May 5, 2011

Paging Doctor Dad

Two nights ago, Swee’pea came down with a fever. Like the good parents that we are we gave her a shot of ibuprofen and sent her to bed. She woke up without a fever but we kept her home from school in strict observance of the universal law that states you cannot send your kid to school until a fever has been gone for a minimum of 24 hours, 2 minutes and 13 seconds.

While the fever was gone, Swee’Pea’s appetite was not its usual self. And when I say not its usual self I mean that she no longer wanted to eat morning, noon and night and at 7:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Seriously, the girl puts away food faster than you can say “high metabolism.”

So because Swee’Pea hadn’t really eaten yesterday, it wasn’t a surprise that she awoke today starving. She was starving so much, in fact, she felt compelled to walk in and tell me as much – while I was in the shower. I promised that as soon as I was done washing the soap out of my eyes, I would feed her.

Soon enough I was busy making breakfast of cinnamon toast and yogurt with bananas – which she promptly inhaled. Only a few minutes later she announces, “Daddy, I feel like I’m gonna throw up.”

And with those words, my morning became… complicated. My mind raced as I suddenly had to make a decision and make it fast. The school bus was a mere 15 minutes away and any delay could cause us to miss the bus. I weighed all of my data: She WAS sick yesterday but currently had no fever. She just ate a bunch of food, possibly causing an upset stomach. She enjoyed her day at home with Mama yesterday that she could be angling for another one. Or she could be genuinely sick and about to puke cinnamon toast and banana yogurt everywhere.

As I handed her a large bowl from the kitchen I did what most Dads would do (and it pains me to admit this) – I consulted Doctor Mom. We weighed the options and likely scenarios. We discussed contingency plans and how they would be carried out. We relied on our vast medical knowledge – Doctor Mom has watched at least two full seasons of Grey’s Anatomy while my background consists of countless MASH reruns and an embarrassingly weak moment of Doogie Howser fandom.

Based on that information, we rolled the dice and did what almost all of you reading this right now would have done.

We told her to suck it up and go to school. Mommy and Daddy have things to do.

February 15, 2011

Daddy-Daughter Date

“I wanna paint my nails, wear lip gloss and put my hair up in a bun, like this, and then have the longer hair hang down. I’m also gonna wear my high heels.”

Swee’Pea describes to me her ideas of how she wants to look as we discuss our first “date.” I have signed us up for the YMCA’s Daddy-Daughter Dance – the day before Valentine’s Day. Swee’Pea is clearly excited. And while it was very clear that she’d wear the pink and black dress that her Grandma sent her for Christmas, it was equally clear that Swee’Pea had a plan on how to look pretty.

As for me? I’d be donning my dark suit, white shirt, red and gold tie. We’d go on our “date” while Mommy and TheMonk also went on a dinner “date.”

As we drove to the dance, I couldn’t help but think how this type of moment will be gone in the blink of an eye. Someday, too soon for my taste, Swee’Pea won’t want to go to a dance with her Daddy. And as I look at her in my rear-view mirror, sitting in her booster seat with her wet curls and framing her beautiful face, I can’t help but breathe a sigh of sadness that my baby girl is growing up too fast.

As we arrive at the dance, she holds my hand and we enter the decorated gymnasium and find a nail painting place and a professional photographer. We patiently wait in line for nails (Swee’Pea chooses bright pink with purple glitter) and then photographs. We chat about the pretty dresses as the music starts. At first, I can see the uncertainty in her eyes as she surveys the dance floor as it becomes crowded as a song from the movie Notting Hill plays. I’m not sure if she’ll want to dance but I gently suggest we go out to the dance floor.

To my amazement, Swee’Pea agrees and, before I know it, we are busting a move on the dance floor and I can see the joy in Swee’Pea’s face as she leads me on the dance floor, forcing me to spin her around and turn around in our spot. She is clearly having a good time. And so am I.

But before I know it, Swee’Pea announces she’s tired and I take that as our cue to leave. As we head home I am once again overcome with the emotion of raising a little girl and I hope that one day, when she goes to a dance, that she expects that boy to treat her as well as her Daddy.

As we arrive home, I lean down and give her a hug and kiss her cheek and thank her for a wonderful evening. She hugs me back and then turns on the TV. Olivia is on.

And, just like that, we’re back to normal.


Daddy & Swee'Pea

Princess!

November 10, 2010

Everything she’s learned is not enough to pass Kindergarten

I am tucking Swee’Pea into bed and we begin to talk about school. She must have been thinking about this because all of a sudden she launches into a conversation that must have begun in her head. “But Daddy,” Swee’Pea begins, “I am going to miss Fabian when he goes to first grade.” Since I can see the flaw in her logic, I point out that she too will be going to first grade along with this little punk boy.

“Nuh-uh! Fabian already knows all his kindergarten words and all of his first grade words and I don’t know all of my kindergarten words yet!” She says this with all of the certainty that only a five-year-old can muster. In her mind, she is certain she will remain in kindergarten for possibly the rest of her life.

As her mother and I assure her that she is plenty smart (her first parent-teacher conference showed that she’s already one of the best in her class – at least that’s how I heard it) and that whatever words she doesn’t know she’ll learn before the end of the school year.

Swee’Pea, as we kissed her goodnight and shut the door, remained unconvinced, I’m sure. But I’m sure she’ll forget all about this in a short while. Now if only she’d forget about this Fabian kid…

November 8, 2010

Chauffeur

TheMonk is sick and staying home – his first missed school day of his scholastic career – so to calm your fears of going to school alone, I offer to drive you to school this morning. You are apprehensive about going to school without your brother but once we get in the car, you quickly revert to your chatty little self.

But what strikes me most as you point out landmarks, flags, cars and even the bus you usually ride (which we pass so you can get a closer look), is how much I enjoy the rare moments where we get to spend one-on-one time. It’s the curse of twins, I suppose, that you have to share so many things – even attention from your parents. And as I hear you chatting away in your sweet, little-girl voice, with the word “Daddy” interspersed throughout your one-side conversation, I am reminded how much I love you and how much I love you for being you.

I glance back in the rear-view mirror and see you looking out the window from your elevated car seat while chatting about the flags blowing in the wind and I smile. And I make a mental note to try just a little bit harder to schedule some one on one time with both you and your brother.

Parenting. One of these days I might figure it out.

November 2, 2010

Not Many Kitty Princesses

You wanted to be a Princess for Halloween. No surprise there, I suppose. You picked out the purple gown with gold trim and were excited to see it when it arrived via mail a few days later. You begged to put it on but we resisted so you wouldn’t rip it or damage it before Halloween actually arrived.

We relented earlier this month and let you wear it to costume day at YMCA camp but the staff helped you out of the costume once the festivities were done and you dutifully put it away until this weekend.

And as we prepared to wear your costume on Saturday evening to go to the school carnival you suddenly came up with an inspired idea. You would combine your two favorite things in the world. Kitties and Princesses. And just like that your Mommy was painting on a nose and whiskers with eye-liner.

You were the only Kitty Princess we saw the entire weekend. And as I sit here and reflect on how you never cease to amaze me, I keep thinking of the shy little girl who takes a some time to warm up to people and new things. But then I see the little girl who is so creative and imaginative that I pray you never lose that.

You see, my fear is that you’ll learn someday soon, no doubt from some mean girls at school, that thinking differently or worse, being different, will lead to heartache and pain. I dread the day you no longer want to wear whiskers on your face because of what others might think. I hope that I can help give you the confidence to be the one who continues to take her own path and not the path chosen for her by others.

And I hope that years from now, you’ll look back on this photo and smile. As I am doing now.

Happy Halloween!

October 26, 2010

Moonlighting as the Tooth Fairy

The tooth had been dangling for weeks. Swee’Pea would play with it with her tongue, pushing it out and as it barely hung on to the lower gum and we knew the day was coming when it would fall out. Any day now. For two weeks. But that stubborn little tooth hung in there day after day. I knew, in my heart, I was gonna have to pull it out but the thought gave me the heebie jeebies.

But tonight I manned up. I told Swee’Pea it was time for me to pull it out and that it wouldn’t hurt. I told her that I would stop if it began to hurt. She tentatively agreed and I firmly grasped the tiny tooth between my thumb and forefinger, twisted and pulled and… the tooth came out. I showed it to Swee’Pea and I could see in her eyes that it didn’t hurt but that she was not sure how to react.

She stared at the tooth. She looked at me. She stared at the tooth again. And then she broke into tears. As I held her close and her mother rushed in to comfort her, she looked at me with tears streaming down her beautiful face and pleaded, “PUT IT BACK, DADDY! PUT IT BACK! PLEASE, PUT IT BACK!”

And it was at that moment I felt like a total tool.

I consoled her and asked her if she was scared and she nodded her head as I held her close and kissed her tear-stained cheek. We assured her that a new tooth would grow in and that this was, indeed, a great moment. But she wasn’t convinced.

She wasn’t convinced, that is, until I pulled out the ultimate go-to comforter. I promised her an extra dessert night to celebrate her losing her tooth. Before we knew it she had negotiated ice cream with whipped cream, chocolate syrup sprinkled with tiny marshmallows.

Maybe the sugar-free gum from the tooth fairy will make up for the sugar.

Finally, as we talked about the Tooth Fairy’s impending visit, she made it clear that she did not want the Tooth Fairy to take her tooth. So, we suggested she write the Tooth Fairy a note. Which she promptly did. Of course, TheMonk couldn’t let her have all the fun so he wrote his own addendum to the note at the end.

Tomorrow morning Swee’Pea will be $5 and a pack of sugar-free gum richer. TheMonk will be $1 and a pack of sugar-free gum richer because the Tooth Fairy gives both kids gifts for the first lost tooth in our house.

And me? I’ll be one note richer. Tucked away for eternity to remember this very special day.

Dear Tooth Fairy

September 28, 2010

Star Student, Star Sister

The note comes home from school along with all of the flyers, teacher newsletter, last week’s homework and slightly crumbled blue card signifying another good day at school. The note is in an envelope addressed “To the parents of TheMonk.” Now, if you’re me, when you see an envelope coming home from school addressed “To the parents of TheMonk” you immediately think the worst. You begin wondering how long the timeout your kid is going to have and how TheMonk will look awfully funny being in the timeout spot sporting the stubble of a prepubescent teen.

But then I actually open the envelope and it reads, “Congratulations!” Your child [Insert Name Here] has been chosen to be honored for [Insert Reason Here] Effort. Please attend our awards ceremony this Friday. Signed, [Insert Teacher's Name Here].

So there it was. Not two months into school and TheMonk was already getting recognized for his “Effort.” Nevermind that this is the same kid that gets distracted putting his underwear on in the morning. Apparently, at school, this kid is all about the effort.

As I am basking in the knowledge that my son is the hardest working kindergartner on the planet, what is equally glaring is that there is only one envelope. No envelope arrives addressed “To the Parents of Swee’Pea.” We wonder how the news that TheMonk will be recognized and she will not will go over. Will she pout? Cry? Whine that “it’s NOT fair?!”

We walk over to TheMonk and Swee’Pea and tell TheMonk that he will be getting an award. After explaining what an award is to a slightly confused little boy, we turn to Swee’Pea and explain that whenever someone in our family gets special recognition, that we are all very happy for that person. Swee’Pea agrees that it’s very cool that her brother will be getting an award. There is no jealousy or anger evident and she tells TheMonk “good job!”

Fast forward a few days to an auditorium crowded with camera-laden parents and a room full of wiggly elementary school students and names are called up one by one to receive their awards. Finally, the principal announces TheMonk’s name and a certain someone lets out a very loud, “WOO HOO!!!” I’ll admit it wasn’t my wife. And this would be a great story if it was Swee’Pea, but it wasn’t. I’ll leave it up to you to guess who it was. But I’ll tell you this. The second loudest clapper was a little girl cheering for her brother while in the audience surrounded by her classmates.

At least, I’d like to think that’s true. I was kinda distracted yelling out “WOO HOO!!!”

August 25, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Homework

If I had homework in Kindergarten, I don’t remember it. I don’t remember bringing home copied packets of paper asking me to trace the letter P or color apples red. This is perhaps because I’m so old that photocopiers didn’t exist in schools and we, instead, were sometimes given much more labor-intensive mimeographs that reeked of the intoxicating aroma of blue ink.

But now, thanks to the age of high-end photocopy machines, homework packets arrive at home on Monday. Eight pages of tracing, writing, drawing and coloring that must be completed and returned by the next Monday so the cycle can start all over again.

While Swee’Pea and TheMonk are in different kindergarten classes, they bring home an identical packet each week. The routine is now set. After a short break once they arrive home on the school bus, Mommy breaks out the packets and the kids sit down at their Ikea table and Ikea chairs and begin their homework. The goal is to get the homework done no later than Wednesday so they can relax on Thursdays and Fridays. This means 2-3 pages of homework that generally last about 30 minutes. It usually goes something like this:

TheMonk sits down and hammers out each page as if this is his sole purpose in life. You tell him how many pages he has to do and he won’t look up until it’s done. There is no debating. There is no bargaining. The boy has a job to do and he’s gonna do it.

Swee’Pea, on the other hand, isn’t such a linear thinker. She might start on a project but the moment she has difficulty, she shuts down. She pleads. She whines. She announces over and over and over again just how much she does not want to do this homework.

And over the last few weeks we’ve come to realize that it’s best not to argue with her about this. If she doesn’t want to do it, she won’t and there’s no use in getting into an argument with a five year old about how failing to draw a picture of a banana will send her to a life of poverty and crime.

And 9 times out of 10, after she’s had a little break or even eaten dinner, she’ll suddenly announce that she wants to finish her homework. And she does so without complaint.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Something about letting kids find their own way or the most valuable lessons kids learn are the ones they teach themselves.

All I think of is, “Twelve more years of this?”

July 18, 2010

A Year in Pictures

A little over a year ago, I got this idea (I’m sure after seeing something similar on the internet – I’m really not that creative).  The idea was to take a daily portrait of Swee’Pea and TheMonk starting on their 4th birthday and ending on their 5th birthday.  And so we did.

Over 365 days, Swee’Pea and TheMonk posed for 312 portraits – which averages out to six portraits a week.  So, six out of seven days every week they took their portrait.  The rules were simple.  The kids could make whatever face they wanted and I would try and take only one photo no matter what it came out like (this didn’t always work but for the most part it was one take only).  As you can see, Swee’Pea is not as much a morning person as TheMonk.  The range of her photos from frowns to smiles to one flat-out tantrum is quintessentially Swee’Pea.  TheMonk, on the other hand, liked to experiment with faces and loved seeing them on my digital display each morning.  His photos too capture the true essence of TheMonk.

If I had to do it over again I would have chosen a flat wall rather than the back of our door.  I thought it would create a good center point for the kids but instead it made it very obvious when they moved from their mark.  I also would have put the camera on a tripod rather than me on my knee but this was the last thing we did each morning before leaving and we were often rushed so a quick snapshot was all we could do.  The editing isn’t as sophisticated as I pictured in my head but I still really love watching the transformation.

The music was chosen for the sole reason that they are our most played songs right now.  The kids love both of them and we have been known to boogie to these songs while getting ready for bed.  It just seemed fitting to include them here.

So, without further ado, I give you Year Four of Swee’Pea and TheMonk:

July 14, 2010

Stopping to smell the dandy flowers

dandy-flowerAs great of a responsibility I have, as a parent, to teach my children the lessons they will need to grow up to be non-felons, it has become apparent that an unexpected bonus of this parenting gig is how much Swee’Pea and TheMonk have taught me.

Those who know me will tell you that I’m a bit scatter-brained. I’m often thinking a few steps ahead of what is happening right now and I often lack the patience to be “in the moment.”  At the start of each work day, for example, I’m already thinking about what I have to do that day, who I have to call, what new initiative I want to spring on my unsuspecting staff, what I’ll have for lunch that day, whether the Snicker’s bar in the staff fridge will still be there that afternoon, and how will the Village People survive now that the YMCA has chosen to be known, simply, as “The Y?”

These are serious considerations and since it is my job to ensure the kids get off to preschool (which is rapidly winding down, but that’s another blog post), I am often challenged to get my day started by two five-year-olds who insist on making farting jokes instead of getting their shoes on.  Inevitably, I’m herding two little ones into a car while trying not to spill my morning cup of coffee all over my non-iron shirt that was recently sprayed liberally with wrinkle releaser.

By the time I park the car curbside at their preschool, I’m already counting the minutes wasted and how I just KNOW that the Snickers bar is a goner.  As I try and usher the kids out of the car along with lunch boxes, sweatshirts, and napping blankets, I rush towards the front door only to find Swee’Pea stopping every few seconds to pick a yellow dandelion flower which she calls, “Dandy flowers.”

“C’mon, Swee’Pea! We’re late, Honey.  Please hurry!” I implore.

She hears me but she’s not really listening to me. (Something that seems to run in the female side of our family, I’m afraid.)  Again, I beg, “Swee’Pea! Daddy needs to get to work! Please, Sweetie, hurry up!”

Swee’Pea might hurry for a brief second or two – long enough to give me hope that she’s finally decided to get in gear but, inevitably, she stops to pick yet another flower.

And as we finally get closer to the door, I might beseech one last time, and she’ll finally listen and scamper her skinny little legs over to me while I hold the door open for her.  She and her brother enter and as we put their things in their cubbies and get ready to join their friends on the playground, I bend over to give hugs and kisses.

As I receive my hugs and kisses, Swee’Pea thrusts her tiny bouquet of yellow Dandy Flowers in my face and says, “Here Daddy. I picked these for you to take to work.”  I take the flowers gently in my own hand and as I say my goodbyes and wander down the hall towards my car waiting outside, suddenly the world doesn’t seem so crazy and it slows down enough around me to allow me to grasp what’s really important.  And I clutch the rapidly wilting flowers in my fingers and try and remember that before long, picking flowers for Daddy won’t be as high on her priority list.

So I stop and smell the Dandy Flowers.  I’ve never smelled something so sweet.  Even that Snicker’s bar in the fridge.

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