Category: Noisetopia

Football

I just wrote almost 500 words about this National Anthem thing that’s going on. That was going to be the basis of my next article. But, after sitting and reading what I had written, I erased all of it. I realized that I don’t care. I don’t care about the actions (or inactions) of a guy whose actual job is to play a game. I don’t take my political or social cues from millionaires in tights. And, I don’t encourage my kids to idolize or mimic the attitudes or aspects of professional entertainers. Please understand that I’m not saying I don’t care about social issues. I’m saying I don’t care about the actions or words of a paid performer trying to influence my opinion. 

One of the first subjects taught in Fire, EMS, or Police academies is some variation of ethics and core values. This subject is taught first because it’s supposed to be the foundation on which you conduct yourself. If you think about it, teaching this subject at the beginning of the class mimics our own lives in that one of the first things we learn in life is right and wrong. And who do we learn it from? Our family. The direction of our moral compass is set by our parents at an early age. Do something wrong and you’re punished. Do something right or worthy of praise and you’re rewarded. It’s the most basic of concepts. 

The picture of my daughter that accompanies this article is one of my new favorites. I have four daughters. I am the only male in our household. Every now and then I like to watch football. I usually only get to watch about half of the game before the chorus of bored, complaining children forces me to relent and change the channel to Glitter Fairy Princesses or Spongebob. My wife actually enjoys watching football with me, but it has nothing to do with the game. I think she just enjoys spending time together on the couch, listening to the sweet sounds of mutual combat coming from our daughters’ rooms upstairs. I was watching a game the other night when my two-year-old descended the stairs, apparently on a break from the Royal Rumble that was going on above us. She walked over to the coffee table in the living room, seemingly oblivious to my presence. She leaned on the coffee table and watched the football game. I anticipated a request for Paw Patrol or Magic School Bus but it never came. She just watched the game. And then she actually got into the game. She threw her hands up in surprise the first time a big tackle was made. She sighed with exasperation when the referee called a penalty on one of the teams. She genuinely seemed like she was being entertained. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. No longer would I be alone in the cold, unforgiving landscape of football fandom. I now had a companion with which to enjoy the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations of football. Dare I say I was more excited than an Oompa Loompa being able to sing a new song about a kid that Willy Wonka just killed. 

Then I got on Facebook. Good feelings gone. Every other post or article was about the NFL players kneeling and why that was either acceptable or despicable. Post after post, scroll after scroll, was negativity from one side of the argument or the other. A lot of the posts I read were about NFL players being role models and how terrible it was that young kids who look up to them were going to mimic their behavior. The other side of the argument was that NFL players are in the spotlight and should be counted on to bring attention to social and political issues. So I made up a third side of the argument, one that other people have probably also made up– I don’t care. 

Football is entertainment. That’s it. It’s a game. I can understand the argument about football players being role models. There are plenty of kids (myself included) that grew up idolizing professional athletes. But there just might be somebody that kids idolize more– their parents. Just like in Fire Academy, the foundation your children build their personalities on begins with ethics and morals learned from their parents. Anybody who has kids will tell you that they pick up on more than you think. This becomes painfully obvious the first time your kid drops the F-bomb in the middle of a crowded supermarket or correctly uses the phrase “holy shit” in its proper context and cadence. And once you get done laughing, you have to put on your serious face and correct them. Which is hard to do because they don’t think they did anything wrong. Because Mommy or Daddy says it all the time. After that first embarrassing incident, I promise you’ll be more conscious of the words you use around your kids. You’ll probably also adopt some acceptable substitutions for curse words like “frick” or “dagnabit” or (my personal favorite) “Bob Saget.”

I guess the point is don’t rely on some celebrity or entertainer or athlete to set the needle in you child’s moral compass. Leave the football players to their purpose– playing a game. Show your kids right from wrong. If you think they’re ready, talk to them about some of the issues that these athletes are trying to bring attention to. But always remember, they’re counting on you to show them how to treat others and how to be the person they should be. 

One of my Brother Firefighters, Wes Baker, said something tonight that has stuck with me. And I think it’s a great quote for this particular topic–

Learn to bring hope into the situation and you will never run short of appreciation and loyal friends.

Batteries

I was sitting on my “Dad recliner” a couple days ago when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a fast-approaching creature of glitter and hair. It was my 5-year-old, Aimee. She approached me, arm raised in my direction, clutching something in her marker-covered sticky fingers. Experience had taught me there was a 50/50 chance that whatever she was holding had a heartbeat. And as she opened her Cheetoh-stained fingers to present her offering I instinctively recoiled and braced for what might be a panicked creature captured from the yard. Luckily, what she was holding turned out to be a toy necklace she had received this past Christmas. 

I know. It’s kind of a let-down. If I was reading this story I would want to hear about a grown man climbing over the back of a recliner to get away from whatever angry creature his daughter had tried to “show” him. But bear with me. I assure you– it gets interesting. 

The toy necklace my daughter presented to me is a replica of a princess amulet from a cartoon that is currently popular in our household. Not that it’s an important part of the story, but the amulet gives its wearer the magic ability to talk to animals or fly or something. Again, that’s not the important part. What IS important is that the designers of the toy version of the amulet spent an extra three cents to install a small, purple LED that causes the amulet to light up when you press a small, purple button. The crazy thing about light-up toys is that they run on batteries. And, since we haven’t figured out how to create amulet-sized nuclear reactors, the small, purple LED eventually drained the life out of even the best bunny-mascotted batteries. 

Such was the reason that my young offspring presented her amulet at my Throne of Dad. The batteries were dead. 

I have four kids. Each of those kids has at least one birthday during the year. We also celebrate the customary gift-giving holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Corn Dog Day (It’s a real holiday. 3rd Saturday in March. Look it up). If I were to multiply the number of kids I have by the number of gift-giving holidays there are, I would come up with approximately 846 battery-operated toys that are currently scattered throughout my house. It is unreasonable to think that I am going to replace the batteries on approximately 846 toys every 6 months to a year. It is unreasonable on the basis of preserving both my money and my sanity. 

Being the experienced parental figure that I am, I have perfected a technique to appropriately handle this situation. This technique may have been imitated, but never duplicated. And since I like you, I’m going to tell you how it works. Take the toy from the child. Bring it up to your eye level and examine it, as if you’re Indiana Jones examining an ancient artifact. At this point, you should try to show some genuine concern. Not too much, though. Kids are good at picking up on feigned sincerity. I’ve found that cocking an eyebrow, grabbing my chin, and letting out a concerned “hmmmmmmm” while examining the toy seems to be the perfect balance of concern and contemplation. After 20 or 30 seconds of examining the toy, quietly let out a defeated sigh accompanied by a “tsk tsk tsk.” When your kid looks up at you tell them, in the same manner that a doctor delivers bad news to a family, that you tried your best. When they ask what’s wrong, present the toy back to your kid and, with genuine concern still on your face, inform them of the tragic news….that they don’t make that type of battery anymore. As this may be a difficult time for your child, you should familiarize yourself with the five stages of toy grief. Denial, anger, hunger, boredom, snack time, cartoons, can we watch a movie, I want some snacks, stop hitting your sister, what was I even sad about in the first place, toy what toy. 

This was my go-to strategy for toys with dead batteries. And it had worked for all of my kids and their dumb, noise-making toys. My technique worked so well that I secretly cut notches in my bed post every time I successfully navigated the perils of having to purchase new batteries for dumb, noise-making toys. Okay, I don’t really do that because A) I’m not actually that mean and B) it’s a really nice bed post. And also C) my wife would punch me in the face if I started carving up the furniture. But I have used the no-longer-producing-those-batteries routine before. And I planned on using it for the purple amulet. But when she handed me the amulet and I saw the hopeful look in her eyes, a thought struck me. It wasn’t one of those quiet thoughts that you brush off and pay no attention to. This was a booming voice and a kick in the ass. When my little girl handed me that plastic, purple necklace I remembered something I had read, the importance of which I didn’t understand until that moment. 

While perusing Facebook one day, I came across a picture of an old couple with a message underneath it. The words read–

“A reporter asked the couple ‘How did you manage to stay together for 65 years?’ The woman replied, ‘We were born in a time when if something was broken you fixed it, not throw it away…”

I don’t know why this plastic necklace made me think of that picture. But those words resonated with me in a way that not only reflected on my parenting, but also on the expectations I was setting for my kids for the rest of their lives. What does it say about us as a culture when we can treat so many things as disposable and temporary? We, as parents, were teaching our kids that once something is no longer useful or in the same condition as when they first experienced it, it no longer carries the same value that it once did. By no means am I trying to sound self-righteous or judgmental. After all, this realization came as a result of something that had become commonplace in our house.

I’ve heard plenty of conversations about the sanctity of marriage and the unbelievable divorce rate. And I know it’s kind of a stretch to go from children’s’ toys to matrimony. But aren’t we setting up the foundation of our children’s personalities at this young age? Aren’t we supposed to instill in them the notion that because something is broken, it doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed? Aren’t we supposed to teach them to be thankful for every gift they are lucky and special enough to receive? And yet, we treat those same gifts as broken and devalued at the first sign of deterioration.

Like most things in parenting, the solution isn’t black and white. I decided to try something different with my kids. I could see that this toy was special to my child. It wasn’t just special in that moment and then forgotten the next. This small, plastic amulet was something she was truly thankful for. What would it speak to her if I treated it as just another toy? What customs and tendencies would she develop as a result of me diminishing and detracting something that she held so dear?

So I made her a promise. I would replace the batteries on the toys that she truly cherished. But it was more than that. I would show her the value of the gifts she received. I would show her that sometimes it takes work to get something back to the way it used to be. I would show her the renewed joy that can be experienced from restoring something once thought broken to its former glory. And when she found that she no longer needed or lost interest in a once-cherished toy, I would make sure she knows that it still has value– especially to those who want for the things we take for granted. 

Buy the batteries. Fix the toys. Your actions– and inactions- as a parent speak louder to your kids than words ever will. 

Spiders Part 2

We left off with Papa Smith making his daily commute to his job as Chief Envelope Licker for the US Postal Service. He was cruising at highway speeds, listening to Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits on CD. A slight rain was covering the roadways, and the rhythmic passing of highway lights were lulling him into that glazed, numb feeling we’ve all had while driving. He looked through the windshield, keeping a semi-watchful eye for a sudden flash of red brake lights among the cadence of orange orbs passing him. His mind turned to the rhythm of his windshield wipers. He had begun to notice that the swishing of the wiper blades back and forth across his windshield was nearly synced with the sudden brightening and subsequent dimming of the street lights. The swish, the light, the hum of the tires on the road, and an International Superstar belting out “My Heart Will Go On.” Could it get any more relaxing than this? Not for him. 

He shifted his gaze, alternating between the customary 2-3 car lengths ahead of him and following the path of his windshield wipers. Suddenly, something on the top of the windshield caught his eye. Ninja Spider had returned. Papa Smith leaned forward, his hands at 10 and 2. He traded quick glances between the road and the quarter-sized spider crawling across the top of his windshield. The glass was still intermittently bathed in orange light from the street lamps, making it difficult to determine if the spider was inside or outside the car. In a thought that quickly formed in his mind, he deduced that even Shaolin Spider wouldn’t be able to hold on to a wet glass surface with 65 mph winds striking it. General concern transformed into horror movie-style panic when he realized– THE SPIDER IS IN THE CAR! (cue dramatic horror movie music)

His fight-or-flight reflexes kicked in. Except they were fight-or-drive reflexes. Because he was driving. On a wet highway. At 65 mph. At night. 

He devised a plan. Located on the back floorboard was a bright safety vest he wore while he was working. He would roll the safety vest up and turn it into the Fluorescent Yellow Hammer of Extermination. He fumbled around, one hand searching the floor behind his seat, one hand on the wheel, trying to locate his chosen weapon. Albino Kund Fu Spider crawled across the windshield towards the driver’s door, zeroing in on his chosen victim. Papa Smith finally felt the polyester and nylon blend of his Safety Extermination Device and brought it to his lap. Just as he was about to perform his patented Safety Garment Newspaper Roll, Arachnid Gladiator the Pale reached the top of the driver’s window. 

Everybody has dealt with a dumb bug in their car before. A fly or a mosquito gets trapped in the car with you and you turn into a bug life-coach. You encourage the bug to move towards the window. Gently at first. “Come on, buddy. Fly over here so I can let you out.” Then your patience starts to wear thin. “Go to the window, you stupid F*ck. Don’t you want to leave? Don’t you want to see your dumb bug family again?” The bug finally gains some sense and flies towards the window. Normally, all you have to do is crack the window and the suction that is created by the 65 mph winds passing by the outside of your car instantly sucks the bug out of both your vehicle and your life, forever. 

This was what Papa Smith thought would happen. Seeing his opportunity, he depressed the switch to lower the window. He expected the wind to uproot Albino Ninja Spider and straight-up vortex his ass the hell out of there. 

You all know that I would not be writing about this if that shit would have actually happened.

Papa Smith watched as Ninja Spider was momentarily caught by the Vortex of Highway Doom. His pale body hung in the open space between the window and the door frame for what seemed like minutes, but was actually only a few milliseconds. Then, with help from either the Ancient Spider Spirits of the Arachnid Clan or a sudden gust of wind, Shaolin Assassin Spider was blown back into the car and onto Papa Smith’s lap. 

History has been witness to many inexplicable events. However, on only two occasions has it been recorded that somebody successfully pulled a car to the side of the road while simultaneously trying to crawl into the back seat. The first was during the British Eggplant Riots of the 1930’s. Those were dark days that we don’t have time to discuss right now. The second time was when a quarter-sized, albino spider landed in the lap of a man who was driving down the highway at cruising speeds. When Papa Smith recalls the events of that day, he claims that his memory is broken into pieces. He remembers the spider landing in his lap. He recalls levitating off of his seat. He also remembers not being able to levitate too far from his seat because his butthole had puckered up so tight that part of the seat cloth was caught between his butt cheeks. The next thing he remembers is standing next to his car on the side of the highway. He somehow managed to safely pull his vehicle to the side of the wet highway while closing his eyes, slapping his crotch, and emitting a scream that was so high-pitched that for miles dogs in their homes began cocking their heads from side to side, searching for the source of whoever was blowing on a dog whistle.

There is only one thing on the this planet that is more terrifying than having a spider jump on you. And that’s losing sight of the spider that just jumped on you. After Papa Smith finished slapping every inch of his body, looking like a deranged homeless person in the process, he turned his attention to the vehicle he had just performed an emergency evacuation from at highway speeds. What the hell was he supposed to do now? The simplest and most reasonable solution would be to light the car on fire, trapping Kung Fu Arachnid in the burning car and sending him straight to hell where he belongs. Unfortunately, the technical term for that is “arson.” And he still needed to get to work.

Well, what if he emptied the entire contents of his vehicle onto the side of the highway? He had a tool kit in the trunk. All of the seats could go as well. That would eliminate all of the hiding spots. And he was certain he could operate the vehicle from the floorboards. Well, that wouldn’t work unless he removed the carpet as well. And he didn’t have time for that. 

He could call an Uber and leave the car on the side of the road for a few weeks. Shaolin Spider would eventually die of starvation or dehydration. Three problems with that. First, he didn’t think Uber would pick him up on the side of the highway. Second, he was pretty sure his car would be towed away at some point. Then, an unknowing tow truck driver would eventually try to open the car and expose Ninja Arachnid to the rest of the world. And, finally, he wasn’t entirely sure whether or not a spider would die if locked in a car for three weeks. I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff for them to eat. Discarded Goldfish crackers from his kids, gummy bears, cookie crumbs. Can spiders eat cookies? Probably not. Can Ninja Spiders eat cookies? Almost certainly.

Only one thing left to do. He would have to face his fears. He would have to assert his dominance over his kingdom and everything in it, including his car. He marched up to the car, flung the door open, and bellowed out “NOT IN MY HOUSE, SPIDER!” And then he realized that didn’t make sense because he was yelling into a car. 

He sat in the driver’s seat and put his vehicle into gear. He merged back into what light traffic there was on the highway. Ain’t no stupid bug was gonna keep him from providing for his family. He sat upright in his seat, chin held high. He almost wished Ninja Spider would show his smug face again. He’d squish that little son of– there was a sudden sensation on the back of his neck. In that moment, what he would later discover was only a piece of hair on his collar felt like the return of Shaolin Arachnid going in for the kill.  He let out another dog whistle scream, slapped the back of his neck, and pressed the gas pedal to the floor. Even with the emergency evacuation of his vehicle on the side of the highway that day, he made it to work in record time. After his shift ended, he called his wife to give him a ride home. Legend has it that the vehicle sits, abandoned in the parking lot, the spirit of a Ninja Spider appearing on rainy nights and every third full moon. 

The end. 

 

Spiders Part 1

I don’t know what it is about spiders that scares the everloving puddingshits out of me. I have no problem with snakes, rats, sharks, or any of the other typical creepy crawlies that give people the heebie jeebies in their under-skeevies. That was a fun sentence to write.

Moving on. I’ve been afraid of spiders for as long as I can remember. I can’t recall a specific event that led to my specific phobia. No, wait. That’s a lie. Anybody remember the movie Arachnophobia? It’s about spiders taking over a town or eating peoples’ faces or something. I can’t remember because I was six the first (and only) time I saw it. SIX! My parents rented it from Blockbuster (for you youngins- Blockbuster is what you would get if Netflix were to open a store in real life) and let me watch it. Thanks, Mom.

I have plenty of stories about interacting with spiders. Like the time I was playing paintball in the woods without a mask and ran, face-first, into a spiderweb with a large, black spider hanging out right in the middle of it. If you ever doubt that I’m coordinated, just know that I took off at a full sprint and stripped butt naked at the same time. I also let out a very high-pitched scream, but that didn’t have anything to do with coordination, so it didn’t count.

This story, however, comes from a family friend and his…family…

That was a weird sentence to write.

Moving on. Again. This story begins with our friends, we’ll call them The Smiths. The Smiths had just returned from a trip to the grocery store when their youngest daughter, Little Smith, closed the car door. Just before it closed, she caught a glimpse of a decent-sized white spider crawling on the inside of the top of the door frame. She freaked out, thinking she had just squished a spider in the car door. She yelled for her older sister, the middle daughter of the Smith family. Middle Smith, not wanting to expose her younger sister to the carnage that was surely waiting on the inside of the door, told Little Smith to look away. She opened the door and observed….nothing. No spider guts. No spider pieces. No spider. The conclusion was reached that the spider had either A) did an Indiana Jones tuck-and-roll at the last second and was now on top of the car or B) had done the same thing but was now INSIDE THE CAR.

Papa Smith came over to see what the commotion was. The two girls relayed the story to their now-concerned father. He was a now-concerned father mainly due to the fact that he was supposed to take the vehicle to work that afternoon. Papa Smith stood up as tall as he could to see if Ninja Spider was on top of the vehicle. Nothing. He poked his head in the car and looked around. No sign of Shaolin Spider. Papa Smith brushed off the concerns of his daughter and his mild internal fear, saying the spider had probably made a clean getaway.

Later that afternoon Papa Smith was at highway cruising speeds. He was repeating a trek he took almost daily- heading to his job as Head Quality Control Technician of Giant Black Dildos Incorporated. HA! Joking, of course. I only typed that because I know he’s going to read this. And that’s the kind of friends we are. He’s actually Head Quality Control Technician for Bass Pro Shops Stinkbait Division. 

But this story is not about his job. It’s about his journey. Which will be finished in the next article. Stay tuned for Part 2. 

Bluetooth

Yesterday was Aimee’s 5th birthday. When I was a kid, birthdays were a semi-big deal. My family basically allowed you to do whatever you wanted to on your birthday, within reason. Didn’t feel like doing your chores? Birthday, bitches. Wanted to eat gummy bears for breakfast? Muthaflippin birthday, peasants. Wanted to tell your mom exactly what you thought of her stupid rules? ALL THE PARTY PEOPLE SAY “BIRTHD–” nope. Nevermind. Just got the shit smacked out of me. But, you get the picture. Birthdays are all about the…birthdayee? Is that how you say that? It is now. 

Anyways, we asked Aimee what she wanted to do for her birthday. She told us that she wanted to go shopping. So we did. For furniture. Hey, she didn’t specify. And we need a new couch. Okay, okay. We took her to a pizza buffet first and then got sugary treats on the way home. So it was still kid-friendly. But this article isn’t about that. This article is about the absolute joy it is to watch my wife try to use the voice command feature in her mini-van. It’s like watching one of your kids faceplant. You know you shouldn’t laugh but dammit if that isn’t funny.

The missus and I recently changed phone carriers. Her van has this cool feature that allows you to play audio directly from your phone with no wires required. Leading scientists have named this technology “Bluetooth.” Have you seen this wizardry? FYI- make sure your youtube and web browser on your phone are closed before you do the voice prompt, because you will hear the last thing that was playing on your phone coming through crystal clear on your car’s speakers. This is especially embarrassing if you’ve recently been watching porn or, in my case, Greatest Harmonica Hits of the 90’s. Don’t ask. I’ve already been judged by my family. 

Where was I? Oh, right– Bluetooth Wizardry. So, because we recently changed phone carriers, we also changed phones. She hadn’t had a chance to pair her new phone with the car’s Bluetooth system. So yesterday when I was driving the family to the pizza place, she decided to give it a shot. Here’s how the interaction between my wife and the voice command lady went.

Wife [Hits voice command button]:  Bluetooth Audio.

Voice Command: I think you said “send message.” Is that correct?

W: No

VC: Restate your command.

W: Bluetooth audio

VC: [Changes radio over to AM]

W [hits button]: Bluetooth Audio

VC: Running vehicle diagnostics

W: Cancel

VC: [returns to AM]

W [button]: Bluetooth audio

VC: [changes radio to FM]

W [visibly irritated][button]: BLUETOOTH AUDIO

VC: Would you like to change your language to Spanish? ¿Te gustaría cambiar tu idioma al español?

W [talking to me]: This stupid thing does not work.

VC: No disc loaded. [changes radio to AM] 

W: ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?

Me [trying not to laugh]: Honey, let me do it. [hits button] Bluetooth audio.

VC: Bluetooth audio. 

W: MOTHERF**KING PIECE OF–

Me: Honey, calm down. It’s on the bluetooth menu. Add your phone. 

W [pushes Menu button]: Add phone

VC: Add phone

W: Oh. Okay. It worked. 

VC: No disc loaded. [changes radio to FM]

Me: Earmuffs, kids.

W: ARE YOU F**KING KIDDING ME?! I WILL SELL YOU FOR SCRAP YOU OVERPRICED PIECE OF MONKEY SH*T!

Me: We’re here. [Turns off car before situation escalates]

After the meal, we sat in the parking lot and I completed the process of pairing her phone. She mean-mugged the console the whole time. Her van will live to misunderstand her another day. For now. 

Prayers

What the hell do I want to write about? I’m just not feeling it today. Maybe it’s the constant exposure to tribute stories and recounting of rescues and images of lost homes that have me burned out. Our house was luckier than most. we made it through the storm without ever losing power, water, or WiFi. I’m not bragging. I’m just relieved. And mildly guilt-stricken. There are a lot of those that don’t have a home anymore. I’ve seen that firsthand.

When the storm made landfall in the southern part of Texas, we turned on the news and watched the Weather Channel guy do his usual shenanigans in the middle of the storm. I will never understand the need to have someone report from OUTSIDE during an active hurricane. We know it’s windy. We know it’s rainy. It’s a motherflippin hurricane. You don’t need to stand in that shit for visual effect. We get it. However, we made sure to bring the girls into the living room so they could see the dangers of a hurricane and how serious they are. We also let them watch the Weather Channel guy for comic relief. One of the other things we emphasized to our kids, especially when we said the blessing at the dinner table, was that there were many families who wouldn’t be able to sit down to dinner together in their homes for a long time. We tried to make them understand that there were a lot of kids that no longer had toys or nice pajamas or princess beds.

That night, we performed our usual bedtime prayer ritual with the girls. They got in their pajamas, brushed their teeth, et cetera et cetera. Then they all sat on Kaylee’s bed and said their prayers. One of the things that we’ve done for a while now is to ask the girls to name three things they are thankful for. Now, normally when this part of prayer time comes we get what I see as “standard” answers. The girls have a group of about ten or twelve different things they pick from that they say they are thankful for. It’s the usual stuff like their pets, their toys, Mommy, Daddy. I’m not saying they’re lying about being thankful for those things. I’m saying Amanda and I have come to expect their answers to be selected from a familiar cache. That night, however, they decided to flip the script on us. The two older girls didn’t just answer the question. They talked about what they were thankful for and why. They expressed genuine gratitude for the life they had and true concern for those who had been affected. It was a moment of maturity in our two oldest daughters that Amanda and I weren’t ready for but welcomed with surprised pride.

Lucy, our third child, was thankful for fruit snacks, her puppy pillow, and pull-ups. 

Hurricane

5 days. 5 freaking days since the last time I posted an article. Don’t worry. I missed each and every one of you. Except you, Dave. No, not you, Dave. The other Dave.

Anyways, where to start? For those of you who haven’t bothered turning on a TV or checking Facebook, Rainpocalypse 2017 is upon us. Hurricane Harvey, that dirty sumbitch, is aiming for the Texas coast. Everybody seems to be pretty worried about it. Rightfully so, I guess. Personally, I’m not getting too excited about it for two reasons. The first is that I’m a fireman who has been through a few of these before. I’ve learned if you get too excited there’s a good chance you’ll forget something important like how to save an orphan or a kitten, or an orphaned kitten. And, really, nobody wants that. The other reason I’m not too worried about Harvey the A**hole is that I currently reside with four miniature hurricanes around the clock. Their names are Kaylee, Aimee, Lucy, and Eleanor. Realistically, though, Eleanor was just born so she’s more of a tropical depression. A poopy, noisy tropical depression.

Most people compare their kids to tornadoes. Their logic is flawed, though. You see, a tornado is a short-lived event that produces massive amounts of destruction. A tornado would be like when my Godchildren come over and play with our girls. They’re only there for a brief time but, when they leave we find ourselves walking among the disaster area and chanting, “We will rebuild.” I’m certain that our kids display the same destructive power when they go to their Godparents’ house.

Living with kids full-time is definitely more comparable to hurricane-esque conditions. Hurricanes produce storm surge that can bring floodwaters dozens of miles into the coast. My kids produce storm surges during bath time that can bring bubble-bath floodwaters dozens of feet into our bathroom. Prior to giving the girls a bath, I often do a personal safety check that includes removing all valuable electronics from my pockets, tucking in loose clothing and jewelry that may snag on something, and donning a personal flotation device. Hurricanes can also produce sustained damage over the course of several hours and, on rare occasions, days. My kids have been producing sustained damage for several years.

If you’ve ever experienced a hurricane, you know it’s not just the physical destruction that can cause stress and grief. The mental anguish of the event can be just as damaging. Living with kids is the same way. You’re going to end up with bumps and bruises. Things are going to get broken. But your emotional stability is also at risk. Make sure you have a good support group or, at the very least, someone to cry with.

Have you ever seen a Texan shopping for hurricane supplies? About 90% of their shopping carts are booze. Have you ever been on a shopping trip with our family? Same story.

So I’m not really worried about this Harvey guy that’s about to come knocking on our door. I have a feeling that when he sees what his competition is, he’s going to pack his shit and leave. Bring it, Harvey.

August

It’s Breastfeeding Month. Or Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Or something like that. I only know this because while sitting on the couch a few nights ago, my betrothed looked up from her phone and said, “It’s breastfeeding month”. My response was a half-grunted “mmkay.” Didn’t think anything else of it.

Then I started to consider why the powers-that-be, those Ministers of Month Dedications, decided to bestow upon the month of August that most honorary title of Mammary Sustenance Month. I’ll admit, I like the name I came up with better than “Breastfeeding Month.” But who are they dedicating the month to? Is it the newborn drinkers of boob juice that warrant a month of recognition? Surely not. They can’t even find the nipple by themselves. Slackers. So it’s the mothers then? That makes more sense. But why do they get a whole month just for producing milk? How come I don’t get a month? We can call it “Half-Finished Projects Month” or “I Take Too Long To Poop Month.” Oh, wait. That’s right. None of the stuff I do as the Father of a newborn actually sustains the kid’s life. Successful care-giving on my part is avoiding serious injury or death. Of the child. And me.

Take a moment to wrap your head around that. Your spouse is sustaining the life of another human. That’s part of the deal. Do you, so-and-so, take this man to be your lawful wedded husband? Do you promise to nourish your offspring with your bountiful bosom and not let them die and so on and whatnot?

I’ve talked before about how I consider myself the breadwinner of the family, the King of the Castle, blah blah blah. I’ve also mentioned before how that is actually complete bullshit because my wife does more for our family than I ever could, while also managing to stay mentally stable. This is another one of those things that reminds me of how thankful I am that marriage and, more importantly, parenthood isn’t actually anything like that. This is a partnership. Albeit, a lopsided partnership but still…..

Our first daughter couldn’t breastfeed. Issues with latching or mouth-to-boob symmetry or something. I, being the rookie father that I was, thought “No big deal. We’ll just buy formula or whatever.” I thought my wife would be happy because that meant that I wouldn’t get to just remain sleeping while our parasitic offspring fed from her milk jugs like a lactose-tolerant vampire in the dead of night. I would get to join in on the bi-hourly wake ups and assist with keeping our firstborn fat and happy. Instead, she was devastated. I didn’t understand it at the time. I mistook my wife’s bouts of crying and depression as typical postpartum symptoms which, for some reason, I thought I was knowledgeable about– this being my first child and all. Looking back at it now, I can honestly say…what a dumbass I was. It wasn’t until our second child was born and I saw the reaction on my wife’s face the first time parasite #2 latched onto the breast that I realized what breastfeeding meant to a mom. And what it should mean to a dad.

I can only imagine the emotional bond that comes from not only bringing a life that your body made into the world, but also sustaining that life with nothing more than what you can offer of yourself. That also has to be one of the greatest of gifts that a child can give you as a parent– to know that they are completely dependent on you to bring them through the difficult first few months of their delicate life. It is your responsibility as a mother to provide, specifically, all of the building blocks their developing bodies require. At the end of the journey that is breastfeeding you will have successfuly nurtured them into the wonderful stages of toddlerhood– their very survival being attributed to a mother who cared and gave whatever she could, whenever she had to.

Is that not also the ultimate gift from a wife to a husband? Your betrothed, who puts up with your snoring, leaving dirty dishes in random places, and the half-finished bathroom remodel that was only supposed to take a couple of months, considers it her right and duty as a mother to provide the foundation of your child’s growth and development. She offers herself completely to the care and nourishment of what will be both of your legacies. What is that worth in terms of the parenthood partnership? I try to do what I can, when I can for my children. But is there anything I could ever do to equal the devotion of the woman who I am so lucky to have as the mother of my children?

Breastfeeding is a selfless act that sustains life and creates an everlasting bond between mother and child. I guess having a whole month dedicated to mothers who breastfeed isn’t unreasonable. (I originally typed that sentence to say “dedicated to breastfeeding mothers” but quickly realized that it might sound like I wanted to make August the month that grown moms go back to feed from their mothers’ boobs. Ewwwwww.)

Shortly after we got home with our fourth child, my wife and I were in bed around two in the morning. We had settled into a normal routine of her waking up to her alarm every two hours to feed our child, while I stirred momentarily, grunted, farted, then went back to snoring. This time, however, I noticed something. My wife, the mother of my children, the tireless creator of our offspring, was visibly exhausted. She hadn’t had more than two hours of sleep in a little over two weeks. She sat upright in our bed, suckling newborn at her breast, oblivious to the wonderment with which I now looked at her. Probably oblivious to pretty much everything except the hungry infant she currently clutched to her. In that moment, I felt….useless. There wasn’t a thing I could do to help her. I could crack a joke. But she’d probably punch me. I could rub her back. But she’d probably fall asleep. Then the milk-starved minion would probably roll out of her arms and onto the floor. Then she’d probably punch me. What could I do to help her? I tapped her on the shoulder. She looked over at me, surprised that I was awake. I thanked her for being the wife and mother that she was. I told her how grateful I was for the beautiful children she had given me. She teared up. Then she punched me.

To all the moms who breastfeed their kids– thank you.

Games Kids Play

We like to keep it entertaining in The Buford House. Maybe “entertaining” isn’t the right word. “Interesting” would probably be more accurate. And, really, we have to. How else am I supposed to deal with a house full of girls? Luckily, my daughters take pity on their old man and do their best to distract me from my wiener-less sorrow by playing games with me whenever they can. Those of you who are parents might be familiar with some of these games and have probably played a variation of them yourselves. For the rest of you, here’s the short list of the ones I find most effective at occupying my attention.

  • 21 Questions

    • You’ve probably heard of this game before. You think of an object and the person you’re playing with gets to ask 21 yes-or-no questions about the object to try to figure out what it is. But, wait! Here’s the twist my girls put on the game– they just ask questions. There is no object. There is no correct answer. It’s just an endless stream of questions. Questions about butterflies. Questions about cookies. Questions about that one trip that one time where we went and saw that one guy with the ears and he had a dog and shoes and my favorite candy is bubble gum. Just an endless stream of questions. We’ve been playing this game for approximately seven years now. I really wish I knew how to win.

  • Dance Dance Revolution

    • Put on some music. Any music. Seriously, it doesn’t matter. I could pop in my As-Seen-on-TV copy of The Greatest Church Organ Hits of the 1930’s and three sticky, glitter-covered little girls will pop out from behind the furniture and start a mini-rave.

  • Hide and Seek

    • The goal of this game is to take the object that I will specifically need in the next minutes, hours, or days and hide it in a place that Indiana Jones himself wouldn’t be able to find it with a map and a sherpa. Bonus points if the item is very expensive and/or vital to my job/school. Previous contestants have chosen car keys, cell phones (on vibrate), recently-purchased computer parts, and even some of their own toys– like a giant Flavor Flav-style Princess Sophia Amulet necklace (don’t ask). Losing something in the house is just the qualifying round, though. The Double Jeopardy round is when we’re on a road trip and they lose something in the car that is never seen again. You would think there would only be so many places it could be. Nay I say. Our 2013 Chrysler Town and Country came fully equipped with optional back-up camera, leather seats, and a portal to another dimension. Because that’s the only explanation for the alarmingly high number of pacifiers, french fries, DVDs, and actual full-size stuffed animals that have vanished into the Chrysler Triangle.

  • Paint By Numbers

    • Spilled food and drinks. Everywhere. 

  • Operation

    • You might think I’m talking about that board game with the naked guy on it. Close, but no. I am convinced that my girls wake up at 2 in the morning and place the smallest and sharpest toys they possess in the direct path from my bedroom door to the coffee pot. When my alarm goes off at 4:30 and I make my way, still 97% asleep, to the coffee pot it is almost a certainty that I will step on something like a fork from their kitchen set, a mothertrucking Lego, or something equally sharp/pointed. I’ve started playing a little mini-game as I’m crashing to the ground in agony. I try to see just how many curse words I can say between the time I step on the toy to the time I have to surgically remove said toy from my foot. Personal best of 46.

  • Marco Polo

    • The Buford version is kind of like a Hollywood movie in that it’s only loosely based on the original content. In the original game, you close your eyes and yell “Marco” while the people you are trying to find yell “Polo”. Then you try to hone in on their location. In the Buford version, I close my eyes, clench my fists, and yell “KNOCK IT OFF” from my spot on the couch to stop what sounds like a pay-per-view Wrestlemania event going on upstairs. Because they’re about to hone in on an ass-whooping. So it’s kind of the same thing.

I’m not complaining. Like I said, it keeps things interesting. And what the hell is the point of having kids if it doesn’t include some free entertainment every once and a while? Wait until you hear about the games the wife and I play as parents. Not those kinds of games, weirdo. I’m talking about the stuff that makes it fun to be a parent, mainly at your kids’ expense. More on that in the next article. 

Bath Time

Listen, I love my kids. But they’re gross. My kids could get dirty in a sterile operating room. I don’t understand it. At any given point they’re either sticky, dirty, smelly, or a combination of all three. So, like most good parents, we try to bathe them at least semi-regularly. Here’s a breakdown of the process.

The first thing you want to do is announce in a calm but firm voice that it’s bath time. You should try to do this in a room with the least amount of exits possible. The fewer ways these stinky crumb gremlins can escape, the better. You should also “prep” the room by removing any sharp objects and covering any reflective surfaces as your dirt-covered noisemakers may startle easily. Having your spouse stand just outside the room with a butterfly net and/or candy is effective as a secondary means of containment if and when your crumb snatchers panic. I have four kids. Rounding them up can be a challenge sometimes. Luckily our middle two haven’t quite developed their hand-eye coordination and frequently faceplant during their attempted flight from deodorization. Our youngest is still in the squishy paperweight phase, so she gets bathed in the kitchen sink. Our oldest has a mean head-fake and often gets past her less-than-agile dad but is usually scooped up in secondary containment by her mother.

Once you have them all in the bathroom, it’s time to draw the bathwater. I’ve had people suggest doing this beforehand. The problem with that is A) when the dirt goblins hear the tub filling up they run and B) if they do escape, by the time they’re caught the bath water is usually too cold and has to be re-drawn. No, it’s better to wait until you have them cornered in the bathroom. When they hear the tub filling up, they usually accept their fate and prepare for the inevitable.

Unless they don’t. Open rebellion is also a possibility. My 2-year-old is usually the leader of the resistance. Her most-employed tactic is to crap in the bathtub. Once this happens, I have to get them all out of the tub, empty the water, disinfect everything, refill the tub, and drain it again to remove cleaning agent residue. All the while my wife is hosing the girls down in our stand-up shower with the handheld shower head.

If by some miracle our 2-year-old doesn’t crap in the tub, it’s time for the actual cleaning portion of the process. Now, some people will take the hands-on approach of getting a washcloth or one of those poofy things and scrubbing their kids down. Ha! Amateurs. I’ve found a much more effective method– a bubble bath. I’m not talking about Mr. Bubble and his bubblegum-scented bullshit. That stuff is nowhere near strong enough to handle the funk film that my kids carry around. You need something much stronger. Cue the Dawn dish detergent. They use this stuff to clean animals affected by industrial disasters and catastrophic oil spills. Sounds like the right stuff.

The most effective method is to take a about a tablespoon of Dawn and add it to the bathwater. Then, grab a bath toy and offer it to one of your kids. The other kids will ask you to let them have it instead. Then, drop the toy in the middle of them and watch the child-powered agitating action that comes from three kids fighting over a toy. You should have some extra towels on hand for the inevitable splashing of the walls, ceiling, and floor that will occur. Rain gear is also recommended but not required.

After a brief but messy struggle, a victor should emerge. Your kids should now be squeaky clean with no hand-scrubbing required. It’s best to get them out of the tub one at a time, as they will try to get past you and run through the house naked, trailing as much water as possible along their route. Much like when you were trying to round them up for the bath, you should have a secondary means of containment with a towel ready to capture and dry off any now-slippery scream demons.

The goal is to get them in and out of the bathtub before they realize what has happened. Upon donning clean pajamas, their first instinct will be to run outside and play in the first dirt pile they can find. They can’t help it. It’s just in their nature to get dirty again as soon as possible. This behavior is especially prevalent after you’ve gotten them dressed for a formal function. This can be avoided by distracting them with dessert or popcorn and a Disney movie.

Finally, enjoy the next approximately twenty minutes that they remain clean and odor-free. Because, let’s face it, they’re probably going to find a way to get dirty again before bed.

P.S.- We don’t actually use Dawn dish detergent on our kids. That would be cruel. We’ve found that GOJO works better and leaves them with a refreshing citrus smell. 

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