February 27, 2007

Little Things

I do get excited when my children meet a major milestone. In my mind, it’s one more thing to check off in the “If they do these things, you didn’t screw up your kid so bad” sweepstakes. But, lately, I’ve been noticing the little things that Swee’Pea and TheMonk do that you won’t find in any developmental stages book. Here are some examples…

For a while, whenever Swee’Pea would hear the word “no”, she would look at you, wave her hand with her index finger pointed straight out and say, “No… No… No… No.”

Whenever Swee’Pea coughs or chokes on her juice (she’s currently adamant about us taking the darn sippy cup lid off her cups so she can drink it straight from the cup), she will reach her hand over her head and pat herself on the back. If you’re nearby and she sees you watching, you’ll get the, “Well, are you just going to stand there or are you going to pat my back too?” look.

TheMonk is fascinated by our trash can. He knows he’s not supposed to play in it but he’ll make up reasons to go over to the can, you know, just to make sure everything’s okay. He gets a special joy when I give him a piece of trash and tell him to go throw it away. One can only hope this will carry on through his teenage years.

TheMonk loves music. He knows exactly what toys play music and will ask for any one of them throughout any given day. The best part about him listening to the musical toys is the way he shakes his hips side to side. The boy’s got rhythm – the hips don’t lie.

Finally, it’s amazing to me to see the difference in how the two of them face the same challenges. For example, both TheMonk and Swee’Pea have become fascinated with walking up and down stairs. TheMonk shows no fear. He clambers up the stairs, turns around, and launches himself down the stairs (we have a small landing that has two steps that is perfect for him to practice). He does not seem all that concerned that he might do a face plant from the top step. Swee’Pea, on the other hand, is a bit more cautious. Even though she probably has better balance at this point, she must hold onto the wall or my hand before she feels her foot down to the next step.

Before I know it, they’re not going to allow me to help them down the stairs. They won’t need to hold my hand for security and comfort. Soon, they won’t need Daddy’s help.

Excuse me. I think I have something in my eye.

February 25, 2007

The first cut is the deepest

As the story goes, I was four years old before I let a barber cut my hair. Not that my parents didn’t try. I saw my dad get his haircut many times but was never persuaded to go under the blade. I saw other little kids get their hair cut but that wasn’t going to be me. No, I would throw a tantrum anytime it came time for me to get a haircut. It wasn’t until someone called me a “little girl” and my father explained to my indignant self that the reason I was mistaken for a girl was because I had long hair. Not long after that, I had my first hair cut.

Which is why I did not have high hopes for today.

Today, we took our kids to the local mall where there is a kiddie salon. In all likelihood, we won’t be taking our kids there on a regular basis but for their first cut, we thought it would be a good place to start. So we sauntered into the little salon and were quickly ushered to a waiting police car.

TheMonk, being of a calmer disposition, went first. The only instruction? Save the curls on the back of the head. While the stylist snipped away, TheMonk steered his police cruiser through the neighborhood – only occasionally stopping to check out what the woman was doing to his hair. When done, we were given instructions on how to comb the back of his head to keep him from looking like Billy Ray Cyrus and we were done.

But we weren’t really done. Swee’Pea awaited her turn. She has been shy lately when in the presence of strangers and we were unsure on how she would react. It turns out, if you put the girl in a police cruiser and hand her a purple-headed doll, she’s good to go. Not a peep was heard from Swee’Pea and she had her bangs trimmed and her wispy hair tamed. She was even given her first ponytail on the top of her cute little head.

And there you have it. Another milestone that reminds me that my little babies are not so little anymore. I am left with a lock of their hair and memories of kissing little bald heads while holding their tiny bodies in my arms. I look at them now and I see a little boy and a little girl who still have their daddy’s heart if a little less hair.

bri haircut


February 21, 2007

Depending on the kindness of strangers…

Many of you know that I work for the Y*M*C*A. The Y that I happen to work in is an urban Y within a community that has a diversity that rivals the United Nations. Thirty-six languages are spoken in my service area and the median household income is $26,000 a year in a town where the average rent falls in the $1,200 a month range. Many of our members and participants are immigrant families trying their hardest for a better life. They brought their families to this country so their children could be educated and have more opportunities than they had as children. They are chasing the American Dream.

But the American Dream is expensive. Many of our parents work more than one job. Many cannnot speak enough english to help their children with their homework. Many cannot afford quality, reliable childcare. That’s where we come in. We provide childcare to over 1,000 kids a day at 8 different schools and sites. Most of these kids are subsidized through grants but our licensed childcare programs are fee-based. Ninety-percent of the kids that come through our doors are eligible for financial aid. And since it is our goal never to turn anyone away due to an inability to pay, we must raise funds to cover the costs of our subsidies.

Every year during this time we host our Annual Support Campaign. We ask our members, friends, family and neighbors to contribute to this much-needed cause. This year our goal is to raise $120,000. We are four weeks into our five week campaign and we are short of our goal right now by about $30,000. This is making me nervous and causing me to wake up at night wondering how we’re going to reach our goal.

And that’s why I’m writing this. Perhaps you can help. Many of you come to this blog and read about Swee’Pea and TheMonk and I am very grateful for your interest in what I write here. I would be equally grateful if you would consider making a pledge on behalf of Swee’Pea and TheMonk. You can do this two ways…

1) You can pledge your amount in the comments or by sending me an email at childsplayx2@gmail.com. By making a pledge only, you will have the leeway of spreading out your payments over the next 10 months. We will send you a confirmation of your pledge and you can let us know how you’d like to pay.

2) You can go to our corporate website and make a one-time payment via our donations page. Please designate your donation to my Y (email me at childsplayx2 [at] gmail [dot] com for the name of my Y). In the comment section, please put “Matthew” so I know that a payment was made.

All donations to the Y are tax deductible. Your donation goes to a great cause – one that I support every day of my life – and your contribution will help improve the life of a child. What could be more rewarding than that?

Oh, and if you have a blog and make a donation, I will link your blog on my front page to the right for the next month. If you donate over $100 I’ll do a post soley about your blog or I’ll write a poem for any occasion. Thank you for your support!

February 18, 2007

Anatomy of an Illness

Day 1 – Friday morning. Swee’Pea awakens with a very runny nose. Fluids ooze out of her faster than Niagara Falls. It quickly becomes apparent that Swee’Pea will not be allowed at daycare this day. Mommy and Daddy quickly state their cases why the other one will have to stay home. Verdict? It’s a tie. Daddy will work in the morning, Mommy will work in the afternoon. TheMonk? No signs of illness so off to daycare he goes without Swee’Pea – for the VERY first time (I’ll pause a second for you to wipe the tears away). At any rate, colds have been very minor so far this season so there is little concern that this will last longer than the weekend.

Day 2 – Saturday. Swee’Pea slept well but wakes up with a mucus facial mask. TheMonk decides this looks fun as his nose has now joined Swee’Pea’s in the oozing department. Luckily, the weekend had no concrete plans so Mommy and Daddy shift into Operation Wipe Noses. Bibs are placed around the neck to wipe snot and the twins are given plenty of fluids to drink. The day passes with little trouble but the bibs are replaced at least three times. The twins go to bed earlier than usual. TheMonk wakes up at 11:00 p.m., 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. crying. Daddy takes care of TheMonk, thankful that TheMonk is generally an easy going sick guy as a gentle rub of his back while wiping the snot off his face puts him back to sleep rather easily. It’s a little rough with both being sick, but it’s just a runny nose. They’ll pull out of this just fine by Monday.

Day 3 – Sunday. No letup in sight. Noses still running. Daddy is a lttle tired from getting up three times the previous night. Daddy breaks out the heavy artillery but this is like hoping a pebble will stop a tsunami. A low fever is now also present but Tylenol does wonders and the family soldiers on. More bibs are soiled. Congestion is now felt in the chest of both Swee’Pea and TheMonk. Dairy is cut from the diet in the hope of alleviating some of the congestion. Juice becomes an important ally. Luckily, Swee’Pea and TheMonk continue to be good nappers (although TheMonk wakes up twice more in the middle of the night). An evening bath seems to help the twins breathe so optimism is high that this little cold will be gone soon. Just in case, Mommy decides she’ll stay home with them on Monday if needed.

Day 4 – Monday. It’s needed. Mommy takes one for the team and stays home with two sick 20-month-old sniffling, sneezing, coughing little ones. Daddy goes to work and shuffles around like a zombie from lack of sleep. The twins sleep during the day and Mommy reports that they did as well as could be expected. Will Daddy have to stay home on Tuesday? Mommy thinks so. Daddy clears his schedule for Tuesday. The cold’s gotta end sometime, right? Right?

Day 5 – Tuesday. Daddy is on his own. They are a little cranky but not that bad. Swee’Pea, despite her still constantly running nose, still finds enough energy to whack her brother every now and then. All the whacking takes it’s toll, however, and she takes a nice long morning nap. TheMonk, perhaps knocked senseless from some whacks to the head, sleeps well too. Daddy passes out on the couch. The afternoon, is filled with runny noses… RUNNY NOSES!!! MAKE THEM STOP. I CAN’T STAND ALL THE SNOT!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAKE THIS SICKNESS STOP!!! I mean, they’ve gotta get better soon, right?

Day 6 – Wednesday. TheMonk’s temperature is 102. Daddy has an evening meeting so he volunteers to take the morning shift. Mommy calls the doctor (and the doctor said…) he’ll see them that afternoon. Mommy takes both Swee’Pea and TheMonk to the doctor and he says… They’ve got a cold.

Day 7 – Thursday. Runny noses or not (Oh, and they’re running all right) and despite the fact that both Swee’Pea and TheMonk sound like they have a pack-a-day smoking habit, they’re going to daycare today. Daddy drugs them up with a Little Colds cocktail and they’re off. Daddy works a full day of work. When he returns he finds two little ones who are miraculously cured from whatever alien virus they were infected with with runny noses. RuNnY NOsEs!!!! rUnnY NosES!!! RuNNy nOseS!!!

Day 8 – Friday. Still runny.

Day 9 – Saturday. *sob*

Day 10 – Sunday. Kill me. Kill me now.

February 14, 2007

To my Valentine…

Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart!

First, let me tell you that last year was hard to beat. I really wanted to duplicate our photo session from last year. However, instead of getting photos like this, I ended up with a lot of photos like this. So much for the new camera!

Anyway, I promised not to embarrass you too much this year so your co-workers won’t be involved. There’s no giant billboard waiting for you on your way to work and you won’t be getting any singing telegrams.

You will be getting chocolate, however. Swee’Pea and TheMonk insisted on that. You will also be getting your very own iPod – after you pick out exactly which one you want. It’s about time we introduced you to the 21st Century.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how very much I love being your husband. I love watching you being a Mom and I love the fact that our love created the two most beautiful children on the planet. And as a reminder of our beautiful children, I made you this…


Happy Valentine’s Day Sweetie! We all love you!

February 13, 2007

A truck by any other name

Remember the “Good Old Days?”

In the “Good Old Days” things were much simpler. For example, you only had to choose between Coke and 7-Up. McDonalds and Taco Bell were the only fast food places worth considering. You were either a Nike guy or a Reebok guy. And, finally, there were cars and there were trucks.

It is this last one that has me up in arms today. I mean, I’m just a guy trying to teach his kids words without confusing them too much. For example, when it comes to objects with multiple possbile words used to describe them, I don’t want to get too complicated. I say “bucket” (not “pail”). I’ll say “jacket” (but not “coat”) or I’ll say “beer” (and not “Colt 45″). I try to simplify things so my kids understand what the heck it is I’m talking about.

That’s why I have no idea what to do about SUV’s.

One of our favorite past times in the morning is we sit at the front window and we watch vehicles pass on by. Our neighbors have a pickup truck so I’ll say, “Look at the red truck, Monk!” Other neighbors have nice looking BMW’s and I’ll point out the “Shiny car, Swee’Pea!” And it’s a special treat when a school bus or a motorcycle happen upon us.

But I have no idea what to say when, inevitably, an SUV passes by.

Is it a car? Is it a truck? Will I confuse my kids to the point that they’ll go their whole lives not quite sure what to call the boxy, big vehicles with large black tires? Will this prevent them from scoring a perfect score on the SAT? Will my New York Times obituary mention the unfortunate SUV gaffe back in ’07?

And does SUV really have to be my children’s first acronym?


Of all the worries I have about parenting, this is what keeps me awake at night.

Man, this parenting thing is hard.

February 10, 2007

If you say so

Swee’Pea and TheMonk are talking like crazy. Literally. Crazy. I mean, while they are talking in full sentences – sometimes long, elaborate sentences – I can’t understand a single word they say.

Just today, TheMonk, pointing in the vicinity of the place where we hang our car keys, said something that sounded like this… “Ababdaada, eeeeuhhh ooooobidoooo ayiaaaaaah, keeeees.” My response? “Uh, yeah, Buddy. That sounds great. Whatever you want.”

That seemed to satisfy him and he went along his way.

I’m not sure, but I think I just promised him his own car.

February 8, 2007

Wipe the dirt away

Swee’Pea is not a fan of dirt.

For example, whenever we are at the park and she falls down, when she gets up she spends the first few moments carefully wiping her hands to remove the dirt or grass clinging to her tiny palms. The look on her face is one of distress/disgust and she only moves on once her hands have passed inspection.

Furthermore, she has taken a liking to diaper wipes. In the past few weeks, I have twice found her pulling half the wipes out of the package before I could stop her. Truth is, I didn’t try very hard to stop her. She’s damn cute with an arm full of wipes and they keep just as well in a zip lock bag than they did in the original container. What she does with these wipes are varied. Sometimes she will clean herself. She’ll wipe her hands or her face with a wipe, toss it aside, and repeat the process with a new, fresh, cleaner wipe.

Her cleanliness has not been just limited to herself. No, she’s concerned about her surroundings as well. Often times, she’ll take a wipe and proceed to clean our floors with it. Sometimes, I’m tempted to position her in high traffic areas and let her go to work.

She is also a constant reminder that we probably don’t vacuum as often as we should because she’s always finding a small piece of lint, a dried up noodle or any small alien object that obviously does not belong on a our beige carpeting. When she does find something that doesn’t belong, she will pick it up and present it to us for disposal and she fully expects us to dispose of it properly. She’s satisfied when we announce we’re going to put it in the garbage.

Finally, Swee’Pea has a favorite stuffed animal. “Kitty”, a plush beanie cat from Ty, is a frequent companion. In the morning, Swee’Pea likes to take “Kitty” to breakfast with her. I let her because I don’t want to incur any more morning wrath from my little daughter than I have to. The thing is, I often feed the twins chopped up fruit that makes a mess on toddlers and anything that comes in their path. I always tell Swee’Pea that she needs to leave “Kitty” on the table next to her so “Kitty” doesn’t get dirty. Just yesterday, Swee’Pea grabbed “Kitty” from her perch on the table and squeezed tightly right in the middle of breakfast. After her tight hug she closely inspected “Kitty” only to notice that everything was not okay. Her little face became very concerned, bordering on sad. Her eyes narrowed. Her lips pouted. Finally, she uttered one word, in the saddest of voices… “Diiiiirrrty?”

Yep, we cleaned “Kitty” up with a wipe.

Swee'Pea with wipes

February 5, 2007

Black History

So, the Superbowl was yesterday. Yet another sporting event that I didn’t get to watch in its entirety due to having kids. I used to be a big sports fan. Back in the day (pre-June 2005) I would actually watch an entire day of football game without having to wipe butts, feed hungry mouths or entertain two non-football-loving toddlers. But that isn’t what this post is about.

Yesterday, two African-American head coaches squared off in the Superbowl for the first time ever. Heck, it was the first time even one African-American had coached a team in the Superbowl so it was a historic occasion in a league that has been very slow to accept African-Americans in positions of leadership. This is important to me because I never forget that my children are 1/4 African-American. I don’t want my own children to forget that either. I want them to understand where they came from and how difficult it has been for those of African-American ancestry to get ahead in our society.

Truth be told, they will probably never experience the prejudice and hatred that many in our society do because of the color of their skin. By looking at Swee’Pea and TheMonk you would be hard pressed to pin an ethnic heritage on them. And I kinda like it that way. But by no means does it make who they are and where they come from any less significant. They are 1/4 African-American (along with 1/4 Mexican, some Native American and Caucasian) and all those backgrounds make up who they are. I can’t wait to teach them about those who came before them. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Marian Wright Edleman, Barack Obama, and Tony Dungy along with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Roberto Clemente, and Alberto Gonzales all paved the way for my children. I want them to respect who they are and those who came before them and know that it hasn’t been easy for people of color to succeed in this country. That we need to be a solution to inequality rather than a silent contributor. That we recognize all the good that comes from being different but still recognize that we are all the same.

As I progress into parenthood I find it easy to teach my children certain things. I can teach them to say please and thank you. I can teach them to feed themselves. I can even teach them to laugh at my stupid jokes. But the real challenge – the much more difficult aspect of parenting – is teaching them what to be rather than how to be. My hope is that someday my children will understand and love where they came from and that they will look upon those less fortunate than themselves and ask, “What can I do?” That alone will make me feel succesful as a parent.

For a great insight into what it’s like being an African-American parent today, I highly suggest you read African-American Dad.

February 3, 2007

Stop. It’s Potty Time?

Swee’Pea, for some time now, has understood the concept of bathroom. She learned the sign for it and would announce “bafroom” while waving her little fist in the air any time we passed by one of the bathrooms in our house. Adding to this understanding, she has begun to tell us when she has gone “poo-poo” and will ask to have her diaper changed by saying “diaper” (while also using the sign). And last week, while reading a book with Mommy, she pointed to Charlie Brown sitting in a chair and said “Potty chair”. Clearly she learned this past part from her slightly older playmates at daycare. And, just as clearly, Swee’Pea is going to be ready for potty training in the not-so-distant future. The girl is ready.

But I’m not.

I know, I know! I should be happy to get the kid out of diapers! But really, what’s so bad about diapers? You don’t have to ask if the kid has to go to the bathroom ten times an hour. And when the stench is a clear indicator that your kid has indeed done his or her business, you lay the kid down, and you have a semi-still, prone target to wipe away the goods. You have these moist, diaper wipes that magically get rid of the mess and a new, fresh, disposable diaper to get us through the next few hours.

By contrast, I’m NOT looking forward to wiping a standing, clenching, moving little bottom (or, in my case, bottoms) with dry, porous toilet paper. Furthermore, I just know that clothes will be soiled, underwear will be ruined and my gag reflex will be tested once we move beyond the safe venue of a changing table and a box full of wipes. As far as I’m concerned, they can just stay in diapers until they can take care of all the details themselves. I mean, why get all excited just because a kid can “use the potty?” Heck, I’m not getting excited until they can wipe their own butt.

So, Swee’Pea can just hold on to that whole potty chair thing. It ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Look at TheMonk! He’s perfectly content with the whole diaper arrangement – showing no interest at all in changing the status quo. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

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