Dentist and Gizzards: A Few Kid Stories

Today is the big day. We do this every six months. Well, it’s not the big day, being only four of six kids are going to the dentist. Usually, we schedule all six squirts and they bring in all the hygienists, turning the place into a zoo.

I expect a few cavities. Here we are in the car, on the way:

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*Telephone rings* *My bride, Kristine, answers*

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is [redacted] from the Elementary School. I just wanted to let you know that your daughter, Analisse (The Freak), was playing with a friend on the playground at lunch. She took her shoes off, filled them full of pea gravel, then proceeded to pretend that the rocks were lunch. I think she ate some.”

So yeah, that happened.

In her defense, she swears she didn’t eat any. But I’ll be watching her poop.

How People React When a 6-Year Old Girl Takes Her Shirt Off

downloadAs all my readers know, I have a daughter who we call, The Freak. She’s six years old. She embodies everything good about that label, as well as everything bad, being re-translated into good by me, because I love her so damn much.

Yesterday, I took the family to a semi-local apple orchard. It was a balmy 70 degrees, which meant my shirt was too hot. I took it off and enjoyed the corn maze, pumpkin hunting, apple picking (and sorting the rotten ones on the ground), and petting goats and alpacas.

And so did Analisse (The Freak). The moment my shirt came off and was tucked into my back pocket, I felt little fingers shoving something into my other back pocket. I looked behind me to find her, half-naked, pretending to not notice that I caught her. I didn’t care. As a dad, I’m a pack mule, wherever I go. I’m okay with it. Also, I encourage my young daughters to take their shirts off, if they want to. It’s not illegal. If the activity was illegal, as it is when they are older, I leave that up to their mother to determine how much is too little cloth.

About an hour into our visit, I was kneeling down by a goat, feeding it grass, when the old man who owns the orchard rode up on his four-wheeler. He hops off and catches my eye, obviously nervous. In short order, he strode over to me, bent down, and nearly whispered into my ear:

Now, I don’t know if anyone really has a problem with this, but, your daughter, with her shirt off, may cause some people to have a problem, so…

That’s it. I thanked him and he straightened, looking very relieved, got back onto his four-wheeler, and rode away.

Now, I could have argued and told him to fuck off. But I cared more about making the day enjoyable for my kids, getting plenty of apples, and doing the pumpkin thing. It wasn’t a life or death situation. In fact, I figured that really, only the old man had a problem with it, and he would be dead in a few years anyway. Jumbled thoughts ran through my head as I went and told my bride what the old man had said.

We agreed that she should probably put the shirt back on. I spoke to Analisse about it, telling her that some people here wanted it on and so I was putting mine back on too. She agreed after a tiny bit of protest, but quickly brightened up when I pulled my shirt over my head.

Without skipping a beat, she was back playing in the sand.

I don’t know what my point is in writing this, but I was sad. Sad that my daughter couldn’t just enjoy who she was, legally. Sad that some people are so bothered by the skin of a little child, they have to dictate my parenting choices. Sad that it is 2016 and we still shame little children for their natural bodies. Sad that it’s 2016 and we still shame older girls for their bodies. Confused that I was bent over a fence, mostly naked from the waste up, possibly even showing a plumbers crack, and the old man rendered me perfectly normal, and yet didn’t see my daughter that way.

I’ll be back there next year. And next year, I won’t stop her from taking her shirt off again. And when he tells me to have her put it back on, we’ll do the dance again. Or maybe I’ll confront him nicely. Or maybe one day he’ll change.

Grocery Store Trip with my Analisse

The last time we went on a grocery shopping trip alone, Analisse (6) and I were in Colorado in the middle of nowhere. She wore her sister’s tiara and begged me to wear another one. It was made of plastic and was too small for my head, so I was afraid I was going to break it. Laura (13), the owner, would have wept. I wore a hat instead.

Tonight, we went shopping again and she wore this:

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You can’t see it, but one of her socks is an ankle sock and the other, a mid-calf sock.

We went to Costco and ate dinner. There was a small mishap:

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A full cup of Pepsi, all over the floor. She dropped it and then loudly and publicly blamed me.

Second Guessing My Life Choices: Kids’ Room Edition

hazardous-wasteI took the last two days off from work, just to get on top of the house. Since the end of August, when we went to the Colorado mountains, the house has gotten away from us. School began. Kristine had her tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy/deviated septum/sinus polyp removal/uvula removal/etc. surgery, where she was out for two weeks. But mostly, my kids are allergic (epi pen-esque) to cleaning, with very few exceptions, mostly due to the phases of the moon on a weekend where the temperature difference between the inside of the house and the outside is directly proportional to the number of coherent sentences published in the current edition of The Hill vs. the number of omitted co-authors of the latest academic paper from the chemistry department of USC, due to their lack of Photoshop experience, botching the smoothing of the edges of their microscope images.

In other words, only my eldest really cleans on a consistent basis, and even she is beginning to see the fairness ratio in this equation. I’m sure, if the rest of the kids read this, they would be furious, pointing out all of their hard work. But they lack an understanding of the Sisyphus nature of cleaning. They think, “Once I’ve done enough, I am done for life.” It doesn’t work that way.

Which finds me walking down the hallway to the laundry room, this morning. I pass by the boys bedroom and smell a sour and rotten stench coming from it. We had worked into the night, last night, uncovering the floor and had been very successful in that endeavor. There was probably a day’s worth of work left to do and I wrote the smell off as having uncovered an old sock that had been soaked in waffle grease and laid lovingly on top of a banana peel.

I walked past again. And again. Then once more. I couldn’t take it anymore. I rushed downstairs, grabbed a pile of cleaners, a garbage bag, and a roll of paper towels, and ran back up to the room. Entering, I was met with a cloud of fruit flies. It was dark in there. I had to adjust my eyes to the lighting and use my nose as the chief sense to find the rotten cup of pudding on top of their dresser.

Only, it wasn’t just a pudding cup. It seemed to have boiled over, liquefying all over the flat top, gluing down coins, legos, Nerf bullets, baseball, Pokemon, and Valentine’s Day cards, and had permanently affixed a lava lamp to the surface. I lifted up the pudding cup. Sticky strings came with it. There was a mound of something else that looked like a pile of tiny maggots. I picked that up with my fingers. It came off in one piece, didn’t crumble, and is now in the garbage outside, along with everything else. Sure, they lost a few toys but, whatever.

It’s all clean now, but I’m wondering how on earth humans can exist in such filth. I’ve figured out a final solution to this problem – I’m banning pudding and only allowing Jello.

The Biggest Scandal of the Year

stream_imgShe mocks my iPhone.

In June, 2015, I wept as I gave up my Windows Phone, replete with the beautiful and intelligent voice of Cortana, and moved over to the iPhone 6. I wept because I hate being like everyone else and had held out hope, for two years, that the technology would improve, people would catch wind of the perfection that was the Windows Phone, and move to the platform in droves.

In the span of two years, the technology continually broke down where I had to get my phone replaced exactly eight times. My cell carrier, Verizon, had trained their people to deal with tech problem on the iPhone and Samsung’s line of devices, but had failed to give their technicians even a brochure that the Windows Phone existed. Not to mention, the Windows Store app library was so unpopular, the only Google apps available were third party. And those broke every time Google changed their API. And I needed Google.

So I went to the iPhone. My wife was on a Samsung S5, or whatever the hell they called them then. I had watched as she struggled to remove simple storage, in order to free up space to just send texts. I watched as the battery life and charging abilities made you feel like you were using heavy duty batteries from the dollar store. I watched as saving and watching videos took half-a-dozen finger touches to get where you wanted to be. And I went with the iPhone.

She has laughed at me every day since. Whenever Samsung announced a new feature, she would laugh. Every time she put her phone on the wireless charger (which is still wired to the wall), she would laugh. Whenever she heard that Apple was removing a time-tested, standard feature, she would laugh. Every time she saw me purchase an official Apple accessory or a charger, for exorbitant prices, she would laugh.

And I took it. Humbly, with silent gloating eyes of intrepid pride. I knew I was hooked. Hooked with the ease of this device I held in my hands. A device that would sometimes get warm, but would never explode or melt my nether regions. A device that never required me to delete OS backup files, in order to get 1K extra space to send a text. A device that the FAA gladly let me take onto a plane. A device THAT. JUST. WORKED. I’m not a gadget guy and don’t spend three seconds in an entire year, messing with the configuration of my iPhone. It looks nearly the same as it did when I took it out of the box last year (except for that large crack on the bottom of the screen).

So when the Samsung Note 7 began to melt, causing the company to halt production, kill the entire thing, and lose $20 billion off their market cap, I expected an apology. A tearful one. One done on her knees, wringing her hands in the style of the old black and white motion pictures. I imagined the softness of her lovely face, even softer around the edges, lit with the rays of a sunbeam straight from the heavens, as she wept in non-contrivance, begging me to forgive her, acknowledging that I had been right all along.

And nothing. Nothing but silence.

It’s bloody difficult to be so humble.

The Art of the Deal: A Broccoli Cheese Soup Tale

broccoli-cheese-soup_5992At the end of August, my bride and I surprised the kids, waking them up at 4:00AM, having packed the previous day, and told them to get dressed and get ready for a week in Colorado. We were taking them on a plane for the first time in most of their lives. The older three had vacationed to Maine many years ago, flying on the old Midwest Airlines (I miss them so much), but nobody actually remembered the experience.

They were so excited.

During that week, we stayed on a ranch in south central Colorado, about 12-miles from a horse ranch where you could ride horses – and eat. The place was owned by a lovely couple and their mother cooked the food for the guests. One morning, when my wife and girls got back from riding, we sat down and ordered food.

Laura (13) ordered a large bowl of broccoli cheese soup, The Freak (6) ordered some nondescript sandwich  with a pile of large fries, and Fred (11…also, he has decided he does not like to be called Frederic anymore) ordered another forgettable sandwich with massive onion rings on the side.

Fred and Laura despise each other. Their personal hatred for one another is greater than the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“Fred, can I have some of your onion rings? I can trade some soup,” Laura asked.

“No.”

That was it. No explanation. Just a quick and dirty rejection with no fanfare.

“Laura, can I have some of your soup? I’ll give you some fries,” Analisse (The Freak) piped up.

“I don’t want fries. I want onion rings! Daddy! Fred won’t trade me his onion rings!”

I shrugged, ignoring the tattling. It had been like this the entire vacation and I was simply tired of it. Ignoring it didn’t make it go away, caused me even more stress, but gave the semblance that I was actually indifferent to the pointless non-issues at hand.

Laura slumped in a huff and made noises of disgust.

“Fred, can I have an onion ring for three of my fries,” Analisse asked.

“Sure!”

Over the cries of unfairness by Laura, The Freak crossed to Fred’s table, summarily dropping four fries (one more for a reason you’ll soon see) on his plate, grabbed the largest onion ring (which Fred couldn’t argue about now, being she gave him extra fries), walked over to Laura’s table, dropped the onion ring on her plate, grabbed the spoon without so much as a polite request, and slurped down an ample helping of soup.

Fred was pissed. Here, his archenemy got an onion ring, when he had worked his rear  end off keeping it from Laura. He made it quite clear that he didn’t want Laura to have it even then.

“It’s not your onion ring, Fred. It was mine,” Analisse giggled.

Fred had no case and was left mumbling under his breath. He had been bested. Everyone had been bested.

And The Freak’s stomach was full of warm soup.

My Son Wants to be a Cop

goodcopbadcopIt was July 4th, in Lakeville, Minnesota. We had just been witness to the worst fireworks show since Christopher Columbus arrived on our fair shores, the natives celebrating with their Gattling guns, shooting glittered cherry pits into the air, peppering the smelly white folk with scented ash (hey…if David Barton can embellish history, I can too!).

We had a long walk back to the car. Two blocks, that is. Long Lakeville blocks. Traffic was everyone, everyone trying at once to get back home, faster than the next person. At 10:30PM on a Monday night, who wouldn’t want to be home faster than everyone else?

Police whistles cut the air and hurt your ears, the closer you came to an intersection. As we waited at the corner, Fred (11) watched with pure happiness on his face, as the officers waved their lighted wands, directing traffic against the lights. Then, they let us go, whistling unnecessarily, somewhat irritable.

Stepping off the curb onto the street, Fred stumbled over the feet of the crowd, making sure to continually catch a glimpse of the officers with every step he took. Pure joy was on his face.

“Daddy, I’m going to be a cop when I grow up, so I can do that.”

I bristled. A cop? You mean that police force that feels as if they’re on the clock when they encounter someone with a mental health condition? You mean the officers that treat me like a criminal during a simple traffic stop? You mean those men in blue that spout racist comments on social media, even encouraging people to run over protesters and activists calling for equal justice and actual due process, as afforded by our Constitution? You mean the men and women who sit on top of defenseless human being, citizens with every right to exist, and shoot them in the back? You mean those?

But I didn’t say that. I looked at my son and saw a generation of rebirth. One cog in the wheel of changing the system that my generation is attempting to start for him. He would have the opportunity to be a foot soldier in a new era of policing. One with recognition of rights and equality. One with empathy, sense of community, restraint, trustworthiness, yes, even love.

“Which kind? A good cop or a bad cop?”

With a look of utter disdain, side-eyeballing me with deep suspicion, wondering why the hell I have the audacity to question his character, he muttered under his breath, “You know the one, of course.”

I tousled his hair as we stepped up on the curb on the other side of the street, hoping the system won’t get to him before he brings hell to them.

Dunn Bros Coffee Shut Down in Farmington, MN

Farmington-3I’m sad. Actually, I’m very sad.

When I was 19, my uncle took me to a lumber yard. Scherer Bros, to be exact, located in Northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota. All I remember about this yard was that my uncle suggested I partake in the forbidden elixir of coffee from the burnt sludge corporate pot on the counter. I grabbed a styrofoam cup and poured an ample serving, lifting the hot drink to my lips, and fell in love.

That was my first real coffee experience, as well as my last for a week or so. When the sober period ended, I found myself walking downtown, past an old building with a Dunn Bros Coffee sign on the front. Knowing that the rest of the world drank Starbucks and that vile Minnesota brand of Caribou Coffee, I wanted to be different. So I walked up the steps and entered the rest of my life.

When we bought our home in Farmington, there was a Dunn Bros Coffee shop at the edge of town. Excited as I was, and many a dollar spent there, I knew it wouldn’t last. It received very little business on a day to day basis, something that would maybe support a single-employee, independently owned shop, but definitely not a franchise.

And so it closed. And I was and am sad. In its place is now Blue Nose Coffee, an independent venture. The interior still smells of paint, their coffee selection smaller than their shelf of bottled Gatorade, and really nothing much to draw me there on an early Sunday morning. The one thing going for this place is that the cup feels good in my hand.

I’ll miss you Dunn Bros. But really, can we get a few Tim Horton’s down here?

The Freak Will Not Be Repeating Kindergarten

IMG_3501Some of you may remember when I asked the question, Is Repeating Kindergarten a Good Idea? I received many comments with a variety of different viewpoints. I also posted the question on Facebook. There was no consensus except, “do what’s best for Analisse,” aka The Freak.

So, what’s best is…

She won’t be taking it over again. She’s graduating and moving to the first grade. She’s taking summer school now and tearing the training wheels off her bike before her older brother does – an allegory I feel has a bit to do with how much she wants to grow up and tackle new experiences.

I’m going to be reading to her a lot this summer. Also, her teachers and a large team of specialists got together and ran her through bunches of aptitude and cognizance tests and declared her “in no need of special education.”

Onward she shall go.

Early Morning Burglary

cartoon-burglarWe were robbed last night.

I woke up at 2:35AM with a start. Light from the garage was pouring into my bedroom windows.

“That’s weird,” I thought, “I swear I turned that light off before I went to bed.

I threw my wife’s red robe on and walked downstairs to flip off the switch to the garage, beside the front door. I reached my hand around the corner and stopped cold. The switch was in the direction I had flipped it earlier, which meant only one thing – the garage light had been turned on from inside the garage.

I mustered the courage and then peeked out the window, staring at the light and the garage for a few moments, waiting for burglars to bust out of the garage, carrying away my plywood scraps, old chairs, kayak with a hole in it, and a tent that leaked when the sky sneezed. I even flipped the light off and on a few times to let the thugs know I meant business.

Nothing moved.

Groggily, I climbed the stairs again, to find my slippers. I had no interest in chasing a fleet-footed, Amazonian woman in bare feet, though, with my ample callouses, I wouldn’t feel a thing, even if I had reason to chase her over hot coals.

“What are you doing,” my wife asked, irritated?

I explained. She shot out of bed, grabbed a robe, and told me to follow her.

I obediently hid behind her, making sure to touch her butt, so she would have moral support. We walked outside together and walked to the garage. Everything was buttoned shut. Nothing was missing. Turning around, I noticed our old grill missing, our shiny new one, sitting in its place.

“Oh right. I told Josh to come and get the old grill. His wife said it would probably be the wee hours of the morning.”

Disaster averted, we went back to bed. My hero status would have to wait.