Monday, October 28, 2013

Boo At The Zoo

Yesterday, Di and I took the boys to the Brookfield Zoo for their annual “Boo at the Zoo” thingy.  Instead of the lions staring out of their cages, wishing they could eat 4 and 5 year old children, the lions stare out of their cages, wishing they could eat small superheroes. 

Elijah, Luca and their cousins had a great time until Luca’s legs stopped working at the wolf enclosure.  His legs seemed to know the wolf enclosure was the farthest possible distance from our car.

It all started when I had the gall to take Luca’s picture.  I positioned the kids around this neat little wooden sign and rattled off a few iphone snaps.  When I turned to rejoin Diana, who was wondering aloud why they didn’t have a Pinot Noir stand by the cotton candy, Luca began to throw an epic fit.

“Hey hey hey, what’s wrong buddy?”

“You didn’t take my picture!”

“Yes I did.  I got a great shot of all you kids.”

“No!  I was turned around.  You didn’t get it.”

Holding out my phone, I showed him evidence to the contrary.  “No.  See?  You look great!”

Luca wasn’t having it.  He began wailing in hysterics.  I tried to make it better by snapping some close ups of Luca. But he became even more angry.

That’s when I realized Luca had crossed over from tired to legs not working tired.

“Uppie!  Uppie!” He screamed.  I coaxed him into riding on my shoulders.  But he quickly realized this was not punishment enough.  So he demanded to be carried like a baby.

Man, that kid weighs a ton.  Even being in peak physical condition, as I am in my imagination, I couldn’t even make it past the bears, who were gnawing on pumpkins supplied by the park.  Their expressions were that of, “If only this was a small superhero…”

I put Luca down and tried to explain this mode of transportation was not going to work for my arms.  Rather than spring to his feet and agree to walk the rest of the way, he slumped to the ground like a sack of potatoes.  Which gave me an idea.  I had Diana take the front half and I took the bottom half and we carried Luca like a sack of potatoes all the way to the dolphin tank, where they were relishing their status as cutest animals in the park, but secretly hoping a small superhero would fall in.

Eventually, we dragged him to the car, where he slept the whole way home, at which point he decided he didn’t need to go to bed for the next 4 hours.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pizza Thief

Every Friday, night my brother and Uncle Tom and Uncle Patrick come over to stare blankly at the TV, eat pizza and not talk to each other.  Which is how it’s been done for almost 20 years now.  It’s called “Boy Night.”

Elijah and Luca don’t like Boy Night.  They hate the idea that in the very next room people are watching the exact same shows they like and eating the same food they like and drinking the same beer they like while they’re stuck in their dumb bunk beds smelling their own urine.

Rather than throw giant fits, which doesn’t work, they conduct a series of civil disobedience.  Covert civil disobedience.

Their main form of protest is to silently creep into the dining room and watch whatever it is we’re watching in the living room.  According to the University of Michigan, children are exposed to over 200,000 violent acts on television before age 18.  I think Eli and Luca are falling behind to make this goal, so these Friday night viewing sessions top them off, violence-wise for the week.

They also engage in elaborate pizza theft.  I imagine Oceans Eleven-style cons and double crosses and Mission Impossible wire work.  But more likely they just race into the kitchen and nab a slice before an adult discovers them en route to the John.  The boys then hide in their room, eating their booty by the light of the fish tank.  I know this because there is always a giant smear of pizza sauce on the dresser next to said tank.

I also know because Luca can’t stand guilt.

This is my favorite part of the whole thing.  Every Saturday morning, while I shake out the cobwebs from Boy Night, Luca will beg forgiveness.  It’s so funny to see him attempt to keep the information inside, but his conscious always gets the best of him.

“Daaaaad,” He’ll cry in pain.  “Dad.  I have to tell you something but you have to promise not to get mad at me.”

“Okay,” I say, knowing full well what he’s about to admit, so am predisposed not to be mad.

“Dad.  Eli and I stole pizza last night.”  Luca then winces as if to ward off an impending blow.

I usually try to act at least a little disappointed.  I mean, I do get tired of picking peperoni off the fish tank.

“Well, I’m not happy about it.  But I am happy you told me.  Just try harder next time.”

I’ve used this newfound guilty conscious to bust Eli.  Luca rolls over on Eli for stealing mommy’s iphone and reading after lights out.  Because sleep is way more important than learning.  

p.s. Luca Man Pumpkin!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Front Privates

On Saturday night, I was simultaneously cooking dinner for Diana and bathing the boys.  Which involves occasionally popping in on them to make sure they weren’t holding each other’s heads under the water.

I was chopping mushrooms when I heard Elijah shout for me.  I leaned into the bathroom and he said, “Daddy, did you put your front privates into mommy’s front privates?”

It’s hard to describe the feeling that came over me at that instant.  It was as if someone poured quick drying cement into my brain.  I could no longer think or speak or remember what a mushroom was.

“Guh?”  I managed to squeak out.

“Did you put your front privates into mommy’s front privates and then part of you and mommy became me?”

A memory made its slow journey through my cemented head.  Diana mentioned getting cornered into telling Elijah the birds and bees recently after a lawyerly barrage of questions.

A part of me wanted to redirect the conversation into the magical world of storks.  Or maybe I could tell him babies are delivered by X-Wing fighters or Ninjas.  But I figured that would be worse in the long run.

“Yep.  That’s how you got into mommy’s tummy.”  I looked at Luca to make sure he was ignoring the conversation.  He was concerned with his own front privates.

“I can’t wait to put my front privates into someone else’s front privates.”

“Okay.  Well.  Here’s the thing.  This whole front privates thing is something we can talk about here at home, but you can’t talk about this with kids in your class.  Their moms and dads might not want them to know about the whole front privates thing and I won’t want to get sued.”

I got them both out of bed and we read “Harry Potter.”  Which, at least for the two chapters, did not mention front privates.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Haunted House

The local School of Rock played “Black Dog” as Luca, Elijah and I walked onto the Washington School playground to attend Fall Fest.  I knew our day was going to be spectacular. 

I plopped down every dollar I had at the ticket booth and told the boys to go nuts.

There was the grossest cotton candy on the planet.  There were pony rides from the stinkiest ponies on the planet. There were hot dogs grilled on the dirtiest grill on the planet.  Games of chance allowed even the loser to pick out a worthless piece of plastic as a prize. 

And there was a haunted house.

From the beginning, Eli made it known he would not set foot even inside the school, because inside the school was where the haunted house was.  That’s fine.  It cost four tickets and the line was silly long.  And the haunted house was reportedly manned by kids from the local high school.  I do not currently tolerate high school kids.

About an hour in, however, Luca got brave. 

“I want to go to the haunted house.”

“I dunno, buddy.  I think you might get scared.”

“But I LIKE getting scared.”

I make it a policy to indulge our children when it involves facing a fear.  Being a wet-pantsed scaredy as a child (and adult), I know it can only hold you back.

I turned Eli over to my brother, who was attending Fall Fest with the venerable Rory and Finn.  Suddenly, Rory piped and up and wanted to join as well.

I made a point of reminding Eli that the two youngest children were being brave and he shrugged it off. 

We three arrived at the crazily long line and waited while we heard high schoolers bellow behind closed doors.  Occasionally, one would burst through the door and sweatily tell an adult, “We gotta shut it down.  Someone lost keys.”

After 20 or so minutes, Rory looked up at me and said, “I don’t want to go.  I’m scared.”

I pointed to the back of the line, which was even longer and said, “But…we’ve been waiting 20 minutes.  Can’t you just be brave?”

“I’m scared.”

We jumped out of line and delivered Rory to the group.  I suggested we bail on the haunted house and do the ping pong fish game instead.

No go.  Luca was determined to see whatever it was the high schoolers were doing.

We got back in line and waited again.  And waited.  After an eternity, we made it to the front.  There, a pimple faced man-boy asked, “Do you want it to be scary?  Kind of scary?  Or not at all scary?”

I pointed down at the three year old at his feet and said, “What do you think?”

“Oh.  Not scary.”  Then he yelled into the doorway, “Blueberry!  We got a Blueberry!”

I took my little blueberry by the hand and we entered. 

The room was pitch black and covered with plastic garbage bags.  We were met by a nice teen girl dressed in black and white face paint.  She knelt down to Luca level and said, “This is not scary.  This is really fun.  We’re going to have fun!”

Suddenly, another teen leapt into the room, covered in blood, and screamed, “Yaarrrrrrgh!!!!!!!”

The girl said, “This is a Blueberry, you idiot!  A Blueberry!”

“Oh.  Sorry.”

But that was it for Luca.  He shook with terror and screamed, “I want to get out of here!”

Rather than risk any more damage than was already done, I punched through the door and we escaped the haunted house.

The School of Rock kids were playing “!9th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Church Goers

“Hey kids!  Who wants to go visit their cousins and sit quietly for an hour?”

Poor Elijah and Luca.  Well, actually poor Diana and Luca and Elijah.  Last Sunday, we went to the long awaited memorial service for Di’s mom in one of those little central Illinois towns the Amtrak rattles past every couple hours.

As we waited outside the church waiting for the service to begin, I watched as Eli and Luca and their cousins trampled the church flowers and squashed the church bugs and I wondered, “Who has the unenviable task of watching these kids during the memorial?”

Look around the poker table.  If you can’t see the sucker, you’re it.

My brother in law Jamie put the over/under of the four sub-ten year olds being ejected from the service at 5 minutes.

As I slid in between the four children, I gave them the rules:  No talking.  No laughing.  No blasphemy. 

Luca broke all three before the priest got his glasses adjusted.  “Who is that man without his shirt on?  Why is he on that stick?”

Man, I gotta get those boys into Sunday School. 

I spent the majority of the service bugging my eyeballs out and mouthing the words “No treat for you!” when a child would stoop to acting their age.  I spent the other time trying to explain Christianity to Luca.

“No.  That smoke isn’t fire.  It’s incense.  It’s kind of like God’s magic.” 

“Those things are meant to represent the body and blood of Jesus.  No, it’s not really his blood.  It’s wine.  It’s a symbol.  Well a symbol is a…here look at this music book.”

I have no idea why I didn’t let them play with my iphone as they begged over and over.  I just felt part of the religious experience is learning how to sit on a wooden bench and listen quietly to things you don’t understand.

Eventually, the service ended and we went to the Pontiac country club where the children could release the previous hour’s pent up frustration on the poor staff.