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KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 09.30.2009
better. better. better.
i don't experience gradations of illness. meaning, i don't go from being healthy to not so well to under the weather to sick to deathly ill. i go from fine to not fine. those are my two settings. what? you expect me to be beautiful and hearty? that's a rare combination my friend.

this latest illness lasted almost exactly 48-hours. i know because i sat down at my desk sunday night at 9pm to check my mail for the day and felt fine. at 10pm when i rose, i should have gone to my bike to exercise but instead i fell into bed where marty was reading. i was fast asleep within five minutes (aided by a super-awesome marty back-scratch). in the morning i was wrecked. then tuesday night, i sat at my desk at 9pm feeling dismal. at 10pm instead of moving to my bed as i feared i would need to, i passed it up and went to my bike and had my 10pm spin. put me back in coach.

below i'm posting the picture i planned on posting sunday night. but it's better here because i can give you a larger version of the photo. this was from a few weekends back when the family went paddle-boating. this is one of the several neat city features that is within biking distance of our home. although this particular activity is slightly brutal given the fact that you bike a couple miles to the place, then you paddle a bunch of humans around a couple of miles around a network of ponds, then you're back on the bike peddling the couple of miles back home. on this particular day bella and alex were saying they wanted to get two boats instead of one. marty thought it was an ok idea. something told me i was going to get hosed in the deal. i told the kids we could get two boats but they each had to peddle their share and if they didn't, we were turning around. they agreed. as you can see by this photo, marty scored both of our peddle-abled children and i got stuck with the guy who shoves his mucus coated finger up my nose when i'm sleeping. you don't have to spend much time with three year olds to know they intentionally build them this adorable. none would survive otherwise.

that said, it turns out my troy-getting-hosed spidey sense is working just fine.

HEALTH (permalink) 09.29.2009
sick. sick. sick.
before having children i was a master of avoiding sick people. back then you most often had to skirt those who felt their role to their company was so vital that they had to come into the office even if grotesquely ill. the result was always the same. the self-important person pushed their unimportant widgets around the corporate warehouse infecting four people through their efforts. it was against these folks that i was masterful in avoiding the funk. first off i was known for casting a super-awesome scowl at bloodshot-eyed, blotchy-skinned, red-nosed people as they stumbled into my world looking like they should be in a housecoat and slippers and confined to quarters. one sneeze in my space and i would announce the meeting/visit/cube-call over.

there was incentive. at this company, every six months you went without missing a day of work, you earned a free vacation day. on the good side, this kept people from erroneously burning through their sick days. on the bad side, it encouraged people to come in sick so they wouldn't lose their free day. my fix to this minor problem would have been posting someone at the door who doesn't let any sick-looking people in. if it were my company, i'd also turn away dour looking people. this is a healthy and happy place. if you aren't those, you aren't welcome.

all of this is to say that all of the tricks and ploys and defenses i learned against adults are entirely useless against children who live with you. here you may wake up with a three year old on your chest. they're smiling. the have gelatinous plug of mucus blocking their nose and are pushing a slime covered finger into your own nose wondering why it is so clean and dry and beautiful unlike their own. little do they know that now it will soon be like theirs and when it is their funk has passed and they just want to play and read and rough-house making the reversal of fortunes all the more unjust.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.24.2009
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 09.23.2009
the tooth fairy doesn't do adult teeth
the loss of a child's first tooth is a remarkable and special milestone to be celebrated. each and every tooth after that first one is a medieval and grotesque affair. alex went to school two days ago without a loose tooth in his head. he came home with one rattling around a tiny plastic treasure chest the school nurse gives to kids for lost teeth.

long ago, many years before marty and i had kids, she and i hosted a sleepover for some nieces and nephews. one of the girls complained of a loose tooth at the dinner table. i looked at it and told her i thought it looked fine. she kept saying it was terribly loose. i went as far as pushing on it with my own pointer finger and reported that the tooth was fine, solid and healthy. before dinner was over the girl, with great effort and conviction, had extracted this targeted tooth. she bled out of her mouth for better than an hour and we just kept stuffing replacement paper towels in there after she'd spit a blood soaked one into the kitchen garbage can. i was starting to fear that the girl was going to bleed to death in the night and i told her if it didn't stop hemorrhaging before we went to bed, i was making her father come pick her up. the gaping hole, with no new tooth anywhere in sight, somehow stopped bleeding on its own. the next day, for all i know i was sending the child home with an adult tooth in the linty front pocket of her blue jeans.

again, it's a medieval matter.

QUOTES, WEB (permalink) 09.22.2009
life is far simpler than we're being led to believe
before you can be good you have to stop sucking.

from merlin mann's inbox zero talk delivered to google employees

merlin is also responsible for something that stands as one of my favorite-ever internet reads titled simply Better.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 09.21.2009
proceed with caution
alex had some friends over to the house and we were playing ogre and chase and rough-housing. at one point in the mayhem, one of alex's friends stopped his play, turned to the side protectively and said with a serious urgency to one of the other boys:
watch out, you almost hit my tenders.
that is probably the most accurate, heartfelt expression i've ever heard for a guy's junk, like, ever.

FOOD (permalink) 09.18.2009
did you forget you were cooking it or what?
there is a question i've been meaning to ask the saint louis crowd for awhile now and after my trip back west, the question has turned to a fiery itch. the question is where can i get a proper sopapilla in this town. the sopapillas of colorado and new mexico are billowy and fluffy and served with honey. the sopapillas of missouri are flat and oil-laden and served with a dollop of ice cream and a layer of chocolate syrup (in attempt to mask their abject terribleness).

the first person who points me to an edible saint louis sopapilla gets a free lunch at that same establishment, paid for by me. a plus side is you'll get to eat lunch with me because once i discover this place, i'm never leaving.

good and proper sopapilla

poor and miserable imposter

KIDS (permalink) 09.17.2009
still a convert
someone had asked me how the new feel-good approach was going with bella. now two weeks in and sticking firm to the teachings i gotta say the transformation has been remarkable. this isn't to say i haven't been pushed by bella in the last two weeks because i have and will continue to be. what has been different is i haven't bitten. instead i've backed off and gotten her to back off until emotions and tempers can cool down. then when everyone is in a reason-worthy state, we talk.

in example, last night bella and i were supposed to go look at bikes because she has outgrown hers. i came home early from work to do this. when i arrived she was already in a fitful state. i calmly let her do her thing. she appeared before me in a huff and said she was ready to go. i said great. she asked how we were getting there. i said we were walking. she groaned loudly and said she wouldn't walk and would only go if we drove. i explained that if that were the case we wouldn't be going. she escalated. calmly, i told her she needed to go to her room until she could re-join the family in a calm and respectful way. she boisterously made her way to her room.

marty and i made dinner and did homework with alex and played with anthony. when dinner was ready, about an hour later, we called bella down. she appeared in the kitchen as if nothing had happened just sixty minutes earlier. without prompting she presented herself to me and said she was sorry for yelling earlier but her class got in trouble at school and they had to run a bunch of laps in gym and then she walked home from school and she was tired and afraid that she couldn't also walk to the bike shop. when she was done, i took her cheeks in my hands and said, "bella, how you just expressed yourself was amazing and if you'd said that, like that, an hour ago you'd have a new bike here and ready to ride to school tomorrow. thanks." with that we hugged, said we'd try to go tomorrow and moved to the dinner table to eat.

so in answer to the question, how has my new approach been working with bella, i gotta say, i'm a full-on, card-carrying believer.

KIDS (permalink) 09.16.2009
nowhere near an even trade
locks of love got a ponytail.

bella got a double-shot of attitude.

i'm pretty sure the locks of love people needed that ten inches of hair much more than bella needed any more swagger.

KIDS (permalink) 09.10.2009
an homage to single parents
marty's hairdresser is a single mother of two boys. one is eleven and one is nine. on friday nights the older boy goes to the roller rink. the first time he convinced his mom to drop him off on his own for the evening skate (because that's what everyone else was doing) she walked in with him, found the manager and told him, the manager, that if this one, pointing at her son, makes any trouble he, the manager, is to call her at this number and she'll come get him and he'll then be guaranteed that it will never happen again.

that conversation took place the first time she took him skating. now months into the ritual, they are pros and the drop-offs go quickly. last week she suggested he not wear his good shoes. he balked. she then told him if he had to wear them to put them in a locker. he balked again saying it would be too expensive. she said it's a quarter. you go in. you get your skates. you lock up your shoes. you skate. then you take off your skates. you put on your shoes. wallah. one quarter. he said it didn't work like that. when she asked how it worked he was unable to explain. she pushed a quarter in his hand and told him to lock up his shoes. looking at the coin in the palm of his hand, he swung the car door open and slid out.

the boy was spending the weekend with his father and was picked up by him at the end of the friday skate. when the boy was delivered back to his mother on sunday the first thing he said to her was, "don't get mad." the first thing she said in response was, "i'm already furious. what happened?" he held up one grateful dead, tie-dyed hightop. she asked where the other one was. he said he didn't know, he lost it friday night. she let him have it. both barrels. one shoe! one shoe! it would be better if you came home with no shoes! although i'd prefer two shoes but i realize that is too much to ask for. but one shoe! why weren't they locked up? what did you do with the quarter? ahhh! ahhhhhhhh!

then she went silent. she turned to the child and told him to put his shoe on. he asked why. her glare intensified. he put his one shoe on. she motioned for him to follow her. they went to the car. they drove to the roller rink. they drove behind the building. she stopped the car, looked at him, and then arced her thumb toward a large garbage dumpster. he said what. she said go. he balked. he balked hard. of her two sons, this was the delicate one. once in the dumpster his gag reflex got more exercise than it had in a year of hastily-prepared and inventive dinners made by the angry woman making him root through a garbage dumpster. when he got back into the car, with his missing shoe, his mother simply said, if you told me on friday instead of waiting till sunday, you would have had less garbage to look through.

KIDS (permalink) 09.09.2009
these are called nunchucks kids
someone asked about the summer challenge mentioned in yesterday's post.

the summer challenge program was an idea i had as last year's school season wound down. my original thought was to offer bella and alex a series of possible skills they could try to learn. options would have included things like magic, walking a tightrope, piano, riding a unicycle, yo-yo tricks, playing a drum to list a few. at the beginning of the summer they would pick the skill they were most interested in and every day they spent at least fifteen minutes practicing their skill they could make a mark on a calendar. if they accrued enough marks over the summer they would get a super-cool toy they really wanted. i had put a lot of thought into this and was both excited and proud with the result.

when i presented it to marty, she was six kinds of against it. she didn't like the notion of them feeling pressured. she didn't like the notion of tracking it. she didn't like the notion of them getting paid to learn. we bandied these issues about in the kitchen one night after the kids had gone to bed. this was so not the response i expected from marty. i thought she'd be appreciative of this option for the long summer days. i thought she'd be impressed at the level of thought and interest i put into it. in the end she told me that it was unfair to project my childhood regrets that i didn't better use my free time while growing up onto my children. with this wild right hook that seemed to be brewing long before this evening came to life, i backed off the topic.

the next day at work i talked with a colleague about the surprising episode. she is someone with experience dealing with young children and to my shock, supported marty's concerns. but instead of scrapping the idea outright, she suggested modifying things a touch. she suggested that i should just introduce the different skills to the home and make them available to the kids. she said not to put any expectations on their usage or routine, and thus not have rewards for time or consistent practice. in short, she suggested i make the whole affair less official. i was dubious of this and still liked my method better but thought this may be the middle ground marty and i obviously needed. and to give credit, marty was edging towards these same notions but didn't have the time or energy to express them more clearly.
so that night i re-pitched to marty and got her buy-in. in this new format i had some changes to consider but they were small and easily done. what i came up with was this. starting on the first monday of summer, i quietly introduced the first skill that was to be part of the summer challenge. every two weeks thereafter a new object would appear. midway through the kids figured out what was going on and finding out what the next challenge was before it was unveiled became as much of a pastime as the challenges themselves. in the end, here's what shook out.

june 15th - tightrope / slack-line
june 29th - magic rope tricks
july 13th - ripstick
july 27th - trick-grade yo-yos

it was curious to see how the kids responded to each. bella was definitely the person most into the slack-line. after a couple days she started wanting to charge neighbor kids for lessons. i told her she had to be able to balance on there for five seconds herself before she was allowed to charge anyone. both kids seemed to like the magic tricks about the same. bella is now a proficient ripstick-girl (her father ain't half-bad either). and those yo-yo's were spot-welded to alex for most of our summer vacation.

so that is what the summer challenge program was about. i guess it was a success in that it made the list of things bella plans to take with her into her parenthood. friday movie night stands as my other proud addition to the home that made the cut. as for everything else, i'm beginning to understand the joy of grandparents watching from the sidelines now that they are not the one that has to divine, explain, and enforce the myriad of rules of a family home.

KIDS (permalink) 09.08.2009
effective product placement

  1. as much computer time as wanted but have to buy laptop and get great grades. 1 minus and my computer (is gone) for a week.
  2. no spankins.
  3. have as many pets as you want. you buy them and we have 2 family pets.
  4. each child gets 2 rooms. one for your pets and one for yourself.
  5. every week of the summer i get you a challenge but we stop when school starts.
  6. every month we go to fro-yos and you can buy as much ice cream as you want as long as you pay for your own fro-yo.
  7. each night friday we have a movie night.
if you think i'm snooping into my daughter's life, i think you don't know my daughter.

if you think this open journal was left so accidentally, i think, again, you don't know my daughter.

if you think i'm not bustin' this series of pictures out after bella has kids, i think you don't know me.

KIDS (permalink) 09.04.2009
loud and proud kiddo.

this is what i heard bella yell, loudly, just before marty and the kids walked out to go to school. i pictured alex playing some game that involved him trying to tag her privates. when i later asked marty about it, she chuckled and said that i heard bella wrong and what she actually yelled was:


which she shouted at alex after he told her she couldn't do something because she wasn't a boy.

either way you cut it, there's a whole lotta marty stuffed into that little girl.

KIDS (permalink) 09.03.2009
let's welcome desiree to the stage
it seems the mourning period has passed and we have a replacement hermit crab.

the former crab's name was nate. there is a nate that lives five doors down the street. this crab's name is sebastian. we have one of those four houses away. it seems alex has a thing for naming his pets after kids who live in the neighborhood. while i could jibe his lack of creativity, i prefer it over bella's motif. her monikers tend to more resemble quintessential stripper names (like krystal or cinnamon or pepper). so as it turns out, i'm rabidly supportive of naming pets after kids who live on our street.

after getting sebastian home i thought we should clean the habitat before introducing him to the mix. first impressions and all. we use a large, glass aquarium i found next to a dumpster when the college students were moving out a few years back. looking useful and being close to home i grabbed it up and threw it on a shelf in the basement. one curious thing i've noticed since we started using the aquarium is on the bottom corner of one of the long, front-facing sides there's a retro, red label that reads PLEASE DON'T FEED THE ARTIFACT. when i place the tank in the kids room, i always turn it so the label is on the backside. alex saw it during this recent cleaning and asked what the raised, white letters said. i told him. he asked what that meant. i told him i didn't know and i was reasonably certain it was something we were better off not knowing. being my son, that proved good enough for him.

(for those wondering why i don't just peel the label off removing the need to think about or explain its relevance, it's because then it would have less of a story than it does now.)

KIDS, PERSONAL (permalink) 09.02.2009
who sends the parents to their room for time-out

click for larger version

bella and i have been struggling. i would say we have been for several weeks. it used to go in spurts with moments of good followed by moments of bad but since school began it's mostly been on the tense side. this picture shows us in happier times at the beginning of summer break.

things came to a head on sunday when she and i had a battle over her going to a neighborhood baby shower our family had been invited to. while walking to the shower, bella went into full shrill mode, and i, predictable as crappy service at borders books, bit. the hook didn't just pierce my lip. i swallowed it whole and only the longest pair of needle nosed pliers operated by someone skilled in removing hooks this buried could have saved the confrontation. it culminated with me marching bella home (prior to us reaching the shower) and sending her to her room for the remainder of the day. this was at noon.

that night when i went to exercise, my bike computer was missing from my desk. i asked bella if she knew where it was, she said she didn't. the next day, with marty's help, we learned that she did know because she had taken it from my desk and hidden it. with this multi-tiered offense, bella graduated to a new level of childhood crime.

i couldn't even begin to fathom the appropriate punishment. i told marty to be prepared for something extreme. two days later i was still thinking what it should be. while walking to work and playing the pending conversation in my head i imagined myself saying to bella that no one in my life, professionally or personally, treated me with as much disrespect as she showed me on sunday. before my brain had time to move to my next line, my head responded for bella telling me that the same was true for her, that i treated her with more disrespect than anyone else she dealt with from day to day. this froze my thought. after our fighting and boisterous stand-offs bella could say the same thing of me that i was thinking towards her. this realization made me sick to my stomach. this was not the father i wanted to be.

i pulled a book off my bookshelf. it was a parenting book i read a few years back called parenting from the heart. obviously i needed a refresher. i started reading its pages which still held my markings and notes from the first time i took it in. the basic gist of the book is this. children are born inherently guileless and happy. parents and society pour notions of insecurity and distrust into these innocent creatures, in time making them skittish and less certain. it was most likely done to us and unless we become aware of it, we will do it to our children. another way of thinking about it is that inside all of us is a happy and centered person, we just have a bunch of crap (work, fatigue, worry, doubt, debt, apathy) piled on top of it suppressing that original person from making more appearances. it's like the notion that everyone has a six-pack (you wouldn't be able to get out of a chair if you didn't) it's just no one can see it because there's three to nine inches of fat sitting on top of the well-formed and toned muscles.

i came home from work. marty was making dinner. i asked where bella was. she said she was next door. i told marty i'd take care of her punishment and that i'd had a change of heart. marty's head turned to me looking surprised. i told her the offense was made upon me and i felt that i had done things to warrant it and would like to handle bella's punishment my own way. with a touch of uncertainty marty relented the fight.

when bella came home i asked her to follow me onto the porch. she immediately started asking what and why. i marched ahead not acknowledging her inquiries. once on the porch i sat down and told her to come to me pointing at the spot directly at my feet. she did so apprehensively. she stood there looking pensive. i told her i needed her to give me a hug. she asked why. i told her it was because i needed one. hesitantly, she complied. it lacked heart, feeling. i told her it wasn't big enough. it wasn't good enough. she hugged me tighter. and then i hugged her. i hugged her BIG. and then we hugged each other. i looked at her and apologized for not being more supportive or understanding towards her as of late. she reciprocated. more hugs. this full exchange was less than three minutes long and by the end we were smiling and giggling and tickling. for the days and weeks prior to this we had predominately been nothing but scowls and scorn. for the first time in many weeks bella and i shared a completely tension-free evening full of respect and more importantly full of adoration.

i'm learning, more slowly than i should, there is no cruise control for parenting. you always have to keep your eye on the road and your foot on the gas. otherwise, you are destined for the ditch. or worse.

please know, this record is more for me than it is for you.

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