Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Firsts"

     Every parent knows there are going to be “firsts.”  Some of those firsts are going to be the happy, amazingly wonderful firsts; the “oh, they are growing up so fast!” kind of firsts.  And some of those firsts are going to be the lump-in-your-throat, my-heart-just-skipped-a-beat, “oh, my god what is happening?” firsts.  I had one of the latter this week. 
     I walk Coco to school at least twice a week, sometimes three times a week.  We walk to school through the park, past the playground, up the stairs next to the community center, around the hospital, past the corner grocery and onto the lower yard at her school.  More often than not, we arrive just before the bell rings and the principal, Ms. Pope, starts the morning announcements.  Coco gets in line with her class and I wait and listen to the announcements with the crowd of parents standing and milling around behind the kids lined up with their classes.   After announcements, the kids, lined up behind their teachers, walk to their classrooms.  As Coco’s line passes on the way to her classroom, I dart up, give her a kiss, tell her to have a good day, and then head to work.
     Now, many parents – ok, most parents – drop their kids off and don’t stick around.  They drive their kids to school and drop them off in front of the school and leave.  Or they walk them to the lower yard and kiss them good-bye at the gate and leave.  Maybe some kids even get to school without their parents.  I fully own the fact that I am the over-protective, paranoid parent of a kindergartener.  The idea of leaving her before she is in line with her class, in the eyesight and in the custody of her teacher, Mr. Kallock, and on her way to class is, well, anathema to me.
     This week, as Coco and I were waiting for the bell to ring and the announcements to start, she turned to me and said, “Daddy?”
     “Yes?” I said.
     “Charlie’s mom drops her off and then leaves before announcements.  I think I should start practicing that.”
      And there it is.  One of those firsts.  The kind that come out of nowhere.  The kind that make you stop breathing for an instant.  She doesn’t need me in the school yard in the mornings any more.  Waiting with her for the day to begin 
     “But I don’t think I should start practicing today,” she continued.
     And the world started slowly turning on its axis again.
     I don’t know if Coco was floating this possibility of independence for herself; saying it out loud just to see how it felt to her.  Or if she said it and saw the panic in my eyes and then quickly withdrew the suggestion for fear that her daddy might cause a scene in the lower yard in front of all her friends.  Regardless, at this point and at least for a little while longer, I get to wait with her until Miss Pope’s announcements start and then until she is on her way to class fully in the custody of Mr. Kallock.  


  

First Snow


We’re spending more time in the country these days.  Carting the kids back and forth has gotten easier as they’ve gotten older.  There is just less stuff to take back and forth.  Most times we go up on Saturday morning and come back on Sunday afternoon.  We’ll start going up on Friday nights soon.

Watching the snow start to fall.

This year we were up for the New Year’s Day weekend and we had snow.  It was in the forecast so we knew it was coming.  We stayed an extra day to be sure we didn’t miss it.  It was the kids’ first snowfall.  It’s hard to believe they had not yet experienced snow: waking up to the surprise of snow blanketing the countryside, excited to go outside and play, putting on coats and mittens and boots, and then making snow angels, snowballs and a snowman. 


Waking up to snow.


There was even enough snow for sledding.  It was Ken who remembered we had sleds in the barn.  The same sleds Scott and I used as kids nearly 50 years ago; sleds that sat in the rafters in Mom and Dad’s garage for decades, were driven down from Port Angeles with other stuff from Mom and Dad’s garage, to sit in the barn in the country, waiting for snow.  And finally the snow came. 














We’ve been lucky this year.  We’ve had snow twice since then.  Our place is high enough that if there is going to be any snow we’re going to get it.  Once we start down our driveway the snow is gone by the time we reach our gate.









10 hours. 56 minutes.


7:34 p.m.  Laying on the bed.  Daddy and Papa’s bed.  TV’s on.  Margot and Coco and Flynn watching.  On the bed too.  Bubble Guppies.  Sarah & Duck.  Octonauts.  I doze. 

8:02 p.m.  The show ends.  I hear it.  I wake up.  “Time for bed.  Time to brush your teeth.  Let’s go.”

8:17 p.m.  Singing bedtime songs.  “you are my sunshine”  “three little monkeys”  “tickle spider”  I lay down on each bed.  Sing each one a song.  “Funny kiss!  Funny hug!”  Hugs and kisses goodnight.

9:48 p.m.  I wake up.  Laying on Coco’s bed.  Under the Elsa and Anna blanket.  My head on a big green dinosaur.  Margot and Coco and Flynn sleeping.  I hear them breathing.  In the dark.  I get up, gently, slip out of the room, quietly.  Shutting the door.  It clicks.

10:12 p.m.  Dishes done.  Lights off.  I go to bed.  My bed this time.  How long will I sleep before I’m awake again?

12:31 a.m.  “Daddy?  Daddy?”  Margot calls from her bed.  “Yes, Margot?”  “Daddy, will you lay in my bed?”  I lay down in her bed.  I’m asleep again.

1:19 a.m.  I wake up.  With Margot.  Under her blankets.  My head on a giant white bunny.  I get up again, gently, and go back to my bed, quietly.

2:46 a.m.  “Daddy?  Daddy?  Me want to snuggle with you.”  Flynn stands next to my bed.  I lift the covers, pat the bed.  He climbs in.

3:50 a.m.  My alarm rings.  Margot and Flynn in bed.  Sleeping next to me.  When did Margot come in?  I slide out of bed, creep out of the room.  Down the stairs.  They creak.  I make coffee and toast.  Turn on my laptop.

5:43 a.m.  Footsteps above me.  In the bedroom.  I listen.  From the top of the stairs, “Daddy?”  Margot.  Always Margot.  I climb up the stairs and pick her up in the dark.  I whisper.  “Hi Sweetie.  It’s not morning time yet.  You need to go back to bed.” 

6:31 a.m.  Sitting on Coco’s bed.  I gently shake her.  “Coco, it’s time to get up.”  The day starts.





Thursday, November 10, 2016

Finding Flynn


 



My Halloween story this year.

     Margot wouldn’t walk.  Her witch’s dress was too long.  Ken didn’t hem it before he left for Los Angeles.  She kept tripping over it.  So she stopped walking.  “Broken!” she said, crying.  Frustrated.  Both of us.  Halfway to school.  Halfway to the Harvest Festival at McKinley.  We were late.  Later than I wanted to be.  I picked Margot up and carried her.  She was heavy.  Margot and Flynn were getting big.  Too big for me to pick them both up and carry them for any distance.  I was tired.  Always tired.
     Flynn wanted to be picked up too.  “No,” I said.
     “Yucky Daddy,” he said back.  He whined.  He pouted.  He crossed his arms.
     “Come on.  We’re late,” I said.
     “Why are we late?” Coco asked.  Now she was upset.  It was her school festival.  Her friends would be there.  We were late.
     “We’re not late.  I just said that to make you walk faster.”  I regretted saying it.  I was losing my patience.  We weren’t even at the school festival yet.


     Ken was supposed to be home.  I wasn’t supposed to go to the festival by myself.  With three kids.  He called that afternoon from LAX.  His flight was delayed.  He was unhappy.  He missed the fall celebration at Hola Kids for Margot and Flynn.  He would miss the harvest festival at McKinley for Coco.  I was going alone.  With two witches and warlock.  Margot wouldn’t walk.
     It was nearly 6:30.  It was already dark.  Ken told me I would be late.  I was.


     The festival was in the upper yard.  When we arrived it was already crowded.  It was dark.  There wasn’t much light.  It was noisy.  Loud music and an emcee on a platform.  He was announcing a dance contest.  Or was it a costume contest?  I couldn’t tell.  A mob of kids crowded around the platform.  I couldn’t see what they were doing.  Margot was talking to me. I couldn’t hear her.  “What?!  Come on!  Over here!”  I picked Margot up again.  The four of us moved over to the play structure.
     This was a bad idea.  It was dark.  I don’t see very well in the dark.  It was loud.  I don’t like crowds.  Margot wouldn’t walk.  How am I supposed to watch all three kids at the same time?  Where were the games?  Over there?  Where do I get tickets?  I needed Ken.  The darkness, the noise, the crowd wouldn’t bother him.  He could manage three kids in a dark noisy crowded upper yard.
     Take a deep breath.  It will be fine.  Make sure the kids have fun.
     I crouched down to fix Margot’s dress.  Flynn wanted to play on the play structure.  “Fine,” I said.  Coco wanted to go too.  “Fine.”
     I thought about tearing the bottom of the dress.  Ken would probably be mad if I did.  I tried to tuck the bottom of the dress into the front of her tights.  “No! Broken,” she said.  She pushed my hands away. She was tired.
     “Margot, we have to tuck it in so you can walk.”  I was tired.
     “No!  Broken!”
     Dammit.  What do I do now?  I looked up and saw Flynn on the play structure.  I turned back to Margot.  “Margot.  You have to walk.  I can’t carry you.”
     “No!” she cried.
     Coco came back.  “Daddy, I want to walk around.”
     “Okay.  We’ll walk around.”  I picked Margot up again.  I turned and looked for Flynn on the play structure.  I couldn’t see him.  It was dark.  I can’t see in the dark.  He was wearing a black cape.  Black pants.  A black hat.  Even his hair was black.  In the dark he was practically invisible.  Where was he?  Dammit.  All three kids were in black from head to foot.  Dresses.  Capes.  Hats.  Black hair.  What was I thinking?  This was a bad idea.   I wasn’t supposed to be here by myself.
     Find Flynn.
     “Come on.  I don’t see Flynn.  We have to find Flynn.”  Carrying Margot, I took Coco’s hand and we started walking around the play structure.  He wasn’t on the bridge.  He wasn’t on the little slide.  He wasn’t on the big slide.  Where was he?  I circled the play structure again.  No Flynn.
     “Coco, do you see Flynn.”  Her sight was better than mine.
     “No.”
     Now what do I do?  I put Margot down.  I turned to Coco.  “I need you to stay here with Margot.  I have to go find Flynn.  I’ll be right back.  Don’t.  Move.”  Was this a good idea?  How could I leave them alone?  How could I find Flynn fast if I couldn’t move fast?  I stepped away and Margot followed me.  Coco didn’t notice.  She was climbing on the play structure.  This was not a good idea.  “Coco!  Margot’s walking away and you’re not paying attention!”  Dammit.
     I saw Lawrence’s mom.  Finally, someone I knew.  I picked Margot up and took Coco’s hand.  I stepped over to Lawrence’s mom.  Over the noise of the music and the emcee, I shouted, “I have three kids.  I’ve lost one.  Can you watch these two while I go look for the third?”  I was starting to panic.
     She nodded.  “Yes, of course.”
     “Thanks.”  I turned around and started to walk through the crowd.  Looking for Flynn.  Where was he?  Did he go inside the school?  Did he go toward the games?  Did he go back to the play structure?  I was now panicking.  He had been missing for only a few minutes.  Only a few minutes?   How far away could he get in a few minutes?  But it was dark.  It was noisy.  It was crowded.  Where was my three-year-old?  I squinted in the dark.
     “We have a lost child.”  The emcee announced.  “Lenny?  Linny?”
Flynn and his cotton candy.
     Flynny.  I got to the platform, the emcee, waving my hand.  “He’s mine!  He’s mine!  Right here!”  I looked for him.  Where was he?  The emcee pointed down.
     There he was.  Looking up at me.  All in black.  Smaller than all the other kids in the mob around him.  He was crying.  I picked him up and hugged him and kissed him.  “Sorry, buddy.  It’s all right.  Sorry you got scared.”  Sorry I lost you.
     I carried him back to Margot and Coco.  “Come on.  Do you want something to eat?  Let’s get some hamburgers.”  I think I can do that without losing anyone.
     “Everyone, hold hands.”



"Three wizards and two witches walk into a bar . . . "

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dads cry about dumb stuff.


It was a Wednesday morning.  I took Coco to school as usual.  We left the house at our normal time, just after Mari arrived at 8:00 a.m.  We walked to the Muni stop at Church and Market streets playing "don't step on the cracks" and then we waited for the J Church and played "I spy with my little eye".  Coco talked to the birds.  We rode the train to 22nd and Church and walked the remaining several blocks to school, chatting along the way about whatever popped into Coco’s mind.  At school, Coco pressed the code on the key pad to unlock the doors.  Inside, I tucked her Frozen lunch box and her Frozen thermos into her cubby and signed the morning check-in sheet on the clipboard by the door.  I was out the door within a few minutes and on my way to catch the J Church back to downtown.  It was 8:45 a.m.

And then it happened.  I was only a few steps out the school doors when the tears started welling up.  "Seriously?  It's not even her last day of preschool.  It's her second-to-last day of preschool.  And your crying about it now?"

Ken warned me this might happen.  Just the week before, he had arrived at school to pick Coco up and came in just as she and her five-year-old classmates were practicing the good-bye song they would sing at the year-end cultural celebration and preschool graduation party.  Ken texted me later and confessed that he had broken into tears right there in the classroom.

These weren’t my first daddy tears.  Before Ken and I flew to India to pick up Margot and Flynn after they were born, I flew with Coco to Atlanta so that she could stay with her Grandma Connie and
Grandpa Roy while we were away.  Coco was not quite two-and-a-half.  On the way back to the airport with Connie and Roy, sitting in the backseat with Coco, I was feeling anxious about leaving her for so long.  When we got to the airport and I got out of the car, Coco cried, wailed and downright screamed for me not to leave her.  I gritted my teeth, told her I loved her, kissed her and waved good-bye and then walked into the airport.  Once inside I totally lost it.  And I mean "Capital L, Capital I" lost it.  Burst into tears.  It took several minutes just to pull myself together.  (Connie and Roy called me just a short while later to tell me that Coco was enjoying ice cream and playing at the McDonald’s Playland.)

First Day of Preschool
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
So, here I was, having just dropped Coco off for her second-to-last day of preschool and I was boo-hoo’ing as I walked to the train.  For nearly three years I had taken Coco to school and picked her up twice a week.  We took the 24 bus together for the first year and then, when the school moved, the J Church train.  For the first two years she rode on my shoulders a lot until she got too big for long shoulder rides and big enough to run to catch the train if we were late.  In the mornings we would decide whether to walk on the sunny side of the street or the shady side.  (She knows I like the shady side.)  On the way home we would window-shop, always stopping at the window of the toy store on 24th street. When it closed about six months ago we decided it should re-open as a jelly bean store.  (It didn’t.)  Waiting for the train we would watch the karate class at the corner of 24th and Church and then play "I spy with my little eye."  Once, on the way home, we were caught in a rainstorm that was so torrential we had to stop and take cover in a doorway; she still talks about that night.

Last Day of Preschool
Friday, July 1, 2016
Every day, both coming and going to school, she practiced balancing along a curb that ran the length of one side Duboce park.  When she was two-and-a-half she couldn't do it very well, stepping off the curb at least a few times.  Now she runs the entire length.   

Although a lot of things have changed and she's grown up a lot in the past three years, she never stopped holding my hand on our way to school and on our way home.  That was the best part.  The holding hands.  That’s the part I’ll remember.

Okay, now I'm going to lose it again . . .

Next month Flynn and Margot start pre-school and I get to start all over with them.  Who knows.  Maybe we'll get that jelly bean store yet.

 

 Preschool Graduation
Friday, June 24, 2016
Coco and Daddy
Last Day of Preschool / Riding the J Church


 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dear Margot


Dear Margot,

You’re nearly three years old now and anxiously awaiting your birthday.  When asked, “How old are you?”, you quickly answer, “Dos and half!” (mixing your Spanish and English), and you know your birthday is in August (although you don’t know when that is, exactly).  Your favorite song right now is the “Happy Birthday” song.  It’s almost always your choice for your bedtime song. 

As you’re coming up on your third birthday, here are a few things your future-self might like to know about your nearly-three-year-old self.

So top-of-mind for Daddy and Papa is that you’re not a good sleeper.  At.  All.  There are a good number of afternoons when you won’t take a nap and when you do it’s often pretty short.  You’re up in the middle of the night nearly every night at least once and most nights more than once.  Sometimes we hear you stirring in bed and can intercept you before you get out of bed or out of your room, but sometimes you make it to Daddy and Papa’s room before we can intercept you.  Fortunately, most nights you are easily deposited back into bed and go right back to sleep.  However, every once in a while you are up multiple times and won’t stay in bed.  On those nights Daddy or Papa end up sleeping in your bed with you.  Despite the lack of naps and the nights of interrupted sleep, you’re almost always the first one out of bed in the morning –getting up at 5:45 a.m. almost like clockwork. 

Basically, when it comes to sleeping and eating, you and your brother are opposites: you’re a bad sleeper but a good eater; he’s a bad eater but a good sleeper. 

For a nearly-three-year-old, you’re remarkably tidy and organized.  You get quite upset when something gets spilled, like milk at the dinner table, for example, and you’re happy to help clean up these sorts of messes.  You’re so organized that on Easter morning, after the frenzy of pawing through the Easter baskets died down, you started organizing your basket to make sure all the jellybeans were put back into the plastic eggs.

You want your food to be tidy too and get quite upset when it falls apart.  Now, think for a minute about all the food items that can and do fall apart, crumble or break while eating them – crackers, biscuits, bananas and hamburgers, for example. “Broken!  Broken!” you cry, sometimes frustrated nearly to the point of tears.  It will be quite some time before tacos will be a dinner option in our house. 

One evening a month or so ago you, your sister and your brother were watering the plants on the back deck.  Because this was an unplanned watering activity we didn’t have a watering can so you all were using your little drinking cups from the bathroom.  Each of you filled your cup in the bathroom sink, carried it through the TV room to the deck, and then delivered it to the plants in your own way.  Your brother, of course, ran to and fro, spilling a lot of his water along the way, and throwing the remaining water in the general direction of the plants before turning and running back for more.  Your sister watered the plants while explaining exactly how she was doing it, like she was delivering a DIY segment on Home & Family.  You, on the other hand, walked carefully with your cup of water from the bathroom to the deck, making sure not to spill it, and then when you reached the strawberries you dipped each strawberry into your cup of water so that each one got a tiny sip of water.

You like checklists.  In the morning you like to confirm everyone’s plans for the day while counting them off on your fingers. “Papa, work.  Daddy, work.  Coco, school.  Me, park.  Flynny, park.”  After dinner you like to confirm who is getting a treat and who is not.  “Me, treat.  Coco, treat.  Flynny, no treat.”  (because Flynn never eats his dinner).  You also like to confirm the post-dinnertime schedule, counting off on your fingers, “Jamas, TV, treat, brush teeth.” 

At bedtime everyone gets to pick a bedtime song.  Your favorite right now is “Happy Birthday.”  Other recent favorites have been “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and the ABC song.  Every night you take to bed with you your baby doll, Donkey and Sheep.  Your favorite show right now is Peppa Pig (you’re actually a bit obsessed), which recently eclipsed Dora the Explorer.

You have a gentle nature.  When I roughhouse with you and your brother and sister, playing Big Bad Octopus or Monsters, sometimes you prefer not to play. “Not me!  Not me, Daddy!” or “No meany monster, Daddy.  Nice monster.” you’ll sometimes say.  You do your own thing in other ways too.  On a recent excursion to the park, Coco and Flynn put on their fairy outfits while you put on your Doc McStuffins’ white lab coat.  And, when you, Coco and Flynn play Frozen, Coco and Flynn always want to be Elsa while you choose Anna. 
I’m glad you choose Anna.  Anna is fearless, determined and loyal.  I hope you grow up to be all those things and more.   




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Easter 2016








Waiting to see what the Easter Bunny brought.


Easter Loot



"Let's find us some eggs!"


"Come on, Margot!  They must be here somewhere!"


"Nice color.  Nice texture.  Matches the dress. 
I think I'll keep this one."


Easter 2016
Mendocino County Fairgrounds



The bunny behind the camera