Tag Archives: funny

Code 5 Quinn-pocalypse

I’m walking out of my house – I need to run to the grocery store to pick up some waters. It’s a quick in and out job. Super basic. I’ll be gone ten minutes. Max.

I hit the door and drop down the porch steps and I’m almost to my car when I hear Quinn behind me. She does this whine – it’s full of panic and concern. This tone that is like eeeeeeehhhhh! It’s a noise that sounds like she’s on the edge of a full nervous breakdown. Her voice wobbles and quivers. “Daddy! Wait! Wait! I didn’t give you a hug and kiss!

I can hear her shouting this from the living room. “Yeah! I’ll be back in just a minute! One minute! I will be right back, I promise!”

NO! HUG AND KISS! EEEHHHHH! PLEASE!

I keep walking. She’s on the porch now. Squealing. Now she’s running down the steps. Running towards me. I keep walking. “I will be right back, Quinn! You will see me in two minutes. I’m just buying a water.” And then my internal monologue kicks in, which goes something like this: What is wrong with this kid? What have we done to this child to give her such separation anxieties? This noise that she makes is killing me. It is driving me up the flipping wall. I wish she would just relax. Her panic is so dumb. And so senseless. I’m going to be right back. Why isn’t she listening to me? If she would just stop making these stupid whining noises and listen to me, she would know that I’m going to be right back. Why is she wasting my time?

This is the routine whenever either Jade or I leave the house. Every time. Every single time there is a fantastic meltdown over hugs and kisses. If you do not properly connect your lips with Quinn’s lips and give her a very proper hug that has a fairly specific form to it, then you are dealing with a Code 5 Quinn-pocalypse.

This is not, like, a thing. This is A Thing.

I’ve driven away before. I’ve been like F it. This is ridiculous. I’m leaving. This must stop. I get in my car and drive away. In my rearview mirror I see her standing at the very edge of our yard, waving her arms and jumping up and down and screaming, “HUG AND KISS! HUG AND KISS! DADDY! PLEASE! HUG AND KISS!” and I have no idea how long she stands there and does it for.

To remove all sugar coating and to be as primitive about it as possible – it is annoying and it gets under my skin and it drives me crazy because it doesn’t make any sense to me and, if I’m being completely honest, the vast majority of the time that I give her a hug and kiss, I do it as quickly as I can and just roll through the motions so that I can get to wherever it is that I’m going.

I brush her off.

And I’m not just brushing her off like she’s blathering on about how she wants mac and cheese for lunch but we just ate breakfast so please give me a second to finish doing the dishes but I’m actually brushing off her affection.

And so I’m standing on my front sidewalk and I say, “Quinn, yes. Hurry. Please. Hi. Hug and kiss. Okay. We’re done. Thank you. Go back inside. I’ll see you in a hundred and twenty seconds. Goodbye. Finally.”

And she says, “Okay! See you in a minute! I love you!” and then she runs back into the house.

And then I’m standing on my sidewalk and this feeling of… it was a light bulb turning on over my head. It was a feeling of illumination. I had a moment wherein I saw the darkness and I saw that I was swimming in it.

I was engulfed by it.

And I didn’t know it.

What has happened to me? What am I doing? What is wrong with me?

My child. She has come to me to see me off. To show me affection and admiration. She has come to me, small and powerless, to say I love you and I will miss you while you are away. You will only be gone for two minutes. But in those two minutes, I will think of you and I will wish that you were here. And I want you to know that.

And this is, apparently, just too fucking insignificant for me to waste my time with.

Sometimes I catch sight of myself and, for all the good I like to think that I do, I realize that I am still just a selfish piece of shit that knows nothing about humility.

 

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Bedtime Stories: Chapter 1

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Every night before going to bed my children ask me to read them a book. Sometimes it’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, sometimes it’s “Curious George”, sometimes it’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, but as of late I’ve become bored with reading and reading and reading the same stories over and over and over again and so I’ve decided to write new stories for them.  We gather on their bed or on the couch and I say, “What is tonight’s story about?” and they give a simple suggestion… and so it begins…

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I’m sitting on my couch, my oldest daughter on my left and my son on my right.  Both of them are curled up in their favorite blankies, both of them staring at me with wide eyes and big smiles.  I say, “Once Upon a Time… there was a Little Boy and a Little Girl and they were brother and sister.  And one day, they were walking along a street when they noticed that they were passing a very old house that nobody lived in.  Nobody lived there.  It was completely empty–

(Sometimes you have to hammer a point home because they’re so young).

–but, even though it was completely and totally empty and no one lived there, they heard….” and this is where I look at them because they help me tell the story.  It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure for them that I make up as I go.

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I look at Quinn and I say, “What did they hear?” and she whispers, “I don’t know…” and so I look at Rory and I say, “What did they hear?” and he says, “They hear a ghost… and a ghost says, “ooooooo-oooo-ooooOOOO!“” and I say, “Actually, what they heard was………..RAAAAR!!” AND I SHOUT AND LUNGE TOWARDS QUINN AND SHE SHOVES HERSELF BACK INTO THE COUCH AND PULLS THE BLANKET UP OVER HER HEAD AND SAYS, “Don’t do that!  You scared me!”

“And so the Little Boy and the Little Girl were afraid and so they ran home to their Mommy and Daddy… but the next day they were walking past the house again and…. what did they hear?” and Rory says, “A ghost!  And a ghost says, “ooooo-ooooo-ooooOOOO!” and I say, “RAAAAR!” and I lunge at Rory and he drops his blanket to the floor and his eyes well up a little and he says, “You scared me, Daddy,” and then his little bottom lip begins to quiver and I feel pretty bad…

I continue, “So the Little Boy and the Little Girl were scared and so they ran home to their Mommy and Daddy but the next day they were walking past the empty house again and what did they hear?” and Rory says, “They… heard…. ghosts….. and a ghost says, “Ooooo-ooo-oooOOO!” and I say, “They heard a noise that sounded like this, “Ooooo-ooo-oooOOOOO!” and the Little Boy and the Little Girl turned towards the empty, abandoned house and they started walking up the sidewalk, towards the front door.  Click-clack-click-clack went their feet up the sidewalk and reeeeeee-reeeeeee went the squeaky front steps and then knock-knock-knock went their tiny little fists on the door and then eeeeeeeeeeeee went the door as it swung open and inside the house… what did they see?

And Rory, in fully obsessed form says, “A GHOST!” and I say, “They saw a white sheet floating in the middle of the room… and then another… and then another… and then another and then do you know how many ghosts they saw?” and Quinn says, “Eight” but my story was much bigger than that so I bent her choice a little with my own and I say, “100.  They saw 100 ghosts floating around and dancing because they were having a Ghost Party.”

It’s at this point that I make a beat that sounds like a cross between ghost noises and dub-step music just to add to the general ambience.

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And then–

RAAAR!” I SHOUT and both kids jump and Quinn covers her face and Rory says, “What is it?!” and I say, “It’s a monster and it’s coming down the stairs!  It’s coming to the ghost party!” and then in my scratchy monster voice I say, “I’m a monster that lives upstairs and everyone is afraid of me because of the way I talk and RAAAAR – I’m just so alone and lonely and I don’t have any friends.  There’s a party happening down here in my own house and no one invited me and now my feelings are hurt.”

And then I turn to Rory, stare him in the eyes and say, “Will you be my friend, Little Boy?” and Rory say, “I will be your friend.  Yes, I will be your friend, Monster,” and I say, “That is very nice.  Can I have a hug?” and then Rory comes in close and hugs me and says, “I love this Monster,” and I say, “I love you too, Little Boy.”

I turn to my daughter and I say, “Little Girl, will you be my friend?” and Quinn stares me dead in the eyes and says, “No.  No, I don’t want to be your friend,” but Rory quickly interjects and says, “Be our friend!  Be friends with us!” but Quinn holds her ground, “No… I don’t want to…”

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And the story continues, “So the Little Girl left the house and she shut the squeaky door behind her and she stepped down the wooden steps and she walked down the sidewalk and she went all the way back home to her Mommy and Daddy and–”

“But… where is the Little Boy?” asks Quinn.

“Oh, he stayed in the house with the monster and became the one hundred and first ghost of the party.”

The children both look at me and so I say, “The… End.”

Rory says, “That Ghost Party is fun,” and Quinn says, “Does the Little Girl see her brother again?” and I say, “No.  He stayed in the house to play with the monster and he never came out,” and Quinn asks, “Does the Little Girl see her Mommy and Daddy again?” and I say, “Yes.  She goes home and she lives with them for a very long time,” and then Quinn says, “What do her Mommy and Daddy do?” and I say, “They just work regular nine to five jobs,” and Quinn says, “Oh.  Ok.”

 

The End.

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THREE FALLS

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You receive a small package; a tender baby.  It is placed neatly in your arms for the first time and you cradle it, snuggle it, kiss it.  You ever-so-gently place it in its crib and you fawn over it.  You rub your hand down the side of its cheek.  You beep its little nose.  You tickle its feet.  You drop it on the floor on accident and you can’t believe what you’ve just done!  Are the windows closed?  Did anyone FREAKING SEE THAT?!  Okay, no…. I think we’re okay…. no one needs to know… and if they ask about the wounds we can lie about the details later.  QUICK!  Make up a story!

He fell down!  No, idiot!  That’s what you’re trying to get away from!  The dog stepped on her!  No!  Almost worse!  You left the kid where your dog runs?  Screw it!  The baby gets put in long sleeves until the scabs fall off.

Birth may make you a parent, but dropping a child is the true initiation for both you understanding that you’re not a perfect parent and for the child being truly welcomed into this world made of sharp objects and hard surfaces.  SO, without any further adieu, here are three stories, in escalating order, about my children being dropped.

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QUINN

I sleep very strangely.  I don’t mean the physical way my body lies, I just mean the way my brain behaves.  I’m the guy that will awake in the middle of the night and begin a conversation with my wife about guns and security cameras.  My sentence structure will be all broken and fileted,  but I’ll be really passionate about my points.

ME: “You know our security cameras?”     JADE: “HUH?”     ME: “Our security cameras… on the walls…”     “JADE, “WHAT?”     ME: “Our freaking security camerason the wallswith the guns on them!”     JADE: “Are you sleeping?”     ME: “SHUT UP!”

Another instance:     I wake up and put my fist straight up in the air, towards the ceiling.  I open my hand and point my palm back down at Jade.  Basically it looks like I’m trying to perform voodoo on her.  She wakes up and sees me doing this and says, “John?”  ME: “What?”     JADE: “Why are you doing that with your hand?”     ME: “SHUT UP!”

In any event, I’ll awake in the middle of the night to change a diaper and my mind will be somewhere else completely.  I’m saying, it’s over in Willy Wonka Land or Narnia or Iran.  It is just off the beaten path and I am standing up and walking around and functioning (to some degree) but my exact sobriety is and should be definitely called into question.

So, Quinn is around six months old and she wakes up in the middle of the night and, as parents do, I wake up and I lift her out of the crib and I place her on the “changing table” – which basically just amounts to a waist high dresser with a changing pad on it – and I smile at her and poke her nose and tickle her feet and do all those things that gentle parents do and then I turn to grab a diaper and just, just, just out of the corner of my eye I see her role over and then everything slips into the slowest of motions.

First, I suddenly remember that she has begun rolling over as of late.  Check.  Second, I realize that she’s fallen off the table and is tumbling through the air, plummeting towards the hard wooden floors.  My arm lashes out instinctively and (thank God) my fingers just snake into the fabric of her pajamas and I catch her about 12 inches from the floor, my eyes still pointing the wrong direction.  It is a scene directly out of an action movie wherein the hero catches a high impact bomb at the last possible second.

She didn’t hit the floor so I don’t know if that counts in regards to my theory but trust me when I say that it was enough to fully wake me up and send my heart rocketing into my throat.

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RORY

This second instance happened several months after the above scenario; I remember because we were back in South Dakota for a hot summer and my family was out for a walk while I wore Rory in one of these front facing “Child Backpacks”.  You’ve seen them, no doubt.  Anyway, I know it was later in time because Rory was tall enough to keep kicking me in the dick with the heel of his shoes with every step I took.  Mark my words, the person who invents the fashionable male cod-piece accessory for those is going to be a very rich person.

As we walked and talked, the sun beat down on us making me slip on my uber-hip, over-sized aviator sunglasses that, I guess did sort of obscure my vision, on top of the fact that I had a GIANT TODDLER HEAD BLOCKING MY VIEW….. so, obviously, I didn’t see the enormous rock that had been set in my path.

Let me just pause for a minute to say that falling down is the worst.  First of all, it’s embarrassing.  Even simply slipping in public is bad.  You’ll be walking and your toe will catch on a sidewalk lip or you’ll step off the curb funny or you’ll dip down into a pot hole in the cross walk on the corner of third and Santa Monica while you’re trying to act cool and then you’re just lying in the street and you wish you could just die please kill me.

But… falling with a 30lb cinder block attached to your chest is even more frightening.  First of all, I couldn’t see anything so I was just spiraling into a fluff of albino hair oblivion.  Second of all, you know the kid is fragile and, since he’s strapped to my chest, he’s bound to take the brunt of the fall.  I mean, I am going to crush this kid between myself and those really jagged pink rocks that they put on streets (I was walking in the street – I’m from a small town so it’s okay).

Again, slow motion.  Let me break it down…

First, my foot steps onto a large rock and twists to the side so I come down on my ankle.  I say the F-word.  Let’s just get that out of the way now.  Yes, it sounded just like the kid from A Christmas Story.  I try to shove my other foot out in front of me but the angle of my body makes it impossible and instead I just look like a flailing lamb caught in a fence.

I realized I was about to crush Rory so, again, those weird parenting instincts that you have just take over and I wrapped my arms around him in a protective cocoon and twisted my entire body to the side, coming down and landing hard on my elbow (again, on those horribly sharp pink rocks).

Again, I said the F-word.

Rory was fine.  My elbow, not so much.

Now, according to my theory, this too is not a story about a child hitting the ground but it’s getting significantly closer.  Listen, getting hurt is just a game of numbers… and the more kids you have and the more time you spend with them, the more likely it is to happen… which is a perfect segue to our final story…

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BRYCE

Having three kids of varying age spans is a very interesting dynamic because you can’t – you simply can’t – play with all three of them at once.  Rory and Quinn want to wrestle and jump in the leaves and ride their bikes and play in the fort and be chased and sword fight and build towers and destroy towers and Bryce wants to be held, burped and fed.

Now, it’s true that I can hold Bryce and feed Bryce and burp Bryce while I do some of the above things but I can’t truly engage with the older children while handling a baby.  It’s just a factual matter of splitting your resources.  So, what this typically looks like is, “Let’s take care of the baby’s needs (food, comfort, sleep) and then when the baby is sleeping, let’s give full reign to the older ones and everyone wins.”

Makes sense.  System works.  Great.  Wonderful.

A week ago Jade leaves the house to do some thrift store whoring and takes Quinn with her – we like to split the Twinkies up whenever possible just to give them that a taste of solitude – which leaves me on Rory and Bryce duty.  Easy.  First, the bottle; take it out of the fridge, put it in the bottle heater, get it way too hot, burn my fingers, get pissed off at the archaic steam technology, cool the bottle down, dump breast milk on my wrist and all over my forearm, feed baby, burp baby, get breast milk burp-up all over my forearm, bounce baby into dairy induced coma, lie baby on the center of our bed, walk away.

This is routine.  This is everyday, several times a day.  This works.  I have no reason to question this method.  It’s tried and tested.  I pat her butt until she’s asleep – pat pat pat – and then I sneak out of the room, go outside and play with Rory in the backyard.  We run, we chase, we sword fight, we slide, we laugh, we play, he shows me a lady bug and tells me that it’s naughty to pee in the grass.  I concur with him.

In the driveway, around the side of the house, I hear the familiar hum of our mini-van’s engine, followed by the beep-beep of the door being locked; Jade is home.  I sit down in a lawn chair and wait for her to make her way outside and, when she finally does, she’s carrying Bryce.

Strange.

Stranger yet is the first question she asks me.

“Why did you put Bryce to sleep on the floor?”

I’ll cut to the chase because you, like me, are probably already going, “WHAT?!”  Yeah.  King sized bed.  Two and a half feet off the ground.  Wooden floor.  Baby doesn’t crawl.  DOESN’T CRAWL.  Baby was sleeping in the center of the bed ten minutes ago and somehow managed to push herself to the edge of the bed and…

Jade says, “I came in the front door and heard Bryce sort of… I don’t know… it wasn’t really whining so much as it was… whimpering.”  I’m a monster.  “I went into the bedroom and called your name but didn’t see you but could still hear Bryce,” Monster, Monster, Monster.  “I walked over to the side of the bed – the far side – and she was just lying on the ground.  Why’d you put her to sleep on the ground?”  MORBID VILE MONSTER!

“I, uh,” I stammer before standing up and slowly taking the baby from my wife’s arms, examining her.  Jade says, “Why are you looking at her…. oh, no…” and I say, “She was in the middle of the bed!” and Jade says, “I win!  I didn’t drop her first!  Victory to me!” and then she begins playing a fake trumpet and throwing dried leaves into the air.

Bryce is fine.

Her initiation is complete.

She is officially human.

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GLIMPSE: Rory & Quinn

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I sit in restaurants, at booths, looking at the patrons around me and I can’t help but wonder what conversations are happening at their tables. I walk through the mall and I see the people passing me and I wonder what they’re buying and why. Maybe it’s a gift for a boyfriend… and then I wonder how their relationship is going. I sit on the freeway, stuck in rush hour traffic and I watch individuals all around me driving from Santa Monica to Hollywood to Van Nuys. I watch cars merge onto the freeway, swerve and exit. I watch car accidents and I watch people text and drive, wondering who they’re speaking with.  I walk to the grocery store and I look through open windows that I pass on the sidewalk; a woman making dinner, a couple watching Law and Order re-runs, a man playing guitar…

The mundane fascinates me.  The minutia.  The moment-by-moment of everyday life.  I watch and I wonder what they’re doing and where they’re going and I wish, often times, that I could sit next to them; listen, watch, observe… follow them and… confession time; on several occasions I actually have. Twice I’ve followed a car for well over 15 miles just to see where they ended up. It was completely out of my way but I had nowhere to be so I just turned on some music and… this is actually sounding significantly creepier than it did when I chose to do it.  When it was happening, I assure you it was all very organic and natural and… innocent?  Is that the right word?  Probably not.

If I were ever granted the power of invisibility I wouldn’t go into the girl’s locker room or rob a bank… I’d just follow people around at the grocery store or sit in the passenger seat of their car and I’d listen to their conversations and I’d smile and, well, be creepy and invisible.

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Some fifteen years ago The Real World on MTV tried giving us a glimpse into what this was like. They tried to be the fly on the wall and they tried to let the average joe see what it was like to be an average joe.  The only problem was this… reality TV is not reality TV. It’s not reality. It’s not real. It’s moments that have been fabricated first by a producer and then manufactured by an editor using music, sound effects and specific sound bites from interviews taken out of context.

As an editor that has spent a little time in reality television, I can tell you with complete honesty that my favorite part of the job has never been viewing the final “designed” product but rather in sitting in my edit bay and watching the raw footage play out. I have spent literally hours watching strangers sit around a dinner table and chat or families getting prepared for their day by brushing their teeth and talking and just spending intimate moments together. All of these interesting and unique human moments are forever chopped up, cut into garbage and destroyed. You’ll never see them but… it’s all I want to watch. It’s all I want to see. I want to see TRUE REALITY TV. I want to sit as a fly on the wall and watch an evening in someone’s life. I want to walk in their shoes, see through their eyes, exist as they do for a few hours.

Keeping up with the Johnson’s? I want to keep up with the Kirkman’s, the Brady’s, the Morgan’s and the Chu’s. I want to know what four hours in the life of a man with triplets is like or a Seattle DJ or an internet spokesman. What does their work look like? Their commute? Their home life?

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I want to see this… so I’ve created, what I would consider as a pilot episode to this experimental project. It’s currently (appropriately) called “GLIMPSE” because it is, by definition, just a little peek, and the first episode is about my two oldest children. I’ve chosen to follow them from the moment they awake from their naps around 4:30pm until they go to sleep around 8:30pm.  The footage is completely unedited and plays out in real time save for a few spots where my camera’s memory card fills up and I had to switch it out.

I’d love for people to be able to turn on an episode of GLIMPSE and just play it in the background. Watch one minute or five minutes or 1 hour or 4 hours. Watch the beginning, skip the middle and watch the end. Watch only the middle. Skip around. It makes no difference. Just… catch a glimpse. See a moment. Experience life through the eyes of someone else.

This is episode 1. GLIMPSE: Rory & Quinn.

Enjoy.

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KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 1

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Lying in bed last night, Jade and I staring at her belly, we watched The Baby shift and move under her skin.  With only two days to go we’re in The Zone wherein her belly most resembles something out of a cheap sci-fi movie.  Her guts shift and move, maneuver with liquid ease.  The right side is solid with ridges and divots; running my palm over her stomach feels like she’s swallowed a handful of oddly shaped rocks.

In the other room Quinn screams.  I ignore it because… well, this is what Quinn does sometimes.  She doesn’t necessarily want or need anything… except to see if one of us will appear at her whim.  When Jade and I still owned Kaidance (our large Rhodesian Ridgeback for any first time readers) we could hear her bark and know what she wanted or needed.  If there was someone in our yard, coming through our gate, she had a very aggressive, violent sound.  If she wanted to go outside or eat, she had a very high-pitched yip.  If she was happy that we’d returned from a long day out, she would just have this very middle of the road bark, neither aggressive nor naggish.

Don’t be fooled.  Infants and toddlers are no different than your run of the mill domestic canine.  When they cry, they tell you exactly what they need and you either give it to them or you don’t.  And sometimes, in my opinion, what they need, is to be ignored.  If I go running in there in the middle of some fit they’re having, the only thing I’ve taught them is that if they cry long enough and loud enough that it is I, and not they, that will finally break.  No, thank you.  This is MY house!

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Now, I can already hear the rustling in the seats and the hands going up and the objections being raised.  Listen.  I’m by no means suggesting you fully ignore your child.  Children are small creatures who need our help to survive but… I’m just saying that we, as adults, should just make sure that they need our help before we go in and smother them in it.  Baby bird needs to learn to fly on its own.

In fact, even as I write this, Rory sleeps while Quinn sits in their room saying, “Dad!  Moo!  Dad!  Dad!  Dad!  Moooooooo!” and I can’t tell if she’s hoping to genuinely garner my attention or if she’s mocking my weight, hoping to lure me in with insults.  In any event she does not need me and if I ran to my children at the first fart they made, I’d spend all day chasing smoke.

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Quinn and Rory have been sleeping through the night since they were six months old and we have people approach us on a regular basis and say, “You guys are so blessed to have kids that were born such good sleepers,” and we just smile and nod but let me say this now…  These two kids showed up at my front door with a predisposition for screaming and full moon parties.  In fact, for the first few months we owned them, we were sure they were at least partly feral (and in most regards, they were).  Children are wild animals – I say this with complete sincerity.  They run on instinct alone and it is our job to train them, not the other way around.

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The Belly twitches and adjusts itself, sending ripples and waves over the surface.  I lean down and place my face on her stomach and kiss her taut skin.  I hum a song; just random notes that I think sound soothing.  I place my finger in her belly button and say, “BEEEEEP,” and something hits me on the cheek.  A fist?  A hand?  A foot?  An elbow?  A buttocks?  I have no idea.  The Baby just slapped me across the face with a tiny brick and Jade says, “You just got slapped!” and Iaughs.

Quinn screams again, louder, same tone.  I roll over onto my back and ask Jade if she thinks it’s a boy or a girl.  She says, “I don’t know.”  Quinn screams one more time and then nothing, silence.  A moment later I hear her little feet march back to bed, I hear springs squeak under her weight and then, truly, silence.

I say, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if it just had completely jet black hair?  Just totally left field from The Children of the Damned?”  Jade nods and The Baby shifts again.  I say, “AH!  I’m so flipping excited!  I just want to cut you open and take a look!” and she says, “Uh… don’t, though.”

She says, “Are you going to watch the C-Section?” and I say, “I hope so!  I want to!”  I say, “Let’s put a smile on that belly!”  Jade says, “Are you ready for this?” and I say, “It doesn’t matter, does it?”

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I pick up a book and Jade tinkers on the laptop for a bit and my eyes start to get drowsy, heavy, sleepy.  The words on the page start to blend together and I read and reread and reread the same paragraph two, three, four times.  Just get to the end of the chapter, I say to myself.  One… more… page…

Everything goes dark and then Quinn is screaming.  Screaming.  Not crying.  Her voice is in full tilt wailing, red faced, most likely.  The world comes back into focus and the blurry edges turn crisp and everything is sharp.  I hop out of bed, certain that someone has finally actually broken into my house to steal my children.  I open the bedroom door and jog down the hallway, reach out to push open the door and…

…Quinn is lying in bed, chest down, holding her head up and howling (again, picture a feral wolf) while Rory is dead asleep.  I stand in the doorway and say, “What are you doing?  What’s wrong?” and she says, “My leg!  My leg is stuck!  Dad!” and I imagine a coyote in a bear trap sounding not dissimilar.  I swing open the gate, saunter over to the bed and, assuming she’s somehow entangled her foot in the iron bars, I give her a tug but… no, she doesn’t move.  She truly is stuck.  Rory, still sprawled out on the bed, doesn’t even stir when I jostle the mattress getting up and down.

I lean back, grab the head board and pull once, hard.  The bed slides across the floor a few inches, scraping along the fake wood, and I reach down, grab her by the waistband on the back of her PJs and lift her into the air, free of danger.  I say, “Are you okay?” and she says, “Yeah,” and I say, “Good.  I love you.  Go to bed.”

Rory still sleeps.  Neither of them make another noise until morning.

I go back into our bedroom and lie down next to Jade.  I put my hand on her tummy and say, more to the baby than to my wife, “You see that?  Take note.  You’re next, little fella.”

I kiss the baby and go to sleep, thinking about the restless nights that await me later this week with midnight feedings.

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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 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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KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 7

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I’m filling up the sink with hot water to do some dishes when Quinn says, “Let’s go swing, Dad!  C’mon!  Let’s go swiiiiing!” and I say, “Quinnie, I really need to do these dishes,” and the final word hasn’t even left my mouth before I realize the utter absurdity of this statement.  Dishes?  Dishes?!  I have to do the dishes instead of swinging with you?

Gimme a break.

“Well…” I say sheepishly.  “Maybe for just a bit.”

Outside in the back yard, Quinn hops onto the swing and Rory jumps onto the wooden horse and I push each of them in turn until they’re both pelting back and forth at heights and speeds that are beyond reasonably safe.  Quinn shouts, “Higher!  Faster!” and so I do, her head now going totally level with the top of the swing.

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I give her one final shove and she pushes away from me, reaches the precipice and the swing seems to pop and comes down with a jerk that throws her a little off balance.  It reaches its back most position, rises, rises, peaks and drops and she jolts again.  As she passes the lowest point, her feet drag on the ground and she begins to say something that sounds part “Help,” and part scream.  About three quarters of the way up, she lets go of the chains and rockets off the swing and into the air while I stand helpless.  It’s all happening so fast.

She maneuvers through the air like a clown shot from a canon and comes down hard, landing on her butt.  She shouts, “MY BUUUTTTT!!!” and I quickly pick her up and brush her off and, trying to downplay the event, I say, “Are you okay?  Sometimes that happens.  No big deal.  Can you walk?”  She says, “Yeah…” and then crawls onto the horse with Rory.

I give them a round of pushes before Rory says, “SLIDE!  SLIDE!  LET’S GO DOWN THE SLIDE!  C’MON, GUYS!”  And this is how he is at parks with strangers.  “C’mon, guys!  Follow me!  Let’s go down the slide!  C’mon!”

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ABOVE: THE KIDS PLAYING WITH ONE OF THEIR FRIENDS ON THE HORSE… THE HEADLESS HORSE… THE HEADLESS HORSE WITH NO FEET…

So I run up the slide, into the tree house and Quinn and Rory both follow suit.  Inside, Quinn spreads her hands wide open and says, “Welcome to my Little House,” and I look around and say, “I just love what you’ve done with the place,” and she says, “You want some food?” and I say, “Sure.  What have you got?”  She says, “Watermelon,” and sticks her hand into an imaginary box, pulls some out and hands it to me.  “It’s delicious!  What else have you got?” and Rory says, “MALT-O-MEAL!” and I say, “You have Malt-O-Meal up here?” and he says, “Yeah!”

So I ask for a bowl… and how about some sugar?  And some butter?  And some milk?  May I have a spoon to stir it?  Thank you very much.  And then I blow on it and taste it and it is just like my imaginary mother used to make.  I ask Rory if he wants a bite and he says, “Yes, please,” and so I tell him it’s hot and to blow on it first.  He does and eats off the invisible spoon and says, “Mmmmm…”

I ask Quinn if she wants a bite and she says, “Yes, please,” blows on the spoon and then bites my thumb.  “OW! YOU BIT ME!” and she smiles.

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ABOVE: ONCE YOU SEE THE LURKING CREEPER, YOU’LL NEVER NOT SEE HIM.

Rory asks if I want to go down the slide and I tell him we should put the Malt-O-Meal in the fridge and clean up first (the irony being that I’m more concerned about cleaning up imaginary food before play instead of actual, real life dirty dishes).  He says, “Okay,” and takes it from me and, while he’s storing it, says, “It’s gonna be cold.”  When he turns around, he seems to have forgotten about the slide and says, “I’m still hungry.  You want a jelly sandwich?” and I say, “Sure, if you’ve got jelly,” and he says, “Yeah!  I do!”

He hands me bread and he hands me jelly, which I have him open, and then he hands me a knife and I slather the bread good and then cut it into three individual pieces so we can share.  I hand one to Rory and he goes to eat it but I say, “Wait!” and he freezes.  I hand one to Quinn and she cups it in two hands, staring at it.  Finally, I pick up my own slice, so thin it’s nearly invisible, and say, “Let’s clink them.”  This exercise essentially amounts to “Cheers,” or the clinking of glasses.  I taught them the cup thing a few weeks ago and now they like to clink everything from celery to chicken.  We’ve had to instill a rule at the dinner table that there’s only one clink per meal because two clinks is considered bad luck.

I say, “Ready, set–” and we all three say, “CLINK!” and knock our sandwiches together and eat.

“That was fantastic,” I say, “But not very filling.  Do you guys want to go inside and make some mac and cheese?” and they both scream, “YEEEAAHHH!” and we all disappear down the slide, Rory first and then Quinn sitting on my lap.

Man cannot live on imaginary bread alone.

I go inside and, wouldn’t you know it, the dishes I need are dirty.

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KID COUNTDOWN: DAY 8

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I grew up in a small town in South Dakota where the blackest kid I knew was a white guy named Andrew that wore Ecko hoodies on a regular basis and fancied the musical musings of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.  That isn’t to say that the town was filled with racially charged rednecks by any stretch of the imagination… there just weren’t any minorities (save Native Americans) that populated the area…

…until I was in seventh grade.

I remember The Black Family that moved in right across the street from us and the girl and boy, who were cousins, I believe, that began attending school with me.  It wasn’t until this point, me being 12, that I had actually seen a black person that shared my demographic in real life.  My Phys Ed teacher in elementary school was African American and he’d regularly make jokes about having dark hands and light palms.  This was a funny gag when I was a child but it’s only now that I understand what he was trying to do; he was attempting to take an impressionable group of kids and turn race differences into a kind of off-hand joke and show us that it didn’t matter.  He was black but he was just a teacher like everyone else.  He was funny and he had five fingers and we were the same.  He knew that at some point we were going to turn into adults and we would be exposed to all of the nasty stereotypes of racial profiling and the fear-mongering that comes along with it and he was trying to stay one step ahead of the game.

Now, twenty-some years later, the racial diversity is one of the things I love most about Los Angeles.  A day doesn’t pass where my kids aren’t surrounded by at least four different ethnic groups.  In fact, living in Van Nuys, being white actually makes us a minority behind Hispanics, African Americans and varying cultures of Asians.  Side note, I hate that, while I write this, I’m terrified of using the incorrect terminology when describing someone’s race.

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ABOVE: AUDREY’S FIRST BIRTHDAY.  FIFTEEN WIDE!

I took my children to the park today on a Dad-Date and when I arrived, there was only one other fellow there – a half white, half black guy, about my age, who’s son looked exactly like a four year old version of Will Smith.  He had these great big, shiny eyes and that really charming smile that gets him all the parts.

My kids meander over to the slide together and not forty-five seconds pass before Will Smith Kid approaches them, points at a wooden mouse that has been designed into the forest decor of the playground and says, matter-of-factly, “That’s a mouse.”  Rory looks at the kid and says, also very matter-of-factly, “That’s a squirrel,” and the kid says, “Nope.  That’s a mouse.”

And that’s it.  For the following hour, Rory and this boy were inseparable.  They climbed and ran and balanced and jumped and swung and played and when the Will Smith Kid went to his dad to ask for something, Rory followed right along and sat down while they did whatever business they attended to.  Those old song lyrics,  Ebony and Ivory, living together in harmony, pop into my head and I’m not sure if it’s funny or racist.  That R word gets thrown around so often, I feel like I’ve actually been accused of Hating Blacks just because I’ve had the audacity to publicly disagree with some of Obama’s political maneuvers.

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ABOVE: STARING CONTEST.

I sit on a bench, watching the kids and marveling at how easily they integrate with one another – not just racially, but socially.  As far as I knew, neither of them had even asked the other’s name at this point and, even though they weren’t really speaking to one another, per se, there were no awkward silences.  In my head I try to prep myself for Rory asking me why the boy’s skin was a different color.  How would I respond?  What would I say?  How could I be poignant but prose?  I would need to say it in a way that was certain not to minimize The Other Child and not somehow offend the parent.  I end up with, “Some people just have different color skin.  Like shirts.  His shirt if blue and your shirt is red but you’re both the same.”

Of course, neither child asks because neither child cares.  This is 30 years of racial diversity training being projected onto me by myself.

Behind me, the gate creaks and I turn to see an older father walk in with his son, a scrawny kid in a red baseball cap.  The dad says something in Russian and the kid takes off towards the sand pits, carrying a bucket filled with beach toys with him.  He finds some shade, takes a seat and begins to dig.

Quinn leans over to me and says, “I want to play with those toys,” and I say, “Those toys belong to that little boy.  Why don’t you go ask if he wants to share?” and without pause or hesitation, she runs to him and sits in the sand and says, “You want to share?” and he hands her a shovel and then Rory and Will Smith Kid are there and the four of them, from four different backgrounds are all playing together in the dirt.

The Russian Kid, as far as I know, didn’t even speak English.  His dad would periodically shout things at him in that broken tongue that reminds everyone of Vodka and mobsters but the child never said a word.  Just shared and played, happy to have friends.

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Looking about, I keep wondering if I should go talk to the half white / half black guy – Will Smith Kid’s dad – but then I think, “What?  Approach him out of the blue?  Awkward and Creepy.  What do I say?  Ask his name?  What’s he do?  What music is he into?  How old is his son?  And then what?  Awkward Silence.  Maybe he just wants to hang out alone… looks like he’s playing on his phone anyway…”

I look back at my kids, or rather, this group of kids – some new girl has joined the club while I’ve been lost in thought – and I think about all the things I’m trying to teach them and then think that it wouldn’t hurt me to take a lesson or two from them from time to time.

I end up leave without speaking to the man.

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