August 8, 2011

TheMonk, Sacagawea and Tooth Fairy Fraud

I am sitting at my desk at work plotting the next great initiative at work that will propel my staff to certain greatness when I receive a text message from my wife.  It reads: “TheMonk lost another tooth at school.  He swallowed it.”

My first reaction is, “Again?!”  Because, you see, TheMonk lost a tooth just last week that he accidentally swallowed while eating.  It was then we determined that the tooth fairy knows when he loses teeth and the fact that the tooth was nestled in his belly would not prevent him from reaping the precious bounty of Tooth Fairy goodness.

My second reaction is, “He had a loose tooth?”  I seriously had no idea.  I mean, the kid has lost so many teeth that the Tooth Fairy has begun making himself a snack after every visit.  TheMonk’s lost so many teeth that if he stands just right, he whistles in the wind.  I just didn’t think the kid had any more teeth left to lose.

Upon my arrival after work, I inspect TheMonk’s mouth.  I see the big gaping hole that used to be his two front teeth that have been missing since this time last year when he had them unceremoniously pulled after a run-in with a piece of playground equipment.  What I don’t see is evidence that a tooth has recently left his mouth.  I point this out to TheMonk and he insists that he lost a tooth and that his friend Amelia confirmed there was blood in his mouth.  I am unconvinced.

The gap doesn’t seem any bigger than it did before.  The teeth on either side look symmetrical.  In a court of law I feel I could win this case.  But in a court of 6-year-olds who have told their entire class that they have lost a tooth and have taken home the “tooth bag” (a perfectly mean extra homework project that any kid gets when he or she loses a tooth in TheMonk’s class) to much acclaim, it is impossible to say otherwise.  It is clear that the Tooth Fairy will be dishing out another Sacagawea $1 coin this evening.

Maybe he did lose a tooth.  I’m no dentist and the kid loses teeth faster than I lose readers.  But I don’t think he did.  And I have this sneaking suspicion that he’s perpetrating the biggest fraud known to child-kind: Putting one over on the Tooth Fairy to make a quick buck.

I’m not sure if I should be proud or ashamed.

(Okay, I’m totally proud.)

April 3, 2011

Concerto in a minor

Every now and then, there comes a moment when a father must pass on to his son what knowledge he has gained in any given area. This is one of those times.

My son approaches me, looks me in the eye, and implores me to show him how. It’s as if he knows the wisdom and knowledge that I have stored inside me and he yearns to acquire this knowledge. I am the wise sage and as I ponder whether he is worthy of such knowledge, his earnest pleas fall upon my ears like a gentle rain and I am powerless to protest such an innocent thirst for knowledge.

I give gentle instruction by showing him how it’s done and then teaching him how to repeat my movements. I’m unsure if his little hands can sum up the power and coordination for such a dexterous move. He struggles and flashes a look of frustration at me as I work to assure him that the difficulty he’s experiencing is normal. After all, no one can learn something as momentous as this without fumbling a little in the beginning.

Verbal instructions soon become increasingly insufficient. I am forced to place my hand on his and guide him towards his goal. I show him how to cup his hand and where to place it for maximum effect. I position his other arm just so to maximize the angle. We practice a few times to no avail. He is getting more frustrated and I, while trying to exude an outer calm, begin to wrestle my inner emotions and doubt of his ability at such a young age begins to form in my mind.

I step back and as I do so, he gives it one more try.


His perfectly round eyes jerk up to meet mine. Wonder and excitement fill his face and as our gazes lock we both let out a scream of delight and joy! We slap a high five and a bond is shared between father and son that can never be taken away. I smile at him – proud of his accomplishment and the moment hangs there like stray bubble on a warm Saturday at the park.

Then, just like that, the moment is over. But the memory of my son’s first armpit fart will last a lifetime.

January 1, 2011

I like Green Eggs and Ham

For as long as I can remember we have been reading bedtime stories to Swee’Pea and TheMonk. That 15 to 20 minutes of reading might be my favorite part of the day. I genuinely miss it when I have to work late or we skip reading time because we’re late getting to bed.

In the past six months, something cool has begun to take shape. While I read, Swee’Pea and TheMonk have been following the words as I read them. A few months back they began to shout out words as they recognized them (which is kinda distracting when you’re trying to read, but I’ll let it go this time) and it has been more and more evident that they can read a lot of words.

Over the past few years, we have read quite a bit. We cheer on Madeline and Finklehopper Frog. We learn Fancy words from Nancy and worry about that hobo ant on the railroad track AND on the parking lot. We say goodnight to the moon and listen in on loving words between Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare.

But one of my favorites is good old Dr. Suess. We enjoy Cat in the Hat, The Thinks You Can Think and Wocket in My Pocket, but my absolute favorite is Green Eggs and Ham.  I can read that book over and over again.  In my mind it is one of the best books ever written.  And, it seems, TheMonk likes it a lot too.  He chose Green Eggs and Ham as the first book he ever read to Mommy and Daddy.

November 9, 2010

Sick Little Man

You are the best sick person I’ve ever seen. You are clearly miserable and you look at me with the puppy dog eyes and the slight pout but you don’t complain. Oh sure, sometimes you’ll get frustrated with being sick and announce how much you don’t like being sick but even then, when tears well up in your eyes and you look at me to solve the one thing that I can’t so easily solve, you are still just a little boy who wants to be held.

You like snuggles and, when energy permits, playing Angry Birds on the iTouch. You don’t want to eat, you don’t want to sleep but then, without any warning, you’ll snuggle up in the comfy chair and fall asleep while watching Olivia on Nick Jr.

And even when you’re so sick that the doctor knows you have strep just by listing your symptoms, the idea of eating at McDonalds while we wait for your prescription to be filled is better than actually eating the food. And the idea of getting a fun toy in your Happy Meal is better than actually getting the toy. But you don’t complain.

I try to remember this when I don’t feel particularly well and I get cranky and want to bite off someone’s head at a moment’s notice. I remember how you just accept the illness and trust that this too shall pass. I learn a lot from you and I’m hopeful that you learn as much from me as I do from you.

Get well, Little Man.

November 7, 2010

This sick little boy likes to cuddle

TheMonk woke up today with a fever. He also had a bloody nose in the middle of the night, woke up three times in all and then woke up an hour early due to Day Light Savings Time. It was not a good day. Or, as TheMonk himself told me, “This is my worst day ever, Daddy.”

And while that may be true, whenever TheMonk is sick he likes to snuggle with Mommy or Daddy. Today I got to watch football and snuggle with my little guy all at once. So for me, it wasn’t my worst day. But looking at the little guy it’s hard to imagine him feeling worse. Get better little guy.

Sick Snuggles

November 4, 2010

I gotta work on my delivery

We are getting ready for bed and TheMonk is putting on his Red, White and Blue striped Jammies while singing a new ditty that, I assume, he picked up at school: “Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream… Ha, Ha, fooled ya, I’m a submarine!”

The only problem with this scenario is that TheMonk is seriously lacking in the multi-tasking department. Halfway through the song, there is one leg in his jammies and one leg out. The top is halfway on his head and the shirt drapes down his back like long flowing hair.

After a third round of “Row Your Boat,” I redirect him to continue getting dressed for bed. “Monkey, please get dressed. It’s time to focus, buddy. C’mon now.” And with that, TheMonk turns to me and asks, “Daddy, how does a baby get in a mommy’s tummy?”

Wha? Huh? Weren’t we just singing about submarines? Anyway, a million possible answers race through my mind, ranging from Aliens to Magic and I struggled to begin – “Uh, you see, Son, when a man and a woman love each other… They, uh, hmmmm, they, uh, hug and, uh, love each other…” Finally, I look my son in the eye to see what he’s thinking and he interrupts me… “I thought God put it there.”

“YES! God!” I laugh with a sense of relief as I quickly help the boy finish getting dressed. Now, let’s go brush those teeth.

Bullet dodged, I breath a sigh of relief but in the back of my mind I know the question will be asked again soon. I should probably practice this or something.

November 1, 2010

The Truth Shall Set Him Free

The children are huddled closely around their teacher. They are seated with their legs crossed on the multicolored rug as the teacher sits in a chair and shares the days lesson. Today, the subject is Honesty.

The teacher begins to speak of the importance of telling the truth. She explains how telling the truth builds trust and goes on at length about how when someone doesn’t tell the truth, they lose trust of those around them.

She looks out into the group and sees 22 pairs of eyes staring back, listening intently. She glances at each young, impressionable face before settling her eyes on TheMonk, who’s eyes are glistening with unshed tears. She quickly asks TheMonk what’s wrong.

Lips quivering, TheMonk begins to tell his teacher a story that shows how he has taken the lesson about Honesty to heart.

“One time, when I was four, my daddy asked me to pick up *sob* my toys and… *sob* and… I told him I did… *sob* but… *sob* I DIDN’T!!!!!”

TheMonk, clearly distraught by the thought of losing his Daddy’s trust, spills his little heart out to his kindergarten teacher like some elementary school confessional. She huddles down and assures him that all little boys and girls make mistakes and that she knows he would never do that again.

TheMonk accepts this explanation and dries his tears as the lesson continues. Of course, at the end of the day, at dinner, when Daddy asks him “What happened at school today?” he replies with his usual…


October 7, 2010

He won’t make friends, but he’ll live longer

We’re not exactly health nuts here at our casita. But we’re not junk food junkies either. It has always been important to us that we raise our kids with an emphasis on healthy eating with fruit, vegetables being staples while soda and sugary drinks are not.

We don’t eat fast food all that often and when we do, we explain to the kids that while it’s okay to eat McDonalds food occasionally, the food isn’t very healthy so that’s why we don’t eat it very often. Additionally, we have dessert night once a week. It’s a big deal in our house and every Friday night when I bring home that week’s dessert, there are shrieks of delight the minute I walk through the door – from the kids too. And because we get dessert only once a week, the kids know that it’s not healthy to eat sweets all of the time.

Armed with this information, TheMonk and Swee’Pea attended YMCA day camp at my YMCA these past two weeks. One morning, as reported to me by one of my staff, the younger kids were sitting in a circle answering the question, “What’s your favorite food?” Predictable answers from the campers were expressed. Pizza! McDonalds! Ice Cream!

When it was time for TheMonk to tell everyone, I wondered what he would say. Nuggets? Pizza? Chocolate cake?

No. Instead, TheMonk looked around at the other 5-7 year old kids in his group and declared with the authority that only a 5-year-old can muster, “You shouldn’t eat junk food! It’s not healthy for you!”

That’s my boy.

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?”

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