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PHOTOS, FAMILY (permalink) 11.16.2017
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

OCT 2017

FAMILY, WEB (permalink) 09.18.2017
i know, i know
ok. so i've been away for a bit. i know. it's not that i don't still love you all or that my interest in this website has waned. neither of those things are true. the basic answer is over the last few months i have had less time available to document my life.

the first reason for this is my children. when your kids are young life often feels like a merciless beat-down that takes all of your time and energy. and this is true in many regards. you are often told that when your children are older you get your life back. this is also true in many regards. the problem no one mentions is when your children are older they like doing cool things, cool things that you want to do with them. fact is they sorta start looking like grown, real people. and not just people but people you like, i guess maybe in part because you are alike in a lot of regards. but it is also true that you start getting your own life back, which is great. problem is you don't have the bounty of free time you had when you were 25 so now you're trying to shoe-horn your own interest inbetween moments of hanging out with these, in my case, three new adults you like spending time with.

all this equates to more living of life and less writing about life.

and as if this didn't throw enought sand in the gears of time, i have a new child of sorts--my company ofCourse Scheduling. it obviously has placed certain demands on my time that aren't the sorts of things that can be back-burnered. while there is usually a natural divide between my new company and my old life, there are occasional overlaps. one collision recently happended when two months ago i decided i should start a newsletter about my industry. in doing this planning one of the things i realized was i needed a body of seed content to start the newsletter off. so i have been writing, fervently, for the last two months, only i've been writing about something other than myself, my wife and my children. while most civilians aren't probably into course scheduling for universities the evidence of my labors can be seen here: The ofCourse newsletter.

but, now that that boulder is safely perched atop its hill, i'm eager to turn my writing cycles back to the crazed lot i live with. i thought a sensible starting point might be to share a recent moment from each of the cast. so this week we will have five updates to the family scrapbook, one day for each person. obviously you can't really lead off with anyone other than the family matriarch so here i introduce the first recap: Family Scrapbook (Marty) - Your vagina is how old?.

FAMILY, KIDS, WIFE (permalink) 07.13.2017

FAMILY, KIDS (permalink) 07.12.2017
summer 2017 ... so far

Note: The top three pictures were taken within a few minutes of one another and represent a pretty typical summer morning in our household (granted alex isn't usually up that early but he was excited about this old iMac he resurrected from the basement earlier in the week). in the last picture, we were picking bella up from a leadership & service camp she attended where she met a boy she was pretty taken with (and is most likely responsible for her extra-giddy state in this pic). it is also worth noting that at the camp bella was known as "the awesome girl who knitted all the time". i'd say that sums her up pretty well.

FAMILY (permalink) 01.15.2015
an exasperated bella interrupted marty and i talking to ask if she could be excused from the dinner table early. marty, breaking off from our conversation, exaggeratedly asked whatever could be more important than her family's company. we then looked to anthony (8) who, with sitcom perfect timing, was pushing his upper lip to his nose with his hand and saying "look alex, i can almost pick my nose with my top lip" and when you then looked to alex (11) he was in the midst of his own antic "but can you make you hair shake around like this" while he gripped the arms of the chair to brace himself and quickly rotated his head left to right making his winter mane flail wildly about. marty and i, both stifling laughter, especially at anthony's effortful, and ongoing, lip-nose contortion said, "yes, bella, you may be excused from the dinner table as it seems people are done eating." she pushed back from the table and walked out of the room with the classic teen-huff of annoyance painted on her person.

FAMILY (permalink) 01.14.2015
travel well.
one of the cousins of the the nephew that just got married recruited the entire family to help with his gift idea. the young man bought his favorite cousin a bible and then reserved a blank page in the back of the book for each family to craft a message to the new couple. the following was marty's entry for our family:
Troy and I find ourselves contemplating the journey of marriage that you will begin on January 3, 2015.

Here are some traveling tips from a couple who embarked on our journey 17 years ago:
  1. The path of your journey will be unique.
  2. Always be mindful of your "magnetic north" (the relationship you wish to have). Check your compass often to ensure you are still on your path.
  3. Know that the skies won't always be blue and the paths won't always be flat. Storms and mountains are part of every journey.
  4. There will be days you won't be able to carry your pack and there will be days you will have to carry both packs.
  5. All travelers have different strengths and weaknesses. Knowing yours and your partner's is important.
  6. There is no discrete destination so remember to enjoy the miles every day affords you.
  7. Don't compare yourselves to other travelers. People's public presentation is often not indicative of the whole story (so don't compare your complete picture to someone's public persona).
  8. Never forget you are fortunate to be on this journey. It is not a blessing all people get nor is it a blessing all people remember they have.
regarding #7 marty would not let me add "except in the case of marty and troy whose private existence far exceeds the public's perception". she's always plays spoil-sport.

FAMILY, PERSONAL (permalink) 12.12.2013
now closer to 90 than to my birth, as e-love would say.
i turned 45 last sunday. i took the friday before off work, not so much for my birthday but mostly to prepare for my everyman wrap party happening saturday night, although i snuck some troy-centric things in along the way, namely burnt butter pasta at the old spaghetti factory for lunch. because of the early prep, the saturday party went off anxiety and issue free. sunday offered more leisure-time and some visiting of friends (some who had a new labrapoodle puppy--i'm now deciding between getting one or two for our home). we then went out for my ritual birthday dinner at cafe natasha and their mystically good beef kabobs. because we had leftover mama nat ice cream pie from the party, we returned home for desert (instead of the usual stop at ted drewes). at the dinner table, my family sang happy birthday and marty and boys gifted me a new bike pump to replace the broken one i've been cussing at for over a year. my twelve-year old daughter then handed me a three sheets of type-filled paper and instructed me to read aloud.
Bella will now read the rest of your birthday present to you (please hand this back to Bella).


You're officially 45 (when I first made this list I thought that it was 43!). It's either that or 99 or 100.

This is my birthday present to you. I started making this March 25th (knowing that it would take this long to come up with 100 thankfuls for you). I thought of it the day that you listed off 40 things you were thankful for about our utah ski trip. It was also a day or two before the VOICE VOTED OUT EXACTLY ALL OF THE GOOD SINGERS!, but you'll hear more about that later.

Before I say anything else I must make you promise that if we are fighting or throwing insults at each other, you promise that you will not refer back to this. Promise?

Below is a list of 100 thankfuls I have about you:
while tempted i will not bore you will all 100 items. here are a few from the start and end, with a few from the middle sprinkled about.
  1. I'm thankful that you were able to see right from the first time you met mom that she was the woman you had to marry.
  2. I'm thankful that you didn't give up when mom didn't instantly fall in love with you, or soon, or later, or really later (but she did eventually fall in love with you, it's a miracle).
  3. I'm thankful that your mother picked you to be the child she adopted, otherwise none of this would have happened... wait, no, if your mother's mother never gave birth to her then she wouldn't be alive to adopt you, no wait, if you're mother's mother's mother never gave birth to your mother's mother ... never mind, the butterfly effect ;)
  4. I'm thankful that you thought up the "$15 credit" thing. As I've heard your friend say, it was the best investment and phone call you ever made.
  5. I'm thankful you and mom got married, when she eventually realized that you can't judge a book by its cover.
  1. I'm thankful for all the potty jokes you and the boys share. Mostly I'm thankful for that because then my brothers don't come to me with their potty jokes.
  1. I'm thankful that you would go from one edge of the world to the other for me.
  1. I'm thankful that you're my someone who I get to joke around with and make crude and mean comments to. Everyone needs someone like that in their lives.
  1. I'm thankful that you have the Troyscripts. I know that I have my moments when I probably make you hate that you made them in the first place (like, when I come home and tell you that the kids at my school found them).
  1. I'm thankful that you've helped me develop into the amazing writer I am today ... maybe I'm not amazing, but I'm thankful that you've helped me become interested in writing.
  1. I'm thankful that you gave me tons and tons and tons of advice about boys, maybe a little too much.
  2. I'm thankful you let me get a bikini.
  3. I'm thankful that you're able to look past all my flaws (not that I'm admitting I have any).
  4. I'm thankful that you lived another year, and that you chose to spend it with us.
  5. I'm thankful that you're the man you are today.
  6. I'm thankful that you love me.
if you'll please excuse me a moment. i'll be off crying (again) for a bit.

FAMILY, KIDS (permalink) 12.10.2013
more accurate than a blood test.
sometimes our kids become unglued. when this happens, in our home, they are sent to their room. marty has all these calm, mature lines for such moments like, "kids who need to cry do so in their room, my living room is for happy people" or "you need to go to your room until you're able to make good and respectful choices to those around you". sometimes you have to help a child to their room but mostly they go on their own volition.

i find children claiming to be cured of the evils that afflicted them are not as cured as they might think or say. similar to the other baubles in my modest collection of knowledge, it took me longer to procure this particular gemstone than it probably should have. in defense, let me say you too may have been fooled when a cute pig-tailed girl of four calmly approaches you, says she feels all better now and can she go back to playing. one might even applaud their own parental acumen at righting a world that almost went all sideways and screamy. it is only when the small, adorable child rejoins the others, mostly siblings, calmly sits down, carefully selects a block and then brains the unsuspecting mark in the temple that you know a few bad clouds might still be lurking in the folds of their demeanor.

after being burned by this scenario more than once, i created a test for my recently pardoned children. when a freshly quieted child comes to you and gives the "all clear" sign, ask them to come right before you. when they do, stare into their eyes. the stare begins the test. a child not fully ready will not be able to hold your stare for more than a few seconds. they will try but will uncomfortably avert their eyes before long. this child needs to cook in their room a bit longer. for a child that holds your gaze, wait about ten seconds and then carefully place your three middle fingers on the center of their forehead and give them a gentle nudge, a nudge strong enough to push their forehead back about three inches. the cured child will smile and ask what you are doing and why did you just push them in the head. the un-ready child's eyes will flare with contempt and their miniature frame will lunge at you, their small fingers unmistakably targeting your carotid. this child is not ready.

for what it's worth, i've yet to meet the child who can successfully fake their way through the stare and push test.

FAMILY (permalink) 09.17.2013
step aside, this one's on me. oh wait. maybe not.
we took our kids (and one of bella's friends) to dinner to celebrate some start of school kid achievements. since we don't go out to eat too often we're a bit of disaster at restaurants (e.g. we've found that most places don't appreciate shows of roman gladiator dominance around their other patrons). so, between the kids not knowing how to act or the effort of finding something for them to order, it is often a full-on debacle. this time it was exaggerated by that fact that at the end of chipotle's order line, which getting to proved most effortful, marty and i looked at each other to produce a wallet. with both of us tapping our empty pockets, we exchanged the classic but un-winnable "but i thought you said you had money" debate in front of the cashier, our three kids, one guest, six plates of food, and a growing line behind us. thankfully our twelve year old, the girl we were here to celebrate, once again bailed us out by holding up a hand and saying, "it's ok, dinner's on me because i do have money."

we backed away from the line telling the cashier we usually don't make our children buy our family dinner, especially when we're out celebrating the successes of those children.

FAMILY (permalink) 08.27.2013
fortunately, i used to be a professional dish-man
our dishwasher broke. yet again. i forget the full chronology of this appliance but all i can say with full conviction is that we seem unable to buy a dishwasher that can last multiple years without issue. and i would not say we were particularly hard on dishwashers as i essentially wash the dishes before putting them in. after our third or fourth dishwasher failure in ten years marty and i decided we would not replace or repair it and just do dishes by hand. granted eight years living on a single income partly fueled this choice as we weren't exactly basking in wealth but the state of things being what they were, both marty and i accepted, gladly enough, the situation. then after a year or more of this, marty came upon an unexpected $500 and getting a new dishwasher topped her list for the cash.

so we went to the mall, chose our appliance and were embarrassingly giddy the night before as we danced and sang songs and smiled broadly that this would be the last night we would be doing dishes by hand. the install guys came the next day as scheduled, pulled our addled washer out, complained about the crooked nature of the appliance's space which marty explained a non-crooked space did not exist in the home and pointed out that the last one went in there just fine. as they wrestled with the machine, one of the two men stood up and said ...

well ma'am, we're going to need to get a plumber in here because you need a shut-off valve for the washer and you don't have one.

what? why? we've never had one before.

new code ma'am. all dishwashers need a shut-off valve within two feet of the appliance.


in case something happens you can turn off the water.

why can't i just turn it off at the main?

because they want a valve here as well.

how much does that cost?

i reckon no more than a hundred or two.

(minute-long pause)

take it back.


take it back. i don't want it.

ma'am. why don't you take some time. we can put this in the garage. then, when your husband gets home, you can talk it over with him.

i don't need it in the garage. i don't need to talk to my husband. i need it taken back to where it came from. today.

so our celebration may have been slightly premature. after some thought we instead had a repairmen come and fix our existing washer for more money than the new washer (but less a new washer AND shut-off valve). it worked for several months but then stopped working in a brand new way. in one regard, it's near impressive the number of ways today's products can fail.

when our home is working as it's meant to, i do the dishes on the school/work nights and marty does them on the off days (sadly for marty this summer seemed to be one long off day). marty muscles through the undesired task with a conviction few folks can claim -- though, silverware seems to be her kryptonite. i find, often, the rote endeavor a calming end to the day as you start with a full-on wreck and wind up with a pristine and shiny end product. i don't often get that quick of a turnaround on most of my work so find getting to finish a job in less than an hour oddly satisfying. and, it doesn't hurt to know marty near swoons at a clean kitchen first thing in the morning. i may look nothing like brad pitt, but i betcha i clean a kitchen better than the man.

FAMILY (permalink) 08.20.2013
i'd build one for marty and i but marty won't let me. she's says it's not adult-like.
i've been asked two questions about the gallery picture, re-shown below, that contained a sign reading "yes dad you may NOT sleep in my bed tonight".

question one. why is the language worded so?
if memory serves, in a moment of frustration, i had told the kids that 'no' was not a word i should ever hear from them when i or their mother asked them to do something. the sign is bella's coy way of letting me know she can work around the crusty missives of her vexed father.

question two. why would you be sleeping in your daughter's bed anyway?
from the start of children i said i would one day build each of my children a custom loft bed. last spring, after months of planning and weeks of building i completed my first troy-designed loft bed for one of my children. to say i love bella's bed ten times more than bella loves her bed would a flagrant understatement. couple this builder's admiration with the fact that our house still has a bit of musical beds going on in the night and you have a scenario where i occasionally score the coolest bed in my home.

FAMILY, PHOTO (permalink) 06.20.2013
no child left behind, except those that can't read.
below find the slips the family filled out for the test mentioned in tuesday's story. and the original sticker in question.

and anthony's contribution was verbal and exposed what an ass i was for giving a reading comprehension and writing test to his child who can not yet do either of those things. had you heard his angst you would know he would have used the d-word instead of the a-word but thankfully that is another thing he is not yet up to practical speed on.

and i love that bella added her answer, "pop them", to the life-riddle.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.22.2013
uno, the prison edition
if you see me this week and think you notice a cut over my right eye, your keen vision should be complimented. i do have a cut over my right eye. if you're wondering how a grown, boring man might get a gash over his right eye there is a perfectly obvious explanation: i played a game of uno with my family. what? your family uno games don't involve bloodshed and maiming. perhaps you use different rules. here are some of ours for reference:

if you drop a card on the floor (we play on a coffee table), you get scrumbled which is a dearmitt-word for tickled.

if you drop a card on the floor more than once each scrumbling must last longer and be more intense than the prior scrubmle.

if a card gets dropped several times, like, by a six year old who keeps dropping them on purpose, the severity of the tickles might get so intense that the recipient may flee screaming from the table, the room, and even the floor of the house, resulting in a wild and boisterous chase which shakily reverberates on the ceiling until the inevitable cornering happens. the end game is marked by a large tackle and crash and shrill screams as the tickling begins.

there is another rule that allows someone to yell "table jump" and then do just that, jump over or run around the table and tackle someone beginning a tickle war. i'm not sure what instigates a call of "table jump" as they seemed to occur at unpredictable times, but the fear of suddenly being attacked by one or more people surely helps keep your attention on things (and thankfully not many calls of "your turn" which can plague a table possessing diverse ages and interest-levels).

the table jump is how i got the cut above my eye. problem was when bella table-jumped me, after i played a draw 4 i should reveal, she had a pistachio shell in her hand and in her wild dive towards me her family-grade shank grazed my eye causing the injury. it seems bella doesn't agree that family versions of the game should be weapon-free affairs. and the fact that she went on to win the raucous event didn't allow for any possible learning moments about how people who cheat and maim others never win because it's just not the case when it comes to full-contact uno.

FAMILY (permalink) 10.25.2012
the second installment of bacon and bikini wednesday never properly got off the ground. first off, we didn't have any bacon. secondly, we didn't have any bikini underwear. and thirdly, bella informed me the night before that i would have to "serve her" earlier as i almost made her miss the bus the previous week. granted the source of the delay could be either how long it takes to pan-fry a pound of bacon or how distracted i was by all the naked flesh in my kitchen. hard to say.

FAMILY (permalink) 10.23.2012
if a train traveling 80 miles an hour hit your wooden hand ...
marty took me by the hand into the bedroom. she was hoping to steal a saturday afternoon moment. presently our bedroom door doesn't have a doorknob on it. now that i think about it, it hasn't had a doorknob for probably over five years. point is the door doesn't latch and anthony and alex were playing in the hallway just on the other side of the door. anthony had a wooden dowel sticking out of his long-sleeve shirt pretending he had a wooden hook for a hand. during our moment we had to listen to anthony list to alex the things someone with a wooden hook for a hand could not do. you can't pick up a toy like this. you can't pick up a shoe like this. you can't itch your eye like this, or at least, you probably shouldn't.

while there was a time in my life i'd think of chores or math problems to ensure i didn't outpace my partner, i never thought of how impressively having a six year old animatedly enumerate the ways life with a dowel for a hand would suck could replace challenging division problems.

FAMILY (permalink) 10.18.2012
that's the fastest i've seen marty move in quite a while.
after taking over the morning duties when marty returned to work, the kids informed me that mom made them a hot breakfast (e.g. french toast, pancakes) every morning. under raised brows i asked, "really?". the children amended their estimate to once a week. i quickly committed to matching that routine as i didn't want the kids to feel the parental downgrade that was happening in our family version of corporate downsizing and mergers.

i named wednesday hot breakfast day and it soon became known as hot breakfast wednesdays. that is until yesterday morning when, as i tended my bacon, marty dashed through the kitchen to grab a piece of fruit wearing nothing but bikini underwear and a bra. the dashing part was i believe on my account because she knew if she lingered too long the kids might be mourning a platter of burnt bacon.

but she did remain long enough for me to rename our mid-week breakfast from "hot breakfast wednesday" to "bacon and bikini wednesday".

PERSONAL, FAMILY (permalink) 10.09.2012
the only thing that makes light speed look pokey: time.
do you remember when i posted my family countdown back in july?.

well, today the countdown reads 100 days less than the day i posted it, even though it seems like i posted it seven minutes ago.

25 more stretches like that--from when i posted it in july until this moment in early october--and my daughter no longer lives in my home.

twenty five.

that's it.

twenty five more blocks of time like this recent block and she's gone.

100 days from now it will be twenty four.

i want to say a string of really bad words.

but, instead i'm going to go read shel silverstien with my six year old ...

then play monopoly with my nine year old ...

and then watch some music videos with my eleven year old.



FAMILY (permalink) 09.05.2012
not broken, just broke
last week our home received two paychecks for the first time in nine years. you'll never hear this household complaining about a teacher's salary being meager because it has catapulted us into a new and royal lifestyle. and it couldn't have come a moment too soon as in the last decade home repairs, car issues, and too-good-to-not-go travel opportunities have chipped our savings down from tens of thousands of dollars to tens of hundreds of dollars. fact is we've survived the last few weeks on money bella earned this summer dog-sitting. one of her early summer clients paid her in a pink envelope. bella would add money from subsequent clients to the envelope until it's glued seams were bursting with over four hundred dollars in small bills. if pinched for cash, and after asking her if we could borrow, say thirty dollars, from her envelope to, say buy the family dinner, we'd write on the pink envelope 'DAD - $30 - DINNER' and pull the bills. this is another reason it's good the double payday arrived as it was becoming challenging to find a spot to legibly add a line on the outside of this now tattered envelope.

additionally, my personal slush account (marty has one too) where i keep money i've made on my own was hurting as well. on my way to bella's dad day of horseback riding, i remembered the stables only took cash. i stopped at an ATM and withdrew $120 for our wrangler. what i didn't know until i tried to buy lunch a week later was that the withdraw left precisely one cent in my account.

there were many times during this one income decade that i told marty these would be our family's hardest financial years and it wouldn't always be like this. she always accepted this news reluctantly. in turn, she would tell me we couldn't shoulder this pace forever and the money would not last. i reluctantly took her opinion in. it turned out we were both right.

so here's to wise prognostication, two-paychecks, and the good dose of luck that allowed us to weather our one-income decade. we promise to never take our new-found fortune for granted or use it frivolously, well, right after i get the vespa scooter marty promised me before going back to work, but i'm sure we can all agree something that fun can't possibly be frivolous.

FAMILY (permalink) 08.15.2012
at least he used the scientifically-appropriate version of the word, which hasn't always been the case
last weekend we were invited to a family's lake house. this family has four boys, three of their kids line up with ours in age and grade. alex's friendship with his age peer predominately fuels the relationship, but marty and i have come to enjoy the parents as we've gotten to know them more.

the kids were nervous and expressed concern on the way there. what will it be like? what if we don't like it? do they have an indoor toilet? marty and i confessed ignorance to all points and explained that we were on a family adventure and needed to enjoy the mystery of it all. after arriving late, we walked up to the adults who were sitting in swings and on picnic tables while kids played below in the lake. our kids approached the scene sheepishly, as did marty and i greeting our peers. down below a young boy's voice bellowed FROG! bella's face immediately lit up and snapped to. she looked at marty who gave the 'go ahead' face and bella charged down the slope to join the chase. as for aleo, he saw two paddleboats chained to a dock. he immediately moved to marty's side and repeatedly looked from her face to the boats. marty asked if the boats could be taken out and when the hostess said of course, alex was lost to us for the next five hours as he took one boat after another out, commanding them just as if he were a proper riverboat captain. and anthony, well anthony mostly just hurled himself off any dock or structure his muscly little arms could pull himself onto.

a few hours into the adventure, the adults continued to sit atop the hill surveying the scene, their conversations accented by the excited play of nine kids about the lake. the playful banter and calls were then broken by some elevated tones from two of them, one of them being anthony. shortly after the disagreement began i heard a long declaration ring out across the lake "stop it you stupid penis head." i cringed at the discernible words but hoped that this was one of those moments where, as anthony's speech therapist tells us, there will be things he says that we understand but others don't. as the seconds ticked off without any reaction i heard another tinny voice ring out, "mom, anthony just called me a penis head." my shoulders slumped as now i knew something more overt than a "later-talking-to" had to happen. after pulling anthony out of the lake he asked what he did. i told him that he called the son of our host family a penis head. anthony immediately started with a "but he ...". i cut him off saying there is not a "but he" explanation out there that justifies calling the boy a penis head, especially yelling it across the lake so everyone can hear. then i thought about a few of the people i have professional dealings with and considered amending my statement. i opted to wait until later this week when anthony is at least six years old and has a better chance of discerning the nuance of when throwing down penis-head is not only acceptable but actually the best choice.

FAMILY (permalink) 06.14.2012
i never realized how un-anthony-proof a church really is
we took the boys to a catholic church service on sunday. bella didn't go because she was camping with friends. family friends were playing the bells and we wanted to go see and support them. we chose to stay for the whole service as to not be disrespectful. when it comes to church-going, our kids have only been to weddings and funerals so a service was new territory. keeping anthony still and quiet proved most challenging but he made it through the hour plus event. as we walked out afterward, marty told the kids that some families did this every week. anthony gave a flat two-word response "that's sad". marty went on to talk about how she was one of those kids growing up and that she sometimes wondered if she was making the right choice for her kids by not taking them to church. alex in an equally flat, conversational tone said, "you don't have to worry about us mom. we'll be fine." i couldn't have defended the suddenly tenuous position any better than the two boys did.

FAMILY (permalink) 06.12.2012
disappearing kid magic trick.
one of the family's to come of marty's smores party had four kids. all boys. their children's ages perfectly align with our kids except they have an extra one, a three year old, on the end. with four kids eleven and under in your care, you can imagine how little uninterrupted social time they had to talk with others. all evening their kids ran up interrupting their conversations in need of help with a toy, a thirst, or an injustice. as the night wound down and the father gave the five minute warning, the children disappeared from view and never returned (excepting the three year old who was asleep on the mother's lap). after ten minutes time and conversation the man said, "wow. i haven't seen any of my kids since i told them we would be leaving soon. this is kind of nice. in the future i think i'll give the five minute warning ten minutes after showing up."

his discovery reminds me of the advice my father in law, pappa ken, gave me after we had kids: "you just gotta be smarter than your kids." i know i've mentioned this wisdom before, but i think of it often. surprisingly often. on paper it sounds trivial enough. in practice it is most slippery.

FAMILY, FRIENDS (permalink) 05.25.2012
if only we could go to the pool after the smores party instead of before.
bella handed these out to her friends. so did alex. even anthony handed some out. and i'm sure marty slid one or two to her friends. i figured if they can invite folks so can i. so if your people know where my people stay, you're invited to our humble and sometimes excitingly dangerous (via little flaming balls of fire -- very game of thrones) smores fest.

and if you do come, you'll note i never touch the things. regardless of your math skills, i promise you can't compute how far out of bounds something that sticky is for me.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.26.2012
that's not how mom does it.
marty was away last weekend. in preparation i made sure i got proper sleep in the days before and spent some time in the week plotting out the weekend as to keep me on the offensive. i posted the day's schedule 1 saturday morning, setting it on the kitchen counter. it looked like this:

08.00 - 11.00 computer
11.00 - 12.00 lunch
12.00 - 01.00 watch softball (girls university team)
01.00 - 03.30 play at house
03.30 - 05.00 baya indoor soccer
05.00 - 07.00 dinner
07.00 - 09.00 movie
09.00 - 09.30 books/bed

this is what really happened.
08.00 - 11.00 computer
11.00 - 12.00 lunch
12.00 - 03.30 watch softball (i wished for an hour, we ended up staying for a double-header at bella's request)
03.30 - 04.15 petting zoo (surely an unexpected find a flash-mob of baby animals on our bike ride home)
04.30 - 05.00 baya soccer (we missed half the game so bella could sit with a miniature cow)
05.00 - 06.00 dinner (kabob house, alex got to bring his friend morgan since it was mostly a bella-day thus far)
06.00 - 07.00 ted drewes (also with alex's friend morgan who somehow had never been. remarkable.)
07.00 - 09.30 movie (morgan sent home after show)
09.30 - 10.00 books
10.00 - 10.30 bed

while the kids seem to have had a great day, at the end you can still get something like this. marty told me that anthony (age 5) needs lotion rubbed on his hands in the morning and before bed. she told me with a mild bit of trepidation because she knows i hate to touch lotion or anything oily in nature. but my son needed this to be healthy and i was the only one around to do it, so i would build up some resolve and jump in. after defiling my fingertips in the tub of lotion and applying it to anthony's hand, he, in the air of a wealthy lady having her nails done, said ...

you did a smear and a wipe. mom just does a dab and a rub. that's what you should do. a dab and a rub. not a smear.

i stopped doing my smears and wipes long enough to think how bad of parenting it would be to introduce my five year old to a toilet swirlie. then he could tell mom that when dad does it, it's more of a dunk and flush and not a flush and submerge like she was doing it. a dunk and flush.

1 while on vacation last summer in colorado, i discovered the odd power a documented schedule had on our children. while before they might nudge and needle us for more of something, like computer, when we put it on the schedule, if a child would ask about it, another child would scold them saying, "it's not on the schedule." i thought to make one because on a mostly open day the kids and one of the adults (hint : her name starts with an m) were more restless and bickery than usual given the wandering and aimless nature of the day. while a free day is usually good and great, free days for multiple people with conflicting wishes seems to be rather un-relaxing. whatever the case, the schedule made the day after the listless day had a powerful influence on people's moods. fact is, it was one of the most surprising reactions to something i'd ever seen. and this last saturday was no exception.

a few notes about a family schedule. (1) like with all regiments, you, the parent, have to be flexible to change and overruns. (2) i've found it's tantalizing to put a mystery event or two on the list (so where are we going to dinner dad?). (3) i imagine, in this format, a family schedule is more powerful when used sparingly. (4) in the end, i knew i revered the power of a schedule. i'm just happily surprised at how much my kids revere the power of a schedule.

FAMILY (permalink) 03.01.2012
topsy-turvy - part 1
life was humming along like a newly installed operating system. my project work was on schedule. i was well-rested. i actually saw days, a few of them even, where my daily goals were met and i had an hour, a free hour on my hands. in these astonishingly rare moments, i slid my book from the shelf and sank into a couch corner for a guilt free hour of recreational reading. through all of my systems and processes, these are the moments i'm so effortfully chasing.

getting in this steady clip was extra important because i was due to have knee surgery the following week and would be sidelined—and drugged—for a day or two. i worked hard to enter this planned downtime in a sane, comfortable mindset. then with surgery six days out, my office phone rang. it was worded as a professional favor but proved to be more of an emergency. my next five days (a saturday and sunday included) were completely fouled. it was like a monsoon destroyed my picked up house and manicured lawn. any pre-existing order was devastated.

the end came at 3pm the day before my surgery. at 1pm this same day my doctor's office called and said they had to move my slot from 2pm to 6am. at first i was elated because this took my fasting-period from fourteen hours to a mere seven. child's play. but when i called marty with the change i could see her body sag over the phone as she said, "but i had all the kids covered for 2pm. how am i supposed to get someone at five in the morning?" oh. yes. that.

i'll skip over the four hours marty spent scrambling for a solution and just move to what she came up with. a neighbor i work with had told marty of a service we have through our employer benefits. it's essentially subsidized, emergent care for children and aging parents. the neighbor had expressed great satisfaction with this service. marty called me and told me to to call them to set up an account. so at 5:30pm i registered with this company. at 6pm marty called them and described our 5am need, now a mere eleven hours away. they said they were on it and we would hear back by 10pm.

at 9:30 i was certain we were going to get the "sorry we tried but we just didn't have enough notice" call. instead the phone rang an 9:45. a confident voice introduced herself as emily and said she would be watching our children in the morning. after my expressions of relief, she went on to ask a series of questions so cogent, i started taking notes for future reference. pets. allergies. name of the kids' school. neighbors names. my destroyed house was beginning to look much better. and the next morning this girl, emily, arrived on the dot. she even cleaned the breakfast dishes, put away the couch that marty had pulled out for her to sleep on until the kids woke up, and left us a debrief on the backside of the note marty left her.

oh, and one thing i didn't mention in all of this is that during the initial bum-rush of mayhem, our refrigerator stopped worked (and would be in that non-working state for eleven days.)

oh, and one other thing. the service we were so happy with is called bright horizons and if you have access/ability to use them, i'd recommend them. highly.

FAMILY (permalink) 02.29.2012
we work blue at our dinner table
our house has a swear jar. anyone caught using swears (e.g. damn, shit) or even simple potty words, sometimes called bathroom words, (e.g. penis, butt, nummers) may be called out and penalized. i know many homes with growing children employ this tactic to bring awareness to the use of such words, attempting to make their children more aware of their place in the vocabulary/society. our operation has the slight twist to typical installments in that bella began and governs our swear jar. what drove bella to this drastic, even if unoriginal (unless your qualify a child starting it), response is she is the last one in our house to giggle at creatively blended strings of potty words or lavishly crafted scenarios about bathroom happenings by her two younger brothers ... or her father ... and even sometimes her mother.

many a night bella has sat at the dinner table appalled at her brothers conversation and hysterical laughing at some extra-juvenile story. when she looks to me to correct and scold the boys, she may find me laughing right along side or even congratulating one of their boys for their detailed recounting. extra-exasperated she turns to her gender-comrade in arms only to find her with her head bowed and a hand covering her face trying to hide her laughter. in one of these moments bella, with all but a fist slamming on the table, called our behavior outrageous, and wholly embarrassing, and what if she had a friend over, and then she declared that going forward, people caught using such words, especially at our family dinner table, would have to pay a penalty, the amount to be determined by the offended party. i broke the unusually long post-proclamation silence (in an equally unoriginal move) by pledging five dollars to this swear jar and told bella to see my people when the balance was exhausted. more hysterics. while she didn't appreciate the added laughter she was quick and glad to accept her foundation's first funds.

it time, and after seeing she intended on enforcing her policy, after she'd announce something like, "ok alex. you owe the swear jar seventy five cents for that story" i came to the aid of my family. using my paternal authority, i proclaimed an amendment to the swear jar mandate. it was this: if the person telling the story can make bella laugh while using an offending word, the teller doesn't have to pay the fine. at first bella said fine because she would not laugh at such childish attempts at humor. but what she didn't prepare herself for was how the tales and descriptions would grow, as a desperate storyteller fought to get bella to crack a smile. the details became wild and grandiose and the imitations of sounds and shrieks became remarkably believable and piercing. this extra effort has saved the accused many a coin as for all bella's propriety and blossoming maturity, she too is a storyteller at heart and can't help but appreciate a good and spirited yarn full of juicy words and pulsing images.

PHOTO, FAMILY (permalink) 02.24.2012
after a six year special gallery drought
iconFamily over a decade ago i made the decision to close my kid's dedicated photo galleries after their fifth birthday (and one hundred photos). now that anthony has crested both of those milestones i find myself without an outlet to capture and share the occasional image of my people. while maintaining this website over the past twelve years has tortured me in a number of ways, it has also spoiled me in many more. my expedient ability to fix this sudden case of the jitters being one of the good sides. thus, allow me to introduce you to our family scrapbook.

FAMILY, WIFE (permalink) 02.08.2012
granted, financially we are limping to the finish line.
i walk to work. it takes me about ten minutes from closing one door to opening the other. one of the best perks of this situation—and there are many—has been my ability to walk home for lunch. it recently occurred to me that this is the last school semester i can walk home and enjoy one of my children being there. and, after this academic semester concludes, i will never experience that routine luxury again. not to mention when marty goes back to work i won't even have the ability to share in my wife's company over my egg sandwich or butter tossed pasta.

when i shared this with marty over yesterday's workday lunch she, in classic marta form, expressed surprise that i wouldn't be happy giddy to have a quiet house again like back in our pre-kid days. i thought on that for a long moment realizing i too was a bit surprised at not seeing the long fought for upside of this milestone. i conclude it to be just another notch on the stick that marks how kids change you. it turns out there are so many notches chipped into my stick, every one added seems like it might break the once rugged object.

while my inclination is to sigh and sag over this realization, some watchdog in my head gives my brain a slap and barks at me to see my fortune in experiencing my young-young children or wife during the workday over the last eight years. after this gruff pep-talk i do sit up a bit straighter and the gloom fades, mostly.

later, that epiphany caused one of my three daily thankfuls (more on that soon) to be, "I'm thankful marty chose to stay home with our kids as the lifestyle she has afforded us, by not working, is second to none, truly."

and if there are downsides to living so close to home—and there are—the biggest one would be not having enough time in my commute to switch from the monastery-like quiet of my office to the frontline-like cacophony that is my home.

FAMILY (permalink) 01.26.2012
got game?
at our nightly dinner table, i try, hard, to have a question at the ready to ask my family over our meal. sometimes the question turns a quiet and distracted group into a lively, engaged one. sometimes a question is not needed because the table is already full of life and vigor. sometimes the kids remember before me and ask if i have a question. and some days we all forget about the dad question like it never existed at all. back in november, one of the nightly questions was "this time next year what is something you hope you can say have accomplished or completed?". i added that it should be something that you think would make you proud or happy to be able to say. as some people struggled to settle on just one thing, the question was modified, probably by a challenge-thirsty bella, so each person had to list three things. for reasons i haven't fully figured out or intended, something about this exercise escaped the stigma of a new year's resolution (which i feel is good and helpful). in typical form, i quickly recorded everyone's answers in my next moment alone.

  1. ride a 2-wheeler bike
  2. swim lessons
  3. learn how to roller skate (w/ dad and alex)
  1. piano lessons
  2. goto water world (in denver, colorado)
  3. learn how to rollerblade (w/ dad)
  1. renovate back yard (making if dog-ready)
  2. singing lessons
  3. goto horse camp
  1. camp at onandoga
  2. install new french doors
  3. ???
  1. learn how to roller blade
  2. restore the everyman
  3. do a 100 mile, 2-canyon (poudre & big thompson) bike ride in colorado
one excluded answer from anthony's list was "pee on dad's eye".

the hole in marty's list is quite typical for her. such list are near impossible for people who are genetically blessed to be content and fulfilled with they things they have attained and achieved. secretly, i couldn't be more envious of the serenity she and others like her quietly possess.

FAMILY (permalink) 01.25.2012
come here this instant young man, i mean, old man!
from the eighties show cheers, in one of norm's celebrated entrances he answered the question "how's life treating you norm" by saying, "like a baby treats a diaper". norm's sentiment does much to summarize my monday. life knocked me about both physically and professionally (while it opted to not trample my personal affairs, we all know how intertwined the personal, physical, and professional worlds routinely prove to be). by evening i sat fully cooked and proved short with my kids, who did not a thing to contribute to my woes. just before bedtime marty stopped me in the hallway, put a hand on my arm and suggested i work harder to mellow my tone as it wasn't helping to make anything better. i acknowledged her point and apologized. she smiled and headed in to read to anfer. i continued down the hall to read to bella and alex. when i walked in the room, a reclined and knitting bella looked away from her work long enough to say, "ooohhh, you got in trouble by mom and got a talkin' to." had you just overheard the exchange you would have put confident money down that she directed those words at a sibling and not her father. i looked towards alex as he sat in a circle of legos with a partially constructed object in his hands. he gave me a consoling and wordless nod. i moved to the futon and collapsed in the space next to bella, opened our book in my lap and read a few chapters. while i'm an ardent believer in evenness, i reckon it's not an entirely bad thing for our usual roles to get a jostle every now and again, just so we remember what it feels like to be on the other side of a lecture or disapproving gaze.

FAMILY (permalink) 01.10.2012
a large part of the reason i didn't emerge last week can be attributed to marty's holiday schedule. to recap:

friday kids built gingerbread houses, an annual tradition at a neighbors (troy at work)
saturday family swim outing (2nd annual)
sunday christmas
monday marty's family christmas
tuesday roller skating, friend's house & xmas lights display
wednesday kids rule day
thursday girls' meltdown
friday go-karts, rock climbing, and laser tag
saturday new year's eve party
sunday city museum
monday dinner with the dunns

kids rule day is a day where the kids got to do whatever they want from breakfast to bed. to say the least there was much screen time, candy and junk food throughout.

the girls' meltdown day happens once on every extended run of family together-time. the boys have learned to give them lots of room and keep our snide and judgmental comments between just the boys.

as with all vacations since having kids, i return to work to rest. i have no idea where marty goes to recover.

also, as of today marty and i have been together twenty-two years, fourteen of them married. we're often asked if there is a secret to this success and there is, two of them in fact. the first is marty keeps me so busy (and entertained/distracted - see above) i don't have time to question or plan an exodus. the second is i'm tolerant as a monk [ ;-) ].

if you're wondering what we're doing to celebrate this hefty milestone, we'll be hanging out at the kids school tonight making pancakes for a buncha folks i don't know and trying to keep anthony from talking to adults. so, i guess, the veiled answer is not taking things too seriously.

FAMILY (permalink) 10.21.2011
so this week of occupied marty has given us a pretty realistic taste of what our life may look like after marty goes back to work. my only salvation rests in the hope that the real change will come with a little better notice so we can plan and prepare a touch better. my residual fear is that it is hard to prepare for a constant state of unbalanced back-peddling.

and the below image is in no way intended as a guilt-inducing tactic. it simply stands as my favorite visual that captured the sense of the week. we all, including marty, wanted to lean on a similar defense this week (in case you're not seeing it, spy bella's note to her teacher above the grade).

click to enlarge

FAMILY (permalink) 10.20.2011
a village moment.
during marty's tour on jury duty, her mother, mamma nat, has been instrumental in us surviving the week. every day when anfer gets out of pre-school she has picked him up and brought him home. upon entering our our more-disastrous than usual 1 home, she gets anfer occupied in some manner, moves to the kitchen, rolls up her sleeves and begins digging us out. i did mention this was happening daily, right?!

in gratitude, on wednesday, after everyone was safely in school, i cleaned the kitchen. i then ran by the store and bought some magazines and a variety of chocolate bars (mamma nat loves her some chocolate). i laid them out on the clean kitchen counter with a note that read, "momma nat. thank you for all of the amazing help this week. you're a lifesaver! troy". in this modest display i had three of the five love languages covered. clean kitchen (acts of service), magazines and chocolates (gifts), and my note (words of affirmation). if i were there when she arrived i may have given her a hug (physical touch) but time has taught me women, young and old, are fine that i use my words over hugs to express adoration. and as for the last love language, quality time, those minutes are quite few around these parts at the moment and not even my wife or myself are logging proper clicks of the clock with one another, so my three, and kinda four, out of five is going to have to do. 2

1 if you're wondering what 'disastrous' means on the walter-dearmitt calamity scale it is this. two weeks ago, both bella and alex got to have friday night playdates over. in addition to completely destroying the kids bedroom, one of the guests used our bathroom and didn't get the faucet turned all the way off. we had a slightly clogged drain that could not keep up with the water's flow so in time filled the sink causing the safety drain at the back of the sink to also attempt to help displace the water but it also had problems. the combined weight of the water in the sink broke loose the piece of gum marty had put on a small drip on the the drain pipe (some years back, unbeknownst to me) and in addition to water flowing over the pedestal sink's rim, was also funneling out of the backside through the failed gum-based-patch-job (which, to be fair, is exactly how i would have fixed it too). by the time a responsible party 3 walked by the bath, the entire floor was pooled with standing water. the resultant repair to the 90 year old sink, in as we all know by now, our home's only bathroom, has it presently missing all of its drain assembly and the U-pipe at the base, which i broke trying to fix the clog. so for the last ten days our camping sink has been sitting atop our bathroom radiator with a bucket on a stool beneath to accommodate our strictly-enforced hand-washing and teeth-brushing.

2 i'm not entirely sure what mamma nat's love language is, thus my attempt to cover as many bases as possible.

3 by "responsible party" i mean someone whose first utterance upon seeing this flooding mayhem was not one of the following phrases:
  • why'd you do that dad?
  • hey guys, come here! you've gotta see this.
  • isn't that bad for the floor?
  • ohhh. cool.

PHOTO, FAMILY (permalink) 06.09.2011
kooky people in a kooky tree

click to enlarge

FAMILY, SOCIETY (permalink) 05.04.2011
when you're getting grooming advice from me, it's time to spend more time in front of the mirror.
my family was eating at lion's choice (a local roast beef sandwich house) enjoying a rare trip out for food. while ordering our food i glanced at the guy next to me. he was an older gentleman and was in the midst of talking to the cashier. his face was framed by the take-out window and in the daytime sun, i noticed a significantly long hair sticking out of his nostril. now this was not a weekend growth variety of nose hair. this one had been brewing for many months, if not years, and had become dislodged with a sneeze or snort as it was sticking out a full inch or better. my immediate inclination was to tap him on his shoulder and motion to my nose letting him know he should go check it out, but he was putting in his order and my cashier was talking to me as well. when i finished paying and turned the man had already moved on.

moments later we had our food and took our seat. i distractedly looked around and saw the man sitting on the other side of the dining room with a guy about my age who i presumed to be his son. prior to seeing his table mate, i assumed the man was alone and had no one to tell him he had a wayward nose hanging more than an inch out of his right nostril. seeing he was not alone, i got annoyed that the guy with him did not let him in on the matter. marty noticed my glance and asked if i knew them. i said i didn't but told the table what i saw. we then spent our lunchtime talking about acceptable ways to handle such moments and how informing people of such things, even if embarrassing, is the neighborly thing to do. it also came out that i was bummed out that i didn't get a chance to give the guy a heads up but going to the table uninvited to tell him in front of his lunch date was even a touch out of my comfort zone.

our table's conversation moved on but i'd occasionally look the old guy's way wondering if there was anyone else in his life who may let him in on his grooming mis-step or if he'd have to wait for the weight of the hair to pull it from the follicle naturally. after his meal was complete the man stood to refill his drink. seeing this i hurriedly excused myself grabbing my own still full drink and headed to the soda counter. he was already there and i positioned myself to his right. noticing me he shifted to the left giving me room to share. knowing the moment was short, i began with a smile ...



oh. excuse me.


i think you have a hair getting away from you there.


(i rubbed my nose and quietly added) you have a nose hair making a break for it. the next time you're in the bathroom, give it a quick look and you'll see it.

i then sidled away. his last look didn't seem to register a quick comprehension of my point but that is not the sort of conversation you tend to draw out any longer than one needs to. when i returned to the table i excitedly told my cohorts of my adventure which they eagerly took in.

that was several months ago. last week after our family dinner was wrapping up and alex and anthony had excused themselves, bella, marty, and i sat in our chairs talking of this and that. shortly before excusing herself, bella said to me:

hey dude, you got one getting away from you.


(she wipes a finger across her eyebrow as if she's giving some old mafia sign). over here. you got a hair getting away from you.

where? here?

(she motions me to lean forward and reaches forward) no here. the next time you're using the bathroom, you should run it down.

after several futile attempts of my trying to grasp it, she reached up and grabbed the long hair that decided to start pointing straight out from my head instead of resting flat with the others. once she had a pinch on it, she gave it a few soft tugs to prove her find. seeing how long it took for me to get the message, i now worry i should have sent bella over to the old guy instead of me given how slow i was in understanding her not at all subtle clues.

and don't think i (or marty) didn't notice her perfect re-use of my technique (on me). and while i'm sure having a keen memory will benefit my children in life and school, i can see, already, it isn't doing my parenting any kind of favors given their seeming ability to recall my every bit advice, which oftentimes, when used on or against me, seems less sage than when directed at others.

FAMILY, FRIENDS (permalink) 04.15.2011
like a halfway-house with regulars
snake, my oldest friend in life, passed through town yesterday and stopped to have dinner with us. i remember when i was younger, before kids, and knew company was coming, i'd clean my place up, putting things away, cleaning the toilets and dusting. now the extent of my civility is when they arrive saying, "if you have anything you care about, you might want to leave it in your car."

another thing i noticed is that when i walked him through the house, instead of saying this is alex's bedroom or this is where mary and i sleep, i was saying things like, "uhhm yeah, some people sleep in here, and uh, this over here is another sleeping room that people sleep in most nights."

and as if all that wasn't enough, the night before we announced my friend's visit at the dinner table, we also said that we were having an unexpected steak night. bella asked if she could put the bacon shield (a metal, three-sided structure put around a pan cooking bacon to contain the splattering) around her plate so our guest didn't have to watch her eat steak. marty said that she'd prefer bella used it as a learning opportunity and try to eat like a proper young lady, even using silverware. conversely, i supported bella's bacon-shield idea and suggested she use it wether we had a guest at our table or not.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.05.2011
kinda like saving dessert for after dinner
marty attaches the phrase "after college" to most things the kids ask regarding grown-up choices. this would be stuff like having children, getting married, buying horses, or living in bigger homes 1. this message falls in great alignment with our "nothing permanent" policy (explained here).

my hope by the use of this phrase is that they in fact wait until after college for the litany of things described. marty's hope is we can at least get them out of high school before dealing with them.

here is one case i really hope i'm right.

1 anthony desperately wants us to move to a bigger home. this became a sticking point with him after we visited some friends. funny thing is their home is no bigger than ours, might even be a touch smaller. but, it was a ranch layout loaded with circles (doorways that connected rooms together) so it had a mesmerizing and labyrinthal quality especially to someone who can barely see at a counter level.

TRAVEL, PHOTO, FAMILY (permalink) 03.25.2011
two minutes from my vantage point.

PHOTO, FAMILY (permalink) 10.15.2010
i haven't even scratched the surface

for those who doubted i was one of the most impeccably dressed little people in whatever zip code we occupied

but it was such a infinitely small price to pay in exchange for her diligence, love, consistency, and lifelong dedication.

PHOTO, FAMILY (permalink) 10.14.2010
mom as mom

nyla the newlywed

nyla the new mom

and if there was a burden of being my mom's only child, it was shouldering her love of dressing me in smart and fancy outfits.
i assure you i have more photographic evidence of this, not that you'd need it, but for now, this will need to suffice.

FAMILY, AUDIO (permalink) 10.13.2010
for me.
here's a recording of me reading my mom's eulogy. i recorded myself reading it hours before the service out of fear that i wouldn't be able to get through it when the time came. for my own irrational reasons, it was important to me that my words be delivered in my voice. my intention was to ask the funeral parlor to pipe the ipod feed into the room when it was time, but i only learned minutes before the service they didn't have the ability to do this so i ended up having to read it after all.

shockingly, i made it through. i attribute this unlikely success to something marty told me. when marty's father passed two years ago, marty was the one (of the seven children) who gave the reading, the reading that they all prepared together. when i asked her how she ever made it, she said she realized if she didn't do it then, she'd never get another chance to honor her father in this way. something in the importance of this moment resonated with me. and i'd be lieing if i said, my mothers close proximity to me didn't urge me on, just as she has her entire life. i was glad this last push culminated in a show of my gratitude and infinite thanks for all she did for me.

while i'm glad i was able to deliver the words in person, i'm also glad to have this audio record that was made just hours earlier. i'm posting this here more for me than for you, but as always, you're certainly welcome to step into my world and partake.

image eulogy for nyla kern (rutman) dearmitt
read by her son, troy lane dearmitt
october 7, 2010
13:49 / 8mb

PHOTO, FAMILY (permalink) 10.12.2010
mom in youth

south carolina

saturday bath

school photos

may day

atlantic city, nj

mom and brother

mamma oakley

senior picture

FAMILY, TRAVEL (permalink) 08.09.2010
red-letter weekend.
this past weekend marty's family gathered at the lake house of one of the in-laws. anthony believed, until we arrived, that the lake of a lake house existed inside the house instead of next to it. he was only partially convinced otherwise upon arrival. this weekend replaced the annual camping trip marty's family used to take before her father passed and the family camper was sold. while there were still blow-up mattresses involved there were now also king-sized beds, private bathrooms, docks with tall water slides, jet-skis, and boats good for fishing, water-skiing and/or giant-raft pulling.

the three-day weekend began with a morning of tubing. on anthony's second round out (with bella and i) a bout of wake turbulence bounced him into the air and out of the raft. seeing him fly out of sight i rolled backwards into the water (navy seal style!) and after twisting and rolling in the waves i came up to spot him bobbing in the water about twenty feet away. i quickly swam to him and and when i arrived he crossed his arms and dejectedly told me, "i no like tubing anymore!" to which i said i understood and we'd take a break, which we did, which was fortunately easy given all of the other equally fun distractions.

the weekend ended with alex becoming an accomplished jet-skier. when he began on day one he didn't want to go more than 10mph, even as a passenger. by the end of the weekend he was charging over waves at more than 40mph. for his last ride, alex insisted on taking his uncle mike out to show him how good he was doing. afterwards, mike commented to me how coordinated alex was at handling the ski (e.g. body lean on banking turns and rooster tails). he added i should hope this zeal never translated to a motorcycle. as for bella, she broke the 30mph mark within five minutes and the 40mph mark about seven seconds after that.

below are a few pictures from the weekend. the anfer picture shows him lazing in the water after going off the dock's water slide. the next two are of alex and bella piloting the jet-skis (and represents what i saw for a very large part of the weekend). the picture of bella ain't so hot but properly framing a shot ain't so easy when, between the chop and erratic accelerations, you're fighting to not get thrown from the seat. and with aleo, it's curious as a passenger to look down and see arms as wispy as his confidently governing something he just began learning days earlier.

thanks aunt chrissy and uncle mike for the invitation, all the effort and the bounty of experiences. my family's sunday dinner table conversation after arriving home was rich and alive with excited retellings and rehashings of the weekend. big and memorable fun.

FAMILY, TRAVEL, PHOTO (permalink) 07.23.2010
summer 2010 vacation - photo vomit


FAMILY, TRAVEL (permalink) 07.22.2010
summer 2010 vacation - most enlightening
yesterday i talked about the what i found most surprising about my trip, today i wanted to share what i found most enlightening. the moment came in the last hour of the 208 hour vacation experience. we were almost home. the kids were playing in the back as they had the whole way there and the whole way back. marty, in the seat to me, had her head back on the seat rest, her eyes closed, feet on the dashboard and a pillow wrapped up in her arms as if it were a stack of books and she were walking to class. after glancing at her for a moment i broke the silence by saying that when i was younger i was always hyper excited for vacations and uber depressed to return from them. but now, while i still love and anticipate vacations, i no longer experience the extreme elation and even more extreme letdown i used to. i view this in a very positive way as a mark of my daily life and routines and i'm immensely appreciative to have reached a place as satisfying as this.

without opening her eyes, marty responded that the thing she disliked most about returning from vacation these days was the solitude of her life. confused, i commented that it seemed she got out a lot, through arranged, weekly events with other stay at home moms and friends and such. she elaborated saying she didn't mean solitude as in simply being alone but rather solitude as in not getting enough adult interaction and that spending the lion-share of your time with someone whose conversational repertoire predominately consists of the question 'why?' takes a dramatic toll on an educated and previously mentally challenged individual. she went on to say how she totally understood how not all moms (or dads) could manage staying at home with kids because the reality and rigors of just you and a child or two at home are serious. the occasional bouts of disbelief at the state of your life, rational or not, could be defeating. i thought of a new neighbor, fresh from philadelphia and at home all day with a thirteen month old while her husband is at work and her with no local network yet. then i thought of our friend e-love who teaches school full-time and then changes gears, dramatically, to care for their children full-time in the summer months. even though e-love has the advantage of nine months of diversity, i imagine his scenario has to be an even harder lifestyle than a straight full-time parent who has at least the consistency-crutch to lean upon. after marty expressed her sentiment she slid into her quiet reverie again. i let her be and drove on wordlessly.

for some time now, i've been doing an exercise on monday mornings. it is from the happier book i read last year. in the exercise you are to imagine you are at the end of your life and mere moments from death. you have the sudden ability to travel, via a time machine, to your present day self. you are asked to contemplate and answer the question, 'what is the one piece of advice your expiring self would give your present-day self?'. last monday, my first day back from vacation and the day after i had the above conversation with marty, my answer to that question was, "be more empathetic about how challenging my wife's job of raising our children is — and how extraordinary she is at this job."

FAMILY, PHOTO, TRAVEL (permalink) 07.21.2010
summer 2010 vacation - most surprising
after a long family road trip and a week in a space that is not our home, the thing i found most surprising from this year's trip is how well our kids travel. they fare far better than i did as at their age(s) and i can't help but think they're better passengers than the seven kids packed into marty's family's wood-paneled station wagon, cage-match style. marty and i tried to dissect what it was that made our ilk so amenable to repeated twelve hour stretches in the car. i suggested that it was because they didn't routinely watch tv so their stimulus requirements haven't been unfairly "adjusted" thus making the notion of sitting in car for hours and hours untenable (we don't have a tv in our home so we obviously don't have one in our car, portable or otherwise).

but then there is also all the preliminary work marty does up front with their bins. here she goes out and buys a lot of dime store trinkets and activity books and travel games before the trip. she then sets each kid up with a bin or backpack of stuff they can do and throughout the trip sneaks new things into their stashes. although the older kids are now wise to her game and ask before we even leave if they can have a new thing now and if not when. also, with each new thing they get, alex is quick to ask if there are more new things or if the new thing supply has been depleted. hearing there might be another bauble or two in the wings creates a christmas eve like jittery anticipation.

this year i did something new and bought one thing to be worked into each kid's rotation. the one that got the most play was a license plate tracker game. it was a sturdy wooden plaque with the map of the us. on top of each state was a small block of wood that could be flipped. to start, you flip all the states to a text description of the state and its capital (after the kids learn the states, there is also a blank side option so you have to pick/find the state as well). when you see a car with a plate from that state, you call it out and whoever has the board will find the state, quiz the car on the capital and then flip it over, revealing a graphical representation of the state's license plate. the state capitals is something i never knew and would like to so i thought this would be a good way for me (and inadvertently my children) to learn them. it proved to be a great distraction and added a sporting element to our car time.

the other game i got for the trip and liked was a hangman game by the same company who made the license plate game, melissa and doug. although we only played a few actual games of hangman on it, it was mostly used by anthony to practice writing letters in the dry-erase part. what he would do is flip all the letters and body parts face down and then randomly turn the letters over one at a time. after flipping a letter he would draw it with the pen, and then erase it with his finger and go onto the next. i never quite figured out what criteria he used for flipping the body parts but there was some sort of logic at play in his head. in testament of how effective this was, before the trip anthony couldn't write a single letter, aside from the occasional, incidental capital i, and now the dude has written the entire alphabet many times, and with startling improvement.

another thing marty added this year, which i think started last year, was the kids get to pick one thing out at every gas stop. while the initial downside is it adds a small expense to the bottom line, the great upside is that they no longer clamor for mcdonalds which we only would ever eat at on vacation but have learned that they just want the toys and never eat more than six bites of the food and wind up starving again within the hour. and i've come to a point in my life where i can no longer stomach mcdonalds at all. and back in my work-traveling days, because of routine twenty minute lunches, there would be times i'd eat mcdonalds every day of the week, multiple weeks in a row ... and even liked it fine. but the best thing about the gas station allowance is watching the sorts of things the kids pick, the regrets they have about lesser picks, and how their choices fluctuate, sometimes wildly, seeing everything from bubble gum tape to a bottle of gatorade. the child's mind is a fascinating thing to watch, especially when it is confronted with selecting a single item in a labyrinth of florescent-lit of shiny, shrink-wrapped treats and eats.

FAMILY, PHOTO, TRAVEL (permalink) 07.20.2010
summer vacation 2010 - personas
on last year's vacation, you may recall, we issued vacation moniker's to the kids based on a prominent behavior we observed given all the time we spent in and around each other. this year we did the same. this is the result:
  • isabella 'bella daddy say whhaatttt??' walter dearmitt because of the mannerism she picked up from her hannah montana/miley cyrus marathon on one of the five televisions at our house rental. this is apparently something miley/hannah says at least once in every show using a funny, sing-songy affect which bella seemed to have perfectly captured.

  • alexander 'nuts and weiners' walter dearmitt because of how silly he got running around with a friend close to his age that stayed with us in the house. these games rapidly devolved into the boys (via alex's tutelage) constantly referring to, singing songs about, or threatening to karate chop everyone's nuts and weiners in the house. i couldn't be prouder that my boy was the one to teach their boy this lovely and becoming mannerism.

  • anthony 'pee-face' walter dearmitt because this is how he tries to keep up with his nuts and weiners older brother by calling everyone a pee-face. in mulling this over i've come to consider this an impressively effective and entirely under-used phraseology and one i will be introducing to my corner of society in the near future. which i guess ultimately means that in this cycle alex influences anthony and anthony influences me and this would be just about where i've always fallen on the trend-setting train my entire life.

and i reckon if we can brand the kids with personality-illuminating nicknames, there is no reason the courtesy shouldn't be extended to the parental units that allow the obnoxious behavior noted above to happen.
  • marty 'twin bed' jean walter because even though our room had a spacious and inviting king sized bed with an expansive ocean view, marty slept on a twin mattress on the floor (with an obstructed view of the window) because she couldn't deal with sleeping with more than one person in the bed (anthony and i) regardless of its size. by the end of the week, marty was blissfully alone on her twin mattress on the floor while i slept with not one, not two, but all three of our children in what proved to be a veritable tangle of humanity and limbs.

  • and i think i would have been branded troy "georges" lane dearmitt in honor of the book i was obsessively reading every free moment i could steal. the severity of my condition was fully exposed when i was caught reading in the corner of the toilet nook in our master suite's bathroom. i could see how an outsider might call it a bit off but this stool sitting beneath a skylight even if smack between the comode and the two-head, walk-in shower was made for a private moment and a good book, which georges by dumas so completely was!

FAMILY (permalink) 07.13.2010
taking bella's notion of togetherness to an all new height.
last week i talked about our time dog-sitting. there was an oscar detail i forgot to share.

in our current games of musical beds in the night, most days puts me and alex waking up together on a futon in the ping-pong room (anthony having made my usual and expected spot his place of choice). one morning when i woke up alex was staring at me with bright eyes. this was my first conversation of the day:

good morning dad.

good morning alex.



one time oscar was licking his nuts and then i saw a red thing come out of his privates and it was shiny and it was soooo gross ... and he was licking it.

people often comment on how calm and passive i come off at work. when your day begins with colorful, and wide-eyed descriptions of aroused, self-stimulated male organs, there ain't a lot life can throw at you that will sound alarming or disturbing.

FAMILY (permalink) 07.06.2010
somebody shut the front door!!!!!
we've been dog sitting for the last five weeks. he is a small, light-shedding, black and white terrier of some sort named oscar. he was obtained from a shelter by the family of a friend of marty's. he is very mellow and easy going which can be mostly seen in how he shoulders the unpredictable life of sharing living quarters with anthony.

the first week oscar was with us alex kept a small supply of dog food in an R2-D2 toy clipped to his belt-loop. every time alex would pass oscar he'd stop the dog, hunch himself over, pat the dog on the head, and ask if he wanted a treat. the first few times oscar would sit there jittery with excitement, his tail swishing erratically behind him. alex would then fight to open the small toy given it's awkward position at his waist. once open, alex would pluck a few pieces of dog food out and lovingly say, "here you go oscar-boy" holding his palm out to oscar who would nudge and push the small bits around with his nose before tentatively pulling them into his mouth with a lapping tongue. after oscar discovered these seemingly sacred and hard to get to treats were no different than the dry food he was already neglecting downstairs, oscar's body language emanated an "are you kidding me" affect and the impromptu R2-D2 snack breaks waned.

a few weeks in, the dog's owner, marty's friend, called to check on things. alex was the one to answer the phone. before marty became aware the call was for her, alex had told the lady that oscar threw up on a rug and pooped in the basement and that these things made his mom yell. by the time marty intervened, alex had the poor woman on the brink of packing up her family and returning home early in attempt to salvage this maimed relationship. marty, using all of her skills and grace, demoted alex's apocalyptic descriptions as mere transition pains and said everything was good and fine.

because i nickname everyone and everything, i took to calling the dog osky. one morning when i passed through the kitchen for breakfast and bid osky a good day, anthony told me not to do that and that osky was a bad word. before i could defend myself, bella jumped in, telling anthony that osky wasn't a bad word. after a pause and a reflective grunt from anthony bella added, "that is unless you change the 'aaww' to an 'aahh', and remove the 'skee'. then you had a bad word. and if you added the word 'hole' on the end of that word, then you would have an especially bad word." there is something to be said for getting what you know will be your most terrifying and surprising moment of the day out of the way before you have even have pants on.

two days before oscar was to leave, i asked bella what she thought the best thing about having oscar was. she thought for a moment, just a moment, and said the best thing about having a dog was it brought our family closer together. i asked her to explain why. she went on to say that since oscar needed lots of walks it caused people in the family to go out together; she and mom, she and i, anthony and i, she and alex. and also, there were several times where we'd gather around to see how someone was playing with oscar because it was cute or funny. i will give it to the girl, she can make a solid on-the-fly argument that is more cogent than i've seen grown men make in the heat of debate. in thinking about her observation, i would say that in the last five weeks just about the only one on one time i shared with anthony was while he and i were out walking oscar. although i guess i should also count the numerous times when i was explaining to anthony, one-on-one, that a dog's anus is not its GO button even if it looks like one and pushing it does, without fail, make the dog go.

in the end, we've learned the kids are closer to being ready for a dog than they were a year ago. we've also learned the same could be said of their father even if my progress hasn't been as significant. and we've learned that when all is going well, marty could possibly be caught petting and loving on the dog. that said, we've also learned that when marty's not feeling the life with a dog, the dog and whoever is responsible for bringing the cur into marty's home better sleep lightly until marty's funk passes.

FAMILY (permalink) 05.06.2010
how we roll
the third thing marty said to me the other morning was, "tonight i think you should get an erection at the dinner table and then show it to everyone."

if you're wondering how such a request comes to pass, this is how.
  1. it begins with an unfinished patio project in the backyard.
  2. this is followed by a two-hour game of boats and moats which involves the muddy patio pit, a running garden hose, and my three children (as well as a few neighbor kids).
  3. then comes a dinner call.
  4. before children may enter the home, they must be hosed off. for the older children, this can be done by them holding hands out and pulling pant cuffs upward. for the three year old, nothing is salvageable and he must be stripped of everything and hosed down like a reluctant prisoner being processed for incarceration.
  5. next comes the three year old's very usual reluctance to put a diaper back on which results with him eating dinner naked.
  6. shortly after thankfuls, the three year old looks at his lap and says his penis is 'giant'. to this, his biology teacher mother flatly says, "that is called an erection anthony which means a lot of blood has gone to your penis but you don't usually see it because it is usually hidden in your underwear" to which he says a reflective "kewl" and to which his brother who is already keen to the giant penis condition says nothing but his sister (who is not so keen on the condition) says, "neat, can i see."
  7. to this anthony says sure, stands up on his chair, juts his groin forward making his miniature staff hover over his prepared dinner plate of french toast and syrup.
  8. alex and marty paid him no mind. bella craned forward to see better. i sat taking the whole scene in and guessed this very scenario had probably never gone down in our eighty year old dining room and thought it was super cool (kewl) it was unfolding (pun prop) right before me. standing there as he was, he looked like a miniature gladiator home from expanding the empire, and for me conjured images of roman decadence and pride.
  9. without looking up, and while stabbing a few bits of french toast marty said (again flatly), "boys at my dinner table don't show off their penises while the family is eating so please sit down and finish your meal."
  10. and once again, marty earns our home's title of 'spoilsport'.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.29.2010
my little, big nurturer
i came home from work yesterday feeling dour. because this is not a mood or emotion that hits me often when the stars align in certain ways against me, the results are amplified. i sat through dinner quietly, distantly, while my family engaged in one another. i was so occupied, i hadn't even noticed that everyone had left and i was sitting alone in the abandoned dining room. i pushed my plate back and rested my head in my hands, massaging my temples. after an unknown number of minutes, i sensed a presence next to me and glanced to my left. alex was standing there staring at me. when i looked at him he didn't say anything, he just inched slightly closer to me. when i didn't respond he inched forward again to where his shoulder touched mine. at this contact i sat up and he slid onto my lap. i leaned back and he snuggled into my chest. if someone happened upon this scene, they might think they were watching a father comfort a son without realizing it was truly the other way around.

KIDS, PARENTING, FAMILY (permalink) 03.02.2010
another one of those moments
in our home we have a bedtime hour. in this hour, every motion, action and thought is to be directed at the transition from being a foul, bristling, engaged, sporting, singing, learning, living, sassing young person to a sound asleep human. this is an all hands on deck affair and anything short of full participation has the home listing and fighting the currents.

last night, just seven minutes into the bedtime hour, i found myself locked up with bella on what began as a simple matter of semantics. i learned long ago that heated debate is not a conducive facet of the bedtime hour, but here on this night, i was fully engaged. this distraction left alex and anthony free to bury each other in the multitude of blankets and comforters piled on a bed. seeing this, i ordered them to the bathroom to go potty and brush their teeth. after studying my taut tone for the briefest of moments, they complied. bella and i proceeded down our path. just as i (and the beloved art of logic) was making headway, alex dashed into the room saying, "look at what anthony did." i studied him and saw nothing. i asked him what anthony did. alex turned to show a long smear of fluorescent tooth paste down the back of his shirt. ANTHONY! STOP PUTTING TOOTH PASTE ON YOUR BROTHER! i ignored his return plea of, "but, i like putting toothpaste on yallix." i returned my attention to bella. as we continued our slow trek to understanding marty called up the stairs, "i have to run some cookies across midland. i'll be back in a few." at this hour, with this start, i'm unable to count the number of bad things that could go down in "a few" minutes. but here we were.

digging out begins with a single shovelful of dirt. i looked at bella and said, "i hear your point but i hope you hear mine. i needed you to do something and i took the time to explain why i needed you to do it. in the future i need you work with me on that." with as much compliance and respect you could expect from a willful eight year old girl, bella turned to begin her bedtime ritual. i turned to alex, asked him to lift his arms up and pulled the soiled shirt over his head and told him to follow me. i walked to the bathroom and pulled the toothpaste out of anthony's hand, picked his protesting frame up under my arm, walked him to his room, threw him in his bed, and told him if he got out i was going to frazzle his biscuits and make him sleep on the garage roof. by some karmic credit i accrued in a previous life, everyone was asleep within the hour.

if there is a human (non-sleeping) restful state such as the peace a person meditating finds, the experience of wrangling unwilling, untamed children without the use of physical trauma is the opposite of that restful state. and were you to remove all life-threatening scenarios from the picture, this act of directing children stands as one of the most trying human endeavors an adult can navigate. that said, we've had our share of moments where a call to 911 was surely in the cards, placing these matters occasionally into the life-threatening category (although, that is not the exact spirit i am talking about here).

and, to be fair, while marty isn't one of the most diligent practitioners of the bedtime hour given she's essentially been in a form of the bedtime hour all day at this point, she also does not typically leave the home and the night i described above was an unusual exception. but she may have also seen the dark cloud forming in my study and chose to save herself from the next fateful (and unpredictable) eleven minutes that unfolded in the upstairs of our home during the bedtime hour.

FAMILY, KIDS (permalink) 01.04.2010
refreshed, revitalized, and dandruff free
a memorable moment from each of the kids over the last few weeks.

everytime we drove by a nativity scene, anthony would call out, "hey! baby genius! baby genius!"

and during our christmas meal thank-yous at my parents house alex led off with "i'm thankful we have food to eat and that none of us died before this christmas day."

and while driving home from visiting friends bella enlightened the family with the following bit of wisdom:

don't ever say 'sitting' while holding your tongue.

TROY (after thinking it through)
where'd you learn that?


from who?

i don't remember. but they taught a bunch of people by telling them to all say "i was sitting on the toilet the other day" while holding their tongues.

i hope your break was equally irreverent, insightful, and educational.

QUOTES, FAMILY (permalink) 10.27.2009
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
get your ass out here

FAMILY, HEALTH (permalink) 10.23.2009
birds and the bees are attacking
marty expressed to her older sister that she was surprised to already be fielding puberty-related questions from bella. marty thought she had a few more years of girlish innocence in her oldest child. to this, marty's sister said her own daughter, at thirteen, had bigger breasts than she, the mother, did so girlish innocence becomes girlish curiosity real quick.

the mom went onto share a detail from when her husband gave the talk to their son when he was around eleven. after explaining the hows, the whats and the whys of it all the boy sat there stupefied at this new intelligence. after a few moments of silence he turned to his dad and mustered the eyes-down courage to ask a single question, "so, just how long do you have to do that for?"

when marty recounted this to some girlfriends, she laughingly added that the only right answer is, at least four minutes. i told marty if she keeps bragging about my sexual prowess to the neighborhood ladies, one of them might swoop in and steal me away. through her belly-laughing marty was able to tell me she's willing to take her chances on that one.

FAMILY (permalink) 10.14.2009
i imagine it feels good when the work starts paying off
the Liefer family of five were walking along. one of the younger children did something that caused a parent to chastise them. the child resisted the parent, asking why they couldn't do what they wanted to do. the parent stalled, unable to verbalize the reason. the first parent looked to the second parent for help. before either parent could say why they wanted the behavior to stop, their oldest child, a girl of ten, interrupted the process saying, "you can't do it sam because it's not the Liefer way".

FAMILY (permalink) 05.28.2009
ghost writer
below is bella's journal entry regarding nate's demise.

it is important to note that this is not bella's journal entry in her own journal, but this is bella's journal entry in alexander's journal. it seems she has taken up journaling about moments of import in alex's life in alex's journal i guess until he is able to do so himself. a bit more time and she very well may take over publishing content to this site as well. which would make sense enough given forty percent of the content is about her anyway.

click to enlarge

nate died may 26, 2009. it was a very weary day. the day nate died he would never move again except in heaven.

everyone came and said their goodbyes. ellie, big ben, molly, me, my dad, cate, and of course the owner of the wonderful pet, my brother alex. we buried him under our favorite place to be, the swing that we all love to swing on. it was a sad, sad day. we all loved nate but we knew that he would die and the very next day he did. that is today.

FAMILY (permalink) 05.27.2009
now i see why people start with fish
i was in my office. it was late afternoon. i was talking with my boss on the phone. my cell phone rang. it was a call from home. my cell phone ringing was rare. and a mid-day call from marty even rarer. i said as much to my boss and asked him to hold on.

hello. marty? is everything ok?

this isn't marty. it's bella.

oh hey bella. can i call you back in a minute?


TROY (pause and smirk at the very fair question)
never mind bell. what is it?

it's nate. he's dying. he's mostly out of his shell.

oh. i'm sorry.

we don't think he has much time left. you should come home as soon as you can. alex is quite upset.

ok. i will. thanks bella. sorry.

nate is alex's hermit crab and our family's first (and test) pet. nate was a real character until about a week ago when something happened and he became much less of a character. no one knows, or is fessing to at least, what happened. in addition to the sadness that comes from losing a pet, the kids are concerned on what this implies towards future pets. i told them we wouldn't be discussing such matters before nate was even in the ground.

as for nate's time with us, he led an attention-heavy life here in our home. one day while reading on the porch i saw alex throwing what i thought was a ball in the front yard. after a moment though i realized i couldn't see a ball and asked alex what he was throwing. he said he was throwing nate. i scolded this choice to which alex immediately replied that he was only doing it because nate liked it and he was throwing him in the grass and not on the sidewalk like anthony did. at this last bit of news my head sagged and all argumentativeness left me. another time nate went missing. when marty and i worked with the kids (with great effort) to reconstruct nate's last whereabouts, his morning journey seemed daunting between rides in a toy car and trips down the slide. the last recollection was he had been given to anthony who threw him on the couch and no one bothered to retrieve him. nate was then found picking his way through some knitted afghan. fact is, every time i'd see nate pop out of his shell and start crawling up my arm or shirt, i was mildly amazed at the spunky crustaceans grit.

when i sank the shovel into the dirt, the boy from down the way started humming what sounded like the ceremonial music playing at the end of the the original star wars movie. i glanced at him to find him standing with his humming head bowed reverently. there was a small and motley group of neighbor kids standing around for our family's first pet burial. alex was holding the plastic container that previously contained the creamy white icing you put on top of freshly cooked cinnamon rolls that come in the cardboard tube. a neighbor girl had lined the bottom with blades of grass and after setting nate and his painted shell onto the grass we covered him with more grass. alex now held this makeshift coffin in his hands and was quietly standing next to the hole i was digging.

when the hole was ready i asked alex to set nate in there. he didn't want to so i took the round container from his tentative hand and balanced it in the dirt hole. i picked up the shovel to cover the hole when another neighbor girl stopped me and said we should say some words first. i set the shovel to the side. i asked alex if he wanted to say anything. he did not. the girl who suggested a prayer then offered several kind sentiments about nate and how lively he always was. the boy humming the star wars music then began,

i knew alex's hermit crab a very long time and thought ... what was his name ?


and thought nate was a fine hermit crab and good pet.

i then said our family would miss nate and was sorry he couldn't have been with us longer. bella interrupted me accusing anthony of being the reason nate died. alex then said it was my fault because i gave nate a vacation food pellet when we went camping and he didn't like it and starved to death. then the small band of neighbor kids began chiming in with their observations and memories of nate happenings. if there were a full-sized coffin involved i'm pretty sure someone would have thrown their body over it. i sternly quieted the crowd telling them that this was not the place to talk about what happened and that we were here to say our goodbyes to our friend. i then grabbed the shovel and filled the hole with dirt. alex put his face into my side. seeing this the others turned and respectfully walked away. when they were gone alex asked if we could take nate out now to say prayers to him. i explained that we wouldn't be taking nate out again now that he was buried. with this alex began to cry. he said we got to keep seeing grandpa when he died. i guessed that he was talking about the viewing and the wake and i explained that after the burial this did not happen anymore. i then carried alex to the front porch and held him in my lap while he cried, his face buried in my chest.

about ten minutes later the kids who attended the funeral came out the front door and started walking home. one of the girls a few houses away crouched down on the sidewalk and stood up with something cupped in her hand. she turned and ran back to our house calling out that she found a lightning bug, the first one of the season. hearing this alex sat up, slid off my lap and said, "i'll get the bug box." and that easily life moved forward.

part 2

FAMILY (permalink) 04.09.2009
will you pause this so i can go stuff pop-tarts down my pants
a few sundays back we had brunch at a friend's house. in addition to the usual fixings, the host made a two pound platter of bacon that was wicked good and that my people fiended on like we had never seen the food product before. that night while doing laundry, i found a soggy piece of bacon in the bottom of the washer that one of our children had stuck into their pants pocket. i was only mildly surprised because the week before i found the decimated remnants of three strawberries after doing a load of darks.

the one thing that saves marty and i from having everyone think we are starving our children is that they, our children, don't steal more food from people's tables and pantries because they are too glued to people's television sets to make the effort.

remember, not having a television doesn't make marty and i better parents, it makes our kids better kids.

FAMILY (permalink) 03.12.2009
better safe than sorry
yesterday was marty's birthday. she turned 38. the first words said in our home on the day of marty's 38th birthday was, "dad, i think i'm going to vomit." it was said by alex who was at the time of his utterance laid out next to me. we had both been cast from our usual sleeping spots and were sleeping on the futon in the ping pong room. i was displaced by anthony (who has been very camped out in my spot as of late) and alex by a rogue spider we're having problems locating.

after alex said he felt like he was going to puke i threw the sheets back and stumble-tripped downstairs pushing on the walls with my hands to keep me vertical. marty's brother taught me something about parenting. he said that when you hear the words THINK coupled with PUKE or VOMIT you should run. you should run very fast. and get a bowl. and put it in front of the complaining child as quickly as possible. the last time he heard those words and didn't run fast, he spent the next twenty minutes of his life spooning gelatinous chunks of mostly digested food out of the many creases and folds of his child's bed.

and for the more superstitious folks out there, this initial comment of the day did not dictate the day's mood. fortunately. and i think i did good on presents. there may be some she actually doesn't return.

FAMILY (permalink) 02.20.2009
no one sleeps naked in this house! well, almost no one.
to bed ...

to bed alex wears the clothes he wore to school that day.

to bed bella wears the clothes she is going to wear to school the next day.

to bed anthony wears whatever we can fight him into.

to bed marty wears christmas pajamas a surprising number of times throughout the year.

to bed i wear, well, they're all nuts so i wear nothing at all.

p.s. the first time i saw bella getting dressed for school the night before so she could sleep ten extra minutes, my heart burst with pride. she may as well have sat down at a piano and banged out a bach concerto.

p.s.s. for adults, wearing clothes/pajamas/underwear to bed is like, if i may again use my movies to sleeping comparison, is like wearing a tuxedo to watch an installment of american pie at your local cine.

FAMILY (permalink) 02.19.2009
the village is alive and well
marty went to a play with her mother last night thus putting me in the box with the kids. dinner (custard french toast) went well. immediately after dinner alex and anthony played trains while bella snuck in some computer time. a neighbor girl called asking if she and her brother could come over to play. whispering into the phone, i told her i didn't think it would be a good idea tonight. i whispered my response because i didn't want the natives to know i was nixing a play date. but it was getting late. and i was alone and greatly outnumbered already. i had reasons. to my whisper, the girl whined out a long 'pahhhlleeeezz' and added that they'd be no trouble at all. going against my better judgment i greenlit the visit.

i could picture the groan in bella's face when the knock rung through the house. computer time is sacred to child with no television. after being let in, the visiting girl immediately came upstairs and found me. she asked, "will you play ogre?" this time my face groaned. i said no. she asked why. i said because i didn't want to get everyone worked up just before bed. another whiny pahhhlleeeezz rolled out of her saggy-shouldered body. no trouble my ass.

after a short while of non-ogre play time the girl's mum called and the kids went home for bed. i ushered my kids to the bathroom for peeing, pooping, brushing and the hearing of the petitions to sleep in the clothes they'd been wearing all day. then anthony, alex and i moved to the upper bunk for reading. bella was below reading her own books. even though no one is listening to her story she reads out loud. i've asked her if she can read in her head when i'm reading to the boys because her reading when i'm reading is distracting. she argues that if i get to read out loud she shouldn't have to read in her brain (her words) and she doesn't care if her reading out loud is distracting when i'm reading out loud because my reading out loud is distracting to her trying to read in her brain. this girl could twist a physicist in knots in minutes.

alex starts fading first. i'm about three minutes behind him. staying awake at this moment is the hardest thing i've done all day. i always fall asleep after reading to alex. sometimes he goes first. sometimes i go first. but we both go and we usually do so within minutes of one another. i usually sleep for twenty minutes to an hour. it's my pre-night power nap that allows me to work until 2am. but tonight, tonight i can't fall asleep because i do have anthony and i don't have marty. but i do fall asleep. anthony, bored, leaves. i sense him leaving but can't open my eyes. i groggily hear bella call out "it's ok dad. i got him." more sleep. i hear anthony call out. it's been just minutes. not hours. i force myself up and down the bunk ladder. i walk to my bedroom where i hear voices. bella and anthony are snuggled, sitting up on the pillows with the covers pulled up over their laps. a mess of books are spread out before them, but they aren't reading. bella is holding anthony's fist out in front of him and is modeling his fingers in different poses. she's saying:

if you hold this finger up it means "hey you" or "over there". if you hold your thumb up like this it means "good". but don't ever hold this finger up like this because that means, well, that means a really bad thing, like, i wish for you to die and i hope that happens to you everyday. it is not a nice or good finger to hold up ever. ever. so don't do that anthony. you're a nicer boy than that. all right?

i know it's possible to get through life without a village, but i gotta say life's much more pleasant with one.

FAMILY (permalink) 08.15.2008
wishing i had a picture.
summer at our house ends today in that next week we have kids starting back up at school. the biggest impact for me does not deal with resuming the fight to get kids out of bed, or the rush to get them to school or enduring the dinner table's long battle stories of recess trespasses, but what i will miss most is that my full entourage will no longer escort me to work.

i guess most know i walk to work. it's about a nine minute commute on foot. the family doesn't come the whole way. just down the street until i turn a corner. but when i do turn that corner they all stand there waving and bye-ing and wishing me a good day and alex always yells that if i see any broken glass i should walk around it. yesterday as i turned and looked back at my still pajama'd crew waving and shouting as they left my sight i had the sad realization that it will never be just like that again.

FAMILY, WEB (permalink) 04.22.2008
this here's about to become a pay site.
back in the day of the early web, there was this girl who wired her bedroom with webcams. i can't remember her name but she went on to become quite an internet phenom. you could just tune in and see what was happening in her room at any time, day or night. for sure, much of the time she'd be away at school or work or life. most of the time she was in, she'd be reading or writing or talking on the phone. a few lucky times, frenetic, mouse-wielding fanboys were met with her and a rare date she'd brought home to mack and more. what those guys would have done to trade the flashing lights of their baud modems for a broadband connection back then i can only imagine.

i think i'm going to wire my whole house with cameras. for as pedestrian and uninteresting as my house is, we have our share of cussing, nudity and fisticuffs. and i can run with the legends because when i wake up in the morning, i might be alone or i might have up to four humans in bed with me, sometimes even on top of me. for added intrigue and entertainment, i'm going to set up an hourly poll asking viewers to guess what's happening before their video feed begins. questions could include:
  • is anthony wearing pants?
  • is alex wearing a dress?
  • is troy wearing anything?
  • is bella reading a book?
  • is a tickle-fight happening?
  • is someone touching marty right now?
there would have to be odds on each question because some are gimmes, such as that last one, because the likelihood of marty not having someone patting her breast, pushing on her buttocks, or nudging her on the shoulder urging her to get off the toilet so they can go is pretty slim at any given moment. and i'm not the culprit in any of those scenarios. i may have been before we had kids but i am not now because we have kids.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.17.2008
week in review, day 4 (marty)
early in our dating life marty cared for me once after i had my wisdom teeth out. in short, i was an ass of a patient. given this history she was not too keen on revisiting having to care for me. i was also sensitive to the implications of it. i don't know if it's the kids or my age or advances in medicine (esp drugs) but this time through has been much better, meaning i've been a much more manageable and hospitable patient, fairly low-impact even.

most importantly through all of this we've found occasion to laugh still. some at me, some at her and some at our kids. my favorite of those moments came when marty and alex were helping to get me re-situated in bed. i was holding my leg in the air, alex was holding the pillows my leg would rest on and marty was wrapping my leg with a bandage. alex looked down and saw something sneaking out of my boxers and through a cringing and turned away face shouted out in his falsetto voice, "eeewww! i can see your penis!" for the record, he was lucky i was even wearing boxers and technically it was my scrotum he was seeing and not my penis. although i think my more winsome-looking penis (compared to my scrotum) would have still been met with a shrill eeewww!

FAMILY (permalink) 04.16.2008
week in review, day 3 (bella)
most of bella's concern and attention came before the surgery. she was anxious about the procedure. much of this anxiety played out in the weeks prior through random and irrational outbursts and not the pointed and direct questions that were on her mind. what they were going to do? how much would it hurt dad? what could go wrong? what if i have to have it done? marty and i were pretty stymied by bella's wide mood swings until marty got bella to talk about it one night before bed. when it was finally done and i returned home, bella seemed herself again. aside from taking great interest in the unveiling of the wound (pictured below), she has been pretty hands off letting alex shoulder most of the humor-dad work.

but while bella is not greatly overt in her care and concern, she always leaves a mark. a couple of times i've woken up from a nap to find the center pieces of a snyder's hard pretzel sitting on my bedside table. this is my favorite part of a sourdough pretzel (better dough to salt ratio). bella knows this. when i see them i imagine her walking about the house snacking on the pretzel, careful to leave the prime center cross in tact. and when the outer ring is done, i imagine her quietly stealing into my room to set the small prize on the table before turning to leave as quietly as she came in. not once has she or i mentioned them and not once has one of those hard little knots of bread not made me grin knowingly.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.15.2008
week in review, day 2 (alex)
if you're ever going to lay in bed for a week or two and don't want to be lonely, alexander is the pal you want to have around.

the second he walks in the door from school his little feet race up the stairs towards the bedroom. once outside the door, they slow, pause even before he peeks around the door jamb to see if i'm awake. if i am up he says quietly, "hi daddy" and comes to the foot of the bed. after asking how i'm doing he runs through a short checklist of things i might need; pumps in my aqua-kuff or more tea or fresh ice or adjusted pillows. after seeing i'm stocked up and comfortable he crawls into the bed and curls up at my side leaning his head on my shoulder. we will sit like this for a short while without words. after a bit we will do one of two things; read books (BONE series) or play on the computer. the other day while bella was at school and anthony and walt were napping, alex and i sat side by side in an otherwise silent house for three hours. he was playing games on pbs kids on his computer and i was watching season three of battlestar galactica on mine. we would occasionally get the others attention to ask a question (how does this work daddy?) or point out a cool looking thing (check out this rocketship aleo.). these uninterrupted moments with alex has turned out to be a real surprise of this long stretch stuck in bed.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.14.2008
week in review, day 1 (anthony)
the last week in our house has been unique. i have been laid up in bed for six days now, only getting up to visit the bathroom, and this only when the need becomes dire. my mother stayed with us the first few days, primarily to take care of me. and marty has been doing the whole single parent thing with the kids. in that i'm stuck in bed, the house plays out more like theater to me than life. my family serves as the characters swishing in and out of my doorjamb view throughout the day. this week, i'm going to take a day for each personality and write about what makes their performance noteworthy, to my eyes at least.

let me start with anthony. he's the only one in the house i'm actually afraid of. the older kids understand i can't play or roughhouse. anthony does not. and he is a hooligan. and he is completely unpredictable. and he is the absolute wrong height to be walking around people who just had knee surgery. and he moves about the house with a cocky swagger that smacks more of a ivy league frat boy than a diapered and wordless child. when i see him stop at my door my body tenses. most times though, he just walks directly to my side and rifles through the glasses and dishes sitting on my bedside table. he reaches into full glasses to pull out a little handful of ice which he sloppily moves to his mouth. it is not uncommon for this trespass to topple glasses and crash dishes to the floor. his raids are inelegant and unquiet.

when he's not stealing or upending my food stuffs he dances for me. the style most resembles a little soft-shoe with his feet shuffling about, his arms swinging at his side. while dancing, he watches his feet in a studious manner as if evaluating his technique, although i believe he is just taking in the show as is anyone else watching. after a bit he seems to sense the need to mix it up so he turns around and steals away in our bedroom's double door closet which is situated just behind his dancing stage. once inside he pulls the doors closed, mostly. through the small gap he peeks out. when he sees you seeing him he giggles and waits. after an unpredictable pause in time he flamboyantly throws the doors open, jogging forward to the ohhs and ahhs of the crowd. he will then turn and again disappear into the closet for a repeat performance. and no one will ever question his stamina or dedication to the show given how many encores he's prepared to deliver. he is a consummate showman.

FAMILY (permalink) 03.19.2008
it seems a post from a few weeks ago has been causing a lot of confusion. first of all, marty is not pregnant and second of all marty is not pregnant. the first not pregnant clarification is for the people who felt the end of the previous post left things too uncertain. the last two lines read:

and in case you were feeling anxious for us, marty's queasiness has since passed.

but the fear hasn't.

i explained to marty that i was trying to be literary, not literal so hoped that by saying things had passed, i was implying that things had passed and we were out of the woods. sorry to have mislead some.

as for the second not pregnant disclaimer, marty recently got her hair cut short so anyone who knew of our ritual OR read that same post AND bumped into marty in the last few weeks was thinking that we were for real pregnant. now this confusion is certainly more justified and i'll say that even i was briefly duped by the circumstance of it all.

marty's stylist works a few doors down from our pediatrician so she booked anthony for a checkup and herself for a haircut in the same hour. we all drove to the doctor's office and then asked the kids if they wanted to go in with me and anthony or with mom. all voted for me and anthony (dumb luck that) so i escorted three rambunctious children into a cramped and spartan waiting room while marty took a peaceful stroll down the street.

surprisingly the kids and i got in and out quickly (you ever want to guarantee yourself good and fast service drag behind you three destructive and loud humans into places of business). upon getting into the car, we decided to go look for marty instead of waiting for her to return. i didn't know exactly where the salon was but figured if it was within walking distance we could find it. i drove down the road and soon spotted one and pulled into the lot. they had blinds up that prevented me from seeing the people inside so i told the kids to wait while i checked it out. i entered the lobby and stuck my head around the partition. i spied marty getting cut towards the back of the room. she and her hair lady were chatting lightly and i noticed that most of marty's hair was gone. i looked at the swaths of hair at the beautician's feet and ducked back behind the partition before marty could see me spying.

i somberly slid back into the driver's seat. the kids were going on furiously about if i saw her and was she in there and do they have candy for little kids who sit very still. i told them she was in there but that when she came out they wouldn't recognize her because she was getting a very different sort of haircut. for the first time they paused thinking on what i just said. after a few contemplative moments they started refuting my claim. i stuck to my guns saying they didn't know because they hadn't seen her and i did. right at this perfect moment, a hunched over elderly woman exited the salon. i pointed to her and said ...

there's mom guys.

what? where?

right there. she just came out.

that isn't mom. that's an old lady.

i told you you wouldn't recognize her.

we don't recognize her because THAT ISN'T HER!

of course it's her.

if it's her why is she going to the car next to us.

she's just joking you. she's not really going to get in it. she's just playing.

(we all watch as the woman fumbles with her purse)

ahhh. she's tricking you good. in a moment she's going to come over here and say she tricked you.



(the woman found her keys, opened the door and got in.)

see. she just got in.

man, she's really taking this far. she really want's to trick you big.


TROY (i shouted at the window)
marty! get out of that car! you're going to get in trouble if someone sees you.

dad! that's not her!

it is her. but she won't be able to start it so she's going to get out and come over any second.

the woman starts the car, backs out and drives off. somewhere during this the kids think that it may be their mother and are now concerned for her. with the kids twisted and craning their heads to watch the wayward woman drive off, marty emerged from the salon and got into the car while everyone else was peering out the back window. they spun around and excitedly caught marty up ...

dad was joking us, saying you were some old lady. but then the old lady drove away. but it's ok because we knew it wasn't you and that dad was just joking us.

yeah, he does that sometimes.


sooooo what?

so, that's a pretty daring haircut.

yeah, i decided to make it easy on myself.

there's nothing you want to tell me is there?

no, i don't think so.

ok. because that is an awful short haircut.

OH! NO! no! no. absolutely not.

ok. you gave me a bit of a start when i looked in there and saw you all demi moore'd up. i considered driving off without you.

but you didn't.

yeah, it occurred to me i was getting the raw end given that i'd have three and you'd just have the one.

FAMILY (permalink) 03.11.2008
open up, i gotta go!!!
regular readers of this site know my home has only one bathroom. long-time readers of this site know i've never lived in a house with more than one bathroom. marty recently asked me if i've reached the point where this oddity is something i hope to maintain through my lifetime. in reflecting on it, i couldn't answer. having come this far, it would be a bit of a shame to soil such a distinctive record. distinctive to me at least in that i've never had anyone praise the achievement or tout the benefits of a single toilet home, which do exist, whether they are acknowledged or not. for instance ...

i don't like cleaning the one toilet i have so am pretty sure i'd dislike roaming the house with a bristle brush and bottle of soft scrub playing weekend janitor to a bevy of log catchers.

some of our family's best proclamations come out of our one bathroom. like if alex has to use the toilet and people are in there, he rushes in, brushes past all the occupants and starts unbuckling his pants while dancing in place. the moment before he fully drops trow he calls out in his most commanding voice, "I'm going pee and poop. no one see my penis or butt!"

high traffic times of day allow for fun games that would not otherwise happen. if i'm in the shower and hear someone come in to use the toilet, i call out in my ogre-voice, "who is using my toilet" to which bella or alex call back in their fearless voice, "bella/alex is! who is using my shower!" when i reply it's just me, their father, they often don't believe me and say mom is in there too, which she sometimes is, but usually isn't. playing along, i turn and scream as if just noticing her and from behind the curtain stage a struggle of trying to throw marty out of the shower. i yell out OUCH!'s and UHGH!'s and punch at the shower curtain in random spots. every now and then i pantingly poke my head out from behind the curtain to tell alex or bella i am alright and will have her out in a minute and will then feign the classic getting pulled back into the fracas and scream out that pulling there or biting that is against the rules. the kids sit on the toilet with wide eyes, swinging their dangling legs and titter preciously.

humanity happens in the single bathroom of a single-toilet home. especially when an urge sneaks up on someone and they can't wait for the room to clear. it is here that through clenched teeth and face you get to see/hear little people groan things like, 'i ... think ... i ... need ... privacy ...' most times the plop beats the end of the sentence. there's volumes of positive psychology out there on the merits of comfortable public plopping. it's truly an enviable and elusive life skill.

and lastly and most significantly, quality, family time happens in the smallest room of a one-bathroom house making it one of the most valuable assets a modern family can possess. except when your wife mistakes this closeness for permission to use your braun razor to shave her legs, bikini area and all, making it not quite a brazilian but close enough to one to make me a little hesitant the next morning before work. that pause always makes me think of the scene from friends where joey was trying to talk chandler into sharing a wash cloth. chandler asked joey to think of the last thing he (chandler) would wash during his shower and the first thing he (joey) would wash for his shower. joey's face stares off in contemplation a moment before grimacing painfully. while i don't know for certain the order in which a woman shaves her lower torso, i can imagine the end game is not in my favor.

FAMILY (permalink) 02.28.2008
it's just gas
when i come home from work marty is typically putting the final touches on dinner and the kids are somewhere in the house playing invented games. the sound of the front door slamming at this time of day sends the children into an automatic frenzy and they scramble for hiding places because a game of ogre is now afoot. as i stand in the hallway i gauge each child's location based on their excited shrieks and hurried footsteps so i know where to begin my search for toes, tummies and biscuits. and on days when neighborhood kids are over, the fervor is extra-pitched.

when i stepped inside the house one day last week, i was not met with the usual cacophony but instead complete silence. i swung the door closed loudly and waited and listened. still nothing. my sweep of the first floor found no giggling hiders. i moved upstairs and checked the first few rooms. still nothing. then i found all three children shoulder to shoulder on the ping-pong room futon gazing blankly at a movie playing on marty's computer. as i stood next to the screen the glazed over kids barely acknowledged my arrival giving me a quarter-hearted 'hey dad' (we may need to take this no tv business a step further). i moved to my office to find marty sitting in the corner equally sullen. she was casually flipping the pages of a three day old newspaper.



how's things?

hanging on. long day. i haven't started dinner. feeling nauseous.

sorry to hear.

and, i'm too nervous to take a pregnancy test.

with our first few children marty used a pre-arranged code to tell me she was pregnant. the secret sign was she got her hair cut really short, like demi moore in ghost short. that's how i knew and when i'd first see her, she'd smile at me and i'd smile at her and then we'd hug and dance and shout right there on the spot (later i realized the flaw to this plan was some anonymous hairdresser learned i was to be a father before i did, but small price for the surprise frolic). now with three short haircuts behind us, i'm told the potential news while her eyes continues to skim the Week In Review section of the Sunday Times. marty is not a fan of unintentional things, especially when those unintentional things will go on to launch things off her dining room table during dinner and play with whatever they find lurking in the toilet bowl and repeatedly eat gravel.

and in case you were feeling anxious for us, marty's queasiness has since passed.

but the fear hasn't.

SCIENCE, FAMILY (permalink) 02.21.2008
proof that men menstruate
last night i was on the tail end of reading books to alex and bella when marty rushed into the room. she went to the back window, peering out of it. after a moment she called us over to see the lunar eclipse in progress. the kids quickly scrambled out of bed joining her. marty began explaining what was occurring. bella and alex stood on the windowsill taking in the scene while marty and i looked on from behind. three-fourths of the moon was already dim.

while we waited marty and alex began a guessing-game about the people traveling on the walkway behind our house. he would call out when he saw someone approaching and we would first try to guess their gender and then their name. my guesses of cornelius and pumpernickel were met with chastising looks from bella. between pedestrians, i got some paper and sketched out for the kids what makes an eclipse an eclipse. intrigued bella started asking questions about what direction things were moving in and what other things were possible out of this (i.e. solar eclipse). marty interrupted my lesson to point out a man dancing in his third-story bedroom across the way. we all silently watched this older man gyrate and swivel to music we couldn't hear. while no one announced it, i'm sure all four of us were squintingly trying to see if he was naked. in time he paused, walked to the window, seemed to peer at us peering at him. his arm came up and he twisted his venetian blinds closed. we returned to the moon and watched the last slivers of brightness fade. when it was done it seemed anti-climactic. slowly, people drifted back to their routine spots resuming their routine acts.

for as uneventful as this unique diversion proved, i have a sense that the twenty minutes the four of us gathered around a window in a dark room to watch the earth roll between the moon and sun will hang in a framed picture in my head for much longer than one would think such a mild-mannered event should or would.

FAMILY (permalink) 04.25.2007
how well do you know the dearmitt-walters?
match the expression of disgust to the person.

A. dammit 1. troy
B. oh hecks 2. marty
C. (loud, wet flatulence) 3. bella
D. oh suck 4. alex
E. darnit 5. anthony

A-2, B-3, C-5, D-1, E-4

FAMILY (permalink) 04.06.2007
something wicked this way comes
thursday began wonderfully. the night before i launched the new and improved everyman making it to bed at a respectable 2:30am. in the morning, i woke up after marty's first nudge, showered and ate breakfast before anyone else had risen. i got bella awake with a negligible amount of effort, dressed her and had her sitting at the breakfast bar with time to spare. while she ate corn-pops and my vietnamese coffees brewed, i serenaded her with my very own version of tori amos' cornflake girl which began "bella was a corn-pop girl" to which she immediately stopped me and told me not to call her 'girl'. i improvised with "bella was a corn-pop kid." this was also shot down. as was child, lady, woman and scamp. i then ushered her to school came back grabbed my bag and after receiving a hearty push out the door from alex was on my way.

when i stepped off the curb into the alley behind my house i twisted my ankle. and by twisted i mean horrifically buckled it so far that the little bump on the outside of my ankle touched the cement. i might have said a couple of swears, like a really long and creative collection of them. there was an older chinese couple walking by when it happened and the guy laughed, like a for real belly-chortle. i gave him the benefit and assumed he was admiring my robust use of language. the pain was excruciating. i collected myself and tested the foot. even though my walking commute is under a half a mile i didn't think i'd make it. i hobbled back inside and collapsed on the foyer bench. marty came down to check on me. i felt like one of the kids sitting atop the bathroom radiator waiting for a spiderman bandaid. being the receiver of such tender focus was a nice change. in the end marty put a compression wrap on the foot and i was back out the door.

work went well. upon returning home i found marty in the kitchen. i asked how her day went. she stopped, leaned a hip on the counter and succinctly described it as 'pretty terrible'. she slipped coming down the stairs and jacked up her ankle (i know, kinda funny in a coincidental way). anthony was sick. bella had to be picked up early from school because of allergies. and alex was testing her at every bend and currently serving a really long time-out. i kissed her on the back of the neck and said i was sorry her day was not better and that i'd go wrangle children so she could have some time.

i went upstairs. the first child i found was alex in the bathroom. he was using the sink and when i looked around the corner saw that he was rotating a bar of soap between his lathered hands. i stepped behind him and told him he had enough soap. he put the bar down and i grabbed one of his hands between mine and started washing it. something about it felt wrong but i couldn't make it out. i lifted my hands to look at them. they were shiny. as i studied them he stepped back to face me holding his arms up towards me. coating his hands, his arms, some of his face and much of his shirt was a generous layer of Vaseline. i looked at my hands again. he had infected me too.

Vaseline has been my nemesis since childhood. you might know it as petroleum jelly which is possibly the worst name for anything meant for non-prescription use. bella for many years pronounced it as scasolene. i'm also pretty sure it is the goo they put on thermometers before sticking them into people's rectums in the hospital, which is also pretty much all i need to know about a product. i immediately turn the water on and the second my hand gripped the faucet i felt the murky grease bleed through my clenched fingers. double-duped. there was enough bottom-grease on that handle for 68 thermometers, so much in fact the silver knob had completely lost its shape. i pulled my hand back and stared at it again. i then looked at the source of this mess and he innocently held his arms straighter and with a shrug of his bony shoulders said, 'it won't come off'. at the conclusion of this matter-of-fact statement, i heard a thumb kill a running stopwatch in my head. marty's parental calvary made it exactly 89 seconds before being cast onto the heap of fallen care-givers.

i really need a sure wind to come and blow this dark cloud away from my home.

FAMILY, HYGIENE (permalink) 03.14.2007
you can squeeze it all you want, just don't get it wet.
bella has this funny habit when she finishes a roll of toilet paper she takes the cardboard tube off the holder and drops it into the bathtub. seems minor but when i shower in the morning i just reach in past the curtain and turn on the hot water to let it warm up. then moments later when i step in, i see this water-logged spool soaking in the middle of the tub. from this i've come to learn i don't like touching wet cardboard (probably the most predictable thing i've ever learned about myself) which means i leave it there for someone else, which in our house can also be pronounced 'marty', to deal with later in the day/week.

i asked bella why she threw the roll in the tub and not in the waste basket. she shrugged her shoulders and said 'no reason'. i asked her if she would stop doing this and she unaffectedly said 'sure'. a week or two would go by sans shower surprise when one morning there it is, again rolling around against the spray of the shower jets. after thinking on it some, it occurred to me that i just assumed bella was the one doing it and that i've never actually seen her make the maneuver. this may explain why they keep showing up. with my luck marty is the one doing it in protest of our decade-long battle over wether the toilet paper should come out from the top or bottom of the hanging roll. she and i have persevered through children, financial crises and other significant life changes yet an agreement on how to hang the toilet paper in our home's only bathroom eludes us. looking at this in print, i'm seeing how petty the matter is, but what are you going to do when you're married to someone as stubborn and convicted as marty. i will confess though, if she is behind this secret and this is her tactic of choice in settling our feud, she just may come out on top this time.

FAMILY (permalink) 01.23.2007
pre-dawn ambush
sunday morning is 'big breakfast' day in our house. on big breakfast day we make our one stovetop breakfast of the week. typical offerings include pancakes, waffles or french toast, bacon, omelettes, sometimes sausage, fresh fruit and occasionally hand-cut hash-browns. about once a month we look to invite another family over to share in our weekly debauchery. those gatherings are always pajama-friendly and never begin before 11am.

big breakfast is my favorite morning because in addition to lavish vittles this is the one day of the week where i am naturally drawn from sleep by the sound of birds or smell of cooking food. sometimes, on bird days, i might begin to wake and sense marty next to me, warm, close. i might hear bella and alex quietly engaged in a made-up game down the hall. it is here i viscerally know the value of my home.

big breakfast last weekend did not start in this fizzy way. on this day, the first thing i sensed was having my toasty flannel sheets and layered quilts harshly flung away from my resting frame. while my body tensed against the cold morning air and before i could open my lead-heavy eyes, bella excitedly screamed from the side of the bed, "DADDY! DADDY! I CAN SEE YOUR PENIS! I CAN SEE YOUR PENIS! I CAN SEE IT DADDY! ALEX, TELL DAD YOU CAN SEE HIS PENIS. GO ON, TELL HIM!" to which i hear my son obligingly, albeit less animatedly add, "i can see your enis daddy". not birds, not the neighbor's wind chimes and not wafting flapjacks, but instead taunts and heckles at and about my lifeless manhood. and i would say that on this day, at this moment, i also viscerally knew the value of my home which is seemingly about as predictable and hostile as the american stock exchange.

FAMILY (permalink) 12.18.2006
cleanup in aisles 1-14
our home breaks more dinnerware than a 24-hour dennys. when i gathered the family to discuss this performance matter i was told that not only am i not in a position of authority over them i was actually several rungs below them on the chain of command. i kind of saw this coming when i overheard alex call bella to the meeting by saying 'della, the giant poophead wants to talk to us'.

QUOTES, KIDS, FAMILY (permalink) 12.08.2006
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

FAMILY, HYGIENE (permalink) 12.05.2006
here's a large towel. you can sleep wherever someone else isn't.
before we had children, when accommodating out of town guests marty and i would straighten and clean our home. now that we have children, all we look to do is remove any visible blood, feces or urine from our kids. that said, if we see a bodily excrement sprayed or wiped on a wall or piece of furniture we will attempt to clean/remove/hide it. although, i don't do ceilings. so if an illness, natural event or blood-sport marred something i can't reach on my tippy toes, it's getting left for the visitor's imagination.

and i assure you this is one scenario where the mind's creativity won't surpass or even come close to our life's reality.

i promise.

FAMILY, HEALTH (permalink) 11.09.2006
this idea has legs, just like our blankets
on very cold nights, our home has one less blanket than it needs. which bed comes up light is about as predictable as who will be resting in any of the various sleeping spots our house has to offer.

obviously, you'd think the adults would carry the advantage being bigger and smarter and all. but, little people move quietly and have more to fear if caught. so blankets get tugged back and forth across a bed and even drug from room to room in the night's silent hours. but that's not all that gets transported. i once saw alex pushing a miniature baby stroller down the hallway at 3am. i looked just long enough to verify my blanket wasn't in it before flopping my head back on the pillow, tightening my grip on the corner of my linen and going back to sleep.

three nights ago i drew the short straw. while sleeping in alex's bed (which is pushed up against bella's bed), i got bested by bella who wound herself up so tight in my comforter, my fatigued arm couldn't work her out of it. so i spent the night in and out of sleep, curled up and shivering. i gave up on sleep around 5am and headed towards the bath for a steamy shower. in passing my nemesis, i cast a scornful look at the blissfully warm and sleeping girl. i swear i saw a contented smile form on her rosy face as i stumbled by tightly hugging my naked chest. while i stood waiting for the shower's water to get hot, i noticed something about my body; it felt lean and my skin was super-taut. it was almost as though my body's futile attempt to generate warmth caused me to loose three pounds in the night. then my mind recalled a suggestion from a health magazine where it said drinking ice cold water, instead of tepid, burns forty extra calories per glass because your body has to heat the liquid once in the stomach.

it seemed to make sense. at least to my un-rested and slightly bella-jealous mind. instead of gyms having saunas they should have seat-lined deep-freezes where old rich guys could go in with their buddies and sit around naked debating last weekend's games while chattering and rubbing the tops of their thighs for warmth. granted if these did exist, i wouldn't actually get a membership, because between having a wife who doesn't like to turn the heat up past 60 degrees and a daughter who outfoxes me with frustrating regularity, i'm already paying a mortgage on my very own seat-lined, bed-scattered deep freeze.

and as clarifying note, marty is the exception to this rule. she (a) always sleeps in the same spot and (b) never goes without covers. everyone living here knows not to lie on mom's clean patch of sheets and to never slide a blanket off her sleeping frame. even bella won't tangle with that sleeping lioness. and that's saying something.

FAMILY (permalink) 10.17.2006
back to business
one week ago was my six month anniversary at the new job. the biggest factor of this milestone is i can now take vacation time (i can also get sick). coincidentally, bella had yesterday off school so i cashed in my first official vacation day. marty had invited bella's entire kindergarten class to join us for the day at a pumpkin farm. she had several takers and it was shaping up to be a lively day in the country. then monday morning we woke up to this ...

so what does any sane, hookey-playing family do with a free day, no plans and torrential rain. we go to the zoo! the saint louis zoo is a real city gem, one of our finest. we spend quite a bit of time there. you could say it is our family's amusement park, and it doesn't hurt that it is in biking distance, although, we left the bikes at home on this wet day.

the moment we walk through the zoo's gates, alex starts; "train daddy. i want to ride the train. where's the train daddy? is the train sleeping? are we walking to the train daddy? do i hear the train?" if you hadn't guessed yet, the zoo has a train. it can carry something like 50-75 people on its nearly two mile run and has four stations along the way. alex personally thinks a zoo is more about this miniature locomotive than about exotic wildlife.

given the weather i was not confident the train would be in operation. as we approached the desolate station i saw a man in a conductor's hat sitting behind a fogged ticket window. i asked if the train was running. with a sigh, he said it was. he picked up the phone and said into the receiver, "i got a family of five at the living world station". he then hung up. it was here i realized the train was scheduled to run but was sitting warmly in the garage because of the few patrons at the zoo, none were requesting a ride on the outdoor steed. and then there's alex looking up from my hip, "train coming daddy?". yes alex, train coming. i could only imagine the startled expressions and gravelly curses exchanged between the two mason-like men who got the call. after our attendant had summoned the train, we learned there was a problem with our membership tickets. given the engine was en route, the ticketeer gave us a free pass. when the train pulled into the station a few minutes later marty and i expressed our gratitude to the two rain-slickered engineers who were extra-gracious about the task.

our family then shared in a personal tour of our city's zoo with bella and alex smiling widely in the very front seat. the conductor gave us the real-deal announcing the animals and amenities over the train-speaker just as he would for a sunny-saturday crowd. little did he know i, or even alex, could have probably done the same spiel straight from memory. although, at one stop he did say "we're coming up on the river's edge station, please have your tickets ready, but since you don't have any tickets, don't worry about it."

by the time we got home, we were collectively drenched and starving. we all stripped in the foyer and headed to the kitchen for soup, left over manicotti and oven toast. we capped the late-lunch with stove-top coco garnished with bella-cut mini-marshmallows and headed up for a viewing of monsters inc. while crowded on the couch, sharing a fleece blanket.

it has been too many month's since our family has enjoyed such a private and focused day. here's to remembering to slow the ride down every now again, even if you end up with wet underwear while on it.

FAMILY (permalink) 10.04.2006
they may be small but they still have nerve endings
not only is this the first photo of our new family, en masse, it is also the first picture ever taken of me and anthony in the same frame (this is the suck-part of being the family photographer).

and for the record, i would never hold baby antonio that way which also goes quite far in explaining his anguished expression. the last time someone held me like that i almost ... oh wait a minute ... it was actually a good thing, but never you mind that, little anthony isn't yet ready for those sorts of shenanigans.

FAMILY (permalink) 09.19.2006
father, move your ass
the kids and i biked to a nearby park last weekend and i bumped into an ex-colleague. we were close enough to the playground that bella and alex continued on while i stopped to chat with my friend and his family. after bella got off her bike, removed her helmet and was ready to proceed she started calling for me. i was busy bringing my pal up to speed on my life; bragging on how well things were going with the new job and even newer baby. he asked how the kids were adjusting to anthony. i explained, honestly, that they were great. bella is doting and alex impressively gentle. overall things were very warm and loving. i should mention that the whole time i was talking bella was thirty feet away yelling at me, bike helmet in hand.

dad, we're ready to play.


dad get over here.

dad get over here right now!

dad git!

father. if you don't come here right now, you're going to be fired.


DAD! you're fired.

(alex was standing there sucking his thumb and looking elsewhere through this whole lambasting until that last line at which point he removed his thumb just long enough to say in his soft, partially interested voice)

yeah dad. you're fired dad.

i was specific in directing the warm and loving sentiments of my children towards their new brother, not their old father.

FAMILY, KIDS (permalink) 08.28.2006
why i'm wearing black

bella starts kindergarten today.

as if i'm not already enough of a mess with this looming milestone, i've had a number of veteran parents tell me that the period before your oldest child starts full-day school is the golden era of parenthood. the rationale claims that once a child enters school-proper, parenting becomes more challenging given the child's exposure to people you haven't liked enough to personally invite into your home. the theory does seem sound. the theory also does seem to suck a whole lot. on the positive side though, while some of the folks bella will be forced to interact with will be evil, the process is sure to bring some experience-rich personalities to the table she/we would not have otherwise met.

and as proof of the universe's incontrovertible balancing act, the same weekend our golden era ends, bookpimp's journey begins. congratulations michael and christine on the birth of your first child.

wish me luck. wish bookpimp luck. wish anyone responsible for tiny heart-absconding humans luck.

FAMILY, KIDS (permalink) 08.25.2006
a night in the life
04.30am put my computer to sleep after working on a site design for 7 straight hours
04.35am get undressed in the dark and fall into bed only to learn alex is sleeping in my spot. i yank my pillow from under his head and drag it behind me to his bed.
04.40am listen to bella grind her teeth for five minutes and do some unqualified projections on what orthodontic expenses will look like in ten years.
04.45am fall asleep
06.18am roll over and smash my face into a metal thomas the tank engine toy. attempt to throw it across the room but send it into the wall next to the bed. fall back asleep.
07.30am get pushed in the head by alex's foot and told to get out of his bed. i push him away telling him to go ask mom.
07.34am get shoved again by alex, this time with a hand, and told more emphatically to remove myself from his bed. i repeat the instruction to take it up with his mother. he leaves.
07.50am pushed in the back by marty and told to get up for work.
07.53am bowl of grapes spilled on my head and chest as alex roughly climbs over me for the thomas train that accosted my cheek and nose earlier.
08.00am pushed harder in the back by marty and told she's not telling me again to get up.
08.06am tickled by bella and excitedly told 'first one to the tv room gets to pick first show'. i tell her i hate the formulaic brainwashing that happens on modern broadcasting and am fifteen hours into a boycott. moments later i hear her shout her first-show victory through the house.
08.10am again shoved in the back by marty and told i am ruining her morning.
08.32am i wake, naturally, and stumble to the bathroom feeling surprisingly refreshed and have a notion it is going to be a good day.
08.35am i find my electric toothbrush lying behind the toilet. it seems the good day hunch was a tad premature.

FAMILY, KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.21.2006
can you please spell that for me?
the day after sassafras was born, i took the kids to the hospital to meet their younger brother. bella immediately latched onto the newborn making various cooing and gooing noises at him while waggling a finger over his face and belly. alex immediately went to marty taking his rightful spot on her lap. about five minutes into the visit bella spoke up and said she knew what we should name the baby. we asked what, preparing our poker faces for the worst. she confidently announced Abrey. after her proclamation she turned and hunched back over the infant as if the matter were resolved. marty and i both made faces, but they were different.

i kinda like it.

what did she even say, avery?

no, abrey.

spell it.


abrey? that's not even a name.

sure it is. everything is a name.

well, i don't like it.

and if i do?

i'm not naming a child abrey.

it's two against one.

alex, come here.

here's a thing to know when negotiating with the human who just spat another, smaller human out of their special hole; they always possess more stock in the business at hand than you. so abrey was out. after a brief bout of panic and uncertainty a name was unanimously agreed upon ... anthony. anthony walter dearmitt.

that said, everyone in our house calls him something different. marta calls him anthony. i call him antonio. bella calls him abrey. and alex calls him sassafras. no reason to not get a quick jump on the schizophrenia his world is sure to bring.

click here peggy

FAMILY, KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.18.2006
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
aug 2006

FAMILY (permalink) 08.17.2006
we are not home right now

FAMILY (permalink) 08.11.2006
the hurricane before the tsunami
were our family being monitored by nasa, our latest transmission to them would read "houston, we're set to pop. i repeat houston, we are set to pop. confidence is high". technically, we're still weeks away but we've entered the any day milestone. alex was almost two weeks early which means who knows how quickly sassafras could appear now that the track is greased. if you looked, touched, listened to and smelled marty's stomach protuberance, you'd be amazed the little nipper hasn't just fallen out into the tub while she showered.

while the first picture is representative enough of the home's state, this second photo better captures the true breadth of moods. we are (right to left) frenetic, meditative, swirling and observing.

wish us strength and health over the next few weeks getting the child little man simply calls 'assafras' to the other side. and peace out. (photo credit to the soon to be big brother, alex)

FAMILY, PHOTO (permalink) 07.20.2006
silverware is for chumps and rookies
i've previously commented on the totally schizophrenic nature of children but have never really exposed the same trait in the keepers of those children. the below three shots represent a sub-sixty second block of time during last week's spiritual outing. i like this series because it does much to illuminate the dramatic shifts possible in one's state when little humans are constantly in your grill.

additionally, twenty minutes before these snaps, i was asleep in the ultra-bed. when i stirred naturally from my slumber and opened my eyes, i found bella's round face inches from my own, studying me intently. her expression changed slightly when my eyes opened. we silently looked at one another for a few seconds before she raised her arm, patted me on the head and brightly said "your hair is crunchy dad". she then rolled out of bed and marched off. i share this incident because i feel understanding how my day began may help to explain my impressively alert and welcoming glances below.

FAMILY (permalink) 07.05.2006
a lot like ward cleaver, just way smellier
i was eating breakfast, marty was making lunches, bella was elsewhere and alex was sitting on a portable mini-toilet in the corner of the kitchen. an impressive burst of gas reverberated in the plastic compartment beneath alex's bum breaking the morning still of the room. he smiled widely at the echoing noise, marty grinned and i chuckled. we are a house of innocent pleasures.

ten seconds later alex made a face, pinched his nose and asked 'what's THAT smell?'. marty, never even looking away from her cut orange, naturally and medically responded 'that's your gas alex'. at this news his body slumped incredulously in the chair 'noooohhhhhh mom ... ' and then he pointed to me saying ' ... daddy gas'.

having my children associate all foul and wafting odors in the home back to me is not exactly how i envisioned my fatherhood. i cannot say why i position myself above such stereotypical unfairness, especially since 19 times out of 20 they'd be right in their aromatic hunch. this admitted, i still find the notion that i must quietly accept blame for every bout of flatulence that happens between my bouts of flatulence quite unjust.

FAMILY (permalink) 06.26.2006
we'll be sleeping in a circus tent when they're full-grown
we went camping again last weekend. this makes twice in one month. quite unprecedented. i think part of the reason for this landmark can be explained through marty's last birthday present; an 8-person tent.

i know, i know. there's only four of us in our family, and two of them are tiny. what you're not accounting for in the equation though is what i call the marty-factor. the marty-factor stipulates that when evaluating your space requirements (1 + 1 + .5 + .5) you take the total number of full grown, or equivalent-sized humans, double it and then add one. this is the only way you can guarantee that the matriarch of our family will get a full and good night's rest. when sassafras shows up, we may need to upgrade. so any family, mormon or otherwise, needing space for eight, look for us on ebay come next spring.

and, much to marty's distaste, i always contend that insomniacs are simply victims of too much sleep to begin with.

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