Monthly Archives: October 2013

KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 2

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I put the kids in pull-ups and dress Quinn in her jammies before chasing Rory down, pinning him to the ground and wrestling him into his footies.  He screams and laughs and swats at me the entire time while I do impressions of Macho Man Randy Savage and say, “I’m gonna come at ya from the top rope!  And I’m gonna give you the elbow!  And I’m gonna drop you to the mat, see!  I’m gonna pin you down for the big ah-1-ah-2-and-ah-3-count!  The ref is going to ring that bell and I, NOT YOU, will be the reigning Heavy Weight Cham-peen of the World!” and Rory stands up, clothed in black and white stripes and points at me and says, “………..NO!” and then me, in my regular voice, I say, “Roar, you gotta work the crowd a little more.  They came for a show.”

Quinn jumps on my back and I spin her around my body like a swing dancer, dropping her onto the wood floor.  I grab her by the feet and say ONE-TWO-THREEEEE! and then I push her as hard as I can, sending her sliding across the room.  Rory shouts, “MY TURN!” and lies down.  I say ONE-TWO-THREEEEE!” and I slide him as hard as I can even though he only travels about half the distance since he weighs about twice as much.

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Quinn comes back, Rory comes back, Quinn comes back, Rory comes back, Quinn comes back, Rory lies down and points under the couch and says, “I put that there,” and I say, “What’s that?” and he says, “Look.  I put that there,” and I lie down on the floor and stare under the couch.  I see a bunch of dirt, a couple of toys, an old string cheese wrapper and a container of sour cream.

I say, “You, uh… which one did you put under there?” and he says, “Blue one,” which, of course, is referring to the sour cream and I say, “When did you do this?” and he says, “Don’t know.”  I shudder at the thought of what could be inside the container.  I grab the lid and pull it out, leaving a streak of wetness in its wake.  Jade gags and says, “Just throw it away,” but I say, “No… we should look.  We need to look.  We need…. to know… what’s in here,” and she says, “No.  No we don’t,” but I say, “Could still be good,” and then I rip the cap off and wish I hadn’t.

Rory says, “Is that gross?” and I say, “Yes.  Very,” and I throw it away.

When I come back Rory is playing with Clementine and I sit down and then briefly look away to watch Quinn when he suddenly screams and starts weeping with such force that I’m certain Clementine has finally bit him.  I look.  No blood.  Clementine slowly walks away (human emotions make her very uncomfortable).  I say, “What’s wrong?” and Rory says, “AAAAHHHH!” and I say, “Did you poke yourself in the eye?” and Rory says, “NOOOOOO!” and I say, “What happened?” and Rory says, “CLEMENTINE….. LICKED……MY EYE!” and sure enough, his eye is all red and irritated from the dog’s rough tongue.

I say, “It’s okay.  She was probably just trying to drink your tears.  They keep her young”.

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I push Rory across the floor again and I push Quinn across the floor again and then Rory lies down but says, “DON’T THROW ME IN THE FAN!” (referring to a box fan on the floor with no cover and spinning blades exposed) and I say, “Uh…. okay….” and I wind up to slide him but he twists his head at the last moment to look at the fan and then his whole body sort of follows suit and he just kind of rolls instead of rocketing out and I say, “You can’t turn your head when I’m doing this – you have to – you have to just stare at the ceiling,” and he says, “No…… no….. don’t throw me in the fan,” and I say, “Rory.  Why would I throw you in the fan?” and he says, “No…..” and I say, “Besides, even if I WANTED to throw you in the fan-” and Quinn lies down in front of me as I say, “I couldn’t.  Watch, I’ll even try to throw Quinn in the fan – I can’t push you guys that far,” and then Quinn is standing up and saying, “No!  No!  Dad, no!  Don’t push me into the fan!” and I say, “I’m… okay, I’m sorry I said that.  I’m not going to push you into the fan.  I was just making a point that if I wanted to, I probably couldn’t – or rather – couldn’t.  Watch.  Quinn, lie down.”

She does so and I say, “ONE!  TWO!  THR–” and she tilts her head to look at the fan and I stop because I’m just going to send her rolling head over heels if she does that and she says, “Dad?” and I say, “Yes, Quinn?” and she says, “Don’t throw me into the fan.”

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I stand up and say, “It’s bedtime.  Let’s get outta here,” and Rory runs into the kitchen and opens the fridge and says, “I want this,” and he holds out a bag of small peppers.  I open the bag and hand it to him, watching as he examines each color in turn, finally settling on a fat orange one.  “THIS one,” he squeals, handing me the bag back before running off.  Quinn enters the kitchen, stares at Rory with his pepper, stares at me holding the bag of peppers and I’m of course expecting her to ask for one so I sort of freeze but instead she just runs off.

I zip up the bag, open the fridge and put them back… just as she runs back in all alone and says, “Dad!  I want a pepper!” and so I pull the bag back out and open it up and hand it to her and she examines each color in turn before fixating on a specific red one and then vanishing into her bedroom where I follow closely behind.

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Inside, I tell them to get in bed and that we’re going to say our prayers and then read a book and they both get very excited about prayers when we’re going to read a book afterwards so they curl in very close to me and repeat everything I say with equal measures of earnest and enthusiasm.

After prayers are over I read a story about The Bernstein Bears trying to find a place to have a picnic while constantly being plagued by garbage trucks, school children, mosquitoes, rain, lightening and locomotives.  At the end, in case you were wondering, they have a picnic at their kitchen table.  Full circle.

I close the book and say, “THE” and both children in unison shout, “END!” and then I pick up Quinn’s cabbage patch doll and I cradle it in my arms and I say, “Shhh…. shhhh,” and I bounce it up and down and rock it back and forth and say, “Baby wants to sleep.  Are you both ready for the new baby?” and I say, “Rory, do you want to hold the baby?” and he says, “Yeah,” and so I hand it to him and he cradles it and says, “Shhh…” and then throws the baby at Quinn and I say, “We probably shouldn’t do that.”  Then, while I pick up the doll and begin to cradle it again, Rory strikes out at it and I wonder if this is going to be a recurring theme over the next few weeks.

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I hand the doll back to Quinn and I grab Rory and say, “I’ll cradle you!” but he’s not very happy about it and starts screaming and thrashing about so I just start chewing on his ear and he starts laughing and hides under his blankets.  I give Quinn eye kisses (left eye to left eye, right eye to right eye, butterfly kisses) nose kisses, (nose to nose, eskimo kisses) and then kiss kisses and then do the same to Rory before turning their music box on and saying goodnight and walking away.

For the next 30 minutes I sit in the living room, rubbing Jade’s back while we watch Parenthood and listen to the gentle noises of the children not sleeping.  Eventually, I stand up and walk back into their bedroom to find them both sitting on the floor playing with toys.  They both scurry under the covers like gophers but, instead of instructing them, I kick off my boots and lie down, curling them both close to me, Rory at my side, snuggled in the crook of my arm and Quinn on my chest, listening to my heart.

I rub their backs and I think, “This is it.  We’re in the final stretch now.”

And, like the finale of a great drama, it is the perfect way to end things.

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KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 3

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Today is a fairly special day that, similar to Columbus Day or Victory Over Japan Day, will be celebrated without streamers, kazoos or national parades.  It is, as most things of this nature are, bittersweet.

Today is our last day as a family of four before The Process begins.  Obviously nothing clinical is being thrown into full swing at this point but The Family is beginning their slow descent towards us, circling the fresh meat like buzzards.  KAW!  KAW!

My mother-in-law, whom I love and respect dearly (June, you do read this blog, correct?), will be gracing us with her wisdom, compassion, charm and, overall humanitarian efforts as of early tomorrow afternoon.  I make a point to mention this because there is a strange transformation that becomes children when their grandmother (the Royal grandmother, not specifically this one) is in presence.  The children seem to… how do I say this politely… they seem to forget that I am their father and that Jade is their mother.  Or rather, they seem to forget that we are alive… or that we ever existed… or that I’m standing right next to them asking a question.

Hello?  Hello?  Echo?  Am I a ghost?  Boo.

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I say, “Candy,” but it has no effect.  I say, “You want to come sit with Da–” and the kids are gone, disappeared around the corner where Grandma is washing dishes.  I am being one-upped by a piece of cheap ceramic with carrots crusted to its surface.  At this point a fish holds more appeal than I do.  I say, “Let’s take a bath!” and they say, “Grandma!  Bath time!” and I slump my shoulders and walk outside, dejected, feeling like the cocker spaniel from Lady and the Tramp.

I know why the caged bird sings!

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At night I say, “Bedtime!  Let’s go read a–” and Quinn will shout, “BOOK!” and I’ll say, “Yeah!” and she’ll say, “Grandma, read me this!” and I’ll decide that, hey, if ya can’t beat em, join em!  So I sit in the bedroom but both kids just fight for space on her lap while I sit awkwardly nearby, the third wheel, listening to a fairy tale that I bet I could read better just give me that shot!

Eventually I stand up and leave because I feel like the lurking man hiding in shadows in the children’s library and it’s even giving me the willies.

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But I also know that, come Monday and come the new child, that it is she that will smooth over the rough spots and it’s she that will make sure our kids don’t feel neglected in those first weeks and it’s she that will put this little baby on such a high pedestal that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to reach it.

I try to imagine Rory having a son or Quinn having a daughter or Baby 3 having a family so large they get their own reality show and I wonder what type of grandparent I will be.  I realize that parenting isn’t over when my children turn 18 or 20 or 30 or when they move out or get married or become President of their Local Elk’s Lodge.  It ends when… it doesn’t end.

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You just hope that you raise your children into the most fruitful adults they can be because at some point you’re going to have to sit back and watch them do it themselves and watch them make your mistakes or learn from them and when you get an opportunity to attach yourself to Third-Gen-You, you’ll do so with every bit of energy you have.

You’ll steal your grandchildren away for as long as you can and hug them and read to them and life goes on and on and on.

Do I begrudge The Grandparents for stealing my children away from me, sending my pride reeling into the streets and damaging my ego beyond repair?

No.

I actually plan to do the same thing to my kids in about 25 years.

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KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 4

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When you have children, two things will drastically change forever.  The first is, obviously and, in a broad sweeping movement, your life.  You will forever feel as though part of your heart has been trapped outside of your body and is meandering around the world alone and you’re just trying to do everything in your meager power to protect it from all of the dark and nasty stuff that’s out there.

The second thing that will forever change is your dreams.  And I don’t mean this in that goal oriented I want to own a house and be mayor of a small rural town sort of way.  I mean it in the Nightly Subconscious Sleepy Time way.

Goodbye Dreams About Being Buried Alive And Falling From The Sky And Being Chased By Beasts Who’s Description Escapes You In The Waking Hours Except For The Words, “It was so real… It was just… horrible… and so real.”  Hello Dreams About  Your Children Teetering On The Brink Of Death Just Out Of Your Reach And Ability.

It is a regular occurrence for me – a regular occurrence – that I dream of my children playing on railroad tracks that I can’t reach, a train barreling towards them, or the two of them crossing a bridge far above a violent  river that begs to swallow them up, me knowing that they’re there but having no idea where the actual location is.

Last night I dreamt that I had enlisted in the military (the first red flag that should have alerted me that this was nothing more than a nocturnal movie) and was stationed on a base that was built right on the ocean.  A large interconnected system of excessively swervy roads allowed you to navigate the premises but the edges weren’t guarded and you were constantly in danger of sliding off the side.  Perhaps you’ve driven on tall mountain roads that presented a similar danger.  The concrete was always wet from the constant onslaught of waves and spray and the roads curved in nonsensical U-Turns as though Dr. Seuss had designed the base’s layout plan.

In my dream I was an even worse driver than in real life and my brakes never seemed to work.  The U-Turn would approach fast and I could never slow down enough to make the hard cut and… over the edge I would plummet, into the cold waters below, screaming and bracing myself for impact, over and over again.  It never got easier.

I swim to the shore, make my way to my barracks and deal with this very strange human drama that is going on.  I believe somebody had stolen something and then there was a kind of murder and it was being blamed on me even though I hadn’t had anything to do with it… or maybe I did… it was that fuzzy dream logic that didn’t matter.  As of this point in the dream, I’m sure most of these details are stemming from my dad currently being stationed in Afghanistan (military base) and me worrying about someone breaking into our house and then writing – yesterday – about having to attack them with a knife (the murder).  Where the water motif is coming from, I have no idea, although I do have a fear of open water that I don’t often talk about.

I leave my barracks and begin walking down one of the long pedestrian bridges when I hear a familiar scream.  My daughter is crying and I can hear water splashing and my stomach drops and I start running, my feet sloshing through small puddles.  For whatever reason, someone has placed various cargo boxes along the path that I’m forced to climb over – there’s always something blocking my way!! – and when I finally reach the edge of the bridge, I hear Rory crying far to my left and I see Quinn floating face down and not making a sound.

Which one do I choose?  My dream has forced me into a horrible corner and makes me decide.

The moon is casting a blue glow over the scene and I’m having difficulty making out anything further than a few feet away.  I know I can physically see Quinn and I can physically see that she isn’t moving.  I can still hear Rory, although I have no idea how close (or far away) he is.  I leap into the cold, rippling water, submerging myself into darkness, grab Quinn, flip her onto her back and paddle relentlessly back towards the bridge which, of course, has no kind of ladder or steps to clamber back up, but rather a slippery and mossy side that I can’t seem to find footing on.

I hold my breath and kick my feet as hard as I can, lifting my duaghter into the air and lay her on the surface before turning my attention to Rory and scrambling after him.  I see his head bobbing above the water and then dropping back down.  I dive under, find him, embrace him and begin to pull him towards the side but he fights me, not wanting to be held or constrained or helped.  He’s scared and he’s screaming and pushing against me, shoving his hands into my face and his feet into my stomach and I keep thinking I’m going to lose my grip on him (forever) and he’s going to slowly just sink to the bottom of the ocean.  MY SON!  His face goes underwater and I try to lift him up higher.

Finally at the side I somehow (somehow??  More dream logic) manage to pull him onto the bridge along with myself where I find Quinn lying, totally still but awake.  Awake and alive.  I put them both in the car (where’d that come from?) and begin to drive the three of us back to the barracks, doing my best to keep them safe but… the road is too slippery and my breaks aren’t working properly and the turns are too sharp and I’m going over the side again, both of my children strapped into car seats.  GOD HELP ME!!!

And I wake up.

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KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 5

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Jade comes outside carrying four bowls, each filled with two macadamia nut cookies topped with chocolate chip ice cream, and distributes them evenly amongst us; two adults and two children.  The gentle glow of a fairly pathetic fire lights our faces and my wife says, “Rory, did you help Daddy start the fire?” and Rory stares at the flames and says, “Uh……. no,” and so Jade says, “Did Daddy start this fire all by himself?” and I say, “Uh……. no.  I had the assistance of a chemically soaked and scientifically engineered fire log.”

For all of my “camping knowledge”, I swear to you here and now that I would die in the woods, freezing to death far before starvation ever had its chance at me.  I would die with plenty of fat on my bones and a book of matches in my hand.  I’m fairly confident in my arsonistic abilities in regards to crusty leaves and old Kleenex but a log?  Where’s the lighter fluid?

The children finish their ice cream first and Rory says, “MORE!” and Jade says, “No.  That’s all.  It’s all gone.”  Rory says, “All gone?” and stares into the fire for moment.  He looks back up at my wife and says, “Two more cookies inside,” and I look at Jade and she says, “He’s very astute…”

The children stand up and jump on their tricycles and peddle around in the dark for a few minutes before my cruel urges begin to rise up inside of me.  Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved to scare people.  I’d hide in the dark basement and wait for my mother to come down to do laundry or I’d moan through the vents to send my younger sister into a frenzied panic.  Once I put a full sized mannequin (with arms) in my brother-in-laws room and then watched from a distance as he entered in the pitch black.  I’ve never heard a grown man scream like that.

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ABOVE: RORY WORKING ON HIS “WAIT & LUNGE” MANEUVER.

The kids circle and circle and circle the backyard and, just as they disappear behind the table, I leap from my chair and hide behind a piece of wood and… as Rory emerges first from the other side, I crawl out on my hands and knees and say, “YARRRR!” and he jumps and jolts sideways and slams on his brakes and then starts laughing and says, “You scared me, Dad!  Hahaha!  You scared me!” and so, feeling left out, Quinn shouts, “Scare me too, Dad!  Scare me too!” and I say, “Oh… I will… but it will be when you least expect it, Little One…” and they circle and circle and circle and I see my opportunity and it all plays out the exact same but, when I crawl out and yell, “YARRRR!” Quinn just stares at me, nonplussed.

This simply will not do.

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ABOVE: QUINN PRACTICING HER “POUNCE AND HOWL” STANCE.  GREAT FORM.

I crawl back to my chair and stair at the fire and wait… luring her into a false sense of security.  Around and around and around… a few more passes… yes… now is The Time.

I sneak from my chair and hide behind the plank and squat down.  I pull my cardigan up over my head so only my mouth and teeth are exposed… and I wait…

Before long she innocently weaves around the corner and, instead of crawling, I lunge out and, instead of shouting, “YARRR!“, I make a noise that sounds like a hog giving birth (C-section, no pain meds) and I gnash my teeth and shake my tongue and she swerves and jumps and look me right in the mouth and says, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”

It is The Scream that would have been worthy of the Psycho shower scene.  Her eyes go wide and her jaw drops open and her wail pierces the night.  I pull my hood down and say, “I scared you!” and I laugh and she says, “YOU SCARED ME, DAD!” and I say, “Ask and you shall receive,” before I sit back down to finish my ice cream.

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ABOVE: RORY DEMONSTRATING “DEMENTED MANIAC” WHILE QUINN DISPLAYS “EMOTIONLESS MONSTER”.

The moon rises higher in the sky and the children both yawn and we put them to bed, say their prayers, say goodnight and shut the door before heading back outside to chat the early evening away.  Jade brings out the remaining cookies and we split them and talk about how observant The Boy is.  We play a couple rounds of Words with Friends on our phones and we listen to light jazz by Miles Davis.  She tells me about a parenting book she’s reading and I tell her about a phrase I heard that went something like, “Those who chase security will never find freedom and those who find security have only found purgatory.”

An hour or two passes and the fire dies and I spray the embers with a hose and go inside where I find Jade standing in the kitchen, totally still, a look of panic on her face.  I say, “What?  The baby?” and she says, “No,” and then I hear it too.  There are footsteps in our house.  I reach into my pocket and pull out my knife, snapping it open with a shink and wondering if I have what it takes to stab somebody.  Do I go for their neck?  Guts?  Shoulder?  I’ve always imagined stabbing somebody very apologetically like, “You broke into my house and now I have to defend myself and I’m very sorry because this might hurt just a little bit.  Okay?  Are you alright?  I’m probably going to stab one more time!”

Jade slides open the kitchen drawer and pulls out a butcher knife as tall as she is and I suddenly have blade envy, staring down at my little razor.  It’s not the size, it’s how you use it, I think to myself, pokey-pokey, and then the two of us slowly separate (classic horror movie move!  What were we thinking!?)  She goes around into the living room and I head for the hallway.  I hear the light tap, tap, tap of her feet on the hardwood as I open our kitchen door as slowly as possible, bracing myself for some long-haired drug addled intruder to burst out of the darkness and try to bite me (in my imaginings, most intruders have long hair and try to bite).

I step into the hall just as Jade steps into the other end (our house is designed in a large loop) and we both shrug.  She turns to the bedroom and I turn to the bathroom and then we hear it again.  Footsteps.  In the kid’s room.

In… the kid’s room.

I gently swing open the door and find Quinn marching around, pulling her blanket – she sees me, lays down on the hard wood and pulls her stuffed quilt over her head.

I say, “Go to sleep, Little Lady,” and I shut the door thinking, “You SCARED me, Quinn.”

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ABOVE: A HORRIFIC PHOTO OF A DOLL TAKING A BATH.  GOODBYE, DIRT.  HELLO, NIGHTMARES.

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