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QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 12.19.2017
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

PHOTOS, KIDS (permalink) 11.15.2017
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

SEP 2017

KIDS (permalink) 11.14.2017
a supplement to yesterday's soccer-story.

after the last game on the soccer schedule, we invited the team to our house for an end of season party. it was a remarkable mix of kids spanning all three middle school grades. this is the second year we have hosted this event. i was disinclined initially to make the offer for an odd reason. last year's party went so well i didn't think we could replicate it and the only thing that could happen is it would be a disappointment. i was wrong.

marty and i did next to nothing. we cleaned the bathroom, ordered some pizzas, and whipped up a few pitchers of kool-aid. aside from that everyone, and by everyone i mean every last player that was at the game, came over and enjoyed an easy, laughter-rich afternoon full of trampolining, xbox tournaments, slack-lining and basic juvenile ribbing.

at one point a lid came off a kool-aid pitcher as one of the boys was filling his cup and the bright red liquid raced everywhere. even that misfortune proved to be a non-issue given that the kid responsible reacted quickly and took care of the mess. my favorite part of that moment was the memory it jostled in marty's mind. she re-told the kitchen about when bella, at around age five, spilled a FULL pitcher of kool-aid half in the refrigerator and half on the floor. after walking into the room and surveying the result, marty wordlessly walked to the wall-phone, dialed a neighbor lady and said, "can i send my kids down to your house for a bit?". after a short pause while the other lady talked, she added, "oh no. nothing is wrong, but if they stay here i'm going to kill at least one of them."

for what it's worth i think it would take more than spilt kool-aid for marty to slay someone else's child. so the middle school soccer team was safe enough on this day, even with a near equal kool-aid catastrophe.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 10.12.2017
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 10.11.2017
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

AUG 2017

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 07.14.2017
trust fall fail

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.

KIDS (permalink) 06.01.2017
he must be taking it in its opium form
alex calls advil, anvil.

and on alex, anvil shows its curative effects in less than 30 seconds.

marty and i are in active debate if he inherited this placebo-susceptibility from her or from me.

thus far, a case could be made in either direction.

KIDS (permalink) 05.31.2017
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

MAY 2017

KIDS (permalink) 05.30.2017
at least they were in the same zip code.
every saturday i clean the bathroom. part of my process includes replacing the set of towels. i throw the old set down and re-stock the bathroom with four large bath towels, 1 hand towel, and 1 wash cloth (for the shower).

on monday night i went to take a shower (as i realized it had been four days since my last shower -- a curious side-effect of working from home for me) and there was only one large towel hanging on the racks and it was damp. looking about, i found the second one, balled up and wet in front of the toilet. i started walking the house for the other two. i suspected they would be on the floors of one or more of the bedrooms. i suspected wrong. the search went on. in the end i found one in our computer cafe next to the kitchen on the first floor of the house and the other in the basement next to the washing machine.

while i will surely miss my children once they leave my home, i will surely not miss having to dry myself with wet towels that i had to search for once my children leave my home.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 11.01.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 07.15.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

WIFE, KIDS, TRAVEL (permalink) 07.14.2016
for the third year in a row, on her first week of summer, marty took my, well, our children to georgia to visit my dad ... and i didn't go. i stayed back because of work or lack of vacation or both. i don't get how remarkable this is until i say it out loud to someone. most guys scrunch their face and say, "wait a minute. let me get this straight. your wife takes your kids to see your dad and leaves you home alone for the week?!?". then i scrunch my face all up and pretty much say the same thing to myself in shared disbelief.

but that is marty. the girl is double special.

this year they were scheduled to get home on tuesday. on monday afternoon, around five i got a call from alex saying they were like three hours away and were just going to push through. an hour later i got another call, this time from bella, that said mom got crabby, the kids term for when marty gets tired, and they were going to stop for the night. i lamented at how sucky it was to have to stop just a few hours from home but certainly appreciated marty not jeopardizing my world by driving when she shouldn't.

i had just finished cleaning the house for their return and now that they weren't going to return tonight so i went upstairs and started doing some work in my office. a couple hours later i was sitting at my desk filing some papers when something caught my eye. i looked up. anthony was standing like two feet away from me. i sprang back in my chair and shrieked,

oh my god anthony! you scared the hell out of me! what, what, what are you doing here?

ANTHONY (exasperated)
dad, we're all sitting down on the couch waiting to watch a bob's burgers. are you coming down or not?

with that he turned and left the room. i fell back in my chair touching my chest to feel my racing heart. once i thought i was not going to go into cardiac arrest, i went downstairs and found my full family, just as anthony had described, all on the couch and looking at me expectantly. i said to them, "you're lucky i'm a pretty fit guy because if i wasn't you'd all be hoping right about now that the ambulance would get here in time."

marty tells me that the plan they hatched was just to have anthony call from the steps that they were waiting for me. i guess he was confused when they parked the van around the corner and super quietly unlocked the door and crept into the house. he mis-read that and thought that he should continue the sneaking until he was standing just ten inches off my shoulder in what i thought was a completly vacant house when he made his sharp proclamation. i'm serious when i tell you i could visibly see my heart pounding in my chest.

KIDS (permalink) 05.26.2016
our doorbell has been busted since we bought our house. fixing it is on the list. that said, if it was in the top 1,000 things to be addressed, i'd be surprised.

the two wires that are connected to the home's doorbell system are there, sticking out of the wall and if you rub them together you can make the doorbell go off. since day one the kids have preferred sounding the doorbell this way than if there was a proper button in place. recently that has stopped working though and the doorbell seems dead as a, well, doorbell.

on a no-screens saturday and in a bout of complete and utter boredome (lucky him), anthony took it upon himself to craft a new, working doorbell which he proudly displayed for me when i returned from a morning of tennis. i tried it out and complimented him on how well it worked. this was a genuine compliment as i was pretty impressed with how stable and functional it was.

a little bit later anthony came into the bathroom while i was showering and told me he was happy with his new doorbell.

yeah. i think it turned out pretty well.

i agree. super good for a V1.

what's a V1?

version 1. it means it is your first attempt.

what do you mean first attempt? it is done.

yes. you have a working doorbell but when you make something yourself, you will sometimes think of ways to make it better. if you think of something and then do it, then you will have V2, or version 2, which should theoretically be better than version 1.

but how would i improve it? it works.

uhhhm. what would happen if it rained? is your note protected.

oh. no. it isn't.

what do you think would happen to it if it rained?

i think the words would blur out and it wouldn't be readable.

so, since that is outside, your design should account for that. you should think about things you could do to make it so i can last through the rain.

version 2 proved to be a marked improvement both to the doorbell and anthony as an inventor.

version 1 is shown below

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 05.25.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 05.24.2016
ansel aleo
below are a few more pictures from aleo's first four rolls of film.

his first shot was discussed here yesterday.

dad's famous breakfast scrumble

anthony and dad's morning chess game


impressive, tight focus on the scope, the real story of the picture, which is throwing a curious reflection.

pretty brave to try a jump-shot on your first outing--i thought it turned out quite well for a first cut at the technique.

now that is just dang cool for a timer-shot.

old country men at the old country store

spooky anthony, and according to anthony, visual evidence that i am a black man.

if you study this one, you can spot the photog in the window.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 04.26.2016
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 03.08.2016
no wool over this one's eyes
bella and i were on our first distance ride of the year. we were on a new route and found ourselves riding through a neighborhood that had some for-real mansions. we rode slowly and quietly taking in the size and makeup of each home.

it's so quiet out here. it's such a beautiful day and there's not a soul anywhere to be seen. it's almost like their abandonded.

they're probably busy yelling at their maids.

ha. good one. oh my god. look at that one.

i hope they run an orphanage out of there.

when i was young and saw big houses like that, i remember wanting to one day live in one. i don't know why i thought that way. i also don't know why bella looks on these homes with the derision that she does. aside from exposing her healthier expectations and social sense, these monster homes also make the girl say the funniest things.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 02.19.2016
the kids are alright
in case you were worrying for alex based on his sour demeanor in yesterday's family gallery entry, worry not. our aleo is fine and well. he was just mean-mugging the camera before his first day of middle school. in evidence.

anfer is also fine and well.

KIDS (permalink) 02.15.2016
bella's school held its second dance of the year and instead of engaging in that awkward, premature pairing off, bella and a group of six friends went as a collective. before hand they all got gussied up and went to a group diner at a local pizza place. at school they discussed their plans to marty. she suggested they make a reservation given the weekend night and they might not be the only students from the school with the particular place in mind. they agreed that that was a great idea and looked the phone number up immediately (on one of their phones). then just before dialing, one of them asked, what do you say when you want to make a reservation. i am forever intrigued by watching people feel their way through what, to us old folks, are elementary tasks we routinely and effortlessly perform, i love the innocence of it. and i'm not saying i didn't fumble my way through many a life lesson because i did. you just forget about them in time and having kids lets you walk those steps again. and that is what marty did here, walked them through the act and language. then the boy called and got hit with a "oh, sorry we don't take reservations" which then exposes these elementary tasks as not so basic after all.

after getting that sorted out they started asking how much money they each should bring. when you're talking about young people who don't work yet, it's hard to casually tell them to just bring 20-30 dollars as not everyone has open access to money whenever they want. and, the last thing you want is six to eight fourteen year olds sitting at a table on a restaurants busiest night without enough money to cover a check let alone tip. marty and i talked this predicament over and she came up with the idea of stealthily covering the meal for the kids so that when they went to settle the bill, the waitress got to say, this has already been taken care of. marty managed to pull this off but when the waitress passed on the news, the kids with their small fistfuls of proudly acquired fives and tens, were not elated but instead a little dismayed. it turns out they were very excited to be covering their largish restaurant bill, their first largish restaurant bill, on their own. what is it they say about best laid plans?

but, here is where things take a turn and why marty and i really like this particular set of friends bella has recently started running with. after the waitress delivered the news and walked off, instead of stewing on the disappointment and letting it sour their night in any way, one of them said, "well, we can't buy OUR meal but that doesn't mean we can't buy A meal." so they looked around the busy restaurant and picked out a table they would buy a meal for. in the end they selected a woman eating alone with her two young children. when they waitress came back they pointed her out and said they wanted to buy her dinner but that the waitress/hosttess wasn't to tell the woman who did it.

and that is what they did. i won't get into how i would have reacted in a like situation but i can promise you that a fourteen year old troy would not have been buying some stranger dinner with what would have been perfectly good-arcade money.

KIDS (permalink) 01.22.2016
well, when you put it that way
one night at bedtime anthony suddenly became very sad, distraught even. in trying to calm him down, marty learned that he was upset about a school assignment. it turns out that he had fallen behind in a in-class assignment because he was getting pulled out a bunch for other programs he participates in and as result he was very behind and even concerned that he might have to repeat the third grade. when marty told him that was silly and would just never happen, anthony replied:
but i got a worse math grade than joe, and he doesn't even know how to spell thumb.
that being the case, i reckon i'd be a tad irked as well.

KIDS (permalink) 01.21.2016
left field
Where I'm From
by Alex DeArmitt (age 12)

I am from PC to Xbox.
I am from the black controller to the keyboard
From Minecraft to Halo played with my dad
Grateful that he's taking the time,
hoping he keeps his job but always has time for me.

From the life and deaths,
From the scary games to the funny games.
I am from the musty blue couch
to the fluffy black chair next to my brother.

I am from friends, family and pictures.
From teachers to the students that work every day,
From the cuddles to the unsuspected death of my dads mom
that left me feeling empty like a dried up grape.

I am from the wooden house in the forest that we visit.
I am from the musty inside that makes me glad.
I am from my step-grandma who makes my grandpa happy.
I am from the birds chirping and the dog barking and the smell of the forest.
From grandpa to grandma that make my life complete.
I am from the feel of the grass to the hugs and kisses.
I am from the snow like fur of Gilly the silly dog that makes my family happy.

I am from Bauder and Blevins doing my best.
From the homework to school work.
I am from mathematics to science,
From fun and delightful G.A.T.E. to Spanish,
I am from the black beautiful Chromebooks ready to go.

I am from the surprises waiting at my house.
I am from Easter to birthdays,
I am from family reunions to my brother fighting viciously.
I am from presents to and from my family to the candy that will rot my teeth if I don't brush.
I am from the creamy chocolate and smells to the cold touch of it
and the sound of the it sloshing around my moist mouth.
I am from these moments, riding them like a rollercoaster,
riding all of the ups and down, and twists and turns of life.

marty walked into my office and handed me this. she then watched me as i read it. when complete i looked up at her and we just looked at each other for a few moments, both speechless. then after a few moments she said, "there's a lot packed into that young man". i could do little more than nod my head in agreement.

KIDS (permalink) 12.10.2015
unusual practices
before bed, marty reads harry potter to anthony and i. we are on book 5. this is her second time through the series as she read the books to alex and bella several years back. i read the first four books to anthony but he and i flamed out as i kept falling asleep during my reads. this is why marty took over. she is admittedly WAY better at reading potter than i am as she does animated voices and has an enviable reading stamina, even when exhausted. while she reads i work on my crossstitch. anthony, well, he is almost always moving about the room in some way, either walking back and forth on the bunk bed rails (until he slips and painfully wedges himself between the bed the and wall) or plays hot lava traversing the small space by jumping from object to object. the only time he is still is when he's eating an apple, his pre-bed snack. humorously, this allows him to be just as loud when he is sitting still as when he is balancing, climbing, and jumping about the room.

part of his apple ritual stands as one of my favorite anthony-isms. when he is done he goes to his second story window, loudly throws it open, reels back, and chucks his apple core onto the front yard. the first time i saw him do this i asked, a little alarmed, what he was doing. he casually said he was giving the rest of his apple to nature, you know the squirrels and birds or whoever might come upon it and need a snack. when he saw the expression on my face he added, "mom said it's ok". then the next morning as we head off to school, he will sometimes point out his apple, saying, "hey there's my apple from last night" and he will sometimes glance at an empty part of the yard and wonder aloud who got to enjoy his apple last night. i'm left wondering, not aloud, what the hell i'm going to to do for entertainment when my children are grown and gone.

KIDS (permalink) 12.08.2015
so, how are the kids?
at a holiday gathering someone asked me how the kids were doing. the following stories spilled out and i thought i'd share them with those of you i might not bump into at a holiday event.

i was approached by a parent at anthony's elementary. she introduced herself and explained someone told her that anthony might be a good fit for an equations team her husband runs. i told her that anthony did seem to like math so, yes, he may be interested. she said that the program was for older kids and that they had already started the training but it might not be a bad idea to get him in this year so he could familiarize himself with the process. i took anthony to their next meeting. the "coach" got the other kids working and said he was going to be over here getting anthony setup. the man proceeded to unpack a game. while doing so he started asking a third grade anthony questions like:
  • do you know what the square root of 9 is? he did.
  • how about the square root of 81. he did.
then he asked if anthony knew what powers were. he did not. the man explained and then ran anthony through some problems which anthony answered without fail. he then taught anthony how to play the game. after the session i thanked the man for teaching anthony and letting him sit in this year. to this the man said, "sit in? i'm going to have anthony compete this year! he's great!". if great means that in third grade he already knows more about math than i ever have, yes he is great.

alex is in a robotics club. in this club the team gets a challenges to solve and then works as a team to solve the challenge. this year the team assigned nicknames to all the members. alex's nickname was "the guy who can fix anything". not too bad a designation on a team that exists to solve problems.

bella is at a new school district. we were a little curious how she would fare entering an entirely new population of people without a history or reputation. two months after her arrival she was chosen as one of five female school ambassadors. these ambassadors are existing students who show prospective students around to interest them in the school. this is obviously a role the school's administration does not take lightly and for bella to get tapped this soon after her arrival gives marty and i the sense that our baby girl will perhaps be ok out there in the bigger world.

KIDS, SOCIETY (permalink) 11.13.2015
i used to hide my money in a band-aid box in an air vent.
while walking to school with anthony he asked, after a natural pause in our conversation, "so dad. what is something you really want, that cost less than 20 dollars?".

while i was reflecting on things i talked about how the best present for someone was something they really wanted but for whatever reason wouldn't buy themselves. after a few minutes i told anthony that something i've been intrigued by for a number of years were mounted insects. after explaining what they were he asked why i would want that. i told him that from my photography contest i've come to be amazed at some of the insect-photography, especially the up-close macro images that people have sent in of bugs and stuff and that they are really very extraordinary and if they could be enlarged to, say, the size of one of these houses we were walking by they would be the most extraordinary things we've ever seen, both in their beauty and detail.

a few days later i mentioned anthony's question to marty. she told me she was well aware of the conversation because anthony then went to her and said he needed her to help him buy me a mounted insect for my birthday. after looking a bit, anthony found one that was $30. when marty asked him if he had $30 he said sure, walked to and opened one of his bedroom windows, pulled a velcro wallet from the outer jamb and produced the requested $30.

yeah, what, like you don't keep your money hidden in a window jamb?

and for reasons i can't explain (in that marty has confessed ignorance) both of my boys have taken a great interest in getting me a birthday gift this year. i'm admittedly a little easier to shop for since i went on my spending fast (ref). also, i'm a little more eager for the goodies given i'm no longer buying myself each and every bauble that catches my eye. i have the sense it's all going to taste a bit sweeter this year.

KIDS (permalink) 11.12.2015
what nine year old uses the word "glum"?
anthony got a typewriter for his ninth birthday. occassionally you'll find a sheet of paper full of typed text laying about the house. i've learned to stop and read them as i find the open narratives of a young child fascinating. the one below i read to the end and found myself looking around, a bit more desperately than i should feel comfortable sharing, for the next page. i was riveted. granted i'm his dad and probably find it all more interesting than you will or think i should but dang, i could read this stuff all day.

click to enlarge

KIDS (permalink) 10.23.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 10.21.2015
reminds me of the beaver.
a few kidisms i've recently enjoyed:

we have some new neighbors. they are very much like marty and i were when we first moved into the community. early thirties. just starting their family. the guy is very young at heart and it is not at all uncommon to find him doing flips on the tramp with the kids or crouched behind a bush set to nerf-ambush someone. the other day he was out watering plants when alex walked by. he snapped the hose in alex's direction sending a quick spray of water over alex. to this alex said, "jeff, you can't spray me. these things i have are highly flammable." the men chuckled at this defense. but the moms took the time to explain the hole in the logic.

then a few days later anthony showed his own verbal creativity when he excitedly described a book he was making at school. he stepped through all the real-book parts it was going to have. a cover. a binding. pictures. and, even, a Table of Contests.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.25.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 09.22.2015
sometimes when your computer gets hacked, it's good
as bella worked her way towards her teens, numerous people warned us of our pending doom, advising us to enjoy our little girl while it lasted. not having navigated the waters yet, marty and i found it hard to make a qualified defense to the assertions. so instead we kept saying and believing that it didn't have to go that way. the other night after reading to the boys for bed, i sat down at my computer to tend to the day's email. filling the screen was an open word document. it read:

Hey dad,

Everyone says that becoming a teenager is hard and that everything will change your relationship with the ones that you love, the amount of sleep that you get, your free time, the things that you're interested in. A lot of these things have begun to change in my life already, but if there's one thing that I want to make sure doesn't change it's the relationship that I have with you, mom, Alex and Anthony. I love each and everyone of you and I've noticed myself becoming more and more distant, you have to. I'm going to do everything that I can to show that I love you and the rest of the family. I just wanted to let you know because I know that you've noticed the changes and I want to make sure that you know that I'm going to try.

So this is my promise that I'm going to do everything that I am capable of to keep my relationship with the people in the family as wonderful as it is right now.

I love you and I'm going to continue loving you until the day that you die (which won't be very long, sadly). I know that in the future we're going to have some big fights and I just want to make sure that if I ever say something or do something that makes it seem like I don't love you, you know that I do love you and will never stop.

Love you, forever and always,

regarding these "inevitable" fights, i believe i have come upon a secret weapon which can mitigate both the frequency and volatility of these altercations. i call it, blandly, the twenty minute rule. the twenty minute rule states that if you ever see a family member, especially a child, coming off the rails you need to evacuate the area, isolating the failing human as quickly as possible for approximately twenty minutes. most typically, once a reaction begins, there's no preventing it. thinking you can steer around it would be like thinking you can stop yourself from projectile vomiting by holding your hand over your mouth. so evacuate the building. don't look the infected human in the eyes. move everyone out of the blast radius and quarantine the affected human so that when they do blow there are no innocents within shrapnel range as this can lead to chain reactions, sometimes bringing a whole home into emotional ruin.

guided meditations often point out that just like with weather, there are always blue skies overhead. it's just that sometimes we can't see them because a cloud front has moved in, blocking the view. the thing that makes the twenty minute rule work is that the systems are always in motion and if unprodded will typically move past just as swiftly as they rolled in. but if they are provoked they will grow in size and temper. give them space, they will move on and before you know it, you'll be looking at blue skies again. this is one of the advantages of an ever-changing universe and understanding that in the time it took you to read this sentence the world about you is forever changed and never to again look the way it did when you read the first word of this sentence. so let it change. embrace the change. and when you see dark skies, seek cover because oftentimes the storm clouds will move out as swiftly as they moved in.

also, i've learned this technique also applies with adult, professional relationships but for reasons both obvious and nuanced, the window is more like 24 hours instead of twenty minutes. the classic example here is not sending that angry email at the peak of your angst, but waiting until the next day, re-reading it, and seeing if you think it would be sensible to send it on. rarely have i looked at that email after a night's sleep and thought, yes, this is the push in the shoulder that's going to make this human act more civily towards me.

here you can see the twenty minute rule taking form several years back.

KIDS (permalink) 09.02.2015
here i offer a glimpse into a newly minted nine year old's mind
click to enlarge

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 08.07.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 08.06.2015
backyard thunderdome
multiple people commented on the family pic a few weeks back that showed marty and anthony on the tramp (ref). they liked how the poles for the safety enclosure were stacked up on the side of the tramp, precariously close even. one commenter (bookguy, ahem) suggested i situate the poles around the tramp in some sort of mad max like configuration to further incent younglings to not fall over the edge. obviously i would never do this, but i also wouldn't make the suggestion aloud in front of two of my three kids.

KIDS (permalink) 08.04.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
dream fail

KIDS, WIFE (permalink) 08.03.2015
the scene looks like many american backyards on the weekend, with a dad doing lawn work. the predictable part of the picture is interrupted by a second story window being cast open and a partially eaten apple being chucked from it. the father watches the apple, land, roll, and then stop in his freshly manicured lawn. later when the father polls his children about the apple, the eight year old boy confesses to being the thrower. when challenged about his choices. he said mom told him to do it, or admittedly, said he could do it. to the question of why his mother would tell him to do it he said, so they could see what would happen, but only after guessing (or hypothesizing--science teacher and all) what would happen to the apple in the days ahead. and now they were testing their guesses (or hypotheses).

i wonder if any of them hypothesized that their father would come chirp at them about chucking fruit out of second story windows.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 07.17.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
what are you, a comedian?

KIDS (permalink) 07.15.2015
aleo and i have been playing some video games together. much of this time, especially in the early going involves him getting me functional. occasionally his use of language is the greatest. two examples that stand out are:

1. i was complaining about my joystick. he asked to see it. he moved around a bit and then said, "yeah, your joystick seems to be a little cockier than mine. we can trade if you'd like." i said i'd rather not, because i for sure thought the cockier controller would pay off in the long run (this has not yet come to pass).

2. then we were playing something else on the computer and i was complaining about the mouse being extra twitchy. again, he asked me to see it, opened up a control panel or two, moved some dials and then told me to try again. in explanation he said his friend maria was over playing with him and he had to turn the "sensibility" up for her. knowing maria as i do, i'd second aleo's suggested course.

and let's get past the point where i come off as a over-delicate fool that just complains when things aren't exactly to my liking. it's not like this is getting exponentially worse with each year that passes. i can't help if i'm a touch cocky and high on sensibility.

KIDS (permalink) 07.01.2015
magical meadow
bella and i were on an evening bike outing. in the summer she has taken to riding later in the day, some rides lasting well past sundown. while many parents and riders would balk at these post-sunlight rides, bella landed the right riding partner because for twenty years i did all my distance cycling between 10pm and 2am for a number of reasons i won't get into here/now.

on this night, we wended our way through our typical route. as we rounded a gentle bend with high brush on either side, we came upon a broad meadow that, at this particular moment, had thousands, and i do mean thousands, of fireflies dotting the landscape. the vision fully took our breath away as we rolled through a scene straight out of a Miyazaki film. as far as you could see in either direction small dots of light silently winked on and off in the dark.

it wasn't until we cleared the meadow that bella turned her head to me, mouth agape. she didn't even say anything—she just had a look of amazement on her face. i shook my head in agreement. the next time we stopped a few miles later, before the bikes had even stopped rolling, bella was commenting.

did you see that?

yeah that was really something.

have you ever seen anything like that?


we shouldn't tell anybody about it. just keep it as our secret. and only show it to people we really love.

we fist-bumped the deal. so if you ever want bella and/or i to take you to firefly meadow, you're gonna need to amp up the charm, like a lot.

KIDS (permalink) 06.09.2015
calling them as he sees them.
during school anthony would visit a speech therapist a few times a week. she was helping him with a few sounds he seems to stumble on when talking fast, like R's (my struggle when his age were any words with double-Ls). she, like seemingly all speech therapists, is young, charisma-heavy and attractive. she smiles big and talks with great positivity and brightness. both marty and i were struck by her after meeting at a patent-teacher conference. a few weeks after making her acquaintance a school-day story made its way back to us.

moments before anthony walked into the speech-lady's office she fumbled her drinking glass and spilled water down the front of her shirt. she dabbed it up as best as possible and then went about work. she greeted anthony when he stepped into the room and told him to take his seat. then as she turned to face him our second-grade anthony said:
i think your boob leaked some milk.
as is her nature she handled this unexpected comment with grace and humor. it probably didn't hurt that she was in fact a breast-feeding mother (not that anthony had any idea about that--but perhaps there is a look or a smell though--although it is probably more the case that he thinks all young women are breastfeeding some human). she later told marty she was struck by the ease and confidence of the eight year old's comment to which marty simply said, "well, you can tell he's a boy who saw a good number of years of breast feeding--maybe possibly a few more years than he should have."

KIDS (permalink) 05.13.2015
a few days after my fourteen year old bella was mistaken for a grown woman (ref), she and i were out running errands. i told bella that given (1) her looking older than she is and (2) me looking younger than i am since shedding 25 pounds we might start running into situations where people look at us and wonder if we're a father and daughter or a rich guy and trophy girl. after icking and hacking her way through the suggestion she explained that no sensible human could be that mis-guided. i agreed that it seemed crazy and unlikely but said she should prepare herself for the possibility.

not even twelve hours later bella and i were on an evening bike ride through our park. we pulled up in front of the art museum to adjust some gear (me giving bella my helmet because she forgot hers - again). as we were working things out a woman exited the museum and walked by us. glancing our way, she pulled up and complimented our bikes. she stood back taking them in and then said it was so great that we enjoyed the same things and got out together. she began saying "it's nice when a ... ". here she paused and looked at each of us and bella finished her sentence "father and daughter" and the woman picked it up thanking bella and saying it was hard to tell sometimes.

after we parted and got out of earshot of the lady bella turned to me, saw my broad smile and said, "don't say a word. not a word." and we biked on in silence for a bit while bella digested this new development.

KIDS (permalink) 05.08.2015
in trying to convey at point at the dinner table to anthony, i said:

haven't you ever heard the saying "as a man thinketh, so he is"?

uhh. no. and i know i've never heard that saying because i've never heard the word 'thinketh' before.

although after that exchange anthony will never again be able to make that claim because 'thinketh' saw tons of play after that as in "do you thinketh you could bring in the ice cream" or "i thinketh it is time for dad hours" or "i thinketh i must use the restroom."

KIDS (permalink) 05.07.2015
where we're at.
all three kids were scheduled for haircuts. we lived through survived a time that logistically scheduling three kids for a haircut in the same visit would have proven a herculean and catastrophic endeavor. herculean given the ambitious feats of occupying the two not in the chair and catastrophic in the sense that afterwards you'd need the remainder of the day to recover. but these days with a 14, 11, and 8 year old, marty called out a ten minute warning. in seconds the boys charged by to get dressed (it was only 12:00 on a saturday). as anthony passed, marty asked him to wake his sister. and that critical thought you just had about our daughter sleeping at noon isn't judgmentalism, it's jealousy—i know because i felt it too. after getting dressed, anthony returned to marty and asked if he could say that it was her idea to wake up bella. marty chuckled and said, yes, he could say that "mom said" to wake her and then added that he should just give her a gentle nudge on the hip and say it was time to get up. and that's what was done and they were in the car at the appointed wheels-up time. AND the dearmitt-walter clan set yet another salon-record for amount of hair removed from three humans (granted, bella and alex carry the day here).

and the best news of all regarding this maturation is it totally possible for me to say to my wife that while she and kids were getting haircuts i was thinking about catching a movie. because there was most definitely a time saying those words to my wife while in arms reach could have resulted with her holding my larnyx in her balled up fist but now, instead of rending parts of my anatomy from their home, she says "yeah, that sounds great. we'll meet up after." and not in a facetious way but in a, "great—go have fun" way and there's like flower petals floating down around us and soft music playing in the background. so i got to catch a weekend matinee of ex machina, a movie i would suggest you carve out time out to see as it is a wildly excellent and thought provoking affair about not our future, but about our childrens' future (possibly our grand-childrens') but assuming we can hold this planet together long enough, it is in someone's future. curious riddles they will be. and if you can go to a guilt-free afternoon matinee i would suggest doing so, if for no other reason, just because you can.

KIDS (permalink) 04.23.2015
nary a toe-tap or hand-on-hip-huff to be found
bella and i had just finished our second and final lap at the park. just as we turned to head home a guy a met a week earlier passed by. our faces lit up at recognizing each other and he applied the brakes coming to a stop. we stepped off the path and greeted each other. he introduced himself to bella and in short order we got talking about bike routes and group rides. i turned to bella a couple of times and could see the talks were not of interest to her given her unengaged observance. i tried to slow the conversation a few times but it kept re-gaining steam (this is a very interesting and knowledgeable man to me). after what was probably twenty minutes, we finally broke off and headed our original ways. once we were back on the bikes and out of earshot, i thanked bella for her patience and said i knew she wanted to go and that i appreciated her not getting huffy or embarrassing me in front of my new friend. she replied:
well, i figured there's been lots of times you've driven me to rollercade and then drove back to pick me up or took me to birthday parties or walked me to the library or came to my soccer games when you'd rather be doing other things so figured i owed you a talk with your friend.
sometimes i wonder how my life would be different today if i possessed my daughter's maturity and empathy levels when i was fourteen (instead of when i was 34).

KIDS, SPORTS (permalink) 04.09.2015
alex times two
alex has played soccer for several years. over this span, he has developed into quite the defensive specialist, namely because the first team he played on got whooped up on pretty regular so we had lots of practice defending the goal. and, alex was the team's prize student in this regard understanding how to position himself to disrupt shots on goal, harassing players as to not let them get situated and the like.

one problem alex possessed when playing defense is he always had a giant smile on his face. several times i explained he should try to smile less or at least less enthusiastically because a smiling defensemen did not seem very intimidating, but some parts of nature cannot be controlled (exhibit 1, exhibit 2, exhibit 3, exhibit 4, need i go on?)

alex's second team had an unnatural number of kids who ravenously loved soccer and played constantly. this equated to a lot of natural scorers and there's nothing a bevy of goal-minded kids loves more than a kid who likes playing defense because it means less time sharing the spotlight which means more shots on goal. this meant alex became a quick star on his team because he was one of the few kids who always asked to play dee.

but thanks to some gentle nudges from the coaches over the years (and surely helped by some blowouts where they were trying to pull the big guns off the front line), alex found himself on the offensive side of the field. as you'd expect, it is surely a different game up there and you could see alex working through the math of it all.

his intuition about the sport has been visibly improving but he'd yet to score a goal. then this last weekend, he scored not one but two goals in a game. after the first, when he turned from the goal to run back to middle field you could have seen the white of his smile from two pitches away, which sounds impressive until you consider that you could have seen my smile, FIVE pitches away.

KIDS (permalink) 03.25.2015
spring break 2015, part 3
i try to make my children think creatively or logically as much as possible. one of my tactics for this was to answer their questions with illogical responses. for example, whenever they asked me a yes/no question, i'd answer "sure". i liked watching their faces process the response before saying, "no dad. that's not right." to which i'd say "oh. no thank you." i know, i know, i'm a real party. or at least it's a party until your eight year old takes to responding to all questions directed to them with nonsensical answers, and even to people outside of the family, and even when responding to our host and hostess, and even when this host and hostess are the people kind enough to let our family of five descend upon their home for an entire week—for a third year in a row—wildly disrupting their home's routines and sleeping situations for several straight days. even then, whenever one of these kind people would ask anthony something, he would respond with gibberish. if you're wondering what that looks like, it looks something like this:

how was skiing today anthony?
uhh, oatmeal.

anthony would you like another piece of bread?
pink giraffe (with a nod of his head)

anthony, did you like the show?
doorknob. no, i mean, uhhh, blond hair.

if you're wondering how long this is cute for, it is, as you probably guessed, it is cute about zero times which means that thirty seven times in it is bordering on obnoxious. on the good side, he's having to think a little more than he would by answering 'epic' to everything.

TRAVEL, KIDS (permalink) 03.23.2015
spring break 2015
yesterday we returned from our spring break holiday—a week in utah rife with friends and skiing. this is the third year we have made this pilgrimage which gives it some tradition-caliber stock. in perusing the rich week of leisure, laughter and recreation, the moment that most jumps out at me happened on the drive home somewhere in wyoming when alex yelled from the third row seat of our speeding minivan, "i have to go pee and REFUSE to go in a bottle!"

sadly, in my telling of this i am unable to convey the gallons of vinegar and vitriol his words included as they were hurled the full length of our honda odyssey. good to his word, alex held fast on his pee-boycott until we delivered him to a proper urinal. anthony on the other hand gladly peed in his bottle although he did confess it was hard to perform without any privacy (as the whole family was drawn to watching him see to this need). anthony also offered his neighboring passengers a taste of his lemonade at least half a dozen times. he seemed fully undaunted that no one ever took part in his generosity.

KIDS (permalink) 03.06.2015
as desperate as catching water from a waterfall with teaspoon
my baby girl turns 14 years old today. last night i told her she had to spend a dad hour with me (a nightly ritual i do with my kids) on this night becuase it would be the last night i'd spend with my 13 year old daughter. then when we were done (watching an episode of lost) we stood in my office hugging. after the hug should have ended and i didn't let go bella slowly said, "uh dad, i kinda gotta go to bed". after five more seconds i lessened my grip, gave her a long kiss on the top of the head and she left for bed and fourteen.

KIDS (permalink) 03.05.2015
calling it as he sees it
after my mom died i took a little, green swiss army knife from her house. it belonged to her father when he lived with her before he died. it was surely something my mom bought for him to help with his crafts. i was never one to routinely carry a pocket knife but took it because it reminded me of both of them.

alex quickly noticed my new accoutrement and commented on it. i explained to him where and why i got it. he shrugged his shoulders and said a casual 'cool'. after this discovery alex would routinely approach me and ask to borrow the small knife to clean out some dirt from under his nails, cut a string or trim something up.

a few years back as marty and i were plotting out christmas i suggested getting alex his own pocket knife. marty first balked saying he was too young. i confessed he was young in years but in many ways was more responsible and conscientious than either of his parents. she said that he'd probably loose it straight away. i didn't have a solid retort for this as alex is not super-great of keeping track of things but suggested it might be different with this because he would love it enough to keep track of it. marty gave a consenting shrug of her shoulders and alex got his knife. and now, better than two years later, alex still has his knife and has always kept a solid line on it.

over the next two years my knife took several rides through the washing machine because i kept forgetting to take it out of the little pocket on my right front where i kept it. after one such journey it started falling apart, the glue holding the plastic sides in place having finally giving way from repeated trips through the water. so this last christmas i replaced it, with a shiny new one, one modeled after alex's newer model.

three weeks after getting my new knife someone asked to borrow it. i said i didn't have it. they asked where it was. i said i didn't know and confessed to mis-placing it. alex's one-word response, "already?", stung then and now as i think back on it. maybe i'm the one who shouldn't have gotten a knife for christmas.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.04.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
awesome II

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 01.29.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 12.18.2014
he may not have all his teeth, but he does have all his marbles
how could i let a week go by without an anthony quote:
i think i could set a world record for finding something in a messy room. i'd do better than clean people because they expect things to be where they go so they don't know what to do when they're not there.
i'm often struck by how obvious the world comes off to young, sharp minds, minds that are free of the clutter and nonsense (oftentimes) we adults allow in. anthony's good for two to three of these observations a week. that said, and for the record, anthony is quite terrible at finding things. i might say he was the worst at it if it weren't for his brother who seems remarkably gifted in his inability to find something that isn't where it is supposed to be game (he's surprisingly terrible at locating things even when they are where they are supposed to be). and their room is a wreck. now, i feel these points, both of which go against anthony's theory, do not soil the acumen of anthony's observation because i am a solid example of the syndrome anthony describes above. anthony and alex just are not.

KIDS (permalink) 11.20.2014
life with anfer (and alex), part 3
the boys were each in an after school program. anthony was in a mad-science session and alex was at his robotics club. in coming back from the bathroom alex found anthony sitting on the floor outside the mad-science room. he stopped and asked if he was ok. anthony said that there was a bully in the session today and he didn't want to be in there. alex suggested he just ignore him so he didn't have to miss the class (as both the boys always love the mad science curriculums). anthony told alex that's what he usually did but today he didn't have the energy or patience for it so was just going to sit in the hall instead. if you forget or are wondering, anthony is in second grade.

after returning to his own classroom alex explained his brother's situation to his club leader and asked if anthony could come sit in their room. the leader said of course and anthony was invited to the fifth graders space. they set him up with some drawing gear and anthony spent the remainder of the time drawing and coloring pictures.

in hearing the re-tellings of this tale from the various parties, i'm not sure which of my boys i'm more impressed with. my eight year old for having the sense to remove himself from a toxic and un-winnable situation or my eleven year old for supporting his brother both as a counselor and protector. for as great as all the laughs and cuddles and tickle-wars with your kids are, seeing moments of empathy and compassion and maturity from them warms the heart more than one might be prepared for.

a full week after this event when dropping the boys off at school a classmate walked by waving at anthony. once he had passed i asked anthony if that was the bully. he looked his way and said, "him? no. he's not a bully. he's just a liar."

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 11.19.2014
life with anfer, part 2
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
keep your hands where i can see 'em

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 11.18.2014
life with anfer

are you ready for another beautiful day on planet earth?

we're nothing compared to jupiter.

KIDS (permalink) 10.31.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 10.30.2014
as i unpacked my bag after arriving at work, i found a card tucked between my book and my lunch. it was from bella and was a remarkably thoughtful card. that night when i saw bella, i mentioned my discovery to her.
oh yeah. that. i got it for you for father's day but then thought how you and mom don't celebrate anniversaries and stuff like that and thought it might surprise you if i gave it to you some other time when you weren't expecting it.
well it worked. it worked quite nicely. aside from the part of it almost making me cry in my office.

KIDS (permalink) 10.29.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 10.28.2014
just so ya know
the other day anthony looked into my face lovingly and said, "i love you more than mom today".

i've learned to not let this sort of sentiment go to my head because the five times before he addressed this matter, marty sat in the alpha seat, and he still said it to me, as in right to my face, "i love mom more than you today". i find myself conflicted between complimenting his candor and telling him to get the hell of my lap.

KIDS, SPORTS (permalink) 10.09.2014
and you sir?
another noteworthy detail about this year's ms150 rides. for two riders to ride in two events, we needed to raise a total of $800. last year for our one event, a twelve year-old bella raised her $200 in a couple of hours by walking the neighborhood. i fell well short of my fundraising goal and when it was all over, the organization charged my credit card for the owed balance. marty was thoroughly non-plussed by this. when i asked marty if she really wanted her middle-aged husband going door to door beggin' money so he could share this experience with our daughter she replied, cooly, that if it would get that charge off her credit card, yes, that is what she wants. when marty learned the fundraising goal this year was $800 she pounced telling me i better get my butt our there and start begging for money. bella quickly came to my defense saying she would raise all the money ... and she did. well almost all of it. a co-worker who has a sibling with MS donated $20 to my cause. bella raised the other $780. and this time she had to go out more than once to hit the mark. this year took her three trips out.

i considered the inequity of it but in the end deemed it ok as i was going to a lot of trouble with the planning and room reservations and such so it seemed fair to leave philanthropic-work, which bella enjoys and is good at, to bella--the whole divide and conquer bit. plus i figured no one knew what a slacker i was, that is until bella and i got interviewed at one of the rest stops by a woman with a microphone that got amplified to the whole rest stop. the lady asked bella how she went about her fundraising and asked how much she raised. the woman, and surrounding crowd, were most impressed with the young girl's accomplishment. the woman then turned to me, saying she was excited to see how much the father of such a spirited young lady raised. there was an almost audible trombone sounding "wah wah waaah" after the words "twenty dollars" left my lips.

KIDS, SPORTS (permalink) 10.08.2014
the bike-slayer
it occurred to me that i didn't give an update about the ms ride bella and i did in kansas, the week after the nebraska ride (ref). here are bella's milage totals for the two weeks:

nebraska, day 1 50 miles
nebraska, day 2 35 miles
kansas, day 1 35 miles
kansas, day 2 70 miles
4 DAY TOTAL 190 miles (with five days of rest between the two sets of rides)

during our training leading up to the rides bella and i would usually do two rides a week. on the weekend we'd do a long, wild ride between 25 and 35 miles. and during the week, usually on wednesday we'd bike a park near our house that has a 7 mile loop where bella does between 2 and 5 laps. were it not raining on the wednesday between NE and KS we would have probably done a couple of laps in the park which would have taken bella over 200 miles for the eight days.

when i was thirteen, while i biked to school and to friends' houses, i never went anywhere near the sort of miles bella is logging. i'm wildly impressed by her ability. i'm also wildly thankful for the time together the activity is affording us.

KIDS (permalink) 09.26.2014
i did ask for it.
i'm that dad who challenges kids, wether they are my own, known or some random kid i've never met, to employ their manners (e.g. saying 'thank you' or 'please') when something is done for them. recently i went out of my way to give one of alex's friends a ride. when i delivered him to his destination, a group sleep-over, he began bounding up the front walk without as much as a 'see-ya'. i called to him:


ETHAN (10)

is there anything you might want to say or do to acknowledge that something was just done for you?

i don't think so.


oh. that. (with this, he bows in a courtly way and says with a regal flourish). i thank you kind, old sir for the ride in your lovely chariot.

he then turned and resumed his sprint into the house to meet his friends. the mom hosting the party stifled her laughter as i looked at her. when i gave her that 'really' look she shrugged her shoulders and reminded me that i did chide him for a thank you. this was the first time this kind, old sir had the grumpy, old phrase 'kids today' roll through his not-so-kind, old mind.

KIDS (permalink) 09.25.2014
minecraft r.i.p.
the recent news that microsoft was looking to buy mojang's minecraft had the elementary playground in a frenzy. at one point a kid ran up to anthony, shouted the news in his face and when anthony didn't really respond the boy grabbed him by the shoulders, shook him and screamed that he was totally under-reacting to the news. alex and i had a timely dad-lunch scheduled later that day. our entire hour was filled with talk of the sale.

after going over the perils of tinkering with something at its peak (never mess with a winning game) i asked alex what he thought Notch, the rumored hold-out owner should do. without much of a pause alex said, "well, he seems to love what he does and given how many people play minecraft i guess he has enough money to pay for his house and live, he should probably not give up the thing that makes him most happy."

to my emphatic retort of, but alex, it's a billion dollars.

his reply.
but what if he can't find another thing that he enjoys as much as this. then he traded something he loved for something that he doesn't.
i'm often struck at how quickly kids can boil down adult decisions.

after a little more digging into the story we learned that while Notch loved the creative and creating side of his minecraft project, he very much did not love the business side of things, so the release of the project made more sense than initially thought.

when the news of the sale finally hit, every minecrafter i knew, young and old alike, were visibly pensive at what was in store for their beloved technology in the hands of an organization known for fumbling easier slam-dunks than this.

KIDS (permalink) 09.24.2014
for school, bella (13) was asked to write an essay about a family member. this was her response.
Family Member Essay:
He grew up an only child in the snowy mountains of Colorado. She grew up the sixth child of seven in Missouri. He grew up in a public school pining for a different girl every week. She grew up in a prestigious catholic school and valued a strong and healthy relationship. Neither knew the other existed until fate intertwined and they met. He knew the moment they met it was true love. She was wary and doubtful about where the relationship would end up, but she took a chance and took his hand. That was how it all started. Twenty-four years later and they're still holding on.

My mother and father were practically made for each other. They've helped each other become the people that they are today. With each others support and adoration they are able to flourish as they mature. If they hadn't met, my father wouldn't be the man that he is today. They've helped each other through so much and they are each other's inspirations, hopes, and dreams. I love them very much and I know that I wouldn't have become the woman that I am now if I didn't have them.
it's crazy how much she knows about my/our past. at her age, i was never that plugged into my parents, or anyone who wasn't me for that matter. i find her curiosity and empathy both impressive and humbling. if i'm ever in need of a biographer, i for sure know who i'm tapping.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 09.23.2014
new math
while sitting in the car the other day waiting for the boys to get in, i noticed our neighbors had a walk-out deck above a first floor sunroom they had. the porch had a brick wall surrounding it that came up between the knee and thigh. the weather this particular day was crazy-lovely and i was thinking how neat it would be to have a setup like that where on nice weather nights, you could sleep outside in the night air and looking up at the night sky through gently swaying tree branches (akin to this experience). when the boys got in the car they noted my reverie.

ALEX (11)
whatcha lookin' at dad?

that porch. see over there. look above that room. you can walk out on there. do you see it?


i was thinking on nice days like today, you could pull a sleeping bag out there and sleep outside. because you're high up no one could see or mess with you. doesn't that seem like it would be cool?

yeah it does.

i would sleep out there all the time if we had one of those.

you should have one built on the back of our house.

yeah. i was kinda studying that thinking if we could.

but dad. if you did that, that would be like a thousand cuddles.


if you and mom built one of those on the back of the house, we would lose a thousand cuddles because you'd be busy.

you know anthony. i think you're right. that does look to be about a thousand cuddle project.

in giving this some thought i don't think we have nearly enough CUDDLE-ACCOUNTING in our society or personal lives as we maybe should. every life commitment (e.g. home improvement, continuing education, job change, home upgrade) should have a new line item added to the ledger sheet that reads LOST CUDDLES.

KIDS (permalink) 09.19.2014
it can't tinkle into a diaper either
i was talking to bookpimp on the phone catching up. i saw marty walk by twenty minutes earlier, giving a wave indicating good night. twenty minutes later i heard a dustup in the boys room. moments later alex meekly walked towards me and said, "i accidentally got gum in anthony's orange-a-tang and he's mad." anthony's orange-a-tang is a neon-orange stuffed orangoutang he saved from a give-away bag a few weeks earlier and has since had spot welded to his hip using it for both comfort (e.g. sleeping and reading with) and defense (e.g. rapidly windmilling it's long frame over his head to keep marauding ticklers at bay). a few moments after alex's report, a sour-faced anthony appeared with our kitchen scissors in one hand and orange-a-tang in the other. i asked bookpimp to hold on a moment while i looked in on the damage, which was not that great. i took the stuffed animal and scissors from anthony and carefully cut the small clump of gum-matted fur off the monkey's back. as i handed the limp primate back to anthony, anthony asked:

will it grow back?

will what grow back?

his hair.

oh. uh. i don't think so bud.

with this anthony turned and left the room, orange-a-tang pinned under his arm. lifting the phone receiver back to my ear, i then told bookpimp, who overheard the conversation, he just witnessed another piece of evidence supporting the fact that we, marty and i that is, may not need to bother saving for college. i have such examples from each of my children thus making me occasionally refer to their college fund as my mountain house account.

were marty sitting in on this conversation, she would be quick to tell you that given the accounts present state my mountain home may more resemble more of a suburban duplex outside of tempe AZ.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 09.18.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
a phase

KIDS (permalink) 09.17.2014
marty was called out in something called the water bucket challenge. when this happens you have 24 hours to either have a bucket of ice water dumped on you or pay $100 (i think).

when marty told the kids about it, they each had a different reaction.

oh! who are you going to challenge next. you can call out three people.

do you have a hundred dollars to pay them? you should pay them.

can i do it? ("it" being have water poured on him)

marty then added that that pretty cleanly summarized the personalities of her three children.

LIFE, KIDS (permalink) 09.16.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 09.04.2014
hmmm. let me see.
in watching anthony get dressed, i don't think there is space for less possible contemplation.

his dresser drawers are labeled with the different sorts of clothing (e.g. shorts, pants, short-sleeve shirts, long-sleeve shirts, etc).

after asking if it will be a hot or cold day, he goes and pulls the relevant drawers open and pulls out whatever is next in the stack.

and the indifference doesn't stop there. in addition to not caring what is on top of the pile, once it gets unfolded and pulled onto his frame, he is equally unconcerned if the garment lands inside-out, backwards or both. if upside down was a possible option, i'm certain, upside-down would happen from time to time.

of the variety of possibilities, backwards pants look the funniest. especially when they are unzipped. and raising an open zipper on a pair of worn-backwards pants, is the only scenario that gives anthony enought trouble to ask for help on.

and if you're wondering what anthony says to the litany of children (and adults) at school who comment on his clothes, he just shrugs his shoulders as if someone said there might be rain later today.

i once heard a elderly, sage woman say, the best fashion statement is having a fit and trim body. if you subscribe to that theory, then you will find anthony to be a great example of that maxim as he always looks like a million bucks regardless of how his clothes might be draped on his frame.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.03.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 08.21.2014
tube me mom
i've mentioned previously about alex's laid back, won't be rushed nature. i once described it to a teacher as if you recorded alex leaving the house in three different scenarios, one where he was leaving for school in the morning, another when the family was leaving for vacation and another when the house was on fire, you'd be completely unable to discern the difference between the three.

finally, after eleven years, i have found something that can make alex move with purpose: the need to urinate during his computer time. first he will stave this off as long as possible, hoping to hold the torrent in until a parent gives the 'times up' call. but in the rare moment when it can't wait he will find a good pause point in whatever he is doing then with the exacting timing of an competitive sprinter leave the blocks with an alarming start, skillfully ricocheting around corners in his driven charge to the stairs, climbing them two at a time, down the hall to the toilet. and while i'm hesitant to bring this up, i'm fearful of the physical implications of him trying to squeeze his bladder empty with the same rapidity in which he came to be standing in front of the commode. what his poor organs and vascular systems must be thinking. and i promise you, you've never seen a human wash their hands faster than this (yes, even in this hurried state, aleo belives in the import of proper hygiene). i'm telling you hummingbirds would be jealous of the fast-twitch musculature at play in the twist of the handle, the rub of the hands, and even leaning down for a pull of water straight from the nozzle (gotta stay hydrated!) and then after a quick shake and wipe on his shirt's front, he shoots through the doorway towards his start point as if fired from a magical sling shot that can flawlessly navigate corners and obstacles.

it will be curious to see alex's reaction when he hears about catheter technology. the words "home-catheterization-kit" may even make it onto alex's highly competitive and contemplated christmas list. and even after his mother explains to him how it works and how painful they are, i think you will see alex look off with deep consideration, his mind marking up its whiteboard in hopes of balancing the expense and gains of it all. and then, i wouldn't be surprised to get the catheter equivalent of rocky balboa's 'cut me mick' from our eleven year old, minecraft-obsessed son.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 08.20.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS, WIFE (permalink) 08.19.2014
peanut butter spoon
the other morning in our refrigerator there was a bowl of peanut butter with a dinner spoon sticking out of it. i've learned to not question or challenge such findings. namely because i've never liked where my investigations led me.

later that morning when more people were awake and marty looked in there. she pulled the bowl of peanut butter from the fridge, and asked, seemingly to the contents of the fridge, "what's this?". she then spun and held the bowl out towards anthony who was eating breakfast and said again "what's this?".

he sheepishly replied, "a peanut butter spoon."

now this is where things get interesting, interesting in this case meaning, this is where things go drastically different than i expect them to go, which is why/how i've learned not to run down seemingly simplistic matters, because i've learned there are no simplistic matters.

marty continued, "a peanut butter spoon? a peanut butter spoon? do i need to go over again what a respectable-sized spoon of peanut butter looks like?"

she rakes the spoon through the bowl, lifts it up in example, "this! this is what a proper peanut butter spoon looks like." then showing the boy the bowl adds, "this is like, five days worth of peanut butter spoons."

she then licked the spoon, then drove the spoon back into the sticky mound and tossed the bowl back in the fridge with a conflicted mixture of disgust at the heaping glop in the bowl and the tasty dollop in her mouth which her jowls effortfully worked through.

and if you're wondering what other sorts of culinary options our children are being exposed to, it is not at all uncommon to see anthony arrive to the dinner table with a plate of ketchup, like five hamburgers-worth of ketchup by my meager estimation.

KIDS, SPORTS (permalink) 08.14.2014
double the miles, double the states, double the memories.
last year bella and i rode in missouri's ms150 charity ride. at that event bella learned that there are ms150 rides all over the nation. excitedly she said we should try to ride one in every state. always up for some time on the bike i easily agreed. i should have given an ounce more thought of who i was talking to. longish story short, bella and i are riding in not one but two rides this year. the first one is in nebraska and then a week later in kansas.

she picked those states for the relative flatness as she doesn't feel ready for a ton of miles on a ton of hills.

she picked two states because she said i won't live long enough for us to do it one state at a time. watching her do the math in front of me was most lovely. you have to love a math equation that begins with the phrase, "so dad, you are, well, well there's just no nice way to say it, you are really old so if we are going to do this we're going to have to work a little harder."

she also took my pledge sheet and hit the streets. i got in trouble last year because i didn't make my minimum pledge amount and just wrote a check out of the family account for the balance. marty was non-plussed about my pilfering cash from the family coffers. bella was non-plussed at my lack of initiative. so in gratitude to her mother for letting her take time off school for the rides and to show her decrepit father how it is done bella canvassed our neighborhood with both of our pledge sheets and collected $500 of the needed $800 in three days. i will confess she does make it look rather trivial.

so if you'd like to come cheer us on, or ride along, we'll be in nebraska the weekend of september 6th and in kansas the week of september 13th.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 07.16.2014
as anthony passed marty and i on the porch, marty called him back, saying there was something on his nose and asking what it was. without reaching up to feel it or asking to consult a mirror, he flatly said, "scabs and dirt" and not waiting for a response, continued his march into the house.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 07.15.2014
may i be frank
the day before fourth of july, which kindly fell on a friday this year, served up the most spectacular day of weather i can ever recall seeing in a usually hot and humid st. louis. work that day proved quiet and productive given many people chose to take the day off. staff was released at noon but i took advantage of the silence to get a few more things done, leaving at 3:30. i strolled along my walking commute staring at the magically blue sky which had crisply lined clouds slowly floating by. they were so pristine they looked near-animated, like miyazaki himself sketched them above us.

between this weather and my early jump on the three day weekend and my walking commute i near floated home. as i turned the final corner towards my house bella and anthony came towards me on roller blades. upon seeing me, their already large smiles grew bigger and they spread their arms wide before them asking (shouting) why i was home already.

throwing my own arms wide, i proclaimed, "i'm naming this the most beautiful day of the year and in honor of that, i'm coming home early to enjoy it with my family."

with them riding a scooter was an adorably cute neighbor girl of about six or seven years old (imagine how cute a huge-grinning, near-toothless anthony is, but then make him even cuter and give him lopsided, pigtails). after my proclamation, all three kids looked up and around, not having seemingly noticed the magical mood of the temperature or the cloud-dotted sky or relaxed state of our community. they consented that it all did seem pretty nice. i introduced myself to their friend and we chatted about the day briefly. as we parted bella stopped and yelled back to me that my pants were very blue. the pants were my new light-weight summer pants from jCrew and were a pastel blue (they were my favorite cut (urban-slim) and summer-time fabric (oxford-cotton) AND were on sale for 50% off BUT only in this color AND were part of the very necessary post weight-loss wardrobe re-fresh). I yelled back my thanks and that they were my homage to this beautiful day. bella flashed me the smile she uses when i say silly, fatherish things and turned to catch up to the others.

later, when bella and anthony returned home from roller-blading, bella told me that after our exchange about my pants, when she caught up to anthony and the new girl, the new girl said to her, in an understanding tone, "it's ok bella, my parents aren't very classy either".

just when i thought the day couldn't possibly offer me more.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 06.27.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 06.25.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

WIFE, TECHNOLOGY, TRAVEL, KIDS (permalink) 06.20.2014
marty post-cellphone: day five
in the middle of one of my hourly updates in the family's second day of travel, the following exchange took place between alex and i.

we're doing great here dad. we just got into the mountains and should be there in another three hours.

ok. great. tell mom to be extra careful on those small, twisty roads.

ok. is everything going good for you?

yep. tell mom her ant guy just got done.

mom. your aunt just died.

WHAT? NO! ALEX! that's not what i said!

what dad? i can't hear you.

mom's aunt didn't die. the ant-guy just finished his work.

oh. mom. your aunt didn't die someone else just did something.

the ant-killing guy was just ... oh never mind ... i'll tell her later.

sorry about that dad. your words got a little blurry there when you were talking.

KIDS (permalink) 06.05.2014
anthony has been walking around with a stop-watch around his neck. a parent he walked by commented on the accoutrement asking if that is normal behavior in our house. i told them only when the library's summer reading competition fires up. the kid with the most reading minutes over the summer gets their picture hung in honor of their achievement. anthony has pointed to that section in the stands and due to this target now wears a stopwatch around his neck as to not miss a single minute of potential reading time.

KIDS (permalink) 05.15.2014
single parent + only child = near arrest
friday night marty took alex and bella to an amen concert. amen is the acapella group our friend e-love operates. for not entirely clear reasons, anthony did not want to go this year so i agreed to hang back with him. just after the concert-crew left, i told anfer to saddle up and we were going on an adventure. wanting to assess if this second option held appeal to him he asked what we were doing. i told him it was a surprise. anthony is not a great fan of surprises and told me as much. i held my ground.

my palm V informed me that the bubble soccer courts were open tonight. i learned about bubble soccer some months back and after laughing till injury while watching their explanatory videos i entered the tournament dates into my palm. as i said that was many months ago and i recalled seeing it in my calendar and here i was with a young boy (who i thought would find bubble-soccer high-sterical) and some time on our hands. i planned to follow that up with a dam burger (the most amazing burger-fry combo in all of stl) which happened to be magically near the bubble soccer courts. and then we would swing by ted drewes which, once addicted, can always be rationalized as being close-by.

bubble soccer did not dissapoint and i found myself laughing till injury, again, while i watched a set of high school kids, male and female, sending each other awkwardly ricocheting off the walls, floors and other players. curiously, anthony found the sport "harsh", a description he repeated after every collision. his side of the dialogue included, most exclusively, the following lines repeated.

that was harsh dad.
why is this game so harsh?
why do you want me to see this kind of harshness dad?
do you want me to grow up to be this harsh?
that boy is the most harsh.
do these boys know they are harsh?

to picture the full dialogue you need to imagine the person he's talking to as resembling bobby deniro's character in cape fear cackling in the movie theater. and i'm not even a slap-stick comedy kinda guy but i found this inflated-gladiator warfare wickedly funny.

anthony's dislike turned into a full-on snit so i said we'd go. as we walked out his lecture about my choice continued. by the time i was pulling out of the rec center's lot i had cancelled our next two stops and was headed home (even though this injured me more that it did him but a good percentage of parenting needs to go that way).

as i closed in on our house i realized it was 8pm and i hadn't eaten since lunch. so i pulled up in front of our cheap chinese spot, told anthony i'd be right back (he was reading in the back seat). i ran in ordered my usual and then stepped back outside to wait for it to be ready. as i stood on the sidewalk i watched the people passing by got lost in my thoughts of work and the weekend. i was pulled out of my stupor by a loud-talking man. he appeared to be a college-student and was leaning into a police car. i heard him say to the officer, "maam. someone left that little boy alone in the car. they pulled up and ran into one of the stores here."

honestly, the first thougth through my head was "now what douchebag went and did that?" then the guy pointed at my car. my eyes went from my car, to his outstretched arm, to the police officer swiveling in her seat to get a better look, to my car, to the man's pointing finger to the officer to the pointing finger before my mind shook me from my daze enough to hear the words, "they're talking about you idiot".

i raised my own hand and said "excuse me sir. that is my car and i'm right here." he ignored me. i thought he didn't hear me so i repeated myself. this time i knew he heard me but still ignored me so he was fully caught up in some bizarre passive-aggressive move (like being left in the car alone too often as a child himself) so i just walked up to the policemen's window, leaned in and explained that the car and child were mine and i was standing there waiting for a food order. she nodded, smiled and drove on. i stood up and looked at the whistle-blower who was walking off self-importantly. my mind flashed an image of him wearing a huge clear bubble, then a bubble-wrapped me careening into him at full-speed sending him into a rolling ricochet off the plate-glass window of the storefront he passed. this mental movie may not have made me cackle, but it did make me smile.

KIDS (permalink) 05.08.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
APRIL 2014

KIDS (permalink) 05.07.2014
like a pet-name
for one of our twenty-hour (one-way!) st. louis to salt lake road trips, i made each kid their own writing/drawing center. these included a clipboard, pad of graph paper, mechanical pencil, and architecture/lettering stencils. since that trip these work stations have been disassembled and cast to the various parts of the house, with one exception. anthony tracks his mechanical pencil with great care keeping it at his desk spot and sometimes taking it to school with him (against my counsel fwiw). while i appreciate how much he likes this object my favorite part of it his interest in this is that he calls it not his mechanical pencil but instead his "electric pencil".

KIDS (permalink) 05.06.2014
he may be quiet, but you know he's there
alex had a last-minute sleepover. the next morning i stirred from sleep to find anthony sitting at the foot of the bed looking very dour. i asked if he was ok. he turned to me and very sadly said he missed alex. i couldn't recall seeing him look so sullen. i pulled the sheets back, offering him a spot to which he slid in and cuddled into me extra close.

for the most quiet and unassuming member of our family, alex's absence might in the end leave the biggest footprint for all of us.

KIDS, WEB (permalink) 04.17.2014
so far, so good
people have long chided me that my kids would one day revolt towards this website. the below exchange between bella, age 13, and i affirms my choice, thus far at least. and, yes, i'm documenting this here in case her position ever changes.
On Feb 19, 2014, at 7:26 AM, Troy Dearmitt wrote:
i thought you might enjoy this dCom post from exactly five years ago to the day.

how times change.


On Mar 5, 2014, at  3:45 PM, Bella DeArmitt wrote:
OMG, I haven't had time to reply, but I read it on that day. I'm so sweet,  demonic, and SMART!

Thanks for making this website,

Bella C;D

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 04.16.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
jack, you're in

KIDS (permalink) 04.15.2014
lieing to a 7 year old shouldn't be this hard.
to give a further taste to the challenge that is raising/educating anthony (referring to), i share the following story which happened just yesterday.

last weekend anthony lost a tooth. sunday night marty helped anthony place the tooth under his pillow. then after he was asleep marty came to my office looking for a dollar bill. she plucked one from my wallet and made the trade. the next morning when anthony woke up, marty asked him if anything had happened. remembering the tooth, anthony looked under his pillow and found the dollar. he held the unfolded bill in his hands, studying it, then cried foul.

hey. this is one of dad's dollars.

uhh. what?

this dollar. it's dads.

what do you mean it's dads? why do you say that?

because it has this notch right here. all of dad's money has a notch right here because of that clip he keeps it in.

uhhh. well. maybe the tooth fairy has a wallet like dads.

really mom.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 04.03.2014
the night before i went on my mancation ski trip this year, alex and i spent a few quiet moments together before bed. out of nowhere he reflectively said the following:
it's hard on me when you travel.

at delmar harvard i remember i used to slide into my seat at lunch time and the last time you went skiing, i didn't slide in like i always did because i was sad and everyone (at the table) noticed (i didn't slide in) and then i started crying.

but that is the last time i cried at school about you traveling.
what he doesn't know is when he starts traveling, like for college, life, and marriage, i'll be the one not animatedly sliding into my seat and maybe even crying a bit. i hope i come to terms with it as quickly and maturely as he has.

KIDS (permalink) 04.02.2014
not for the weak-willed
a taste of what it's like to babysit the dearmitt-walter kids. note marty's fourth bullet point below.
Bella has 2 dog-sitting jobs today. First, the same location and times on Pershing as yesterday. Second, she walks a dog at Pershing on her own. She will need to visit both dogs before leaving for roller skating.

Rollercade is at 11703 Baptist Church Road, 63128. It takes between 20-30 minutes to get there. The kids will probably have just eaten breakfast.
  1. I would pack snacks for the car ride home, water included.
  2. Alexander needs to remember quarters for the video games.
  3. I don't buy drinks or snacks.
  4. The last time that we went to Rollercade, Anthony discovered that he could fit inside the lockers. So if you can't find him, I would just wait patiently.
  5. We usually put our shoes in the lockers but I don't remove the key. I leave my purse in the car so that it stays safe.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 04.01.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
slackers need not apply

KIDS (permalink) 03.27.2014
hey you!
a few of the hand-crafted flyers bella made last night which she plans to hang up on poles and in bathrooms around our community on her day off school today. my memory might not be what it once was but i'm pretty sure i never spent a day off school making and posting signs in hopes of raising people's self-esteem.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

KIDS (permalink) 03.26.2014
uncle, uncle!
the biggest problem we have with our two sons is they laugh so often and so loud they annoy and wake their sister with great regularity. watching them play and read and cuddle and rough-house and build together, at times for hours on end, has proven to be a magical combination for us. recently marty and alex had to go away for a few hours on saturday morning, a time i usually do my weekend chores and a time alex and anthony usually hang out. anthony was all over me with an attitude of, "c'mon dude, entertain my shit". his presence was so heavy i imagined how different life would be if he were our only child or if his older brother wasn't as open and engaging as he was and i had this urge to buy alex ten presents, some of which he really wants and some that he doesn't even know he wants in gratitude for how awesome he is to his little brother ... and by extension to me.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.25.2014
a kind of mystery science theater
we were at a theatrical production of les miserables in salt lake city. our family sat in the last row of the hale's intimate circular auditorium. this would be my third show at the hale and my family's second. during one particular scene, the necessary prop was lowered from the ceiling. it stood in the center of the round stage as one of the most scant arrangements used through the night containing only a metal gate supported on either side by two stone pillars. in the scene two star-struck lovers stood on either side of the locked gate longing for one another through their drippy sentiments exchanged between the gate's bars. in the middle of the heated scene my seven year old leaned into me for the following whispered conversation:



why are they talking through the gate?

because she is locked in her house and he is on the street.

but why doesn't he just walk around?

(muffled laughter)

i mean, can't they see the fence doesn't go very far and they could just walk around that stone part?

well, because ...

then they wouldn't have to talk through those bars.

later in the show when they brought out a grown up and highly decorated Cossette, anthony quietly asked why little bo peep was in the show. this one caused laughter by a small circle of seats surrounding him.

so, if you ever want to make a high-brow show more entertaining, i reckon for the right price (some sweets from the intermission stand) you could have anthony accompany you and ask the questions that need to be asked.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 03.13.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
how does this work

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 03.12.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 03.04.2014
it makes dirty clothes on the bathroom floor seem tame, maybe even welcome
i found a pair of bella's underwear in the dining room.

when i opened the silverware drawer in the butler's pantry, i found a pair of anthony's pajamas stuffed towards the back.

no comments were made though until we found one of alex's socks pulled over the doorknob of our home's front door. marty pointed at the sock and asked me if that meant one of the boys were having sex upstairs and we should proceed with caution.

i thanked her for suggesting it was one of the boys and not my only daughter.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 01.23.2014
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 01.14.2014
i have a rule with my children that the first thing they say to me in a new day cannot be a request for something.

this results with them sometimes saying things like:

"did you sleep well dad? great. can you help me with my homework?"


"you look handsome today dad. can you log me on so i can check my mail?"

the other morning, the first thing anthony said to me, as he brought me from sleep was, "dad, you have a lot of hair in your nose".

i might need to extend the ban to include comments that make my first act of the day be studying my aging body, super-up-close, in the mirror.

KIDS (permalink) 01.09.2014
the importance of details
i walked through the ping pong room on a saturday morning to find anthony leaning back on the futon playing a DS while a movie played on a laptop in front of him and a bowl of popcorn sat next to him which he'd reach into for a fresh mouthful when his game didn't require both hands. bella sat on the other side of the room, using marty's computer. the scene produced the following exchange:

hey anfer. nice juggling work there. most impressive.

BELLA (the quoted part being done in an exaggeratedly deep-dad voice)
WHAT!?! why when i do that, you yell at me and when he does it you tell him 'most impressive'?

because one of the things he's doing isn't his homework.

oh. yeah. that.

LIFE, KIDS (permalink) 01.07.2014
the other side of joy
we recently learned that one of bella's dogs (from her dog-sitting business) had taken ill, ill to the point that the vets told the family they probably had a week left with him before it would become unbearable for all concerned. of all the dogs bella has cared for this one, Guinness, held the top-spot with our family. whenever bella watched Guinness he would stay at our house, sometimes for weeks at a time, sleeping in our beds, walking laps around our dinner table and standing guard at the french door windows for joggers and dog walkers.

marty and i held off telling the kids as long as able due of the holiday break but given the short window we had to work with—as we had to go down to say our goodbyes—we called the kids down to the living room just days before christmas and explained the situation. bella was, predictably, leveled by the news. marty held bella's quaking frame, tears streaming down her own face at seeing her daughter rocked so. i sat with alex who leaned into me silent and staring. we hushed anthony's questions telling him we'd explain better later.

alex and i then left for a lunch we had planned, leaving marty still holding a now quiet isabella. after a few silent miles in the car, i asked my ten year old how he felt. following a longish pause he softly said, "i think i'm a little bit devastated."

if there is one who makes the most of his words in our family, the safe and accurate bet would point to alex.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 12.17.2013
broken record
things i say a lot to my kids:

in the morning when i first see them:
welcome to another beautiful day on planet earth.

when i say goodbye to them:
do good.

when i announce we're about to leave:
wheels up in five.

when it's time to go to bed:
shut it down. brush, potty, and bed.

when they do something i deem foolish:
oh c'mon. you've gotta have more sense than that.

when i'm in mush mood for them:
you know i love you big, right?

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.

KIDS (permalink) 11.25.2013
that's the kinda boy i'm talking about
one last minecraft note related to last week's story. to the obvious question of why, if alex was so excited about this herobrine mansion map, did he not play it before. the reason alex had never played the map before is he had heard that installing such add-ons (e.g. maps, mods, and skins), while a great enhancement to the regualr game play, could sometimes cause computers to crash and since his mom was letting him use her computer to play the game, he didn't want to do anything to mess it up. so even though he ravenously wanted to install the map, this young boy never did so because he did not want to cause problems for his mother who was generous enough to share her computer with him. he instead settled for hearing about it, watching videos of other people playing it, and hoping that one day he might get access to a computer, more his own, that he could install such things onto and not worry about inconveniencing someone.

it's safe to say this boy is slightly more conscientious than i was at ten ... or maybe even forty.

KIDS, LIFE (permalink) 11.21.2013
minecraft update
a quick recap. yesterday i talked about making a change in my approach with alex. in short, i made the decision to allow alex's interest to direct our time together instead of me pushing things i deemed more worthwhile for alex and his development (yeah, i know, what a big-time ass). presently, one of alex's premiere interest is a game called minecraft. as a rule, i'm reasonably derisive towards video games believing them to be an unfortunate use of young minds primed and ready to learn real things with a never-to-be-had-again ability or rapacity. in putting aside my agenda and deciding to support my son in his interest, i called one of my best friends, bookguy, who i knew played the game and asked his advice. bookguy defended this particular game saying it was better than most and iterated through the reasons why, a key one being the intensely creative nature of the game which craftily blends lego-like building with dungeons and dragons-like adventure. bookguy also pointed me to a few things to accelerate and amplify our experience.

so monday night, the first night of the new troy, alex helped me install the game on my computer. he then schooled me on the basics and helped me to build, or craft rather, my first house, complete with a roof and bed. i backed away from the computer after night one feeling good about our progress.

on tuesday night i suggested to alex we try to load one of these maps my friend told me about AND to try to get the local network gaming figured out, another bookguy tip. alex inquired about the map and i said i had one in mind. i pulled up the webpage bookguy directed me to and the second it appeared on the screen, alex lost it, and i mean completely.

herobrine's mansion! herobrine's mansion! that's the map we're getting?

i think so. if we can get it figured out.

oh my gawd dad! that is like the most amazing map ever made for minecraft.

that's what i hear.

oh my gawd! oh my gawd! i can't believe this is happening. this is amazing!

and happen it did. we got the map installed, the texture add-on in place, and the networking figured out. alex and i, with anthony enthusiastically watching, ran around a mightily impressive world made by some mightily impressive dude. there were lots of excited explanations by alex and re-spawnings by dad (namely because i kept hitting the bad guys with a piece of steak instead of my sword). let's just say a certain corner of our house was much more lively than it has historically been for a routine tuesday evening.

when i later put alex down for bed he thanked me for playing minecraft with him and getting the maps and figuring out how we could play together. he then said, "dad, this was the best day of my life" and from the dreamy seriousness in his voice i felt that he was not embellishing his mood, not one iota.

had you told me on sunday afternoon that i would be experiencing this moment forty-eight hours later, i would have wondered what major life event had occurred. it just turns out the major life event was a quiet ten minutes of thought. i knew i wanted something more from a very important part of my life, i just didn't know it was so close at hand.

but, there is a bad side to this story. the unfortunate side effect to injecting an ok life with a plunger-full of awesomeness is it can make ten year olds curse like a target stock boy. it peaked as my minecraft character dropped into the newly installed herobrine world when alex, awe in his wide eyes, shouted in my ear, "ohhhh! this is awesome!! this is so fricken' awesome!!!"

i would have chastised him, but i agreed.

KIDS (permalink) 11.19.2013
gotta pay to play
bella interrupted me doing dishes.

she asked me to log her on to a computer.

i told her it seemed selfish of her to expect me to quit my chore because she wanted to play on the computer.

she thought a moment and offered to continue the dishes, silverware actually, while i got her set up.

i complimented her smart problem solving. she came to the sink, i stepped back and she assumed my spot.

before i left the kitchen i saw her blanching at the task. it looked as though she was just going to bide time until i unlocked the computer and returned. seeing this in the cards i called from the next room that it seemed fair for me to type one letter of the password for every piece of silverware she washed. i heard an exclamation of understanding from the kitchen as well as a clatter of jostled silverware. she counted off the pieces she washed and i in turn wondered aloud why we ever chose such ... a ... long ... password which prompted more clatter and action from the kitchen.

that ole barter system must stand as one of man's finest creations.

KIDS (permalink) 11.14.2013
please rise
last week, bella became the president of her school's national junior honor society. i could spend this time going on about how proud we are of her or how anyone who knew me in junior high, if told i would go on to to have such a child, would have called the notion daft, ridiculous, and silly—students and teachers alike—but instead i'll just share the speech i saw days after the event, an event i didn't even know was happening.

when i asked her about what the role involved she described the meetings, what they talk about and her place in it all. when done and after a brief pause she added that parents weren't allowed to attend. she is smart!

her stump speech.

KIDS (permalink) 11.07.2013
droppin' the hammer.
over the last few weeks i've taught alex how to work the stick shift in my car. so now when we we're driving, and he's next to me obviously, i'll hit the clutch and call out a gear, like second or third. alex then moves to action changing the stick accordingly and then acknowledges the change by repeating the gear i called for. i'm struck by the cleanliness and efficiency of our dance which has come about most naturally. we're already so good at it, we're able to insert the calls and responses right in the middle of conversations with only the slightest pause in thought or acceleration.

tuesday morning when i entered the garage to take the boys to school, they were both in the car and waiting for me. one of them had already hit the garage door opener and when i slid into my seat alex already had his hand on the stick ready to go. seeing this i cautioned him to be careful to not pull the stick out of gear when i wasn't in the seat (explaining it is possible to do when the clutch isn't engaged lest he thought otherwise). to his question of 'what would happen?' i explained if the car was parked on any sort of grade, it could start rolling forward or backward depending on the slope. fortunate to the moment, there is a slight grade out of our garage so i told him to go ahead and pull the car out of gear. he looked at me with uncertainty. i nodded and said it was ok. so he pulled it from first gear and the car started slowly rolling forward. alex looked up at me. i said if this ever happened when i wasn't here he needed to pull on the emergency brake and pointed it out. as we talked this through, the car's front end moved out of the garage and began rolling faster due to a steeper grade when exiting. i said, "alex pull the brake". more speed. some panic out of alex. more speed. "pull the brake!" panic. more speed. "pull the brake alex!" his hand reached for it, gripped the handle and lifted up with as much force as his slender arm and coursing adrenaline would allow. the car lurched to a stop in the middle of the alleyway and a few feet from the opposing curb. anthony looked up from his book with piqued eyes. alex looked at me with wide eyes. i held out my gimme five hand. after he slapped my hand i smiled big and complimented the successful handling of his first car emergency. he turned from me wearing that glow of earned pride so special to see in one's children.

wednesday morning when we met in the car for school, both boys asked if we could do that rolling thing again where we had to use the emergency brake. we did.

KIDS (permalink) 11.06.2013
monday's riddle
bookpimp reminded me i forgot to post the answer to monday's bonus riddle. apologies.

The riddle:
you go into the woods and get it
you sit down to search for it
and you bring it home with you because you can't find it?
what is it?

The answer:
A splinter.

KIDS (permalink) 11.04.2013
halloween 2013 answers
i promised answers to the jokes posted last week. here they are:

question: how do you tell if you have a dumb dog?
answer: he only chases parked cars
note: saying the word 'parked' proved quite effortful for anthony and caused a lot of people to scrunch their faces in thought while they ran through the options. it was neat seeing the moment they got it as their countenance relaxed going from strain to smile.

question: what do you call an elephant in the arctic?
answer: lost
note: i continue to marvel how easily alex carries himself with strangers. in the early days he seemed to be a guy who would be forever fearful and intimdated by unknown folks, especially grown up ones, but recent years have exposed a quiet charisma in him that is so unassuming it for-sure sneaks up on most people.

question: what do you ghouls and ghosts wear?
answer: boo-ties
note: while you might have expected more from bella, on this day, all her focus is given to better, faster coverage of the homes she hopes to hit. i need to tell her that some people reward smart jokes with extra candy.

while trying to find their jokes last week, here's a riddle the kids stumped me with.

you go into the woods and get it
you sit down to search for it
and you bring it home with you because you can't find it?
what is it?

i'll let that slide through your fingers for a bit before the reveal.

KIDS (permalink) 11.01.2013
halloween 2013 debrief
for those that might not know, st. louis has a tradition where the trick or treaters have to (are supposed to) have a joke to tell before getting candy. this ritual initially annoyed me but has grown on me over the years. here are the kids' jokes this year:

how do you tell if you have a dumb dog?

what do you call an elephant in the arctic?

what do ghouls and ghosts wear?

i'll let you chew on those over the weekend. i'll post the answers next week.

marty has started telling bella (12) she is getting too old to trick or treat, news that proved reasonably devastating to both bella and i. for bella, more than the dressing up or the boons of the candy, she loves the challenge of hitting as many houses as possible in her allotted window. obviously she has gotten dramatically better each year, namely through good planning and strategy. the last two years she's graduated from the orange plastic pumpkin container to the pillow case to carry her candy, the inside sign of a real gamer. as for me, i'm one who believes, that like with many facets of life, one's entry into and out of halloween deals more with their personal love of the ritual than an actual age. so as long as one is willing to engage in the rules and requirements of the tradition, one is eligible to play. i feel i aged out of the dressing up thing at around seven but surely know several people, my age, that haven't lost their love of it yet. more on bella's status as a pillowcase carrying participant in years to come i'm sure.

something that has become my favorite part of halloween in our home is the post-trick-or-treating trading session that happens just inside the doorway. bella introduced this practice a few years back and early on it proved to be little more than her figuring out how she could get her favorite candy from her brothers' bags. in this routine, each kid dumps out their bucket and starts assessing the stock, pulling their favorites aside. this obviously leaves a less coveted circle of candy before them which they start offering for trade.

does anyone like almond joys? almond joys here.

yes. yes. i want them.

what do you got?

i got ... i got ... i got skittles.

ok. skittles for almond joys. here's three. you got three?


their hands exchange the goods quickly and begin the desperate search for the next trade. now that everyone is older, the bartering is much more even, heated and raucous. last night we had three extra kids over and the decibels hit new heights--although this happens with birthday party pinatas too and while there are more kids, there is less variety which makes things a bit more sedate. last night's trading was a furious affair given the ages of the kids and volumes of candy. the craziest bidding war happened when bella raised a mini pack of swedish fish over her head with both hands looking like she cradled a sacred chalice above her. she loudly called out "swedish fish! i've got one bag of swedish fish here!" this announcement silenced the room as everyone stopped and stared over bella's head. they then looked down and started calling out candy names. when someone said kit-kat bella lit up and said yes. when someone heard her response, they yelled "i'll give you two kit-kats". you know what happened next. the one bag of swedish fish ended up going for eleven kit-kats to alex. when bella stepped over the segregated ponds of candy to alex's spot, he counted out six kit-kat packs in her hand while she held the prized swedish fish in her other. when he stopped at six she looked at her hand.

whoa buddy. where's the rest?


you bid eleven.


there's only six here.

but there's two in each pack. that's twelve. so really, you're getting an extra one.

(after a pause) ok. since you're my brother, i'll let that slide. but next time, no funny math.

i felt bad for anthony as he had problems reading the candy names so just had to hold things over his head and in a tinny voice shout, "i have these. does anyone want some of these?". his small call couldn't compete with the din of the room so i'd see what he had and tell him the name so he could upgrade his marketing to, "i have a heath bar. does anyone want a heath bar?" which usually did better to get the attention of the frenetic, sugar-addled audience.

and this, this post-collection ritual, is mostly why i think bella should be allowed to continue trick-or-treating. what would ever happen to the candy trading-floor were she to be benched. she brings an attitude and fierceness to the affair i don't think will be easily replaced. and bella and i are not the only ones thinking on her potential forced retirement. while we were between houses with a lit porch light anthony told me that because this was bella's last year trick-or-treating they, the three kids, were going to create a 'candy bank' they each put candy into each year so that when mom said they were all too old to trick-or-treat anymore, they would still have some halloween candy. i wonder how a limited supply of stock would amp up the trading floor. i could see it getting physical right quick.

and speaking of cogent points made by my seven year old, while playing twenty questions with anthony's classmates at his room party earlier in the day, anthony raised his hand. when i called on him his question was mildly different than the others kids questions. one kid's first question to a new game was not 'is it an animal' or 'is it bigger than a breadbox', but "is it an ardvark?". when i said no it was not an ardvark, the next kid i called on asked, "is it blue?". when i said no it was not blue, the hands continued popping up. when i called on anthony, he asked, "what kind of matter is it?" all the adults all looked at each other and then to me for the answer. here i had the embarrasing task of having to say i wasn't sure aside from the fact that the thing i was thinking of did have matter. my first grader then assisted me by adding, "no dad. i mean is it solid, liquid, or gas?". now that i could answer but wished he said that in the first place so i didn't have to so publicly reveal to the room why i chose the liberal arts over the sciences. they say with modern studies there comes a point where parents will not be able to help their kids with their homework. i think that point has come at an embarrassingly early age for me.

KIDS (permalink) 10.30.2013
he's got three speeds, they're all just the same
at parent-teacher conferences, alex's teacher said that one concern he had about alex dealt with the slow pace in which he did his work. he went on to say that in most cases it doesn't matter but it will in testing and as he progresses in years and the work becomes more complex. in turn, i told the teacher that were we to record alex leaving our house under three different circumstances, once on a normal no-hurry outing, another before trick-or-treating, and a third when the house was on fire and lives were in jeopardy, that he the teacher, nor marty, nor i, based on alex's pace, gait or countenance would be able to discern the difference between the three scenarios. there's just no rushing the boy. but, if he, the teacher, were able to find a trick to put a little giddy-up in the boy's tempo, there was a shiny five dollar bill and loaf of homemade banana bread in it for him.

KIDS (permalink) 10.29.2013
in many ways it sucks we have to grow up
if you distract anthony from his work or play, he will, in a very exasperated manner, turn and say
dad! stop it! you unconcentrated me! ahhhh!
and yes, there are waving arms involved.

KIDS (permalink) 10.24.2013
take four heroin-laced aspirin and call me in the morning
i'm a recentish convert to flossing. since drinking the lemonade—not that i would ever admit to drinking such a sugar-rich beverage where my dentist could see—i've been a consistent four-five times a week flosser. then i read an article by dr. oz where he likened skipping flossing to only wearing deodorant under one armpit. this visual seems to have been the missing bit of tutelage necessary to upgrade me from a four-to-fiver to a six-to-sevener.

as for why i still sometimes only hit the mark six times a week, the nights i miss i'm surely sprawled across my bed in a parenting coma. in such moments, not flossing is the least of my problems as in the past i've crashed with the milk still on the counter, water running on the lawn, and once with our home's front door standing open, yes, like all night.

parenting coma's prove more severe than food or real comas, reason being, when you come out of a parenting coma in the morning, the kids are still there.

KIDS (permalink) 10.04.2013
just one more reason parents always look tired.
you would think the message for kids to get dressed would be trivial, something like 'go get dressed' trivial. not so. in our house, we are required to use three different calls to robe oneself.

anfer. go get dressed. and please wear underwear this time.

aleo. go get dressed. and wear something you haven't worn in the last seven days please.

baya. go get dressed. and please don't leave your discarded clothes in the hallway.

KIDS, FILM (permalink) 10.03.2013
let's all go to the movies
late in the summer bella and i began a new father-daughter ritual. on saturday nights she and i, after the boys go to bed, stay up late and watch a movie. the original vision was to have them all be horror/suspense films, something bella holds ravenous interest in given her passion for writing scary stories. i'm sure i've previously commented on the great boon and surprise awaiting parents when their children get old enough to engage in more mature, globally entertaining activities. i sometimes had the sense i'd be stuck watching the buddies dog-movie franchise forever and ever. in a semi-related aside, a friend told me of a time he was parked on the couch watching tosh.0, a show that definitely falls outside of the sunday disney movie realm if you're not familiar, when his twelve year old daughter came in and asked if she could watch with him. he looked at her, then at the screen, then back at her and said, "you can watch until i get uncomfortable that you're watching, then you have to leave." there's a special beauty to honest answers that dancing around a reply can never match. but back to father-daughter movie night. thus far, we've watched:
  • poltergiest
  • the lost boys
  • the house at the end of the street
  • sixth sense
  • the others
  • getaway (seen in theater on our ms150 weekend)
  • in time
  • the little girl who lives down the lane
when bella was pushing for horror/suspense films, i agreed but said i got to set the initial tone as i didn't intend to dive directly into Saw or Paranormal Activity and wanted more of a natural buildup. so i chose what i thought was a safe but entertaining selection with poltergiest. bella did not like it pretty much from the moment the tree attacked the boy. it seems kids don't give much merciful latitude to dated-looking special effects. in my next pick i hedged with the 80's-boy-candy flick Lost Boys. it proved to not be much of a hedge because within minutes bella said, "vampires? really dad?". how exactly was i to know that vampires were so last generation? the cute boys bought me a bit of slack but not enough to save me from getting benched from picking our third movie. bella chose one she had watched with a girlfriend at a sleepover. my faith in a movie two sleep-deprived twelve year olds were giddy about was not high and i expected a totally re-done, predictable and second-rate tale. not only were my few "let me guess" predictions dead wrong, the movie had me tense and squirming like a tittering twelve year old at a sleepover. so in the end the score stood bella one, dad none. to restore my daughter's faith in my ability to select a movie i had to go to the big guns and pull out The Sixth Sense which, of course, completely blew her away (man is that movie masterfully done!). the next ones were nothing special until i stumbled upon this seventies film called the little girl who lives down the lane staring a thirteen year old jodie foster and youthful martin sheen. it was quite good but both bella and i had dropped jaws when jodie foster's character stripped naked and climbed into bed with her co-star. to bella's shocked face, i confessed i didn't know (1) there would be nudity from a child not much older than bella or (2) that it was even legal to show a child not much older than bella naked in a film in the first place. i believe bella's exact words were, "dad, i could see her little boobies bouncing when she walked. you made me watch that." re-benched.

obviously, if you know of any good, father-daughter (nudity-free!!!) suspense films we'd love the recommendations.

KIDS (permalink) 10.02.2013
to seek out new smells and berate their makers
the boys and i were watching star trek, the original, after dinner. we're slowly working our way through the franchise starting at the very beginning. we were piled up on my desk chair, me on the seat and the boys each sitting on an armrest leaning on me. during the show i passed some post-dinner gas. moments later a big fight broke out in the show. i commented on the suddenness of the melee to which anthony (7) said casually, "i think they're fighting because of your smelly fart".

KIDS (permalink) 09.18.2013
full frontal marty.
i forgot a detail about yesterday's ordering debacle. during the checkout mayhem anthony or alex wanted to take their food to the table to start eating. since we were trying to get rung up and paid for, the plate needed to stay where it was. the child whined that they were starving and couldn't wait until we paid to eat. an exasperated marty said, "you are an american child. you've never been starving a day in your life so stop whining and be patient until we pay for our food." this was one of those moments where marty forgot she was in public. the cashiers tried not to laugh but failed, miserably, and broke out laughing at the dress down. if the people behind us weren't so annoyed in how long it was taking us to clear the way, they might have applauded marty's glove's-off parenting style.

KIDS (permalink) 09.13.2013
twisted sister
one last thing to share about last weekend's charity event. the bike ride originated out of columbia missouri, two hours from st. louis and began early in the morning. for these two reasons bella and i drove in friday night so we didn't have to get up at an ungodly hour to arrive early enough to make the start time. after checking into our hotel, we were both spent from the week and in anticipation of tomorrow's effort we turned in at a responsible hour (especially impressive given the working television in the room).

i woke naturally seven minutes before my alarm was to go off (dontcha love it when that happens). seeing bella still asleep, i disabled the alarm and quietly got out of bed. i moved to the bathroom to pee. when done, i headed back to my bed to read for a bit. when i stepped out of the bathroom, bella was no longer in the bed. i scanned the room but she was nowhere to be seen. i looked back at the bed thinking maybe she was lost in the sheets. they were mussed but bella was definitely not hidden beneath the tangle. i stepped forward so i could see between the two beds. not there either. i glanced past the last bed, by the window. no sign. i scanned the full room wholly perplexed. i walked, somewhat briskly, to the bathroom but knowing there was no way she could have gotten by me, i checked all the same. nothing. i pulled the shower curtain back. nothing. i returned to the room, surveying the small space. my mind began sputtering irrational thoughts. i was initially in the bathroom for less than a minute and my sleeping child vanished without a sound or trace. as i stood paralyzed both physically and mentally, i saw a tangle-haired forehead peek over the back of a padded chair in the near corner. seeing me standing in the room, the head quickly ducked back down. when i acknowledged seeing her she raised up and pointed at me saying, "ahhh man, i got you. i totally got you." it would seem i wasn't the only one to wake seven minutes before the alarm clock.

and bella hasn't a clue about the degree in which she got me. just before spotting her, the last thoughts to run through my head were, "holy shit. i think alien abductions are real. and i think i'm about to tell a police dispatcher that i believe my child was just taken by aliens." i wish i was joking but i'm not. i also wish i could verbalize the sheer disarray that simple prank caused in my mind but i'm not able to do that either. it's almost like the experience caused me to pull a mental muscle that i'm still recovering from.

KIDS, SPORTS, HEALTH, PHOTO (permalink) 09.10.2013
ms150 2013 photo recap

day 1 start

middle game


end of day 1 smile

end of day 1 selfie

end of day 1 stats

end of day 2 smiles

KIDS, SPORTS, HEALTH (permalink) 09.09.2013
she did it!
on saturday, bella rode 44 miles in the first day of the MS charity ride.

on sunday, bella rode 43 miles in the second day of the MS charity ride.

if you recall, a week ago sunday bella completed a 28 mile training ride and followed that up on the monday holiday with a 30 mile training ride.

this puts her grand total over the last eight days on the bike at 145 miles. sprinkle in the usual getting around she does during the school week and she easily logged more than 150 miles for the week.

i should add that miles 2 through 9 of yesterday's ride were completed in a downpour. this was a rain so complete that when you drove your leg downward in the pedal stroke, bursts of water shot up between your toes given how water-logged your sock and shoe were. about five miles into this rain, a rain that didn't look to be relenting anytime soon, i pulled up next to bella and asked how she was doing. without looking my way she said, "i'm in hell ... but i'm not quitting." and as noted, above, she did not, completing the day's full 40 mile route.

and that's my sweet 12-year old girl who continues to amaze and astonish her father anew year after year. thanks to all of those who supported her/us on the ride.

KIDS (permalink) 09.04.2013
child labor
another thing that happened this last weekend was bella, alex and i volunteered in a service project organized by the university i work for. in this program all incoming freshmen are encouraged to participate in this annual ritual where various projects are identified for them to work on throughout the city. these projects tend to be beautification efforts (e.g. clean-up, painting). last year i worked on a team that painted a high school football stadium. this year my team helped paint portions of an enormous inner city school.

the overall structure of the initiative is this. the university selects a number of projects to be worked on, via application i believe. each project is assigned a site manager. the site manager is responsible for organizing the overall effort. they will meet with the contacts at the work site, identify the work to be done, recruit and direct project managers, order the necessary supplies and manage all the communication between the relevant folks. for the last two years i served as one of the project managers. and each of the last two years i took bella and alex with me for the day.

on the day of, the project leads arrive early and figure out a game plan. then about a hundred students are brought by bus to each site. they are divided up among the project leads who direct and oversee the student effort. last year bella and alex just worked along-side the freshman (and out-worked, complaint-free, a great many of them). this year i asked bella and alex to be runners. given the size of the school we were working at and the number of efforts happening i asked them to move between the various teams carrying a crate of supplies (e.g. water, paint brushes, rollers, rags) around and asking if the groups needed anything special. when a group did need something, bella or alex would go find what they asked for and bring it back.

just after the students arrived, i was standing on a large stairway landing explaining our job to the twenty freshmen girls assigned to me. in the midst of the talk alex came up the stairs wearing an orange bandana, carrying his supply crate and began excusing his way through the collection of girls trying to pass. i stopped my instruction to introduce him, saying, "ladies, this is alexander and he ...". before i could continue he cut me off loudly proclaiming ...
hi. i'm alex. i'm a runner. that means i'll just be running all over the school taking things to people. if you need anything you ask me for it and i'll go find it. this is so you don't have to stop working and don't have to find anything. and i know where everything is at. so just ask me. and i'll get it for you. i guess that's about it. bye.
with this he put his head back down and continued cutting through the crowd and up the stairs to the collective, melting sigh of twenty, now smitten, college girls. this is an example of 'new alex' which appeared shortly after turning ten. 'new alex' is not only not meek and shy, he is actually quite outgoing, gregarious, and quietly charasmatic (and as just shown, able to turn a gaggle of college girls into doe-eyed, fan-girls with little more than a few quickly dashed-off sentences).

later in the day i saw bella and asked her how she was doing. she said ok but alex was making her angry. when i asked why she said that every time she went up to cute guys to ask if they needed anything they kept saying they did but that boy alex was already getting it for them. so, let's not forget to add hard-worker to new alex's resume.

KIDS (permalink) 08.22.2013
evidence that the intent carries the juice and words are just words
anthony got mad at marty the other day. because of this she shouldered being repeatedly called 'duck-face' from the back of the van as she drove the two of them home.

on the good side he used to call people dick-foot when he got mad. i reckon he'll pull it all together soon enough.

KIDS (permalink) 08.21.2013
our fixer
before the school year began marty went to school to work on her room. alex tagged along. once in the room alex asked if he could play on the smart board. marty said he could but it wasn't working. she explained it stopped working towards the end of last year and she had to have someone come look at it. alex asked what was wrong and marty gave the number one answer by non-technical minded folks to technical-minded folks saying "it was broke in the kinda way that when i tell it to come on, it doesn't come on".

alex began his silent rumination on the problem. in this studious state he is perfectly still. if you watch him really close you will see his eyes dart over the landscape in question. in this case his eyes travelled from the screen to the ceiling mounted projector to the computer on the desk. after a bit of time he went to the desk and started lifting and separating cords studying where they went. marty continued her organizing hardly noticing the quietest of her children. in time alex said, "you should try it now mom". patient and open as always marty fired the machine up and began going through the steps. as it came to the point where the routine failed she proactively announced that "and this is where the projector should come on but just stopped working one day" but in the midst of that sentence the wall behind her lab table lit up and displayed the screen from her desktop. marty lit up brighter than the wall, turned to her ten year old son who was wearing a barely perceptible grin and gave him a giant appreciative hug, the deep kind one pulls out just for special occassions.

KIDS (permalink) 08.19.2013
dad days 2013
the kids start back to school tomorrow and i just finished up with their dad days last week. between having three kids and a two week vacation finding a way to sneak three more days into the summer break is surprisingly challenging. but, it is a highlight for my kids and i each year and a ritual i'd protect to the end.

i feel like i've talked about these before but in case i haven't or you hadn't read about them at least, dad days are a day dedicated to a child after a successful school year to celebrate their academic accomplishments. at some point in the day we talk about school and i tell them this day is in honor of all their hard work and i'm proud and appreciative of their effort. this year anthony asked if that meant if he didn't do good or try hard in school that he wouldn't get a dad day. i thought for a moment before admitting that yes, if he didn't try to do his best he would not get a dad day. i saw him reflect on this for a bit before moving on. i think that might have been one of those quiet, important moments.

obviously i try to cater the days to the likes of each child . here are the itineraries of each for this year.

lunch (lions choice)
cabelas (archery glove)
go-karts park (w/ laser tag & water boats)
movie (pacific rim -- which was a bit much for him so we didn't stay )
more go-karts

book store
horseback riding
movie (world war z)
steak house dinner
ted drewes custard

ferry rides (into illinois)
water park
movie (planes)
dinner (mcdonalds)
ted drewes

as one of my kids once observed about dad lunches (this is where i pull a kid from school and take them to lunch once a month) that it was not fair because i got three dad lunches every month and they only get one. i told him that was true but when they were the parent they would get to enjoy all the lunches too. and this is surely triply true for dad days as for the effort of planning, i get to experience all three adventures and spend some seriously memorable and fun time with my little humans (although they are surely not staying little which is always a reminder to me of the import of such rituals).

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 06.17.2013
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
new game

KIDS, BOOKS (permalink) 06.14.2013
king me, part 5
part one is over here

towards the end of king's memoir he penned a sample passage of a bar scene. in reading it bella ran into a number of words she didn't know. this turned into concern about fighting with the language and that this struggle might take away from her enjoyment. she expressed this to marty first. marty said she should maybe wait to read them. bella agreed.

when she mentioned this to me i reminded her we would be reading them together and i could help with any words she didn't understand. she said it wouldn't be the same and we should wait.

i'd be lying if i said the notion of sitting in bella's new bunk bed reading stephen king books with my daughter every night of the summer didn't have me bristling with anticipation. i already had it planned out. we were going to start out by reading them in the same order i met stephen king: pet semetary, it, tommyknockers, needful things. from there we'd branch out. i saw a large part of my summer hopes slipping away with my daughter's prudent decision making.

seeing my uncertainty, bella said, "it's like you say dad, sometimes wanting is better than having".

boy do i hate it when my good advice sinks its teeth into my own buttock.

update: in the end the pull of trying him out proved too enticing so on saturday june 8th at 10:03 pm, my daughter and i began our first joint-reading of stephen king beginning with the same book i first read when a little older than her, pet semetary. we would have started at ten on the dot but i had to pee. unfortunate timing that. but we sat on the porch with multiple candles burning. i read the first chapter, using my clearest and most measured reading voice. when i finished the chapter i excitedly looked over at my daughter who was sitting on a deck chair facing me. her hand extended toward me, palm up, requesting the book. she said, "nice try dad but you don't have what it takes. hand it over." so she now has the reading duties and she is quite good at it. i'm convinced she learned most of her character voice skills from her mother when marty read all seven of the potter books to alex and bella a few summers back, employing a wildly impressive array of voices and energy. after i handed the book over, bella leafed through the pages i just read, finding passages and telling me "this should have sounded more like this dad" and would then re-read the lines with am admittedly higher level of enthusiasm and skill. aside from struggling with the elderly neighbor Jud Crandall, who via bella sounds more like a young hiphop artist, she's knocking it out of the horror aisle.

and now that we have a few nights under our belt, i must say that these neat and tender reading moments i'm sharing with my eldest child makes all the early years, fumbles, questions, trials, sacrifices and challenges of getting to this comfortable, close spot we can share together and look forward to every day ... well ... it just makes all that early work and effort seem crazily trivial.

KIDS, BOOKS (permalink) 06.13.2013
king me, part 4
part one is over here

one thing i haven't mentioned through all of this is why bella is so ravenous to read stephen king. the reason is bella fancies herself a bit of a horror writer. she has written a number of scary short stories. they definitely are not what you'd expect to come out of a twelve year old girl, who otherwise seems as normal as bella seems at least.

she mostly has done this in her free time and just shared it with family and friends but one day she asked me to proof-read a school assignment for her. when i did it was one of her horror stories.

what is this for?

english class.

you can't turn this in at school.

why not?

because the department of family services would come here and take you away from us.


because this is twisted and deranged. i mean don't get me wrong, it's very good. the problem is its almost too good and thus twisted and deranged.

it turns out she was very excited to turn it in and had already talked it up to her friends and teachers. our compromise was she had to include an author's statement with the assignment. what she quickly penned to appease her stickler-father follows:
Dear Reader,
I'd like to start off my little Author's Note by saying that I'm not a psycho, if your son or daughter knows me they'll be able to explain my love for horror and gore, but for those of you who don't I'll explain.

My name is Bella DeArmitt (Isabella Walter DeArmitt), I LOVE to write horror. I first discovered that I loved horror when every year my horror stories at the camp-fire became legendary. I like to write horror (I think) because when I write I'm in control of what happens, I have the ability to make my reader's stomach twist and churn, I have the ability to be myself.

Those are some of the reasons that I like to write,

I hope that you enjoyed it,

Bella DeArmitt!

part five

KIDS, BOOKS (permalink) 06.12.2013
king me, part 3
part one is over here

yesterday's mention of bella giving up television reminded me of a related story.

now that bella is older, about a year back, marty suggested we get a proper television so she could comfortably have girlfriends over and for gatherings, sleepovers and the like. our conversation quickly and excitedly turned into a top-down redesign of our living room, sketching out a remodel to take it from its present state--which is about two steps from looking like the monkey cage at the zoo (we're missing simply a swing-rope from the ceiling)--to a fully re-imagined space that included an L-couch, a wall mounted flat-screen, surround-sound, a stained-wood mantle, matching built-in bookshelves lining the walls, and new natural-wood, funcitoning french doors (note: these were recently installed). marty envisioned herself curled up under a fleece blanket watching some of the series-tv she's missed over the last decade. i imagined myself buried in the couch's corner, watching weekend football, wearing a pair of tired sweats, a fresh bowl of stove-top corn on my lap and a few logs popping in the over-sized fireplace. both marty and i were plenty eager to assume these relaxed positions.

a few weeks later while out with bella on our dad-lunch, i revealed this plan to her. instead of the shriek i braced for, i received an inflectionless response that she kinda liked not having a tv didn't want to get one. i almost reached over to her feel her forehead thinking she must have taken ill in the time it took me to utter my sentence. this sorta moving target is one of the core reasons parenting is often named the hardest thing you will ever undertake.

later in the day when alone with marty i began a conversation with the words, "you're not going to believe this but ..."

you're not going to believe this but when i told bella about our plans for the living room, she said she didn't want a television.

MARTY (stopped what she was doing and looked at me)

yeah, she said she didn't want a television. she liked not having one. she said having one would change, ruin even, the tenor of our home.

MARTY (after a brief pause)
well screw bella. i want a television. when she has a home of her own she can preserve the tenor of it all she wants.

this would be that target i'm trying to aim at picking up and moving again. and not just like moving two paces to the left but like moving in a fast and serpentining pattern that i'd need an uzi to hit, and as confessed before i'm working with a home-made slingshot. truth is, ninety percent of the surprises i contend with come from the two women in my life saying things i don't expect (and sometimes just the plain, darn opposite of what they said before). the other ten percent comes from the boys in my life doing things i don't expect, things like:
  • dropping toys down the neighbors sewer vent.
  • riding red wagons down hills while standing on top of them, surfer-style.
  • climbing trees so high you can't even yell loud enough for them to hear you screaming, "get down! now!"
  • or like, our six year old arriving at the dinner table with hundreds of dollars in his piggy bank and saying it's just his chore money from the last few months. of course when you combine (1) the fact that he gets fifty cents a week and (2) his brother and sister's banks are suddenly empty, his defense starts plummeting faster than his computer time over the next two weeks.
but at least with the boys, while i may not expect all the things they do, i do understand them. this is what makes raising men a more tenable undertaking for another man.

but moving back to the original topic, bella and television, don't think that the rapidity in which my daughter accepted stephen king's advice (mentioned yesterday ), which she encountered exactly once before mine (and having shouldered my advice dozens of times) has been lost on me. i see it. i see it most clearly. i also imagine it is not the last time she will accept notions from a fella new to our lives before she would take my own, identical, tested and trusted counsel. i'm sensible enough to see that coming and yes, i'm already saving money for the therapy i'm sure to need when the dark scenario actually happens for real.

and for any other people possibly fighting this fight, or other similar fights, with their small humans, i will share the closest i ever came to persuading bella to abandon her digital herion (without the assistance of a best selling author at least). the nearest my methods took me happened after we attended a school event (her induction into the national junior honor society--sorry, proud father, couldn't resist). before the ceremony began two students from the school performed for the audience, singing and playing acoustic guitar. they performed beautifully, so rife with confidence and composure, especially for two junior high age girls sitting in front of better than a hundred people. after the event the pre-show music came up in discussion. bella acknowledged who they were and said they were amazingly talented. i asked bella if she thought she would be as good as those girls if instead of watching shows on her computer time for the last two years she had practiced guitar. bella thought for a moment and said probably. i repeated her 'probably' and added had she done that people might be watching her playing guitar on television instead of her watching other people do enviable things on television. i watched her reaction, closely, and saw something happening but admittedly the success lasted about as long as a netflix login. that said, that brief moment is the closest i ever came to getting bella to put the media needle down.

part four

KIDS, BOOKS (permalink) 06.11.2013
king me, part 2
part one is over here

i put two conditions on bella's reading of stephen king. the first was that we would have to read the books together. the second was that before we start, she had to finish reading his memoir, On Writing, a book i had given her several months earlier.

the only issue with the first condition is she said i'd need to find five hours a day to give to the effort. i'm confident i do not need to go into the nine kinda ways this was not going to happen so we quickly negotiated that down to a more realistic thirty minutes a night, and maybe the occasional hour depending on my schedule and the plot line.

regarding the second condition, the moment we concluded our time-each-day bargaining she turned and ran from the room. over the next several days every time you'd see her she'd have king's memoir on her; either opened for reading, stuck in her armpit if walking, or resting on her thigh if sitting. a brief aside—on the top of bella's reading log for the library's summer program, she added the words 'you can't compete' followed by three exclamation points. i, the library staff, and multiple summers worth of other kids in the reading program can attest to the undeniable truth of this declaration.

an unexpected bonus from sir king totally came when he slammed, viciously, television saying time spent watching was wasted, forever lost and offered no redeeming value, namely in this case, to one's writing skills. bella said she got that and was considering fully giving up tv and computer, replacing it with reading and writing. while my mind furiously staved off a that's-what'-i've-been-saying message bella continued on, "so who would have thought you and stephen king feel the same way about television. crazy." spared.

but, for any ground i gained on the television front, my dinner table suffered as he also says that if you really want to be a writer you cannot let things like social norms stand in your way and to properly hone your craft you might need to read during certain social routines. he named family dinners specifically. bella informed me, so i wouldn't be surprised, that she will now be showing up to dinner with a book or writing pad in hand and i couldn't protest because she was just following the advice of someone i told her to read. un-spared.

part three

KIDS, BOOKS (permalink) 06.10.2013
king me, part 1
bella, who just turned twelve, has been asking pleading to read stephen king for the last two years. of course, each time my response has been a wordless glance over my glasses. she knows what this means. and she hates it. still without a word from me, she exclaims, "why not!". i explain she is too young for the likes of stephen king. to her huff i explain he will still be there when she isn't too young. to her second huff i explain she needs to save some things for when she is older because if she consumes it all now there will be less to enjoy later. to her third huff, i explain she only gets one childhood and it is my job to protect her from leaving it too early, for the wrong reasons at least.

that talk happened more than a year ago. over the last few months bella has built a shrine to King on our family bookshelf, meticulously organizing all of his works, all that i own at least, onto a single shelf. i've caught her a few times either (a) re-scanning the shelves for any books she may have missed or (b) staring longingly at the bindings of the collected works and maybe even placing her fingertips on the glossy wall of bindings in a way that could only be described as reverent. the other morning i walked by while she was in the second state. i asked what she was doing. she said sadly she was waiting until she was ready. i replied i thought she might be ready. her head snapped up and her eyes shot open. she asked me to repeat what i just said. i did. she asked me to repeat it one more time just to make sure. i did again. she danced in place. she hooted. she screeched. she whirled in circles. she reached her hand out towards the books touching them softly, letting them know they'd be together soon and softly, but excitedly, ran her hand down the length of the volumes reveling in the memorable moments awaiting her.

while we walked to the bus stop fifteen minutes later she asked why i changed my mind, what was different. i said she was different. she was more mature. she asked for specific examples. i recounted the night before how i asked her to walk a dog that was staying with us (due to bella's dog-sitting business). it was late and she didn't want to walk the dog and said as much. i explained that other people in the family had taken the dog out that day but she had not and it was her turn and she told her clients she would so she had to do what she said because someone was paying her money based on that understanding. she turned and left the room. she got dressed and took the dog out. and not just for a quick circle of the block as i expected her to do but for a good, proper walk. she came home still mad but instead of injecting her mood on the home, she retired to her room, went to bed and woke pleasant as usual. i explained that one of the reasons for green-lighting her was her more mature handling of problems which even six months ago would have been a big dramatic affair.

i added that it was also her evenness and reliability. not only is she consistently responsible in her chores and duties (jobs and school) but she has also been steady in her conviction to read stephen king. she has shown it to be more than just a passing fancy.

and there is a third reason. i didn't mention it to her but it is something i've discussed here before (i think) and that is the school bus. based on her reports, the conversations are every bit as salacious as anything stephen king has ever penned ... and at least he's a grown man who has experienced many of the things he's writing about which trumps information that comes from older siblings, cousins, uncles and neighbors. so if she's going to hear such things, she may as well hear them from a human, mr. king, that has actually experienced such things (and while i'm there to bandy about the questions that remain).

part two

VIDEO, KIDS (permalink) 06.03.2013
life with anthony

KIDS (permalink) 05.30.2013
ward, i need you to talk to beaver
marty, the boys, and i (and a dog we were sitting) were on our way to a weekend hike. during the drive, i told the boys i'd seen the latest star trek movie and it was awesome. and as soon as we finished watching the original series (we're currently on 32 of 82) we could work our way through the movies (and then onto subsequent series).

after a quiet moment, anthony asked how spock was able to pinch people's necks and make them knock out. alex explained, circuitously, that it had to do with the way they, vulcans, were made and similar to the mind meld trick. marty reached across from her seat and feigned a mind meld on me while i drove. through a highly focused face she slowly relayed the words, "i ... wish ... i ... had ... a ... gigantic ... penis". hysterics were grand and since bella opted to hang back at the house, our groin-centric foolishness came without a severe group chastising from our twelve year old.

marty's comment sparked a memory in anthony of a dream he had a few nights back where he was being chased by hundreds of running penises (running as in jogging, not running as in dripping with disease). they tried to drown him in a lake of pee but he woke up before they succeeded. i told him i thought i remembered seeing an episode of leave it to beaver where the beaver talked of a dream like that. both marty and alex looked at me suspiciously. i shrugged my shoulders saying i've been trying to convince anthony to watch leave it to beaver but he's never shown much interest. he's still not asking to watch the series but i think i have him closer now that he thinks beaver too may have done combat with an army of rampaging, urinating penises.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 05.21.2013
ohhhh! you got faced.
you look good in those pants troy.


yeah, too bad you chose to wear that jacket with them.

ohhh. nice one bay.

thanks. i try.

you can thank the bus for that quick wit.

for all of the hours bella spends in the classroom and on homework, marty and i have found the bus to be one of the most truly educational spaces she occupies, and especially on afternoons when she stays late for some extracurricular affair because then all the club and detention kids ride together. for her age and given the diverse world she occupies, i'd say it's near equivalent of doing post-graduate work.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 05.20.2013
give me a sign
we received this message from a neighbor mom while anthony was down playing at her house.
Ben and Anthony were trying to decide what to do. They didn't like my suggestions, so Anthony decided to call upon God for advice. He yelled, "God! What should we do?"

Not sure if he or she answered, but they are on the trampoline now!

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 05.06.2013
takin' care of bidnez
a neighbor boy came over to play with anthony. he's a little older but the two boys visit one another often and without invitation. they will at times play for hours and hours without supervision or issue. during the boy's visit this last weekend, he and anthony were butting heads about something. in response, anthony took the initiative to call the boy's home where his mother answered.


ben is being mean.

oh. anthony. hi. uhm. well i'm sorry.


i guess you should maybe send him home.


without as much as a goodbye, thanks or grunt of acknowledgement, anthony hung up the phone and yelled out, "ben. you have to go home."

that is the sort of self-sufficiency marty and i can surely get behind.

KIDS (permalink) 04.29.2013
perhaps i should mention alex also sleeps in a round dog bed
alex got a hair cut. this means he can now use a comb instead of bella's large brush to detangle his curls and locks in the morning (but he's still going strong with the crab mister).

the first day with his new trim after getting his own hair worked out he went downstairs and offered to comb bella's hair, something we all like to do 1. after he began, bella noted the comb in his hand and said, "alex, that's the dog comb."2 alex looked at it momentarily before replying, "i took all the dog hair out."

it turns out the spray mist bottle was the least of my problems.

and given the tools already at hand, i wonder if we can get alex groomed at a pet place. it might be cheaper.

1 when i say "we" like to comb bella's hair, let me expound. we includes everyone in our immediate family, friends, and some of bella's girl cousins (many of them already have thick heads of hair as well making bella's mane nothing all that special to them). it also includes several black girls bella went to school with in early elementary. and they win the exuberance award for sure. during this time i'd sometimes stop by at recess to play ogre. instead of finding bella running and climbing, i'd find her sitting on a curb with two to three older girls behind her gleefully brushing and braiding her hair. without moving her head, she'd angle her eyes up towards me, waving a hand and saying, "hi dad". she'd then say the girls knew she had to play ogre when i arrived and they'd be done in a minute. classic bella.

2 we don't own a dog but occassionally have them live with us for stretches of time as part of bella's dog-sitting service.

KIDS (permalink) 04.26.2013
at least the brush has been exclusively used on humans ... i think.
alex desperately needs a haircut. it makes marty mental. every time she brings taking him in for a cut he calmly answers, "in the summer." when his hair gets long like this, i call it his medusa hair because it looks like he has snakes coming out of his scalp. it is such a spectacle that it will stop passerbys who want to look and comment on his bountiful head of hair. in fact, it now is so long, even marty has reached a curious indecision saying maybe we should let him go another month or two because then it would be close to being donatable to locks of love and given its thickness, a number of kids might benefit from the contribution.

and something new this year is on mornings before school at some point before we leave, alex runs up to the bathroom, wets his hair down and brushes the character out, leaving it straight. given the fullness of the hair and the exaggerated styling technique he employs, he looks like a smiling youth out of a seventies claymation clip (e.g. the elf that wants to be a dentist).

i've tried to talk him into leaving the rope-like curls but he quietly resists my advice. which is the right choice because my opinion isn't totally because i think he looks better with his unique curls and mayhem but because when he "fixes" his hair he uses an old spray-bottle originally used with our hermit crabs and then with our lizards (all of which are now deceased). before going to work with the brush he wets his hair down with this old clear mister-bottle (that has the mysterious word in black FLUKERS printed on its side). i know technically the bottle never came into actual contact with the crabs or lizards but there's just something about him using it that skeeves me out.

also, i don't know if this extra attention to his hair has anything to do with the gaggle of girls that have started madly chasing him around the playground at recess. he says no but i'm not a big believer in behavior-changing coincidences.

KIDS (permalink) 04.23.2013
father beware
last week our family watched a film called babysitter beware for our friday night movie. there was a scene at the beginning of the film where these kids put a dog's shock collar around an evil neighbor's neck and then repeatedly tricked him into shocking himself. on the following tuesday at breakfast, anthony said the following in regard to that film.
you know that guy that they shocked at the beginning of the show. when the show ended and they started showing all the names they should have had that guy yell like he just got shocked playing in the background.
i stopped making my lunches contemplating his notion, shook my head in agreement and told him i thought that he was right and that would have been a smart and funny add. i finished lunches marveling at the human brain, and the young mind sitting in my kitchen presently, that conjured that specific thought days after the initial experience.

for any envious of me getting to be entertained by my witty six year old so, let me share what came out of my cerebral cherub's mouth seventeen minutes later after i pissed him off for goofing around in the backyard when he was supposed to be getting in the car. after finally sliding into the backseat and slamming the door in a huff, he proceeded to light me up.

i wish i came out of someone else's stomach.

what? why would you say that? we're going to school, we're not playing in the backyard.

i wasn't playing. i was trying to walk to the garage without getting mud on my shoes.

well, i'm sorry. i didn't know that was what you're doing.

i didn't want to track mud into my school. what kind of parent yells at their child for trying to be respectful of their school?

welcome to another glorious day in the corps of parenthood.

KIDS (permalink) 04.09.2013
one of the better emails i've ever received (from one of the best readers i've ever had).
in reference to this post
So that you may spend your open neurons elsewhere, I present: rhymes for "penis." I, handily, have a rhyming dictionary. I couldn't find "penis" (this book is so old, I guess it wasn't a word Apollo Editions expected would require a rhyme), but:

Cleanness, meanness, greenness, keenness, leanness, genus, Venus, sereneness, obsceneness, uncleaness

OR, you could cheat:
Obscenest, serenest, routinist, machinist, plenist (WHAT does that word even MEAN??), magazinist

OR, you could alter the pronunciation very slightly:
Beanish, leanish, deanish, cleanish, spleenish, meanish, greenish, keenish, queenish

Never let it be said I do not care about your bandwidth!

Hope you're well,


KIDS (permalink) 04.03.2013
what it feels like to lose chess to a six year old
"penis! penis! penis! penis!"

the above is what anthony ran through the house screaming after i finished that night's reading of shel silverstein (this is what we read whenever marty is not around at bedtime as both the boys enjoy the poems). the reason he ran about screaming that particular phrase is connected to my promise (after reading shel in particular and before lights out) to turn a sentence said by one of the boys into my own shel-like-poem. anthony, obviously, wanted the first line of the poem to start with the winning phrase, penis-penis-penis-penis.

when instead, i chose to use one of alex's sentences, anthony became inconsolable. between groans of disappointment he said he wanted his sentence to be chosen. i explained that i liked the variety found in alex's sentences more. a moment later anthony went silent in protest. minutes in he broke his stand to ask what would happen if both he and alex said nothing but penis-penis-penis-penis after poems and before bed. i hesitantly confessed i guess the poem would have to start with penis-penis-penis-penis. suddenly his angst vanished and he raised his head to call down to alex in the bunk below, "alex! tomorrow night after poems you have to ..." i reckon you can guess the rest of the plan.

and i can claim yet another parenthood first for me--spending open neurons in my day trying to think of creative rhymes for the word penis. i'm pretty sure dr. spock missed that chapter.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.28.2013
suddenly my miami-vice-era don johnson answer seems less impressive
the dinner question of the night was 'if you could be anyone else in the world, who would you be?"

while most were naming inventors, explorers, and celebrities (12 year old girl and all), when six year old anthony's turn came up he answered "the saddest person in the world".

the whole table looked at each other surprised at his reply. certain he misunderstood the question, we restated it. casually, he said he understood the question just fine. when asked why he would then choose what he chose he replied, "so the person who was the saddest person doesn't have to be that anymore. and then the world would be a better place."

i began the dinner question-ritual in hopes of stimulating thought and reason in my children, yet time and time again, i find i'm the one challenged and bettered by the exercise.

KIDS (permalink) 03.22.2013
our resident handymanboy
we're staying with friends this week. one post-skiing afternoon we were strewn about the house recovering in different ways. as alex passed through the kitchen he noticed a large industrial grade pencil sharpener with eight different sized pencil openings and a sizable shavings bin had appeared on the counter. it turns out, our hostess, had brought it home because one of her third grade students had lodged a stubby pencil in one of the holes, a hole not large enough for the pencil crammed in its space. a mechanically curious alex examined the new object (i can just imagine him sizing it up, taking it in from various angles and depths). alex's keen eye quickly spied the stuck object. without thought, he went to his bag for his swiss army minichamp, returned to the kitchen and carefully extracted the pencil from the slot with the scissors attachment on his knife.

later in the day, alex mentioned to me what he did. i asked him if he talked to anyone about it and he said no, no one was around. i considered chastising him for messing with other people's stuff and that until he knew what the deal was, he should leave things alone but chose to hold my tongue until learning more (seasoned parent at moments and all ya know).

over dinner my friend, our hostess, looked at the sharpener, sighed and commented that she has a student in her third grade class that breaks something every day and this day he broke her favorite, super-awesome pencil sharpener. i told her that alex may have fixed it and i hope it was ok that he messed with it because he didn't ask. her face brightened. she asked if she heard me right. i told her how alex had noticed there was a pencil stuck in there and was able to get it out and i'm sorry that he messed with her stuff. she exclaimed, "mess with my stuff? mess with my stuff? he just made my day!!!"

the next time alex passed by she scooped him up without warning and gave him the giantest hug and loud-smacking cheek kiss i think his small frame has absorbed in quite some time. and so goes the quiet but impactful existence of our wild-haired child aleo.

KIDS (permalink) 03.21.2013
too sexy.
anthony dashed through the kitchen wearing only his new under armor ski tights. he shook his bottom around a few times before running out. the next time he passed through he was completely naked. he ascended the stairs and once at the top screamed "i'm sexy, i'm so sexy" to which you heard a horrified bella scream "Noooooooo!" as if someone were about to dash a kitten against a rock.

it's hard to imagine days ever being nearly as interesting as when you have small humans making their unscripted contributions to your world.

KIDS (permalink) 03.14.2013
same time, same place, same caliber tomorrow.
yesterday i mentioned a ritual i do with the boys to end the day. there is another ritual i've been doing with bella first thing in the morning. after she gets on the bus, and drops into her seat, always the same one, i pantomime something as the bus drives off. my four second skits have included things like pretending to pick up poop (when we're dog-sitting and i'm about to walk the pup), or downhill skiing (when we have a pending ski trip), or struggling to pull up tight pants (when she had to pull half-dry pants out of the dryer), or doing an animated singing solo (when she has a choir performance in the day). the reward for me is to see her brightly look out the window before the bus starts moving for her day's mini-show. then seeing her throw her head back in a hearty guffaw at the daily choice as she slides out of view is more meaningful to a father from his daughter than would be a standing-o from a packed carnegie hall.

and please note, that while she would never admit it, she too is tickled by a good poop joke. the difference between she and her brothers is she has a one a day limit, or week even, where the boys would gladly take one a minute for a week.

KIDS (permalink) 03.13.2013
eminem better watch his -beep-
the boys and i started a new bedtime game, especially after we've read shel silverstein. what i do is as we're approaching bed, i take a random sentence they say and then try to make a shel-esque poem out of it. as you'll see from last night's sample, the more bodily fluid and organ references that can be made, the better. the one below had them in hysterics (not the smartest pre-bed move) so much so they demanded a re-telling before they would go to sleep.
my son asked if you would cuddle me

but i said no, i have to go pee

in the backyard on a giant tree

but in the way got a flea

his name was lee

so mad was he, he flew up my weenie

making me fall backwards on my hiney

not mercifully

and off flew lee, most gleefully

KIDS (permalink) 02.22.2013
anthony knows the d-word. and he knows how to use it. mostly he says things like, "i really wanted to say the d-word then but didn't. but if i was still a baby i would have just shouted it over and over ... but babies don't know the d-word which is a good thing because then they might have just laid there in the crib shouting it out when they weren't supposed to."

but when anthony loses his cool he has been known to let the d-word fly loose and wild through the air. and like a master craftsmen with a single, fundamental tool he gets good milage out of this swear staple. there are the expected and surprisingly accurate uses of the word where he'll blend it with something expected, like "head" but there are also advanced combinations, like "face" or "nose", that show the boy's potential. and just when you think you've seen his range, he'll surprise you with inspired uses, coupling the one-syllable weapon with "ear" or "back" or "belly" that leave you wondering if you're seeing a mind touched with a gift or addled by simplicity.

KIDS, FRIEND, QUOTE (permalink) 02.20.2013
the ultimate diversity
an excerpt from a bookguy email about a comment made by his seven year old daughter.
we had company over the weekend and logan was trying to tell a story about you and she said - "you know, your friend with the multi-colored children"

KIDS (permalink) 02.12.2013
the 23rd bit of evidence on why you will never see a parenting book by troy dearmitt
i forgot to mention something regarding my alex/anthony conversation about finding me unconscious. later that same morning at work, i told a few co-workers about the discussion given i was still tittering at the highlights of anthony jumping on my head and aleo performing vcr on me. a few days later one of those co-workers told me my proactive chat inspired her.

she has a seven year old son. he's an only kid and looks at my tree-climbing, rough-housing brood with wide and admiring eyes (being a sedate, only child myself, i certainly recognize this sort of covetous sibling-home worship). the mother found herself in a quiet moment with her son and re-called my Q & A with the boys and thought it a prudent conversation to have, morning exercise ritual or not. she called for his attention saying, "so jack, what would you do if you found mommy sleeping and couldn't wake her up." the boy not expecting anything of this like, said, "what?". the mother re-presented the question. jack's face began to melt in emotion and when he began his response he labored to speak through choked sobs, "well ... i'd ... i'd go tell dad ... that i thought ... i thought ... i thought ... you were dead." my co-worker spent the remainder of her morning, and early afternoon, trying to calm her son down and profusely apologizing for asking him such a terrible and ill-spirited question.

oops. sorry about that.

KIDS (permalink) 12.20.2012
also related to the origins of the word SUCKER.
anthony calls a dishonest person a liar.

anthony calls an honest person a truther.

and he knows that the right choice it to always be a truther. and he's learning how that is sometimes a harder decision than it seems it maybe should be.

KIDS (permalink) 12.18.2012
1 - get dressed. 2 - urinate. 3 - eat. 4 - dissect world's mysteries.
one morning before school i listened to my boys, aged six and nine, engage in two philosophical debates. a few times they asked me for help but never at the points when they, by my estimation, most needed it. they only turned to me on matters where the answer seemed obvious or irrelevant.

the first topic dealt with what tables you're allowed to stand on and how it's weird that coffee tables are always ok but dining room tables are never ok and isn't that weird because the dining room table is bigger and seems like it would be safer and one would think stronger so why is it dad that we can never stand on dining room tables. the question caught me unprepared and eavesdropping on their wonderful logic as i made the bed where marty and i sleep. my pause and subsequent stammer brought them both to eye me with anticipation, wanting this feedback so their deep vivisection could continue. my answer was no more impressive than saying i guess i didn't really know why and it's just that some folks don't like it when you stand on tables where they eat, especially when they're eating on them, and especially when one of them is your mother. after this clarification, which satisfied them well enough, their vigor slowed for the subject.

then, less than ten minutes later in the foyer putting on shoes, they somehow wended into a conversation about what would happen if the earth died. first the two boys discussed how it might happen; meteor, explosion, sun dying, people fighting. anthony corrected alex saying it would be ok if the sun stopped working because then it would just be night all the time which would be kinda cool because then they could be up and awake in the nighttime. alex explained, with a respectful somberness that it wouldn't be that simple and if the sun stopped working everything, including people, would freeze and nothing would grow to which anthony gave a contemplative "oh". seeing his ruminative expression alex ended the discussion on an up-note by saying, if that happened we'd just have to hope god can put two more people on the planet to get it all started again. anthony agreed to this logic with a serious tenor adding it would be very sad if he couldn't do that for the earth.

KIDS (permalink) 12.07.2012
six pieces forward, thirty-two (with some lost) pieces backward.
puzzles come with a difficulty rating. puzzles made in our home go through an additional bit of math called the anthony factor. with this, you multiply any difficulty rating by seven, then you have the adjusted anthony scale. as for what sorts of things necessitate this tweak, here are a few of things you might expect to happen between your puzzle-building sessions:
  1. having large groups of the facing-up pieces flipped face-down.
  2. having your neatly parted edge pieces mixed back in with the middle pieces.
  3. having pieces moved from the puzzle table to other tables or the floor.
  4. having pieces put together that have no business being together.
  5. and lastly, and surely the most effective of his tactics, he takes apart already completed swaths of the puzzle.

but, on the good side:
  1. you get a lot more puzzle for your dollar given the time spent assembling it
  2. and you have a true and immense sense of achievement when you are able to outpace anthony's counter-measures and finally complete a puzzle.

KIDS (permalink) 12.05.2012
quick assessment. maybe not totally right, but surely quick.
before putting his backpack on its hook, anthony opened it up and rooted around its contents looking for his homework packet. in the midst of this he paused, and pulled a school photo brochure out. he studied it for a moment and asked aloud "what's this?"

during this rumination, he flipped the brochure over and then his face relaxed and he casually said, "oh, it's just a picture of a hot girl" before setting it on the stool and continuing his search for his homework folder.

KIDS (permalink) 11.14.2012
your adorable smile says yes, but all the broken crap in my home says no.
while eating breakfast, anthony told me that he liked having a dad who didn't always say yes. surprised at his share, i asked him why (as he and the others usually ask me why i have to be so much meaner than their mother). he launched into an excited, blended-syllable outburst where i made sense of only the occasional word—a few i could distinctly discern being "high roof" and "unicycle". it's rare that i wholeheartedly agree with someone when i only glean twenty percent of their story but in this case, i would have put my name to the dotted line in support of my need to be the heavy.

KIDS (permalink) 11.13.2012
friends and shitake mushrooms
in choir bella (11) bent down to pick something up and hit her head on the back of the chair. she exclaimed an unchecked and uncharacteristic "shit!". when she stood up one of her friends had turned to her, held her arm forward offering her hand to bella and said, "bella. welcome to the dark side. we've been expecting you." then another friend standing behind them started breathing like darth vader. it seems bella was the last to utter a swear in front of the group, a group of playful and sweet girls, as evidenced by this wonderfully precious moment.

i later caught bella muttering the same swear around the house and told her she needs to mutter that more quietly because i didn't want my kindergarten boy taking it to school. after catching bella in the phrase a few more times, i asked a favor of her. i asked that whenever she says felt required to say shit, she extends the phrase to shitake as in shitake mushrooms. early on there was a prominent pause in the syllables as you'd hear "shit" then a few beats later a "... take mushrooms" tacked on the backside. but now, already, it pretty much just comes out as "ahh, shitake mushrooms".

while we're talking inside language, the phrase bella and i use to reference "girl things" is fuzzy pickles. this might go something like:

bella what took you so long? i thought you were ready to go.

i was but had to deal with some fuzzy pickles.

oh. right. you good now?



i like being part of a larger family far more than i ever thought i'd like being part of a larger family.

KIDS (permalink) 11.01.2012
for real.
at the dinner table alex told bella, "the author that came and spoke today at school i think you and your girlfriends would have said was a 'hotty'."

talk about a brother helping a sister out.

FASHION, KIDS (permalink) 10.31.2012
close call
bella has an enviable stance on fashion. thankfully, her brain hasn't yet gone numb like some of her peers in regard to blindly following what they see others doing. i'm not entirely sure what has held this moment off as she's imbibing the same sort of music and media as her peers. but still, she routinely says things like "that looks funny" or when she sees the fancy stuff in a store will say "that seems like a lot of money. why wouldn't people just get something at goodwill?". in the end i'm confident we're seeing another show of marty's fine work.

a few nights back marty and bella went out to get some pants for a school concert and came home with, in addition to the black pants they needed, a pair of skinny jeans. the next morning bella happily sported them in the kitchen striking poses in her new fancy wear. as she vogued out, i thought of this quip i had just read in men's health:
Nick Fauchald sticks with straight-leg jeans. "Boot cuts, wide legs, skinny jeans—all have been or will become regrettable garments. I sleep better at night knowing I've never owned any of them. With the classic profile, I never get caught in a fad." Translation: 1950's James Dean and Paul Newman = timeless.
as bella continued the exhibition, i feared "the change" had arrived and i quietly mourned the moment over my oatmeal. then not ten minutes later at the bus stop bella dropped a pencil and after effortfully bending down to retrieve it said, "i think i just found a difficulty with my new jeans." thankfully through the day she discovered more difficulties, like the need to keep them from falling off her backside while running after someone down a school hallway. so the cry of wolf may have come too soon as my girl still seems to have enough tomboy and tomcat in her to keep her out of the high weeds of adolescent confusion and nonsense.

KIDS (permalink) 10.30.2012
my father dined with us saturday night. he brought a lady friend, miss jackie, along he's been seeing for a few months now. over dinner my father joked how he and jackie don't like any of the same things. she likes it hot. he likes it cold. she eats this. he eats that. she sleeps in. he's up early. he drew several illustrations of how none of their likes matched up. after my dad stopped speaking, and a brief pause in the conversation anthony, age six, broke the silence.


yes anthony.

do you like living?

uhhh. well. yes, i like living.

miss jackie.

yes anthony.

do you like living?

ohhhh! yes anthony, i like living very much. it's wonderful.

so you were wrong grandpa.


you were wrong about you and miss jackie not liking any of the same things. you both like living.

a long silence blanketed the table as we all looked at anthony who barely looked away from his plate to ask his questions. my father turned to me as if for an explanation. all i could think to ask him was how it felt to have an argument so easily picked apart by someone seventy years his junior.

KIDS (permalink) 10.24.2012
such a short amount of time between the only one and the only one this week
a few weeks ago anthony told his female speech therapists about a girl he likes at school. when they asked about her, anthony said she was so beautiful he couldn't even look at her. the two college age girls swooned at the loveliness of it.

then this morning, anthony informed alex and i over breakfast that there were two girls in his class he wanted to marry with. i imagine his speech therapists would be less smitten with his latter comment. anthony better hope the mormons get serious about lifting their ban on plural marriage.

KIDS (permalink) 10.05.2012
a curious distinction between my kids in regard to scary movies.
in regards to scary films, both bella and alex will say, "this is a scary movie", whereas to the same film anthony will half-way through ask, "is this a scary movie?". in fact i think he, at six, may already be ready for the likes of the original halloween, blairwitch, and paranormal--he was the only one of my kids to request and subsequently see, paraNorman.

and i'm sadder to report, anthony seems to be trending in the same direction with amusement park rides asking why he is too short to ride some of the scariest rides i've ever witnessed.

KIDS (permalink) 10.04.2012
if you have more to sort than jorts and lacoste polos, i can't be held accountable for matching errors.
in our house, i wash the laundry. i'm also the one to fold the laundry. when i'm done marty steps in and puts the folded stacks away. every now and again i'm the one to put laundry away just as every now and again marty is the one to wash and neatly fold the clothes. when i do the putting away, i usually botch a few things, that is, i mix up which clothes go with which human. as the children have grown in size and their wardrobe has grown in number of articles my error rate has grown alongside them. though, that i'm making more mistakes isn't nearly as interesting as the reaction my family has to my mistakes.

the girls are both quick to let me know not only that i made mistakes but also to show in some way the number of mistakes that occurred. bella's play is to appear in my office with the garments in question. after raising her hands to showcase the items--and jutting a hip to the side for emphasis--she tilts her head down and glances at me under a raised brow saying only, "really dad?". to this i'll sheepishly reply, "oh those aren't yours?" or "i thought i saw you wearing that" to which bella will follow up with a "me? this? really?". marty's far more subtle and respectful. for her she might just quietly pass me in the hall with a small stack of mis-filed garments clapped between her hands giving me a polite smile as we pass.

now the boys. the boys still let me know of my error but they do so in a totally different manner. how i know if i put something belonging to alex in anthony's drawer is anthony will come downstairs on a school day wearing the item. in example, anthony came down for breakfast the other day wearing a pair of alex's boxer briefs. if you're wondering how obvious the error should have been to him, the underwear is snug enough but it travels down slightly below anthony's knee and could easily be confused for a certain sacred garment. when i ask anthony if he noticed anything funny about his underwear (which should be a non-question since anthony's full line of underwear are still superhero branded tighty whiteys), he'll look down and then confess no, he does not notice anything funny about his underwear. he'll then ask if he should and i'll defeatedly reply, no he should not. truthfully marty and i are just thankful he wears underwear as his tendency to travel commando has been the number one complaint of his school teachers over the last few years (and no it doesn't help that his tiny business is essentially spot welded to his lean frame and not flying, spilling, or sagging about all that much). and alex, while similar is different enough to warrant his own sentence or two. for aleo, he will bounce down the stairs for school wearing a pair of his six year old brother's pants. i'll pause whatever i'm doing to take him in. from the waist down he most closely resembles mary tyler moore's laura petrie character from the dick van dyke show in a pair of her style-setting and form-fitting capris. when i ask alex if he noticed anything funny about his pants, he'll look down and then confess no, he does not notice anything funny about his pants. often, he will ask if he should which, yes you guessed it, i say no he should not. truthfully marty and i are slow to correct him because even in his gender-bending ensemble he pulls the look off better than most of us would and surpasses the dress caliber of his father by gravity-defying leaps and bounds.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 09.26.2012
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 09.25.2012
the mysteries of the mind.
when anthony plays chess and wants to resign he lays his king over and says not "uncle" as alex and bella instructed him, but rather "old man".

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 09.21.2012
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
i can read

KIDS (permalink) 09.20.2012
yep, it starts with an F, most definitely.
at the dinner table, during a lull in conversation alex, age nine, announced that he knew what the f-word was. this proclamation paused any chewing noises or silverware clatter that may have been happening. a few people then asked questions. one question was where did you learn it? at school. another was, you know you're never to use it? he knew. then came the smartest question. what is the f-word alex? to protect anthony's still virginish ears alex said he would have to whisper it in our ears. so one by one, alex rounded the table and in the cupped ear of marty, then bella, and then myself alex whispered the f-word — funk.

KIDS (permalink) 09.13.2012
these kids, they do have a way of taking over.
apologies for my absence. i had a project unveiling at work on tuesday and slipped into my obsessive persona to make sure everything looked fit and fancy for the first sets of eyes.

the showing went swimmingly.

then yesterday, wednesday, i had my first dad lunch with bella as a junior high student. the slight bummer is she only gets thirty minutes for lunch. and her school isn't near any eateries. in thinking things through i remembered a city park i used to play tennis at just over the hill from her school. it had some rolling grassy hills and lots of trees. so as time neared, i got a lunch together and headed to the school. after i got her dismissed from class we made the two minute drive to the park.

the day was crazy bee-you-ta-ful, especially on our bench in the shade. after getting settled i pulled from my cooler a snarf's ham and cheese (a favorite for bella and i), a bag of chips and a large ice water. we talked about a number of things: how this was different from elementary, how we were lucky this park was so close by, how we played ogre on the playground several years ago, bella wondered what we would do in the winter (i admitted that was a good question because we were surely not going to get weather this nice all year), and we might have even talked about boys for a minute or two. then as she was finishing up her sandwich i dove into my small cooler and readied the next treat i brought. bella leaned over trying to see what i was doing but i blocked her prying view with my shoulder. then, when i lifted the bowl of chery cobbler from the weekend out with two scoops of still firm ice cream on top, my girl's face lit up like the blue-sky day.

later that night, marty asked bella how our first dad lunch of the school year went. bella told her of the cobbler and ice cream. she then said that "dad did good".

it's funny how a room of adults praising a piece of my professional work that i've spent more than six months on felt good but didn't come close to the reward i felt in getting my daughter's "dad did good" seal after a thirty minute lunch.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.07.2012
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
so ya' know

KIDS (permalink) 08.30.2012
hidden depths.
as the school year approached i visited with each of the kids separately getting their pulse about things. both bella and anthony were starting at new schools (junior high and kindergarten). obviously they both had a good bit of nerves. when i approached alex, his presence drooped and he became somber. when i asked what was worrying him. he connected it to getting a new teacher and expressed sentiments about his last teacher, mrs. mcwilliams.

i just can't wait until i see mrs mcwilliams again.

yeah, have you you been missing her?


did you hear that she moved to kindergarten and that's who anthony is going to have?

yeah. she's a really good woman.

KIDS (permalink) 08.29.2012
better than caffeine
the day began with a game of "see if i can bite your finger". marty and her siblings played this when young. in it, one player has their mouth open wide and eyes closed tight. the other player then sticks their finger into the open mouth and tries to get it out before the closed eye person bites it. towards the end of their saturday cuddle marty and anthony started playing this. a surprising amount of laughter ensued. after a bit of play anthony peered into marty's gaping mouth and began charting what he saw. "i can see your teeth mom. oh, i can see your tongue mom. oh, i can see your vulva mom."

childbirth, she do take a toll.

and, i got cash money that says anthony's speech therapist has never been told to work on the enunciation nuances between uvula and vulva before.

KIDS, TV (permalink) 08.28.2012
same lesson, different vehicle.
bella likes the show the voice. i tolerate the voice to spend minutes with my daughter. early on, i found the judges to not be judgmental enough which on a show about judging is a reasonably damning trait. i did like the blind facet of the competition though. as the competition wound on and the delta in performance and talent got tighter, i felt for the judges who were forced to decide between two closely matched singers.

then one night bella and i watched two of the battles before bed. in each of the cases the pairings were quite close but in each case there seemed to be a clear winner. and in each case the person who seemed to outdo the other was voted off and sent packing. after this happened the second time i replayed what happened in my head and saw a pattern. in each case the person who gave the stronger performance was, in working up to the performance, also the more difficult to work with. they acted privileged and pouted when a decision was not to their liking (e.g. didn't like the song selected). the judges who had to make the call had to consider their smaller teams in the later rounds. they needed people who could work outside of their comfort zone, if need be, and were able to continue to give effort and more importantly positive energy to a situation that might be less than ideal. this is how these two people beat the more skilled competitors, by being versatile and continuing to work even when the cards didn't fall their way.

i shared my theory with bella. i rewound the show and pointed out the behavior i felt cost them the win. this is the sort of concept one can explain to a child, but without their own experiences and personal examples to lean on, i imagine it's hard for a young mind to fully embrace the significance of such a thing. thus, what a gift we had in this show, a show my bella is ravenously interested in. she saw vivid examples of people acting childish and then later suffering for their stubbornness downstream. cool way to discuss a nuance of attitude. i have new respect for the voice, and in particular for adam levine and chistina aguilara, for having the insight to not reward these prima-donna antics.

this unexpected moment also reminded me of an old, pre-republican, dennis miller bit. in it he said his father took him to a rated R movie at a very young age. in the movie one of the characters was killed which caused a young dennis to lean into his father and asked why that man got hurt. his father replied, "because he was a slack-jawed asshole and one day all slack-jawed assholes have to suck the pipe." i'm sure i'm botching the quote slightly but it is in the ball-park of what went down. i'm glad a found a more age-appropriate vehicle to share this message with my daughter.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 08.24.2012
what passes for discourse in our home.

I'm the king of the world!

no. you're the king of your anus.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.23.2012
scenes from the first day of the 2012-2013 school year

the thirty pound junior high backpack

walking to the bus

anthony's waiting smirk

anthony hamming, aleo perfecting

proud and relived parents with their kindergartner

KIDS (permalink) 08.17.2012
that time, she is a-marchin'
today i will walk my isabella to the bus stop so she may attend her first day of junior high.

i'd tell you to send her some positive thoughts but i fear i may need them more. whatever happened to my baby girl.

and, like last year, we just snuck her dad day in before the end of summer. this year's day of decadence involved:

1. horseback riding
2. porterhouse lunch
3. bookstore hour
4. movie afternoon (step up revolution)
5. ted drewes custard

it was, hopefully, a day she'll remember. i know i will as i can't remember being that wiped out after a day.

and of all of that, i think she may have been most surprised and excited about seeing the step up revolution movie. at the end of the film she started an applause that the other patrons merrily joined in on. that may have been my favorite part of the day.

KIDS (permalink) 08.16.2012
the kind of manners that make you cringe when you overhear
alex spent the day at a friend's house. near supper time marty called over to ask about the plan. the lady said they had no particular ideas in mind and the boys were still playing strong. marty worried alex would be upset if we ate without him so had the lady ask him what he wanted to do.

alex. i have your mom on the phone. she's wondering what you want to do about dinner.

uhhh. what is my mom making?

FRIEND'S MOM (she asks marty)
pork and green bean stir fry.

uhhhmm. what are you making?

i think we're going to have eggs.

well. i do like pork and green bean stir fry more than eggs but will stay here and keep playing.

while assessing his choices might come off as a tad rude, his choosing the lesser option to stay in the woman's home may make up for any prior slight.

KIDS (permalink) 06.29.2012
i've always enjoyed the meatheads more than the meatbacks anyway
bella and i sat in chairs in the shade reading at our community pool. while there, a muscly guy showed up. he looked nearly like one of the guys you'd see in competition or on the cover of a magazine. covertly, bella leaned towards me saying, "check him out." after checking him out, she asked why i didn't look more like him. i commented that i wasn't sure we were the same species. then more seriously, i added that anyone who decides to look like that must make a life commitment to the goal, and i prefer eating dinner with my family. mildly surprised, bella asked why i wouldn't eat dinner anymore. i explained i would, i just wouldn't with her and mom and the boys. i asked her to guess where i'd be while they all ate. in a sober tone she replied the gym. right. i went on to explain that any extreme life achievement comes at the cost of other life experiences and given her, bella's, many proclivities, abilities and opportunities, these were choices she will have to one day face.

after a moment of quiet, i explained she got dealt a father who chased not a body, wealth or fame, but balance. with a grin i added that when you were handed looks as dashing as mine, it would be unfair to pile muscles on top of them. she grinned back and with that both our heads returned to the words in our books building the one muscle in our bodies that doesn't show well at the pool.

KIDS (permalink) 06.28.2012
alex's explanation may shed some light on part of the problem
upon walking into the kitchen, i found alex washing something in the sink and anthony standing on a stool, naked except for a lightweight coat. alex, completely exasperated, turned to me and said:

this young boy can't stop touching his penis.

between the frustration and the use of 'this young boy' aleo could have passed for an over-fifty elementary recess attendant who had just drug the reputed school miscreant to the office for the third time in one week. i calmly told anthony to stop touching his penis in the kitchen and went about my way. as i left the space i heard alex say:

yeah, the only time you can do that is when you're sick.

hmmm. when i was young i watched price is right when i was sick. but, perhaps that's what all those showcase showdown girls were about.

KIDS (permalink) 06.26.2012
imagine grady's mother's surprise
upon arriving at anthony's school (before summer break) the mother of anthony's best friend, grady, called for us to wait up. after reaching us, grady and anthony exchanged morning "heys". then grady's mom reminded her son about something. to this, grady began digging around his backpack. after finding the item he handed it to anthony who offered his upright palm. grady dropped alex's small swiss army knife into anthony's hand and said, "i can't keep this anthony". after i apologized to the mom who moved on, i knelt down and asked anthony to explain why his friend had alexander's new swiss army knife. anthony looked at me guiltily. grady's family moved on. i knelt next to anthony to begin discussing what just happened. part of the exchange:

now what will make me happy anthony is you telling me the truth about the knife.

ok. i will tell you the truth but it will sound like it's not the truth.

ok. i know you'll tell me the truth because that is what will make me happy.

i was at school and got a package. it said it was from alex and to anthony and in it was the knife.

i think we can collectively applaud anthony's intuition that that his answer may sound a bit askew. after a touch of work i learned alexander made some trespass upon anthony, making anthony quite perturbed. it retaliation, anthony snuck alex's new swiss army knife from its nail on aleo's bunk, stuffed it into his pants pocket and gave it to grady at school telling grady he could keep it forever and ever. when grady looked in his palm asking "for real", anthony replied, "yes for real".

KIDS, SPORTS (permalink) 06.08.2012
it's possible i wouldn't do well in the majors.
i coached bella's softball team this year. i've helped coach many of the kids' teams but have never been the head coach. and yes, being the main guy is different, different in all of those stereotypical ways. in the end it was a fabulous experience, largely due to the group of girls who signed up. i know this is the universe being kind to me.

i believe i was a rather unorthodox coach. at the first practice we sat in a circle and played a name game i've used in teaching for more than twenty years (i'm horribly name challenged). i then explained to the girls that what was important to me was not how many games we won or lost but how much improvement each girl saw, individually, in themselves. so yes, i wanted them to be competitive but not with the other teams, with themselves. and that i didn't want our esteem to come from how we did against the other teams that signed up but instead from how much effort and focus we applied as individuals and as a group.

this was tested partway into the season after we won our first game and the girls were jumping up and down chanting, "we won! we won! we won!". after shaking hands with the other team, i called the girls over to the side away from everyone, had them sit down and told them, "ladies. we signed up to play a game called softball, not a game called win. every week we've come out here, win or lose, we've gotten to play softball. because we get to do every week what we signed up to do, you should show the excitement you showed today after every game, win or lose." during my talk the girls stared at me blankly. after my talk they all resumed their celebration, albeit more quietly when i was in earshot.

we had our final game of the season last weekend. the girls spirit was light and playful. after the game (a game we lost in the bottom of the final inning) they came and said they made up a cheer and asked if they could sing it. i said of course. so they huddled up and in unison cheered:

U-City Unicorns number one.
We just wanna have some fun.
We don't care if we-e win,
We just want to wear a grin.

as i stood and took this in, one word played through my head, "wow".

then we went for year-end ice cream.

KIDS, FILM (permalink) 06.07.2012
a better review could not have be had.
during alex's dad day this year, i planned for one of his events to be a movie. the day before i glanced at the movie listings and saw the film Pirates. every time we'd seen previews for this one made by the chicken run people, alex chuckled and tittered throughout so i knew he'd be glad to see it. after go-karting i looked for nearby theaters and showtimes on my iphone. i found there were no late afternoon or evening showings of that film (i even looked in neighboring cities - no dice). as i scrolled up and down the listings looking for a replacement alex, peering over my shoulder, told me to stop.

what's that one?

that's the avengers.

oh! can we go to that? morgan saw it and said it is awesome.

well, i'm afraid it may be a little old for you. and you haven't seen some of the earlier films that led up to this.

well morgan saw it. and you can tell me about the other films.

i could but the problem is i haven't seen all the earlier films either.

that's ok. i bet it will still be good.

what if you get freaked out?

just blood freaks me out and i can close my eyes if there is blood.

ok, i guess we can try it. if you get freaked out, we'll just leave.

part of the reason i was so easily sold on taking my nine year old to a pg-13 film was, well, because i had been trying to see it on a six day break from work and hadn't fit it in. and this was the last day of my break. so now i'm sure you're seeing why it was the right and mature choice. the other good side to deciding to see it were there were lots of showtimes to choose from. this allowed us to go out to dinner (lions choice) and look up the characters of the film while we ate. it even allowed us to sneak in our book store visit (where he gets a $20 credit for books) beforehand.

as for how the experience went, halfway through the movie, alex leaned over towards me and whispered, without taking his eyes of the screen, "dad. this movie is really good ... and there's no blood." win-win.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 06.05.2012
after anthony, who is five, goes poop he loudly calls from the bathroom "i'm done" and waits for someone to come and wipe him. if someone doesn't respond soon enough he calls, more loudly, "i said i'm done!". whenever i am home and hear this cry i try to be the one to respond since marty has certainly wiped enough ass that's not her own in the last eleven years i figure any soiled cheeks i can take off her hands is deserved and appreciated. last week when i pushed the door open and walked in anthony groaned. i asked what was wrong.

i'm bored of you wiping me.

bored of me? you should be bored of mom.

but mom does it better.


ANTHONY (exasperated)
dad. i've been bored of you wiping me since after the first time you did it.

well. i do apologize that you find my company while cleansing your feces smeared buttocks so unappealing. how insensitive of me to not be more engaging during the wondrous opportunity you are affording me. please accept my most humble apology.

if you're thinking a child who is five should be wiping his own ass, i'm of the school of thought that no one should be left to that task until they think a job poorly done is a problem. anyone who doesn't mind a less than perfect outcome, in my eyes, is not ready for the task. and yes, i do appreciate that under this definition we all know people in their thirties who, technically, should still be wiped be a parent.

KIDS (permalink) 05.24.2012
this life is more than just a read through - chillipeppers "can't stop"
i suited up to bike the park on a beautiful sunday afternoon. as i stepped onto the porch, bella asked if she could go. while i needed a hard ride only a fool would turn down such a request from an eleven year old daughter. so i waited for bella to throw on her helmet, slip into some crocks and wheel her bike to the front. we were off.

on the tail end of our eight mile ride, we ran into a stretch of fine gravel, more like silt really. when we first hit this new surface (most of our route was a paved track) bella's tires slid as she pedaled through sharp turns. i began to caution her about biking on this type of terrain but stopped myself from saying anything. i'm trying to talk less and let my kids experience more first-hand. this new troy is probably shocking to any who know me fairly well. but those who know me well should also know there is always a new troy in the works. less than ninety seconds after biting my tongue bella turned into a corner hard and both tires slid out from beneath her. i pulled up next to her and asked if she was ok. she said she was. i commented that this silty stuff can be slippery to bike tires. she said she saw that. we stood her up. her knee had a small cut. i squirted some water on it and asked if she was ok. she was. we pushed on.

that night while dining on the front porch, i recounted the moment to the family, adding that i considered cautioning bella about the peril but decided to let her find this out on her own. i was mildly prepared to get some pushback in the "thanks a lot" variety but got none. i'd say the kids, bella and alex at least, not only understood but appreciated the looser hand.

we went on to talk about how mom and i would have to sit back in the future when the kids entered new waters and how some things have to be learned and not advised, especially in the world of dating. marty and i knew we'd have to just smile and let them watch the tires slide out first hand. when they said that was kinda sucky, i agreed but also assured them we'd be here to squirt water on their scrapes when it was done.

KIDS (permalink) 05.23.2012
like silly putty in their hands
alex is our consumer. when we travel and he sees commercial television, he has no defense for the highly fabricated and stylized advertisements that interrupt his shows (and that bella used to think were mini-skits so the shows actors could huddle and think what they should do next in their story). he watches with an open mouth miniature motorized cars make dramatic slow motion jumps over little plastic barrels. or he flashes an astonished face as kites easily do repeated loop-de-loops with a minor flick of a child's wrist. or sits mystified as a junior magician shows how to make an invisible worm writhe and wiggle (using hidden strings). after studiously taking in the presentation alex always says the same thing when it's done, "ohhh, dad/mom did you see that? i totally want one of those" to which marty and i always look away from our book or magazine long enough to reply "yeah it looked pretty cool".

the other day alex appeared at my desk and said he knew what he wanted for christmas. i turned in my chair, ready to listen, accustomed to such visits. ready for anything i told him to shoot. he said with an easy confidence that next christmas he really wanted a messenger falcon.

ok. so maybe i wasn't ready for anything.

KIDS (permalink) 04.27.2012
How I Felt
bella's class recently participated in a program called bizTown, or something of the like. for the exercise her grade (5th) got into a bus and travelled to some location where there were other grades from other schools. each kid in the class was given a job or duty to conduct. bella was the chief financial officer for her company (that morning she dressed up all business like in a long skirt and matching top - she looked quite smart got up so). when i got home from work i made dinner while bella sat at the kitchen counter with some homework. remembering about the experience i asked how her day as CFO went. she plucked a page from her folder and handed it to my as if i just requested a copy of some boorish report. below is what was on the page. i guess she got tired of answering the question, or any questions for that matter.

click to enlarge

KIDS (permalink) 04.17.2012
there's a lot of wisdom packed into that 8 year-old, fifty pound frame
alex grabbed a heavy rain-coat as we were heading out for dinner. i told him to lose the coat as it was nice out. he said he wanted to take it. shrugging my shoulders in a 'whatever' manner i ushered him out the door. after we ate and were about to walk out to the car we found it pouring rain. the only one of us who didn't groan in the doorway was alex, given the raincoat he was pulling on at the sight of the torrent. after racing through the puddled parking lot and piling into the van, marty told alex it was smart of him to bring the coat. to this he said, "well, it rained earlier in the day and when it rains once it can always rain twice. you just never know about the weather."

KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 04.13.2012
i can't wait until he starts hitting me with reverse psychology
i have a spring cold. i caught this one from anthony. upon getting up in the morning and realizing i was fully sick, i said bye to the kids and then let my office know i'd be out for the day. i then fell back into bed and didn't wake until 2pm when marty and anthony came home. it was a beautiful day so i moved out to the porch to get some fresh air. in time, marty had to go get bella and alex from school. anthony didn't want to go so stayed with me. as soon as marty biked away anthony came up to me and asked if i would read to him. i said not today. he asked if i would play with him. i said no again. he asked why not. i told him it was because i wasn't feeling well and needed to rest. i said he'd have to go find something he could do by himself like play in the backyard or ride his bike. he proceeded to make a booby trap for robbers in front of our house with a ball of twine while i sat on the front porch with my eyes closed, occasionally coughing. after one of the rounds of coughing, anthony came up on the porch.

i just heard you cough and then suck snot in your nose. that is what i do so do we have the same kind of sick?

yes. i think we do. i think i caught my cold from you.

then i don't understand why we can't play together if we have the same kind of sick.

because i still don't feel well.

but i'm still sick.
(here he makes a fake cough followed by a tiny snort of his nose)
see. and i'm playin'.

i have a couple of friends who give me nudges like this to coerce me into things i'm not up for. i'm far from thrilled to see my children (esp my five year old) prodding me similarly. i now don't know if the problem lies with me or them.

KIDS (permalink) 04.12.2012
red is nervous. green is active. purple is stop your grinnin' and drop your linen.
saturday at a family easter celebration, one of alex's found eggs had a mood ring inside. on sunday morning he and i were sitting on the steps in front of our house. we were mostly just sitting there. alex was focused on a captured caterpillar crawling up his arm. i was leaned back enjoying the quiet morning. an older couple walking a dog approached us. just as they got even with us alex, after glancing at his mood ring, said to me, "i'm feeling romantic right now dad."

it has been awhile since DFS has been by. it should be nice to catch up.

KIDS (permalink) 04.05.2012
new sherrif
the five house rule changes anthony, age 5, would make were he given the power.
  1. three hours of computer every day.
  2. eat more unhealthy things.
  3. kids can be grownups.
  4. go to ted drewes (custard) everyday.
  5. everyday is my birthday.
i know more than a few adults who would answer similarly.

KIDS (permalink) 04.03.2012
mad skillz
alex was making paper airplanes. excited about a new design he found he ran up to a shelf we keep loaded with scrap paper. alex grabbed a corner of a sheet that was poking out (the paper is stacked very haphazardly) and tugged it loose. as he turned to walk away, an avalanche of pages slid off the shelf and spilled into a large mound on the floor. alex looked at me and said with a deflecting shrug, "i just took one sheet" and continued to walk away.

they say the ability to frame a situation, even a suspect one, in a positive light is a powerful skill to possess in preparation for the bumps life is sure to send your way. having this gift allows you to weather these trials with your head up and eyes forward. given the early prowess alex has shown in this regard, i'm confident he has some happy and blissful days ahead.

KIDS (permalink) 03.07.2012
what moves faster than the speed of light?
bella turned eleven yesterday.

yeah, i know.

her gifts. marty gave her a house key and i gave her this.

my mother is the only person i've ever known harder to shop for than this small girl. she loves to read so you could get her a book or two but it's hard to compete with the library we have in walking distance given the pace in which she ravages books. the only other two things she's interested in would be a stable of animals and more hours in the day so she could draw more pictures of animals. to this end i also got her some proper drawing gear—sketch pads, pencils, colored pencils, pink pearl erasers, an art bin for storage—because to date she's been fully content drawing her horses on the backsides of scrap paper with nubby, eraserless pencils. it's certain she gets this contentedness from her mother which aside from good health is possibly the best gift one human can pass to another.

note: the knitting army logo was made and donated by designer extraordinaire, tracy dorsey.

KIDS (permalink) 03.06.2012
who am i to stand in the way of such initiative?

ANTHONY (age 5)
i've got a new chore.

yeah. what is that?

rubbing your back with that thing you like.

oh. ok.

and then you'll give me a allowance.

i see.

i need more chores because i'm saving to buy something.

yeah. what's that?

a house. for when i leave here. so i have a place to live.

this is how it began. good to his word, later that day he appeared before me with the wooden back-massager in hand and said it was time for my scratch. in full need of a twenty minute nap anyway, i readily obliged and took my place on the bed face down. anthony positioned himself by my side and began running the four wooden balls up and down the length of my back. having been the recipient of many a child's back-scratch, my expectation was this would continue for less than two minutes and he would announce he was tired and move to his next distraction. instead, he drove the object around my back for at least three minutes. then i sensed a shift and waited for the "i'm done, this is boring" proclamation but it didn't come. the movement was just so he could switch hands. another three minutes. another shift. this third shift had moved to both hands and he was over me like someone doing chest compressions.

the next thing i recall he was pushing my shoulder and whispering in my ear that my scratch was over and could he have his allowance. i barely managed to ask if i could pay him after my nap. he said sure and scampered off the bed and i went back to the meadows in my brain.

if anthony's new scramble for money encroaches on any child-labor laws i might have a problem on my hands because while i've yet to ask him for one of his dollar scratches, i've yet to turn one down once offered.

KIDS (permalink) 02.17.2012
sam, we fear your work is a little dark for us. i'm sorry.
a former student of mine, super-sam, recently dropped in for dinner with us. as the adult conversation hit its stride the kids tuned out of the boring side of the table and chatted and goofed among themselves. this time though, my guest, caught the kids ears when he said he was interviewing for a job with a game development company. surprising everyone at the table, after this comment was made, alex spoke up interrupting sam and asked what he just said. sam repeated his hope and intention to get a job making video games. to this alex started asking sam if he's heard of many of the games alex has been playing. it was a hit and miss list. in time the conversation moved on.

a few days later alex handed me a letter. i thanked him and started opening it thinking it was another one for me. sensing my mistake alex said, "it's not for you dad. it's for that boy, that boy that is going to make games. it is some ideas morgan and i had of games he can make." sam, who went on to get the job, hasn't even been assigned a desk yet and already has a creative team doing his bidding. truth told, i expected no less.

firstly, alex is not good with names. he just calls most people who visit our house "that boy" or "that girl" so that he put a male name in that spot at all is a bit surprising. marty caught the mistake and had him fix it, but he only corrected the name on the outside of the envelope where it said "opin". additionally, you can't expect the creatives to have to bother with unimportant things like their boss or client's name. they have more pressing neurons to tend to. and speaking of creativity, i'm not sure if the world is ready for exploding babies yet but if it is, with the insight shared in this napkin pitch, sam may get the jump on the market. the letter transcribed and corrected follows:
hi david. i want to tell you me and my friend morgan made up two funny games. bablyliss war and babies vs parents. in bablyliss war there are buildings and baby guns and baby swords or nothing (meaning they would punch) will fight against ninjas, armies, aliens, wizards and people with swords. and babies vs parents is just like plants versus zombies.
on the second game idea, i'd guess they either ran out of creative steam or morgan's mom called and said it was dinnertime.

KIDS (permalink) 02.16.2012
small, sometimes shod, steps
i can't tell you the number of events we've been late too because we can't find a child's shoes. this has happened with all of them but these days anthony, given his age (5), is the usual culprit.

i can't tell you the number of times we said, your shoes have a home, please see that they get in that home so you know where they are when you need/want them again. it's a plea/declaration/mandate/threat that's been called through the house so many times i'm a little shocked the children don't mockingly pantomime our words as we huff them out.

i can't tell you the number of bizarre configurations in which shoes have been discovered. it's not like, oh here they are under the coffee table. it's more like one shoe is in the top bunk of the second bedroom and the other shoe, its matcher, is in the third row seat of the van parked in front of the house. these searches are definitely part of the advanced set of problems.

i can't tell you how surprised i was when the i looked in the bin and saw that anthony had finally, with only one ask, put his shoes in their home, which for him is also the family sock basket.

and i can't tell you how my expression fell when i saw his just put-away shoes were covered, ankle-high, with fresh, sludgy mud as they rested atop all of our laundered and paired socks.

KIDS, SWIM (permalink) 02.13.2012
after all the hours spent alone, it is rather nice to have a swim buddy.
bella has been between sporting endeavors (girls on the run and indoor soccer). to bridge the gap in the winter months i suggested she join me for swimming. she agreed and even sounded eager, that is until i told her to suit up because it was time to go. this was met with a surprised, "what? now?". after marty helped her get her stuff together we met in the foyer to head out. as i opened the door bella stopped me and asked:

how long are we going to be there?

an hour.

an hour! can i take a book?

no you can't take a book.

why not?

because you're going to be swimming.

for the whole hour?

the answer, of course, was yes for the whole hour. i told bella i would explain how it worked during the walk there. to this she said, "WE'RE WALKING!". the answer to this, of course, was again yes we were walking.

after we arrived to the pool, changed in our respective locker rooms, and met at a lane, bella was heard to say the following things during the experience:
  • ok. so maybe i'm glad i didn't bring my book. this is fun. (her giddiness was largely due to the discovery that she, at ten, could swim faster than me. i wish i had a worthy excuse but the girl seems to have about four gears i'm missing).
  • i thank you for not wearing a swim suit like the guy in the next lane. (he was in a speedo. after glancing over i told bella i was sure everyone at the pool was thankful i didn't wear a speedo).
  • next week ... (i'm intensely glad she's excited about next week)
  • they were from another country so they couldn't help me. (when i sent her into the locker room, since it was her first time at this gym, i told her to ask someone in there to point her to the general use lockers. the only girls in the locker room were part of a basketball team from another university and didn't know what to tell her. bella deems anyone not from our town to be from another country.).
marty brought the boys to the gym while we were still in the pool. there was a basketball tournament going on and we were going to watch some of the games after our swim. they watched us for a little bit from the windowed observation deck before heading to the gym. after the swim and the game when walking home, i asked alex what he thought of me and bella swimming and if he'd like to do it when he gets his skills up a bit more. he said, "no i don't really want to jump off the diving board." alex has connected swimming laps to going off the diving board because swimming a lap is a pre-diving board requirement of our summer pool. i guess he thinks bella and i really, really, really want to go off the diving board given all the laps we swim.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 02.07.2012
as his parent, i'm mildly curious if he deemed his button-job 'close enough' or 'too far-gone for help'
in looking for anthony's hundredth, and final, image for his personal gallery, i scanned my picture archives, wanting this last one to be solidly representative of his personality which i thought i managed for both baya and aleo. a few of his pics along the way have captured his spirit like here or here. after spinning through my folders though i didn't find any that hit the mark. so this last weekend i called him to the foyer asked him to stand on the landing thinking i had the chops to capture my son's essence, which is always about him.

what you're about to see is one of anthony's more peculiar takes on the world. he has it in his mind that when someone says they are going to take his picture, he, the subject, is supposed to strike and hold a series of poses, a different one for each picture. and as you'll see each and every one of his poses are without argument bizarre. i'm not sure what input or stimulus led him to create this repertoire of poses but whatever it was, i've never met a person who came to the same conclusion.

below are a few of the shots taken that day on the landing. after each beep from the camera he quickly and precisely re-contorts his body to the next chosen position. at the conclusion of the shoot, i didn't feel any of these hit the special mark i was looking for and i thought yesterday's image better captured the mood of our boy. but just because they weren't suitable to close out his gallery doesn't mean they're too highbrow for the monorail.

KIDS (permalink) 02.03.2012
the boy probably keeps a spare hankie tucked in his sock
alex and i were cuddled up in our chair and a half reading. i thought of something i needed to note and started feeling my pockets for my pen (which i always try to have on me). realizing i didn't have it, alex began:

whatcha lookin' for?

my pen. i need to write something down.

i got ya dad. you can use mine.

with this last statement alex pulled the baseball hat he was wearing off, tipped it over and pulled a pen out of there and handed it to me as naturally as a personal banker might hand you a pen from their shirt pocket. ain't nothin' for an eight year old to prove more prepared than many adults i run into.

KIDS (permalink) 02.02.2012
that there's called a done deal.
anthony initiated a most unexpected play-date. it was unexpected because it was with, of all things, a girl. i say unexpected because to date most of anthony's sentiments regarding the fairer gender have been more along the unoriginal, five-year old "i don't like girls--they are dumb" lines of logic. this time not only did he acknowledge this play-date, the morning of the play-date, he announced the following in the foyer while putting shoes on:

i'm going to marry with edie.

(to this everyone in the family raised their head up from what they were doing)

but i thought you were going to marry with me.

and i thought you were going to marry with mom.

nope. now i'm marrying with edie.

does edie know this? usually both people have to agree to such an arrangement.

yes she knows. yesterday at school i said i was going to marry with her and she said she was going to marry with me.

i would encourage edie to consider upon a longish courtship. this way she can see if anthony outgrows his near perpetual need to incorporate the word poop or penis or butt into every conversation, regardless of their contextual relevance. there are other points i could raise regarding a cautious entry into matrimony, i just don't think there's need to add evidence to an already sound position.

KIDS, FASHION (permalink) 02.01.2012
what sort of doctor might address that?
you may remember when bella took a break from her reading to describe me in my biking shorts as definitely not being eye candy. the next time i passed her geared up for my exercise, she stopped me long enough to say i had to stop walking around in those because i was now giving her "eye cavities". it's most evident they're cute when they're young by design. many wouldn't make it otherwise.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 01.09.2012
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
bathroom words

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 12.21.2011
colorado 2012
yesterday i shared my thank you note in our hosts' guest book. today i'm sharing the thank yous the kids left.

Anthony's Thank You
him climbing the mountain

Alex's Thank You
all of us climbing the mountain

Bella's Cover

Bella's Interior
part a : thank you
part b : family drawing
part c : us climbing the mountain
part d : us at the drive in (for as good of an artist as bella is, her rendition of our van is most curious)

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

closeup of our family

we're a decently dashing lot via bella's eye/pen ... although i fear marty isn't wearing any pants.

KIDS (permalink) 12.15.2011
for those who asked
the official ogre rules (as divined and governed by the dearmitt clan)

  1. a dad or a mom or a much older kid plays the ogre.
  2. the kids are the food for the stewpot.
  3. the ogre chases the kids.
  4. if the ogre tags a kid, the tagged kid must go to the stewpot (typically a bench or a tree or the like)
  5. the only way to get out of the stewpot is if another kid who has not been tagged comes to the stewpot and tags you out.
  6. the ogre wins if he gets all the kids in the stewpot.
  7. the kids win if all but one kid is in the stewpot and that last remaining free kid tags all the captured kids out of the stewpot before getting tagged by the ogre (when only one kid is left is, for sure, the loudest and most exciting part of any ogre competition).

  1. you must be in the stewpot before you can be tagged out (that is, you can't be tagged free while walking to the stewpot).
  2. there is no base or safe spot for the kids.
  3. you have to stay inside the prescribed area, usually a playground or the shallow end of a large swimming pool.
  4. if there are more than five kids playing, you may add a second ogre.
  5. you must honestly obey the rules of the stewpot (e.g. pretending to be tagged free when you weren't) or the game is immediately over and cannot be played again on the same day.
  6. it is fair to pretend to be in the stewpot when you are in fact free, tagging kids who have been sent there. however if an ogre discovers you using this ploy, extra attention may be given to properly keeping you in the stewpot.
  7. it is suggested that ogres wear their running shoes and eat their wheaties prior to a round of ogre.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 12.14.2011
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
acting out

KIDS (permalink) 12.13.2011
one of the several and many reasons i love the village i landed in
for those that asked about yesterday's sassafras picture, re-shown below, here's a more revealing picture of what he was climbing. these tolkienesque huts were erected in front of the art and architecture buildings of the university by our home. we passed the recently completed structures while coming back from roller blading/skating in forest park (and headed to breadCo for hot chocolate). i had seen the early stages of their construction a few weeks earlier but dismissed it as something not meant for me. coming upon the completed version my foot quickly moved to the brake and i pulled over for a closer look as they definitely jump out in front of your eyes. seeing the grandeur and stability of the edifices one of my kids, i forget which one, called for an impromptu game of ogre. the kids won in a best of three affair, anthony winning the third and pivotal round. and we concluded that when we play ogre in funny shaped buildings like this, instead of a city park or swimming pool, it will be called smurf ogre.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

KIDS (permalink) 12.01.2011
so maybe they care a touch more than they let on.
our bathroom sink was recently broken for about five weeks. our experience camping has never paid more dividends as once the sink was declared inoperable marty set our camping sink up on the bathroom radiator and after their initial "why's the camping sink up here?" question and subsequent shrug of their shoulders, the kids never looked back or groaned.

a few weeks into our family's no-bathroom-sink lifestyle marty told me she was thinking of inviting a new family she met over for a brunch. they have a son who a daughter of ours might be mildly smitten with so marty asked bella if she would mind if we had the boy and his family over socially. after a beat of silence bella asked, "will the sink be fixed before they get here?"

KIDS (permalink) 11.30.2011
now both marty and i can field a call from our children's schools.
for such a happy go-lucky guy, his style of math to word problems are a bit on the morose/morbid side.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 11.29.2011
you get to field this call from the school when it comes.
it began with a jokey comment made by a five-year old anthony to marty in front of me. he leaned in on her and intentionally said loud enough for me to hear ...

i love you more than i love daddy.

well yes, that is true right now but it will change soon enough.

ANTHONY (perplexed anthony raised up)

MARTY (without looking away from her paper)
there will come a time when you will look to dad to teach you how to be a man and when that happens, he will become more important in your life.

and you can't tell me how to be a man?

well no, i can't because i'm not a man. i'm a woman. it's my job to teach bella how to be a woman. what i can teach you is how to be a man that women would want to be with. but it's your dad's job to teach you how to be a man.

without even throwing a brotherly or conspiratorial nod my way given this newfound bond between us, anthony turned and walked off calling for his ten year old sister.

bella? bella? where are you bella?

BELLA (calling back)
i'm in the kitchen anthony. what do you want?

ANTHONY (yelling out as he walks towards the kitchen)
bella, did you know mom is going to teach you how to be a woman ... and dad is going to teach me how to be a man?

MARTY (to me)
that sounded a lot more innocent when it came out of my mouth.

QUOTES, KIDS, FOOD (permalink) 11.23.2011
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
got milk?

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 11.22.2011
it's sad that you're the one asked and expected to hand your child the needle
bella recently asked me to establish an email account for her. i told her that i would under the condition that her first ever email be sent to me. she readily agreed.

here's the first ever email she received:
On Nov 20, 2011, at 9:24 AM, Troy L DeArmitt wrote:
welcome to the world of email.

may it not overtake your life.

and the first ever email she sent:
On Nov 20, 2011, at 9:35 AM, Bella DeArmitt wrote:
Dear Dad,
Thank you so much for setting me up an account. i'm sad to say that this will probably, sadly, overtake my life and I will use it as an excuse to get onto the computer, thanks for giving me the account.
it's hard to not appreciate a healthy dose of self-awareness and candor.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 11.21.2011
all i want for christmas is my sister's two front teeth.

anthony, is there anything you would like for christmas?

i would like bella to be called pinhead.

obviously i caught him in a moment of angst, an occasional artifact of living big. while i would contend we need to return to the well for another option, i fear marty's going argue for the name change because we can actually afford that.

KIDS (permalink) 11.16.2011
we often hear of ma bell, but what about her children
phone etiquette and kids stands as a most schizophrenic affair. they come across, sometimes simultaneously, as both more and less mature than they really are. how someone hasn't dedicated a show to capturing these early fumblings is a real miss. obviously my kids are no exception. here's a present observation on each of mine.

BELLA (age 10)
four out of five times bella answers the phone one of the first things she says is, "no, this isn't marty. this is bella. marty's my mom."

ALEX (age 8)
anytime alex calls home from somewhere else, the first thing we hear is, "hello, this is alex, alex dearmitt." conversely, whenever he answers our home phone he says, simply, "what?".

ANTHONY (age 5)
someone called the other day during marty's morning BM. upon hearing the ring she decided to let it roll to voice mail. then she didn't hear a second ring. what she did hear was anthony's voice from my office saying in a business-like tone, "my mom's going to the bathroom". then without another word of discourse or courtesy she heard the plastic clack of the phone being returned to the cradle (yes, we use decades-old, corded, wall-mount phones — of course).

while guarantees in life must be issued judiciously, i feel safe in promising that the phone skills coming out of my house will do nothing but improve and improve dramatically in the years ahead.

KIDS (permalink) 11.15.2011
six people counts as more people, right?
we recently had our parent-teacher conferences for bella and alex. during bella's, her teacher slid a folder across the table and said it was story bella had written for an assignment. he said he felt it was very good and suggested we read it. he then said he wanted to ask permission from bella and marty and i if he could offer it to other teachers in the school to be used as a teaching aid for students learning to craft stories.

obviously quite proud, i later asked bella if i could post her story on my website. without looking away from her book she said "sure, the more people that hear the message the better, right?" some parents are nice to their kids because they know that one day in the future their children will be responsible for their care and they want them to have fond memories so they care for them well in their old-age. the only difference between me and and other parents of ten year olds is i fear that day is going to happen about six months from now.

so allow me to present bella's first bound, and by bound i mean triple stapled, story, Something I Learned From Another, or it's alternate title, Knitting Army.

click to download pdf

KIDS (permalink) 11.08.2011
what happened to good ole sitting in silence?
at the dinner table, marty asked the kids if they could recall their earliest memory. immediately you saw the engines rev up past an idle as they leafed the pages of their mind's photo album backward. after just a few seconds and without looking away from the beef kabob he was working on, alex began:

i remember when dad lost me at the zoo when i was four.

oh, i remember that too alex! i still remember how much my hand hurt from dad dragging me behind him looking for you.

ALEX (still not looking up)
and i remember when i was five and you let go of us on the hill and we flew down to the bottom, hit that wall and flipped over on our heads.

oh i totally remember that too alex. can you believe dad did that? not very responsible i'd say.

TROY (giving marty a glower)
can i request to play a different game?

while the stroller debacle was documented it seems losing alex at the zoo was somehow left in the editing room which might be a sign of just how traumatizing it was for not only alex, but me as well. the only other mishap i believe i never wrote about is when bella almost drowned at the pool when she was four which was mercifully left out of the earliest memories game. i know i didn't recount that one on the site given how traumatizing it was for me. this was the closest i got to even referencing it in any way. so for the people who routinely ask me what it is that i don't talk about on the site, there it is, the too scary to recount stories.

KIDS (permalink) 11.03.2011
well, i just don't know what to say to such kindness.
the day after halloween i found this note on my desk with a orange pumpkin half-full of candy.

how such a specific bowl comes to be is when the kids (and any accompanying friends) come home from trick or treating they spread out in a room, dump their candy out before them and conduct a fast and loud series of trades in attempt to upgrade their candy stock. you hear things like "i'll trade five dum-dums for one snicker" or if something is really hated, "anyone what this pile of sour-patches ... it'll just cost you three peanut butter cups". alex is a great person to have in your trading circle because he doesn't like chocolate. what i didn't know, before this week, was that there is a special 'hate' bucket where the candy that nobody likes gets tossed into. and if you're curious what some of the terrible sorts of things found in there might be: tons of almond joys and loads of peanut m & m's, two of my favorites (and to the more refined palettes go the spoils.)

KIDS, FRIEND (permalink) 10.27.2011
i'm having an OMG moment!
in response to aleo's card yesterday, a friend sent me a note their kid wrote, saying she wished she could claim aleo's instead of her daughters. while i wouldn't trade aleo's note for the world, i can confess to being crazy jealous that one of my kids isn't responsible for the following: please come see me.

KIDS (permalink) 10.26.2011
yesterday was a wicked long day (on the tail end of a wicked long ten days). and then in the evening, marty had a meeting which put me in the barrel getting all three kids down. i read to alex and anfer and then hung out with anfer while he went to sleep. before moving in with alex i stopped in the bathroom. when i opened the door to exit, there was a piece of paper on the floor. it is shown below. if you subscribe to the bucket system (a paradigm that likens your emotional needs (e.g. esteem, energy) to buckets that can be filled and emptied by various actions), this modest token penned from a child's emotion is the equivalent of having a dump truck's worth of water deluged atop a small, tattered bucket. i post it here so down-the-road on another low-level day i can come back and ladle some of its pooled goodness into my wanting bucket.

click to enlarge

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KIDS, QUOTES, MUSIC (permalink) 10.25.2011
not exactly how you hear the disney djs calling it

this is the last album she made before she hit the wall of puberty.

bella commenting on a miley cyrus disc she slid into the car stereo.

KIDS (permalink) 10.19.2011
find a penny pick it up, all day long you'll have an imprint of lincoln's silhouette on your penis.
while walking home from our dad-day lunch, anfer he found a penny on the ground. upon spying the unexpected treasure he let out an unabashedly excited, 'oohhh, penny', crouched down, and raised it in his pinched fingers. he held it inches in front of his eyes as if inspecting a fine gem. suspicious, he held the penny higher for me to observe. he asked if a real penny could be this skinny. i lowered my glasses on my nose, glancing at it. i confirmed it looked to be the real deal. he responded with a hushed "yesss" as if he didn't want any passersby to learn of his luck. he then looked down at his right hip, patting it with his hand checking for a pocket. finding none he swung his gaze over to his left hip. again no dice. without pause he slid the thumb from his free hand under the waistband of his shorts and underwear and pulled them them both away from his body. he then held the penny over the open chasm as if lining it up for some sort of carnival game and let it drop into his shorts. once it disappeared his thumb released both elastic bands and they tautly snapped back in place. confident his treasure was safely concealed he resumed his wistful march towards home.

KIDS (permalink) 10.18.2011
there may be a lot of fish but the present tank is quite small
marty got called up for jury duty. this is the third time since we've had kids. the first two times she got out due to breast feeding. this time she felt she should step up to it. she worked hard to figure out the logistics of getting kids where they need to be for the week. the mornings are are pretty much all me. yesterday morning, the first morning of the week, the three children and i were all in the foyer, minutes from jumping on bikes. the boys were putting on their shoes and i just removed some braids from bella's hair and was brushing it smooth. alex looked up and with great sincerity said, "wow. your hair looks beautiful bella." to this bella matter-of-factly replied, "well, don't even think of falling in love with your sister dude. there's too many girls in the world for that."

i'm quite confident if i spent more time with my kids, documenting their innocent, daily banter would become a full-time effort.

KIDS (permalink) 10.13.2011
much more colorful and succinct than my age 10 response would have been
bella had an homework assignment. it asked her to envision what the start of a day would look like in her adult life. in the middle of working on it, bella read a cut at the work to the boys and i as we settled into bed for reading. it went:
I woke up and looked around my cozy room. it wasn't enormous but it wasn't small. the walls were posted with pictures of animals and their owners. i put on anything i wanted, as long as it didn't embarrass me. I walked into the kitchen grabbed a bagel and started out the door. I walked for about 5-10 minutes and then saw my office. St. Louis Animal Rescue Center. I walked in and the room erupted with people politely greeting me.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 10.12.2011
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 10.11.2011
i work as hard as i do in the chase for moments like this.
imagine anthony nestled in a top bunk piled high with blankets and pillows given the fall morning chill, after his wake-up pee, flipping through the colorful pages of the first three installments of the Amulet, due to the thankful release of the fourth in the series, wearing nothing but a loose pair of shorts - backwards, no underwear, and with more than an hour before the school bell rings. that is a pretty good start to the day. and he doesn't even know how to read. jealous, jealous, jealous.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 10.05.2011
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 10.04.2011
keep your eyes straight ahead. but if you gotta look, at least take turns.
i chaperoned a field trip alex's class took to the zoo. shortly before lunch, the teacher instructed the kids to use the restroom. just after, she asked if i would oversee the boys room break ensuring no mayhem broke out.

the spacious and surprisingly clean bathroom offered five urinals and four stalls. the kids quickly raced to spots along the wall and started doing their business. alex and a few others held back choosing not to fight for a spot. as bladders went limp the first set of kids raced for the sinks. i repeatedly scanned the scene from urinals to sinks making sure no water wars, pee or tap, broke out. kids filed past me by the door laughing and goofing as you'd expect. the urinals were handling their last customers, alex being one of them. as i glanced that way i noticed alex looking to his left past an open urinal and watching the boy two spaces down urinating. i eyed this to see if what was happening was an acceptable passing glance or a problematic studied gaze. given the stare held for more than two seconds, we were most definitely facing the latter kind of ogle. while re-checking the boys at the sinks, i made a mental note to visit with alex about such matters of etiquette. as i glanced back to the wall of urinators, alex was now looking straight ahead and the red-headed boy alex had been observing at my last check was now turned to the right taking in what was going on in alex's bit of porcelain.

it seems i either need to have two talks or recognize this is a business as usual for this age group.

KIDS (permalink) 09.27.2011
as long as he heeds the rules of robotics
before hearing this story, you need to know one small detail about anthony: he vigorously contends that he is a robot, or at least that he has robotic innards. anytime i compliment him for doing something surprising or impressive his countenance sinks in frustration and he says, "dad, i keep telling you, i can do those kinds of things because i'm a robot. why can't you remember that?" and i apologize and say i forgot to which he gives an exasperated huff and moves on as if wondering how a boy robot got saddled with such an lacking human parent.

now the story. we were at our city park for alex's soccer game. bella was sitting on the bleachers reading. i was on the sidelines helping coach. marty was chatting with a friend and anthony was killing time on the playground. at one point marty looked over and saw anthony crossing a tall set of monkey bars. given their height she kept an eye on him. he had shimmied up the vertical upright to get started but once across, his legs couldn't reach the other upright or the top rung of the ladder. seeing him struggle marty ran over to help but before she got there, his grip gave and he fell, landing on his side in a hard, horizontal thud. given the height and the awkward landing, marty feared the worst.

when she crouched down next to him he pushed himself to a sitting position. marty asked if anything was hurt he. he grabbed his side and marty rubbed it testing his response. finding none, she commented that he was lucky he didn't break anything. in response, he explained that his side is his "metalist" part.

a few more feats like that and i may start giving some credence to the boy's claims of robotic componentry.

KIDS, WIFE (permalink) 09.15.2011
even an eighty cent trinket should know not to mess around like that
i was awoken by anthony rushing into my room waving his fist above his head. he moved right next to me, either not realizing or not caring that i was asleep just four seconds earlier. undeterred by my addled response, he instructed me to ask a question. the easy manner in which he did this would have told someone watching that we were ten minutes into a conversation and not that one of the participants was just pulled from a deep sleep. compliantly, yet groggily, i asked why he was waking me up and not someone else. to this anthony vigorously shook his hand back and forth a few times as if making a cocktail, and then stared at his palm. after a moment a deep baritone voice said, "the magic meatball doesn't think so." at this declaration, anthony shrieked with delight saying, "ahhhh! he doesn't think so dad! you lose." dropping my forearm over my closed eyes i retorted in a partially involved voice, "you do realize anthony he didn't really answer the question i just asked, right?" like with the sleep, anthony either didn't realize or care that his sage failed him. nor did he seem interested in talking to his real-life father over this mindless plastic bauble which, by my count, paid as much attention to the actual conversation at hand as my overly self-interested college roommate did back in the day.

as this experience, and volley of questions, continued i found myself ranking this waking to my list of worst wake ups ever. bella's cannonball into the small of my back has proven to be a real gamer that no one has ever come close to matching. while finding this moment's spot in the list, marty entered the room and after a pert, already-showered hello said to anthony:

MARTY (with a mischievous glance my way)
ask the magic meatball if dad is going to get busy today?

ANTHONY (excitedly to the toy in his hand)
magic meatball, is dad going to get busy today!?!?

MAGIC MEATBALL (with bravado and confidence)
the magic meatball says YEEESSSS.

ANTHONY (even more excitedly)
aahhh! you're going to get busy today dad!

anthony's rejoicing at my imminent fortune had both marty and i laughing heartily. and i may have been hasty in my judging of the meatball. he seems ok to me. but, before we stamp any thank you notes, i should add that his prediction may not have been as prescient as he led on because at the time of this writing, i'm rather busy-less. and i assure you no one is bluer on that count than me. truly. in fact, i'm miffed enough to consider a rebranding effort for the magic meatball to something a touch more accurate. fortunately for me, he already mostly has the appearance of the moniker i'd been toying with.

UPDATE: so after i posted the above and before midnight, the magic meatball's promise of good fortune came to be. my apologies mr. meatball.

KIDS (permalink) 09.14.2011
dumb-luck that
three neighbor boys were over. they're all brothers, the oldest being alex's age. i was in my office and they were in bella and alex's room and making an astounding amount of noise, hysterical laughter mostly. i've been responsible for little humans long enough to know that such chaos, while good at the minute, can be short-lived for several reasons, many of which you'd never guess were even possible. having a few such debacles in my portfolio, i decided to look in on things.

in the middle of the room was a running fan. the protective grill on its face was missing (a casualty of anthony knocking it off a stool days earlier). in alex's raised hand was a peach-colored ball of goop, very similar to a product called 'slime' when i was a kid. this goop concoction makes orange marmalade seem like rock candy, and given its runny, sticky, gelatinous composition puts it in great contention to be the $800 answer to the question 'things troy would most hate to come into contact with'. that's all you need to know about the goop. well that and that at the moment i appeared in the doorway, alex's hand flung the nebulous mass directly into the spinning fan blades. upon contact, the goo jettisoned from the fan as if shot from a gun, flying straight towards the doorway i just darkened and hit me square in the junk. the room went silent. all five boys gaped at me with frozen, open-mouthed expressions. after a moment of complete stillness, aside from the fan which was ramping back up to full speed, i grabbed my groin and doubled over in an exaggerated manner, dropping to my knees. the astonishment level in the boys faces heightened, if you can believe it. i looked up to alex and in a pained voice asked why he shot his father in his wieners. if you thought there were hysterics coming from the room before, my performance took these young men to an all new high. i'm glad to see that even in the age of the wii, a good sock in the crotch can still win a room over. it's hope-inducing.

KIDS, SCIENCE (permalink) 09.06.2011
back to business
a year or two back i was in a large bathroom stall of a public toilet with all three of my kids. one of them had just gone to the rest room and i leaned over to flush the toilet. bella put her hand on my arm and said in an alarmed tone:

whoa! what are you doing?

what? i'm flushing the toilet.

you can't do it like that.

like what?

standing like that.

why not?

don't you know that a toilet can shoot spray from the bowl, like, twenty five feet into the air when it is flushed.

TROY (straightening back up)
uh. no. i didn't know that.

uhhh. yeah.

where'd you hear that?

at school.


and just think if there is pee or pooh in there.

some things:
  1. what bella doesn't know is that while i'm surely fearful of pee or pooh being jettisoned at me in the form of a fine mist, clean water from a public bowl disturbs me almost to the same degree.
  2. since that day, i have never flushed a public toilet without thinking of that moment with bella (not to mention using an outstretched foot and turning away as soon as the flush begins).
  3. also since then, i've come to believe that she (and her teachers) are right in that a few times after flushing the toilet in my office, thanks to a bright frosted window in the stall, i can see small droplets flying through the air in volcanic-like antics.
  4. and, by the way, where the hell was that lesson in my sixteen years of schooling?
  5. i will confess that, as a grown man, it sucks to have your eight year old child so effortlessly place more obstacles for your neurotic mind to navigate. she's exerted more energy asking to have the potatoes passed her way.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 07.26.2011
in it to win it!
for those left unconvinced after yesterday's evidence.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 07.25.2011
just another day at the museum
if you ever see marty or i and we look fatigued, the below image will begin to explain why.

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KIDS (permalink) 07.11.2011
oddly, hers is more comprehensive than mine.
marty and i have finally begun (begun!) working on a will. when we told the kids they would be spending the morning with their grandma nat, bella asked what we were doing. we told her. the rest of the morning she was asking me if she could have certain things, like my ipod and computer. i told her not to worry and that i was leaving her my wardrobe, every last stitch of it, or all 32 articles of it. she screwed her face up and told me she was being serious, and then after a pause she added, $25 dollars to her list, as if it were a penalty for my being flip.

days later i came upon this document on the cluttered breakfast room table. it read:
I give my room to anthony and alexander
I give all my money distriubutly through the family
I give all my LPS's to Julia Nelson (ed. LPS = little pet shops)
I give all my organs and body to Red Cross for whatever needs
I give all my accerios distubulty through to Red Cross
I donate my hair (shave my head) to Locks of Love
so what if my daughter's will looks a bit more humanistic than mine. locks of love would never take my hair. is that somehow my fault? and i still stand by my argument that organ donation could be a rookie move as we don't know what we may or may not need in subsequent realms. although, now that we've had to put pen to paper, marty did get me to soften my request to be cryogenically preserved, a position that until this point i've stood resolute in, even though it compromised our children's college funds. when discussing such things, one can get a bit tunnel-visioned.

not sure if the self-portrait and the drawing of a "mopheaded" aleo were meant to be part of the document or just there incidentally. and last i checked, it isn't cruel to call someone mop-headed if they are mopheaded.

click to enlarge

KIDS (permalink) 06.29.2011
a rare case where hot-sweaty would have worked too
bella keeps a dream journal.

most mornings you'll find her in bed, freshly woken, leaning on her pillow and furiously scribbling in a spiral bound notebook. if you walk in, she'll sharply hold her hand up so you don't talk to her. once you nod your understanding, the hand darts back to the page and continues its mad dash.

the other morning while i was showering, bella came into to go pee. she started telling me about her dream.

i had this babysitter. and she was hot. and then a second babysitter came and she was also hot.

are you saying hot like hot-pretty or hot-sweaty?


ok. that's what i thought.

well, then they got into a catfight over who was supposed to babysit me. and, oh, they were wearing swimsuits.

i don't want to say this dream was wasted on bella, but seriously, in a just universe, the ten year old girl doesn't get this dream, her father does.

KIDS (permalink) 06.27.2011
permission to leave my post sir!
the kids had negotiated with marty the right to sleep through the night in the forts they made in the living room. once the unorthodox arrangement was penned, the kids got extra ambitious in their plans so that by the time i got home from work the entire living room was blanketed with sheets and stacked chairs and pillow doorways. when the bedtime hour arrived marty reminded them that if they screwed around and didn't go to sleep they'd have to go up to their regular beds. the brood excitedly acknowledged the terms and then scrambled towards the mayhem each dropping to the ground and crawling in various crevices and tunnels towards each of their individualized sleeping nooks.

after they disappeared from view and seemed to arrive at their personal hovels (as the giggling and shuffling subsided), i pulled a chair (the last unused one on the main floor) into the foyer and setup with my book to ensure they stuck to their end of the bargain. after about twenty minutes i had to get something in the basement. shortly after leaving my reading post, i heard someone crawling around. by the time i got back upstairs marty had caught anthony out of his makeshift bed. when she asked why he was up he said, "dad wasn't guarding us anymore so i had to run to the bathroom all on my own." he ended this declaration with an exasperated drop of his arms as if we would be equally astonished at this treatment.

i don't know if i should file this under "delusions of grandeur" or a "misinterpretation of the world around him". could possibly go either way, maybe even both ways.

KIDS (permalink) 06.22.2011
anthony's willingness to play doesn't bode well for his college years.
this weekend while lazing around the living room, alex asked anthony, who was wearing only underwear, if he wanted a wedgie. you'd think that might be the funny part of the story but it definitely got better after anthony said, "yeah, sure." marty and i took a break from our game of junior monopoly to watch alex position himself behind his brother, get a good hold on the elastic of his batman undies and near lift his brother off the ground. by my estimation it took an enormously long time for anthony to start rapidly saying, "ouch! ouch! ouch!" than i would have ever guessed it would.

and as if that wasn't enough, which i assure you it was, having anthony reach behind him and curiously feel the rope of fabric that was wedged between his paper-white butt cheeks with a wondrous look in his eyes as if her were petting a stingray at the zoo or touching a freshly born baby may have been the most unexpected bit of it all.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 06.08.2011
yeah, 'we' don't because 'you' don't have one mom
"anthony, we don't close our penises inside library books."

the most interesting part of the story is not that marty had to tell our four year old to stop closing his penis inside a library book but that she had to go on to explain why.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 06.07.2011
just imagine the list she could surely spew forth now.
back when bella was about four or five years old, she and alex would occasionally stay the night at my folks house. on such weekends we would meet my parents at a mcdonalds that was halfway between our homes. there was a period where bella was saying the word "god" a lot, as in "oh my god!" if surprised or wowed. this was definitely gotten from her mother as i was trained young to never play around with the lord's name, even in any of its derivative forms like gosh or lordy or jeezo and the like (from my own mother). oftentimes on the drive to meet my folks i would remind bella that grandma didn't like that word and she should say something else when visiting. my dad recently told me, through great laughter, that at one of those pickups bella excitedly ran to the table my parents were sitting at and slid into next to them. before saying hello or anything, she animatedly said:

i know the thing i'm not supposed to say at grandma's house.

oh yeah. and what's that?

'oh my god!' because grandma doesn't like it.

this was one of my folks favorite grandkid stories to tell to any who would listen.

KIDS (permalink) 06.06.2011
i'd like to say he doesn't normally look this way, but that would be a lie.
there is a detail i forgot to mention about aleo's bike crash episode last month. after i carried the bloody boy into the fire house and the paramedics looked over his mouth and head, one of them wanted to cut his pants off. when i asked him why he said that it looked like his legs got banged up given how torn up his pants were. i had the enviable task of explaining to the man that that was what his pants looked like before the accident.

there are two reasons for this predicament. first, alex has only ever worn hand-me-downs from his cousins and second alex ardently refuses to change clothes for days at a time. the result of this innocent combination is most days, aleo looks like a full-on vagabond (and i'm not even including his mop of hair which he's recently decided he doesn't want cut anymore). so as if his oral trauma wasn't grueling enough, i also got my first taste of feeling embarrassed by one of my children's appearance. and i know you're thinking i should have crossed this bridge long ago, but my children have historically been more embarrassing sounding than looking. like for instance, the time bella said to her preschool classmate's overweight nanny, after studiously looking her up and down, "boy, you sure are fat all over!" marty and the nanny just exchanged looks before smiling uncomfortably and walking their different ways.

KIDS (permalink) 06.02.2011
summertime blues
the school bella has gone to since kindergarten just closed after its 98th year of operation. it is the oldest and possibly most storied school in the district. a number of things led to the changes our public school district is going through but things have sadly gotten to the point that the administration is stuck making decisions that aren't always done because it's the best or right option, but because it is the only option left. i was at the school when it let out for the last time. i was there picking bella up for her special end-of-year day out. there was lots of tears and hugs on the playground in what would stand as this building's last education-related act (it was very hard all year to not play the "this is the last time ..." game at every bend and turn). after saying our goodbyes bella and i stole away to begin our ritual-celebration of her completing another year of school.

later in the day while eating at a restaurant, bella slid her notebook across the table and said, do you want to read my story about delmar-harvard. this is what i read (transcribed further down the page)

click to enlarge

By: Isabella DeArmitt

Watching from the back of the window I watch Delmar-Harvard get smaller and smaller. This was my last day running up its pavements, worrying of being late, my last time raising my hand in those oh-so memorable desks, my last time feeling that proudness swelling up inside me when someone asks "what school do you go to." and why I'm proud is because that was my home away from home, those teachers my relatives, those room my rooms, and last that school myself!

As I melancholy walked outside I saw all around me all my teachers/family and siblings/students hugging with tears in their eyes, I saw part of myself being left behind.

But I know that I would only build that part back, that arm or leg, then lose it, just to rebuild a newer version, because that rotation is called life.

if i held it together on the playground, i surely almost didn't after reading my ten year old daughter's first reaction to the event. and i'm doubly impressed that she caught the emotions of the moment as it was unfolding. i'm crazy jealous of her work.

and i am to blame for her use of the word melancholy. she had asked me about the word and i gave her bum feedback for what she was looking for.

KIDS (permalink) 06.01.2011
imagine the stakes once she can hold a job and drive a car.
bella and a classmate had a cookie sale for the victims of the joplin tornado. seeing the diligent effort she put forth saturday morning making a few dozen cookies i planned to match their meager earnings as these affairs, by grownup standards, always seemed more of an exercise in adorability or americana than a way to move the world. later in the day a friend saw me at the pool and commented on bella's initiative. i agreed. the person went on to express surprise at what they raised in just a few hours. not having seen bella since dropping her off at the stand, i asked about the figure wondering how much i would be out. the answer was $340. i immediately began trying to figure out how to change my contribution to a request for a loan.

KIDS (permalink) 05.31.2011
and year one is in the books
friday was anthony's last day of school. i left a morning meeting at 11am and set out on the ten minute walk to his school. on the way there, i reminisced on some of the moments from anfer's first year of school. like how he would occasionally leave his classroom for another if the other room looked to have better stuff going on than his own. or the time he he tussled with his best friend over a stuffed animal, which culminated with someone getting bit and me getting to apologize from my work phone and say that he wasn't usually a biter. or the time anthony left the school, as in left the actual building, because he was done for the day and was confident he could walk home "by his own".

after ten minutes of these mental rambling in spectacular mid-day weather, by the time i came upon the school i was feeling very sentimental and soft. i looked at the lawn of the school where the kids were lined up and sitting on the small grass hill awaiting their pickups. on this particular day, because of the achievement, there were many double parents and video cameras and grandparents in attendance. after anthony saw me approach, i knelt down for the big running hug i usually get from him when he sees me (his excitement stems from my presence usually meant he got breadCo for lunch). on this day though, he walked slowly towards me dragging his backpack behind him. when he got to me he looked at my face and loudly proclaimed, "my butt itches dad." with this unfortunately audible declaration, he reached around and dug in good and deep through his sweat pants. i raised up looking at my rooting kid. i then looked around at the other smiling, hugging, recording, gap-ad looking kids with my wispy bubble of anticipation freshly popped over my moment, leaving me dotted with the goo it was made of.

but as he always does, anthony pulled it out. while we strolled under the canopy of trees that line our neighborhood streets, anthony observed that the houses looked like they were made of candy and that he thought we might live in a fairy tale village. i smiled. he then went on to theorize that the sidewalks were made of candy books which further supported his suspicion that we lived in a fairy tale village. i smiled more at his fanciful take. and then when a neighbor stopped to talk for a minute, anthony, tired of waiting, said in full exasperation, "dad, let's go. my butt still itches!". more bubble goo.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 05.16.2011
the latest bella-beware ... or rather beware-bella ... sign.

click to enlarge

Bella DeArmitt or Bella D lives here!

No Anthony's!!!
home of 1,000,000 animals.

only come in if have permission and dressed properly.

if unsure of rules:

1. no anthonys!
2. need permission to come in.
3. need heavy clothing, helmet, hiking boots, and nose plug to come in!

( all rules listed above. )

i have no idea what the nose-plug bit is about. perhaps it is to scare folks off. unsure.

KIDS, SCIENCE (permalink) 05.03.2011
just another piece of the puzzle showing why troy studied english and not math
i received the following from e-love regarding last week's post about aleo turning 8.
as your math dork friend, i should make sure you know something about the way we americans (and most westerners) do age. this past year was actually alex's 8th year (not 7th). most westerners wait until we've completed our year to say how old we are. that's why in your 1st year outside the womb, we call you zero and wait until the end of your 1st year to say you are 1. incidentally, my understanding is that the chinese do it the other way. they exit the womb and are called 1 in the sense that it's their 1st year on earth.
a true teacher is always teaching, especially when they are friends with me.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 04.29.2011
A L E O ! ! !
aleo turns 8 tomorrow. in reflecting on his year i find myself marveling at his unassuming courage, relentless effort and genuine kindness. my favorite story from his seventh year happened earlier in the school year. alex's music teacher had just learned that one of her former students was in the hospital. she was understandably upset but was at work and doing her best to get through the day. when the first grade class filed in for their hour of music, they acted like a first grade class who was about to partake in an hour of music class, they were loud and rambunctious. she asked them to be quiet and that she needed them to listen and cooperate on this day. they quieted down and she stood at the front of the room collecting herself for a moment. then a student's hand went up. the teacher, with a sigh, said, "yes alex." alex said, "mrs k. you look like you need a middle of the day hug. do you need a middle of the day hug?" her body sagged at the words and after a pause she said she did need a middle of the day hug. alex excused himself through his classmates, walked across the room and gave his music teacher a middle of the day hug.

and here are a few images from his 7th year.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 04.26.2011
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 04.25.2011
the parental hat trick
often times when i come home from work, i am lured into a game of ogre or a tickle war. last week i was locked up with anthony and i was definitely getting the better of him as he was face down on the bed and i was tickling him madly from a combined neck, armpit and biscuits attack. after some furious laughter and struggle he broke free and spun away on the bed. he stopped facing upward and i leaned over close to let him know he didn't get away and i was about to start in again on his stomach and armpits. he held his hands up and said,


stop? why stop?

because you just made me throw up.

in perfect concert with him saying the above sentence, i felt the moisture from his vomit soak through my $80 brooks brothers work shirt since in reaching for him after he rolled away i laid my torso perfectly on top of the spoils of my tickle victory.

ever the optimist, the good news to this tale is i've now made all three of my children barf through tickling. the bad news is, in regard to their collegiate and professional futures, they keep coming back for more.

KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 04.22.2011
how long it took for aleo and i to ride our bikes to the cub scout bike rodeo: 9 minutes.

how long it took before a fast moving aleo collided with another fast riding bike rodeo goer: 40 seconds.

how long it took for me to run to the nearby firehouse with a crying and bloodied aleo in my arms : 3 minutes.

how long it took for the paramedics to conclude there was no bodily harm but significant oral damage : 8 minutes.

how long it took me to explain to marty over the phone what happened : 1 minute.

how long it took marty to convince our family dentist to leave the restaurant he was eating in to meet us at his office : 38 seconds.

how long it took for marty to arrive at the firehouse : 4 minutes.

how long it took for us to drive to the dentist office : 7 minutes.

how long it took for the dentist to assess the damage : 5 minutes.

how long it took for the dentist to remove the damaged tooth : 12 minutes.

how long before alex recovered from the ordeal : 3 minutes.

how long before marty and i recovered : unknown as the clock is still running on this one.

in the end he lost one tooth on the playground and another in the dentist chair. he also has a gum injury which i will spare you from hearing more about (honestly, though, this is more for my sake than yours). fortunately, both of the lost teeth were baby teeth and will soon be naturally replaced by their adult counterparts. i don't know if the same can be said for the nerves marty and i lost in the wake of the night.

on the drive home, a spent marty dedicated her daily thankful to dentists.

i dedicated my thankful to our particular dentist, dr. chris who by every count and measure is a complete rock star and extraordinary individual. if we had more like him in our professional and familial ranks i'm certain our society would be an all-around better place. i thank whatever fortune put us in his path.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 04.19.2011
the wacky thing is he thinks marty gave birth to me too.
anthony's go-to insult when he's mad is to, before turning and stomping away, yelling:

you're a stupid penis.

or the more granularly/glandularly specific

you're a stupid penis-head.

pretty sure he picked that up from the older siblings. i'm also pretty sure he's dropped the penis-bomb at school. such realizations make one worry for their child and how much you're reaching them or how they compare to other kids their age. and just when you might start losing hope in your progress, he'll turn around and with a cocked eyebrow ask:

dad, where is the future at?

or the nice twisty one anthony asked marty while her mother was visiting the house:

wait, since both of you are adults, how could grandma be your mom?

what makes that one surprisingly hard to explain is that anthony thinks there are four kinds of people in the world: beebies, little boys, kids, and old people. when you lump everyone fifteen and older into one category, such distinctions get quite blurry.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 04.04.2011
pretty in pink
we have an electric toothbrush. everyone but marty uses it. everyone who does use it has their own brush head that snaps onto the handle. when you buy a pack of the brushes they come with these little colored rings that slip over the base of each brush so you can tell them apart. inevitably, i always get stuck with the pink marker. it is both embarrassing and appalling how much can be gleaned about my life by that little hot pink ring of plastic.

KIDS (permalink) 03.31.2011
dearmitt & children consulting
i'm starting a new business. it is to help young, conflicted couples decide if they want kids or not. any who have passed that road sign know when logic is used on the question the math never works out in the favor of children. well, if you find yourself contemplating this particular life question, dearmitt and children are here to help. how it works is we give you a consultation. in this visit, you tell us which way you're leaning (or want to lean). in turn, we'll help push you off the fence. how it works specifically is if you want a child we will send alex to your home for a whole day after he has had several nights of good and proper sleep. if you want to be talked out of children, we will send over anthony after he's been deprived sleep and a weeks worth of desserts. i assure you, both children are specialist at what they do and will not disappoint.

although, results on the anthony package are not guaranteed as even at his most irascible he is still terribly cute and says the funniest things (for evidence see yesterday's troyscript or consider the time i asked him to stop playing with the stove knobs and he said, "it's ok dad, if the house burned down then we'd get to build this house all over" like this was a good thing and he was doing the family a favor). also, the fact that you get to send him back at the end of the day coupled with the confidence you'll have that your child couldn't possibly cause that much mayhem in a single day has proven to be a limiting factor. we've discussed extended the visit period but our insurance provider has threatened to terminate our coverage should we allow that.

and, if you're wondering where bella falls into this equation, she works for another division of the company. she is in the projects division and we send her out for customers who are stuck trying to make decisions getting something done. for her work, people explain their vision to bella and she takes the reins. although, there is a minor reasonable absolute risk here that your home add-on may include a horse stable, animal hospital and/or shelter for the indigent.

KIDS (permalink) 03.30.2011
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
take your meds

KIDS (permalink) 03.29.2011
i'm troy, welcome to the mail room.
we've reached the familial milestone of having a child that can stay home alone. this is of course for short periods while one runs for milk or to grab a paper. fortunately our oldest is authoritative and respected enough to keep her brothers in check as well.

the other day, i called home from work to ask marty something and got bella. she told me mom was out. marty initially told bella not to answer the phone but for obvious reasons this made me nervous when i knew marty wasn't there and i couldn't raise bella on the phone just to make sure things were ok. in typical fashion, marty handled it.

intrigued, i asked bella what she told people who called when mom wasn't there (and that weren't her dad). she said in a very officious manner, "i'm sorry but she's not available right now, may i take a message?"

she further reported that she'd already taken two messages before i called. i complimented her phone manners and asked if she would have mom call me when she got back. bella said she would. i then asked if my message could be moved to the top of the list as i was waiting on something from her. i was told getting moved to the top was not possible and that was not how a "people-who-called" list worked.

i don't foresee any future charges of nepotism being leveled at my daughter when she's running a fortune 500 company and i'm pushing a broom around the lobby.

KIDS (permalink) 03.17.2011
what a four-year old's intervention looks like.
if you're ever doing something that bothers anthony, he turns on this very serious voice and says, "you make me nervous when you do that."

i have no idea where he picked this up but he uses it in a convincing and effective way that conveys a genuine sense of care and concern for your well-being. some examples of things that make him nervous.
  • picking at your nails
  • pouring my vietnamese coffees from the glasses they're made in to the nalgenes they're taken to work in.
  • throwing him around to vigorously when playing ogre

as for the first time i tried emulating anthony's move, i was told, "well i guess it sucks to be you then."

KIDS (permalink) 03.08.2011
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 03.07.2011
happy birthday baya
our baby girl turned 10 yesterday. i don't know if this is a more monumental milestone for bella or for marty and i. a year ago i got to whimper about that fact that bella turned nine and half of our time with her was done. i now begin that desperate slide where the sand in the bottom of the hourglass is visibly larger than the sands sifting through the hole at the top, at a remarkably swift clip, might i add.

and while i don't have a story as sweet as last years, the girl had a good and happy day with lots of friends.

click to enlarge

WIFE, KIDS (permalink) 02.25.2011
pirates of the caribbean is poppycock
friday is movie night in our house. first the family watches a kid-friendly show ** . after our family movie and putting the kids down, i watch a troy movie. if marty doesn't fall asleep with the kids she'll usually stop by to see what i'm watching, contemplate it for a moment, and then either join me or move on. last week she joined me. the pick was called The Last Picture Show. i'm not sure who referred it to me. it just showed up the netflix sleeve (i'm a tragically horrible netflix queue manager ****). the movie was odd and not too long in you got to see a young cybil sheppard topless. quite certain that would be the movie's crowning achievement for me, i went to sleep with my head in marty's lap. marty stuck it out. when it was done she was intrigued by the male lead and looked him up on imdb. his portfolio led her to watch an episode of 21 jump street and melrose place. this translated to her being awake well into the 2am hour.

the next day, around 4pm marty cautioned the kids that she was tired and not in a good mood. bella asked what was wrong. marty said she stayed up too late the night before. bella asked why she stayed up. marty confessed that she was watching shows. bella ruminated on this for a moment and marty actually saw the realization settle into the girl that there is no one to tell moms and dads when enough is enough and it's time to go to bed (like it or not!). bella then turned to her brothers and said, "alex! anthony! do you hear that? when you grow up it's important that you make good choices because no one will be there to tell you what to do. nothing is for free!"

i would pay a whole lot of money to know where that "nothing is for free" closing stems from. it's strong. i've already used it four times in just the last week. when you get the inflection just right, it gives everyone pause. in fact, it's almost as effective as swearing to people you believe johnny depp's best work happened in 21 jump street.

** right now we're doing a special movie night project where we're going through the alphabet. this means the week's letter defines both the movie and our meal. last week, E, was E.T. (which anthony keeps calling E.T.A. for some reason) and we ate enchiladas.

**** i read or hear about a movie and then add it to my netflix queue. the movie can show up more than a year later and i have no idea what drew me to it. sometimes you get a pleasant surprise in this lackadaisical approach to life, but most times you just get stuck with kooky movies you're not in the mood for. this proclivity is also why i don't play fantasy football. i once had a week where two of my rostered players were on a bye week. i lost in that case too.

p.s. apologies for all the errors and typos in yesterdays gallery posting. i took ill that evening and was working through the haze of a robitussen induced coma. i don't really have a good excuse for the rest of the days.

KIDS (permalink) 02.22.2011
not the kind we watch at least
it was sunday morning. the kids were strewn about the house getting their hour of screen time. marty and i were in bed getting our hour of husband and wife time. the serenity was broken by anthony running down the hallway on the other side of our closed door yelling, "i have to go pee!" (as has been chronicled here before). i acknowledged his call with a household version of "roger, copy that." fifteen seconds later marty broke the renewed silence by saying, "you don't hear that get called out in the background of porno movies too often, do ya?"

KIDS (permalink) 02.14.2011
why we make choices for our children
somehow marty got to talking to the kids about wills. marty explained what a will was, why you need one and that she and i don't yet have one.

the two main things that came from the conversation are:
  1. the kids would like to be part of selecting who gets them should both marty and i pass. my children's leading candidates were our immediate neighbors given their television, wii, handheld gaming devices, and dog. interest or appeal for any of the humans in the house was never mentioned.
  2. bella and alex verbally climbed over one another in a feverish pitch for any and all electronics and computers i own.
while marty and i have finally settled on who she and i would like to approach about taking our kids in such a tragedy, if you would like to submit your name for consideration, i'm sure the ease in which you could buy my children's vote would be both grotesque and embarrassing.

KIDS (permalink) 02.10.2011
mass-appeal, not mass-produced
i've now had to borrow money twice from my kids. both times it was alex. once it was to give a holiday tip to my haircut person. and another time it was so i could buy the spicy beef noodle soup i eat for lunch every saturday. i would have asked bella for it but she just depleted her account to buy an ipod (partially aided by a $50 gift certificate i gave her for christmas).

i initially intended to get her a apple gift certificate but when i went to the store the week before christmas, in addition to it being a madhouse, it was also completely bereft of gift certificates (buy stock!). the pert girl pulled a ipad voucher from a rack and said it could be used as a regular apple gift certificate. i took the oversized card from her. upon opening it up the first thing you read is, "congratulations! you are now the proud owner of an ipad!". after reading the words i looked back to the girl with eyes that said, "really?". she assured me it would work the same. i agreed, minus the part where my nine year old shrilly screams "an ipad! holy shit dad you rawk! thanks! you're awesome!" to which i get to explain on christmas morning that it's not really an iPad but a fifty dollar credit for the ipod nano she's been saving for which she would have thought pretty awesome until she thought four seconds earlier that she was getting in iPad. the still-smiling apple girl held to her "works the same guns" with the holiday turmoil roiling behind her. i handed the ipad voucher back, thanked her for the trouble and left the store. then, on christmas eve, i was afforded an adolescent moment of hand-making something to give at christmas. now that it's done, apple running out of their shiny and metallic gift cards was one of the brighter points of my 2010 christmas.

click to enlarge

the only thing more satisfying than crafting the homemade card for bella was seeing the homemade cards bella crafted me for christmas. 1 to 10 hours!!! huzzah!


click to enlarge

click to enlarge

FRONT (transcribed)
(on back instructions)
Free Back Scratch or Head Scratch
To: Dad
From: Bella

1 to 10 hours of full back scratch or head scratch

(as long as Bella can have a book or movie)

Price: 0.00
Real Price : "Thank You!"

BACK (transcribed)
1. give Bellacard to Bella
2. choose from a back scratch or head scratch while (bella is) watching a movie or reading a book
3. feel the "magic" work
4. Thank Bella!

All Done

(also you can buy these BellaCards by the packs of 20 for only $1)

i've already redeemed several.

click to enlarge

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 02.08.2011
protecting those who can't handle the truth.
regarding yesterdays post about poop and pooping, just like in real life, when it comes to poop and pooping, there's more.

for any surprised that marty and i still participate in our children's ablutions, we have tried turning them loose, but it wasn't good. and marty and i are in agreement that we're willing to wipe asses longer than we perhaps should be expected to if it saves us from stain-treating brown skids out of clothes and from furniture and off ceilings. for dodging these household chores and keeping our family's feces in the bathroom, we're willing to shoulder this grim, preemptive practice.

if you find my excuse weak, i'd like to invite you to come spend some time with our animated youngest. perhaps you could join the litany of one-time, college-age babysitters who have deemed him more work than organic chemistry, and this when he isn't hiding feces on his person or in his clothes. add a smear of rank and contagious excrement to the anfer-equation and the tables would tilt, irrevocably, in his favor. the consequence of which could cross state and possibly national borders. so you should not be questioning our choice, you should be thanking us for making it, hard and unappealing as it is.

KIDS (permalink) 02.07.2011
service beyond even the finest hotel
the moving of bowels and the draining of bladders is big news in our house and gets screamed through the halls: "i have to go poop!" or, "i have to go pee and poop!" or "i'm going pee and i don't have to poop!". to these reports of nature marty and i respond with a mindless shout back, "ok, i'll listen for when you're done." when the child is done they will loudly call, "i'm done!" or "i'm done going poo!". here marty or i will stand and head to the bathroom where we will wipe bottoms clean and help to raise underwear and lift pants to their proper places.

yesterday when i walked into the bathroom to help anthony, i pretended to be a pretentious butler and spoke in a fancy, airy tone.

are the royal biscuits ready to be wiped.

i'm not called biscuits, i'm called ant-ton-eee

oh, my apologies fine sir.

and i'm not royal. i'm just rich.

and this from a kid that doesn't have a dime to his name. that's the kind of positive outlook i, and many others, chase every waking day.

although, if i had someone wipe my ass after every use, i might be fancying myself a tad on the affluent side as well.

KIDS (permalink) 02.01.2011
what did that little boy just say?
anthony replaces SH sounds with an F sound. it's no kinda problem, cute even, until he starts talking about the honey i shrunk the kids franchise. things get a little dicey in those waters. especially in front of strangers. but even with the confusion, he's still pretty dang cute.

KIDS (permalink) 01.27.2011
i am not an animal!!!
marty was putting medicine on anthony's legs before bed. he was resisting by twisting and crawling away from her because he wanted to rough-house with bella on the bed. seeing this as i passed by i went in and told anthony to hold still. he did not. so i grabbed him and held him on the bed so marty could put the medicine on. anthony told me to let him go. i said i wouldn't because he wouldn't hold still. anthony then told me as he struggled to get free, "you (squirm) don't (fight) treat (wiggle) people (twist) this way." marty and i did not reply as we were both trying to hide the fact that we were laughing from his effortful plea.

KIDS (permalink) 01.24.2011
five dollars gas and a penthouse for my boy please
after alex's indoor soccer game this weekend, a coach of a team playing next asked if alex would like to play again as his team was short a player. we asked alex and, amenable as always, he said sure. i gave the coach the tip that alex was an outstanding mid-fielder and sent them on their way.

as marty has just spent the last hour wrangling anthony in the rec center while i helped coach alex's team, i said i'd keep anfer occupied. as we were walking to the bleachers to watch the game, a neighbor i haven't seen in a while stopped me to say hello. we exchanged pleasantries and when i turned to continue to the seats anthony was no longer at my side. my head panned around the large indoor arena for a sign of him amidst a sea of kids and parents. nothing. then i saw people in the stands laughing and pointing. i looked in the vicinity of their cheers and saw that moments after the whistle blew staring the next game, the one alex was playing in, anthony had climbed over the wall and was charging towards the goal. i immediately set out sprinting around the arena wall to where you could get on the field (by where the players sit). by the time i got there one of the coaches had run anthony down and handed him over the wall to me. i carried the fitful boy over my shoulder to the bleachers and sat him next to me telling him not to move.

after less then three minutes, he turned to me and said he was bored and wanted to go home. i told him alex just started playing in a game and we wouldn't be going home for an hour. he groaned. as i turned to address him further, i saw a colorful magazine under the bleachers. i told anfer he should go down and get that book and see if it was any good. it looked like a pokemon catalog or something but truth told only five minutes into my assignment of keeping tabs on the child, i wouldn't have cared if it was an x-rated anime catalog if i thought it would keep him within grabbing distance for the next fifty seven minutes.

KIDS (permalink) 01.18.2011
not exactly running with a surplus of common sense around here
it began with both boys choosing to get into the shower with their clothes on. it continued after they got soaked through and got out of the shower to walk around the house looking for me to ask if they could get in the shower with their clothes on.

glaring at the two boys dripping water on my hardwood floors, i chastised them both for their foolish choice. i sent alex back to the bathroom to take a proper shower and i stripped anthony's clothes from him and sent him to bed, crying (because he couldn't continue his shower).

then a partially informed marty who was downstairs when this took place brought a repentant and naked anthony before me to apologize and ask if he could return to the shower. she coached him through the steps of a negotiation prompting him at each turn. i smugly observed the teaching moment and said it was up to her but as far as i was concerned he should be sent to bed. marty vouched for the boy and escorted him to the bathroom. her first step onto the tile soaked her sock through as she experienced first-hand the boys' handi-work. it wasn't until then anthony wished he hadn't exercised the second-parent gambit.

following an episode like this i find myself whimsically contemplating how i'm going to spend our kid's college funds as it seems they may not have use or need for them.

KIDS (permalink) 01.13.2011
dumpster briefcase, part 2
the night anthony slept with the briefcase, i had put him to bed. this meant that when marty went to bed, and was sleeping next to anthony who was in my spot, she had no idea his legs were propped up on a full-size, man's briefcase. he woke at one point in the night and complained that something didn't feel right. he reached under the covers and started tussling with something. she assumed he just had another erection and was trying to finagle into a more comfortable angle in his pants. then she saw him struggling with something and threw the covers back to see him fighting with a large, leather briefcase under the sheets.

her words to me in the morning, "i'm prepared for a lot of things in life but when he pulled that out from under the covers, i must say i was at a true loss."

i'd like to add that the sound that brought me from sleep that same morning was the loud spring release of the locks snapping open after anthony had un-scrumbled the combination upon waking, as promised.

KIDS (permalink) 01.12.2011
from a dumpster in the alley to my bed. lovely.
as i type this anthony is in my bed sleeping with his legs propped up on a locked, black-leather briefcase from the seventies. he knows the combo and plans on opening it first thing in the morning. this is why he has his legs on top of it right now. so he remember to open it first thing and so no one takes it from him while he's sleeping. after the initial opening in the morning, anthony will likely open it an additional forty to sixty times throughout the day. when he does open it, he will never take anything out of it, or put anything in it. he will just unlock it, open it, close it, and re-lock it by spinning the gold, number-dials. he may ask someone to scrumble the numbers for him. and if you say you're going to scrumble them so hard he'll never get it back open, he'll laugh hanging his upper torso over and doing everything but slapping his knee. when he composes himself enough to stand upright again he'll explain to you that you can't scrumble it too much because all he has to do is put all the numbers back on the circles (0's) and then he'll get it open again.

one of my kids pulled this briefcase out of a dumpster about four years ago.

who ever threw it out was kind enough to reset both the right and left flip locks so both sides were 0-0-0.

the combination thing reminds me of a friend of mine back in colorado-days who once found a bike lock on the sidewalk. it was one of those thin silver chain locks with a colored, usually blue or faded red, sleeve of plastic covering it. they had a four-number combination. after finding it he brought it home and over the next three months he and his three siblings would sit and try various combinations on the lock while watching television. they kept a notebook on the table with the lock and people would note the numbers they tried. they eventually discovered the combo. i don't recall how long it took them. it was in the months. and it was an impressive show of fortitude. (snake? do you recall?)

back to our briefcase.

there's always something in it. bella usually keeps her more personal journals in there. alex stores all sorts of random stuff in it which he re-discovers, with great fanfare, in later months and years.

approximately fifteen percent of our children's toys have been pulled, by them, out of dumpsters around our home.

as i think i've noted before, our hermit crab aquarium came from a dumpster. it still sports the red, raised-letter punch tape message that says PLEASE DON'T FEED THE ARTIFACT. we turn that message to the backside.

bringing things home they pulled out of dumpsters stands as one of my most vile, yet endearing, things my children do. in this father's eyes at least.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 01.11.2011
i can't help it that the boy is a walking sound byte.
i keep trying to sleep but i just can't get the hang of it.

anthony to me the morning after i had problems putting him to bed

KIDS (permalink) 01.06.2011
oh, well in that case.
anthony was standing in line at school. he reached forward and took something from the boy standing in front of him. the boy started crying. a teacher seeing this approached the boys and told anthony that we don't take things away from our friends. anthony looked at the boy and then back to the teacher and said, "but he's not my friend."

KIDS (permalink) 01.03.2011
the obvious
the first question i was to field in the year two thousand and eleven came from anthony. after waking in the morning, he came from his sleeping spot to snuggle between a still sleeping marty and i. after cuddling into marty for a bit, he rolled over, turning his open eyes to me. he brought his hand up and gently rubbed the stubble on my cheek, chin and upper lip. after several wordless moments of he and i looking at one another he broke the silence by quietly asking, "why is mom is getting older?"

grinning and unsure if marty was awake to hear him, i asked what made him think mom was getting older. he explained it was because she had a bump on her face. i asked about this bump. his clarification, while equally unclear, implied it was over her eyes which i took to mean a furrow or knit in her brow.

i took the time to explain that he was also getting older and that every moment of every day all living things are aging. he chuckled at this as if i were silly and explained to me that he wasn't getting older, he was just getting bigger.

after a few more moments of silence i asked him if i was getting older. without hesitation he told me i was not, i was already old.

KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 09.28.2010
we're not odd, just our kids are.
we went camping over the weekend. when we came home anthony started complaining that his eye hurt. marty looked at it but couldn't see anything. he continued to get more agitated until finally holding his eye closed with his hand for the rest of the evening. both marty and i would check on him after he'd been alone for a bit wondering if he was exaggerating his state but every time we looked in on him, he was playing with one hand and holding his eye closed with the other.

in the morning marty took him to our eye doctor. after examining him the doctor confirmed that his eyeball had been scratched. he leaned into anthony and asked him if he knew what had happened to his eye. anthony said that an invisible baby dolphin jumped at his face and scratched his eye with its invisible tail. fortunately there seems to be an antibiotic for that.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 09.20.2010
while getting ready for bed, anthony pleaded, as he often does, for a quick round of ogre or pillow wars before having to relent to sleep. to raise the stakes, he added the following details:
let's play ogre in the bed and you're the ogre and i'm the food. my head is orange juice. my legs are ketchup. my belly button is m&m's and my stummy is gummy bears.
it's hard to say what's more twisted about this little guy, his creative spirit or his culinary proclivities.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.15.2010
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
enjoy your anger

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 09.09.2010
all anfer, all week.
in honor of anthony's first week of school, let's keep the anthony roll running. i mentioned (i think) that we had been doing some last minute potty training with him to get him ready for school. that went well and good and thankfully fast. the best part is i can round out our picture series of our family using the rest room.

please note the complete set is only viewable in our bathroom. i thought i had posted more of them but a quick search says otherwise (just aleo). so sorry but i think that a picture of me moving my bowels would probably be counter-productive to my employability but i figure if you're a guest in my home, you can deal.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 09.08.2010
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
August 2010

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.07.2010
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
cyrstal clear

KIDS (permalink) 08.31.2010
the agitator
anthony regressed in his potty training. out of fear of him not being able to go to pre-school, marty panicked. she agreed that every time he went pee or poop on the toilet he'd get twenty minutes of computer time. this plan turned the tide, saved the day and was working famously.

on saturday i passed by the kitchen and heard bella "encouraging" anthony to drink a large glass of water. he resisted saying he wasn't thirsty. she then countered in a sing-songy voice that if he drank a bunch of water, he'd have to go pee more which would mean extra computer time. after a pause of contemplation, i heard the glass get lifted off the counter followed by bella saying a conspiratorial, "good boy anthony."

sure, as a parent, there are plenty of perks to having older siblings around your younger ones. but subjecting younger siblings to the equivalent of a fraternity hazing rituals so you can draft on their extra minutes of does take a few marbles out of the good deeds jar.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 08.30.2010
when anthony elects to do something, he's full in.
a picture of anfer and i from our neighborhood's fourth of july party someone just recently passed on.

HYGIENE, KIDS (permalink) 08.26.2010
getting there.
we're potty training anthony in preparation of him starting school in the next few weeks. this means we hear funny things get shouted in the house. funny things like ...


following this call you'll see marty alertly moving towards the noise. on this particular occasion, she charged around the corner to find anthony standing in front of the toilet peering and pointing into the bowl. when he saw marty coming he excitedly re-announced that he had pooped. as she approached she saw a small turd on the floor between his legs as well as a chocolate smear on the back of his calf (presumably where the floor turd grazed his skin on the way down).

marty pessimistically assumed this dropping on the floor was what anthony was celebrating but as she got to him she spied resting in the bottom of the bowl an artifact that looked like it was left by my college roommate and not our little blonde human. what was in the commode was huge and surely explained why this pebble-sized cudgel on the floor went so unnoticed (as well as the smear on the leg). when you're dealing with bm's of this magnitude, a little shrapnel like that is just the cost of doing business.

HEALTH, PERSONAL, KIDS, LIFE (permalink) 08.25.2010
PART 3 : a powerful alchemy
if you haven't read PART 1 or PART 2, you should do so before reading this.

there is a reason i thought to share my personal values at this time. two fridays ago bella and i were to spend the day together. this father-daughter event was to celebrate her successful completion of another year of school. in the past, this ritual took place on the last day of classes but now that she and alex attend the same school i couldn't take them both out individually. bella was kind enough to give the day to alex as it was his first full school year.

before i knew it there were just a few weeks left of summer and bella and i hadn't gone out for her day. marty and i scrambled to find a date. we squeaked it out on the last weekday of summer. bella requested to go to six flags (again) followed by a steak dinner. knowing it was going to be a long day, i went to bed early the night before. when i awoke, i checked the day's weather. 96 degrees. and i was to be out in it all day. add to this i was to spend the day with bella who for the prior week hadn't exactly been a model citizen. marty chalked her vinegar up to the fast approaching school year. i pointed at the late-summer weeks of going to bed after 10pm. whatever the source, times with the girl had been unpredictable and tumultuous, and i was about to navigate those erratic waters on my own, all day long, and in an inhumane heat.

after groaning at weather dot com i pulled up my values document and began my daily review. personal growth - check. value my time - check. care for myself - on it. care for my marriage - check. enjoy my children - uhhh, yeah, sure. equip my children for life - trying as always. professional excellence - got a pass today. be grateful - uhhhm, yes, gratitude, could use more effort here.

i then drifted down to the images, glancing at them in order. i take in the visual. depending on my troubles and/or the day ahead the various images wash over me differently. as i move through them, the first one to give me pause is the bride and her father. this picture always emotes something from me but especially when bella is on my mind and as noted, bella was on my mind today. every time i take this picture in i project to a day in the future when i will be in this man's position. and i'm sure it will seem like just yesterday when i was doing things like dreading taking my nine year old daughter to six flags. and i know whether i show it outwardly or not, i know, i know already, that this is how i will feel on the inside the day bella dedicates her life to someone else, someone else our family doesn't even know at the moment.

i then moved forward. my eyes next paused on the image of randy pausch. if you don't recall, randy pausch was the last lecture guy. the forty-something year old who went to his doctor with flu-like symptoms and was told he had six months to live. and he had three children all under the age of six. he died last year as his doctors predicted. so this is the image i find myself studying in the pre-dawn hours while thinking i don't want to go out for a dedicated day with my daughter because of the heat and because she hasn't been as pleasant as she's capable of in her last week of summer break. i stared at this image, this simple, low-res image of a smiling father holding his three children ... this father holding his three children shortly before he passed away with a cruelly inadequate warning. as i took this image in, i wondered what randy pausch would do to spend another day, a single day, with his daughter. i then wondered what randy pausch's daughter would do to spend one more day with her father.

bella and i went on to have an amazing, friction-free day that included hand-holding and smiling and stories and laughing and closeness and very little worry about the heat.

and this is why i chose, at this time, to share my private ritual with you.

KIDS, MOVIES (permalink) 08.19.2010
ahhh shit ...
list of about two straight weeks worth of hannah Montana movies found in my daughter's bedroom which bodes about seven sorts of evil for me.

click to enlarge

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.18.2010
first day of first and fourth grade

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.17.2010
i hear four is the year they start wearing clothes
anthony turns four today. when marty asked him what he would like for his birthday dinner, he said, "meat with a bone." at four years of age he's already challenging his father for the title of most manly member of the home.

and i don't know what's more telling. that anthony asked for meat with a bone for his dinner or that i interpreted that as porterhouse or that marty interpreted it as a chicken leg. i guess it's easy to see who pays the bills in our house.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.16.2010
beatnik and hollywood
bella and i snuck in our father-daughter day on the last weekday of summer. now that she and alex are going to the same school, and it was alex's first year at the school, bella let him have his day out on the last day of school and said she'd take hers later. later almost didn't happen.

we again went to six flags and then longhorn steakhouse at day's end. my favorite ride was the tidal wave. hers was the tony hawk roller coaster. the best food of the day was the porterhouse, easily, given how famished we were after a day in the ninety degree heat and our sack lunches. the best piece of advice dispensed during the day: always be friendly with bullies but never be their friend. the only problem with the advice was it was bella who dished it to me. we were soaking wet and excitedly walking up to get back on the tidal wave ride. i'm not even sure why the topic came up but she just said it with me trotting behind her and lapping it up like some adolescent fan-boy.

always be friendly with bullies but never be their friend.

always be friendly with bullies but never be their friend? i like that. that's good. where'd you learn that?

horse camp.

TROY (contemplatively)
hmm. can you explain why this is true?

well you don't want to be their friend because then they will expect you to do bully things with them. and you don't want to be their enemy because then they will bully you. so you just act friendly and all (smiley face) 'hey there' and then they'll leave you alone.

you would think on a nine hour father-daughter day outing, the more mature, more experienced, more educated father might be the one delivering sage counsel to the child but i can't honestly be expected to compete with tutelage as insightful as that, can i?

i'm the better for the day. i only hope bella benefitted and enjoyed her time a fraction as much.

KIDS (permalink) 08.12.2010
in an alex-centric world, he'd get to carry an empty gatorade bottle everywhere
i've mentioned how our home has only one bathroom.

i've mentioned how bella monopolizes the toilet for long periods, reading.

i've also mentioned how this has forced alex to learn to pee in the bathtub.

what i haven't mentioned is how alex has come to prefer peeing in the tub so much so that even if the toilet is open and the tub is (or is not), he will still pee in the tub. and if you direct him to the toilet, explaining that etiquette dictates that you only pee in the bathtub when the toilet is taken, in addition to being mildly perplexed by this not-well-documented hierarchy, he is always visibly nonplussed about standing before the more functional but less exciting commode.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 08.10.2010
a wise man child once said
the piece of advice i've given more than any other in the last six months is this:
if there is one thing my daughter isabella has taught me, it is to never, ever act or make decisions when you're angry. nothing good ever comes of it.
in fact, i dispensed that very bit of advice three times, to three very different people, for three very distinct scenarios just last week. there was even one moment where i could have better used the advice myself.

KIDS (permalink) 08.05.2010
one of those moments
before leaving for vacation, i had purchased three albums bella had been talking about and put them on my ipod. while we were away i wasn't using my ipod so bella was free to use it for the week. when we returned from vacation i had to reclaim it for work and exercise. not wanting to leave bella without the music she'd been enjoying, i burned the three albums to CD so she could listen to the songs on a home stereo while i and the ipod were at the office.

she was still in bed reading on our first monday morning back when i was ready to leave for work. i came in and sat on the edge of her bed. she glanced at me. i brought my hand around from my back and held the three discs in the air. she held her hand out and took them from me, intrigued. as she flipped through each disc and read the hand-inscribed titles, her face lit up more and more at each successive disc.

thanks dad! now i can listen to them without having to borrow your ipod.

yep. now that i have to take it back for work and exercise, i knew it was going to be a bummer.

you're the best, dad.

and so are you bay.

i try to to be.

me too.

in that last bit (two lines), i do sincerely believe a truer thing has never been said between this father and daughter. fortunately, i think we both do pretty well most days.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 07.27.2010
people never knew the fountain of youth was actually just a pond, and in their own back yard
saturday bella ambled down for breakfast around 10:20 in the morning. she took her spot at the breakfast bar and professed to me, "i like sleeping late, reading for an hour and then eating breakfast five minutes before its lunchtime."

after she finished her proclamation, i stopped what i was doing to look at her. she could have passed for a preacher, prophet, philosopher, and truck driver, or all of them wrapped up into one which obviously looked peculiar coming from a well-rested, and mid-summer sated nine year old girl wearing pink pajamas with prancing horses on them.

KIDS, PHOTO, TRAVEL (permalink) 07.19.2010
summer vacation 2010
you hopefully didn't notice but i was away last week. as for where i was, i was at the beach. as for which beach, it was one south carolina way, just south of myrtle.

as for the week ... simply put ... it was great. it was eight days shorter than our 2009 outing but in the end proved more relaxing. i only left the beach house, for non-beach business, once. i never pulled my laptop out of its bag. i only had to respond to three emails (via an iphone). and, i read an entire book with days to spare. for a guy who enjoys time at home with family and who predominately sits in front of a computer and never gets as much time in his books as he'd like, i'd say the week was everything an over-committed, into-his-kids, introvert could ask for.

oh, and marty and i got some ok minutes together as well.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 07.07.2010
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
pint-sized pi

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 05.26.2010
From way back in September of twenty-aught-four
a friend and former neighbor sent me the below email and pictures she recently happened upon.
I was combing through my photos in search of candidates for 8x10 frames. This series made me pause. Not sure if you've seen them before. I think they capture your spirit to a tee. Appropriately, I named this section of photos "Fun with Troy". Not your typical dad. Most would never dream of letting kids climb on top of their vehicle. It's no surprise that you still make time to play Ogre with the kids at school.
this moment happened as i was driving home from work. a mess of neighborhood kids, including my two, were playing a few doors down from our house. all the moms were in huddles and sitting on steps chatting and commiserating. i pulled to the curb to say hello to the group. with the alacrity of a military operation, my car was besieged by the little ones (which was most likely set in motion by a war-like cry from bella). as suggested in the above note, my now-twenty-year-old car was (and is) treated as a playground apparatus. much of the coolness of this was lost on my children who climbed on my car in front of our house all the time, the same could not be said of the other kids who weren't allowed to climb on and in and around their parents cars so for them it was still pretty cool stuff.

i thank miss anne for (1) capturing these images back in the day and (2) taking the time to pass them along now. taking them in, and seeing a mini-bella and a tiny-aleo, reproduced the smile seen in the first image below. thank you miss anne.

and as a side note, i think had she told me she was in possession of a directory of images titled FUN WITH TROY that was from my past and didn't tell me the nature of subject matter, she may have been able to blackmail a pretty penny from my uncertainty. i guess i owe anne another thank you for not cleaning out the $64 in my savings account.

allow me to direct your attention to the girl in the passenger seat, who is not my child,
who is taking a giant pull from my water bottle.

the only surprise here is that drew beat bella to the top of the car,
via the sunroof of course.

that roof-spot is for a number of reasons, considered the catbird seat

i don't know what they're are pointing and laughing at,
but odds are it is not something in my favor.
good money could be put down on it being vomit or feces related.

one look at bella's face confirms that children come without guile or deception.
kids come to us clean and pristine. the uncertainty and insecurities come from the adults.

while i was fully prepared to do a lap with them glued hooey-blooey to all parts of the car,
a few of the moms thought that may not be prudent.

(and look at how close the side mirror is to completely capturing aleo's adorable little face.
how perfect would that have been.)

thanks again anne! you made my day!
you also made the day's posting much more colorful than what was originally planned. hat tipped.

KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 05.24.2010
fire in the hole
if you ever wondered how skittish marty is about letting one get by the goalie allowing for an accidental/unexpected pregnancy, your curiosity would have been well satisfied when alex mistook her birth control patch for a big-ass band-aid* and motioned towards it, offering to take it off for her. the way marty jumped and twisted away you would have thought alex was about to mistakingly pull the pin from a live grenade, which when you consider spending all day, every day keeping anthony alive, a pin-less hand grenade may be an astute and reasonable comparison.

* since the patch is larger than a conventional band-aid and was placed on her ass, calling it a big-ass band-aid was quite perfectly perfect. but please don't mistake this as me saying it was a band-aid on a big-ass which i think would be written as a big ass band-aid. perhaps grammar dave can set me straight because if i botch that and people misinterpret my message, the need for birth control in my home could become a moot point.

KIDS, ART (permalink) 05.12.2010
deprived to the point of not being deprived
i came home from work yesterday and asked if the kids wanted to go hit tennis balls. bella had a friend over so declined. anthony only likes hitting things that are not tennis balls with the racket so he was out. alex was at a friend's house but due to come home. i called over and asked if i picked him up if he'd like to hit tennis balls. he said yes so i picked him up and we headed to the courts. on the way there he said he forgot something at the house and we had to go back. almost to the courts, i said we'd stop on the way home.

then we played tennis, which means i fed him balls while i stood at the net and he hit them back. i initially got the kids interested in hitting balls by saying the object of the game was for them to try to hit me. when i reminded alex of this yesterday he said we couldn't play that game. when i asked why he said because if he hit me, he would break my glasses and i would be mad. i like this kid quite a bit. so i fed him balls and he returned them not hitting me once.

then i said we had to wrap up and head home because dinner would be ready soon. he reminded me about stopping at his friend's house. i said i didn't think we'd have time and would have to get them later. he stopped and scolded me, firmly reminding me that i said we would go and i can never break a promise. never! i paused, looked at him and said, ok, but he'd have to be quick because we were late for dinner. and, i told him i wasn't even fully stopping the car. on the way to the house, i asked him what he forgot and he said his ds lites. since alex doesn't own a ds, lite or otherwise, i figured i misheard him but didn't bother asking him to clarify. when we got to the house, alex jumped out, ran in and came running back with a sheaf of papers in hand. when he returned to his seat, i asked what he had. he said his ds lites. upon inspecting the pages, he and his friend had drawn games on the pages as if they had ds lites. all i got to say is nintendo ain't got nothing on hangin' out at a bud's house after school, with a well-worn set of crayons spread between you at the kitchen table while you try to best each other's hand drawn games in the pre-dinnertime hours.

although the scene laid out in the below image looks eerily similar to the climax of the gimp escapade from pulp fiction, and i'm not entirely sure how i should feel about that.

KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 05.05.2010
the school nurse stopped calling back in the first quarter
marty's stay home from school policy is this:

if you can't produce blood or puke, you are going to school. if you just think you're going to puke, it doesn't count and you are going to school. if you puke while at school, then you can come home.

as for the blood, i'm pretty sure you only get to stay home while you're bleeding. once it is cauterized or the hemorrhaging relents, grab your backpack. you'll be met at the door.

i seem to recall the rule used to state that if there wasn't blood, puke, or poop (ed. like involuntary poop), you were going to school. i also recall bella looking a little too reflective about the poop option one day and that is how it got dropped from the rotation. hell, i know grown men who'd crap their pants for a day off work. and i got five bucks that says if bella did gravy her drawers to stay home, she'd be so excited, taking a shower wouldn't even be the first thing on her list of things to do with the free day.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 05.04.2010
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
good thinking

KIDS, ART (permalink) 04.28.2010
helpful on a low esteem day.
a note i received from one of bella's classmates (i think).

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 04.26.2010
let's call it my winter coat
on wednesdays i try to eat lunch with bella and alex. unfortunately for my time efficiency, bella and alex have different lunch and recess times. how this plays out is that i have lunch with alex, and then recess with his class, and then i have lunch with bella and then recess with her class. it is worth noting that at their recesses i play ogre. ogre in this scenario entails one 41 year old dude chasing thirty plus running, climbing, sliding and screaming elementary age children around a wood-chipped playground for twenty break-free minutes.

this last wednesday while having lunch with bella's class, bella's best friend, a girl named fautou, saw me walking to the table and called to me. when i leaned down to her she said the following in a stumbling and hesitant manner:
i'm not saying you were fat before but you look less fat than you used to. i mean you look skinnier than you used to. but i'm not saying you looked fat before.
smiling at her struggle to get the observation out, i told her that that was the nicest thing anyone had said to me all week and i appreciated her taking the time to share it. and i do believe her compliment put a little extra bounce in me for that days round of ogre with her and bella's class.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 04.23.2010
yeah, mine too kid.
after getting the boys ready for bed, i read them books alternating between ones each of them have picked out of their book bins. at 8:00 i say lights out, turn off the bedside lamp and we all hunker down, snuggle up and close our eyes. sometimes the boys try goofing around playing tunnel and touching each other with their feet but i'm quick to squash such nonsense telling them the days over and it's time for sleep. i'm quick to protect this time because most nights i take this moment to catch a twenty minute nap which works well for modeling because i'm usually the first of the three of us to fall asleep (i set an alarm for 8:30 to prevent my naps from going until 3am). last night as i was drifting to sleep anthony brought me back with the following.


yes anfer.

my penis feels like metal.

stop touching it and go to sleep anfer.

it is rare that one gets to feel like such an authority on matters as when it comes to fathers advising sons on their penises.

KIDS, ART (permalink) 04.21.2010
from my agent and handler
a 2009 father's day card i found in my desk that somehow didn't get posted here yet. it was made by my daughter, to me, her father, who was adopted, which, as noted, was sad and good.

see larger images

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 04.20.2010
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
i get your wieners

KIDS (permalink) 04.16.2010
i remember calling them over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders bella, but that's about it.
bella asked me if when i was her age girls at school started wearing bras before they should have.

she asked me this question the same way she may have asked if i played tetherball at recess, or if i brought or bought my school lunch. but instead of one of those possibly expected questions, she asked me when my female classmates began wearing bras and if they had any business doing so when they started.

and, do you wanna know what i did?

i answered my daughter's question. and i answered it seriously. and i answered it thoughtfully just as i would have if she had asked about tetherball or lunches. granted in answering her i had to confess i had no worldly idea when girls at my school started wearing bras and if when they did start they had any business in one or not.

i've already placed this moment just to the right of "cut through human umbilical cord" on the shelf in my brain reserved for unexpected moments in my life.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 04.12.2010
lots of questions. scant few answers.
they say a picture is worth a thousand words. rarely does it seem this true.

KIDS (permalink) 04.09.2010
if she says sit, you better sit.
i believe all people get dealt one natural gift and one demon. the natural gift is something they can do better than 99% of people without even trying. the demon is some non-positive trait they will struggle with even when exerting great will against the vice. through these i believe one's satisfaction, success, and fulfillment in life comes from one's ability to (1) identify and leverage their gift and (2) tame and control their demon.

while in some regards it's too early to tell for sure, but if i were pressed to guess bella's natural gift, i'd say it is in someway leadership-related. i point to this because of bella's ability to orchestrate, motivate, and move individuals and groups of people, both young and old. i offer the following three examples in support:

bella's grandest demonstration of making things happen occurred two years ago when she put together a stage production of flipper in our front yard using kids from the neighborhood. there was a script, there were rehearsals, as well as (kinda) auditions. adults were summoned and lined up on the sidewalk to watch the drama. some brought lawn chairs to sit in while others leaned against trees. the staging area was in our foyer and mostly involved bella encouraging (and at times threatening) the actors to go out and do their best. it was about a twenty minute affair and i believe that no more than two of the performers cried from the pressure.

bella's most productive example of leadership can be seen in her impromptu selling stands which take advantage of a high traffic footpath near our home. if bella, or her friends or her siblings ever identify something they need money for, bella will have a selling stand in place within the hour. these stands have sold drinks, cookies, books, artwork and toys. bella is currently working on her most ambitious selling stand yet which involves knitting hats and scarves on her own and through knitting parties she plans to organize at our house in the summer months. she is building a stock so on the first snow day next winter she'll put up a stand and sell hand-knitted hats and scarves (and hot-chocolate i'm sure) to the underdressed college kids walking to and from class. she plans to use the money to buy animals for impoverished countries via the heifer fund and such. (ed note: if you don't know or are wondering, bella turned nine last month.)

and lastly, where you will see bella most often ply her powers of persuasion is getting her siblings, neighbors, and classmates to play a game where they (they, not bella) act like dogs. panting, scratching, licking, pawing, thankfully not urinating dogs. bella plays the role of the owner. everyone else plays the role of dog. whenever i see this game happening i completely marvel at how fully these children, these human, willful children give themselves over to this charade. it has now happened with such frequency that its specialness has even been moderately lost on bella. there are times when she appears to tire of the game and will go into another room to start doing something else. these temporary canines will awkwardly trail her, still in character and nudge her leg with their bowed head for notice and attention. bella absentmindedly pats their mane or coos at them for a moment before returning to her other more interesting distraction as if this child-dog has been in our home for years. given her proclivity and skill to make people act like domesticated curs, i predict that as an adult bella will either be a new york city dominatrix or a fortune 500 CEO. truth told, of those two i'm torn on which i prefer because it sure would be nice to have family in NYC.

as for bella's demon, i'd say it's too soon to call. obviously, marty and i still have plenty of years to mar and traumatize the child so the air is rife with possibility.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 04.01.2010
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 03.29.2010
my first college roommate would have answered that question very differently
while alex and anthony were taking a bath together, alex started playing a puppeteer game with his penis (a surprisingly under-mentioned perk of not being circumcised). after taking this show in for a few moments, anthony asked, "why do you do that with your penis yallix?"

alex matter of factly said he did it because it was funny.

after watching and listening to alex's antics a few more moments, anthony brightly called out his agreement saying, "it is funny alex. it is!"

chalk this up as another reason younger siblings are on the concord of development. without an older brother to teach him, anthony may not have discovered that his penis could double and a funny finger-puppet until he was four, maybe even five.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 03.23.2010
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
oh yeah

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.19.2010
Now you take that diaper off your head and you put it back on your sister!
we're dog-sitting this week. the biggest change to our home is that i say the phrase, "anthony, stop eating the dog's food" more often than i would during a week we weren't dog-sitting.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.10.2010
and he was right.
your hair looks like a letter M.

what alex said to marty just after she get out of bed one morning.

KIDS, ART (permalink) 03.09.2010
rock star
bella turned nine last saturday and had her first party where the invitation did not read, "please do not bring a present". after last year's party, bella respectfully asked marty if we could remove that line from next year's invite. and so it happened.

when it came time to open presents, a big huddle gathered around bella and kids were shoving presents at her with shouts of open mine next and this one's from me and mine's the one with the fancy paper. one after another bella opened the presents and squealed and shrieked with delight at each turn. just looking at her reaction you would think that (a) each parcel contained a boxful of puppies or that (b) bella leads a terribly deprived life and never receives presents (although this was for sure her most decadent day ever).

i sat in a corner of the room and took in bella's wonderfully animated reaction to each gift. truth told, the gifts she was getting were both (a) right up her alley showing bella's friends know her well and (b) pretty dang cool toys. about midway through the production, i saw one of the boy partygoers stepping away from the group and looking dejected. before i could approach him, another mother went to him knelt down to talk with him. when they were done i went to this mother and asked her if everything was ok. she said that the boy was afraid that bella wasn't going to like his present and he was embarrassed. concerned and thinking out loud i said i should try to get to bella to tell her to make sure to treat everyone equally but didn't know how i could do this without making it obvious given the gaggle of children crowding her on the couch. the mother, a good friend of marty's and a big fan of bella's put her hand on my arm, smiled and said it would be ok and that i didn't have to worry and bella would handle it just fine. i looked at this woman and her quiet confidence in my daughter encouraged me to sit back.

i re-took my seat and waited. when this boy's present was finally put before bella she began extracting the card, peeling it open like charlie bucket would a wonka bar. in it was a hand-drawn card the boy made. the picture depicted a horse race which showed a horse and rider about to cross the finish line. written above this horse was YOU - 1ST and then behind this rider was writing pointing to a horse off the page which said ME - 2ND. after bella took in this card you would have thought she had gotten two boxes of puppies. she looked at the boy and gave a shrill cry of happiness and said that she could tell he knew how much she loved horses. he looked down at his fidgeting feet, a small bashful smile covering his face. scarring moment averted.

later in the day, after the guests had gone home, bella and i were walking through our neighborhood. i asked her about that moment and what happened. she said that she saw that he, the boy, looked sad and she thought it might have something to do with his gift so she made sure he knew she appreciated whatever he brought.

not a bad start to nine. i'm just a little dismayed, a friend of the family knew bella would pull it off before i did.

click to enlarge

KIDS, PARENTING (permalink) 03.04.2010
still holding out
a few weeks ago marty was out with a group of mom's from the kids elementary school. at several points through the evening women would break away from the conversation to call home and check in on the dads and the state of bedtime.

when one woman called, one of her kids, a first grader, answered. the mom asked how things were going the kid answered by saying, "johnny's being a dickhead." the woman's head dipped, she massaged her temples, paused and said, "put your dad on please."

obviously marty would never get a report like that from her house. not because her kids are above such blue language but because marty still doesn't have a cellphone.

KIDS, PARENTING, HYGIENE (permalink) 03.03.2010
i know plenty of folks who could benefit from anthony-like candor.
bella was messing with anthony and he got upset. marty entered the scene and told anthony that if he didn't like what bella was doing he could tell her so. with this counsel, anthony turned to bella and said "bewah, you are breaking my spirit!"

if marty can do that with a three year old just imagine what she could achieve with someone who actually cared if they were sitting in their own feces.

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.

HYGIENE, KIDS (permalink) 02.24.2010
it's kinda like the old wall to floor urinals of the 50's
alex prefers to pee in the bathtub. and i don't mean just when he's getting a bath. i mean all the time.

this may almost certainly be attributed to the long, luxurious stints his sister spends on the toilet reading chapter books. truth is you have a three in five chance of finding her perched on the commode when you enter our home's only bathroom. and it seems it happens with enough frequency alex has decided to not fight the fight and just use the tub as a matter of course. so, when he enters the bath he stops short of the toilet (wether it is occupied or not), turns towards the tub, throws the curtain to the side, pulls his pants down, hangs his business over the tub's edge and lets loose.

and hear this (as alex would say), when he's done and before he turns to wash his hands, he reaches up and briefly turns on the shower sending a quick burst of water into the tub to send any residual signs of his visit down the drain. it's his flush.

i've yet to use his move. when i find bella camped out i shoo her away telling her she has had more than her share of time on our family's only pot. that said, i will admit, watching the way alex handles his affairs with such panache and flair has made me consider joining his camp on more than one occasion.

KIDS, PHOTO, ART (permalink) 02.16.2010
hallmark's days are numbered
if you came by early yesterday you may have not seen the day's post. i made a mistake entering the date and it didn't show up until later in the morning. so if you missed it, you may want to read yesterday's valentines post before reading this one.

regarding yesterday's post, more than one person wondered what marty's card looked like. and more than one person wondered if there was a reason i didn't share hers and was it because it was better than mine or that it was way NOT better than mine or that i'm self-centered or pouty or selfish or i want all the attention to myself and the answer is, yes.

and for those who thought that the thoughtfulness and sentiment contained in my card couldn't be beaten, prepare to stand corrected.

click to enlarge

KIDS, PHOTO, ART (permalink) 02.15.2010
everything but a hot stone massage
sunday morning i was brought from sleep at 7:15 with a kiss on my forehead and the words "happy valentines day dad." it was bella. she then whispered, as to not wake up alex who was sleeping next to me, that my breakfast was sitting on the windowsill next to me for when i woke up "for real". she then quietly exited the room. some minutes later i cracked my eyes and lifted my head to peer at the window she referenced. on it rested a tupperware platter with two pieces of freshly made french toast, a puddle of syrup, and a glass of sweet tea with hand-crushed ice.

marty who was sleeping with anthony in our bed down the hall received a similar treatment. on each of our trays was a highly detailed, bella-drawn card. on this valentines day my eight year old daughter woke up before 7am, went downstairs by herself and silently made her mother and father french toast, from scratch, and adorned the platters with hand-drawn cards she secretly made earlier in the week.

there have been multiple occasions bella has left me speechless, but never more so than with this completely unexpected and unforeseen gesture of love and kindness. at multiple points throughout the day, i found myself staring at her, in wonder and curiosity and gratitude. at times like this marty calls her a paradox. i don't know that i ever could justly verbalize my thoughts on bella and the way she approaches life. i just know i'm thankful to have the front row seat that i do to watch her wend her way through it.

click to enlarge

KIDS (permalink) 02.11.2010
anfer, still top of the adorable food chain
in reviewing this week's entries it felt like i needed to give anthony some love (or explain why we haven't yet bartered him to a circus passing through town).

number 67 on the REASONS TO KEEP ANTHONY list is the cute way he has of announcing his hunger which is to say, "my stummy go gummel, gummel" while looking up at you with his big round eyes and gapped and chipped teeth.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 02.09.2010
welcome to the weekend
for those that thought yesterday's homage to life with anthony was tame for one of our children, you were impressively right. i wasn't implying that that was an example of true anthony chaos. not at all. that was actually an example of anthony being cute.

if i wanted to tell of an anthony-disaster, i would have told of last friday when i came home from work. the first thing i found upon walking in the door was marty and alex curled up on the chair and a half, under a blanket, talking quietly. this was one of the closest and warmest moments i can recall seeing them share. i gave them a wave, dropped my bag on the bench and bounced upstairs to change clothes. when i arrived to the top step i was met with a haphazard trail of white viscous fluid that travelled the entire length of the hallway and turned into every doorway it passed. it looked like a giant Jurassic slug had been slithering the halls, leaving its telling trail behind. upon further investigation i learned that it was anthony walking around with a full liquid soap dispenser pinned to his chest with one forearm while pumping it effortfully with his free hand. obviously this close body technique meant he had smears of the white liquid covering his forearm and pantlegs. fact is, given how hard he had to work to manage the awkward (and now slippery) pumper, an impressive amount of the soap was clearing his body and making it onto the hardwood.

when he saw me enter the room he gave me a big toothy grin. i began scolding his choice, grabbed the bottle from him with one hand and picked him up by the armpit with the other. i carried him at arms length while tiptoeing over the soap smears to the bathtub and dropped him in there. hearing the ruckus, marty appeared. she put a hand on my shoulder and told me to go change and go downstairs and set up for movie night. i looked at her for a moment and then decided to take her up on this smart offer. when marty and anthony later joined us downstairs for the start of the movie, she said when those things happen, you just have to calmly explain the rule, clean it up, and move on. this varies considerably from my solution of yelling loudly, beating children randomly, and creating moments my kids would go on to talk to shrinks about for unforeseen decades to come.

in my defense, here's another bit of anthony's handi-work. and when this happened, bella and alex, owners of the wagons, would have firmly voted for my yelling and beating program in this particular instance

KIDS, ART (permalink) 02.04.2010
you better find something to do or i'll find something for ya!
in case you're in a pinch for something good to do, i thought i'd share bella's LIST OF THINGS TO DO. that #1 wasn't to "make a list of things to do" was a little disappointing to me but she more than made up for it in the long run.

28 and 23 would be my first two picks were i pushed to select.

KIDS (permalink) 02.03.2010
bella's anti-pajama boycott is still going strong. she is now in her third week. i'm fearful to tell you the politicking required to convince her it was ok to take them off so i could wash them on laundry days. during the negotiation i asked bella if other kids were doing this? she said, "no just me. it's my funny but usual way."

this morning when bella asked for help getting the pantlegs of her jeans pulled over her pajamas, marty paused for a moment to ask what bella's end goal with this was. bella said it was to get the world pajama-wearing world record. marty asked what the current record was and how long she had to go. bella confessed to not knowing the answer to this. i told bella this was great news because that meant she had to have it by now and could stop wearing the pajamas. the look bella gave me told me that this argument did not hold weight with her.

KIDS (permalink) 01.27.2010
trouble ahead
once a year bella and alex's school has a pajama day where all the kids get to wear their pajamas to school. this day, to say the least, is wildly popular among the little ones.

at some point during this last pajama day someone must have asked if they could wear their pajamas the next day. to this, the principal of the school said that they could not and you could only wear pajamas on pajama day.

four days after pajama day, i saw bella getting ready for school. she was pulling her pants on over her pajama bottoms and we had the following conversation.

what are you doing bell?

putting on my pants.

but your pajamas are still on.

i know.

well aren't you going to take them off.


uhhm. ok.

three days after that bella wore her pajamas to alex's soccer game, sans outer clothing. during the game an older student from the school who helps with the coaching asked bella why she was wearing her pajamas. she told him that she had been wearing them since pajama day. he said that was over a week ago. she she said, 'yup'. he leaned into me and asked if she's been wearing those pajamas all week. i glanced at bella and remembered her pulling her pants on over them and replied that as far as i knew she has been.

it's now four days beyond that and bella's still holding strong. the scary part is she's not boasting about it or touting some point she's trying to prove. she's just waging a quiet battle against an invisible foe called principle. i can't wait until she swings these guns around in my direction to prove some point or subtlety to me.

KIDS, PERSONAL (permalink) 01.21.2010
i think you took a wrong turn pal
the kids were getting ready for bed. marty and i were in bella and alex's room. i fell into bella's lower bunk bed. marty wanting to tell me something grabbed a stool and sat on the side of the bed. she began filling me in on some school-related matters for alex. she paused waiting for me to say something.

i think i would have loved having a bunk bed when i was a kid

would you have wanted the top or bottom bunk.

bottom. then i would have hung curtains so it was like a fort. i would have put a shelf up on the wall to hold my books. and had a light, like bella's, so i could read. it would have been awesome.

my brother matt had a shelf next to his bed. he was on the top. i remember when he was gone i'd climb up there and look at the stuff on his shelf. he had an small engine he built that you could turn on and it would make lights flash. and he had a little silver radio with a circle dial. that was the first portable radio i ever saw. on sundays matt would sit up in his bed and listen to some guys top 100 countdown. i remember i'd hear the pop songs from the hall and think how i liked this one or that one.

you didn't go up in the bed and listen with him?

oh god no. you only went into the boys room when the boys were away.

shortly thereafter the kids walked in. as soon as bella saw me lazing in her bed she walked to the side, made a hitchhiker thumb and said, "out mister". however much the world changes, there are certain immutable facets that always remain the same.

PERSONAL, KIDS (permalink) 01.19.2010
you can hold my nipple all you want
marty learned something new about anthony last week. before falling asleep at night, anthony had a habit of reaching up and under marty's shirt. when this happened she would push him away telling him he already nummed (e.g. nursed) and they were done for the night. he would grunt and continue with his wandering hand and the grudge match persisted until he would finally fall asleep. what she has just recently discovered, somehow, is he wasn't looking to nurse, he just wanted to fall asleep while holding her nipple in his fingers.

marty told me the story while making breakfast the morning after she figured this all out. she concluded her revelation by muttering a sarcastic "freak" at the end. after a pregnant pause, i said. "yeah freakshow. how weird" to which marty quickly replied, "nice try. don't think i don't know where he gets this little proclivity from."

hey, at least he got to experience the tap directly. i was bottle-fed.

WIFE, KIDS (permalink) 01.12.2010
Schadenfreude : largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another
i can tell when marty has had a trying parental day because i find her at her desk at night after the kids are down watching the super nanny on hulu while paying bills and working at her desk. you just can't deny that there's something soothing about seeing people taking in more water than you.

and the one conclusion marty and i agree on is that having a beautiful house seems to be related to having evil and sinister kids because all the families on that series live in the most beautiful homes, show home caliber really. if that holds true, logic would dictate having a messy house equates to familial bliss in which case we'd be swimming in the good times because most days it looks like we're in the midst of being evicted.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 01.07.2010

photo by aunt missy.

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.

PERSONAL, KIDS (permalink) 12.10.2009
Bella's birthday voice mail
there's something about voicemail from kids that is so way better than voicemail from grownups.

click to play
128kb / 31 seconds
hello. this is bella dearmitt at the troy dearmitt's house. happy birthday again. lots of people at school are saying happy birthday also. uhm. i was wondering where you wanted to go to work, or i mean, to dinner. we are all voting for sushi. i am voting for steak if you would like to. so give us a call. bye.

in the end i trumped them all and returned to the natasha's kabob international for the second year in a row.

KIDS (permalink) 12.04.2009
from anthony's DIY guide to chaos-making
tactic #32 from the moms and kitchens section

STEP 1 unravel a complete ball of twine.

STEP 2 pour full glass of milk on unraveled twine.

STEP 3 walk away.

STEP 4 wait.

KIDS (permalink) 11.30.2009
so perfectly bella
on sunday marty and i took bella and alex to the symphony thanks to some tickets gifted to us by friends. the show was part of a special series geared towards kids. the performance is an hour long and includes several well-recognized excerpts from popular classics. before playing the pieces the conductor would turn to the audience and point out and explain a technique or two that could be heard in the next song sometimes going as far as having the musician(s) demonstrate what he was talking about so it could be better identified in the piece.

at one point i turned to to look at the profiles of bella and alex. seeing their faces lit by the stage and their eyes wide with interest and intrigue at this new life experience warmed my parental fire. my arm was already around alex but i reached over further and placed my hand on bella's arm. she looked at me and i smiled at her. she reached up and took my hand in hers and held it in her lap, both of our gazes returning to the show. after a few moments she removed her hand from mine, pushed my fingers closed and nudged my hand away. i brought it back to where it was previously resting in alex's seat. after a moment i sensed something in my hand. i opened my fist to find bella had pressed her used gum into my palm before closing my fingers around it and sending me on my way. when i looked at her she was still watching the show but had a coy and knowing smile across her face.

hours later i'm still conflicted about how i feel that this tacky ball of chewed juicy fruit will be the symbol i remember from my first attempt to expose my children to the arts. that said, i am thankful (and fortunate) she didn't place a scorpion or human eyeball in my palm.

KIDS (permalink) 11.17.2009
my little rock math star
i was going to build a couple of chicken wire pens in our backyard to compost leaves. it occurred to me that if i installed them over our raised kitchen beds, we could use the decomposed leaves to nurture the soil before our spring planting. when i told marty of this plan she said i should have bella measure the beds to see how much chicken wire we needed because they were working on area and perimeter at school. when i passed bella during my chores i pointed to the kitchen beds, handed her a tape measure from my belt, and asked if she could sketch them out and measure their length and width. she was headed to friend's house so groaned slightly at the delay but took the tape measure from me and continued on.

the next time i passed through the kitchen, this is what she left me on the counter.

click to enlarge

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 11.12.2009
brace yourself
it may or may not surprise you to learn that the most zealous and enthusiastic participant of bella's girl scout troop is our very own alexander.

with anthony coming in a very close second.

KIDS (permalink) 11.05.2009
imagine the questions we'd be getting if we had a television.
bella recently confided in marty that she was glad that i, her father, had never taken the medicine that would have given me breasts.

when marty told me this i wanted to ask her what she felt would compel our eight year old daughter to make such a declaration. this is what i wanted to ask but instead found myself so dumbfounded i could do nothing but look at marty with my mouth slightly agape. and this would be the sixth time in my life i'd been struck dumb.

KIDS (permalink) 10.28.2009
screwed with an uppercase s
while walking by bella's room, i heard bella say in a flat, conversational tone to a visiting neighbor girl, "my mom said when i get married i can do the french kiss."

this comment stopped me dead in my tracks. if i were one to say hail marys i imagine i would have uttered one right there, complete with waving the sign of the cross but since i'm not a formally religious fellow i instead closed my eyes reverently, considered how unprepared i am for my future and continued on down the stairs.

KIDS (permalink) 10.20.2009
much better the second time around
i try to spend lunchtime with bella and alex once a week. alex has lunch first. then recess. then bella has lunch. and then her recess. how they are spaced out is kind of lucky for me in that i get to visit with each of them separately but it does make for a pretty long lunch routine, even for me.

depending on the weather and my clothes and how much time before i need to be back at work, we may play ogre at the recess. ogre essentially consists of me chasing forty plus kids around the playground for twenty minutes while they dash and dart and scream wildly knocking into playground equipment, each other and me. the game's end is marked by a loud hand-held whistle blown by a recess attendant. this sends the kids dutifully racing to a numbered paw print painted on the ground to line up for their return to class. the rapidity in which these children switch gears, especially leaving something they're enjoying, is impressive. i slowly amble over to the head of the line and wait for them to begin the march back inside. as they pass i give them high-fives thanking them for playing ogre and telling them to do good in class. they eagerly ask if i'll be back tomorrow and that i didn't tag them and i'm too slow and they're too smart. i laughingly tell them that i can't play tomorrow but will try to come back next week.

my first few visits to the lunch table each year is met with rabid enthusiasm and intrigue. once the newness wears off, it's as if i'm just another student unexcitedly nibbling at a four-hour old pb and j. recently at bella's table our group experienced multiple bouts of silence, some lasting two or three minutes. full silence among five or six kids and one adult in a raucous cafeteria doesn't happen much, based on my experience, so when something of the like occurs i'm intrigued and i study the faces of each child trying to see what they are thinking. last week, one boy broke the lull by pointing across the table and starting the following conversation.

i've seen isacc cry.

well, i've seen you cry. i've seen amit cry too.

i've seen bella cry. and you. and you.

i've seen george cry, a lot.

uhhm, i haven't seen chris cry, but he's new, but i have seen isaac and bella and amit cry.

after gleefully taking this in and waiting for everyone to go, i interrupted the confessions

so if i'm hearing this correct, it pretty much seems like everyone here has seen everyone else cry, except for chris and that is only because he is new.

the kids looked around and nodded in agreement. what struck me most about the round robin was that there was no agenda at hand. no one was trying to make anyone else feel badly. there was no accusing or mocking tone. it was just a group of children announcing statements of fact. i repeatedly looked at chris the new kid during this confessional. while this discussion bounced around the table chris sat there with long rangy curls of blonde hair, his eyes darting from speaker to speaker. the whole time he had a natural smile which was partially blocked by the sandwich triangle he was holding with both hands just in front of his mouth. his smile was so easy, so natural, it seemed like there was nowhere he'd rather be. and as i took stock of his mood and the quirky community i was in the midst of, if asked, i think i may have agreed with his sentiment.

KIDS (permalink) 10.13.2009
it was saturday morning. i was in the kitchen. marty was upstairs in the shower. the kids were in the living room. some yelling and fighting broke out. it didn't sound physical (yet) so i let it go and continued working on the dishes. some moments later i heard marty come down the stairs. she engaged the kids asking what was the problem and what they were fighting about. thinking i could help i moved to the foyer drying my hands on a dish towel. i looked at marty standing at the foot of the stairs, a towel around her head but naked otherwise and still wet from the shower. i then looked at the line of kids now quiet and staring back at her. as i scanned the row i spotted one extra kid in the mix. it seems a boy from around the corner had come over and joined the fray. when i saw him in the line-up i paused and took in his startled face and wide eyes. i looked back at marty who had just noticed the outcast. seeing him, she pulled the towel off her head and began wrapping it around her body. in embarrassment she asked shortly, "and why are you here ben? does your mom know you're here?" to this line of questioning ben lifted his gaze from marty's now towel-covered body to her face, ignored her questions and innocently asked his own, "why are you naked?"

i don't mind saying i derived more enjoyment out of this boy's simple question than a man my age should have.

KIDS, HEALTH (permalink) 10.06.2009
and, yes, i did wash the sheets
rough housing and tickle fights end in one of two ways in our house; when someone gets hurt or someone pukes (from laughing too hard).

this is no lie and i'm not embellishing for effect. last thursday marty went to a girl scout meeting leaving me to put the kids to bed. after baths and before i started reading to the boys a huge tickle fight broke out on my bed. it was me against bella and alex and anthony. about five minutes into the affair, i was tickling bella and she started coughing. i stopped. she turned her head and vomited a dark swill onto the comforter and floor. you'd think she would spin on me in anger or disgust at this turn but instead her face brightened and she said, "hey, i just threw up! does that mean i don't have to go to school tomorrow?" i had the parental duty of telling her that throwing up only gets you out of school if you can wretch without anyone touching, tickling, or gagging you. i was dismayed, but not surprised, to see the wheels in her head processing this new piece of knowledge. i'm sure if it's possible to will yourself to vomit, bella is about to become one of its most ardent practitioners.

KIDS (permalink) 10.01.2009
walking that talk
at a dinner party, one of the mothers in attendance approached me and said the children were downstairs having a debate about whose father had the loudest and smelliest flatulence. she told me that bella was delivering a very persuasive argument which the woman doubted anyone would be able to best. i smiled awkwardly and said 'kids' with a shrug of my shoulders.

on the way home i contemplated explaining to bella how some things are personal and my gas is not something to be shared publicly. i never got a chance to have the talk because i got distracted thinking about today's post where i would talk about her talking about me and me not talking to her about how it wasn't appropriate for her to talk about me publicly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

again, it's a medieval matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

bella got a double-shot of attitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KIDS (permalink) 09.08.2009
effective product placement

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

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

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

KIDS (permalink) 09.04.2009
loud and proud kiddo.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click for larger version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KIDS, FOOD (permalink) 08.25.2009
for me, short order cook at this hour world mean short-tempered
marty makes lunch for the kids each morning. she does this while they are eating breakfast. how it works is after they wake up and dress they come to the kitchen and pick their breakfast. once they start eating they are handed the "the sheet". from this sheet they are to pick three items they would like in their lunchbox. they call them out and marty acknowledges the request and busies herself in preparing it. this list deal has been around for years but had to be re-done this year now that alex is going to school with bella. i was drawn to the little pictograms marty made next to each of alex's lunch items. there's far more artistry in there than one would expect for such a artifact. startlingly impressive.

i'll scan it again at the end of the school year so you can see how tattered (e.g. loved) one of these gets from being part of a three-child breakfast bar routine every school day morning.

click for larger version

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.19.2009
in case you wondering where bella has been this week, she's around. she's our veteran student and going into the third grade. i figured that with her it was all business as usual. and then i found an old picture someone gave us of bella when she started kindergarten. i was shocked at how different she looked. at the time of that photo alex was three and anthony had just been born. she is almost unrecognizable to her current day self. so much for business as usual.

bella in her kindergarten days

and bella a deceptive three years later.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.18.2009
some images from yesterday's milestones

aleo and i moments before walking up to his first day of school

anfer getting some individual attention while his siblings are at school (and he isn't)

KIDS (permalink) 08.17.2009
today i have one boy turning three (anfer) and another starting kindergarten (aleo).

anfer (aka anthony) has been best described as, "just like bella, but male" which if you know bella at all you know just what a terrifying sentiment this is. a three-year old anfer is one year smarter, stronger and more bull-headed than the two-year old variety. wish marty and i strength and patience. and wish anfer continued cuteness for when marty and i run out of strength and patience.

and last night i watched alex fall asleep. while his body relented to the day and his fingers and arms began twitching in surrender, i studied his peaceful countenance and thought how the next day would mark the beginning of a new and long chapter of his life. i fear aleo will dislike many parts of this leg of youth (education) but i'm confident that through the journey he will discover what part of our world speaks to him. at least, i desperately hope he does because should he not find that facet of this universe which interests him more than all others, he may spend more time wandering dimly lit hallways than enjoying what he is meant to do in this world. godspeed my aleo.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.14.2009
we operate a clothing optional breakfast bar

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 08.13.2009
a hemingway moment
yesterday was bella's second to last day working at the horse farm this summer. before leaving the house we were fighting, unsuccessfully, with the zipper to one of her riding boots. she told me i should use a pair of pliers and that's what the boy at the farm did. what boy is that i asked. she said it was julie's son. i asked who julie was. bella said
she is the blonde woman who drinks coffee and smokes and is afraid of horses but is trying to do something about it.
i paused from my work on the zipper to look at bella. i told her that is one of the finest descriptions of a human i've ever heard, that wasn't in a book at least. bella just shrugged her shoulders and looked back to the zipper. then i did too and that was that.

KIDS (permalink) 07.21.2009
Q: when does a house with two children seem quiet? A: when there are usually three children in the house.

marty has an aunt that works at a farm rehabilitating horses. last year she offered to let bella come out for a day. the farm attracts a lot of young kids who want to experience the life. for most, this translates to wanting to ride horses. not wishing to run such a business the keepers of the farm operate under the policy of if you want to ride a horse you have to do all the things relevant to this experience, because they are running a farm, not a petting zoo. as for what all things relevant entails, it seems it's the routine matters that happen on the farm: mucking stables, collecting eggs, brushing horses, cleaning hooves, exercising horses. after paying some dues you then get to do what you came to do, ride a horse.

bella's first day out, or more aptly, bella's first ten minutes out, she was handed a scoop and a rake, pointed to a stall and told to clean it out. bella struggled with the large scoop and lugging the buckets out to a rear paddock and dumping the waste, but she did it. when she was done, she moved to the next stall. seeing this her aunt told her she only had to do one and could now move onto another chore. conflicted, bella looked into the second stall and said that it was dirty and needed to be cleaned. her aunt said someone else would get it. that someone else was bella. and, it was bella for four more stalls (or every one in the barn). she gets this obstinance and love of cleaning and organizing from her mother. given this adoration for chores, bella became a quick hit at the farm.

that was last year. this summer bella has been spending a couple days a week at the farm. this morning we took bella there for the day but this time she has been invited to stay a few nights with her aunt so she could get some extra time in. bella was thrilled. marty and i were moderately apprehensive at having our girl away for such a period. alex was concerned at losing his sister. anthony is just glad he gets the legos to himself. we woke up at 6am in preparation for the one hour drive. when i walked by the kids room, i saw alex hand bella his christmas snow globe. this is one of alex's most prized possessions and is his forth such snow globe and more importantly the first to survive more than four days in his care. this particular globe was a present from my mother and was obtained at a flea market. the scene inside is of an indistinct city skyline but is so old (and cheap) that the paint is coming off making the water inside murky looking and hard to see through. bella held the globe to her chest, thanked alex for it and promised to take very good care of it. i think everyone in the house was feeling a bit like alex at seeing bella go. alex was just better at showing his feelings than the rest of us.

when bella and i arrived, the farm was in full motion. two other young, local girls who work there were helping bring the forty plus horses in from the pasture. bella immediately put her bag in her stable locker and took a nearby spot at the ready. another girl who i would guess was about ten was told to take the tractor and close the upper gate. the girl left the barn and pulled herself into john deere's version of a golf cart. bella's aunt turned and told bella to ride up with the girl. bella quickly took the seat next to the young driver. the girl backed the cart up and off they rode into a pasture and out of sight. not having said goodbye to bella i milled about. the aunt saw me standing to the side, gave me a wave and said, "see ya troy. i'll have bella give you a call before she goes to bed tonight." i thanked her and moved towards my car. i looked into the rolling hill bella and the girl disappeared into. i wasn't sure how far away they were going or how long the task would take them. i waited a few minutes. still no sign of them. the aunt saw me again and asked if i needed something. i said i wanted to say goodbye to bella before leaving. she took an apprising look into the distance and said they should be back any minute. a few minutes later i heard the tractor chugging and then saw it round the corner and the two miniature farm hands rumbled in like they'd been doing that particular task together for better than five years. the girl stopped the tractor, took it out of gear, put on a parking brake, hopped out and walked back into the barn and out of sight. bella slid out of her seat, walked wordlessly to me, wrapped her arms around my waist pressing her sideways face into my chest, giving me a tight squeeze. she then loosened her grip, said, "see ya dad", turned and followed the first girl into the barn. as i watched her walk in her confident strides out of view i realized that one day that moment will be the real thing and she won't be leaving my house for three days but three months, or better. i hope i'm more prepared then than i am now.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 05.12.2009
i've got a bad-ish feeling about this
saturday anthony, alex, a neighbor boy and i biked up to a local park for some ogre play. when we returned to the house i was approached by bella and a mess of neighborhood girls asking if i would like a spa treatment. slightly startled at the option i asked what the spa treatment entailed. i was told it entailed all sorts of things. things like back rubs, head scratches, uninterrupted reading time (that was a marty suggestion), cuddle time with stuffies (stuffed animals), pet sitting (which i think meant you got to have our hermit crabs sit on you). i asked how much all this cost. bella said six dollars for your pick of one. she then eyed me a little more closely and said it was nine dollars if the person was sweaty.

the spa's front entry

the spa's front entry detail.
the main sing reads, "SPA-GET-AWAY they are awesome because people come often / $3 child / $9 adult / activities: recreation space, stuffies, uninterrupted reading time / come right now (kids will love it!)". the handwritten supplement sign reads, "its free today because its mothers day, so you don't have to pay, so why don't you stay".

this is the first sign/arrow leading upstairs

second directional pointer

the front counter

the register/till

and last but not least, the spa. scary but not in the usual $9 spa kinda scary.

KIDS (permalink) 05.08.2009
some days they seem blind and others they seem superhuman
not too long ago while chatting with bella before dinner, out of nowhere she says, "you're just crazy about me dad!"

laughing, i agree, to which she adds, "that means you really like me."

"yes i do bell. i like you quite a bit."

the smile this innocent observation and exchange sparked in me makes me think the world would be a happier place were there more positive moments of candor bouncing around our society and world. to do my part, i'm going to employ bella's antic at work, reminding my colleagues that they too are just crazy about me. i'm sure it will go over just as swimmingly as it did for my precious isabella. how could it not?

KIDS (permalink) 04.30.2009
the best dressed boy in town turns 6 today

KIDS (permalink) 04.27.2009
anthony's latest.
when marty first saw it, she said she felt she knew what people with difficult pets, like marley (?), must feel like.

moments later she added if anthony were a dog she'd get rid of him.

i asked how she'd do that. via a dog pound or a country road.

she said a pound.

as she started getting into the real messy parts of it, i said i didn't believe her and thought she'd go the country road route.

she didn't respond.




if there's a silver lining, because it is during moments like this you most need to look for silver linings, it is that now when anthony gets wet, because of the non-water-soluble, expensive, medicinal (for exema) lotion he smeared all over himself, water now beads up on his skin like he were a newly waxed sportscar.

this is especially true of the foot that is sitting inside the tub. when i first saw his foot submerged in the container i thought why would he do that. then after pondering it a moment i thought, at this point why the hell wouldn't he do that.

KIDS (permalink) 04.17.2009
equal-opportunity employer
at a recent family gathering, anthony walked by his fifteen year old cousin, emma. she was wearing a skin-tight, vintage-looking rolling stones t-shirt with the gaping mouth on the front. as he jetted by, she snatched him up and placed him onto her knee. she greeted him brightly. he looked at her face, then he looked at the large graphic on her shirt. he then raised his hand placed it under her right breast and gave it a few light lifts as if appraising its heft. after just a second of awkward looking at one another, emma lifted anthony off of her knee set him back on the ground and he resumed his journey as if nothing had ever happened.

it appears anthony is a believer in the "it doesn't hurt to ask" philosophy. i'm of the same ilk and have historically had about the same level of luck.

KIDS (permalink) 03.27.2009
playing king of the castle
can i do your belt and tie dad?

that's how it starts. and it goes that way just about every work morning. alex asking if he can help put on my belt and tie. this has been a ritual for over a year now. i don't recall how it started, it just did. and it's always the same. the belt goes first, every time. he asks if we're doing the black side or the red (cordovan) side this day. it's usually a red day and he studies the reversible belt to make sure it's set up right and then he feeds it into the first loop. after he pulls the belt through he quietly says "turn". he says this after each belt loop and does so with an air of concentration and seriousness in his voice. to this instruction i spin in place one belt-loop worth at a time. when i've come full circle he grabs up the other end, feeds the belt through the buckle in his practiced way. if i reach to help him in any way he quickly waves me off saying he can do it. and he does. sometimes when he cinches it tight i make an exaggerated gasp to which his face darts up looking to see if he hurt me. when he sees i'm ok he many times will caution me to "be for real dad" which is kind of like when i'm clowning around reading books and he frustratedly tells me he doesn't want any of my funniness right now.

after the belt comes the tie. i usually pick it out and throw it around my neck. i'll then sit on a bed and call alex asking him if he's doing my tie today. he always is. here he climbs up on the bed behind me, pulls my collar up straight, exposing the inside corridor. he then feeds the fat end of the tie through the left button hole and pulls it straight. he then feeds the skinny side of the tie through the other side. after both are pulled through he lowers the raised collar and smoothes it out with his small hands leaning around both sides making sure it is properly flat all around.

then i stand up and begin pulling the tie back and forth getting it properly centered to be tied. here alex, with great excitement and anticipation in his voice, says "do that funny thing again". the funny thing i do is tell a story when i tie my tie. the story involves two characters. sometimes it is a bunny and a bear. sometimes a squirrel and a lion. and sometimes alex and i. but always one big and one small. to start, with each hand i grab a side of the tie. i hold the little one up and say this is alex. then i hold the bigger side forward and in a deep voice and say this one is dad. then, alex and dad were at lewis park when dad saw alex and said i smell biscuits so alex ran under the slide thinking his dad couldn't get there but his dad could and chased him under there. then alex ran up to the top and and said his dad was too big and fat to get up there but i did. then alex jumped down the slide and said his dad was too smelly and scared to go down the slide but i wasn't and i jumped down the slide too.

as i'm talking i'm flinging the tie around in the usual manner to manage the knot. sometimes when i finish the tie is wrong. too long, too short, sloppy knot, and i have to do it again. alex learned that if i mess up he gets to hear the story a second time and even though the second-telling of the story is always much faster and less animated, alex is always rooting to hear me say "doggonit! stupid tie!. ok here we go again. this here's alex. and this is dad ..."

and so our mornings go.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.25.2009
nor did i ask for clarification
so your buttcheeks are sticking together?
this was the third thing i heard in my house yesterday morning. and it wasn't said by, to, or about me.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 03.24.2009
water dictatorship.
when showering with another person there is an imminent battle for position. your success in this battle is key to how much you will enjoy your shower. lose the battle for position and instead of basking beneath sixty, hot, riveting jets you'll find yourself shivering in the back of the tub settling for a paltry mist ricocheting off the other person's heated frame. what sucks in my case is i'm getting bested in this battle by a two year old who doesn't even reach my waist.

the first few times anthony appeared outside the shower, pulled the curtain aside, and excitedly pointed in saying DA! DA! i was stoked that the little man wanted to hang out with his papa. i'd lean out of the tub and ask him if he wanted to get in. this was met with an exuberant yes. i'd unsnap and pull off whatever clothes he was wearing. then he'd bow his legs a bit and i'd rip the velcro tabs of his diaper causing it to drop heavily to the ground. as soon as it hit the floor he'd throw his very chubby, very white leg up on the side and pull the rest of his also chubby and also white body over the edge. as soon as he had boots on porcelain he'd confidently march forward, directly to the pole position to stand beneath the shower's jets. the cat-bird's seat. then he'd just stand there, head bowed reverently (which was pretty much what i was doing before he arrived). if you lean in above him to, say, wash soap or shampoo from out of your eyes and in doing so interrupt his water empire he will, without lifting his head, grunt and groan and push on your thigh relegating you to the back of the tub and out of his space.

this experience has led me to believe a house cannot support two shower fetishist who both want to just stand under a stream of piping hot water for twenty minute stretches, twice a day. one chilly winter morning, i recall standing above anthony, looking down on his thin, blonde crown of hair. i stuck my tongue out at him, but did so only momentarily and not because i was afraid he'd see me but because i found when i did that my tongue, like the rest of my body, got cold and shivery there in the back of the tub.

KIDS (permalink) 03.11.2009
bella told marty that a boy in her class said she (bella) was hot. marty asked bella what she thought that meant. bella thought for a moment before saying she thought it meant he liked the way she looked. marty agreed that that was probably what it meant but the problem is that it didn't take into account her spirit and there are lots of folks who look good, great even, that lie and cheat and are mean to those around them so how they look is irrelevant and what matters is how beautiful their spirit is.

bella came home from school the next day and reported that the boy liked her spirit too.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.10.2009
a step towards happiness; enjoy the small marvels
our house is bad at checking messages. the last time i checked them their were nine, the earliest of which was from five days prior. as i saved and deleted my way through them, one in the middle went like this:
hello, this is bella dearmitt. i was calling to see if bella would like to come play at my house tomorrow and if she would like to come to my house on march 6th for my birthday party. ok. again, this is bella. bella dearmitt. thanks. goodbye.
i mentioned this to marty. she casually said that when she checked the other day there were nineteen messages, six of which were from bella inviting herself over to play.

KIDS (permalink) 03.09.2009
ready, set, go

KIDS (permalink) 03.06.2009
my baby girl turns 8 today

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 03.02.2009
kinda ready

KIDS (permalink) 02.24.2009
the first in what i'm sure will be many business endeavors

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 02.13.2009
i wouldn't flush that if i were you
when i was in college i spent one year in a dorm. the name of the dorm was hudson hall. i lived on spencer floor. our mascot was a smiling spermatozoa holding a beer and since there were a bunch of us and a bunch of them (sperm) we were known as the spermies. so in full we were the hudson hall, spencer spermies. life rarely gets more predictable than this.

i worked most nights and drove home to see a girlfriend on weekends so was not very connected to my dorm-mates aside from a few that lived immediately around me. it seems in dorm-life different floors have squabbles and grudge matches. one floor did not like my floor very much. i don't think i had anything to do with this, not because of my good choices or bright spirit but because i wasn't around much. one night 7 to 10 guys from this other floor came down to our floor one after the other and emptied their bowels into one of our bathroom toilets. they never flushed, making deposits only. they didn't even use toilet paper (somehow). they just left a large porcelain cauldron of feces. by morning the matter had dissolved and settled, caving in on itself to form a flat and pristine looking object. i imagine through the night it was like a time-lapse study of how our world was formed over time only instead of needing billions of years, this model was architected between 3am and 8am.

in the morning a small group of boys from my floor stood outside the stall door wearing towels and bath robes, holding plastic bins of soap and shampoo. they talked quietly, but mostly looked in the stall. the number of comparisons between this small band of young men and the chimps in 2001 space odyssey were significant. first they all stood around deeply pondering the white structure. they struggled with where it came from, how it was made and what its purpose was. then one reached out and touched it. the result of that touch (in this case a flush) caused mass hysteria and they all shrieked and jumped and ran maniacally into one another trying to escape the resultant mayhem.

the reason this distantly-filed image has resurfaced in my mind is my children are currently employing the strategy of that innovative hudson hall floor by refusing to flush our family toilet. my childrens' technique is less sophisticated though in that they will put toilet paper and toothbrushes and play cars in the bowl. but like the boys in my story, they won't flush. i heard bella instruct the others that unless someone goes poo, this toilet is not to be flushed. i stepped forward to ask if five pees could equal one poo. i was told they cannot. and dismissed.

KIDS (permalink) 02.05.2009
if i moved that much i'd soil myself even if i didn't have to go
my children's sphincters seem to be cosmically connected to my own because nothing makes theirs quiver and taughten more than the lowering of my own cheeks onto the toilet, our home's only toilet, for my ten minute daily constitutional. i've read of similar things happening to cohabitating women. is the same true or possible for digestive tracts?

and you want to talk about some fist-clenching-crotch-dancing-in-place-scrunched-up-face-pleading-urgently urgency. these kids got it.

KIDS, PHOTO, ARCHIVE (permalink) 02.04.2009
from the archives (1 in a series)

bella has always been bright-eyed, but alex was only briefly pudgy

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 02.03.2009
just think how your mother feels
the first thing bella said to me monday morning.

i don't want to be mean to anthony but can we gag him in the night? when he wakes up he is like two buildings falling on each other and wakes me up every time. and i gotta get my sleep. i'm exhausted.

while bella does have a knack for dramatic portrayals of everyday things, she is spot on in this particular assessment.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 01.27.2009
early jump
is today a school day?

yes it is.

ah dammit.

from his tone and the easy way it rolled from his five year old mouth, you'd think he had to take an obnoxious client to lunch or deliver bad news to a subordinate on this day.

and these are still coming from marty's camp. when i become the source of their swears i'm confident calls home from school with threats of detention will be part of the discussion.

KIDS, SOCIETY (permalink) 01.26.2009
outsmarting your children isn't as easy as it looks
in dating you have something called hand. the notion of hand was probably best handled and described by seinfeld and team. if you haven't heard the term it pertains to the battle for influence between a dating couple. i believe it is an abbreviated phrase for 'having the upper hand'.

in the world of parenting, hand is replaced by something called currency. as a parent it is always your job to know what your child's currency is. currency in this context refers to any object or event your child especially loves. with this knowledge, the theory goes, you're able to influence your child's behavior instead of beating them with a switch.

but, children also have their own currency. a child's currency is what they can do to sway the behavior of their parent. such currencies for children include looking cute, acting sad, throwing a tantrum, making lofty promises, embarrassing their parent or saying they hate the parent. these are all antics done in the hopes of causing a parent to buckle. as an aside, all child-currency has an inflated value in public. and the more public, the greater its rate. children who understand this principle of micro-macro-economics can often be a handful and are known as children who wield their currency with great expertise, getting the absolute most for their money.

the other night alex and i got into a row at bedtime. i wanted him to go to sleep. he wanted to invent things to delay his going to sleep. after threatening his currency he stood for a few moments and then turned to me and shouted, "FINE. THEN I WILL GO TO BED WITH NO STRAWBERRIES AND NO BOOKS!" after this outburst he scaled his ladder and threw himself into his bed and was asleep moments later. this would be an example of me using my currency with greater alacrity than he used his. while one may be inclined to gloat, i suggest your do not because we all have the occasional weak outing. like the time i threatened to take bella's play horses from her for a week. without a hint of emotion she suggested i take them for two weeks and offered to throw in all of her dolls for added measure. that was a solid counter-move on bella's part and easily trumped my dated notion of her currency. then there was this time when alex got me all twisted up:

alex if you don't put that stuff away like i've asked i'm going to take away your transformers toy.

i have a transformers toy?

uhhm. well yes. i mean, i thought you did?

can i see it?

i don't know. i'm not sure where it is right now.

what does it look like?

i don't think i know that either. maybe we should pick another toy.

ok. but if you see my transformers toy, can you show it to me?

uhhm. yeah. sure.

in reproduction, there are two kinds of impotence. there's the physical kind that doesn't allow you to have children and then there's the emotional kind that happens after you have children. the research isn't entirely conclusive as to which of the two is more psychologically crippling to the male esteem.

KIDS (permalink) 01.15.2009
buckle up, we've got some chop ahead
anthony has transformed from a stout toddler to a crotchety geriatric in just weeks. the way he swaggers about the house, the way he pushes away things he dislikes, the way he scoffs at certain foods, the way he furrows his brow if you misinterpret his grunts and growls, you'd swear this guy is going on 80 instead of six months from three.

the other night a sound stirred from sleep, i lifted myself onto an elbow to look into the hall for the disturbance. as i squinted at the poorly lit corridor anthony came strolling by eating a banana like he was walking through the park on a midday lunch break. i looked at the clock. it was 3:27am.

for a bit his nocturnal movements perplexed me. i knew he could get out of his crib but i did not understand how he was getting back in. to clarify, anthony sleeps in a pack and play. for those that know what one is, it may seem like a cruel accommodation, but please remember that he started out on top of a ping pong table. for those not familiar with what a pack and play is, it is a portable playpen and nothing more than a mesh-walled box with a thin plywood base covered with a padded mattress. since the playpen is slightly elevated anthony can easily get out by swinging a leg up on the side and rolling over the top bar. but this same elevation makes getting back in much trickier because the bar is too high for him to pull his body up and over when standing on the outside. one night seeing him head that way, i got out of bed and quietly followed him back to his room. from a distance i watched him. with great confidence and routine he climbed onto a wooden chest which sits a few feet from his crib. once on the top he stood fully upright and after just a flutter of hesitation jumped towards the edge of the crib. his initial grasp was uncertain but he fought his way up and over dropping to the inside and then dropping flat similar to how you or i might fall into bed.

i recently described anthony to someone as being very much like bella but a male version of our determined girl. they put a hand on my shoulder and said, "sorry dude." a more serious and heartfelt condolence could not have been given by this particular person. and i accepted it with an equally serious and wordless grace.

KIDS (permalink) 12.12.2008
in-house paparazzi
it was alex who woke me up. i had spent the night in his bunk bed. he had slept in my spot next to marty.

he told me it was saturday. he told me it was time to get up. finally relenting and beginning to move he told me that when i got out of bed he would be able to see my underwear. i agreed adding that the only reason he would see underwear at all is because i slept in his bed and not my own (i'm not devoid of respect). so the first thing i did on this particular saturday was awkwardly climb down a miniature wooden ladder while being taunted with a chant of 'i can see your underwear. i can see your underwear.'

what little energy i possessed at the moment was spent safely navigating the indiana-jones like ladder. once down the chant followed me as i groggily ambled to the bathroom. at some point i decided to see how long it would take for the taunting to die on it's own, naturally.

i thought using the restroom might put me over the hump but all that achieved was having alex pause to lean around to watch me pee. then the lambasting changed from 'i can see your underwear' to 'i can see your penis'. my penis was surprised by this early-morning audience. it certainly hasn't happened enough in its meager opinion. the cry continued until my penis went back into its quiet house on its even quieter cul de sac. back to the underwear chant.

things surely got to the point of intervention. i wanted to. needed to. three minutes in the morning are like two hours after seven pm. but i gritted my teeth. then i brushed them. and before my electric toothbrush pulsed marking the end of my brushing time, the chant was magically done too.

i was off to a good dad day.

KIDS (permalink) 12.11.2008
you better not clean up that room!

from the moment he thrust the envelope into my hands alex was bristling for me to open his birthday card. as soon as the card unfolded he burst into an excited explanation about his colorful composition. he pointed to the figure on the right and said it was me. he then pointed to the figure to the left and said that was him. he then said that i was being super freaked out by all the smart things he knew, which was represented by the blizzard of chaos swirling around us.

the reason my child would say i'm freaked out by his intelligence stems from a game i play in the house. i, on occasion, will act mad when they do things like learn something new or laugh extra big or outgrow clothing or say something smart. i cite house rules like 'there will be no laughter in this home! i forbid it!' or 'that's it, you can't go to school anymore!' or 'no more exercise for you. you're getting too strong!' to these outburst the children titter and coo and threaten to learn two things at school tomorrow or to eat more fruit the following day to which i act more irritated and refer to the unspeakable punishments they'll receive if they choose to defy me and become smarter, stronger or happier than their father. i'd be lying if i said i wasn't a little hopeful that i can milk this tactic through their college years.

KIDS (permalink) 12.05.2008
bella's farewall card to her student teacher

KIDS, FILM (permalink) 12.03.2008
when you're a big brother the old man tales start early
marty had the boys up to the library. she was flipping through some dvd's searching for our next movie night candidate. she spotted alex eyeing a rack of video tapes thoughtfully. anthony was next to him watching him stare at the tapes. after a moment alex turned to anthony, motioned to the rack of videos and said ruefully, "i watched these in the old times when we had a BCR."

KIDS (permalink) 12.02.2008
a movie so good you'll wet yourself to not miss a moment
over the weekend, we watched a movie from my youth, savanah smiles (Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear). it is one of those comic and heartfelt products of the 80's and leaves most normal humans welling up at the end. we watched it late on sunday afternoon at the tail-end of the multi-day thanksgiving break. a fire was warming the room and several neighbor girls were over. when marty announced the matinee was beginning, everyone raced to the living room and crowded onto the futon.

with less than ten minutes left in the film, and about two minutes from the tear-jerking climax the writers and directors had spent the last hour and a half working towards, one of the girls announced she had to go pee. the movie was paused and the girl ran with heavy and hurried feet up the stairs (i do think she tried to wait it out but nature prevailed). a moment after she was gone bella announced she had to go to and jetted up the stairs. then anthony fearing he was missing something, charged after both of them. some five minutes later muffled cries were heard from upstairs.

i went up. when i passed the kids room anthony was sitting on the floor playing with a puzzle. the muffled cries were coming from the bathroom. it seems anthony had swung the door closed on the girls locking them in (the door has no handle ... a victim of one of our three children). through the door i instructed bella on how to get the door open. after getting the door open bella loudly announced that the excitement caused the first girl to pee on her pants, the floor and herself. with this the girl stepped forward wearing the wet pants and looking sullen. she asked if she could go home to change. i said of course. she asked if we would wait to start the movie until she came back. i said of course. twenty minutes later we were all back on the futon ready to finish the movie. the heart-wrenching moment came two minutes later and surprisingly still hit its mark with marty and i. as for the kids, all of them were just curious why the characters in the film and the two adults in the room were teary. i told them it was because of the puddle of urine on the bathroom floor upstairs, an answer they accepted more easily than if i had told them the truth.

KIDS (permalink) 11.17.2008
money in the bank
if you hear bella or alex say the words - "anthony come here, i have a really great idea" - eight times in ten anthony will be crying inside of ninety seconds.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 11.14.2008
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
November 2008

KIDS (permalink) 11.13.2008
putting the rock in rock-a-bye
when i put anthony to bed it is obviously without the numma-numma's he gets from his mother. i understand his thirst because i share his adoration of numma-numma time with his mother. but sporting a lactation-free body, putting anthony down requires me to get creative, because as soon as anthony realizes i'm there to end his day, he balks. in protest he wriggles, contorts and folds awkwardly in my arms. if i try to put him down before he's ready, his body acts like an opposing magnet to the crib.

one night, testing reason, i pulled the shade of his window back. i pointed to the darkness outside and said the sun had gone to bed and so must he. he looked out the window, blinked a few times and uttered a soft and convinced 'oh'. seconds later, he voluntarily leaned towards his crib. i lowered him in positioning his body in the only corner of the crib he's ever slept in. he slid one of his legs under the mattress sheet (one of his nightly rituals), and pulled his blankets into his chest like they were a teddy bear or future spouse. the battle was done and won.

little humans are odd folk. what makes them odd is they have no powers of logic. logic is what separates little humans from full grown ones. and how much logic they are able to acquire in youth separates the odd grown ones from the not so odd grown ones. so work hard early. it's a temporary gig and pays the best dividends you'll ever see.

KIDS (permalink) 11.03.2008
i was dressed as a corporate sheep
friday was halloween. anthony was a clown. alex was spiderman. and bella wore a self-made costume announcing herself as a star princess. our neighborhood is one of the lucky ones where halloween is still alive. we on average get about a hundred kids. this year marty stayed to dish out candy and i ushered our cadre onto the busy nighttime sidewalks.

in saint louis, the custom states that you must either do a trick or tell a joke before obtaining candy. these days enforcement of the rule varies from house to house but it is best to have something ready should the human with the candy bowl challenge your preparedness. not yet verbal enough, anthony did a trick. it was jumping up and down. sometimes he'd give people one big jump and sometimes he'd give them a flurry of quick bounces. either way it went the little blonde boy in a clown costume hopping for candy proved to be a crowd pleaser. one thing we didn't account for while practicing anthony's trick in the living room is that he'd often be doing his antic while on the top step of a short flight of cement or brick stairs. we had no catastrophes but it did raise the thrill-factor considerably. alex told a joke. his joke was, 'what did the baseball glove say to the baseball?' after people would say i don't know what the baseball glove said to the baseball alex would animatedly give the punch-line, 'catcha later!'. when giving the answer he had this great verbal peak on the backend which always won smiles. a couple of times he forgot the answer. on these doorsteps everyone would stand waiting and alex would be looking at the ground thinking hard. if somebody went to say something he'd hold up his hand and say, 'don't tell me, i know it' which also was grin-inducing. in addition to making her costume, bella also made up all of her jokes. some i can remember ... how do you compliment a cat? you tell her she's purrrfect. or, how do you compliment a cow? you tell him he's utterly awesome. bella left the boys and i in the dust about three houses in to run ahead with some of the neighbor girls so i'm not sure how well it went over but given the size of her haul, she didn't get turned away from too many doors.

the one oddity of the evening was a full-grown man dressed in a spot-on michael myers costume, mechanics jumpsuit and all. (clarification: this is the halloween movie guy and not the comedic austin powers guy). this lumbering, man wandered the neighborhood and was obviously alone. he did not go up to any doors, nor did he talk to anyone, nor did he carry a candy bag. he just roamed the sidewalks and would occasionally stand motionlessly staring at people from a distance. more than once i found him staring at me. i held his gaze from across the dark street until he'd become engulfed by kids and parents racing by or my own kids would beckon me to the next house. when i'd turn to look back he'd be gone. then i would see him several houses later again looking at me or at seemingly nothing. i overheard more than one mom say that someone should possibly call the police about him given his seeming lack of purpose or belonging. i didn't chime in but will say i wish one of them took the initiative. that guy was freaking my chili out.

KIDS (permalink) 10.31.2008
a tough room
while reading to the kids one night, bella grabbed up a notebook and started making notes. shortly after this began alex realized bella was writing in one of his notebooks. alex tore the pad from bella's lap and immediately scolded her for the trespass. seeing how upset he got bella took the notebook back from alex saying she could fix the problem. her solution was to tear the page she used out so it was as if she never touched it all. it became apparent to both bella and i, slightly too late, that this was a far from acceptable solution by alex's estimation. his state worsened.
the next evening on my way home from work, i stopped at a bookstore and got alex a brand new notebook. it had dividers and pockets and a flashy cover (i'm very interested in supporting alex's newfound interest in drawing and writing). coincidentally, this was also the day alex got five shots at the doctor, so the timing worked out nicely in that the much spoiling happens for the kids on the one day in their life they have to shoulder five shots at the doctor's office. upon walking in the door he saw the new notebook sitting on the foyer bench. he picked it up and asked me what it was. i told him it was his brand new, very own notebook. he hooted, raised it in the air and ran from person to person showing off his perfectly pristine writing journal. when he came to bella she turned dour.

that's not fair. i don't have a notebook as cool as his.

it's ok hon. we'll get you one. but today he needed one.

well then that's not fair because now we have just the same amount and if you get her one then she will have more than me.

alex, she's older than you, you will find she often has more than you.

uhhh! not fair.

but what you have to realize alex is that is both good and bad. that means she has also had more pee than you, more shots than you, more poop than you, more choke-ups than you.

this fixed alex's funk but did not do bella's mood any favors. somedays this all seems rather un-winnable.

SOCIETY, KIDS (permalink) 10.29.2008
those ears may be little but they work just fine
someone recently asked bella who she would vote for if she could vote. she lit up and quickly said obama. when asked why she would vote for obama said that that mccain guy kills animals.

meanwhile, in another house in our neighborhood, a girl asked her father who he was going to vote for. knowing he held a minority voice in the community he broke into a long-winded explanation about all the things he considered when making the such an important decision and after taking everything into account he felt mccain was the right choice for him. after quietly shouldering his lecture and hearing his choice she asked him in a concerned voice if mccain won if they'd have to move. surprised he asked why she would think this and she said that all the mommies and daddies at her school say that if mccain wins they have to leave the country.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 10.23.2008
the ever shrinking everything

no one is going to accuse the bomb pop people of shaving the size of their product from year to year. if anything, the bomb pop may be the only commercial item that is actually getting bigger over time. i recently noticed that breyer's changed the shape of their ice cream containers. i haven't taken the time to compare the ounce count between the old and the new but this move has surely given me the sense that i'm getting less than i used to. so if the container's seeming dimensions are nothing more than a mirage and they aren't ripping me off, the new design choice is a rookie move because it's surely sending the wrong message. lucky for them their rocky road kicks the ass of everyone else's rocky road. and lucky for me bella doesn't like the chocolate covered nuts that are part of the mix and spits hers into my bowl whenever one makes it into her mouth. granted most that i get from her are bitten and broken and come with bonus food debris clinging to them.

KIDS (permalink) 10.22.2008
and now the great anthony will amaze and astound you by ...
anthony's latest and greatest physical quirk (someone recently reminded me of his earlier ways) deals with how he gets down off things. unless he is really high up in the air, like say on the top bunk of a bunkbed or sitting on a radiator, anthony doesn't jump off things, instead he just walks off the edge. the greatest example of this is if he's standing on the couch or a coffee table and wants to get down, he doesn't move to the edge and jump to the floor like most normal two year olds, he just starts walking to the edge and doesn't stop. once he hits the air he just kind of walks through space. when he hits the floor there is a little wobble but he mostly doesn't fall down. he just gets his balance back and keeps on heading where he's heading. it's very much like those old mister magoo comics where magoo walks through dangerous cities and construction sites and his path is always preserved by coincidental and happenstance events around him.

the best though is certainly when mothers not used to anthony's ways are over and see him about to walk off of something. upon witnessing the pending event their eyes grow big and they shriek and rush towards him to save the fragile innocent. by the time they get close he's already got boots on the ground and steadying himself as he jets past them as if nothing peculiar just occurred.

KIDS (permalink) 10.21.2008
the vices may be different but the thirsts are the same
if beer and porn are the staples of a young college male, candy and shows (tv) are the staple of a two-year old male.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 10.14.2008
anfer's latest antic
it begins with a full-frontal flash of any college co-ed's walking by our house.

then, the freefall.

nothin' but air baby.

the revelry

the recovery

verify audience acknowledgement

the return

wave to the fans

invite your father to disrobe and join you

flex for the cameras



KIDS (permalink) 10.10.2008
imagine her poor teachers
bella and i got into a row before school the other morning and were exchanging snarky comments from different rooms as we both got ready for our day. having had enough of this early hour angst i left the bathroom and stood at her bedroom door going into full-lecture mode. as i was talking i looked around the room trying to figure out which cranny she was hiding behind. three sentences into my tirade bella's voice magically appeared behind me as she emerged from my room headed into her room. as she passed me she mockingly said, "i'm not even in there, dude."

and once again, this physically diminutive girl stole all the wind from this grown man's sails. just imagine how screwed i am when she's not so diminutive.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 10.09.2008
what you've come to expect
in tumult of everyman season it has been days, possibly even weeks, since i've been able to talk about pee, poop, choking up or bodily excretions of any sort. so, recognizing this, lets get it on.

last weekend we went camping. alex used a true outhouse for the very first time. and i'm not talking about one of those city-park, johnny-on-the-spot deluxe models but a full-fledged, hole in the ground, shanty outhouse. marty walked him in and he slid up on the seat. seconds later his face screwed up and desperately looked to marty exclaiming, "ohhhh mom! what is that horrible smell?" marty gave him the dope. alex lifted a cheek and looked down the well, staring right into hades itself. after that, alex moved his bowels in record time.

on the walk back to the campsite, alex asked how outhouses were made. marty detailed the obvious process. you dig a hole. you make a seat with an opening. and then you cover all that with a wooden shack. alex had great concern for the person who dug the hole. he feared it may have been a one-way trip. while i would have ran with that, marty explained how they probably have a system to get the human out of the hole before it's all put to use.

the next day alex scurried up to me saying he had to go. i knew there where real brick and mortar accommodations with running water a few miles away. i borrowed a bike and carrier from one of our camping mates and raced alex to these nicer facilities. after selecting a stall he stopped at the commode and pointed at two (clean) squares of toilet paper floating in the water and said this one was ucky and he'd need to find another. it's nice to see he's inherited my uncompromising and unmovable demand for standards. although the 50's dad in me was tempted to throw him back in the bike and make him use the satan-toilet again.

meanwhile, back in our neighborhood, alex's two primary playmates were eating mushrooms they found in the front yard of one of their homes. after learning of this trespass, their mothers called the doctor and were instructed to give the boys the throw-up medicine. after a quick run to the store, the two boys spent the next few hours of their saturday sitting together on a front porch puking into buckets in some grotesque community production of stand by me. unsurprisingly, alex was sorry to have missed this unique moment with his friends.

and then after returning home, bella called out in the night to report an accident in her bed. it was the classic thought i was going to pass gas and got more than i expected sort of episode. marty cleaned her up and changed her sheets. two hours later it happened again. while marty was cleaning up round two i approached bella while she was on the toilet. she looked up to me beaming with elation. when i asked why she was so happy she said mother never made her go to school if she might poop her pants.

and lastly, while standing in the tub for his bath last night anthony peed at his own will. i don't know who was happier, his parents or him.

i think that should get you all up to speed on life in my home. as you can see, it's just business as usual.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 09.22.2008
instead of dessert
it started with a post-dinner, pre-bath diaper change. of the number two variety. in some regards this (pre-bath) is the ideal time to change a diaper, but in others (post-dinner) it is the absolute worst.

i stomached my way through the turgid mess just like you'd expect from an involved father of three. i tossed the diaper in the bin, stood anthony up and pointed him to the bathroom and his running shower. but instead of turning left as he should of, his naked buttocks turned right, went into my room and slammed the door. it seems he was interested in an impromptu round of hide and seek. i checked the water in the bathroom and then went to my bedroom door. just as i started pushing it open i heard his tiny voice excitedly call out "poopf! poopf!" as i've discussed previously, poopf means one of two things; book or poop. i cautiously swung the door open hoping anthony would be holding a raised book to me. no book.

the good news is that human feces is essentially the same color as natural-stained oak wood flooring. but this is one of those rare situations where the bad news is the same as the good news. wooden floors in old homes are chock-full of seams and crevices and cracks. while the residual cudgel blended nicely with the floor's color as i scooped up what i could, i knew there would be a later price.

after picking the freshly-fallen toddler-fudge off the floor i agitatedly picked anthony up by the armpits and carried him to the bathroom holding him out in front of me like he might shoot a fecal dart at my chest. i stood him in the pedestal sink and told him to hold still. i pulled a fresh wipe out, wrapped it around my fingers and turned him so i could clean up the fun that remained before placing him in the tub. i learned something about the human buttocks in the next ten seconds. when someone is standing their butt cheeks are much more firmly clamped together than when they are laid out flat. so much so that if you try to run a delicate towlette through the small crease it will tear and rip leaving the end-user unprotected. thus, when my fingers re-emerged from that hidden crevasse, that is exactly what i saw, my fingers and not the thin, cloth material i had covering my fingers. i never knew this detail about the human body before. and i'd like to say the world was a less scary place when that was the case.

KIDS (permalink) 09.16.2008
i say go, you say team. go! team! go! team!
a friend of mine who teaches second grade in colorado sent out an email a few weeks back sharing some results of a test she gives her incoming kids. this particular test evaluates the students giving insight to what kind of year she has ahead of her. i thought about giving the test to bella but the other night at the dinner table she used the word 'tavern' in a story after which i asked her if she just used the word 'tavern' to which she said yes. i then asked her if she knew what a tavern was and she exasperatedly said that of course she knew what a 'tavern' was ... father. i'm not looking for any more reasons to document how bella is going to be far smarter than me before she's driving a car, so no unnecessary testing for her.

this question/answer bit also reminded me of how much i adored (and now miss) the old candid camera interviews allen funt used to do with elementary kids. truly wonderful.

note: (my friend's comments are in the parens)

Question: Don't cry over____________________.
Hoping for: "spilled milk"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • who gets to go first
  • the rodeo
  • "hoo took the last cookee" (the spelling made it funnier to me)

Question: Keep your____________________.
Hoping for: "fingers crossed"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • hands to yourself (most common)
  • shirt tucked in
  • hair neat
  • backpack zipped

Question: Two heads____________________.
Hoping for: "are better than one"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • over one head
  • make two
  • bumping
  • are funny
  • looks weird
  • is a double
  • better seeing

Question: Eaten out of____________________.
Hoping for: "house and home"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • eggs
  • the wrong plate
  • a bowl
  • a bag

Question: Better late than____________________.
Hoping for: "never"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • ham (???)
  • than early
  • than sorry
  • for the train
  • "I always say"
  • nothing

Question: You can't teach____________________.
Hoping for: "an old dog new tricks"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • a chicken
  • someone how to eat
  • a teacher when they're teaching you (deep)
  • fish
  • a wild bull
  • yourself
  • "divizzinn" (division)

Question: Where there's a will____________________.
Hoping for: "there's a way"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • there's a will not (my favorite)
  • there's a pill (hmmm?)
  • there's hope
  • there is happiness
  • there's a try

Question: Don't judge____________________.
Hoping for: "a book by its cover"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • fair people
  • talent
  • a judge

Question: Easier____________________.
Hoping for: "said than done"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • than pie
  • is good
  • than harder
  • than going to bed
  • to play
  • the better
  • is easier than hard

Question: Turn over____________________.
Hoping for: "a new leaf"
Instead, some of the responses:
  • and roll
  • and wake up
  • the pancake
  • papers
  • on your side
  • and turn around
  • your life

KIDS (permalink) 09.12.2008
sidewalk friends
a gaggle of neighborhood girls rounded the corner down the way, marched right up to my front door, passing me reading a book on the porch, and started walking into the house.

whoa. whoa. where are all of you headed?


who do you want?


she's not there. she's next door.

then we want to get something.

what is the something you want to get?

(the girls pause and look at one another.)

just something.

you ain't going in until you can be more specific.

ok. bella told us that we should come down here and get her diary.

(they again turn to go in.)

whoa! whoa! for something like that you need a wax sealed note from bella in her handwriting telling me that is what you need. and without that you can't go in or have her journal.

after looking to one another for inspiration and finding none, they about-faced and storm-troopered back around the way in as stately a fashion as they had come.

that night at the dinner table i told bella of my encounter. she was vexed at this near violation of her personal space and quickly announced her rules for who could look at her diary:

nobody but you or mom can look at it. not even alex. not even friends i heart and write sidewalk notes to.

in a hundred days i could not have expressed her criteria more eloquently or succinctly myself.

QUOTES, KIDS, ART (permalink) 09.10.2008

square 1: this is my dad
square 2: and this
square 3: plus this
square 4: but this is my real dad

my dad is the best dad in the world. my dad is a goofy guy. i like when he plays ogre. it is fun. you have to run away from my dad. if you are caught the other people try and save you. he tickles you sometimes and then you are in jail or the other thing is that he just tags you and you're in jail. my dad is awesome and jokes around a lot.

art and copy by bella, my new marketing manager

KIDS (permalink) 09.09.2008
like gay porn but with many more penises
while neighborhood kids were rampaging about the sidewalks last weekend, a lady from a few doors down pulled me to the side to tell me that her son and daughter (both of which are good friends of bella and alex) had a conversation at their dinner table about how long alex's penis is. after apologizing for the topic, i explained that this misperception is nothing more than an illusion of length given alex's healthy and present foreskin.

as for why alex's best friend knows what his penis looks like, it seems they have come to that brief age where showing your penis to a friend is good fun. as for why the girl knows i'm not too sure in that neither of the boys seem to yet be at that not-so-brief age where they enjoy showing their penises to girls instead of boys (should that be the side of the fence they happen to fall on).

and, after recently catching alex with his hand in the cookie jar, marty asked him if he was ok, in that wonderful 'i'm not judging you' tone only moms seem good at. he said he was fine. marty added that the way he was rooting around in his pants she was afraid he may have lost his penis and we'd have to get him a new one. he assured her he hadn't lost it but added that if he does he wants one that looks like his friend's. i don't know that a higher compliment from one pal to another pal exists.

KIDS (permalink) 09.05.2008
the early rat-race
last weekend i spent some time with bookpimp's son peter who turned two on sunday. peter and anthony are just a week apart so it's interesting to see another child so close in age. people say children develop either cerebrally or physically first, but not, or rarely, both. peter is a mental kid and anthony, well anthony likes to do swan dives off bunkbeds.

my favorite peter-mannerism happened when i first met him saturday morning (he was asleep when i arrived the night before). when i finally woke and came down the stairs, peter's mom announced me by asking him who was here. peter immediately scurried to hide behind his father's leg, eyeing me suspiciously. when i said hello he raised one hand cupping it over one eye, kind of a half-peekabo move. he watched me with his free eye for a few moments before the toy he was playing with re-attracted him. i seemed to be considered ok enough from then on.

peter's favorite word is yes which he answers to just about any question posed to him. knowing this proclivity bookpimp likes to ask him things like (in a deep, ominous, churchy voice) 'peter. do you renounce satan, his works, and all of his evil deeds?' to which peter will say 'Yes!' as brightly as if he were just asked if he wanted another piece of candy.

conversely anthony says no to just about any question asked of him. knowing this proclivity i like to take him on conversational passages like 'anthony, is there a better father in the world than yours?' to this anthony gives an adamant No! i will follow by asking him if he thinks his mother is doing a good job making lunch. this earns an equally convincing No! as well as an ever-ready eye roll from marty.

anthony's third favorite word, behind no and mama is 'poopf'. poopf used to solely refer to his bowel movements but somewhere along the way has come to also refer to books. the only way to tell which he means at any given moment is wether he is pointing at his bottom or at a bookshelf. although he sometimes points at me when saying it and i hope there is a third, as-of-yet undiscovered meaning because i don't look or smell much like a oversized dr suess book.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 08.28.2008
big-bad world
the girl made her hand into a ball and threw it at another girl's face. and blood came out of her nose.
a child's awe-struck recounting of an event at her first week of kindergarten.

KIDS (permalink) 08.27.2008
carnival of dogs
for our last movie night we watched a film about a family who found a stray dog and kept it. some weeks later the dog had six puppies. the father who was in marketing and worked a lot of hours insisted that the children give the puppies away in that they didn't have time or money to care for so many dogs. the family protested but he stood his ground and the dogs were given away. through the tumult of these events the man came to be fired from his job because he botched an account.

after this happened i paused the movie and asked the kids what they thought the man would do. the kids turned the question to me asking what i thought the man would do. i said i thought he would open his own company and win the account back showing his previous employer that they shouldn't have fired him. bella then said that she thought he would get all the puppies back, train them up and then have a carnival of dogs that would make him richer than he was before.

bella's outcome was so exponentially better than mine. and, i wish the filmmakers had thought of it as well because the story would have been more entertaining to watch had the story taken bella's counsel.

KIDS, SOCIETY (permalink) 08.26.2008
the question: what does bella call a woman who wears makeup?

the answer: a decorated lady.

the example : yes, that's the same kind of dog that decorated lady in the neighborhood has.

makeup has an odd existence in our home. marty wears it once or twice a year and each time she does i recoil at the sight. upon seeing me cringe she immediately launches into a defense of her battle-paint saying if i realized how little make-up she was actually wearing i'd feel stupid for making such a fuss and if she really went to town with it and did what other women did i'd faint from the end-product. to this tirade i always say the same thing; "so, does all that mean you're not going to wash it off?" to which she always adds "no and if you make another snide comment i'm actually going to put more on."

i have marty's three older brothers to thank for how little she really wears it because the first few times she ever tried using make-up her brothers harangued her relentlessly asking her if she got those black eyes at school and who beat her up and if she was going to be a raccoon or batman's sidekick robin for halloween.

given all this you can imagine how elated i am that bella already finds such matters mockable and i just hope she continues finding it so because she doesn't have three older brothers to help me with that life-lesson.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 08.22.2008
and a dinner-party was born
alex had playdate yesterday. it was a girl who is four. we don't know this girl too well and she's never been over before but she will be in alex's kindergarten class next year and marty's trying to get some familiar faces for him so the transition will be less shocking. they picked the girl up after dropping bella off at school. upon returning home marty got them playing and went upstairs to get dressed in some more official gear (bella usually gets dropped at school by people still wearing pajamas). after putting on underwear marty turned and found the girl standing outside the door looking at her. slightly startled she stood up straight. the girl asked marty:

were you going commando all morning?

uhhm. no.

do you know what commando means?

uhhm. yes.

it means you're naked under there.

it is not possible for me to want to meet this small child's parents any more than i do at this precise moment.

KIDS (permalink) 08.19.2008
just another eventless weekend
friday bella had her first sleepover where she was the host. the neighbor girl was the guest and she was remarkably polite. after loaning her some batteries for a cd player she listens to while going to sleep, i explained they were rechargeables and i'd like them back in the morning. she looked at me and said quite naturally, "why of course." and when marty told her that if she needed anything in the night she could come into our room and wake one of us up and we sleep right over there across the hall. to this, the small girl said, "marty, i know where you sleep. i almost know this house as well as i know my own house. it's like my second house."

saturday alex and i spray-painted his bike. it was everything he could do to depress the nubbin at the top of the can and given this there was no way he could push that and direct the spray at the same time but he stayed insistent on doing the work. so we would rest the can on the workbench or ground and he would put his body's full weight onto the top of the can, firing the mist in the general direction of the bike or wheel or accessory and i would move the part through the spray attempting to coat it as directed. in the end, this method worked to transform alex's pink and purple bike to a preferred green and black. it also worked to effectively cover me up to the wrists in green and black paint as well.

on sunday, we celebrated anthony's birthday. every time anyone would say the word birthday around anthony, he'd start blowing in the air as if he were blowing out birthday candles. and on this weekend anthony uttered his fourth-ever phrase. it was "close the door". with kids bursting in and out of the house all weekend, he heard marty scream those phrase through the house no less than forty times. if you're wondering, his first three phrases were mama, bella and poop (although poop sounds more like poof but is not to be mistaken because of the way he points a finger at his soiled and smeared ass while saying it).

KIDS (permalink) 08.11.2008
feeling rich.
saturday alex's training wheels came off. we were probably four or more months overdue with this but my knee surgery prevented my helping with the running alongside period of training. on the good side, when you over-wait this particular skill, kids hit the ground running, rolling and quickly flying.

we had friends over for dinner on friday night and the dad ran up and down the sidewalk with alex a very generous number of times (much thanks jk). during this alex looked very good so the next morning i pulled the training wheels off his bike (he had been practicing on bella's bike). by this time i just had to give him a slight push and he'd take off for about eight houses worth of sidewalk and then stop. i would walk after him (in that i still can't run or jog) and when i'd get to him we'd turn him around and i'd give him a push back the other way. after about three rounds of this when i was walking toward him he got tired of waiting and pushed off himself and shot right past me as if there was nothing odd about this new development (aside from a monster grin of pride on his face). and that was that. within the hour he and i were off for an hour plus bike adventure all over a university campus next to our home. there are many tree-lined, wide, twisty and smooth sidewalks to explore and on a saturday in early august, not many people. this was one of those special moments as could be seen in the perpetual smile spread across alex's beaming face as his little legs churned and pumped him with greater velocity and confidence with each conquered section of campus.

when we would pass a walking student or visitor alex would brightly say hi as he zoomed past. his hi's are very matter of fact. and alex rarely passes anyone without throwing one out there at them. he does not yet know that this ritual greeting is an optional part of society. unsurprisingly most people are startled by this small boy's resounding hello, especially when that 37 pound super-tanned, smiling kid is flying by on a tiny bike in his first hours of true two-wheel cycling. i like trailing behind and watching the dazed people come out of their stupor, orient their eyes to who just said hi, smile genuinely and then almost as an afterthought say hi back to the small boy who is already well past them.

our kids are pro-hello people. i reckon they picked this up from marty and i but they've been like that from the start. when bella and alex were both still in the rickshaw carrier and i would ride them through crowds of people they would wave and greet the throngs as if they were royalty being charioted to their regal home. in telling marty about alex's first ride out, she recalled once when she and the kids were driving through forest park (stl's central park) bella was counseling alex on how he should yell hello out of the window at all the people walking, roller-blading, running and biking. in showing alex how it was done, bella was yelling hi's and hello's to people out of her window. then the car passed a wedding party taking photographs in front of a fountain in the park, bella from the moving car screamed out of her window, "NICE WEDDING!"

for all the rigors of parenting, the payoffs are quite substantial.

KIDS (permalink) 08.07.2008
our generation's duct-tape
before having children i'd used super-glue about four times in my life. since having children it shares equal prominence with the milk.

KIDS (permalink) 07.31.2008
top of his class
tuesday night anthony woke up around 2am. while soothing him back to sleep, i witnessed him achieve two milestones.

first, he heard audible gas (which may have possibly come from me) and pointed at me. up until this instance whenever he heard a puff of flatulence, anthony always pointed at his own behind thinking he was the only guy walking around capable of such feats and wanting to make sure anyone within earshot recognized his clammy diaper as the source. i understand this infantile narcissism mostly because this is not a milestone i can yet claim.

and secondly, he found gas funny. not only did anthony point at me after the jet, he also chuckled at its wispy sound. considering the amount of sport he is sure to have with this biological necessity for the next twenty to thirty years, i consider it special that i got to see his face crack its first fart-related grin.

KIDS (permalink) 07.28.2008
hard fun is the best kind of fun
if i were ever tasked to teach a class on parenting it would be short. i would walk into the classroom and write the following bullets on the chalkboard:
  1. put any material things you really care about in long-term storage. if you feel you can't live without them, visit them on the weekends.
  2. if you feel yourself getting really angry, leave the house until you are no longer really angry. good things/decisions/memories never happen when people are really angry.
  3. learn to breath through your mouth, exclusively. this doesn't become hyper vital until your child stops nursing and starts eating the same things you eat. but start practicing the skill early. when it becomes relevant, you'll be glad you did.
once you've read and understand the above points, you are free to leave. oh, and one last thing, your children will one day understand more about the world at hand than yourself, respect them accordingly.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 07.25.2008
may direct your attention to the bathroom where alex will astound you by ...
bella and alex shared a bath last night. when this happens they usually ask to play in the water for a bit which i'm glad to allow because it provides me with a few extra minutes to ready myself for battle. i left the room telling them they had ten minutes to play and then i'd be back to wash them. upon walking by the bathroom at the six minute mark i heard bella ask alex to hand her his scrotum. i paused in the hallway considering an intervention but concluded that alex would not be able to fulfill this peculiar request. and if he could, i didn't wish to be in the room when it happened.

KIDS (permalink) 07.18.2008
like caring for a gremlin with ADD
when bella was a toddler she was a climber and defiant and adventurous which made her a handful for her parents, especially two new parents. fortunately there were two of us and only one of her which i'm convinced is the only way marty and i survived those early years.

when alex was a toddler he was compliant and gentle and happy. there's not much to say here, the boy was born smiling and never has really stopped, and this even with a big sister hitting him and bouncing books off his head.

anthony. well, for starters anthony has a code-name. his code-name is silverfish. it is silverfish for what i think are obvious reasons. silverfish was coined when our family was invited to brunch with friends. they have two children of their own, live in a house that is finely appointed and has many circles, nooks, crooks and crannies. at first marty and i were having trouble keeping tabs on anthony and one would think the other had him and you'd hear a crash in another room and the other would say they thought he was playing with the kids and the kids would say he was there a moment ago but now he is not. so a tracking system was devised. if anthony was playing in the room with the other children and he left, one of the other kids had to yell as loud as they could SILVERFISH IS IN THE WIND. this would alert marty and i and our hosts to quickly try to find anthony. when he was found the finder would yell I'M ON SILVERFISH. if that call didn't come soon enough frantic shouts went out that sounded like DOES ANYBODY HAVE EYES ON SILVERFISH to which frantic NOs would ring through the house. in the end this system held up and kept all the valuable art and decor in tact which meant our friendship could remain in tact. the busy day ended when one of the children called out from the playroom SILVERFISH POOPED HIS PANTS.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 07.08.2008
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
keep it down up there

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 07.07.2008
a photographic triptych




KIDS (permalink) 05.29.2008
honey, where's my underwear? and, where's my pants?
all of our kids have gone through a fascination with our home's laundry chute, but none of them have been as passionate or industrious as anthony. when anthony decides it's time to send the laundry down, you're lucky if there's a single stitch of clothing left on the second floor when he's through.

to begin, he swaggers to the bathroom and pushes, pulls and wills the rolling laundry bin into the hallway right next to the chute's small door. once there, he yells and grunts until someone places a step-stool in front of the chute so he can reach the hole to start throwing stuff down. when he gets towards the bottom of the rolling bin and unable to reach any more items, he gets off the step-stool, tips the bin on its side, climbs in and emerges with a few items at a time. he then climbs back onto the stool and makes them vanish in the wall. when the bin is finally empty, he rolls it back to its place in the bathroom. he then roams the bedrooms looking for any garments lazily cast about. once all the loose and truly dirty clothes have been dispensed of, anthony expands his rules of selection. when unsupervised, an ajar dresser drawer with visible clothes in it fall into anthony's 'eligible for cleaning' collection. granted when he finds such a stash, he crouches before the drawer, peers in and says, 'whazzat?', before pulling it open and looking brightly at the newfound stash. he methodically delivers the fresh and folded stacks of clothes one armful at a time to the chute. in the event his thirst is still not slaked he has been known to move on to drawers that were fully closed ... but easily opened.

for the record, doing laundry has never bothered me, but when half your weekly wash includes unworn and folded clothes, such antics become much less adorable.

KIDS (permalink) 05.27.2008
summer fun
friday was alex's last day of school. i have a tradition that on a kid's last day, i take the day off work, pick them up when they are released and we go out on a special father son/daughter adventure. last year alex and i rode the metro/subway down to the arch and went to the top. this year, i had initially planned on taking alex kite-flying for the day because he's been super keen on trying a new kite he got for his birthday. that was my initial thought but a rainy week dashed those plans. so late in the week i had to scramble to come up with some indoor options. this is what shook out.

alex likes sushi. or rather he has always liked miso soup a bowl of sticky rice with a bottomless dish of soy sauce. this year he actually ate and enjoyed a piece of sushi. it was an ebi (shrimp). he even asked for a second. during our lunch he told me that when i asked him where he wanted to go to lunch he picked sushi because he knew i would like it. i told him that was not what the day was about and he was supposed to pick where he wanted to go. he then told me that he just wanted to go to a place i wanted to go to because that would make him happy. he's too precious for words, even a father's words.

neither alex or i knew anything about speed racer. i've never seen a single episode of the old show and alex hadn't even heard of it. but what made this moment poignant was alex had never seen a movie in a movie theater. in checking the listings the day before it was really the only (age-appropriate) thing that looked worthy of a man's first walk down the dark aisle. other than being greatly distracted by all the video games in the lobby, alex enjoyed his first movie-going experience. we almost lucked into a private viewing but two other folks showed up for the 1pm showing. this prevented alex and i from kicking back like royalty and talking just as if we were in our own living room.

(this was an optional part of the plan given the weather but the clouds broke while we were in the movie making it possible.) my family spends a lot of time at the big city park near our home. this park houses the city zoo, a golf course, museums and lots and lots of green space. there is a complex waterway that runs through the park and there is a boathouse you can rent canoes or paddle-boats from to cruise through the network of ponds. whenever the kids see people out on boats they always ask if we can go and we've always answered, someday. this is because we are usually headed somewhere else in the park and it has never been our destination. on the way there alex kept asking what the next part of the adventure was and i kept responding that it was a surprise. after entering the park, every time we'd pass a place he'd ask if that was it. when i stopped the car in front of the boathouse his eyes lit up and he asked if we were getting a boat to go on the water. i told him that was the plan. i watched him in the rear view mirror as he excitedly looked out on the water and pumped his fist and said, 'yessss!'. that there is called 'price of admission'. being in the boat is way cooler than seeing the boats pass by because you get to wend your way through the various streams and you get to go under the fancy stone bridges and you get to paddle close enough to the sky-rocketing fountains to feel their mist and touch their jets. it was all rather spectacular until i told alex we had to turn back. he wasn't ready. not even close. and, he protested as much saying he wanted to keep exploring. i explained it was time and we had to meet mom, bella and anthony for a night event. slumping in the seat he said with great exasperation that it was still his day and his time.

and this is the unfortunate lesson all parents and children must repeatedly face. the end of fun, innocence and special milestones. fortunately for this memory, the day that actually happened was far better than the day that was originally planned. i don't often get this lucky and because of that i'm quick to know when i do.

KIDS (permalink) 05.21.2008
yeah, mine too buddy. mine too.
so alex doesn't feel left out of the loop during this week of sharing penis-centric tales, the other morning while i was eating breakfast in the kitchen, out of nowhere and with no surrounding conversation alex called out from the living room. all he said, rather loudly, was, "my penis is swelling!"

boy. what to say to that? i didn't even know where to start and in the name of competent parenting i chose not to start. i mean i did have to get to work that morning.

KIDS (permalink) 05.20.2008
you're going to need that later son.
when anthony gets mad he does one of two things and which thing he does depends on whether he is dressed or naked.

if dressed, his face freezes in that pre-cry tremble. anthony is somehow able to hold a cry off for a very long time, like five to ten seconds long, but when it breaks, it breaks big, and at that very moment he quickly turns and dashes to his bed, if upstairs, and to the bottom step, if downstairs where he stays fixed until the emotion passes.

if he is naked when the anger hits he reaches down and grabs his penis, testicles or if super upset, both. he kneads the poor and undeserving flesh with a merciless roughness. sometimes it is so hard you can see mashed portions of scrotum or foreskin bleeding out between his clenching fingers.

this defense affects me far more than marty. she simply waits him out thinking he, like all men, will eventually tire of touching their boy parts at some point. i on the other hand am quick to meet his demands because somehow, someway i can feel what he feels through a cosmic, genetic connection. damn transference.

KIDS (permalink) 05.15.2008
when 1-2-3 doesn't work
last night marty asked me to put the kids down for bed. alex and i got into a battle over his bath. it culminated with him refusing to get out when he was finished. while on crutches i'm a little impotent to put any teeth to threats about removing him physically so i told him if he wouldn't get out he could just go to sleep in there. twenty minutes later i went down to the kitchen where marty was cleaning up.

i have good news and i have bad news?


the good news is alex is asleep.


the bad news is he's naked and sleeping in the bathtub.

in the end, i'm not entirely sure who won this grudge match but i do know i don't feel like i'm standing in winners circle.


KIDS (permalink) 05.08.2008
black-hawk down
i chatted with bookpimp the other night. he has a son, his first, who is one week younger than anthony. we were comparing what sorts of stuff they were doing. for me these conversations are a little awkward because anthony has chosen to put all of his eggs into one basket, the basket of destruction which as a parent isn't a highly pride-inspiring skill to get to boast on.

bookpimp was commenting on all the words his son knows. when he asked about anthony i had to report that anthony didn't have any words. not yet. but he is very good at hand signals. although, they aren't the typical cute baby gestures for MORE and DRINK and PICK MY ASS UP. anthony's appear to be more of the marine commando ilk. if anthony wants you to follow him, he grunts softly to get your attention then raises his arm in the air and pumps it downward making a fist at the bottom. it looks most like the arm gesture young kids use to get truck drivers to honk their horns. if he wants you urgently, he repeatedly pumps his fist and grunts louder. every time anthony does this and bella and alex are nearby, i expect him follow the initial signal with a series of complex finger gestures and motions that would equal "you take out the little one and i'll flank back and garrote the larger one. on my mark. three. two. one. mark." in my mind, after this complex instruction, he would then crouch and begin stalking his prey.

well this is what i told bookpimp of anthony's progress. he told me this made him feel better because another friend of ours who has a child a bit older than us is saying stuff like "look mommy, there's goes a big garbage truck, and the men on the back look quite morose." dang first kids. the morning after my depressing chat i was brought from slumber by anthony bouncing a metal car on my face saying "wuz this? wuz this?" without opening my eyes i pushed him away telling him to go ask his mother.

so pimp, i guess anthony does have some words after all. but for the life of me i can't imagine why his language isn't flourishing more. like my advice to him, perhaps i should go ask his mother.

KIDS (permalink) 05.07.2008
i love it when a plan comes together
we celebrated alex's fifth birthday last week. already, his christmas & next birthday gift list are six items deep. he is our consumer. bella on the other hand only wants two things, books and a horse. she reads so ravenously that i couldn't afford to keep her in books any more than i could afford to stable a horse. fortunately marty and the kids are mainstays at our local library, usually having between 40 and 50 books out at a time.

given our children's differing approach to material things, i employ different tactics in buying them presents. for alex, i try to buy him small, inexpensive things that are meaningful and insightful to show him that presents don't have to be grand or numerous to be special. conversely i tend to get bella bigger things to try to show her that there is more in the world than an animal that requires its own domicile and stable-hand.

this year i bought alex two presents. first, i got him a movie he super-adores that we've only ever been able to get on VHS (from the library). since we no longer have a tv or vcr we haven't been able to watch it except when we go to visit grandparents. i had to search deep in google's listings to find someone that sold this thirty year old documentary on dvd. the other thing i got him was a fishbowl nightlight that caught his eye about six months ago when he and i were out shopping. as a rule, we typically don't get the kids impulse baubles while out, but he never let go of this particular item. every few weeks he'd ask me if i remembered that really cool fish-light we saw. i would say i did and that yes it was pretty cool. dreamily looking out at nothing, he would re-affirm the sentiment saying, "yeah, that thing was really cool." so i got him that and when he opened it he gave me the five-year old version of the 'you remembered' look.

i expected him to plug that shiny, glowy thing into his room and admire it often but this gem has gotten far more play than i imagined. before going to bed he always makes sure it is on and working. then he will lie down and look at it a few moments before turning over and drifting away. in the middle of the night when he changes the room he's sleeping in, and he almost always changes rooms, as he walks out of his room, he yanks his nightlight from the wall and carries it with him in his sagging arm. when he gets to the room he plans to bunk in, he searches out an empty plug (or empties a socket for the need) and plugs his fish-light in before crawling into the already occupied bed and drifting back to sleep.

i don't know if my psychology will pan out in the end, but i like how it's starting.

KIDS (permalink) 04.29.2008
and he demands naps.
i didn't post yesterday because i was fast asleep by 8:30pm sunday night and didn't wake until 7:45am the next morning. i slept stupendously. i was finally stirred by the only guy in the house who got more sleep than me, anthony. he was three minutes into his day and already on fire, walking around pushing things over, opening dresser drawers and flinging delicate objects against the wall. he came at me with a toothy smile thirsting for a tickle fight. and you know what i did? i smiled back. i smiled before my morning shower, tinkle, coffee or bran muffin. it was at this grinning moment i saw the secret to his blissful existence ... sleep. well, that and not taking any shit or voluntarily doing anything he doesn't want to. and well, there's also his screaming like a wild man when he is hungry and the food item of his choosing is not immediately before him. but aside from those few sticking points he's quite a happy chap.

in fact he's so happy, he doesn't even care if he's got a marbled ball of feces tumbling around his diaper pushing and contorting against his miniscule butt cheeks. if you can have that mess going on and still crack a smile, i think it's clear you've got your world figured out.

KIDS (permalink) 04.07.2008
pillaging families for more than forty years
saturday alex had a birthday party to attend. i was tapped to take he and a neighbor boy, sebastian to the celebration. sebastian lives a few doors down from us and is one of alex's favorite pals. the last time i took the two of them out, we went to a local attraction, the city museum, for the day. when it was time to head home, we had lost sebastian's shoes. when i delivered him home, i told his parents i had good news and bad news. the good news was i was safely returning the eldest son. the bad news was he no longer had his shoes. this saturday after his mother buckled him into his seat next to alex, she turned to me and said "and don't worry about his shoes this time troy, i put a really ratty pair on him." i appreciate human sensibility.

the party was leagues away. the birthday boy chose chuck e cheese as his locale and the closest one was several zip codes from us. between the distance and a highway closure, i ended up horrifically lost. a trip that should have taken thirty minutes took us over an hour and at our most remote point we were driving through farmland and at one point even found ourselves in the middle of a forest. when we were shrouded by trees i found the boys staring our of their respective windows, fascinated. this was about forty minutes into the trek and one of them asked:

how much longer will it be until we are at chuck e chese.

uhhhm. well a few minutes ago i didn't know where we were, but now i do which means we are no longer totally lost. so that is good. and based on where i think we are, i'd put it at ten minutes away.

turns out we were twenty five minutes away but the moment i walked into this children's mad house, i yearned for the uncertainty we knew only a half hour ago back in the woods. in surveying the dark, cavernous room, i concluded i haven't been to one of these since i myself was alex's age. furthermore, i think i can sum up the day by describing three scenes:

scene one. the birthday party is sitting at a long table watching a video of people singing happy birthday. there are four other such long tables to our right and left. a commotion behind us causes all of the seated adults to crane their heads to see the source of noise only to spy a huge costumed rat walking towards the stage with a mob of children parading behind it. in the melee i see a child launch himself from a chair onto the rat's back. the kid looked like a miniature version of tom cruise acting out a scene from the mission impossible series. post-jump, i recognize the kid as being from our neighborhood. i looked to his mother who was sitting across the table from me. she looked both drunk and high:

lori, i think your kid just attacked the rat

LORI (smiling as though she didn't hear my comment)
i feel like i'm in a movie. i've never been here before. this is surreal. i don't think this is really happening to me.

she never acknowledged the fact that her son was chewing on the rat's tail and madly punching his right buttock. based on the rodent's non-response i think the high school kid wearing the costume either couldn't feel the assault or found it inconsequential compared to the fact he was currently wearing such an ill-fitting and socially-damning getup.

scene two. throughout the day the hostess of the party gave me over 150 gold tokens for the two boys i brought. at first i thought this would be far too many but learned it was possibly not enough. there was one game that had you deposit a token. the game would then shoot the coin into the air where it would land on one of three terraced metal trays. on the trays were the coins shot by previous players and behind the coins were several mechanized bulldozors which cyclically pushed at the coins. the goal was to land your coin in a spot that would cause the shovel to knock a bunch of coins off the tray. alex quickly fed five coins into the game. he then looked up at me and asked why nothing was happening. my eyes widened.

alex! what do you mean nothing is happening. don't you see it shooting your coins in the air?


well why'd you keep putting money in.

i don't know.

you should figure out what's happening with the game before you pump a bunch of coins into it.


after i explain the premise of the game, he becomes excited and pushes coins in faster than the game can launch them into the air or he can watch them fly. it turns out the best game of all is seeing how fast you can insert your fistful of coins into one of the machines.

scene three. i am sitting in a race car game. alex is on my lap. he needs me because he can't reach the gas pedal. i can see sebastian playing another game to my right. regarding alex's game i just keep the pedal pushed all the way down so i can watch sebastian. alex spins the wheel madly. occasionally a sultry sounding woman's voice comes through the speaker, "what are you doing? you are going the wrong way." she sounds annoyed ... but sultry still. without looking at the screen i tell alex to turn the car around. he asks why. i tell him he's going the wrong way. while we have this discussion i see a kid who looks about nine hovering behind sebastian. sebastian's game has spit out a bunch of tickets, which he hasn't noticed because he's focused on the game. the nine-year old reaches down stealthily and tears the tickets loose and stands to walk away. and this becomes the next thirty seconds of my life:

HEY! YOU! YES YOU. GIVE THOSE TICKETS BACK TO THE BOY! turn the car around alex. GIVE THEM BACK TO THE BOY! cuz the sexy lady said you're going the wrong way alex. STOP TAKING LITTLE KIDS TICKETS! you're still going the wrong way alex. APOLOGIZE TO THAT BOY! SHAME ON YOU! turn the car around alex.

at the end of the day the kids have collectively won just over 300 tickets with their 150 coins. before leaving we go to the prize counter to learn that they can have a plastic spider ring or fluorescent sticky worm that will cling to walls. because the two boys are not insane, they have no interest in either of those crappy baubles. the perky girl showcasing the prizes tells me that i can pay the difference between the ticket value and true cost of the toy if i'd like. they kids pick a ball game they can play together. my cut comes to more than twice what we would have paid for such a toy at the k-mart next door.

the moral of this longish story is this. if you have any money to invest, buy chuck e cheese stock because they have somehow figured out how to run a nearly criminal operation under the guise of a legitimate business. they are geniuses. their patrons are not.

KIDS (permalink) 04.02.2008
say it, don't spray it.
you may recall me mentioning a discussion i had with a man who asked if i had yet crossed streams with my son while urinating. at the time of the question, i had not. the gleam in the man's eye told me he found this to be one of those father-son moments he looked forward to and now cherished.

last weekend i joined the club. marty's voice called up the staircase announcing breakfast. this woke both alex and i. we got out of the bed we were sharing and together shuffled to the bathroom. wordlessly we stood side by side before the toilet, unsheathed and began to urinate. we directed our torrents around the bowl in a haphazard way. after a moment, the streams touched, crossing magically, if even for just moment. alex looked up to me, about to speak. i cleared my mind waiting to experience a moment i knew i would forever remember. alex's still tired face caught my eye and said ... "dad, stop splashing me."

the man who turned me onto this milestone did say i would remember the first time i crossed streams with my son. he did not say why i'd remember. he just said i would remember. he was right.

KIDS (permalink) 03.28.2008
can you find the fecal-noun in the sentence
the good news is we've got alex to stop calling people poop-head. the bad news is he's simply replaced the term with poop-things which is kinda even worse because previously the insult was quite specific. now he waves a hand in your direction and says 'you are poop-things dad. a lot of poop-things'. now it's not just my head but all of me and and not only am i just a turd on a pair of shoulders but all sorts of defacatory-related things as well. not a good place to be for a guy like me.

i fear we brought this upgrade on because of how we tried to defend 'poop-head' by saying that all 'poop-related things' belonged in the bathroom. it's actually quite keen of him to discern that there are more than just poop-heads in this big and great and mysterious world.

KIDS (permalink) 03.06.2008
that would be seven years of diapers also
it was seven years ago today that marty and i entered the parenthood game. time, it do fly.

KIDS (permalink) 02.26.2008
you've been served
marty woke up 20 minutes late. i woke up 30 minutes late. what we were waking up late for was sunday brunch. guests were arriving in less than an hour and we were still bleary, un-showered and food-less.

marty made it to the kitchen first but was slowed down because alex wanted to help her make the custard french toast and bran muffins. after getting the fire going, i was soon hobbled by anthony nipping at my heels while working on the bacon. bella was yelling something indecipherable down the stairwell. the phone rang. it was marty's mother calling from florida. marty left her food station to gab ... for twenty minutes .. while i juggled food and humans. bella appeared in front of me seemingly out of thin air. she stretched her hand out forcing on me a full-size sheet of paper. once in hand, she turned on a heel and marched back upstairs. i read enough of the page to see it was a set of demands. i tossed it to the side and continued my circus act. marty hung up the phone minutes before our guests arrived and when she walked them into the kitchen made some crack to the room about how i should be cooking the bacon differently. our new audience was about to get a marital show-down, and i said as much, but comically announcing the point brought enough levity to pull us out of the spousal nose-dive and we went on to have a wonderfully homey and smiley day with friends.

after stomachs were full and the general fervor ebbed, i noticed bella's note on the counter. she was now beyond her funk and running about the house with her visiting playmates. i took the moment to read her text in full.

i decided that my webkinz is being cramped in their bed so until i can play webkinz again i'm staying in my bed and i will only come out when a movie is in or to play on the computer.

p.s. if you want me to come out you'll have to let me play webkinz again.

i'm hungry.

daddy cereal

for mom and troy
from bella

the true source of her angst is apparent given her use of "mom and troy" in the closing. bella lost her computer privileges a few weeks back and has been fretting for the webkin horse she received for christmas. for the uninitiated (read spared), you care for your webkin pet in this online environment, routinely giving it love and food and toys. after meting out the restriction i had a premonition that when bella did again log onto the website, she'd be met by a decaying, fly-covered horse carcass with cartoony fumes coming out of its sunken abdomen. another parent told me this is not possible in that the site is quite liberal with children's oversights and the worst she'd find is a pouty and tearful version of her horse. i think this is just another example of how our society is coddling our children to unhealthy degrees and years from now when bella finds some neglected real-life-pet molding in the bottom of an aquarium she will surely express surprise if not complete shock. and when her crest-fallen face turns to me for answers i'm going to be the one that finally delivers her the truth, "you should have stuck with those bullshit webkinz."

KIDS, HEALTH, HYGIENE (permalink) 02.19.2008
genetics only take you so far
monday morning i popped the top to my deodorant and found a gash through the typically smooth, glisteny surface. upon inspecting it closer the mar appeared to have been made by two small teeth. it would seem anthony is broadening his culinary horizons.

anthony has proven to be a bit of a problem for marty and i. with the first two children we just let them put into their mouths whatever they felt compelled to and let them learn first hand the reasons not all things are meant to be eaten. the first time i saw anthony play with a bar of wet soap in the tub, it wasn't long before he raised it to his mouth and took a bite off the corner. i quietly watched his face wrench up waited for the waxy chunk to drop out of his opened mouth. but instead of pushing the morsel out he lifted the bar back to his mouth and took another bite. i hope he's not a cusser because it looks like the classic punishment ain't going to have much teeth with him.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 02.08.2008
that's not how mom does it
marty is the maker of breakfast in the morning. while i finish getting ready for work i can tell what kind of day it is by the smells wafting up the stairs. many times it is oatmeal or fresh bran muffins with yogurt. sometimes it's plain ole cereal. but on lucky days french toast or pancakes make the cut. i descended the stairs on a french toast day, speared a couple of slices and readied my plate. bella soon followed doing the same. marty was upstairs finishing with the boys. before bella dug in she said:

mom usually ties my hair back before i eat syrupy things.

oh. what does she use?

i don't know.

as it turns out, i don't know either, which marty was quick to smirkingly observe when she entered the room.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 02.07.2008
all before morning coffee
lately marty has been sending anthony in to wake me in the morning. reason is he is better at it than anyone else in the house. in trying to get me to play with him he hits me about the face, perches himself on top of my head hoping i'll try to make him fall and/or buries my face with books, toys and clothes. yesterday he woke me by trying to force a plastic car into my mouth. very effective that. i groggily sat up, patted him on the head and moved to the bathroom.

i mindlessly turned the shower on and walked to my office giving the hot water a chance to start its day. anthony waddled behind me at each stop hoping i'd toss him in the air or read him the book he held in his hand. as i leaned over my desk typing my password i felt something on my foot and looked down to see an arc of pee coming from beneath his unbuttoned onesie and landing on the top of my foot. he looked up at me proud and smiling. from my up-high view i didn't notice that he was diaper-less. my mind tried to remember if before cramming the matchbox in my mouth if he had sat on top of my head that morning. i couldn't be sure. while still watching the stream i let go a throaty "AAAAAAHHHHHHGGGGG!" hearing my exclamation marty innocently called from downstairs, "is anthony peeing?"

on the good side, i couldn't have been in a better place in my day to get pissed on. i was already naked and the running shower should have reached a steamy state by now. when i finished washing my foot five times (and my head twice just in case), i pulled the curtain back to find alex standing in the bathroom. his pants were around his knees and he was fumbling with the front of his underwear.

hey dad! look at this?

what am i looking at alex?

i can pull my penis out of this hole in my underwear.

well yes you can. and it's only 8:12 in the morning.

do you want to try to pull my penis out of my underwear?

not today pal. i gotta get ready for work.

standing in the kitchen, i quickly ate a bran muffin, got dressed and headed down to take the kids to school. as i descended the stairs alex was standing in the foyer with his pants, again, at his knees and showing his new trick to the rest of the family.

look mom. look della. i can take my penis out of my underwear through this hole.

(the girls bend and crouch to see the action)

i see that alex. now can you put your coat on for me.

no. wait. one minute mom. do you want to do it?

no. i don't need to do it alex.

della? do you want to do it?


no. bella doesn't need to do it either. please put your coat on alex. you're going to be late.

i wish i had a penis. (bella said in her saddest voice)

while not as noteworthy, this day held like surprises for me throughout. but i absorbed them all with a broad grin thinking at least these humans weren't smilingly dousing me in fresh urine, nor were they offering to let me bend and contort their penis through a too-small and not-straight-enough passage in their jockey briefs. you can't keep a man with this outlook down. it just can't be done.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 01.29.2008
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
no secrets

KIDS (permalink) 01.24.2008
Ed Okin can't sleep
it was 12:30 at night. marty was reading in bed. her hand lazily reached to her right softly scratching my back as i drifted towards the ether. in the night silence came a wooden thump on the other side of the house. and then another. and another. they were steps. heavy, labored steps that neared our room. i opened my eyes to see the sweet tea in the mason jar on my bedside table dancing like the puddle in Jurassic Park moments before the t-rex arrived.

in our doorway appeared a sleepy isabella, pushing wild hair out of her face and rubbing her eyes. once her face was fully visible, she said ...

Mother! Go To Sleep!

she then turned and heavily-marched back to her bed. you could hear her collapse into bed two rooms away. back to silence.

the next morning alex reported having a dream where his toes got cut off with a pair of scissors. i said it was a weird night all around. i asked him who cut his toes off. he said in an exasperated voice ...

i told you already dad, my dream did.

KIDS (permalink) 01.22.2008
no, he's not drunk, he's just trying to get his shirt off.
alex hates changing clothes. at night, he battles to sleep in what he wore to school. come morning, he fights to wear to school what he slept in. it's quite easy to see what a sinister cycle this is and we've yet to find a loophole in his logic. he's got all his bases covered and you simply have to hope for a serious spill in the kitchen or some mud-sport in the backyard to soil his outfit to the point that even he doesn't want to wear it anymore.

one downside of alex's war is he's not very good at dressing or undressing himself because he's only got a quarter of the practice/experience a boy his age should have. one upside of his obsession is i could watch him try to take a long-sleeve, pull-over shirt off for hours. you just have to keep him clear of the stair-case.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 01.17.2008
my sentiments, quite exactly.
alex stood quietly, watching me peel potatoes for dinner. the potatoes were wet and i was fumbling them in my hands. i started getting frustrated. i took a breath about to mutter something when alex spoke up:

aahhhh. you gotta be kidding me.

i looked at him and smiled. that is definitely something i mutter on a near-daily basis. he never took his eyes of my hands and continued to watch me struggle. after a few more minutes of slippery spuds i drew another breath and alex shot out:

son of a beeeeaaaannnn.

you see i usually catch myself before i finish that one and it would seem alex has surmised the word i've been omitting is 'bean' given the way i end up elongating the letter B. when the kids are a bit older i bet we could make a sporting game out of guessing the swear dad or mom would use given various scenarios.

KIDS (permalink) 01.16.2008
they're not hairy either
when i stepped out of the shower i heard marty and the kids leaving for school. in the mornings i either take bella and alex to school myself or give hugs and kisses to them as they leave for the day. today i was wet and in a towel when i heard the front door slam. i ran to an upstairs window, opened it and shouted goodbye as they walked towards the car. alex returned the sentiment and bella turned paused and then shouted, loudly, "will you please shut the window! i can see your big, fat nipples!"

i can say with the full confidence that my nipples are neither big or fat. i just don't know how to say it with confidence to the neighbors who surely heard bella bark the information through the quiet morning street.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 01.15.2008
more from the lens of alex's new camera
i call this two-shot series photographed by alex "EVIDENCE".

KIDS (permalink) 01.11.2008
most flawed plans have quite simple fixes
alex had a playdate to the house yesterday. when the boy's mother came to pick him up she asked alex if he would like to come and play at their house. alex said that he wouldn't need to come to their house because he wasn't going to let the boy go home. the woman smiled at alex's cuteness and continued her departure. minutes later as she ushered her son to the car, alex stood on the front porch and screamed, "if he leaves, i'm going to take my penis out!"

i gotta say, i never had great luck with that threat either. i think a smarter approach would be to take it out and threaten to only put it away if your demands are met.

KIDS (permalink) 12.14.2007
it's the name-calling, biter you gotta watch out for
when my sister-in-law was exiting a store with her three year old, he spied a nearby baby, pointed at it and started loudly screaming, "stupid baby! stupid baby! stupid baby!" some hours later she called marty to commiserate about the incident. of course none of our children ever hurled insults at hapless passerbys from the red cage of a target cart. our children much preferred biting them. i mean, i've seen insulted kids not cry. the same cannot be said about freshly bitten ones.

the stupid-baby tale supports a theory i have about parenting: it is not the parent's job to mold the human, it is the parent's job to keep the human alive until adulthood. we come much more wired than i think many seem to acknowledge. for instance, we didn't teach bella to bite kids who touched her crayons. she just did it the first time it happened. as parents it's our job to teach her not to bite crayon-curious playmates because one day she may bite the wrong one and they, in turn, will eat her. we will have then failed her as parents.

another thing not often acknowledged is the full psychological rigors that come from life with children. sure, people say it's hard and it's this and it's that, but not many people talk about their honest emotions when coping with the frustrations of children. what previous experience prepares you to look at a stranger and say 'yeah, sorry my kid called your baby stupid. i'm sure he's not that stupid, you know, being a baby and all' or to make the phone call saying you're glad that the bite didn't break the skin. parenthood will for sure test the most patient and capable out there.

when marty is at her breaking-point she goes into this deep-breathing trance. she told me that during it she thinks about the child (in question) when they were still in infancy and still cuddly and toothless and wordless. a few moments of this helps her re-enter the heat of the fracas less likely to take someone (in question) out.

thinking about the past doesn't work for me, i have to think about the future. when i start unraveling, i say the three letters F and S and U, repeatedly. what FSU represents for me is the day in my future when i deliver my child to a university to begin their college education. i pick FSU, or florida state university, because it is far away and because it strikes me as a party school (two characteristics that twist the knife a little extra). so i imagine driving my child halfway across the country, unpacking their bags and boxes and then briefly inspecting their room. i imagine myself sitting on the couch of their room during the awkward last few moments. i imagine marty standing by the door gesturing for me to get up. i imagine my child not nearly as aware of the import of the moment as myself. i imagine that tighter than usual hug and a longer the usual kiss on the cheek. i imagine the hollow chasm in my chest when the dorm room door closes and i imagine the deathly silent walk to the car.

so when i walked into the living room six days ago and found the christmas tree toppled on its side ... FSU. and when i walked into the living room three days ago and found the christmas tree again toppled over on its side ... FSU. and when i walked in the door from work tonight and found our christmas tree fallen yet again ... FSU. and when i asked alex what happened and he said "anthony just looked at it and it fell down" ... FSU.

and now just even typing out how many times the christmas tree has fallen over the in the last week ... FSU.

KIDS (permalink) 12.07.2007
the puppet-master
when i'm the one who reads to the kids at bedtime, one of three things happens:
  1. bella falls asleep first.
  2. alex falls asleep first.
  3. i fall asleep first.
last night was a number three night. when a number three night happens one of three things occurs:
  1. some time later, marty kicks me in the feet and tells me to get up because i'm snoring and it's keeping the kids up.
  2. i wake in the middle of the night lodged uncomfortably between the two sleeping children.
  3. after about thirty minutes i stir on my own, get up and resume my evening.
last night was a number three night. i woke with a start and lifted my head. alex was asleep on one side of me and on the other bella was sitting up reading a book in the dark. she looked at me guiltily knowing she was not to be reading but either sleeping or trying to go to sleep. i was about to say something when she brought her hand directly towards me and started scratching the top of my head. my face fell back on the pillow and i was back asleep in seconds.

everyone in my family knows there are few things i like more than having my head scratched. seeing bella's hand come toward me in my groggy state reminded me of a movie scene where an addled patient wakes momentarily only to see a blurry vision of a doctor's hand depressing the plunger of a syringe returning them into darkness. after an unknown period of time, marty's voice talking on the phone downstairs woke me again. as i lay there, i'd hear bella occassionally turn a page in her book (my face was looking away from her). she was not scratching my head but if she sensed i was starting to wake up by my movements or breathing her hand would mindlessly return to my head and scratch it a circular pattern giving me another dose of medicine while she continued to read.

marty ended her phone conversation and started coming up the stairs. bella stopped scratching my head, snapped her book shut, slid it under her covers and (i'm sure) laid her head on her pillow in a closed-eyes, angelic pose. all was still when marty passed the doorway. i then heard marty in the ping-pong room typing at her desk. back out came the book. after a few minutes i lifted my head. bella again looked at me guiltily. i put a finger to my lips (shhh sign) and got up. i leaned in, kissed her on the forehead and thanked her for my head-scratch. she softly said 'you're welcome' and i left her.

i'm certainly in no rush to have my first child grow up but can honestly say i'm ravenous to see what kind of adult she becomes.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 11.27.2007
why one is the messiest number
alex is peeing standing up. in watching him feel his way through this transition, one side of me wants to step in and counsel him on how he could do things better. another side of me sees how little i've come in 35 years of peeing upright. my own lack of progress keeps me both quiet and humble. truth told, there is really only one mistake he routinely commits that i never do and that is resting his penis on the rim of the bowl while he goes. of course the only reason i never do this is because my stuff doesn't reach the bowl. if it did, i'm sure i would take, and i don't think i'm alone here, the occasional break from hefting my phallus through the daily and arduous affair and just let it laze about on the cold porcelain while it does its deed.

people who own them and women who are married/living with them know of the variety of potential urinary misfires. i liken their haphazardness to those strobe light balls at dance clubs that randomly shoot multi-colored lights out of a spinning orb? when urination goes wrong it is a bit like that. but, instead of light they shoot fluid and instead of different colors they shoot variant types of streams (i.e. hissers, splitters, arc-ers). it's hard to get on a kid about this because it happens to grown men as well. when it occurs the best i can do is tell him to shake it, or whip it, or hit it, or tug it. while the approach seems mildly unscientific, it is the best we've got. reason is, penis flakiness happens with such pure unpredictability it's virtually impossible to study proper. so when it occurs your mind simply reacts and thus the shake, whip, hit and tug approach.

at a dinner party last weekend i mentioned our home's new kid-trauma to a fellow father. he has two older boys and asked if my son and i had yet crossed streams. i looked at him a little askew wondering if he forgot what a piddling four-year old was like because at the moment if i'm in the same room with him when he sets up, it is a mistake or an oversight on my part because i need a doorjamb between me and him until his reaction time is a little more in the sub-second range. i told the guy i hadn't yet had the pleasure. he looked at me nodding slyly and said "it's pretty cool the first time you cross streams with your boy. it's pretty damn cool."

something that makes all the random sprays and mystery puddles worthwhile is one of alex's more unique rituals. when he's done, he reaches to his left grabs some toilet paper, dabs the tip of his penis, drops the square in the water, pulls his pants up, runs his mits under the water, dries them on a towel and proudly exits the bathroom. what makes his routine unorthodox is that he doesn't tear the toilet paper square off of the roll before pulling it over to blot his penis, meaning that the next person to use the bathroom finds the toilet paper elegantly draped from the wall holder and into the bottom of the commode. you just gotta hope you've arrived on the scene before the toilet water has leached its way up the paper strand and into the full roll. admittedly, if the moisture does reach the source and i'm the first on the scene, i'm going to quietly make my way out of the house and ask the neighbors to use their facilities so i don't have to be the one to swap out the soggy roll in our home's only bathroom.

KIDS (permalink) 11.20.2007
living in the red-light district
when we drive away from our home, alex turns in his seat to get a quick final glimpse of the house and spiritedly calls:

goodbye our house. goodbye trees. goodbye della. goodbye mommy. goodbye anfunee. goodbye.

it's all very sweet except that the first goodbye comes out sounding more like "goodbye whore-house" than it does "goodbye our house" which slightly soils the cuteness of it all.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 11.15.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 11.08.2007
marty and i do demand excellence
our house has been caring for a one-legged cricket named jumpy. bella found him struggling along while she walked home from school. once home, she and alex prepared vast accommodations housing him in a large glass aquarium (suitable for a guinea pig) with cardboard huts, tunnels, water dish, and vegetable pieces. i dislike these sorts of games because of the kids perfect record in caring for living things. and that is perfect as in mortician-perfect, not hospital-perfect. a few weeks passed and jumpy was doing well. this was for sure a new milestone. he had even moved to the kids room and sat atop a dresser because, i was told, he got lonely at night having to sleep in the breakfast room all alone.

the other night bella and i got into a familiar spat about bedtime, the spat being it was bedtime and she did not want it to be bedtime. as she resistantly headed for the stairs she knocked some coats and backpacks off a coat-rack. i made her stop and hang them back up. she paused from her frustrating task long enough to say to me, "jumpys dead. i wasn't going to tell you because i know you don't like it when life dies, but he did so there."

i silently took this news in. i was silent because as a parent it is the right thing to do with a child's rage and because i was a little sad to hear of jumpy's demise. i was starting to like having him around. but i guess it was either that or the kids' perfect track record which is long enough now you sorta hate to see it get marred.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 11.07.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 10.31.2007
the brood

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 10.30.2007
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
october 2007

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 10.24.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
new mom

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 10.23.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 10.11.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS, FOOD (permalink) 10.10.2007
say it, don't spray it
when anthony is hungry and not getting what he wants, be it mashed potatoes or a drink of water or a spoon of oatmeal he shrieks like a pre-pubescent howler monkey.

when anthony is offered food he doesn't want, he waves his left arm wildly back and forth as if he's trying to karate chop any attempt to get it near his food hole (or mouth for those not accustomed to having their mouth called their food hole).

when anthony decides he is done with something he's already been given, he squeezes the morsel in his tiny fist, watching it bleed through his clenching digits. once the food is properly disintegrated he madly waves this raised fist above his head sending the little bits of food flying each and every way.

between the screaming, flailing arm and airborne food our kitchen oftentimes seems like a food processor is running full-bore without the lid on.

WEB, MUSIC, KIDS (permalink) 10.03.2007
this guy manages to convey in four minutes what i, in a embarrassingly curcuitious manner, have been trying to say for over five years. not only do i applaud this man's effort, i would like to offer to make for him some built-in bookshelves in his music room. and that isn't a joke. if you are this guy and you live in the continental united states, contact me. i'll be over. we'll share. we'll laugh. we'll bond.

thanks to all who forwarded it to me. i love it.

and for those who may have already seen the above, here's another, older pachabel treatment that clip reminded me of.

and, for any who don't have kids or a sense of humor, here's one for you

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.25.2007
actually, a dog-training suit may be more prudent

i feel sorry for the first guy to break bella's heart.

yeah, i hope he wears a cup to the discussion.

an exchange between a neighbor lady and myself while watching bella handle a surly playmate.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 09.19.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 09.18.2007
come here bella/alex, i want to whisper something to you.
tickling is a major staple in our house. we have numerous tickling games, tricks, ploys and methods. but we are also a house of rules and some tickle-related rules we have include:
  1. no tickling someone when they are going to sleep, sleeping or waking up.
  2. no tickling someone when they are eating or preparing food.
  3. no tickling someone when they are sitting on or standing in front of the toilet.
if i could only pick one of those to enforce going forward it would be number three, without question or hesitation. although number one is pretty sucky too.

many of these battles unfold a little bit like this:

alex, come here, i want to whisper something to you.

(alex starts walking towards me, albeit suspiciously. if bella's in the room her head snaps up and looks our way. if she's somewhere else in the house and heard my words she runs to the room we are in.)

ALEX! don't do it! it's a trap! he's going to tickle you.

(many times alex has already moved too close and i grab him up, throwing him over my lap, tickling him madly.)

ALEX (through great laughter)
DELLA! DELLA! help me della.

(and bella does answer but as soon as she arrives to save him i push him away and grab her up throwing her over my lap and begin tickling her.)


(and like bella, alex rushes to her rescue and i trade the kids out again. and so our game goes. sometimes i think the sport would go for hours but one, if not both of the children, in their excitement resort to hitting, kicking and biting to save their ally and they are big and surprisingly strong and their father is delicate so this is usually how the games end, with me massaging a bitten arm or rubbing a punched temple.)

KIDS (permalink) 09.14.2007
you've been served.
last night marty had her monthly neighborhood meeting. i arrived home from work late and when i walked through the door, marty handed anthony to me and walked out the door. after about an hour of uneventful play, i herded the younglings upstairs, brushed teeth, pajamad bottoms and asked bella to read to alex while i put anthony down. five minutes later while rocking anthony near his bed i heard music start playing from alex and bella's room. TURN THAT MUSIC OFF! I'M TRYING TO PUT YOUR BROTHER DOWN! the music abruptly stopped. five minutes later bella walked into anthony's room, handed me a piece of paper as if she were serving me a summons, turned and walked out. the note read:



   we are listening to music because it relaxes us.

   to troy dearmitt
   from isabella

after getting anthony to sleep, i went to look in on bella and alex. alex was asleep and bella was scrawling out a second note. i asked what it was and she handed me her tablet. the page read:



   a babysitter for 2 cute kids
   1. rosy cheeks
   2. plays games
   3. never gets angry
   4. gives treats
   5. smiles
   6. is strict
   7. is nice

   sincerely bella and alex

item number six was not initially scratched out. that happened when i asked her why she included number 6. IS STRICT. she asked what strict meant. i told her. without pause, she took the tablet out of my hand scribbled over the line and handed it back to me. this edit effectively removed the only qualification i could claim on her well-itemized job description.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.12.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.07.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
calling home

KIDS (permalink) 09.05.2007
smart ryan, feel free to stay scared.
yesterday's post about how bella would fight a kidnapper made me remember a moment she and i had at a show earlier in the month. i took she and alex to the touring Walking with Dinosaurs production (which by the way is super-great and if it comes through your town, go!).

before the day of the show i had prepared the children for what to expect. there would be life-size dinosaurs walking around but they shouldn't get scared because they were all totally fake and were robots and had people inside them controlling what they did and they wouldn't eat us. this preamble was necessary because marty terrified the kids on a water-park ride in denver called Journey to the Center of the Earth. this ride through dark tunnels had giant dinosaur heads swinging out from the walls. part of their motion involved convincing gestures of eating the occupants of the rafts zooming by. when our raft slowed at the end, both bella and alex were frazzled and shaken. given this recent experience when i first mentioned the dinosaur show to them they both shrieked saying, "NO WAY! i'm done with dinosaurs. not going!" had the tickets been inexpensive i would have skipped it, but they weren't so we were going, plus i wanted to see it. using my powers of persuasion (and promises of cotton candy) i got them on board and we went.

after the initial shock of having the lights go out and seeing the dinos enter the arena, the kids settled down and began to very much enjoy the show. alex lit up to the ones he recognized and bella gave alex warnings of action about to take place. i pointed out a funny bump on the top of one of the dinosaur heads saying it looked funny. bella in her matter-of-fact tone told me that was his nose and it was there because he was too big to run away and had to stand in water to avoid getting attacked and that 'bump' is how he breathed, like don't ya know dad?

towards the end of the show after the tyrannosaurus had been unveiled bella leaned into to me and said:

for that one (pointing to the t-rex) i think i would need two people for each leg, four for the stomach and two, no, three for the head.

bella, what are you talking about? you mean if you had to operate the t-rex that's how many people you'd need?

no dad, that's how many people i'd need to kill it.

i'm no child psychologist and therefore don't know what six-year old girls should be thinking on, but will stake my un-credentialed career on the point that military strategy is not an age appropriate behavior for someone wearing pigtails and eating sticky pink sugar. that said, does anyone know if west point has an elementary school and if so, are they taking late applications.

KIDS (permalink) 09.04.2007
just your basic feel-good dinner talk
at a weeknight dinner last week bella informed the table that our family needed a password. when asked what this was she went on to say that it's a secret word only our family knows and would use if we, the parents, sent someone to pick one of the children up. like if bella was walking home from school and someone pulled up saying, "bella, your mother asked that i take you home today." bella would ask them what the password was. if they knew it she would go with them. if they didn't she would not. this led to a lengthy discussion about what to do if the person didn't know the password. i suggested if the person was in a car, the child should turn and walk in the opposite direction and go to the closest home of someone we knew and ask for help. bella then asked what to do if someone didn't ask anything but just grabbed her. marty said, very succinctly, that she gave bella and alex full permission to do whatever they could to get away. kick, claw, bite, scream, punch, gouge eyes, you name it you can do it. bella then thoughtfully ranked her skills saying she was a great pincher and could kick hard and yell "YOU'RE NOT MY FATHER! THIS IS NOT MY FATHER!" louder than anyone else in the family. then she looked at alex and said "and alex is a great biter, especially with his zombie tooth." marty and i both turned our eyes to bella and said in unison "zombie tooth?" bella, getting her next bite of food together, said "yeah, his zombie tooth. that broken one in the front."

this would be his front-left tooth which bit the dust a few years back when bella, alex and i were leaving the pool. i mummy-wrapped a shivering alex in an adult sized beach towel and told him to follow me. when he took his first step, his feet got tangled in the towel and he fell forward. because his arms were pinned inside the towel given the snug wrap job i had done on him, the first thing to hit the pool-deck was his nose, the second was that unfortunate front tooth. when i picked him up he was a bloody mess and i didn't learn the extent of the damage until i delivered him to marty at home, still quite bloody. in the midst of her first aid she looked up and said "troy, his tooth is chipped." marty's a tooth-girl and was quite, well, pissed that i had wrecked her first-born son. she hot-lined the dentist and asked if there was anything we could do. while she was on the phone i was holding the still sobbing alex. she started relaying questions the doctor was asking. is it just the one tooth? is the gum-line bleeding? what color is the tooth?

can you see a bloody-pulp?

a bloody what?

MARTY (to the phone)
did you say bloody pulp? yes. where?

marty, i think i'm going to puke.

troy. look at the tooth. where it broke. are there blood and veins and stuff coming out of it?

oh my god, marty. tell them they're going to make me puke.

just look at the damn tooth troy! is there a bloody pulp or not!?!?

there was no bloody-pulp on the tooth which kept my puke-free streak alive. seeing how upset marty was through the rest of the evening, the next morning on my way to work i stopped at the pool and found the missing tooth piece. i put it in my pocket where it lived all day at work. when i got home i told marty to hold out her hand and dropped the little shard into it. she called the doctor back and told them we had the tooth chip asking if they, or we, could glue it back on. they said they could but didn't recommend it saying the cement would age and it would break off at some point probably when the child was eating and he would then swallow it. by the time marty told me this news i said that was good because i forgot i put the tooth back in my shirt pocket and sent it through the washer. even though it wasn't of use, marty was non-plussed about my losing alex's tooth a second time.

marty can sometimes not see the bright side of a situation, like how her son now has a cool and jazzy weapon against would-be kidnappers; his razor-sharp and smart-looking zombie tooth.

KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.28.2007
i know plenty of men who would appreciate such a cake.

as mentioned last week, anthony turned one. for each of her children on their birthday marty bakes and decorates a cake of their choosing for them. so far this year marty has produced spiderman and superman cakes for alex and bella respectively. for marty, these kitchen sessions usually run late into the night and if you listen very closely you may hear a naughty word or two ring through the dark and quiet house before the work is done. but this celebration, anthony's one year, would possibly be a swear-free event because being just one he couldn't request some exotic and complex animated character. additionally, our thirteen year old niece, emma, was spending the week with us so marta actually had kitchen staff.

when i arrived home from work the day before the party there was a pan cake cooling on the counter. it wasn't one of marty's typical molds. this cake was made of two simple round cakes. a larger one for the base and a smaller one, about half the size in diameter, for the top.

what is that?

it's anthony's birthday cake.

why'd you make him a giant nipple?

it's not a nipple.

then what is it?

just ignore him emma. that's what everyone else around here does.

this is not a criticism. i think a gigantic nipple for a nursing one-year old is quite thoughtful.

by the time the cake was presented the next night, the nipple-part of the nipple-cake had been lopped off and was being fobbed off as a second, sister cake. it was a worthy attempt, but insiders knew.



for all their efforts of deception, anthony still seemed keenly attuned to what was what.


and then there is the ritual i most dislike where the birthday child is allowed to eat their personal cake using nothing but their hands.


... and then even worse, feed their party guests, with those same sticky and soiled hands.


lastly, we finish the one-year birthday with a big-ole group shower. this detail usually gets left off the party invites because hallmark seems to be too fancy and proper to produce the one-year-old birthday slash group bathing party cards. hallmark, get over yourself already. it's 2007, the year of the nipple-cake.

KIDS, WIFE (permalink) 08.24.2007
a father's last stand is breached. it will never be the same again.
walking towards my office i hear a hushed voice say desperately, "he's coming! he's coming!!! Hurry!!!!" as i round the corner i see alex standing on top of the futon back with his hand deep into the front pocket of my computer bag and the neighbor boy, the one urging him to be quick, standing below him. both boys look to me, eyes wide and cheeks packed. earlier in the week alex saw me put a jumbo pack of juicy fruit in my bag. by visual estimation, i'd wager each child already had between four and six sticks of partially masticated gum crammed in their stretched mouths. this next stick would have surely been the difference between the 'fully struggling' and 'completely drooling' stages on the gum-chewing-effort scale. i shooed them away telling them it was rude to dig through other people's stuff and to stay out of my office. they ran off tittering like embarrassed school girls.

as i type this note to myself i can hear them on the other side of the wall already conspiring for their next run at my stash of gum. on the good side, i guess i should be thankful they weren't stealing peeks at marty's porn collection.






KIDS, PHOTO (permalink) 08.22.2007
pout for me daddy.
i'm leaning in the corner of my morning shower and am extra foggy because of a long night with a sick anthony. i notice someone enter the room which in a single bathroom home is not all that uncommon. moments later a young falsetto voice behind me says, "hey dad, say cheese so i can take your picture." this part would not be so common.

i did say cheese. i did not smile. then i offered a little lecture about how taking pictures of naked people when they shower is considered, by some in society, to be an inconsiderate and rude gesture. they left and i figured i would throw the disposable camera away, never having it developed. later that day, my thirteen-year old niece who was staying the week with us came to me and said, "uncle troy. have you seen my camera? it's one of those green disposables."


QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 08.21.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
flavored and scented

KIDS (permalink) 08.17.2007
365 days in, or rather out.

anthony turns one today. this makes it just about four days shy one year ago that marty and i walked into our home, labored to put three children to bed and collapsed glassy-eyed in our own room numbly staring at one another. one of us said, "what have we done?", the other didn't answer. over the years marty has told countless new mothers "it gets easier, don't worry."over the same period, i have told countless new fathers "it's temporary, totally temporary". we both slept that night with these missives playing, on repeat, in our heads.

and here we are already, with another one year old. what can i say about him? most notably, it's remarkable how completely different three biologically-connected humans can be. you'll get occasional glimpses that they belong together but much of the time it feels like i just run around yelling "where did you come from?" or "hey! you! are you supposed to be here?" in the end, you could slice many of these anthony-related moments into the following buckets:

the obvious things
the anthony scoot dazzles and tickles onlookers without fail. you ever hear the phrase 'money in the bank'? well setting anthony down in a public forum is just that, money in the bank. one unknown detail about his mode of transportation: the outside of his diaper is typically way dirtier than the inside, especially when what's on the inside starts finding its way to the outside, an unfortunate phenomenon that has recently come to pass.

the unexpected things
anthony is our first white child. while this was unexpected, it nicely rounds out our set. we now have one dark, one light and one white. i have friends who have joked about the uncertainty of my race saying that one day marty and i would have a child and the delivering doctor would catch a fully black infant in his hands, subtlety look at the nurse and say "we may be about to have a problem here." they would then hold the baby up so i could see and i would arms-open yell "heeeeyyy! my son, ohhh he's so beautiful." to which the doctors and nurses would retire to the corner of the room and whisper among themselves trying to figure out how i did not notice this child was black and i was not.

the inevitable things
when bella was little, if her pacifier touched anything other than her open mouth it went straight into the washer. with anthony, i've picked a paci up off the ground, saw something on it, brushed it off on my pants, looked again and still saw it, shrugged my shoulders and popped it into his waiting mouth. if we have a fourth kid i reckon we'll not even bother with store-bought soothers but instead just stick clods of dirt and other random small objects into the kid's mouth.

the problematic things
i'm an only child so watching two siblings interact has been quite academic. when things are good, it's spectacular. when things are bad, it's terrorizing. dumping a third child into this already heady equation complicates the math to collegiate levels. anthony often serves as a pawn to exacerbate, calm, excuse and manipulate situations between his older siblings. obviously the lion-share of his participation is not of his choosing and consequently causes him angst. it is not uncommon to hear a parent yell "bella/alex put him down. he's not a doll! he's a person who gets to decide where he wants to go ... now give him here, i need to change his diaper." it's also not uncommon for a parent to yell stuff like "stop standing on your brother, you're going to make him puke!" only to have them say "but, he likes it" and when you go to investigate, the little nut is laughing maniacally under the weight of his sibling to which you don't have much to say other than "well, just don't do it too long."

the satisfying things
not only does anthony not look like anyone else in the family, his demeanor is also quite unique. with bella, she looked like me and acted like her mother. with alex, he looked like a walter but acted like me. with anthony, well, he doesn't really look or act like anyone already living here. when left to his own, he's perpetually happy. lots of smiles. lots of giggles. our house was already jovial-rich but now we got a one foot high billboard scooting all about wearing a slobbery, indelible grin. it's warming. it also tempers a home otherwise rife with an ever-changing and frenetic energy.

happy birthday sir anthony. thanks for being something we totally didn't expect.

TRAVEL, HYGIENE, KIDS (permalink) 08.16.2007
i was having the weirdest dream

what follows are the first four things i heard coming out of my first night's sleep after my weekend away:
  1. oh anthony! you wiped poop on your dad.
  2. troy don't move. there's poop on your back.
  3. hold still or you're going to get it everywhere.
  4. oh crap anthony! you got it on the sheets too!
am i the only one to find it mildly interesting that marty expresses more dismay by discovering feces on her linens than on her husband. i mean she has at least two sets of sheets. sheesh.

if there is a good part to this story it is i wasn't actually awake through this and the commentary was only hazily registering with me. it wasn't until marty brought it up later that night that i turned to her asking, "you mean that really happened. shit." quite succinct on multiple levels.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 08.10.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
try again

KIDS (permalink) 08.09.2007
on saturdays i try to take bella and alex out on adventures. this is my attempt to reward marty at the end of her week. mainly it allows her to run something other than a zone-defense in her home, if even for a few hours. on the most recent outing bella and alex were in a bit of a competitive place. let me try to give you a sense of what two antagonistic sub-seven year olds sound like over a four-hour period:

37 x I won
38 x no, I won
10 x everything is not a race alex
8 x i'm not racing della
6 x how about you're the second winner alex
5 x dad, della is touching my shoe
4 x dad, alex is making faces at me
1 x dad, i have to go pee ... and poop
1 x me too.

and this is what the father of two sporting kids sounds like over the same four-hour window:

16 x bella, stop teasing your brother
15 x alex, stop provoking your sister
10 x do you two want to go home?
3 x i need everyone to be silent and still for five minutes
3 x the toilet paper goes in the bowl, not on the ground
2 x leave it on the floor, don't touch it!
2 x ahhh! i said don't touch it!
1 x i'm done. they're all yours. i'll be in the shower...

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 08.08.2007
it's a good argument for male bikini region grooming as well
the first compelling argument i've heard against sleeping naked:

there is a man. he is sleeping naked. his three year old daughter, having stirred from her slumber, foggily walks into his room in the middle of the night. she moves to his side of the bed. to hoist herself up, she reaches up grabbing a fistful of sheet in one hand and a fistful of her father's pubic hair in the other. she pulls mightily.

most anti-nude arguments deal with the scaring or scarring of children. they lack merit. a handful, even a three year old handful, of short-hairs viciously ripped from their root is merit, big ole wail-in-the-night merit.

editorial clarification: this man was not me.

KIDS, TELEVISION (permalink) 08.07.2007
tivo ain't so impressive without a remote
we are on our third tivo remote. the first one just wore out. bella broke the second one. and the current one began flaking out after two weeks of use. as it is, if the new remote sits idle for more than five minutes you have to take the batteries out and put them back in before any of the buttons will work. this is slightly aided by the fact that the battery compartment door went missing in the first week thus granting easier and quicker access to this routine.

miffed at how soon the replacement had been compromised and in a fit of 'why won't this damn thing stop fast forwarding' furor, i chastised the children telling them i wasn't buying another remote and if this one broke we were done and would live without tv. three days later bella in a wordless rage because the remote wasn't working ricocheted it off the corner of a coffee table. all the rubbery push buttons mysteriously disappeared somewhere inside the plastic case leaving hollow holes where they had been.

with football season around the corner and wanting to stay true to my word, two nights after the fall of the remote i disassembled the device on my desk and painstakingly put it back together. when done, i popped the batteries in and tried it. it worked. it worked better than before because bella's outburst seemed to have fixed the battery issue as well. small gifts.

for the next few days the rest of the family secretly used the remote when bella wasn't around, wanting her to think the days of television were in fact over. but alex got caught when bella came in from outside to use the restroom. later that same day bella approached me:

can i watch my show since i didn't really break the remote and it is working?

well bella, you did in fact break the remote and it is only working because your father is a great, great man.

so ... does that mean i can watch now?

do you think you should be able to watch now?

well, i haven't watched for three days and that's kind of a long time.

well, since when we thought you did break the remote you wouldn't be watching for infinity days, three days isn't so much.

BELLA (sadly)
yeah ... i guess so.

and for the sake of easier math let's say infinity days equals 1,000 days of which you are three days in. now what do you think is fair?

BELLA (contemplatively with finger on chin)
uhhm ... three weeks.


since i was expecting her to say four days, i was pleased with her self-imposed twenty-one. and, if you're ever at our house and want to watch tv, the remote is stashed in marty's underwear drawer. we originally hid it in my desk but bella woke me up one morning with it in her hand asking if her days were over yet so we had to relocate it while she slept.

and, in fairness i must add in regard to how our kids treat electronics i got some insight from alex after he and i sat down to watch a show. when i turned the tv on, a horrible screeching sound came out of the speakers. without a moment of thought alex got up from the couch, walked to the tv and struck it hard on the side with his little fist. in a snit i asked him what he thought he was doing. walking back to the couch he simply said, "that's what mom does" and sat down next to me. to his and his mother's credit, the shrill screeching did stop.

KIDS, PERSONAL (permalink) 07.25.2007
a series of threes
three things that put baby anthony immediately to sleep:
  1. the car
  2. the bike carrier
  3. the television

three things that make alexander weep:
  1. bleeding wounds
  2. people leaving the house without letting him push them on the buttocks
  3. bella touching him with an index finger

three things isabella does to agitate people:
  1. poking them with an index finger
  2. hiding their belongings
  3. pinching them in the groin

three things that make marty sleep deprived:
  1. her children
  2. the neighbors wind chimes
  3. season three of LOST

three things my kids do to wake me up:
  1. whispering
  2. tickling
  3. suffocation

TRAVEL, KIDS (permalink) 07.17.2007
we need a tent that can fit twelve personalities
regarding yesterday's sassafras post, there's more. i captured this series of images on the second morning of our last camp outing. when the first photo was snapped anthony had been awake for one hour. this means marty had been awake one minute shy of an hour. alex is about ten minutes into his day at this point and me, the shooter, about two minutes in. if marty looks chagrined, it's because anthony is a morning person and marty is not and by rule all non-morning people hold great contempt for all morning people, especially when they birthed them. anthony is the first such human living in our home and we're all still adjusting to his peculiar and inconsiderate nature.

shot number two is nothing more than further evidence of anthony-dramatics. he is our best shot of having a child do shakespeare professionally. also in this image, you can see the mayhem on the alex's left knee. he scored a three-inch slice from a rock while playing soccer with his uncle the night before. the real culprit here is a pair of shoes three sizes too big for him. they were passed down by his cousin and alex has refused to wear anything else since obtaining them. shockingly he somehow got tripped up in these man-shoes while playing soccer in the woods after dark. dumb luck that. who could have possibly seen that mysterious result coming? as a bonus prize, that foul looking tear on his knee was re-aggravated four times during our nine days in colorado and is just now on the full mend.

this third shot i simply call PLAYER. anthony's saving grace is his ability to take the form a very chilled-out cat when he feels the looks from the family (namely marty) are getting too derisive (morning-people haters) for comfort. you'll note this laid-back, street-corner look has markedly softened his mother's gaze.

and now if i can direct your attention to the left side of the tent ...

keep going ... just a bit more ... there you go ... here you'll find the real royal of the family. queen isabella doing what she's doing everyday at 10am since birth. you should know such skills are not acquired, they are inherited. this was my contribution to my daughter's core pleasure in life.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 07.13.2007
you're going to need another piece of chalk
two nights ago i was getting the kids ready for bed. bella was sitting on the toilet with a book spread on her lap, anthony was scooting around the bathroom floor playing with the closet door and alex was naked and about to get his teeth brushed. as i was working over the sink putting paste on the toothbrush alex called out "aaahhhh. anthony has my penis." i wheeled to see anthony with an outstretched arm sitting right in front of alex. he had pinched, quite heartily, the uncircumcised foreskin of alex's penis between his fingers and was pulling it towards the ground. i took a moment to react because i was astounded at how far anthony was able to stretch alex's miniature member. alex's shrieking turned to hysterical laughter and he started chanting "anthony has my penis! anthony has my penis!" to which i said "ANTHONY! let go of your brother's penis!" to which bella very sadly said "i wish i had a penis." when i yelled at anthony he let go and looked at me, smiling. i turned and sensed the score keeper in my brain writing the words LET GO OF YOUR BROTHER'S PENIS in neat letters on a chalkboard and then placing a single hash mark to the left of it. while this accounting was going on alex started gleefully singing his song again "anthony has my penis! anthony has my penis!" to which i again shouted "ANTHONY! i said let go of your brother's penis!" this bought me a second hash mark.

last night marty had to attend a neighborhood meeting which put me in sole charge of dinner and pre-bed prep. this exact situation is the reason the phrase "got his ass handed to him" was ever invented. truthfully, these evenings can go a couple of ways but most often you hear a lot of "you always let us watch tv when mom isn't here" or "when is mom coming home" or "that's not what mom would do". last night actually went ok. i brought dinner home with me removing one of the obstacles. after dinner we walked down the street where in the summertime there is always a legion of little humans running around half naked while parents sit on stoops sipping wine. on this particular night the kids scored some of those glow in the dark bracelets like you see at amusement parks and carnivals. i let them run wild until they started to get shiny and then ushered them home for baths and bed. we walked in the door and i told them to all strip and head upstairs while i got drinks. i was at the kitchen sink when alex called me. when i looked up he was standing in the foyer totally naked with his neon green bracelet placed around his penis and scrotum. while i took this scene in he innocently asked "daddy, do you know where anthony is?"

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 07.12.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
just a child

KIDS (permalink) 07.09.2007
i fear the metamorphosis has begun
i confided in marty that i thought i needed to find a book on father-daughter relationships because i've really been struggling with bella the last few months. it occurred to me that my trials could be more about her age than her girl-ness but in thinking through the specifics, i truly feel it's more of a gender problem. after saying she'd keep her eye open for such a book marty told me of an exchange she and bella had earlier that night at bedtime:

this was a special day for me because now that we're back home from vacation i got to focus on being you're mom again and i really enjoyed being able to do that today.

(a full minute of silence passes)

i have one of your hair barrettes hidden behind my bed.

while bella's response is precious on several levels it also speaks volumes about the sort of challenges i'm facing with her. i mean it's not like she can hide my hair barrette when angry with me so her reactions manifest themselves in less obvious and even less decipherable ways.

i'd like to put this on the record as yet another example of how my sucky hair is ruining my life.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 06.26.2007
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
a pack of lies

KIDS, BOOKS (permalink) 06.19.2007
please bring it to my study jeeves
a note about yesterday's photo. yes, bella is sitting in a dresser-drawer. she pulled it from the dresser on the very left of the frame about six months ago. after removing the drawer she stacked the clothes that were in it back into the newly created void. she then lined the drawer with a blanket and pilfered a pillow from the tv room to use as a backrest. she calls it her reading box and she uses it everyday, sometimes for hours a day. she's less than a month out of kindergarten and reading series based chapter-books. and she has a cooler reading room than me.

SPORTS, KIDS (permalink) 06.15.2007
restored to its original state
when i'm on my game and living life according to troy, saturday mornings begin with a 35-mile bike ride through some of the most finely paved and tree-lined streets my city has to offer. between the newish job and even newer baby life according to troy has gotten slightly manipulated and disfigured. until now.

the renovation began with a doctor's visit late last year. specifically when my physician walked into the exam room, his eyes focused on the chart he was leafing through.

so mr dearmitt. if my math is right it says here that you've gained seventeen pounds since i last saw you (more leafing) fourteen months ago. this can't be right can it?

yeah, i'd suggest a new scale.

so what's going on with you? where's this weight coming from?

would you believe it's muscle-mass?

for the first time his eyes leave the chart to look me up and down. he then resumed reading the chart saying, "No, I wouldn't". that is where my recovery began. six months later, i'm back down a belt-loop and am comfortably slipping into my nine-article wardrobe. the best of all news is through spinning three times a week i finally felt my conditioning was back to a point where i could resume my saturday treks. on the first morning i suited up to leave, alex upon seeing me said he wanted to come. i explained that this ride was too long for him to pedal himself. he quickly, desperately almost, said he could ride in the bike carrier. i explained that i would be gone for several hours and he would get bored. he quickly said he would not get bored, promised even, and could he please, please, please ride in the rickshaw carrier. ten minutes later, i'm hooking the carrier to my bike (this child is dangerously cute). while doing so, i speculate, with occupant, it is about the performance equivalent of dragging a roped cinder block behind me. and i get this fifty pound break on my first return to the road.

i gotta say alex was a champ. while we didn't make it the full thirty-five we did do thirty and it wasn't him but me that made the choice to head home. the added weight and extra pee-in-the-bushes stops bumped the usual two-hour ride to a whopping three and half hour event, but it was wonderful. truly. every comment and expression alex made was one of enjoyment and appreciation. he even took about a thirty minute nap towards the end.

the one and only possible downside to the morning was i started getting the sense that some of the people seeing us were quietly cursing my parental selfishness, saying ...

look at that man! making his child ride in that uncomfortable bike contraption just so he can go out and ride his fancy bicycle. big important man and his big important exercise. the nerve of some people.

in response to these folks (or this neurosis) i've already affixed a sign to the back of the carrier. it reads simply: he asked to come.

VIDEO, KIDS (permalink) 06.14.2007
matter of time

flash - med qualtity - 6.0mb
quicktime - med qualtity - 4.0mb
quicktime - low quality - 2.5mb

KIDS (permalink) 06.08.2007