Friday, November 27, 2015


Oh Luca. How I wish you’d wear a paper hat all day every birthday from now on. But who knows? You are such a terrific kid that you may not give a crap that society may not accept your paper hat lifestyle.

As Luca x-ed out the calendar days leading up to November 25th, I wanted, no, needed to make sure he was getting everything he wanted. I wanted Six to be the greatest day of his life.

Are you sure you just want “art stuff and music stuff?” Don’t you want Star Wars Battlefront for the Xbox One? Which would require the purchase of an Xbox One? No? Really? Well, maybe I should buy it just in case you’ll want to play it.

The evening before the big day, Diana informed me that her trunk was filled with presents needing wrapped. I said, “Is it an insane amount of presents?” She gleefully nodded.

And it was. There was enough music equipment to make John Lennon puke. And enough art supplies to make Yoko also puke. Elijah, in an act of brotherly love, offered to help me wrap. He soon shared in my Zen-like love for perfect corners and scratching the tape to make it invisible.

The morning of the big day was simply lovely. As a very last minute hedge to get good presents, Luca kissed and hugged us and told us how much he loved us. The attack on the presents was brutal, but short. And he actually liked the art stuff and music stuff.

Diana was equally concerned that we go to a great restaurant for Luca’s birthday night. The needy little drunks at the wine store wouldn’t let her take the day off, so she wanted a great meal.

Luca chose The Firehouse, the bar slash restaurant my brother and I take the kids every single Saturday without fail. Diana gently nudged him to fancier fair like Red Lobster because she didn’t want to shatter the wait staff’s illusion that Steve and I are single dads. But his decision was final.

Luca chose correctly because he was treated like a Firehouse celebrity. The bartender sent over a can of pineapple juice. Our server was adamant that she serve a “bucket of cookies” and the busboys sang a roaring rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

And is our custom, we went around the table to say what we loved about Luca. Here are the highlights: Luca, never has there been a funnier, sillier, cuter boy to walk the Earth. We love your vivid imagination, your flights into “Lucaland.” You love us fiercely and passionately. You are artistic sensitive and creative. You make us laugh.

Even Eli had to admit, “I love you because you are a good brother.”

I love you pal.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Balloon Depression

Last Sunday, Luca, Eli and I went to a birthday blowout. It was at the house where they give out whisky every Halloween, so I knew it was going to be fun.

There were build your own pizza stations, huge buckets of beers and juice boxes, and the guy who makes balloon animals at the Mexican restaurant.

The guy who makes balloon animals at the Mexican restaurant (TGWMBAATMR) is this awesome dreadlocked dude with silver rings on each finger and a big ice cream cone shaped thing that pumps air and a vest with at least 40 pockets for every eventuality. TGWMBAATMR could make anything. He banged out doggies and butterflies and hats that would make Carmen Miranda crap her pants. Eli tried to stump him with a fish hanging from a fishing rod, but he didn’t even break a sweat. 

But since this was a 5 year old boy’s birthday party, TGWMBAATMR just made swords. After sword. After sword. With the completion of each, TGWMBAATMR would say, “Have fun, but don’t drag your sword on the ground or it will pop.” Then the child would immediately drag his sword on the ground, pop it, and take their place at the back of the line.

Finally, after several hundred swords were made and popped, the Mom announced it was cake time and TGWMBAATMR was done. He breathed a visible sign of relief and began packing up his stuff, probably anticipating an evening of delicious Margaritas and bottomless chips and guac.

While I was lurking close enough to the cake to be offered a piece without actually having to ask, I felt a tug at my leg. Luca was flushed with tears. He presented me a deformed balloon that used to be a sword. It had come undone in his latest battle.

“Oh, hey. Don’t cry. I can fix this.” I was a little giddy. I’d always wanted to be a TGWMBAATMR and part of me thought I would discover a hidden balloon talent that would make us all rich. 

After some squeaky fumbling, I realized why the real TGWMBAATMR was in such demand. My balloon sword was sad and phallic and caused Luca to look at me with a mixture of horror and deep disappointment in his DNA.

I led him outside and found TGWMBAATMR finishing his packing up. Luca held out the pathetic phallus and TGWMBAATMR said, “Sorry son. I’m done.”

Little sobs came popping out of Luca’s mouth to match the giant tears streaming down his face. But TGWMBAATMR had spoken. And I was not going to argue with a guy sporting so many silver rings.

I suddenly remembered a classic Onion headline that read, “Child Who Just Lost Balloon Begins Lifelong Battle With Depression.”

I guided Luca over to the fence and said, “Hey. Hey. It’s ok. It’s just a dumb balloon. Why don’t we go to the toy store and I’ll buy you something.” Luca just kept crying.

Suddenly, TGWMBAATMR called us over. He looked me in the eye and said, “Sometimes I think, there are these times in life that change us. Things happen and you never forget it. Like, I remember when I was a kid, we’d go to circus and we couldn’t afford to sit up front. We’d have to sit in the back and I felt bad that we couldn’t sit in the front. I feel like this is one of those times for your son. So I want to make him a sword.”

I nodded solemnly.

Luca wiped away his tears and said, “Can we still go to the toy store, dad?”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Too Many Yells

I was really feeling it on Sunday. I was lying on the floor with Luca, drawing characters from Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb” and giving each other compliments. I really like your Ferb nose. Oooh. I like your use of negative space and sensitive color harmony.

I had also just overspent on several Star Wars toys for the boys. Like, way overspent. So I was feeling pretty good.

I was even feeling good about my temper. Aside from a minor blow up about slamming the door earlier (the sound of a slammed door is like an icepick to my brain), I hadn’t really yelled at the boys over the weekend.

And I wanted conformation. “Luca. I’ve been pretty good about yelling at you guys, haven’t I?”

Luca spoke in the sing-song way he does when he wants to cutely disagree with you. “Da-ad. You yell at us. All. The. Time.”

What? No. Is that what he thinks? That I yell all the time? I’m a yeller? I pressed him for more details.

“Like you are always yelling ‘Guys! Get your PJs on!’”

I was genuinely hurt. “Well. Don’t you think you take a little responsibility when you don’t put your PJs on the first 30 times I tell you?”

“You yell a lot.”

So I just let it go. Just kidding. I obsessed about it all day Monday. I didn’t want them to sit around in their 30’s, laughing about what a bear I was when they were kids. “Remember that time he yelled at us about our PJs? Ha-ha.”

So I did the mature thing and called Elijah.

“Hi Daddy!”

“Yeah yeah, yeah. Do you think I yell at you a lot?”

“Oh no. I don’t think you yell at us a lot. You yell at us the right amount.”

“I love you. You are my favorite.”

I talked with Diana about it later that night. She told me it was a thing Luca does now. She said he accused her of too much yelling earlier that day. He does it to get under your skin.

I said, “Oh. Well, it doesn’t bother me at all. Not one bit.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Treasure Island

I’d been losing ground to Diana lately. Competing for my children’s love is a both a game only I know about and a game I constantly lose. Granted, it’s a lot like challenging Mike Tyson to a boxing match or Charles Barkley to a Krispy Kreme eating contest. But I still want to at least try to be the favorite parent. 

Even if it’s against the woman who gave birth, bathes, feeds, clothes, comforts, cuddles, bandages Elijah and Luca every day.

I actually think I’m making it close with Luca. If only because he loves everyone 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. So I think I’m tied with Diana. But I’m also tied with The Mailman and the lady who is both a crossing guard and works at Jewel.

Eli is a little tougher. I mean, I know he loves me. Because I make him say it all the time. But he’s getting to the stage where he doesn’t need me to occupy his attention all the time and I’ve twisted it in my head to him not liking me as much anymore. Oh yeah, I know that’s insane. I never claimed to be a stable person. I just love the kid so much.

Anyhoo, I announced to Diana that I wanted to spend the day with Eli, just him and me.

Diana thought that was a great idea and even went so far as to get us tickets to a local production of “Treasure Island.” I’m sure this was in reaction to her mind’s eye’s depiction of our day: 4 hours of Xbox followed by McDonalds followed by TV. I know! Great, right?

Eli spent a good portion of the day at a trampoline birthday party. But I like to take credit for that fun since technically it occurred during our special day and he didn’t hyperextend his knee. I also gave him permission to spend his own money on a Gatorade, so I was looking good.

We arrived at the playhouse and Eli asked why we had to go see a play. I said, “Because your mom wants you to be inspired to become an actor.”

I instructed him to say, “Maaaaaaybe,” when Diana asked him later if he wanted to act when he grows up. We actually quite liked the play. Especially the stabbing parts and the snack bar.

Afterwards, we went to our favorite BBQ takeout joint to get dinner for everyone.  He ended up wetting his pants, but I could not be held responsible for his tiny bladder combined with Hecky’s lack of bathroom and slow roasting.

I couldn’t tell if in the end it resulted in him liking me any more or less. He did use my “Maaaaaaybe” when Diana quizzed him about acting later that night.

Oh! And he also offered to tweeze my ear hair. So that’s something.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Now Give Me Some Candy

A few weeks ago at bedtime, Elijah said, “Dad. I heard there are some parents who take their kids’ Halloween candy after they fall asleep. Did you ever do that?”

“Every single Halloween, son. Sweet dreams.”

If there was ever a sweet spot for Halloween Eli and Luca are smack dab in the middle of it. They were so amped, Luca actually X-ed out days on his calendar leading up to it like a 1950’s cliché.

They were both very concerned about acquiring as much candy as humanly possible. They peppered me with questions about how many hours they’d be allowed to trick or treat, how many houses they could hit in that time, and the tonnage of sugar that equaled.

Their costumes themselves were beside the point. They were merely delivery mechanisms for candy. Eli went as Star Lord from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Luca went as a cartoon character so obscure I can’t honestly begin to describe it to you. Look at the photo. Is he a bat? An alien? A super hero? No mater. Put the candy here, please.

The day of was, like all recent Halloweens, awful. Rain poured all day as a constant reminder of my Dad’s death two years ago. But, like all recent Halloweens, my Dad used his heavenly super powers to stop the rain at 4:01pm on the dot. I’ve got to get to church one of these days and use one of their heaven walkie talkies to thank him.

After setting out our bowl with the impotent sign reading “Please take one piece only,” the boys literally ran down the street in search of sugar. Diana and I lost track of them almost immediately. We assured ourselves we’d catch up eventually and walked to the house that gives out whisky every year.

When we found the boys, Luca’s candy sack was already too much for him to carry. The magical house that gives out full sized Snickers had tipped the scales and he was dragging the bag like this year’s most famous meme/Halloween costume, “Pizza Rat.” Look it up. It’s worth it.

We suggested going over to our friend Kitty’s place for pizza, but Eli ran away, screaming. Luca sat at Kitty’s for five glorious pizza eating minutes until he begged me to take him for one more candy run. Just for old time’s sake. “I can stop any time I want. I just want one more piece. You know. Just one more piece. It’s not for me. It’s for my friend. I don’t even like candy…”

Diana and I decided that we would simply let them eat as much candy as they wanted. Maybe they’d get sick out of it. Isn’t that the way you get someone off heroin? Let them have as much as they want and they’ll decide on their own to quit?

The next morning, Diana discovered her computer screen was covered in Nerds candy. Eli was hanging from the ceiling and asked if I’d go to the store and buy him some candy.

Luca simply sat at his desk all day, drawing pictures and slowly, methodically shoving candy into his face. He seemed to do it with little or no joy. His eyes had taken a vacancy I found disturbing.

Finally, I snatched the bowl from him and said, “ENOUGH!” Luca clawed at me as I put the bowl on top of the fridge. He then spent the next few hours asking me to check if it was still up there.

Eli then complained of a stomachache, which he blamed on the salad we served for dinner.