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:

May 9, 2010

Kryptonite

Lately, once I get home from work, the twins have been eager to play “Ironman.” Now, this has nothing to do with the movie Ironman. At least, I don’t think it does. All it really resembles in Swee’Pea and TheMonk playing the hero/heroine while I play the villain. This means fending off flying almost-five-year-old bodies while protecting things important to me, least of all my family jewels.

But I’m crafty. I distract with a flying pillow. I duck at the last minute, sending little bodies flying as well. I bob and weave like a skinny, Mexican, Muhammad Ali. I counter-jab with couch pillows and occasionally pick up a wiggly preschooler and body slam them onto a stack of couch cushions.

The kids gang up and attack me from different sides. TheMonk will be pinned beneath me screaming for mercy and yelling for his sister to help when Swee’Pea will announce, “Have no fear! Super Girl is here!” And before I know it, Super Girl is giving Daddy an elbow to the head.

But, until recently, I always had an ace in the hole. If I ever got into unexpected trouble I could always pull out my secret weapon. You see, I happen to be an expert tickler. My fingers are nimbler than four-year-old nose picker. I’m lightning fast with both hands. No preschooler can escape from my wiggly fingers.

TheMonk seems to have noticed this. And one thing I like about my son is that he’s a thinker. He always wants to know how things work and how he can solve problems. And tonight, he figured out how to solve the tickling problem.

“Daddy, I’m the good guy and you’re the bad guy. Let’s pretend that the bad guys don’t have tickling powers.”

Dammit. How do I argue with that?!

April 18, 2010

TheMonk and Bunny Ears

He sits on the floor, one knee tucked under his chin, his gaze fixed intently on the camouflaged shoe on his left foot. The laces lie in his stubby little fingers as he carefully forms a loop with lace in his left hand. He’s talking to himself and I slowly inch closer to make out his words. As I get closer I hear him whispering to himself…

“Make a bunny ear. Go around the bunny ear. Push it through the hole. Pull both bunny ears tight…”

I watch as he struggles to pull it tight. This is the part that has troubled him since he started learning to tie his shoes five days earlier. But this time, rather than pull straight out, he pulls down and the bow tightens neatly in his grasp. At last, he has done it and he whips his head up with a grin brighter than the sun and exclaims, “DADDY! I DID IT! I TIED MY SHOE!!”

We make eye contact and my own smile matches his in his moment of accomplishment. And while we exchange high fives and I steal a kiss, I can’t help but wonder when the next milestone will be and how it will be another reminder that my baby boy is growing up. Too fast.

April 9, 2010

A Continent Away

His voice is high-pitched over the phone. As I hold my cell phone to my ear in the silence of my hotel room 2,388 miles from home, TheMonk talks to me while he makes car noises and playing with whatever car is in front of him. He is multi-tasking nicely – a skill that will certainly serve him well over the years.

But today I notice that his voice sounds different. He seems more articulate than when I left three days ago. He tells me about his day (which, apparently, wasn’t all that exciting) and I’m wondering if it is possible that he’s grown so much in verbal skills since I left. But then, without warning, he tells me, “Daddy, I miss you. Daddy, I love you.”

And my heart melts as his little four-year-old voice pierces my soul and I’m left sighing on my bed in some hotel room 2,388 miles away from where I’d rather be. And while I’m enjoying my conference and learning so much, I am painfully reminded that home is where the heart is. And right now my heart is with a little boy who misses his Daddy.

I miss you too, Monkey. I love you too.

Daddy’s coming home.

February 20, 2010

Taylor Swift and TheMonk

He pads into my room in the early dawn, clutching his stuffed monkey. As he makes himself over to my side of the bed, he pauses for his obligatory morning hug and kiss before climbing into bed between me and his mommy.

As part of the routine, I grab the iTouch charging on my nightstand and hand it to him to entertain himself while I try and catch a few more minutes of sleep. Before long, he is sitting on the bed, legs crossed in front of him, with his face buried in the iTouch.

When this routine first started a few months ago, the iTouch was all about the race car video games. But recently, after I showed him the music and set up a playlist just for him, he’s been enthralled with the music. And today, he is sitting in his familiar cross-legged position with his back to me. He is slowly rocking side to side in time to the music. And then, I hear him singing…

He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star
He’s the song in the car I keep singing
Don’t know why I do

He is singing Taylor Swift’s Teardrops On My Guitar. And he knows the words. And his little 4-year-old voice matches Taylor’s note for note. From behind, I can tell that he’s looking down at the iTouch. I wonder what he is looking at so I rise from my bed slowly and make my way around to the front of the bed. I glance at the iTouch resting in TheMonk’s lap. He is oblivious to me so I can easily see what he’s looking at. Gazing, actually.

Taylor Swift

And there it is. TheMonk is gazing at the lovely face of Taylor Swift.

I’d say he’s smitten.

January 25, 2010

How Fast Does That Car Go, Daddy?

Last month my brother chronicled my nephew’s desire to know everything, calling him the smartest person he knows.  My little guy likes to ask questions too. Lots of them.  Unfortunately, they are almost always about cars (and Taylor Swift, but that’s another post).

The boy is obsessed with cars.  He can’t read but he can look at the logo of just about any car on the road and tell you who the manufacturer is.  Ford, Nissan, Chevy, Toyota.  BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche.  It is not uncommon for us to be cruising down the road and TheMonk is giving me a play-by-play of all the cars we pass.  “Look, Daddy! There’s a BMW! It’s a convertible!  Look, Daddy! That’s a Ford, just like your car!”

His obsession with cars took on a whole new level when, a few weeks ago, we attended the San Diego Auto Show.  He got to see, up close and personal, every car he ever wanted to see (except Porsche and Nissan, they weren’t there).  He even went to the show determined to answer this question: Which is faster, the BMW or the Porsche?  And, considering Porsche wasn’t there and the BMW women thought he was the cutest thing since Bambi, we were persuaded that BMW is faster. (Porsche, prove ‘em wrong. I will gladly test drive one for TheMonk.)

I drive a Ford Edge so TheMonk was especially excited to see the Ford cars at the auto show.  I even tweeted a photo of TheMonk and a Ford Fusion to Scott Monty, Social Media Guru for Ford, who responded that TheMonk has good taste. Which he does.

TheMonk’s fascination doesn’t end with just the type of car.  A few months ago I was forced to sit down and explain the machinations of the internal combustion engine.  This would be fine if I actually knew the machinations of the internal combustion engine.  Let’s just say that I spent an evening looking for YouTube videos about engines so I could show TheMonk how the pistons work. I can now tell you how the spark plug, gasoline, fuel injectors and pistons make one hell of an explosion. And so can TheMonk.

And finally, like any hot blooded American boy, he is fascinated with cars that go fast.  Every car has to be compared to other cars in relation to their speed.  “Daddy, how fast does a Nissan go?” or “Daddy, how fast does your car go?” “Daddy, which is faster, a Porsche or Santa’s sleigh?”

And, unlike my very well-grounded nephew, he will gladly accept that the magic of Santa’s sleigh can kick Porsche’s butt.  (Again, Porsche, prove me wrong. I will gladly test drive one. For several years. Call me.)

December 6, 2009

Beef in the bowl is worth 2 in the hand

I would like to argue that the crockpot might be the single most amazing invention ever.  You throw some random things in a pot, turn it on, and… 8  hours later you have a meal.  Also, only one pot to clean.

So, this morning, soon after we finished our blueberry pancakes, I threw a roast, some potatoes and carrots and other random things into a pot, turned it on and announced, “Dinner is done!”  I then strutted around the rest of the day, playing with kids, going for a run, playing with kids, getting our Christmas tree, hiding from kids, doing some laundry, playing with kids and watching some football.

Finally, it was time for dinner.  I sliced some beef and cubed it for the kids. I threw it into a bowl with broth and carrots and potatoes.  We placed it in front of the kids and TheMonk, after taking a look at the culinary masterpiece in front of him, promptly announced, “I’m not hungry!”  In case we hadn’t heard the first time, he announced it several more times.  “I’m not hungry!”

Swee’Pea, on the other hand, after announcing she wasn’t crazy about potatoes, ate just about everything anyway.  She’s a veteran eater who’s savvy enough to know that the quicker you eat the dinner, the quicker you get dessert.  She finished right around the same time that TheMonk, realizing brownies were for dessert, decided that maybe he’d give the dinner a try after all.  He ate a few carrots and a few bites of beef and then asked if he could be done.  We explained he had to eat the last two cubes of beef in his bowl and then he could be done.

So, a few seconds later, I watched as he casually scooped both cubes of beef out of the bowl with his bare had and held them clenched in  his chubby little fingers.  “I’m done.” he announced.

Um, no.  As I explained to him that he had to eat the beef now in his hand, I also explained that it was not okay to lie.  He knew he had been busted and his big brown eyes started to well up with tears.  He’s a sensitive little guy who hates to let us down and he knew he let us down.  But guilt alone didn’t push him over the edge.

Not until his mother said, “I think he should only get half a dessert.”  (Meanwhile, his sister, seemingly oblivious to the drama taking place, is happily chowing down on her brownie.)  This news from Mommy is more than he can bear.

And he begins to cry. Loudly. Tears stream down his chubby cheeks as he mourns the loss of his parents trust and half a brownie.  My heart breaks for him but I know he has to learn this lesson.

Finally, he calms down enough to begin eating his tiny brownie.  I come over and remind him that I love him and rub his back while giving his tear-stained cheek a soft kiss.  I also remind him that I don’t want him to lie to me again.  He rubs his hair against my face and I know he feels badly.

I kiss him again and walk away to let him finish his brownie.  And I wonder how this parenting thing keeps getting harder.

August 25, 2009

I know you.

I have always known you.

From the day you were born, when I first held you in my arms, I knew you. I knew the boy who fussed at night and who insisted on eating every morning at 4:00 a.m. I knew the boy who loved his binky and would laugh at a moments notice. And I knew the boy that hardly talked until overnight, it seemed, we couldn’t get you to shut up. I knew you then.

I knew you when you would seek out my approval and need my reassurance before trying new things. I knew you when you took your first uncertain steps into my waiting arms. I knew you when a kiss from Daddy made every boo-boo go away. I knew you then.

But now? As time has precipitated change at a staggering rate, I am left to wonder, how much do I know you? Am I able to keep up this knowledge of who you are as time goes by so fast I grasp at memories and try desperately to hold onto them as they slip through my fingers like a fine beach sand. I wonder if I know you because suddenly, it seems, you are not the little boy I once knew.

You are no longer the boy who once needed my help for everything. No, you are the boy who hops on his scooter and rides it fast and fearless. You are the boy who breaks out into song and dance whenever the moment strikes. You are the boy who tells me your favorite “Knock Knock” joke as if it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it. You are the boy who shares with his sister and gives kisses and nose rubs at night.

And when I think of all this, I realize that, yes… I do know you. How could I doubt how much I know you? I know you like I know the lines on my own face. Even with the changes, I know you. I know you because you are… a part of me. And as I watch you grow into a little boy who loves life, I feel a sense of pride that I am helping you grow into a wonderful little boy. And I’m so happy that I know you.

You are a boy whose confidence grows by leaps and bounds every day. You have transformed from the boy who would tell me “I can’t…” to the boy who now looks at me with all sorts of seriousness in your eyes and tells me, “Daddy, I can do anything.”

Yes, Son, you can. You can do anything.

And even then, I’ll know you.

July 30, 2009

Grand-numm-ah had it coming

We are on the telephone, speakerphone turned on, so Grandmother can speak to Swee’Pea and TheMonk in one of her weekly attempts to sway the kids into providing for her in her old age.

Swee’Pea, who makes you earn her love, has run off to paint but TheMonk stays to play dress-up with a Barbie doll while talking to Grandmother, whom he affectionately calls, “Grand-numm-ah”

This particular conversation is soon after Grand-numm-ah had spent some time visiting our house. Soon after, she learned that privacy in the bathroom doesn’t exist in our house and locks are put on doors for a reason. TheMonk, perhaps honing his skills at an early age, will bust in on your shower any time he damn well pleases. And he’s observant.

The conversation begins to wane as TheMonk struggles to put a sparkly “Barbies a whore” blouse on the doll. He pauses to take in Barbie’s curves and asks, pointing at her incredible rack, “What are those called?”

I so want to tell him something that will mess his life up for a good long while. I want to tell him they’re “Chi-Chis” or “Bazookas” or “Tom and Jerry.” But my mother IS on the phone and that kind of stuff isn’t nearly as fun when your own mother is there to pass judgment so I tell the truth, “They’re breasts.”

“Oh.” says TheMonk. “Do I have breasts?”

“No,” I say. “You don’t have breasts. Only women get breasts like that.”

“Oh. Does Grand-numm-ah have breasts?”

“Um, yeah.” I say, trying to clear my mind of any visual that will cause me horrendous nightmares later.

And then, TheMonk, with all the enthusiasm a four-year-old can muster, shouts out…

“Yeah! And they’re HUGE!!!”

July 16, 2009

101 Words of Wisdom (21-40)

    21. Thank your teachers. They laid the foundation to your future success.
    22. Learn to play a musical instrument. Everyone wishes they knew how to play the piano or the guitar.
    23. Maintain your car. Change the oil, rotate the tires, get scheduled tune-ups. Your car will last much longer.
    24. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your dreams. Fear is a wasted emotion.
    25. Learn to say “I’m sorry.” Apologizing helps make it better.
    26. Find a mentor. If someone is where you want to be, seek that person out and learn.
    27. Learn CPR and First Aid. You never know when you could need it.
    28. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Be confident in that others brilliance shines brightly on you.
    29. There is no such thing as “get rich quick.” Success comes from talent and hard work. Period.
    30. Become an organ donor. Your last gift will save others.
    31. Always make sure you take time for yourself. You can’t give to others when your tank is on empty.
    32. At work, dress for the next position you want. If you look like you belong, superiors will take notice.
    33. Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Correct injustices when you encounter them.
    34. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can count on the fact that 10 years from now you will laugh at your current hairstyle and clothes.
    35. Love with abandon. Holding back when in love doesn’t honor how rare love can be.
    36. Give blood regularly. Every blood donation can help three others.
    37. If someone offers you a breath mint, take it. There might be a reason it’s being offered.
    38. Be humble. Nobody falls harder than the one who thinks he can’t fall.
    39. Admit when you’re wrong. It certainly won’t be the last time so get used to it.
    40. Don’t assume. It only makes an ass out of you and… well, just you.
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