My Right Thumb

My right thumb smells like poop, which is odd because I took a shower less than 45 minutes earlier and I haven’t changed a diaper since the shower. I only noticed it while sitting at a red light, I bit my thumb (yes, the right one) out of the anxiety that comes with morning traffic and noticed a familiar scent of stale poop.

I was a confused a bit, because how does one complete a shower with their hands still smelling like poop? Don’t your hands automatically become clean through direct contact with the soap? If you use shower gel, (which I do btw, Dove for Men holla at me for some sponsorship) doesn’t the lather from the loofah clean your hands by proxy? Even still, I’m pretty certain I wash my hands in the shower. Matters not that I can’t recall specifically doing so this morning, I’d like to give myself the benefit of the doubt in this instance.

Personal hygiene aside, I recalled a possible source for the poop smell on my fingers. Before I walked out of the door this morning, I gathered up the latest batch of dirty diapers yet to be thrown out, and threw them in the garbage can outside. Questions possibly running through your mind right now: How old are the triplets right now? Shouldn’t they be potty trained by now? What is your current system of disposing of dirty diapers? All valid questions, and I’ll address only two of them just to spare you the dirty details of diaper disposal in my house.

Right now, the triplets are three years old, and yes they should be potty trained by now. I could say that we’ve actively begun potty training them, but that would only apply if we expanded the definition of potty training to mean putting them in diapers and changing them business as usual. As one half of the parenting unit, I will defer from blaming the other half (which is a useful and favorite tactic of mine) and shoulder the blame for their lack of development in this crucial milestone.

It’s a slight source of shame for me, as I can not tell anyone that my children were potty trained at a young age. Those of you who have kids, or are familiar with the milestone checklist game parents like to play, know that bragging on how early your kids can crawl, walk, talk, feed themselves, run a boston in spades is all a part of making the other parent and their poor child they’ve birthed, wear the proper amount of inferiority when addressing you. I have no status in this arena, my youngest set of children are not yet potty trained.

One of my lovely aunts recently visited our house to drop off some items for Easter. We chatted a bit, discussed several different things, and then she asked whether or not the triplets were potty trained yet. I said no, and made efforts to indicate that poor parenting prevented the kids from this milestone as opposed to the lack of understanding by the trips. This served both as an admission and a move to disarm the possible lecture on why I wasn’t doing more to make the triplets handle their business on the toilet. We laughed about it, and she offered some helpful suggestions: try one at a time, show them potty training videos, some other stuff that I’m sure was great advice but have since forgotten.

Still, spring is here, and the babies were born in August, this ‘just turned three’ business wasn’t a good excuse when it was true. Now, it’s just an unfortunate manifestation of the unique kind of laziness the wife and I have developed over the years, a sorry excuse for a sorry excuse if you can figure out what that means. If this post were a poorly executed metaphor, it would be an emo teenaged suicide attempt, complete with excessive eyeliner and The Cure playing in the background. A cry for help if you will; one of those if you know me (or my wife), and you see me in the streets, ask me how the potty training is going. They say it takes a village…plus, this shit, has got to stop.

Laundry Losers

During the course of the day, the goings on of the morning had been reduced to a dulled irritation that had almost been forgotten. The wife and I were on the way to pick up our oldest daughter from basketball practice that evening; and like we always do, we talked about whatever we think is interesting about our day. My contribution to this conversation is a standard “nothing”, which if expanded, would mean that my day was filled with the standard amount of bullshit and stupidity that accompanies a man in my position. My wife, is a bit more forthcoming about the specifics of her day, so my job is just to respond in affirmatively, ask the occasional follow up question and to take her side on any perceived wrong doing that may have been done to her.

So, she’s talking about something or another like she always does, and then asks me “Were you able to dry Raven’s pants this morning?”. It’s an odd question, and out of context, needs a little bit of explanation.

The mornings in our house stay in various states of disarray, confusion, and anxiety; common sense approaches to getting out of the house in the morning in a timely manner are shunned. Taking baths/showers at night, picking out/ironing your clothes, fixing lunches the night before etc., none of that gets done in my house. These offenses are minor, and could be overcome by waking up early enough to get all of these things done in the morning, but again, none of that is happening. As for me personally, I’d like to think that without the hinderance of a wife, and six too many kids, I would be the most punctual person in the world. But that’s neither here nor there.

That morning, as we made our daily scramble to dress ourselves and our children for school, we discovered, with little surprise and yet much vexation, that none of our daughters uniform pants were clean. This is not uncommon in our house, and can be easily resolved with a quick wash/dry before we head out the door. However, our dryer has unofficially quit on us; and by unofficially I mean that it turns on, but does not actually turn up. (the heat) It takes forever to dry a load of clothes, and due to several critical areas lacking, (money, time, will) we have yet to replace the thing. My wife, decided to wash the pants anyway, and give our dryer try anyway, an endeavor I suggested against and was ignored.

My suggestion, was to spot clean the least dirtiest/funny smelling uniform pants (don’t judge me) so we could find so we could keep it moving. The morning schedule is too tight to try and have our geriatric dryer try to handle a quick dry on a pair khaki’s. It was almost 7:00, and the pants weren’t dry yet, but we had to leave to ensure jobs still deposited checks. The wife, in her infinite brilliance, told me to look for some random laundromat, and dry the pants there before I take the daughter to school, an idea I dismiss as pure idiocy. I was immediately irritated, my spot cleaning idea was already better than this.

We leave the house late; and I would be lying if I said that the idea of flying that wet pair of khaki’s out the back window of the minivan like some odd, domesticated freak flag didn’t cross my mind. Instead we drop off the wife, and head towards my daughter’s school. My daughter cons me into getting her breakfast before dropping her off, I consent feeling somewhat responsible for sending her to school in wet pants.

While in the drive thru of Jack in the Box, (a more than adequate breakfast menu btw) I notice a cleaners right next to it. The back door was open, a few employees milling about, and sitting there, in plain view is a shiny looking dryer. I’ll blame it on caffeine deprivation to explain why I thought it was a good idea to walk in there and ask them to throw this semi-wet pair of khaki’s into their dryer for ten minutes. Both the lady picking up her laundry, and the lady behind the counter looked at me like I was crazy when they heard what I was asking.

I’ll admit that my request might have been a little out of the ordinary; but they had a dryer that wasn’t being used at the moment, and considering I was willing to pay up to ten dollars to get this done, I didn’t see the problem. I won’t get into the politics involved of me not having a haircut since October 2012, or that I might have been wearing a stained t-shirt, sweatpants, with flip-flops and socks, because that’s not the point. The point is, I am a man, with a wet pair of khaki’s in one hand, and ten dollars in the other, asking his fellow man (woman in this case) to help dry his daughter’s pants in a time of need, and the best you can do is tell me “We don’t do that heah”.

I was getting angry, and before I gave them the special kind of crazy that only my wife knows, I stepped back and asked the lady if she knew where the nearest laundromat was. There was one down the street she said, before you hit the freeway she said. It was five minutes away, three if we made all of the lights. We made it there in no time, wasn’t crowded at all. The place looked closed, but the hours posted on the door said that they opened at 7:00 a.m. and it was almost 8:00 a.m. There was a number on the door, I called it, just in case they were on the way or something. The phone rang endlessly, they weren’t on the way. Probably still counting all the quarters they ripped off from poor saps like me from the day before. My daughter’s fate was sealed, to school with wet pants she would go. I suggested she ask one of the coaches if they had a dryer on the couch that she could use to dry her clothes. Seemed reasonable, but I later found out the coaches weren’t trying to help me either.

I got angry all over again. Because not only was I not down with this goofy ass plan, but I was gifted the impossible task of completing it. “Hell naw I didn’t get to dry Raven’s pants this morning!”, I say. “Those stupid #@#$%^&**!! at the dry cleaners wouldn’t help me at all! And then I go to the laundromat and they were closed! Matter of fact….” I pulled out my phone and went to retrieve the number of the laundromat I called earlier that day. My wife looks at me with a bit of bewilderment while I hit re-dial on the laundromat’s number. “Who are you calling?” she asks, I hold up my hand while waiting for the phone to be picked up. It rings a few times, and they finally answer.

I hadn’t planned this far ahead, so I just kind of blurted out “What time do you guys open in the morning?” I didn’t wait for them to answer before I told them what their hours said on the door. “The door says you’re open at 7:00 am! Me and three other people were waiting to go in and spend some money this morning! Why wasn’t anyone there?”

The lady proceeds to tell me that they normally open at 9:00 am and that the hours are incorrect. “Well you need to update your hours immediately, because there’s no reason that you should have posted hours and not honor them!”. They didn’t care what I had to say, I was too angry to put together coherent complaints, and not angry enough to curse them out like I felt like they deserved. When it was over, my wife was laughing at the rambling, incoherent, idiot I was, which made me laugh too. What I just did was too ridiculous for words, and even though I know the person on the receiving end of that call gave less than two shits about what I just told them, I felt better having said it, and that was all that mattered.

A Day In the Life, November 28th, 2012 (pt. 2)

4:30 p.m. – Arrive home. Greet kids, get a rundown of the day from the oldest boy.

4:34 p.m. – Start a pot of boiling water for spaghetti, and begin to reheat the sauce.

4:55 p.m. – Change three diapers. Curse myself for not having the trips potty trained by now.

5:05 p.m. – Locate and wash, the as of yet, unused potties.

5:10 p.m. – Minor heart droppage as I witness The Rose, power through the last container of Strawberry and Banana Chobani that I bought earlier that morning.

5:12 p.m. – Drop the spaghetti noodles.

5:24 p.m. – Strain and then toss noodles with a little olive oil.

5:33 p.m. – Feed the triplets and The Rose. Call oldest son down to eat, but no formal response was received.

5:35 p.m. – Feed myself. It’s a joyless task at this point, but the sauce is pretty good. Minor sadness regarding the fact that I didn’t get any garlic bread on the way home.

6:15 p.m. – Wife arrives with daughter from basketball practice. We exchange grunts of displeasure regarding our day and keep it moving. The oldest daughter efficiently responds to questions about her day with equal parts displeasure and derision with one word answers.

6:25 p.m. – Call the oldest boy down from his 45 minute grooming process in order to shuttle the lad to night school.

7:05 p.m. – May or may not have cried in the driveway.

7:06 p.m. – Unlocks back door, makes reluctant return to home.

It’s around here that I unofficially, stopped writing everything down. The combination of the day coming to a close, physical and mental fatigue, and the tedium involved in cataloguing the day, had kind of, organically faded away. Not much was missed though. At 8:30 p.m., I leave to retrieve my son, but before that, I witness either The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, or the Charlie Brown Christmas special with the trips. By the time I get back home, I’m putting heads to bed. Putting the babies to bed ends somewhere around 9:45 p.m. and sometimes (depending on how defiant they are) 10:30 p.m. It’s at this point, that I might actually try and complete something that I want to do. Usually, I go for low hanging fruit, like watching some television. Cut to three hours later, being awakened by loud sounds from the television and the lights still being on. It’s at this point, after I’ve checked the clock, that I realize that the next time the alarm goes off will be in 3.5 hours and I wonder, “How did I get to this wash, rinse, repeat phase in my life?”. More importantly, how can I stop it?

A Day In the Life, November 28th, 2012 (pt. 1)

5:45 a.m. – Alarm sounds on my wife’s Blackberry every day at this time. It is an effective alarm because it is very loud. How loud is it? Loud enough to be heard from downstairs. Guess who had to go downstairs and turn it off.

5:57 a.m. – In bed again. With no safety net (no snooze button, alarm fully disabled), the possibility of falling asleep and running behind is very real. The anxiety of finding underwear, uniforms and shoes, keeps me awake though.

6:07 a.m – Get out of the bed and wake The Rose. She’s autistic, and despite her many oddities, she’s actually the most obedient child we have. She went to sleep before dinner, so a bath is required.

6:20 a.m. – First child is dressed, and only her hair needs to be done. My wife, her mother, the slowest thing since molasses takes this task on. This process will last up until and possibly after the bus arrives.

6:33 a.m. – The bus arrives, and The Rose boards with no problem.

6:34 a.m. – Boil water for coffee and veg out for a few minutes. Vegging out basically means I check various social media streams while ogling local weather and/or traffic ladies on the morning news. (but don’t tell my wife about that last part, she doesn’t like that)

6:45 a.m. – Make and consume coffee.

6:57 a.m. – Say good bye to the wife as she heads off to her job.

7:00 a.m. – Wake up my oldest daughter.

7:15 a.m. – Check to make sure oldest daughter is out of the bed.

7:33 a.m. – Wait at the bus stop with the oldest daughter. Odd thing though, the bus arrives and my daughter gets out of the car as slow as possible. The bus has to clear a few cars parked on the side of the street in order to pull over to the curb. Once the bus passes my daughter, she starts walking back to the car. She opens the door and says something about getting written up for chasing the bus (which is bs btw), and I tell her to go and get on the bus because it is pulling over. She walks back, and sees the bus is still inching farther down the street to pull over, but she turns back towards the car again. Seeing enough of this foolishness, I let down the window, stick my head out, point at the bus and scream ‘GET ON THE BUS!’.

7:34 a.m. – Go to the grocery store to pick up breakfast and dinner stuffs.

8:31 a.m. – Take call from oldest daughter. She forgot her basketball gear for practice after school. Which means, I have to take it to her before I go to work.

8:40 a.m. – Quick clean up of the kitchen, while I prep breakfast for the trips and start meat sauce for the po’ mans pasta AT THE SAME DAMN TIME!

8:55 a.m. – Serve breakfast, turn on PBS, and finish up sauce.

9:00 a.m. – Sneak upstairs to move bowels, wash thine body and remove unwanted facial hair.

9:20 a.m. – Come back downstairs, watch Sesame Street with the kids and veg a little.

10:10 a.m. – Received a 3 messaged text detailing the in and outs of her lunch order. I put it on Instagram for reference.

10:37 a.m. – Leaves house.

10:45 a.m. – Arrive at daughters school to drop off gym bag. (second time this week with this nonsense)

10:56 a.m. – Head towards Potbelly’s for sandwiches.

11:23 a.m. – Arrive at the wife’s jay-oh. Drop off sandwiches, and exchange quick innuendo.

11:44 a.m. – Arrive at the jay-oh for a half-day’s shift.

I’m gonna stop here and make this a two-parter. This is way longer than I thought it would be, but whatevs, find out what happens next in Part Two.

Cry Baby Cry

Initially I smirked at what was happening. The foolish arrogance of a man too confident in his own daddiness had done me a disservice. My youngest daughter had begun to cry while we were wandering through the produce section of a local grocery. I wasn’t sure what she was crying about, but I was pretty sure I could calm her down. I picked her up out of the basket, and held her with the confidence of a father who was certain his fatherliness would calm his little girl.

For a moment, it seemed to work. She didn’t stop crying completely, but her commitment to making a scene appeared to lose its legs. In retrospect, I pulled a George W. in a flight suit and a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner waving in the background; I claimed victory before it all got started.

The first sign this wasn’t going to end well was when I tried to place my youngest daughter back into the grocery cart. I couldn’t sit her still enough to buckle her in, and every time I went for the strap, she was halfway out of the cart trying to climb back into my arms. While I was trying to prevent her from doing a nose dive onto the grocery’s floor she increased the volume and intensity of her crying.

What was a simple cry, that could be ignored with a bit of concentration, quickly ratcheted up to a full on shriek. She was twisting in my arms and killing my ears as she tried to point out the source of her frustration.the catalyst It was one of those car grocery carts that her brothers were riding in with their mother. The one she was pointing to was unattended, but it had a bottle of water and a sales paper in it. I couldn’t determine whether or not someone was using it, or if it had been abandoned. My daughter’s shrieks had taken on a maniacal quality that triggered a fight or flight instinct. I fled, but the problem, was that I fled with my daughter in my arms. I called myself looking for another ‘car’ cart while I pushed a cart, held a screaming two year old, and scoped the place for an empty ‘car’ cart. I circled the entire store looking and endured judgement from other adults before I found my wife. I gave her the groceries that were in my basket, my wallet, and announced we were going to the minivan.

In the minivan she wailed even harder. My attempts to block her out by thumbing through screens on my phone, was met with paranoid thoughts that some do-gooder pedestrian, would call Child Protective Services on a suspicious man in a minivan. I was expecting my daughter to get tired, give up, or tap out, but her commitment to the struggle was real; and had I spotted one of those car carts in the parking lot, I would have retrieved it, sat her in it, and walked for miles. But there was no cart to be found, only the incredibly shrill sound of my youngest daughter’s discontent, and it’s moments like those, where you want to strangle every person that told you that children are a ‘blessing’.

Come Hither

Come here. Two words. Two syllables. The two words, (and the syllables) when put together, seem like a simple request, however, when half of your six children have yet to hit the age of three, then simple requests, become two year old mind games that this recently turned quadragenarian is not built for.

It’s not that I don’t love playing with my kids, it’s just that when I ask one of my kids to come here, it shouldn’t trigger a Pavlovian response, that has them do almost anything other than come to where I am.

The responses I get to this request vary, depending on what mood the kids are in. The mischievous response, indicated by a giggling toddler stampede that ends with me running after and rounding up the kids like some bleary-eyed toddler wrangler is most common in this house.

Then there is the rebellious response; a ‘no’ is required obviously, but depending on how the ‘no’ is delivered will cue you as to how you want to move next. A quick ‘no’, requires quick action. Appopriate responses include: a stern talking to, time-outs, or a good beating depending on whether or not you want to truly damage your kids. But if you get a ‘no’ that starts with a high musical note, that sort of fades slowly, like when you say ‘awwww’, then maybe you can negotiate something that will end in your favor.

The existential response, the quizzical and never-ending ‘Why?’, is possibly, the most frustrating response of them all. Now let’s be clear, I’m all for encouraging our children to ask questions, challenge conventional thought, and investigate matters that deserve further inquiry, but when time is of the essence and the question, ‘why?’ has made its fourth appearance within the span of two minutes, you might find yourself saying something like “BECAUSE I SAID SO!”. It’s moments like this when you realize that are dictatorships not only necessary, but more importantly efficient. After that, you should also recognize that you have officially become your parents. It happens to the best of us, and unless your parents were total idiots, then you and your kids will be alright.

Don’t Be This Pedestrian

I get it. You’re a pedestrian. You have the right of way, and I should yield to you at all times. There are traffic laws are in place to reinforce this; the laws of physics however, do not necessarily agree. In the interest of your well being, my insurance premiums and possible manslaughter charges, I ask that you don’t be this pedestrian:

Phony fundraiser guy/girl: Usually a semi-official looking crew of misfits, wearing either matching t-shirts or neon safety vests. People give them money and they give you a colored flyer and a smile. Technically they don’t impede traffic, but their aggressive style of cheeriness is enough to make you want sideswipe them. (or run over their big toe)

The Slow Walker: This pedestrian is breaking the law. A jaywalker by nature, they cross the street wherever they please, and as indicated by the name, they cross slowly. Is their depth perception is off? Are they surrounded by an invisible force field? Are they expressing a benign suicidal cry for help? In the end none of that matters, I just need them to put some pep in their step and then go sort out their problems on the sidewalk.

Three Blind Mice: Another pack of pedestrians, typically in a residential district walking three wide in the street. Their engaging conversation and leisurely pace will not be interrupted by oncoming vehicles. So check your league’s rules, because some offer partial points for clipping one or two of the Three Blind Mice as opposed to an all or nothing scoring system.

Smells Like Teen Spirit: This type of pedestrian is why school zones exist. They walk aimlessly into traffic with nary a thought about their safety, your need to get where you are going or that wandering into traffic can end in death. I’d say some mean things, but I believe the children are our future, teach the well and to stay out of the way.

The Mean Mugger: Similar to The Slow Walker, the Mean Mugger also walks slowly into oncoming trafic. However, this pedestrian type sports a more defiant attitude and aggressive manner. They walk into traffic at a slow, deliberate pace, and drip with a ‘what-you-gonna-do’ swagger that begs to be tested. Let these disturbed folk make it, knowing full well that in the battle of man vs. machine, the machine will always win. John Henry be damned.

The Rat Race

willing to die for a biscuit

willing to die for a biscuit

Breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day.  McDonald’s breakfast however, is as important as it is cheap.  We visited one morning with the oldest child in tow.  Popular destination among the minivan set, as moving children through their morning routine is a taxing one.  Pulling into this particular destination, we had a near collision turning into the drive-thru as this Honda Odyssey driver cut us off.  Profanity followed.  Poor lady was getting cursed out seven ways to Sunday and  didn’t know it.  To add further insult to injury the Odyssey driver held up the line at least twice as the efficiency of the McDonald’s crew moved the line quicker than expected.  This inspired more profanity, however biscuits were consumed shortly thereafter.

Gawd Is My Co-Passenger?

While the minivan was not purchased as my primary vehicle, rare is the occasion that I find myself riding as opposed to driving.  As the occasional passenger, the better half navigates the minivan through the City of Houston’s guerilla-type traffic with a winner take all strategy.  When she is in this mode, it is  best to egage in some sort of activity (ie. reading book or magazine, checking voicemail, playing one of the kids PSP’s), or practice the art of saying absolutely nothing.  Friendly conversation can sometimes be a good way to smoothe over the nervousness of the endeavor; but the problem of speaking ones mind might come too freely while chattering about whatever.

When riding shotgun, I find myself conveying the importance of fastening ones seat belt while riding in a vehicle to my children.  Other thoughts that pop in the head from time to time?

  1. this is not a sports car
  2. that car had the right of way
  3. this is not a Hum-V
  4. that was a curb
  5. this is how people get shot
  6. that was a pedestrian

Verbalizing these thoughts are things an amateur would do.  Agitating the Mrs increases the chances for more erratic driving.  Saying something can trigger frothy mouthed arguements and petty insults to be tossed into the atmosphere without notice.  On a bad day the kids may have to be brought in for an impromptu poll on who actually drives better? (will not comment on the results)  These sort of things are not common occurences.  However, they are not infrequent enough to say that they never happen.  But on a good day, we ride together, and we ride in peace. We all ride, knowing that The Big Kahuna is riding with us. (at least I hope he is)

A Bigger Boat

Buying a minivan is a soul-crushing-end-your-dreams type of event.  It is a moment in time when practicality trumps appreciation for any type of automobile aesthetics.  It is also a moment when you realize that you have just gone headlong into the deep end of dorkiness.  Once the line into minivandom has been crossed there is no turning back.  Captains chairs, automatic sliding doors, stow ‘n go seating, third row seats and plenty o’ cupholders.  All other vehicles begin to pale in comparison.

But lately, the Caravan has lost a little of its luster.  Cut scene to the actual purchase of this minivan.  We were all enamored with the relative newness of the interior and the wonderful detailing job the dealership had done.  But what struck me most was the room in this thing.  We were on the Beltway driving out to the boonies (where the dealer was) and I turned around and looked at how far away my children were from me.  My son had leaned his chair back.  My daughters were on the back bench.  The wife and I were engaged in polite adult conversation without any interruption.  It was as if the sudden introduction of so much space meant familial peace.

Two years have passed since those initial days of bliss; and the kids have grown up (as they tend to do) so quickly.  As the great Riley B. King has so aptly stated, the thrill is gone.  The minivan doesn’t seem so minivast anymore.  My children, most notably my gangly teenage son have grown in size and sense of sarcasm.  

My eldest daughter and only son have turned their backseat bickering into something of a sport.  Vitriol is volleyed towards each other as if it were their job.  It is mind rattling.  Their disputes in the back trigger the kind of maniacal rage from yours truly that ’causes not fear, not respect, but a quizzical look and a redutive response of “calm dowwwwnnnn”.   I am the father whose fits become fodder for conversations starting with ‘remember when…’ and they all laugh and reminisce on how they used to send me into tantrums on the way to school.

The minivan all of a sudden has become mini.  The Caravan doesnt feel as cavernous as it used to.  The kids poke their heads up into the ‘captains quarters’ (driver/ front passenger seat) and start conversations regarding after school snacks, fast food eateries, after school activities or the location of their PSP.  I need a bigger boat.  Either a bigger boat or kids who don’t talk.  Somethings got to give.