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.
     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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dear Flynn, . . . .


Dear Flynn, 

I’ve been waiting for the right story to tell about you.  An anecdote that would capture something about your personality.  Some narrative that would epitomize your character.  But nothing.  Nada.  No clear story, no obvious story to tell, has come to me.  So, instead of a single story, I offer you the following tidbits, snippets and brief notes which I hope create a picture of you as a two-and-a-half-year-old little boy.

In the morning you like to shave with Daddy or, rather, while Daddy shaves you like to smear shaving cream all over your body.

You have two favorite foods: waffles and apple juice.  They’re more like addictions, actually.  You want waffles for breakfast every day and you want apple juice morning, noon and night and at all times in between.  I try not to open the fridge when you’re around since it will only remind you that there’s apple juice in the house and that you most certainly want some. 

You love to watch Nina and Star on the Sprout channel at night.  When I poll you and your sisters after dinner about what you all want to watch on TV before bed, you plead for “NinaStar! NinaStar!”

Your favorite pajamas are purple Doc McStuffins PJs.  They were Margot's, I'm sure, but you took them as your own so long ago I don't remember them belonging to anyone else.  You paw through your stacks of PJs to find them and then pull them out, so happy, grinning and holding them up high as if they were a prize of some sort.

Your favorite bedtime book is “My first words.”  You like it when Papa or Daddy ask you to find something on the page and you get to point to it. 

Favorite Things
Coco's Frozen tiara
Margot's black shoes
Flynn's "My first words" book

You love to brush your teeth before bed.  Or, more accurately, you love to suck the toothpaste off your toothbrush and then play with your toothbrush and your drinking cup in the water running out of the faucet.  Very little brushing actually happens.

You love to jump on and off everything.  Ev.ry.thing.  You jump on beds and on couches and off steps and off stools.  You build things so that you can jump off them.  You like to carry your step-stool from the bathroom to the TV room, put the stool on the coffee table, climb up on the stool on top of the coffee table and then jump from the stool on top of the coffee table to the couch.  I’m constantly saying, “Flynn, no jumping.”  At first in a stern voice.  Then, because you don’t stop, I say, “Flynn, stop jumping,” in a sterner and louder voice.  Then, finally, because you still don’t stop, with a raised voice I say, “Flynn, do you hear me?!  Do you want to sit on the steps?!”

Believe it or not, at one point I thought you might have a hearing problem.  I really thought we might have to have your hearing checked.  When I would tell you to do something (or, more often, tell you to stop doing something) you wouldn’t respond.  Coco and Margot, on the other hand, were always responsive.  But, you?  It was like you couldn’t hear me.  Then I realized that you didn't have a problem hearing me when I said, “Flynn, do you want to sit on the steps?”  You can hear just fine.  You’re just stubborn.

Last Christmas I bought you a matching game; a box of cards with matching bears.  On Christmas Day I laid out a handful of the bear cards on a table, showed you how they matched and then showed you how to match them.  I gave you a bear card and asked you to find the match.  You pointed to a random bear.  I tried it again.  Same result.  Again I tried.  Same result.  Arrghh!!  So I went to the kitchen and got a little bag of fruit-flavored gummi treats.  I sat back down with you at the table and explained to you that if you matched the bear I would give you a gummi treat.  Ta da!  You managed to start producing perfect matches. 

You love to be picked up and carried.  And, if your request to be picked up and carried is refused, you completely fall out.  A complete meltdown.  You throw yourself down, lay flat on your back, and wail and wail and wail.  You’ve started to grow out of it mostly, after Papa started insisting on some tough love.  When you had these "pick-me-up!" meltdowns we just walked away.  We walked away from you countless times at home, a couple of times on the sidewalk, once in a mall, and once in an airport.   Just so you know, this nearly killed me.  Particularly the time at the mall when, watching you from some distance have your meltdown in the middle of the mall, I had to signal to concerned strangers that you were my child, had not been abandoned and were not somehow being abused.  Each time, you eventually dragged yourself up on to your feet and came running from behind, still wailing but at least you were upright and walking.

You spend some time each day in time-outs on the steps.  In the beginning you would often sit on the steps calmly, as if you were just on a bit of a break and waiting for someone to bring you a cup of coffee.  Now, however, you really don’t like it and make that quite well known to the rest of us.  This too you are growing out of. 
Flynn checking email over coffee with Daddy.
The great conundrum right now, Flynn, is your refusal to eat dinner. 

You stopped eating dinner several months ago.  You’re just not that into it.  You’re happy to sit at the dinner table with us and you’re happy to drink your milk, but you have no interest whatsoever in the meal in front of you.  And it doesn’t matter what the meal is; you’re just as uninterested in pizza as you are in broccoli.  I thought for a while it was because Mari might be giving you snacks late in the afternoon so you had no appetite at dinner.  But that’s not it because we know that even when you don’t get snacks in the afternoon you still don’t eat dinner. 

So, every night we have the same ritual.

     A few minutes after we sit down for dinner, you turn to me, tilt your head, look at me with your big brown eyes, smile and say, “Treat?”
     “Only if you eat some of your dinner,” I reply.  I am not even asking you to eat all your dinner.  I’d be happy if you ate even one bite of your dinner at this point.  God knows, as a man with a sweet-tooth, I want you to have a treat.  A few weeks ago, in the middle of our no-treat ritual, I said to you, “Flynn, you’re breaking my heart here.”  So now sometimes Coco likes to tell you when you don't eat your dinner that you're breaking her heart.
     “Treat?” you try again.
     “No, you have to eat some of your dinner.”
     Then you say, “Margot, no treat?”  This, as you know, upsets your sister across the table who eats her dinner every night and always gets a treat.  So, Margot panics.  “Yes, treat!” she insists.
     “Margot, no treat,” you say again.
     “Yes, Margot, you get a treat.  Flynn, stop saying that.”
     “Margot, no treat.”
     Margot then has to confirm that everyone will get a treat except you.  Pointing to everyone at the table, one by one, she goes through the roster:  “Margot, treat.  Coco, treat.  Daddy, treat.  Papa, treat.  Flynn, no treat.”
     After dinner, when Coco and Margot get their treats, you never seem surprised or upset that you don’t get one as well.  Sitting with me on the couch with your cup of apple juice watching Nina and Star is enough for you.   

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ballet Class for Cornelia

Coco has been fascinated with ballet since . . ., well, as long as I can remember.  She has always had multiple tutus, she has watched the Barbie ballet movies multiple times ("Barbie of Swan Lake" and "Barbie in the Pink Shoes," both of which are actually quite good), and she has been putting on dance shows for some time now.  Finally, in January, she started her first official ballet class.  

First official ballet class, Friday, January 8, 2016
City Ballet, San Francisco

Finding a ballet class was no easy task, or at least finding one that worked into our schedule was no easy task.  Let's just say it took Ken a lot of time, a lot of Internet research, and a detailed spreadsheet to find a ballet class for three- to four-year-olds, somewhere within a reasonable distance from our house, on a Monday, a Friday or at the end of the day on a Wednesday, and accepting new students in January.  Fortunately we found a class at 4:00 p.m on Friday afternoons at City Ballet -- which is about as ideal as we could have hoped for.   

We have to give a shout out to our friend Eric who took Coco to ballet class on her first day -- when attendance was required and when Ken and I were both out of town.  He even took a picture for us!  

Usually, Ken takes Coco to her class and then takes Margot and Flynn to Zuni, a restaurant Ken used to frequent for cocktails and dinners with friends "back in the day."  Now he sips apple juice and munches on French fries.    

Waiting for apple juice and French fries