoping and praying that the light and angles and positioning of the blankets are playing tricks on my eyes.
My kids are gone.
Both cribs are empty.
I turned around and ran to the back door… which was also hanging open and both my dogs were outside.  This is where I say the F-word seventeen times and that panic that I forced down when I heard Quinn crying in the bathroom comes rising up through my stomach and into my throat and out through all of my limbs and I think I’m going to be sick.  That panic is here now and there is no holding it back.  It’s a wild beast and it’s tearing away at me and I can’t think straight.
My brother-in-law had stayed the night and had decided to crash on our couch… in our backyard (long story that is neither here nor there).  So it’s presumable that he had come in at some point to use the restroom and then went back to his “bed” and left the door open and let the dogs out.  I rush back into the kids room just to double check.  I mean, I know… I KNOW THAT MY KIDS ARE GONE but I have no idea what to do or what I’m even thinking.  Maybe if I check again they’ll be here–  WAS SOMEONE IN MY HOUSE??!!!  DID SOMEONE STEAL MY CHILDREN?!  WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN!!??

I turn and I run into our bedroom and I bend down to start shaking Jade and I have no idea what I’m about to say but it’s just going to start pouring out and we’re going to be on the news tonight and WHY DIDN’T MY DOGS BARK WHERE ARE MY KIDS?!… and they’re lying in bed next to Jade.
My wife opens her eyes and looks at me and says, “Good morning” and I say, “The kids… I went into their room and it was… empty.”
And my wife says, “Ick.  I bet that was scary”.
I reach out and touch Rory’s foot and Quinn’s head.

Mornings with Children | Day 10

DAY 10

For our kids’ breakfast we’ve been trying to do that whole “Eat Fruits and Vegetables and Organic Things” deal.  Yes, sometimes it’s obnoxious and sometimes it’s difficult and sometimes I DO just want to throw Lucky Charms down in front of them and yes, sometimes I actually DO just throw Lucky Charms down in front of them and YES, they, of course, love them.  Who wouldn’t?  It’s literally sugar on sugar.  You’re literally eating candy for breakfast.
On this particular morning, I’m three fistfuls deep into Lucky Charms while feeding Rory and that’s on top of the two bananas, the container of blueberries, the four glasses of juice, the two organic, hormone free, pasture raised maple cured turkey patties and the tortilla that I’ve already given him.  I am running out of food.
He throws his cup out, holding it in both hands like Oliver Twist and says, “Jooz Peez!” (Juice, please!), so I go to the fridge, open it up and rummage around for a bottle of vitamin water and, while I’m looking, happen to notice a single bar of string cheese.  I pour him his juice just as he’s shoving the last of the whole wheat (because it’s better than enriched flour) tortilla into his mouth when he slaps his bowl towards me (gently) and makes a grunting sound which, I’ve come to realize, means something along the lines of, “Fool!  Why my dish empty!?  I’m a MAN and a MAN has to FEED!  BRING ME THE NEXT COURSE!”

The first thing I ask myself is WWJD… What Would Jade Do?  The answer… does not come to me.  I look in the fruit bowl only to discover that he’s eaten all the fruit.  FRUIT HOG!  I look in the cabinets hoping to find an easy fix.  Nope; mac and cheese for breakfast?  I don’t think so.  I rip open the freezer; that was the last of the turkey patties.  We’ve got ice cream… but what would I say if Jade asked what I fed the kids?   The only honest answer that might slide without being considered a “lie” would be “dairy”.  In short, no.  I open the fridge and start shoving stuff aside.  Old tapioca… moldy vegetable soup… old salmon… crusty steak… brown and soggy carrots.  DANGIT!  WHY ARE WE DISGUSTING!!??
I come back over to the island, just hoping that maybe he’s simply forgotten that he’s hun– “GRUNT!  GRUNT!”  (WHERE MY FOOD, FOOL?!).  I run back to the fridge, pretending like I’m preparing something, trying my best to fake it, hoping beyond hope that he won’t notice that I’m just stalling for time.  Maybe I could order a pizza!  A breakfast pizza!  No!  That’s stupid!  You’re stupid!  Why are you so stupid?!
And then…
Pizza > Cheese > String Cheese.
I say it out loud.  “Roar, buddy!  You want some string cheese?!” and he goes, “CHEEZ!  CHEEZ!  CHEEZ!”  Because, understandably, he loves cheese.
I open the fridge and go to grab… where’s it at?  It’s gone!  It.  Is.  Gone.  I rummage for a bit before beginning to legitimately question myself.  Did you actually see the cheese?  Are you sure you saw the cheese?  Are you grasping at straws?  A hallucination?  I search EVERYWHERE, “CHEEZ.  CHEEZ.  CHEEZ.”
I imagined the cheese.  I can’t believe this.  I imagined string cheese.  I accept my fate.  “Cheez.  Cheez.  Cheez”.  He’s like a mouse.  He’s just locked onto cheese and I’m about to break his spirit.  Things are about to go from bad to worse.  I try to imagine what he’ll do to me when I tell him the kitchen was out of string cheese.  Surely he’ll have me flayed…or worse.  I start to shut the fridge and… just before it’s closed… I see the yellow band hiding behind the milk.  My heart leaps.  My muscles relax, and I collapse onto the ground in a pile of tangible relief.
I rip the cheese open, saying a little prayer for how grateful I am of this dairy harvest, tear it in half and hand each piece to each kid.  My daughter begins to slowly taste and nibble, taking her time.
My son shoves the entire half stick of cheese in his mouth and starts chewing furiously and then, before he’s even swallowed he taps his bowl towards me and begins grunting again.
Tonight I gave my daughter a beer.  Two beers actually.
Well, sort of…
We celebrated my birthday party last night and this evening we were outside cleaning up The Aftermath; pulling streamers down from trees, picking up trash, putting chairs away, etc. etc. etc.  It’s too hot to cook and, honestly, I’d been on a shoot all day and Jade was just coming down from being sick so we decided to just go grab some Panda Express, a restaurant that I believe just doesn’t get enough street cred.
Jade volunteers to “cook” ie, go pick up food while I stay and put in some valuable one on two time with the kids.  The two of them wander about in the backyard, finding pieces of chalk, “CHOCK!” and scribbling on the cement.  They push themselves around on the tricycle and they even pick up trash and throw it in the trash can… a few times they even pick up things that weren’t trash and threw it in the trash can.
I went to the “These are Things We’re Going to Keep and is not Garbage” table and started loading up left over beers into my arms.  I tuck a couple under my bicep (a term I use very loosely), I tuck a few under my forearm, pressing them against my body.  I grab a few in my left hand and I grab a few in my right hand.  The honest truth is that I am carrying far more beer than I should be carrying.  I can not function carrying this much stuff.  Thank goodness I left the baby gate leading to the kitchen open otherwise I’d really be– why is the baby gate closed?
Oh… Quinn is in the kitchen and she’s closed the baby gate.  Quinn has locked herself in the kitchen.  Now here I am holding twenty-seven beers in my bare hands and balancing them on my head and I can’t, for the life of me, get into my house without unloading.  At first I begin to attempt the ol’ “Just Shift Everything Awkwardly to your Left (weaker) Hand and Open it with your Right” Trick… but it immediately becomes clear that it’s not going to work.
Meanwhile, my daughter walks up to the gate and stares up at me like a groundhog looking for it’s shadow and, just like that, I know what I need to do.  You sometimes forget that they’re capable people.  They understand and they want to help you.  They want your approval.
I reach over the gate, stretch out my right hand, which is holding three beers, and say, “You wanna take these for Daddy?”… and she does.  Just like that.  She just reaches up and takes them and I open the gate with my now free hand and walk inside, easy-peezy, mac and cheesy.  I set all my beers on the counter and turn around just as she’s slowly and ever so gently setting the bottles down on the floor because she knows that they’re fragile because Daddy said, “Be careful“.
I pick them up and I say, “Thank you!  Thank you so much for helping Daddy!  That was a BIG HELP!” and she is very proud of herself for that but probably not half as proud as I am… and it’s not simply the listening and the doing and the working together and the gentleness.  That’s all fantastic and wonderful and adorable in it’s own way but…  I look at her and I go, “The child that I have thought of my entire life… whenever I’ve said, ‘when I have kids'”… that is you and here you are, right now.  This moment was 30 years in the making.
And then I suddenly see my life and… wait a minute… I’m married and I just turned thirty and I’ve got two kids that are almost two years old and I’ve got two dogs and insurance and I realize… getting old isn’t so bad.  My existence is pretty cush.
Jade comes home and we all eat “Chinese” food together.

Mornings with Children | Day 9

DAY 9 

My son has a habit of pointing at me and saying, “Mama”.  He also has a habit of pointing at his sister and saying, “Rory”.  I wonder what Freud would say about this.
Being Saturday, I was home when they got up from their afternoon naps.  Rory again, for the second time, has fallen out of his bed BUT… twice in around ten days isn’t too bad for a kid that’s used to sleeping in a box.  Typically I’ll open the door, go in, say “Hi there!”, get them out of their cribs / beds and then we’ll all go out into the living room to, well… live.
But it’s so hot today.  The Valley is just sweltering and I’ve been working outside all day prepping for this 80s costume party we’re having tonight in lieu of my 30th birthday.  Jade and her brother were off running some errands and I was on kid duty so, instead of getting them up and running back out into the house, I just shut their bedroom door behind me, took them out and we played in their room for a while.  It’s the only room in the house that has the air running and it’s almost always a solid 74 degrees.  So beautiful.
I plop myself down in the fluffy chair and Rory runs over to me, throws himself into my arms and lays down on my chest, totally of his own accord.  I don’t bother to ask if anything is wrong.  My daughter is walking around with a piece of chalk and she says, “Mama”.  My son pops his head up and looks right into my eyes and goes, “Mama”.  I say, “No.  I’m not Mama.  Mama is out running errands with Uncle Jarod”.  Then I say, “Who is this?” and I point to my chest.  He looks at me for a moment and he goes, “Dah-dee” and I smile from ear to ear and say, “That’s right!  That’s right!”  HE KNOWS!!!  I try to steal second with, “…and who’s this?” and I poke my finger into his chest and he says, “Roh-ree!” and I say, “YES!  YES!  THAT’S RIGHT!  YOU’RE RORY!”.  This is truly breakthrough territory.
I decide to try rounding third by saying, “…and who’s that?” and I point at Quinn on the other side of the room.  He stares at her and I know he’s about to go for the triple threat.  I can feel it in my blood.
I say, “Quinn, come over here,” thinking that maybe it’s because she’s too far away.  Yeah, yeah… maybe that’s it.  Quinn turns her back to me and pretends not to hear.  I repeat myself, “Quinn, come here,” and she says, “No.”
I throw a little sternness into my voice and she comes hup-two to my side.  I stick my finger gently square into the middle of her forehead and I say, “Rory, who is this?” and he says, “See-SEE!”  I try again.  “Say Quinn.  This is Quinn.  Say Quinn” and he says, “Seeee” and I try one more time, “This is SISTER.  Can you say ‘sister’?” and he says, “See-see”.  But this time he doesn’t say it like he’s straining.  He’s saying it like he’s simply repeating what I’ve said.
See-see… sister… Quinn.  Not bad.  My sister called me “Boy” until she was about 4.  I can work with this.
If either of my children pee in the toilet, we give them an M&M, a reward that I wish someone would pour out on me.  Once, as a joke, I asked my wife if they get two pieces of chocolate if they take a poop.  She says, “Uh… no”.  The problem with this system is that both children are usually in the bathroom at the same time but they both don’t always go to the bathroom at the same time.  Obviously this is problematic when both children are standing at your feet shouting, “Chalky!  Chalky!” but only one gets the reward.
You’re thinking I’m terrible.  You’re thinking I’m horrible.  But I don’t break.  I don’t give them both chocolate or “chalky”.  I only give it to the one that went potty.  True, the other one typically throws their head back and begins screaming to The Great Deity himself, begging for sweet Wonka Rain but… this is the spoils of war.  Potty training is a dark process and trying to train a baby to poop in a toilet is harder than trying to train a weasel to use a fork so you have to be tough.
So, same time as Event 1, I pull open the door, come in and we’re playing in the big chair and my daughter finds this tiny piece of chalk on the ground and she starts to taste it and I go, “Icky!  That’s icky!” and my daughter goes, “Icky!” and my son repeats her and I say, “That’s right.  That’s icky.  That’s chalk”.  And they both stop and look at me, frozen in time and space and I’m thinking, “What?  What’s just happened?  Why do I suddenly feel like I’ve walked into The Village of the Damned?” and Quinn goes, “Chalky?” and Rory goes, “Chalky?” and I say, “No… no no.  CHALK.”  And I grab the white stump from my daughter’s hand and I hold it up and say, “CHALK, not CHALKY.  ICKY.”  And they both go, “CHOCK.”
Chaos evaded.
That was close.
Too close…

Mornings with Children | Day 8


Last month I noticed that my daughter had straight up bad breath.  I don’t know if she had eaten something on that day or thrown up or was curdling limburger cheese in her cheeks but it was foul.  Rank.  Rancid.  She’d come and sit on my lap and start to laugh and I’d have to turn my head, dry heave a little and then hold my breath to smile at her.  Thankfully, this problem went away… probably in part to us initializing Project: Brush Your Teeth.
We weren’t sure how it was going to go over, handing our children toothbrushes laced with strong toothpaste tasting toothpaste.  We braced ourselves for the worse; they were going to hate it.  That was the bottom line… but children have a funny way of surprising you.
After watching us brush our teeth their whole lives, both kids were excited to dig in and start the process.  Every morning before I go to work, I say, “C’mon!  Let’s brush our teeth!” and both children chase me into the bathroom shouting, “Teef!  Teef!  Brush!  Teef!”  I run my daughter’s brush under the faucet and I put on just a squirt of toothpaste  on before handing it to her… and then watch as she jams the whole thing in her mouth and begins sucking the flavor out of it.  There is no brushing.  There is no scrubbing.  There is no cleaning.  There is only eating toothpaste off of a toothbrush like Fun Dip

I try to teach her the technique but she doesn’t care to learn.  As they say, you can lead a pony to the bathroom sink, but you can’t make it brush.  She just nibbles on the bristles and drools down the front of her shirt.  I say, “All done.  Let’s rinse our mouth out” and I watch as she climbs onto a step stool their mother has purchased, which allows the both of them to lean into the sink for just such an occasion.
She turns on the sink by herself, sticks the tooth brush under and then, when I try to take it from her, she squeals and screams and I have to wrestle it out of her slippery grip, vowing that I must find a better way to end this routine.  I cup my hand under the running water and hold it up to Quinn’s mouth.  She bends down and drinks it all.  I take the leftover water and rub it in her hair, messing it up and inflaming the curls.
I notice she has more hair than me.
I like my coffee like I like my women, which is to say, ground up and kept in the freezer.
No, I’m just kidding.  I keep my coffee in a dry cabinet under the sink.  I try to mix up the brands, buying a different bag every time we head out to the store.  This month’s soup de jour is Trader Joe’s brand.  It’s simple, cheap, tasty, and I can buy it in a bulky silo shaped container that seems to never go dry.
Coffee drinkers are creatures of habit.  Every morning, beans, grinder, hot water, coffee.  Next day, rinse and repeat.  Children, likewise, are also creatures of habit, whether that be for the better or worse.  My son knows that every morning before I go to work, I make a cup of coffee.  I kneel down next to the cabinet where I keep the endless supply of The Brown Goodness and shout out, “Roar!  Hey Roar!  Buddy!  You want to help dad make some coffee?” and no matter where he is or what he’s doing, he will drop it, just like Lassie, and come running to help.
He screams something which does not sound like coffee but which I am sure probably means it.  I pull out the silo, pop the green plastic lid and he crinkles his nose up, showing me that he wants to smell it; a trick I’ve taught him.  I lift up the container to his face and he buries his whole head inside and inhales deeply a few times like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.

I walk him through every step as I’m doing it, every day.  The plan is that he’ll be making the coffee in the next year and a half.  See, I’m thinking end game here, folks.  I tell him, “Pour the beans into the grinder”.  I do so.
“We gotta plug it in now”.  At this point, I bend down and I say, “Help Daddy push the button.  He can’t do it alone”.  He reaches out and the moment he touches the button, I crank on it and the grinder goes off, wwhhhrrrrrrr, and the beans turn to dust just like that.  He gets excited and lets go and then presses it again, trying to rev it up like someone might do with a motorcycle.
My daughter runs and hides behind my wife’s legs and comes out after a small amount of coaxing.  I say, “Share, Rory.  Share”, and he does.  Soon all three of us are grinding beans together and then I’m out the door.

Mornings with Children | Day 7

DAY 7 

I think that little dolls probably scare pretty much everyone… so you’ll understand why I get shivers up my spine when my daughter (who pretty much resembles a 2 1/2 foot tall, walking Cabbage Patch Doll)  looks you dead in the eyes, right down into your soul and says, “Buh-bye”.  She doesn’t say it in a way that makes you think, “Hey, great!  See you in a few hours when I get home from work!”
She says it in a way, with a certain tone, with a certain… sense… a secret clarity of knowledge.  She says, “Buh-bye” but what it really sounds like is, “You have made a series of unfortunate decisions and now you’ll have the rest of eternity to contemplate them in the fiery pain that is your afterlife.  Good luck in the Bog of Death, the Hall of 1,000 Sufferings and The Abyss of Eternal Torment.  Today you meet your doom.  Buh-bye”.
I tap her on the head and say, “Uh… buh…buh-bye, baby.  Daddy… loves you.”  I drive slow and look both ways before crossing the street for the rest of my day / life.
Last night my son kicked me in the face.
Well… kicked is a harsh word.  He tapped his foot against my face, several times.  I ask, “What are you doing?” and he giggles.  I wonder what he actually is doing.  Is he just playing?  Is he hoping I tickle him?  Does he want me to pick him up and throw him onto the couch like I sometimes do?
He taps me on the cheek with his toes a few more times.  Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.  I say, “Arg!  What are you doing!” in a playful way and he laughs and giggles more.  Tap-Tap-Tap.  He giggles and then I giggle and then he bends down and gives me a kiss, totally unprovoked and my wife can’t help but go, “Oooooohhhhhh” and I know her estrogen levels have just hit an all time high.
My son leans back and tap-tap-taps me again a few times before bending down and giving me another kiss.  Now, I have to admit… it is pretty sweet of him.  He repeats it a third time; tap-tap-tap.  He leans down and I pucker my lips.  I love him so much – and he burps into my mouth and laughs.
Rory, you truly are your father’s son