Tag Archives: children

Humorous Lessons

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Humorous Lessons

I learned long ago that just beating the lesson home with your kids works . . . but they start to zone out and think of it as white noise.

But use humor . . . that tends to drive the point home with abandon.

On Sunday the television was on while I made breakfast for the kids. My sons had already eaten and I was waiting to put my daughter’s on a plate because, frankly, she was still asleep.  I sleep in on weekends, but by sleeping in I get maybe another hour or two of sleep, so I’d been up since 7am.  After cleaning up the breakfast extravaganza for the boys I noticed that the movie Maleficent was on the TV. My sons were actually watching it, too.

“Hello, beastie,” Angelina Jolie says to the little girl who will become Sleeping Beauty.

“Beastie…I like that,” I told the boys.

When by 10:30am my daughter was still in bed I cooked her breakfast and put it on a plate.  I walked up the stairs, started a load of laundry and then stood in front of her door.  When knocking didn’t work I opened it: “it’s 11am, Beastie . . . breakfast is on the table getting cold.”

She was down in about 5 minutes.

I cleaned over the weekend, too. My daughter got a trick from her doctor that her attention will focus when she chews gum. So I buy her gum . . . except I find the wrappers everywhere. Particularly on the floor, about 2 feet away from multiple trash cans.

“I find one more gum wrapper on the floor, Beastie, I’m going to start putting them inside your pillow case!”
“sorry…”

Her brothers aren’t immune, either.
“I find one more Game Boy cartridge on the floor I’m going to sell it and keep the money!”
“Sorry dad . . . ”
“I have to clean up one more box you played with in the front room I’m going to make you sleep in it!”
“No you won’t.”
“Oh, really?!  Want to try me?!”
Here their sister steps in . . .
“NO!  Don’t try him, you’ll be sleeping in a box!”

We watched the lunar eclipse and it went really, really well . . . until it didn’t. When one son started standing in front of the telescope and the other tried to whack him with said telescope . . . MY telescope . . .
“I’m going to knock your heads together if you don’t knock it off!”
“No you won’t . . . ”
“Umm . . . ” said the sister, “yeah . . . he did it to Abbi and I once. It really hurts.”
You may say that’s not humorous . . . but in a Three Stooges kind of way, it’s actually really hilarious.

“Grab the telescope, Beastie, it’s time for your brothers to go to bed,” I tell my daughter. She politely obliges.

Then came this morning. By 6:45am I noticed the shower wasn’t running.  I went up the stairs and her door was closed.
“Are you going to go to school today, Beastie, or were you planning to get up sometime today?”
“What time is it?”
“6:45”
“Oh sh…umm…shoot.”
“Good save.”

As she raced down the stairs I’d made her a drink to take with her and a breakfast bar to eat in the car. She looked at me funny.

“Are you going to wake me up every morning and call me “Beastie”?”
I started laughing. Her brothers, too.
“It’s taken you two days to notice I’ve been calling you that?”
She wrinkled her brow.  “I’m a mess,” she informed me.

That she is.

I can verify it because she still hasn’t noticed all the gum wrappers inside her pillow case.

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Neither Democracy nor Republic

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Neither Democracy nor Republic

“You need to be the one in charge, otherwise you’re just the tallest person in the room,” is a piece of advice I got very early on.

Funny as that line is, it’s true.

I’ve heard dozens, maybe hundreds of terms describing parenting.

“Helicopter”
“Tiger”
“Authoritarian”
“Dolphin” (for the life of me I have no idea what the hell this one means)
“Hands-off”

The list goes on and on and on and . . .

I found myself, at a certain point, informing my kids of a basic fact of their childhood after a particularly exasperating evening, however.

Kids

I have three kids still at home, you see.  (One is in college, and I hear from her occasionally, but for our purposes today…we’ll go with three.) Twin boys who are 12 and their 16-year-old sister. They seem to take great delight in poking each other, either verbally or emotionally in order to see just how far things will go.

“You’ve been getting at me all day,” said the somewhat larger female figure in the home.
“Well…you always tell me I do things wrong,” said the much smaller male figure in the room.
“It’s true, you do,” said the other smaller male figure.

This led to verbal abuse the likes of which I would gladly recount except I cannot. At this point all three smaller creatures in the home began talking at once.  Well, talking would fall short of the actual adjective. Projecting loudly might be kind. Arguing might be better. Shouting and screaming would be most apt. Eventually it turned into a white noise akin to the loud, 60-cycle “beeeeeeeeep” that comes when color bars appear on your TV screen.

At this point the couch pillows began flying across the room.

“Knock it off…” came my voice, now raised in hopes it rose above the din.

It worked.

For about 1 1/2 seconds.

The next fifteen or twenty were a combination of sounds and flailing body parts that could have filled the 1960’s Batman.

“WHACK”
“SMACK”
“POW”
“POP”

Here’s where I lose it.

“If you don’t KNOCK IT OFF YOU’RE ALL GOING TO BED!”

Now . . . call it teenage hormones. Maybe it’s adrenaline. Or maybe it’s just talking before your brain tells you it’s a really bad idea to say anything . . . but the next words sealed it all.

“You can’t do that, it’s only 8 o’clock!”

Here’s the point where reality is driven home.

“You guys are under the mistaken impression that this is a democracy,” I informed the three smaller people in my home.
“This is no democracy. This is a dictatorship. There’s no electoral college here, boy-o, I’m freaking Stalin!”

Apparently this was said with enough vigor and raised eyebrows that the vision  of a household cleansing like the Russian purge hit home.

Silence ruled.

The somewhat smaller female figure moved to her room and began playing guitar.
The smaller male figure showered. The other male figure opened a Michael Crichton book and began to read.

I then informed them that the kitchen needed cleaning. The television went off, my stereo went on.

Yet, as that dictator, you know when things need to be lighter and pleasant, too. So I put Sly and Family Stone on the turntable.

As “Dance to the Music” hit the needle I started helping with the dishes and suddenly . . . without urging or prodding . . . the small male figures and the tallest person in the home began to do just that. In a dancing assembly line we put dishes in the cupboard while singing and gyrating…badly. We talked homework, problems and successes at school , and then sang with Sly and finished.

Prayers were said. Covers were tucked in. Hugs were had. Friendliness reigned.

As I was logging off my computer a mass of hair from my daughters head hit my shoulder and she kissed my cheek saying good night.

Thus . . . the coup de tat was avoided for one more day.

Though I think I need new couch pillows now.

The Mathematics of Parenting

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The Mathematics of Parenting

I thought it was a card game. That’s it.

My son spent the weekend looking for a full, 52-card, deck of cards so I could see what he does in school. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly sure why they were playing cards at school, but I was willing to go with it. The most creative teachers are often the best ones.

It was about 2 minutes into the whole process that I realized it was a way to teach math problems.

I’m terrible at math, by the way. I often joke “I went into journalism so I wouldn’t have to do math.” (Problem with that statement: I work with a lot of data, information, and databases. I do more math than I would ever have thought possible as a journalist. Go figure)

Four cards. I had to put four cards, face-up, on the table. I can count to four. That much I can do.

7, 7, Jack (10), and 4.

“Now you make an equation,” my son tells me.
I stared at him.
“You mean, like (x+7) / 10 = 4 ?”
“No . . . ”

Bear in mind the “no” was said with eye-rolling disdain.

“Okay, what do you mean?”
“You have to make an equation with all four numbers with addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.”

I wrote down 7 + 7 = 10 + 4

“No, you have to have it equal as close to 1 as you can.”
I stared at him.
“Huh?”
So I wrote down 7×7 / 10 -4 = .9

No.

“What do you mean no? I got about as close to 1 as you can get!”
“That’s not right,” he tells me.
“What?!”
“You can turn them into fractions.”
“What is wrong?”
“You have to do one addition, one subtraction, one multiplication and one division.”

I stared at the problem.

“So I need to make one of those an addition?”
“No, you need to do one of each.”
“But if I add all these up it will never equal 1 or less.”
“I said, Dad, you can turn them into fractions.”

It was my turn to eye roll my son.

“You’re making this up as you go,” I told him.

“No . . . look if this is too hard for you,” my son informed me.
“You better not finish that sentence,” I informed him.

It was here his brother started chuckling under his breath trying hard not to laugh.

“Laugh it up, furball,” I told him in my best Han Solo.
“What?!” He had the look of someone who just now realized the train was rolling down the track and he was standing in the middle of the bridge.
“Think your Dad can’t do this?”
“NO! I thought you were funny.”
“Funny how,” I asked him.
“No, not funny, like . . . ”
“YOU better not finish that sentence,” I told him.

Their sister, who was home sick all day, had had more than enough.
“Can’t you guys agree Dad’s equation was right?”
“Okay . . . yes,” the instigating son said, “Dad’s equation works, but he still needs to do more equations.”

I spent half an hour trying to get common denominators and reduce fractions and find answers. After a maddeningly annoying period of time it was my son who grew disinterested.

“What are you doing?!”
“I think you’re having too hard a time,” he informed me.
“I got it!”
“Yeah . . . I was just supposed to show you what we were doing at school.”

I suddenly realized, in the throngs of being totally dressed down by my son, that parenting is a lot like this mathematical game.  You can put four separate items (kids in my case) in any order and in the end you get as close to one entity as you can.  Not one equation fits the formula perfectly. You can postulate how you put the four in some sort of order. You can fractionalize them. You can divide them. You can multiply (say, by getting two kids at once).  In the end, though, the answer is always the same. As close to 1 as you’re going to get. 1 family.

In our case, we subtracted . . . by 1. It was a big 1.

With that problem . . . I didn’t give up, either.

The Small Pieces of You

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The Small Pieces of You

As the time has passed and my children have started to find deeper and more striking personalities of their own a very interesting thing seems to have happened.

They are also letting pieces of their family tree sort of branch out in those personalities.

I certainly have pieces in there. My middle daughter up there is a musician. She plays guitar and has a seeming inane sense for lyric that simultaneously makes me proud and jealous. I wish I could write words as easily as she does for my music. Her brother is a guitar player, has a shyness that equaled mine at that age, and seems to have a hard time coming out of his shell, much like his father.

But then . . . I noticed something more in the last few weeks.

Tonight, for example, was nothing in my personality coming out of my daughter.

Occasionally, and this is a rare occasion, I will have time where the boys are in bed and my daughter is upstairs and the lunches are made, kitchen clean, etc. I can actually sit . . . and watch a TV show. I had actually pulled something up on Netflix to watch. I was maybe 10 minutes in when my daughter came down the stairs.

“Hello!”
“Hi.”
“Watching something?”
“Yep. It’s really good! Can’t believe I haven’t watched this before!”
“Cool.”

Now for most people that’s the end of the conversation. However, my daughter has her mother and her grandmother’s genes in there. As I watched James Spader go into a monologue that apparently had a very important bit of information in it my daughter started talking.

“So my friend Zoe . . . ” and it went on from there. (I did listen, I just don’t want to invade her privacy and give her full conversation) Seemingly she timed her own little monologue to end just as the television ended its seemingly important plot twist.

I scrubbed the little line back on the screen and watched my TV spin its beach ball of death counter-clockwise.  All the while, in the painful silence, my daughter remained silent.

Spader began his rant again . . .

“Did you know my teacher Ashley…”

After another 5 minutes I realized I was right where I was five minutes ago. I scrubbed the Netflix show back again. Third time’s a charm.

“Lizzy…” began Spader

“I’m so worried I’m going to fail my history test.”

It’s here I shut off the television.
“Why’d you shut off the TV?”
“You want to talk.”
“Oh . . . no, I just don’t want to study.”
“So . . . you worry you’re going to fail, but not worried enough that you didn’t notice I’ve watched the same 5 minutes of television for the last half hour now.”
“Oh . . . is that why you were doing that?”
“No . . . I was doing that because I thought you wanted to talk.”
“Oh . . . no, I just can’t help that.”
“Yeah, I know. Your mother and grandmother couldn’t, either.”

Here I recounted to her nearly every night of my marriage. We would sit, I would try to have a conversation with my wife and she’d be thoroughly engrossed in some reality show. Real Housewives fascinated her for some reason. When she’d be exhausted she’d ask to go to bed. Right as I reached that twilight, the moment before REM sleep, I’d hear it.

“I’m so worried about work, Davey.”  My wife knew I hated being called Davey, so she did it anyway . . . and more importantly, so I’d wake up.

“Your mother couldn’t stand the silence, it seems,” I told my daughter.
“Oh, that’s awful,” she exclaimed.
“Not awful, just was. I don’t know why.  Your grandmother could never stop talking in the middle of TV or movies.  Even at the theater. Drove your grandfather nuts.”

My daughter blushed a little.

We talked. Finally, she got out her worries about the test.

“Maybe you should go study some more.”
“Yeah . . . that’s a good idea.”
She hugged me, leaned on my shoulder and lie there for about five minutes.

In silence.

“What’s the show about,” she asked me.
“I have absolutely no idea,” I told her.
“It looks cool,” she informed me.  “Can you turn it back on? I want to watch it with you.”
“Okay,” I informed her.

I started the episode from the beginning again. James Spader walks out of the shadows, starts the monologue . . .
“Lizzy…”

and then

“So I was thinking about Homecoming, Dad . . . ”

 

It Needs to be Done

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It Needs to be Done

Every once in awhile I get asked the question:

“What do you do if you get sick?”

There really isn’t an answer to that question. Not at all.

This weekend was a perfect example of that.

I have a back problem, a chronic one. It’s not something I complain regularly about (okay, not much) but it’s always there. From years of carrying tons of gear around and doing it the wrong way – yes . . . I was stupid in my youth . . . my spine compressed in the last few vertebrae. My back, you see, has the discs get closer and closer together as they go down.

I don’t know what I did. Sometimes it’s something stupid, like getting up off the couch and you feel it strain. The entire weekend I’ve been in agony.

So what do you do when that happens?

You parent like always.

In agony.

It’s not something you have a choice about. There were four days’ worth of laundry to wash, fold, and put away.  I made the kids put the clothes away.  There were dinners to be made. Sure, they could try and cook one but we’d have Mac and Cheese or sandwiches each night. They need (and so do I) something a bit healthier than that.

The house was disgustingly dirty. I’d had a lot of late hours last week and didn’t have time to oversee all the cleaning and chores and as a result they were, let’s just say, neglected. Add to that the normal weekend cleaning that we need to do and suddenly things are a hairy.

Then do that with shooting pain down your leg every time you bend.

I didn’t do this as a martyr. My kids didn’t sit and play videogames while I cried “woe is me, my children don’t care!” No . . . they worked. But even with four of us working the house doesn’t get clean easily. While one did the kitchen another did the sinks, I did toilets (because, god forbid they clean up their own pee and what have you). One dusted everything and then I vacuumed.

I made brownies, which is pretty simple. Once I was upright, I was fine. It’s getting upright that’s an issue.

The same thing happens if I get a cold or the flu or strep or any other disease.

The difference now, compared to if some other issue was to have happened, is my kids worried about me.

“Do you need to go to the doctor,” my son asked?
“No, this just happens. If it gets worse I’ll go.”
When I lie down to ease the pressure on my back they put blankets on me. When I got up they asked if I needed to take medicine.

My kids, you see, lost one parent. They don’t really want to lose another, not right now. I get that . . . and they won’t, not if I can help it.

So yes . . . I work through all the illnesses and the injuries. The thing is . . . now, I just don’t do it alone.

A Family Affair

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A Family Affair

In what was my first live gig in a very high number of years I recruited a couple people to help me. They were, obviously, my children.

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It started before I ever hit the stage.  One of my twin boys is getting guitar lessons and has to practice tuning up his guitar so he asked to practice on the guitars I re-strung for my weekend gig. So as I worked on one Fender Stratocaster he tuned up the Fender Esprit I had just re-strung and polished.  It was tuned to perfection.

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When the time came to hit the stage my son was my tech…handing me the myriad of guitars I switched from song to song. When I played Vaughan he handed me the SRV model. When I did Hendrix, my beloved green Strat. He knew their names, watched and listened.

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His brother listened from the audience and sang along with songs he knew.  Midway through the show I brought their sister up and she played acoustic guitar on an Allman Brothers song we played.  It was, after all, a family affair.

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While the gig was amazing . . . it wasn’t necessarily the performance – which I absolutely had a blast doing -that was the highest point.

When our keyboard player, an amazing musician in his own right, told me how much fun it was to play together I had a bit of beaming pride.

But the greatest moment was when my son gave us a compliment.

That Allman Brothers song is one of the most complicated pieces we played. It had harmonized guitar lines that along with the acoustic guitar.  While I thought we had more than a few hiccups my son ran up next to me as we were loading up our amplifiers and guitars at the end of the night beaming.

“That sounded sooooo cool when you played Jessica,” he shouted. The harmonized lines, the live feel, the melodic tone was enough to have him bursting at the seams. Then to see his sister as part of it I think he began to see just what the possibilities were if you could play guitar with a group of people you admire, sure, but have deep friendship with as well.  We didn’t rehearse as much as we should have but our playing was pretty spot-on.

“You guys sounded so good,” said my daughter! As musicians, we tend to see only the flaws and want to improve on them. But sometimes it’s great to hear what others heard . . . the fresh ears that haven’t been there to hear your rehearsals and the clunky notes or broken strings.

But more than that . . . I can’t help but be a little proud that I impressed my kids . . . even the teenage one . . . and showed them that you can still do some pretty cool things, even if you’re a Dad.

Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

It’s been easy to recount tales of the times when my kids had two parents, when things were bright. Holidays and a tiny house in the Midwest and moving to a larger home in Texas. Those all seem just such easy things to recount and such amazing things to remember. It’s also therapeutic to talk about events as they unfold in our lives and how we’ve had to adjust.

One thing I hadn’t thought about was the fact that, now more than four years removed, that things will spring up as memories from those first days after losing someone you love. It’s easy to understand the melancholy of memories from a song, a scent, or even a taste. You don’t think about what comes in those days just after since you lived them.

Recently, though, I stumbled on something I’d totally forgotten from the first few months after my wife passed away.

Cleaning up the remnants of a trip to visit my family I reached into the side pocket of the suitcase my sons used and found two envelopes. Neither of them was from our trip so I was a bit confounded to find them. Inside were two greeting cards, ones sent to my sons from me during the summer of 2011.

You have to have some context here: my wife passed away in March of 2011, causing unbelievable grief and uproar in our home. In that same stretch of a month or so I changed jobs, we lost our home, everything was a mess. In order to actually concentrate on the work and setting up our rental home my parents volunteered to take all four of my kids back with them for the summer. As needed and appreciated as that was the times at home alone were maddening.

After a few particular conversations over the phone I sent greeting cards to the boys.

IMG_5297I know I sent them to all four kids, but these had IMG_5298been lost to the recesses of their suitcase from the trip to the Midwest.  The boys had worked for the newspaper for fun and inserted ads in exchange for some small change. The paper is run by a relative and “worked” is a bit of a misnomer, but it was the same. The boys had said they didn’t get to do the work that week and I had an idea.

IMG_5299My new job had a vending machine that dispensed dollar coins, the kind that look goldIMG_5301 and had Sacajawea on them. I got four of them and taped them to the cards. I also wrote notes to each of them, promising to visit them before the summer was over and come back home with them. I made good on that promise, by the way.

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I had forgotten the cards, and maybe I had wiped it clear for a reason. The notes are hopeful and talk about how much I loved them and would see them soon. What they don’t reveal is how much of a panic I was under and how I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Regardless, though, I couldn’t show panic or worry to my kids.

My oldest daughter said something once, and I’m likely quoting it wrong, but the gist is there: as a kid growing up you live with your parents and it’s like living with giants. But losing their mother it was like seeing the giants fall and you can never raise them up again.

They’d already learned their parents were mortal. They needed to cling to the hope that their father had an idea of where to go next, even if he really had no idea.

So reading these notes brought back the heartache for me and how difficult that first 3-6 months was for our family.

My sons? They looked and said . . . “HEY!  I forgot these were in here. Now I have two bucks!”

A Combination of Things

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A Combination of Things

The debate has raged on for years, discussed by parents, doctors, scientists, psychologists and sociologists.

Do kids act the way they do because they’re born that way or because they learn it? Are they influenced by their environment?

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My oldest daughter, who has a face, body and personality that is a combination of her parents certainly has a lot of things mixed together. I could always see where some things came from me, though. When she was unable to talk she babbled anyway, looking us in the eye like we should have no problem understanding what she was saying. Once she learned to talk there was no stopping her. When she would be playing in her room or helping cook or what have you she sang.

Most of that came from me.

Buried somewhere in my parents’ house somewhere are old tapes of me . . . singing. Telling stories. Incessantly talking. I can only assume they thought it was so cute that they recorded it for posterity. If you raised the pitch enough you’d have a hard time determining if it was my voice or hers.

The thing about my oldest, though, is the combination of time, youth and a million other things cloud my ability to know if that was learned, as some would imply, or inherent. I sing when I cook or clean or even work in the garage. Music is always going. I tend to talk too much in group settings and too little in intimate ones. I know this.

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With my twin sons, though, there is no doubt about whether their personalities and quirks came from their environment or if they were born with it. They were born with it.

From the moment my boys came out of the womb they had distinct and differing personalities. Even when people claimed they couldn’t tell the fraternal twins apart I could. Not just in the differences in their faces and bodies, their demeanor, the way they laughed and the way they acted was distinct.

I bring this up because there are a few things I’ve noticed in the last week that are traits of their own lives and personalities that cannot be learned. It would be impossible, as a matter of fact.

One of the boys – the one with his tongue out up there – is most comfortable sitting all day in sweat pants and a t-shirt. Going a bit farther, he’s even more comfortable in a t-shirt with old grey sweat pants that barely fit and are covered with holes.  I’ll try to throw them away and he takes them back. He refuses to get rid of them.

“I like them, they’re comfortable,” he says.

I bring this up because this is a trait his mother had. When I started dating her she had this pair of banana yellow sweat pants. They were covered in holes, barely fit, were worn and faded to near lemon-yellow and were just . . . beat up. When it was too hot she had a pair of hot-pink sweat shorts that were cut-offs, essentially. They were about the same. We would get home from our respective works or hang out for the evening and she would change from her work clothes immediately into those sweats.

There’s no possible way that my son could even have known or seen this. Long before he was born those pants were gone. She had dropped some of that mentality and was usually in jeans and a shirt or work clothes. She had pajamas she wore at night and for coffee.  When she was up she was up. That’s the woman up there in the red dress with my little girl.

Even more impossible is the fact that he was seven when his Mom passed away.

So how would this be the case? It just is. Something ingrained in his brain, a part of his mother, a piece of genetic code, a strand in his DNA makes this couch-potato look part of him. It’s not a criticism (except when he tries to go in public in them) it’s just part of him. When people ask if I see pieces of myself or their mother in them it isn’t hard to say “yes.” But it’s certainly not learned.

They came into the world having taken some part of us with them during the trip.

That’s kind of spectacular when you think about it.

A Thorny Situation

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A Thorny Situation

It started harmlessly enough.

Our backyard is a mess.  The combination of a California drought, a broken sprinkler head, and dead pine needles killing every bush in the very back of our yard, we needed to start the cleanup.

What I hadn’t realized was just what kind of trees and bushes the builder had actually planted there.

I’ll be honest, we’re only renting the home, but I’m supposed to keep up the landscaping.  I hated the landscaping, though.  First were ugly palm bushes, and I’ll be honest, I was glad those died off.  Then came the other bushes.  I love the rosemary bushes and others, and they’ve thrived.

But the trees…those have been a pain.

The pine needles were everywhere, and most of them were nearly mulched by now from more than a few years of sitting there.  I think the previous resident let them be and that wasn’t good.

I cut major, dead branches, picked up pine cones, cleaned out crap, dug up roots, and fixed the sprinkler head.

This all came Monday night after work.  As an indication of what living as a kid is like in the Manoucheri household I informed my four children they had to help.  When my son said he was wearing flip-flops I told him that was a horrible idea and forced him to put on socks and shoes.

2015-03-26 18.06.03The smiling boy on the right there is my semi-brave twin.  He’s game for all roller coasters, adrenaline rides, zip lines, you name it.  He’s had a staple in his head from falling out of a bounce house and broken an arm trying to skip across three rungs of monkey bars at once.

So it should not have surprised me when he went inside that I heard, from his sister, “oh my GOD!”

I walked into the house and it was like walking into a scene from the Belgrade war zone. Blood was everywhere on the floor. His shoe sole was ripped up and his sock was red.

His hands were bloody and his foot was, too. It was as if the demon barber of Fleet Street himself had wandered into the home.

Turns out, one of the harmless-looking trees wasn’t so harmless.  In among the pines in the back was what looked like a simple tree whose category I hadn’t realized. When I looked at the branches after the aforementioned incident, I came to the realization that every branch was filled with one to two-inch thorns. One of those thorns had found the perfect spot in the bottom of my son’s shoe and ripped through . . . hitting his foot.

Turns out, his sisters had used all the peroxide so I was on the floor, cleaning his foot, worried he needed stitches.

After stopping the bleeding, staining socks, ruining his shoes and covered in blood myself, I covered the wound in gauze and medical tape – left over from a mishap with a can lid of my own.

This morning we saw the doc.  Turns out that it was a simple puncture. My use of antibiotic cream, washing, and cleaning had worked well and he was fine. The large number of capillaries in the foot (also scalp, hands, etc.) make things look far worse than they are.  I spent the evening cleaning up the war zone and washing towels, rags, and the floor. I had used a sick day to make sure . . . worried that he had ripped far deeper and the cut looked like it was really long. That had sealed up well, though.

So we bought new shoes, since these were now caked in mud and blood, looking like some new-wave version of a civil war boot, left over from the battle of Antietam.

But my son smiled, looked at me, and said “I knew you’d take care of it, Dad,” and against my better judgement, I smiled. After all, I forced him to do the chores.

Leave it to him to be the one to suffer the battle scars of daily life.

A Spectacular Day

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A Spectacular Day

How do you spend a day that everyone assumes would be really difficult?

I suppose, like I did, you’d take the day off just to be there for your kids and to handle whatever emotional time bombs might be resting in the wings, waiting for you to get close.

But this day started like any other. I got up, made breakfast, and took the three kids to school.

The only indication in the beginning that this was the day my wife, their mother, had passed away was the fact that I bought a dozen roses and put them on her grave.  I did it alone, after dropping the kids at school.  They don’t like going  to the cemetery anyway. It was beautiful morning. The cold breeze was blocked by trees and the sun was warming just the perfect spot by her stone on the row. I talked to her, in a private conversation I won’t recount here, and went home.

I spent the morning and early afternoon with my oldest daughter.  We had lunch, eating at a cafe near my house, and talked about school, movies, her friends, my work, like any other conversation.

This could have been a hard, terrible, sad day.  But when I asked my daughter if she’d seen video of her mother when she was a TV anchor she said “no.”  We brought up the video and she marveled at how she looked, how she was the very age my daughter is now…and the scary fact that her voice sounds a lot like her mother’s.

“It’s so funny, though” my daughter added, “because it doesn’t sound like her. She had a TV voice going.”  When another clip hit, one pre-recorded with her voice deeper my daughter’s eyes got brighter and she added “there’s the voice I remember!”

There were no tears, no glassy eyes, nothing.  She just smiled and liked seeing a part of her mother’s past she hadn’t seen before.

I made BBQ, cornbread muffins, and we ate until we were bursting.

Then we went to the carnival.

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We rode the Ferris Wheel three times.  We spun around and around. I rode a glider ride with my daughter.  We played games that are obviously fixed so that we lose and didn’t care.

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We rode a carousel . . . just because.

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Went down the super slide at breakneck speeds.  My son got queasy after riding something called the “Thunderbolt” too many times. I heard my oldest daughter screaming in delight constantly and smiling so hard her face hurt.

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We played, laughed and hugged and it was just . . . fun. It was going out late on a school night.

We rode the wheel again and watched the orange horizon turn to purple and electric blue and meld with the lights from the carnival. We bought cotton candy, caramel apples and licorice and went to the car . . . sitting and grinning as we went home.

It is a perfect, living metaphor, you see, for what our lives have become. We look at the woman we all love . . . for we still love her. That will never change. We don’t really get over losing her, we live with the memories. Those memories were painful, stinging us four years ago with every daily remembrance. It’s a tribute to the love we have for her that those memories now are fondness, remembrance and caring. We smile in her honor.

But those memories are what we have left. While she remains where she is . . . we continue to live. It’s the best thing in the world, by the way, life. Sure, it’s just a local carnival . . . but I dare you not to smile when you hear the screams of delight from four kids all shouting at once.

If you listen close enough . . . you can hear the delight in their mother coming through when they mix together.