Friday, June 7, 2013

Time To Own It

On Wednesday just before noon, it happens. Lucy comes home from kindergarten and doesn't return to school until after Labor Day for first grade. When I was unceremoniously let go by work in February, I didn't think we'd get to this point. And, while I've been fearing June 12 for several weeks, I'm starting to look forward to it. Will this change by June 14 when I hear the girls scream, "Yah-huh! Nut-uh!" at each other 482 times? Sure. But give me this moment now please.

After this week I finally feel like I'm "owning" this stay-at-home role I have. Allison has tried to tell me over and over (and over and over) that my problem with staying home with Paige has been it wasn't on my terms. And it wasn't. After working in the industry for 15 years, I was dismissed by a guy with no discernible skills and who has bragged to employees about "firing hundreds of people" in his career. Congratulations, I'm another notch in your bedpost.

That stung for a few months, I can admit it. The wet, cold, gray Portland weather didn't help either. Paige and I were limited to indoor activities and I still was under the guise that I'd get her back on track with her afternoon nap. Unfortunately, the day in April when she stared me dead in the eyes during lunch and declared, "I'm never napping again, NEVER EVER!" - she actually meant it.

Now we don't worry about rushing home for naps. This week we went to her soccer class, the International Rose Garden and a huge park in the city with a volcano in it. I've finally realized, as long as we have a lunch and sunblock packed, and a fully charged iPhone (for when her exhaustion is too much to handle and she falls asleep in the car leaving me to find a spot in a random parking lot under a tree for her to sleep), we can conquer the world. There aren't many places better than Portland in the summer, so I'm actually looking forward to seeing what else we can explore in the coming weeks. Add in Lucy, and the more the merrier minus the part where I have to make additional trips back into the house for her sunglasses, snack, books, etc. before we can leave our driveway.

It's funny - owning this role made the most sense after I received an email from a guy I know in the area. I asked him about keeping a lookout for any potential job opportunities in his conversations and travels. He responded with, "You're a stay-at-home dad now, can I be you when I grow up!" He meant it and it resonated with me. And, the other day at the park, a mom asked what I do, and for the first time I said without flinching, "I'm a stay-at-home dad." Typically, I bumble and babble through a whole thing about not having a job, I used to be a writer, etc., but now I'm owning it. Plus, it helps explain why I haven't shaved in two weeks and look like a cross between the old-school Brawny Paper Towel guy (minus the physique) and Conan O'Brien (minus the laughter).

It's not really a "white blank page" for Paige and I anymore. We know what we're doing, we have figured out each other's tendencies to a degree but there still are plenty of chapters left to write. And now, it appears, we'll have the summer to do it. I just hope I don't have a blog June 14 entitled "Yah-huh, nut-uh" with a different vibe to it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lice And Turds And Barf, Oh My!

Save yourself! The lice have arrived.

Finally, a fate worse than taking Paige to the grocery store - picking lice nits from Lucy's flowing mane of hair as she shifts, groans, grunts and yips at me when I catch a snarl with the lice comb. Yup, for the second time in four years, Lucy and I are experiencing the joy of spending an inordinate amount of time together in the bathroom trying to rid her hair of the dreaded creatures.

With Lucy's sensitive skin, I didn't think much of her itching at her head a bit recently. I was concerned enough to check it out the other day but didn't see anything like the infestation of four years ago. When I picked her up from daycare that morning in 2009, I recoiled in horror as I sifted through her hair to uncover what was lurking on her scalp. Lice. Crawling. Everywhere.

But this time, I don't notice anything until just before bed last night. There they are - the tiniest little nits - smaller than a grain of rice, dark in color and attached to her hair near the scalp. There aren't many and could have been mistaken for dirt if I hadn't known better.

We make our way to the downstairs bathroom so as not to bother her sleeping sister. I place the instructions from the treatment box on the counter and set off to gather some other supplies. Of course, as I come back into the bathroom she is studying the large sheet of paper closer than Chip Kelly on 3rd-and-3.

"Daddy, what are these?" she asks pointing to the large pictures of nasty looking creatures adorning the bottom of the page.

"Um, hmm, I wonder why those are on there. They certainly aren't the 'itchies' on your head," I assure her. Crisis averted. Father of the Year status cemented. (There is no doubt she knew why those images were on the paper but didn't want the real answer - I cannot blame her)

Allison pops her head into the bathroom and gives me a, "You got this?" That's our code for, "You're going to do this but I'm going to give a half-assed attempt at offering." To her defense, I do this all the time when Paige wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. Plus, she is washing every stitch of linen in the house, all stuffed animals and all articles of clothing at the same time. And, she's the only person living in our home who currently is earning a consistent paycheck, so I opt not to complain.

I won't go into the details of the treatment process. It sucks. You apply. You sit. You use the enclosed lice comb to pick out the nits. You do this until your back seizes because you're standing in an awkward position over your child's head for hours on end.

This all comes on the heels of Paige's latest push in potty training. I'd estimate she's 90 percent there. The remaining 10 percent breaks down in two categories:

1. Overnight - she wakes up reeking of urine every morning. Unfortunately for Paige, her mornings begin at 5:10 a.m. playing quietly by herself in her room, so no one tends to her needs until she starts kicking walls around 6 am. (5 percent)

2. When she has a "loose" poop - her understanding of what is about to come out of her body is remarkable. Regular turd? She asks to go on the porcelain, adult (I call it "human") potty. Something much nastier? She wants to use the "little potty," which is the plastic one sitting next to the big toilet. (5 percent)

When the turds hit this plastic potty, the attending adult has to wipe her, hold the dirty wipes in hand (they are not flushable), remove the crap-filled bucket from the plastic potty, dump it in the human potty, pull up her underwear with one hand, scream at her that, yes, she needs to wash her hands, and bring the poop-smeared bucket down to the laundry room sink to scrub it out with Lysol.

Of course, not to be outdone, Sugar, the freaking cat, decides that the very moment I am talking to my dad on the phone today, she's going to start making the horrific pre-vomiting sounds, which to the untrained ear resemble the noises you'd expect an eight-pound cat to make prior to yakking up a beluga whale. Despite being 36 years old, I try not to curse in front of my parents too often. Today, I barked into the phone, "Ugh, the effing cat just puked everywhere." Let's just say, I didn't say "effing."

At this point, I'd like Walter White and his meth-cooking team to show up and drop plastic sheeting over our house ("Breaking Bad" reference for the uniformed) until all this nastiness subsides. If that's not an option, then it looks like Lucy and I are about to set up shop again in the downstairs bathroom. I just hope Paige doesn't need to go No. 2 for the next two to three hours.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Running To Stand Still

I apologize for the lack of blog posts lately. With Paige giving up her mid-day nap cold turkey, I've lost my blogging time and any free time I have is used to do online research into how to abandon your family without leaving a trace. Let's just say, life sucks when Paige doesn't nap.

The weather in Oregon turned a few weeks ago. The rain began its hibernation early this year, the sun shook off its rust and we now are looking at a tremendous stretch of bright, 80-degree days that begin with a hint of a cool, refreshing Pacific Northwest crispness in the air in the morning followed by unlimited rays of warm sunshine by afternoon. These days are built for running.

Minus an unfortunate stretch of time in Wisconsin which I've deemed "those fat, alcoholic years," running has been a part of my life. Ran in high school because I sucked at most other sports. Ran well after college to attempt to shed the shame of those early Wisconsin years. Even ran when living in West Bend, Wis., when some hicks in a beat-up pickup truck drove slowly past me and yelled, "Run! Fat ass! Run!" Yeah, that one stung a bit.

I've deemed Paige my "Running Buddy" to get her excited about picking off mile after mile in our suburban town. And, once she dons her sweatshirt and sunglasses, asks for a snack, begs for a water bottle and demands a bag of Little People Princesses to hold and play with while we are running, I finally release the brake on the faded red Baby Jogger stroller (purchased prior to Lucy being born) and we're off.

Most days we do about four miles. Paige loves this one house about 1 3/4 miles away that has a cow mailbox out front (a mailbox with cow legs, head, tail and ears sticking out from it). We run to it, she howls in delight, I continue ahead to the two-mile turnaround and come back (to see the mailbox again on the trip back). Other days I'll push it to five or six miles but we always run past the cow mailbox.

On Friday, I sent Lucy to school with no lunch and not enough money in her school lunch account to buy. God forbid she can't eat popcorn chicken at school. So, I wrote a check and off Paige and I went in the Baby Jogger. Instead of popping onto the main street, we went in the opposite direction and twisted and turned our way through the subdivision's never-ending supply of roads where eventually Lucy's elementary school is located. It's a shade more than a mile from our house.

Of course, by going in the opposite direction, I was peppered with questions about the cow mailbox. Are we going to the cow mailbox? Where is the cow mailbox? Is this the way to the cow mailbox? The distraction of the cow mailbox caused Paige to forget she didn't bring her Little People Princesses with her. At the 0.9-mile mark heading toward the crest of a hill, it started. Screaming. "Daddy! Stop the stroyer! (all "L"s still sound like "Y"s).

I don't like stopping during a run, especially when I know my Running Buddy is pissed off. She explains the situation to me, I decline heading back to the house and try to start pushing up the hill again. Paige goes into bucking-bronco mode. I never thought 35 pounds of fury could stop my momentum but she is shaking the stroller so violently, it is impossible to move forward.

I begrudgingly relent and say we'll go back home. The shaking, screaming and shrieking stop. We run back to where we started, get the toys and traverse the same damn sidewalks to head to Lucy's school. As soon as we drop off the check at the desk, she immediately begins asking about the cow mailbox again.

The plan isn't to go that far but after our detour, I figure, "You want to get nuts!" (in my best George Costanza voice). We push to the cow mailbox and past it. By the time we arrive home we had covered a hilly seven miles. I am spent.

My Running Buddy isn't perfect. Far from it. But as long as the weather stays nice, we'll continue working on our patience and logging more miles than expected, and at least she's not calling me a "fat ass."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Goodbye Nap Time, You Will Be Missed

As Paige finished her lunch Monday she looked me dead in the eyes, furled her eyebrows (as her mother does all the time) and emphatically said, "I don't want to nap...never, ever!" After refusing to nap the previous week, which I attempted to shrug off as a blip on the napping radar, her outright refusal to take a mid-day siesta this week has sealed the deal - and possibly my sanity.

When Paige napped, it was always for at least two hours, sometimes three. She's a high-energy, busy, emotional child, so I cherished those hours after lunch. I'd figure out dinner. I'd clean the kitchen. I'd work on emerging freelance projects. I'd use the treadmill (when the weather was bad). I'd sit and enjoy the silence for a few minutes. Now, Paige and I have 13 to 14 consecutive hours together. No break.

And, by 4 or 5 in the afternoon, the effects of not napping takes its toll. The other day as I was getting dinner together, she asked if they could eat dinner on their little trays in front of the TV, which exclusively is a treat for them and maybe happens once a week. I said no. She then climbed on our tall kitchen chairs, screamed and berated me for several minutes with tears in her eyes, then meekly said, "Daddy...I need help getting down."

The no-napping tirades also reared their ugly head the other day when I received a call from a potential employer asking to do a phone interview at that moment, then suddenly realizing I clearly must have been waterboarding 15 toddlers as there was no other reason for the amount of desperate, agonizing screaming in the background. The caller immediately said, "Do you have time tomorrow that would be better?"

Yesterday Allison had the day off and as the three of us raced back from her mom's house to be home in time to pick up Lucy from the bus stop, Paige yelled at us the entire way. Turn the music off! My feet are cold!(it was 72 and sunny yesterday) My want my toys! My want my books! All the while I'm thinking, "My want to drive into oncoming traffic."

Three minutes before we pulled into the driveway, the only noise from the tiny dictator in the backseat was snoring. Awesome. A nap at 3 in the afternoon. Needless to say, she then was up until 9 last night but managed to burst out of bed before 6 this morning. She went through the typical routine of walking into our room, going all the way around the foot of our bed to reach my side, then poking her fingers in my face to wake me up. Why doesn't she do this to her mother, who is sleeping right near the door? I'll never know.

I do know this - Paige and I have survived these 11 weeks because we have a good system in place, a system that includes grocery shopping at 8 a.m. on Mondays, story time at the library on Monday and Tuesdays at 10 a.m...and a two-hour respite for me in the middle of the day. Now, she's amping up the craziness by a couple hours a day in an effort to claim all the power in the house.

I'm pretty sure I'm screwed. So, if you don't hear from me for a few days, just imagine a three-year-old in a glittery princess tutu standing over me, barking out orders with tears in her eyes as I duck for cover. I don't see any other way for this to turn out.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Missing Boston, Pondering The Future

I slip on my running shoes 20 minutes after finishing dinner with the family. I say I need a run to clear my head. It's been years since Massachusetts has been my official residence but it's always been my first home - and today it was under attack on the most "Massachusetts" of days. The Boston Marathon. Patriots Day. The Red Sox. Maybe I don't say it often but I do miss the hell out of that place.

I want to run because that's what runners do when something horrific happens. Obviously, being on an opposite coast, this isn't about me. But it is still my home and my sport facing tragedy, and some of the people closest to me were in the streets today running and cheering. It still affects me but it is hard to put into words. So, I want to run. You know, a casual run to break from the day.

After posting a near-effortless, fast-for-me, sub-7-minute first mile, I realize, "OK, it's going to be like this." I run hard. I run harder. I push. It makes no sense but I want to feel something. Maybe some pain? Who knows? This isn't a casual run where my mind gets to go blank.

My feet move faster below as my mind races to keep up. Why haven't I kept in better touch with my friends out east? Why haven't we visited more? Why do we get bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae and let days, weeks and months pass without reaching out? I wish I knew.

As a parent, you think about your kids during times of crisis. You want them to be safe. You question the world we live in. I read a lot of Facebook updates and tweets throughout the day wondering about the future of humanity. I don't question it because I never placed my faith in humanity in the people who carried out this cowardly act. My faith in humanity rests with former Patriot Joe Andruzzi carrying an injured person from the chaos at the finish line. It rests with Rich DeSilva, who barely made it through last year's marathon in 90-degree heat, came back this year, raised more than $10,000 for Andruzzi's children's cancer foundation and who had to end his day at the 25.5-mile marker. If I know anything, I know this - Rich's perseverance will have him running a marathon again. This is where our spirit lies.

My faith also rests in the 6-year-old who I'll walk to the bus stop in the morning. Tonight she had a "work night" as she excitedly called it where she banged out her "ch" homework, finished a Rainbow Fairies book and planned to start on her next book report. The future is bright for that kid. I do not worry about the world I'll grow old in with Lucy as part of our next generation.

And, my faith is in Paige, the 3-year-old who has taught me more in these 10 weeks at home than I've learned at any job. This is the truth - we laugh, we cry and navigate every day as only a parent and child can. She's taught me to cherish the time we have together while simultaneously pushing my every button. I've found inspiration in it even if a good chunk of this blog is dedicated to those mind-numbingly crazy moments we all have as parents. But, with her fire, passion and smarts, once again, I do not fear for our future.

My run ends up the hill into our neighborhood. My stomach is in knots. My mind is running at full throttle. I head inside with enough time to be the "closer" at Paige's bedtime after Allison finishes reading a couple of books to her. I sing her some good-night songs and give her an extra butterfly kiss. I get to read Lucy her bedtime books, then tell her a make-believe story as I do every night.

And, tomorrow, I'll wake up thinking of Boston and its incredible people again. And while some lives will never be the same, I know everyone there, including my close friends and family, will come back from this after the mourning process happens for the victims of this tragedy.

I wish I could be there with you but know you are in my thoughts, more than you realize.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2 Much-Needed Moments To Keep Me Going

The way yesterday afternoon was moving along, I didn't expect to get one of "those moments," let alone two of them in a single evening.

Immediately after school yesterday I take Lucy, Paige and a $20-off-purchase coupon to Dick's Sporting Goods to buy Lucy her first glove for t-ball. I expect one of those happy, proud moments where I share my knowledge of the game, find the perfect glove and Lucy and I play catch for hours afterward. Instead, I lose Paige for several minutes as she climbs into a clothing rack, lifts her almost-3-year-old butt onto a crossbar inside it and becomes hidden to anyone in the store. At the same time, Lucy keeps placing too-large helmets on her head and banging aluminum bats together to drive the customers, employees and her father crazy.

Fine. I pick a glove. Then we come home and Lucy uses the glove to make five catches in the driveway, then says, "I want to ride my bike." This, of course, means getting her helmet on, digging the bike out from the depths of the garage and walking alongside her as she doesn't know how to ride without training wheels yet. After navigating 10 feet up the sidewalk, she slightly loses balance causing her foot to touch the ground. "I don't want to ride my bike. I'm going inside to read Rainbow Fairies." Why not - it's only 65 degrees and sunny outside.

OK, let's see what No. 2 is up to. "Daddy, me want to ride Dora bike!" Before Paige knocks over the boxes and tricycles in front of the Dora bike with training wheels, I lift it over her head and into the driveway. I remind her she has to push down on the pedals to make it go. This doesn't sit well with her. "No, Daddy! You push me!" This berating continues for 45 seconds until she proclaims, "Me no ride bike!" As I place the bike back in the garage, she runs full speed up the sidewalk, trips (you could see it coming) and lands flat on her stomach. Crying. Screaming. "Everyone inside!" I yell.

With Allison gone for a work dinner, I opt for making tacos. Of course, by the time I sit down, both girls have eaten all their food, are whining for "a treat" and could not care less that my taco is ice cold, and that I haven't taken a bite of it yet. Both girls go tearing upstairs to play, which usually means someone is screaming, "Daddy! She's touching my toys!" within 90 seconds.

But, finally, mercifully, "that moment" pops up around 6:30. Parents know what these moments are. The kids drive you bat-shit crazy for days on end, you question your lot in life, then you wonder why it's so quiet upstairs. My mind starts going two ways as I tip-toe up the stairs: 1) they've finally killed each other or 2) they finally have a cat cornered. Instead, I hear Lucy reading a Sesame Street book out loud and her voice is coming from Paige's room. I stick half my face around the door frame as not to disrupt the world and, I shit you not, Lucy is sitting in a chair, holding up the book as if she's a teacher and Paige is sitting on the floor listening. The Moment.

After Allison gets home, I walk with Lucy to her swimming lesson at 7:30. For weeks previously, the final five minutes of every swim class is dedicated to having the little kids (one at a time) step out to the edge of the diving board and jump into the water. Every student jumps right off except for Lucy. She stands at the end, half-squats, stands back up, shakes her head no and eventually walks off the back of the board. Last night, she walks to the edge and jumps right in. She does it three times with no hesitation.

On the walk home I gush about how proud I am that she conquered her fears and jumped into the pool. With her clothes over her wet bathing suit and still sporting her goggles (she walks home in them), Lucy reaches out her hand to hold mine. We aren't crossing a street where I require hand-holding but, with her new-found confidence and pride, she wants to hold my hand while we walk up the hill on the sidewalk. The Moment. Again.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Break - Not How I Envisioned It

Half a lifetime ago, the term "spring break" conjured up a much different meaning than it does today. I never went on a real college spring break unless you count the time two friends and I visited my Uncle Kevin in southern California during our sophomore year at Marquette, planned a day trip to San Diego to throw my uncle off the scent, then raced down to Tijuana for an afternoon of drinking. But, let's just say the streets of Tijuana aren't exactly filled with co-eds on a random Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Still, the idea of "spring break" used to make me think of sandy beaches, warm temperatures, ocean paradises, people not wearing a lot of clothing and lots of drinking. This week, Lucy is on spring break from kindergarten, which means both kids home with me, and we're deep into our version of a week of debauchery.

When it comes to sandy beaches, there is nothing like a local park in 55-degree weather with a slight rain falling - not exactly paradise. The sand comes into play when you have a two-year-old with you. Sure, I noticed Paige dragging her feet throughout the patchy sand area for an hour but didn't fully grasp what had taken up residence in her Velcro-strapped Champion sneakers until we arrived home today and she dumped a sandbox worth of dirt all over the kitchen floor, then ran off. No problem, kid, I'll clean it up - that's what I'm here for.

The ocean paradises came into play Monday. Allison won a free family pass to the North Clackamas Aquatic Center. As we approached the ticket desk you could see into the pool areas. It was at this moment I realized I would have paid for the next four families in line if we didn't have to go into that Petri dish of disease. Kids sneezing. The stench of too much chlorine. People who needed to wear two or three t-shirts instead of none at all. Of course our kids could not wait to jump into the mix. Two hours and countless trips down the kiddie slide later and we made our way back to the hot, humid family locker room area. Not realizing the floors would be wet despite being told repeatedly by her mother and father, Paige slipped and fell twice on the nasty ground soaking up the last remnants of whatever was living on it. An ocean paradise it was not.

Prior to our adventure to the aquatic center is when I got my fill of nakedness for the week. Paige was thrilled to jam her lunch-distended belly into her new princess swimsuit. I said, "Remember, you have nothing on your bottom but a swimsuit, so let me know when you need to go potty." After just a few minutes in my room getting ready, I returned to Paige's and was hit with a whiff. It wasn't full-on barn odor, so I posed the pooping question. "Me no poop, daddy," was the response. I was suspicious. And, as I thought, once the swimsuit came off, a couple of turds landed on the floor. Awesome. Guess we're keeping that swimsuit. Oh, great, and now she's running naked down the hallway while singing "This Girl Is On Fire" by Alicia Keys. Seriously.

Trust me - the drinking is yet to come. It may not be cheap tequila like in Tijuana and it may not be Natty Light like in Daytona Beach, but it's coming in the form of Pacific Northwest brewed IPAs. Tomorrow is my day, Marquette's day, and nothing is standing in my way of watching that Sweet 16 game. By 4 pm PST, spring break goes on hiatus for these kids. I just hope Paige can keep her dirt and poop to herself for a couple of hours, and I'll promise to do all I can to keep my shirt on.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Importance Of What We Do

It's the first question anyone asks when initially meeting someone - "What do you do for a living?" (unless you live in St. Louis, then for some reason I still can't figure out, they want to know where you went to high school). Rightly or wrongly, it defines us from the start and it's happened to me more than a few times during these seven weeks. Tell them, "I'm the editor of three sports magazines," you get an "Oh, wow, that must be fun." Tell them, "I stay home with the kids," and generally you are presented with, "Well, that's nice you can do that," with a slightly condescending tone and look on the person's face. Maybe I read too much into it, and maybe society still is better accepting of women staying home than men, but it's hard to shake the inferiority complex that comes without having a job.

Part of the recent pity party comes from a lot of college talk lately. It was just St. Patrick's Day (and March Madness starts tomorrow), which conjures up memories of standing in line at a bar on Marquette's campus at 6 a.m. to drink green beer on a cold morning 15 years ago. Is there anything better than college for tens of thousands of dollars a year? Seriously, the fat guy in the Larry Bird jersey and plaid green flannel shirt that day thought he'd become some big-time writer. Maybe he'd be in the creative department of a high-profile firm. I guarantee you, he never considered that he'd spend every morning futilely attempting to dress a 2-year-old who for some reason has the mobility of a drunk baby giraffe when we try to put on a pair of her jeans and socks.

But I need to start looking at this as time spent with Paige I'll never back get. It's been seven weeks, already one more week than Allison had with Lucy after she was born before returning to work, and we've been to the zoo, the children's museum (multiple times), we've played hours (days at this point?) of Little People Princesses, gone for runs with the baby stroller, spent mornings at the park and get to drop off/pick up Lucy from the bus stop everyday. Our family is lucky that Allison and I are 15 years removed from college. We can navigate these rocky waters with one full-time job, a little bit of freelance on my part and some short-term unemployment payments. Is it ideal? No. Am I going to continue to complain when I have to carry Paige parallel to the ground under my arm as we quickly exit the library? Absolutely. Am I spending more time in the craft beer aisle at the grocery store these days? Without question. Will I miss all this when it's gone? No doubt.

So, nothing really funny today. I could have done a whole blog about Paige yelling her Billy Madison line (no, she hasn't seen the movie but I just said the clean version of the line a couple months ago and it has stuck) of "You have to think. You've got a dog. You have a responsibility," while we were parked in the car as I took a phone call for a potential job interview yesterday but I'm sure it will happen again. For now, we will do our best to enjoy our time together although it's much easier to say that at this moment ... she's been napping for the last 90 minutes.

Monday, March 11, 2013

29 Minutes Of Mayhem

Ninety-five percent of the time, these kids move fast. They fly around the house. They burst outside to play. They run where others walk. They cannot be contained. But, try to get them out the door by a certain time, and you'd have better luck quickly navigating the check-out line at Michael's (the craft store - seriously, what's with that place, I swear they enter every item by hand).

This morning we were doomed by the repercussions of the time change and Paige being up four times prior to 3 a.m. last night. Once everyone settled into a sleep pattern, the next thing you knew it was 7:20 a.m., which is exactly 29 minutes before we need to leave the house to get Lucy to the bus stop.

First stop, Paige's room to find out what is that god-awful sound. Oh, OK, it's the ear-piercing scratching of the back of a pacifier against the textured wall. Got it. Thanks, Paige. And because she has 15 pacifiers in her bed (as suggested by the sleep specialist), she has an endless supply of these noisemakers.

I flick on the light and say, "Let's get dressed!" only to be met with, "No, daddy, me need to get mimis (her word for pacifiers) off the floor." She proceeds to crawl under her toddler bed with less hustle than Derek Bell in Operation Shutdown mode (obscure 2002 baseball reference - I don't know my audience here at all).

"Paige, let's go. Come on. Now. Paige. Paige. Now."

It's now 7:26.

As Paige wiggles her booty out from under the toddler bed, I poke my head into Lucy's room where she's actually dressed but her hair looks like it's attempting to curl around itself to form a giant ball at the top of her head. Have you ever tried to brush out the snarls in a 6-year-old's hair and comb out her bangs at the same time? We head to the bathroom. I take our $14 snarl-free brush. I lose again.

It's now 7:29.

Back to Paige's room. "Daddy, me need to get dressed right now!" Seriously? In 30 seconds flat we accomplish what we couldn't in six minutes earlier. I send her to the bathroom to join her sister to brush her teeth. Despite now placing two stools in front of the sink so they won't fight over the same one, they are fighting. Paige has hip-checked Lucy off her stool and is straddling both with a foot on each. Good times. I tell them to stop fighting, which is a complete waste of words. Paige suddenly decides she wants to shadow me, so we leave Lucy to her devices. I enter the bathroom three minutes later and Lucy still hasn't placed toothpaste on her toothbrush. I have no idea what she's done in these 180 seconds.

It's now 7:36.

I head downstairs to "make breakfast," which entails sticking mini waffles into the toaster. Father Of The Year Award, here I come! Allison is on the verge of being late but manages to subdue Lucy's frock. Both enter the kitchen only to have Lucy say, "Oh, I wanted cereal, not waffles." I wanted you to get ready 10 minutes ago, sorry about your luck.

After some mild pouting, Lucy is done eating but Paige is stacking her mini waffles instead of ingesting them. "I'm making a tower, Daddy." I ask her if she can eat her tower. "No, Daddy, my tower!" Why is she so angry?

It's 7:43.

Because it takes at least five minutes for Paige to get her shoes on, we need to get moving. Despite shoving multiple mini waffles in her mouth at the same time, she's still not finished and tells me, "Brown boots. No, pink boots. I don't want sneakers!" I didn't even freaking mention sneakers.

It's 7:47.

"Daddy, I need a bookmark," Lucy says. Did she seriously just read a few pages of her Rainbow Fairies book? Of course she did. She heads upstairs, which is in the opposite direction of the front door where we need to be. Paige makes a beeline to her Little People Princess castle to grab a handful of princesses to take with her. Because, how could we possibly leave the house without a handful of princesses?

It's 7:49 - time to go.

Lucy comes downstairs after hearing me scream, "Now! Now! Now!" She rolls her eyes and tells me, "apparently, my bookmarks are missing, I had to use a piece of paper," as if I dedicate my waking hours to hiding her bookmarks. Now I tell her, "Lucy, get your coat, I think it's in the closet." She looks. "It's not in there," I hear.

I start racing around the house while my ears pick up the whining sounds of, "I guess I'll have to wear a raincoat and be cold today." The guilt is dripping thicker than the cheap syrup I gave them for their waffles.

I recheck the closet to see her pink coat in plain sight. "You kids are KILLING me today," and we run out the door to arrive at the bus stop just in time to see the long yellow chariot pull up.

"Daddy, you hold my princesses. I have full hands," Paige says as we make our way back home. Sure kid, anything else I can do for you two this morning?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

You Gonna Eat That? These Kids Aren't.

Coming from me this complaint is comical but my kids are the worst eaters of all-time. Yes, I'm the guy who doesn't like ketchup or mustard. Yes, the next vegetable I willingly eat will be the first vegetable I willingly eat (although I do a damn fine job muscling down a few greens for the sake of the kids at dinnertime). And yes, I've eaten the same turkey and provolone sandwich for lunch for weeks (OK, months). But, come on, my kids are the worst eaters of all-time.

Here is a short list of foods I've compiled that they currently ingest without force:

Chicken nuggets
Fish sticks
Nutella - Lucy has no concept of any other type of sandwich to pack for her lunch every day
Pizza - only toppings are hamburger, chicken and olives (see, they are bizarre)
Goldfish Crackers
Tacos - this one is most shocking as there actually is seasoning on the beef when I cook it, if Lucy knew this she would just eat the tortilla and ask for a handful of shredded cheese
Spaghetti& Meatballs - only if snowed upon by a heaping helping of parmesan cheese, so it's essentially mac-n-cheese
Cereal - led by the nutritious Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Apple Jacks
Green Yogurt - quite possibly Paige's reason for living
Berries - please don't tell me berries aren't good for them, I'm clinging to this
French Fries/Potato Chips - they lose their shit when the fried potatoes are part of a meal
Anything Chocolate-Based - they are their mother's daughters

Last night Lucy ate enough of her spaghetti and meatballs to earn a "treat" so she picked the packet of Fun Dip she received from a thoughtful kindergartener for Valentine's Day. You would have thought this was her first morsel of food after being held captive for 38 days. We had at least five conversations about how good the Fun Dip was, she inquired about other flavors of Fun Dip to no end and was ecstatic when she realized she actually could consume the candy stick. Greatest. Treat. Ever.

I have no idea how to change their eating habits. I feel like I've already lost them. The other night I made a baked mac-n-cheese that included bacon bits, Lucy refused. That was in addition to homemade baked chicken covered in a few select seasonings, which was a glorified chicken nugget, just not in the unnatural nugget form, Lucy refused.

Allison and I do try. We get the crock pot out once ever couple of weeks knowing full well we are the only two eating anything coming out of that slow-cooking steel appliance. And, tonight, I'm planning to make cheesy chicken and black bean enchiladas knowing full well the prep and baking will take more than an hour, and I'll have to watch Lucy sulk as if I served her a plate of dog crap while Paige will take a bite, then make a motion she needs me to hold a napkin for her to spit it into. Paige eventually will pronounce, "I'm done!" and start playing with her Little People Princesses (see previous blog). Lucy will ask how many more bites as if we're negotiating the price of a used Honda Civic.

Is this my fault? Probably. The story goes I'm the kid who ate peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly) for almost every meal for three years as a kid. I've expanded my horizons slightly since then although peanut butter may be my reason for living at this point (and IPAs). But, Lucy and Paige were blank slates. How did they go from eating anything you placed in front of them as infants to this? How do you turn them back? Will they serve Nutella sandwiches at their weddings?

For now, we'll keep trying to serve them new things, they'll refuse and after a few days Lucy and Paige will beg, borrow and steal to convince me to open up the chest freezer and pull out a bag of breaded fish morsels in a stick shape. I'll oblige for fear of them starving and they will eat like bears preparing for hibernation. Of course, bears would sleep past 5:48 a.m. but that's another story.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Princess Diaries

I cannot play with the Little People Princesses anymore. I can't do it. Please, don't make me do it. We are close to wrapping up my fourth week at home with Paige and I'd say 90 percent of our time has been spent playing with her set of Little People Princesses, accompanying castle and pirate ship she received for Christmas.

I thought kids were supposed to get stuff for Christmas, play with it for a week, then toss it aside. Not Paige with these princesses. And, keep in mind, these are the Disney princesses, so Paige decides who I am going "to be" then hands me Snow White, Ariel (she has two - "mermaid Ariel" and "human Ariel"), Tiana, Cinderella, Aurora or Rapunzel (her favorite). If I'm lucky, she'll toss Prince Eric my way or maybe a random Oscar the Grouch character figurine (even Paige has figured out after four weeks, my mood has shifted from upbeat to depressed).

It all starts at 6:02 every morning (give or take a minute). Paige pops out of her toddler bed, the door to her room flies open and the little feet come racing down the hall to my bedroom. She's already bouncing and jumping - excited to start the day and has princesses on the mind. In a sleep-induced haze, I navigate the stairs and as I turn on the lights she races to the castle and immediately says, "Daddy, will you pway with me?" Yes, all her L's sound like W's or Y's right now depending on their position within a word, which makes me smile every time she says "Yucy" for her sister's name.

She doesn't take "no" for an answer. And, the game starts the same way. I have to say "Hi!" in an extremely loud and obnoxious tone to Paige's princesses, then we set off on some sort of adventure involving the princesses moving around the castle or screaming in horror when a random toy dinosaur enters the fray. It's the same thing every time. And, god forbid if I'm not using a variety of voices or have my hand on the princess as I pretend to talk for her.

And, I'm not gunning for the, "oh, how cute, he plays princesses with her," sympathy. Any dad worth a damn plays princesses, dress-up, tea party, etc. with their daughters. It's what you do. But, I don't know how much more of this I can take before the Little People Princesses accidentally end up in a dumpster fire or the castle just so happens to be left directly behind the back wheels of our Mazda5.

Today I even brought out the big guns to distract her - the Play Doh, which typically buys me a good 45 minutes of peace and quiet before I have to spend 45 minutes cleaning up the multi-colored disaster smeared into the kitchen table, floor and chairs. It didn't work today. She messed around for 10 minutes, then hopped down from her chair and went straight back to the castle. "Daddy, will you pway with me?"

Someday, she's not going to want to play princesses with me anymore, I understand that. All Lucy wants to do these days is sit in her room and read, or eat Goldfish crackers, or both. But as I sit on the couch typing this while she has just finished her second hour of her nap, I shudder to think of what happens soon when she wakes up. The only force powerful enough to sway her from the princesses is the TV. Yeah, that's it. I'll offer her the opportunity to watch her favorite TV show - Bubble Guppies. Ah crap, I don't want that god-awful theme song in my head ("Bu-bu-bu-bubble bubble guppies").

Princesses it is - time to work on my voices - "Hi!" Has anyone seen the Oscar the Grouch figurine?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lucy Needs Attention Too

When you're a self-sufficient, first-born six-year-old, you tend to lose out on attention at times. You can't blame me. Lucy's method of showing her anger is to go to her room, sulk and pout, then read books quietly for an hour. Paige's method involves violently throwing herself on the ground, rolling, screaming and something that appears to involve the fiery pits of hell. It's no contest. Paige must get the attention before someone gets hurt.

Lucy also has been struggling with our change in family dynamic more lately, which surprises me. The kid loves kindergarten, is upset when it's the weekend because she can't go to kindergarten and discusses kindergarten most hours of the day. Yet, she still thinks there is some sort of party going on at home without her.

Most of the time, there isn't a party but two of the last three Fridays, Paige and I have gone to the children's museum. Lucy most likely would have no idea but Paige loves spending time in the do-it-yourself face painting, always falls asleep on the ride home, then wakes up from her nap as Lucy gets home from school. So, yeah, Paige's face is covered in paint and you can't hide it, which led to this exchange yesterday:

Lucy: "Well, it looks like you two went to the children's museum" (all said with an eye roll).
Me: "What are you talking about?"
Lucy: "You didn't follow mommy's rule of not painting our faces. And, if we do paint faces, we're not supposed to use black and red, because those colors are the hardest to wash off. Why are you not following mommy's rule, Paige?"
Paige: "Me no use black and red" (thanks for trying to cover for us Paige but all you need is a silk jacket with "Bulls" on the back and you'd fit right in at the United Center considering the hues adorning your face right now
Lucy: "Ugh!" (more eye rolling)

But last night was a night for daddy and Lucy - it was the Daddy/Daughter 2013 ball! We got dressed up and a babysitter came to watch Paige (Allison is still in Hawaii and I say it's 50/50 she ever returns - I wouldn't even blame her). Unfortunately, it also meant trying to be ready to leave the house before six. Lucy's special night actually started at 4:40 when we first attempted to get her dressed but became interrupted by Paige yelling from the bath tub, "Poop is coming out!" For all those smart, childless people out there, you never want to hear this.

Amazingly, poop wasn't coming out - false alarm. I had to set Lucy aside and wash Paige immediately for fear of another poop situation. So, Lucy waited. I bathed Paige, dressed her (always fun when a wet, naked Paige is running through the hallway screaming, "Me no get dressed!") and had to move immediately into dinner making - yes, I considering mac-n-cheese "dinner making."

Finally, mercifully, we had things just about under control. The girls' favorite babysitter arrived. I made the five-minute change into a suit and off we went. I was hoping for two hours of dancing with my little girl, but she was more interested in the endless supply of brownie bites, cupcakes and goldfish crackers readily available. She colored with her friends from school, ate some more, hit the dance floor a bit and was exhausted by 8 pm when it ended. Would I have liked to dance more with her? Sure. But, it was two hours of uninterrupted Lucy-daddy time, and that's something we haven't had in three weeks - I'll take it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hell Week

Yes, I know Hell Week is a week of Navy SEAL training in which I'd never last more than 45 seconds. I'll apologize now to all the SEALs reading this blog, I'm about to use the term to describe spending extra time with my kids.

We are now almost 24 hours into Hell Week. Everyone still is alive and accounted for. But, this is just the first phase. Allison left for a work trip to Seattle yesterday. Despite explaining to Paige and Lucy we were driving mommy to her co-worker's house for them to carpool, once the moment of truth came, Paige reacted as if Allison was about to embark on a four-week trip to the depths of the Amazon. Screaming, crying and wailing, "MY MOMMY!" as we attempted to pull out of the co-worker's driveway was not the reaction I hoped for or expected. I guess you develop a realistic sense of time somewhere between age two and six, because Lucy barely could be bothered by the change in our family dynamic. I guess it's hard for her to care as she rolls her eyes at everything.

I decided last night would be a good movie night because the kids love eating dinner with their little trays in front of the TV once in awhile and I like having 90 minutes to not answer a barrage of questions starting with, "Can I..." I tossed Peter Pan into the DVD player (by the way, I noticed Disney didn't utilize the blatantly racist scenes from the movie to promote its DVD re-release - I was caught way off guard for that one), eventually fought bedtime and the first day was in the books.

Of course, Paige being Paige, she stirred 11 different times last night, including an epic screaming fit for her "Twinkle Twinkle" pacifier despite having 15 other pacifiers in her toddler bed. Yes, 15, as instructed by our sleep specialist many months ago (of course she has a sleep specialist). Our day started at 5:20 a.m., I convinced her to go back to sleep just long enough for me to drift off and wake up 30 minutes later to screaming. After turning on her light and mumbling, "Play toys. Read books. Quiet," I stumbled back to bed only to snap back into action when the words, "Daddy, I'm pooping!" came from down the hallway. And there was my little girl, half her body in the hallway and half in her room, butt in the air and a grimace on her face.

Now, we await the remainder of Hell Week. Allison jets off to Hawaii next. Yeah, freaking Hawaii for work (two days ago she was looking at the weather on her phone and had the gall to say, "Oh, look, 80 and sunny for my entire trip."). Leaves at the ass-crack of dawn on Wednesday and returns after bedtime on Saturday. That means no one to do Paige's hair in the morning. That means no one to send Lucy back into her room to change her clothes when she picks out a shirt/skirt combo that only matches in Punky Brewster's world. That means no one to relieve me of parenting duties at 5 p.m. when I'm seconds away from snapping. That means no one to help cover the overnight shift if I happen to drink one too many IPAs.

But, right now, at this very moment, Paige is napping and Lucy is reading, so life is good. Hold on, I shit you not, Lucy just walked into the room holding the game, "Pretty Pretty Princess." She's setting it up now as I type. Please excuse me as I attempt to earn my two ear rings, bracelet, necklace, ring and crown before Lucy does. Hell Week is full of surprises.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thanks, Sarah

Sarah McLachlan did something today for Paige I've never accomplished in her 34 months of existence - pull her out of a tantrum spiral.

We spent our morning at the Mazda dealership getting some routine maintenance done on the car. Because dealerships work at the pace of an editor off deadline on a Friday afternoon, we had to kill 90 minutes in the play area, which butted up against the back of the workspace for the front desk receptionist. After a solid 15 minutes of getting herself situated, finding a magazine to read and consuming a morning snack, the receptionist clicked on her radio and the mindless drivel of Rush Limbaugh spewed out of her speakers. I'd like to sarcastically thank her for not putting on headphones.

Mercifully, after Paige and I played with Strawberry Shortcakes, Tinkerbell and "naked baby" (don't ask) for an hour and a half, our car was returned to us as Paige decided this was the appropriate time to melt down. I coerced her into the car, battled her on buckling into her seat and off we went. Then, for the 20-minute ride home, I was bombarded with:


And my all-time favorite, "I DON'T LIKE DADDY! I WANT MOMMY! NO LIKE DADDY!" Thanks for nothing, kid. I was up with you at 5:30 a.m. today, fed you breakfast, picked out your favorite princess sweatshirt to wear and you "no like daddy"?

As I weaved my way through traffic on 217S and onto 5S, I frantically searched for something on the radio to play for her. With a new phone, I haven't sold my soul to add all the Yo Gabba Gabba songs onto it for such a situation, so we were at the mercy of Portland radio. I kept pressing buttons while hearing, "No song! No like!" when the docile tones of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" came through the factory-installed speakers. The screaming stopped. Dead. Cold. Stopped. Our Mazda5 effortlessly made its way off the highway in pure, unadulterated silence minus Sarah singing, "You're in the arms of an angel..."

Paige meekly muttered, "Me like this song, daddy," then fell silent again. For the record, in my head I kept thinking, "Ugh, daddy no like this song." But it didn't matter. Paige was quiet. Nothing was "hurting" on her anymore. And, at least it wasn't Rush Limbaugh.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pooping Problem

I don't remember the last time I wiped Lucy's butt. I imagine it was a long time ago considering she's six years old. But, seriously, we should have the date on a calendar. It's one of those last steps in the emancipation of a baby into childhood. I wish we knew the date so we could celebrate it every year. For a child, being born must be relatively easy. It's the mom doing all the work (why doesn't the mom get a party every year on the birthday instead of the kid?). You just make your way into the world when ready. But, wiping your butt. That's huge.

Paige doesn't wipe her own butt right now. My unfortunate unemployment situation has come in the middle of potty training. She was going to the potty every 30 minutes at daycare. They had her pee trained. This kid knows when she has to pee, asks to pee and screams at you if you want to take her pee when it's not necessary in her eyes. She's a master pee-er (yup, new word). But, the poop, oh the poop.

Here is how it goes. Paige wake up from her nap around 2-2:30 most days. She wears a diaper when sleeping, so when she gets up she knows to go potty to earn back her Rapunzel underwear (nothing else has the fortune of gracing her backside). Then, the process begins. She says her "bottom" hurts and she sits on the potty. Nothing. She plays for three minutes, starts whining, agrees to go back to the bathroom, sits and nothing. This happens two to three more times in a half-hour stretch. Every time ending with her proclaiming she "can't poop on the potty." I offer candy, money, my sanity - nothing works.

She eventually asks to be put in a pull-up diaper (which is just a diaper attached on the sides and costs twice as much), then scurries off to the bowels of our house (I've been waiting to use that pun) and poops with no one else around. Paige announces she has done the deed, which doesn't need any fanfare considering the house now smells like a barn. And that's it. We go back to our lives. And by "back to our lives" I mean I immediately rush outside to the trash barrel with my arm extended as far away from my nose as possible.

My singular goal of this unexpected time we have together is to get Paige to poop on the potty. And, yes, I'm a 36-year-old publishing professional with almost 15 years of experience who is still paying the tail end of student loans and all I want in this world at this immediate moment is for a person who lives in my house to poop where the rest of us do.

What will come first - my new job or Paige pooping on the potty? The excitement is building ... what has become of me?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Fallen Angel

I should have just let her smear Play-Doh into the kitchen table all morning. Paige kept creating red pancakes and green pellets, which she called "green beans," then served them on a plate to me. After 45 minutes of job searching with her saying, "Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Do you want this food? Daddy, they are green beans. Daddy. Daddy," I thought we needed to get out of the house. In all my genius, I decide Costco was the answer.

I hate Costco. I hate it on the weekends. I hate always having my cart driven into by someone in XXXL sweat pants making a bee line for the 72 slices of cheese. I hate it more when I have the kids with me, because, honestly, every store is worse when the kids are with you. But, for some reason, I thought Wednesday morning at Costco wouldn't suck as much.

After heaving a 24-pack of paper towels, a 30-pack of toilet paper (Paige is now using the potty and rolling off more toilet paper than an 85-year-old incontinent woman) and five pounds of chicken nuggets into the cart, I should have just quit while we were ahead. Considering it took us 27 minutes to brush her teeth ("No toothpaste! No!"), wash her face (apparently I was using the special Brillo Pad facecloth I save for just the right occasion) and put on her shoes (the freaking shoes!), coming home with three items should have been enough. But, then the way-too-large bag of cheese ravioli caught my attention. Paige's diet recently has consisted of pasta, green yogurt and Goldfish crackers, so the ravioli seemed like a winner.

As I reached to open the freezer door to get a closer look, I heard the sound. It was a shattering sound. Not a Costco-sized 128-ounce jar of pickles smashing but something much smaller. I knew immediately just as Paige violently thrashed her head backward in the cart and screamed, "MY ANGEL!" Yup, her 25-cent ceramic, hand-sized angel she carries around with her. Amazingly, by the grace of someone's god, this thing has survived since being rescued from a yard-sale table during the summer despite Paige's insistence upon destroying most anything within three days.

The funny part is you can count on Muno's hand how many times Paige has been in a church in her life. Yet, she had some deep connection to this tiny statue, which should have met its maker any number of the times when she's been mad and whipped it across the room. Today, however, it couldn't withstand a fall from a cart to the industrial cement flooring inside the Wilsonville Costco.

I picked up the pieces and knew, "We aren't recovering from this." The screaming intensified. The stares from the shoppers became longer. We weaved to the front of the store through aisles featuring double loaves of bread, three-packs of ketchup and six-packs of deodorant only to see two people working at the check-out stands and exponentially more people waiting to spend their money.

I could have left our cart but we had come so far. Paige wanted out of the cart and I stupidly obliged. I mean, if you had a pissed-off bear inside a cage, would you let it out? By the time I paid, picked her up and carried her under my arm parallel to the floor, the store was at a standstill. Of course, god forbid you leave that hellhole without showing someone your receipt at the front door.

We made it to the car and after an eventful 4 1/2 minutes she was buckled in her seat with tears streaming down her face and "My angel!" blaring from her lungs. Upon entering the house, she rolled on the floor as if she were trying to put out a fire on her pink puffy coat. I did the only thing I could do ... I tore open the bag of nuggets, heated some up and we ate lunch like 2-year-olds do ... before 11 a.m.

Tomorrow, I'm thinking it's a pajamas-and-Play-Doh day. It's too bad we won't have seven pounds of ravioli for lunch.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The First Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

Four days later as the clock inched toward 10:15 a.m. today at the Tualatin city library, it hit me. As the 18 moms, two grandpas, one other dad and 23 kids all sang and pantomimed their arm movements to resemble swimming during the playing of Laurie Berkner's "Let's Go Swimming," it finally hit me ... I don't have a job.

It didn't hit me Friday afternoon - I was too stunned. It didn't hit me this weekend because the weekends always are chaotic. It didn't hit me yesterday because we are attempting to ween Paige off daycare as she's going to miss her teachers and friends terribly, so we treated the day like any other Monday and sent her off to "school." Surprisingly, it didn't hit me at 7:49 a.m. as Paige chose her pink boots, then said, "No pink boots!" as I attempted to get her ready so we could walk Lucy to the bus stop. After pulling out and attempting to pry her brown boots on her thrashing feet to no avail, Lucy informed us in her best patronizing tone that the bus just went up the hill, which means we have about three minutes to get where we need to be. It's not surprising it didn't hit me at this point, Paige always does this with her shoes. You'd think she was inserting her feet into tiny vessels filled with shards of glass. Finally...mercifully...the original pink boots went on as she extended her hand and said, "Come on, let's go daddy," as if this all were my fault.

But in that enclosed room in the library, that's where it happened. The kids were dancing. The parents were clapping and all I could think was, "Has anyone over the age of 3 ever spontaneously started sobbing in this room?" I stayed strong if only because I didn't want to show weakness to the 1-year-old kid using my leg as a balance before she stammered backward and cascaded down on her covered diaper.

Paige never really seemed comfortable during story time. She didn't interact with the kids. She was the outsider as everyone else seemed to know each other. She sat quietly, which she hasn't done After 35 minutes, it was over. Paige raced over and said, "I want to go home." For the first time in ages, we agreed on something. Within seconds we were back to reality - she was screaming at me in the car for "green yogurt" as if the congealed dairy product magically would fall from the dome light and provide her a reason for living.

I have no idea if Paige and I will have a couple of weeks at home together, or a couple of months, or longer. But I can tell you this - we will be back at that library next Tuesday morning and with a week of uninterrupted togetherness under our belts and a better understanding of our roles, we may even start swimming when instructed by the insanely catchy music of Laurie Berkner.