A Very Triplet Thanksgiving: To Host or Not to Host?

Caroline and I decided to host Thanksgiving this year. It didn’t go that well. It turns out that preparing such an all-encompassing meal with three cranky two-year-olds constantly vying for attention isn’t easy. In fact it’s hard, not to mention noisy. To get everything done, we had to (temporarily) blow off our needy trio, which didn’t go over well. At least that’s what we gathered during the ensuing succession of DEFCON 1 temper tantrums.

To say that the constant chaos hampered everyone’s enjoyment would be an understatement. I’m near certain that my brother-in-law and his family will never come over again. And they weren’t the only ones who were put off.

Adam Lambert called. He thought hosting Thanksgiving while shackled with three two-year-olds was a little over the top.

Charlie Weis’s buyout thought it was too much.

New Coke wondered why we did it in the first place.

Richard Heene knew all along that we’d never pull it off.

The mere thought of it made his son Falcon wanna puke.

Fair enough. But I’m a big believer in redemption. And Christmas is right around the corner. What better time to redeem oneself than Christmas? Perhaps Caroline and I could step up to the hosting plate again, you know, as a way of making amends for the noisy Thanksgiving.

Chernobyl is worried about potential meltdowns.

Hmm. Valid. I know! Caroline and I will do a better job of containing the kiddies. A contributing factor to them losing it on Thanksgiving was all the excitement. If we sequestered them in our room and took turns entertaining them, the triplets would be oblivious to all the commotion and would be far less likely to erupt.

Sequestering three family members during a family gathering? Is this thing family oriented or not? Miley Cyrus thinks we’re sending mixed messages.

Tiger Woods says go ahead and separate them. But beware. Eventually, they’ll probably figure it out.

R. Kelly called. He’s got a new gig. He the official chaperone for a prestigious girls’ boarding school. He supervises the young ladies on all outings. He thinks it’ll be hard to watch the kids without thinking about that juicy meat you’re just dying to eat. (Sorry, that was a stretch, but I’m a sucker for a good R. Kelly joke.)

With all the time spent watching the kiddies, there’s always the chance we’ll forget about the turkey. Inappropriate and often crass descriptions immediately followed by far more conventional verbiage Strikethrough text worries the turkey will be overdone—WAY, WAY, WAY OVERDONE.

Michael Vick pointed out that the bedroom is where we keep our dog during large gatherings. He’s on the trips for a dime and thinks others in his possie may be down as well.

Wait, we can’t have people wagering on fights that pit our triplets against our spastic, pink-lipstick-toting dog. MacKenzie Phillips thinks that’s sick.

Enough already! Everyone’s right. Hosting another holiday meal would be a bad call. We’ll let someone else host, thank you very much. Instead of running around in circles trying to concurrently contend with potty training and Spinach Maria, we’ll load up our brood, hit the road, and watch someone else do all the work.

Sure hope the triplets behave better than they did on Thanksgiving. Hang on a sec. I just got a text. It’s from Tareq and Michaele Salahi. Before we pack everyone up, they think it’d be a good idea to make certain that we were still invited.

Solid point.

Momma-palooza

All three of our toddlers are currently going through a no-one-but-Mommy phase. Though I do perfectly fine with them on my own, the second Caroline enters the room, I magically turn into chopped liver. With mold on it. This is way more than a mild preference for Mommy’s soft touch over Daddy’s two-day stubble. It’s a primal feeling deep within their souls—one that usually manifests itself in Daddy rejection and Mommy chasing, the onset of which is marked by screaming, flailing, even spasmodic rolling as if I’d just doused them with a cauldron of scalding water.

Honestly? I’m starting to develop a complex. During such tirades, I’m frozen with insecurity. Seeing the three of them fight for position as they scratch and tug on Caroline with six needy hands makes me want to intervene and pick one of them up. But I know such an effort would be futile, for if I dare approach, the screaming, scratching, and tugging would become even worse. Scalding water, remember? So I remain frozen, a living, breathing second fiddle; Robin to Caroline’s Batman–the man of the house reduced to a mere boy wonder.

Boy, wonder what I should do?

“Get over here!” Caroline wants to scream like a mind reader, and often does. Like me, she knows it would make matters worse, yet her desperation is sometimes powerful enough to trick her into thinking that maybe this time will be different. But it won’t be, as upon my approach, the babies will wail louder than seems possible, causing aircraft engines to run for their earplugs, and me to retreat back to my frozen insecurity. The wails will then relent (a little), but the non-stop pawing is just beginning, and poor Caroline will be unable to find even a moment’s respite for at least an hour.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Sam, Jack, and Kirby are like fussy paparazzi chasing their favorite rock star longing to be held by the celebrity of her soft, safe love. I’ve officially named this phenomenon Mommapalooza, and truth be told, I’m a little fed up with it. Where’s the love for Daddy? I mean seriously, I’m money on the grill not to mention the fact that I build one hell of a fire. And where, exactly, do at least two of these three little monsters think they’d be without my potent and relentless brand of semen? Hmm? It’s time I got a little attention around here my-damn-self.

After some brainstorming, I finally figured out how. If I wanted to be appreciated like my wife, then I had to act like my wife.

I could drive with a quarter of my normal ability, making other drivers wish my SUV was made of nerf as I barrel down the road while I simultaneously check my lipstick, chat on my cell, and hand Jack his blankie.

I’ll also make preposterously delicious meals, then lament that they’re no good.

With little or no effort, I’ll emerge from the bathroom looking smoking-hot, before complaining about my weight.

I’ll be the one able to decode ANYTHING our triplets utter, successfully translating nonsensical words like bobbie into real words like pacifier, all the while remembering to feign ignorance when it comes to understanding even the simplest things my spouse says.

I’ll leave the grilling and fire-building to her. She’ll also take out the trash, change the light bulbs, and stuff like that. After all, for this plan to work, not only do I need to start acting like her—she has to start acting like me.

Oh shit. Wait. Does that mean she’ll leave crumpled-up paper towels all over the place? Will she walk aimlessly throughout the house on a never-ending quest for her car keys? She better not be constantly watching football. After all, for me to be like her, there’s bound to be some bullshit CSI I’ll need to fall asleep to. How can I do that if she’s locked into Monday Night Football? She’s not even rooting for either team. She’s on the under.

What if she becomes neurotic? Surely she won’t think of sixty different ways to ask me how the smoked turkey turned out, will she? She won’t demand that I rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being high, right?

What if she starts asking me to categorize everything in terms of enjoyment? “Honey, was that not as fun as you thought it would be, as much fun as you thought it would be, or more fun than you thought it would be?” Oh NO! You don’t think she’ll start losing hair (rather ungracefully) on her pate, do you?

I suppose it wouldn’t matter–I’d love her anyway. But if she starts obsessing on whether to use “which” or “that” in any given sentence, I just may have to call this damn thing off. After all, I can barely stand it when I pull that kind of shit. Think how frustrated I’d be witnessing someone else doing it!

Caroline marched into our room in the middle of my brainstorming session as if she had something important to say. “Honey,” she began, “I’ve had it up to my ears in babies. I’m leaving town.”

Holy shit! That’s terrible. Where could she be going?

“Holy cow! That’s terrific. Where will you be going?”

“To the mountains with my Bible study group. I’ll be gone for one night. Think you can handle it?”

Puh-lease. Caroline may be the headliner, but when it comes to understudies, I’m as capable as it gets. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how great I did the last time she left town.

This afternoon, I went upstairs and woke the babies from their nap at four. We played for a while before heading downstairs where they sat on the potty and I waited for Alli to get home from school. My four children and I went through the same evening routine we always do, just not as fluidly. I fought through the inevitable disappointment that came when the trips realized that Mommy wasn’t home. I tried not to be upset when their tempers flared. I tried to not be heartbroken when our baby girl gave me a forlorn look while repeatedly asking “Mommy, bye bye?” in a disbelieving and barely-audible voice. Together, the five of us muscled through the best we could, each of my children all too aware that the star of the show was not on stage with us.

It’s now half past nine, and suddenly it’s me who’s just now realized that Mommy’s not home. It’s me who’s disappointed, and, yes, even a bit forlorn. I hate it when she’s away. It’s so different without her—just a house, not the home she magically makes it.

No wonder the babies carry on and on about her. She is a rock star. And unlike me, they’re smart enough to realize it each and every single moment, not just the ones she’s not around.

At least I’m still money on the grill.

Thanksgiving, the Jungle, and a Machete

In 2001, I flew over 100,000 miles, visiting places like Vegas, Tahoe, and South Beach for fun and places like Birmingham, Tupelo, and Macon for work. I was a financial services wholesaler; a white-collared gunslinger, clad in a tailored suit—armed and dangerous with my carry-on, the Wall Street Journal, and a frequent flyer card.

After the first full year at my job, I won my company’s highest honor for sales excellence, the Reach the Peak award—an all-expenses-paid vacation for two anywhere in the world. But in spite of my professional success, I was a personal failure. And while this isn’t the forum to explain why that was the case, I will offer the following. I continuously molded myself to become whatever it was I thought people wanted me to be. In so doing, I had morphed from a person into a persona and was dangerously close to losing touch with who I really was.

I cashed in my Reach the Peak award on a two-week South African tour. It was in that foreign land I began the long process of rediscovering myself. It was there I realized how unfulfilled I was, as well as how much more I wanted from my life. I longed to fall in love, settle down, and have children. I also longed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Finding love and writing the perfect novel weren’t exactly the typical topics my metro-sexual buddies and I discussed while clubbing in Midtown Manhattan, yet I was at a point where I needed to give such concepts the attention they warranted. I knew that if I was really serious about trying to find a more fulfilling life, I needed to change my playgrounds as well as my playmates.

So in April of 2002, I quit my job and blew up my world. BOOM. Done.

In the months that followed, I was lost as a bat. Many couldn’t believe I’d thrown it all away, but I didn’t care what such people thought. I was deep in the throws of a spiritual reawakening, thanks, in part, to a few special friends and a couple of books by C.S. Lewis. (Incidentally, if you’ve not read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, it’s not safe for you to die yet.) I repeatedly pondered God’s will for me, near convinced that it included a wife and little ones, hopeful that it may even contain writing. I constantly prayed for God to show me the way, confident that something would soon reveal itself.

I was wrong.

Eventually, I moved back to my hometown and started a granite countertop business with my sister-in-law. The first two years were sheer hell. I found myself working doctor’s hours at janitor’s pay, much of them in the form of grueling manual labor. My dream of writing? There was simply no time. My dream of finding love? Though I was more true to myself than I had been before, I was still bouncing from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. By 2004, I was officially in a rut, often wondering if blowing up my old world was the right call after all. I grew skeptical that love and family were in the cards for me, but, regardless, I knew that God had something planned and I repeatedly prayed for Him to show me how to find it. Those prayers continued to go unanswered.

Enter Caroline, a girl I had known since 1980, but one I had not seen nor spoken to in over a decade. I was coming off of (yet another) dysfunctional relationship, and she was emerging from the wreckage of an unsuccessful marriage. We formed an immediate bond, and I was incredibly attracted to her. Sadly, however, I knew that our relationship had no future. Thanks to a few different trysts with single moms in my past, there was one thing I was certain of: I was not interested in becoming a step dad. Period.

But in spite of that preconceived notion, I fell madly in love with Caroline. And then something else happened. I fell madly in love with her daughter. Two and a half years later, Caroline and I got married. Thirteen months after that, we welcomed triplets into the world. Once worried that I’d never get married and have children, today I find myself happily married and the father of four. The business that used to suffocate me is now up and running to the point that I’m able to spend more time writing than I ever dreamed possible. Could it be that after all these years, I’m just now on the path that God had intended?

A close friend of mine, Dr. Michael Ruth, recently told me that, to him, God’s will is nothing more than each of us standing on the outside edge of an impossibly thick jungle armed only with a machete and the knowledge that God’s got our back. As I reflect on my journey, I believe my friend is right. God’s will isn’t something that’s magically revealed to you just because you’ve prayed about it. It’s not something that’s laid at your feet. It’s a feeling that’s deep in your soul. And that feeling is what you use to guide the machete as you cut your path through the jungle that lies ahead. That feeling is proof that God does, indeed, have your back. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you’ve got. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you need. The path you forge with the tools He provides is His will.

With Thanksgiving just a day away, I’m thankful for my beautiful wife, my four children, the successful small business I co-own, the time I’m able to spend writing, and the indescribable happiness all those things have given me. Not so long ago, it seemed unlikely that I’d be in such a spot. But I guess I just kept hacking away until I found them. I’m not naïve enough to think that my work is through, for I know how easy it is to get lost in the jungle. As I continue to forge my way, I’ll continue to uncover countless new challenges and will undoubtedly find myself lost as a bat again and again.

And daunting though that may be, it doesn’t change one simple fact. This Thanksgiving, above all else, I’m most thankful for the One who put me on the outside edge of this impossibly thick jungle. For without Him, the machete, and the feeling He placed deep within my soul, I would never have found any of the other wonderful things for which I’m eternally grateful, nor would I be able to continue making my way through His beautiful jungle.

Happy holidays, everyone. God Bless.

Da’ Swine Intervention

A bunch of my jackass friends and I convene every Thursday night in my buddy’s basement to talk about life and how to live it. Okay, that’s bullshit. It’s really more of an excuse to knock a few back than anything else. But in between all the beer drinking we do discuss a number of interesting topics—it’s just that none of them are very deep. Accordingly, our wives consider these gatherings nothing more than garden-variety family abandonment.

Touché.

BUT, rest assured, lovely wives, our gatherings are not without purpose. Just this past week, for example, I learned something that was interesting, compelling, as well as provocative. It was the first sentence of a story our host was good enough to relate to us, and with its very utterance, I knew I had found the topic for my next post.

“My brother-in-law bought a pig that was born with no anus.”

Family abandonment issues notwithstanding, if it weren’t for these weekly, booze-fueled man-chats, I would have never learned about this mysterious pig nor would I have known about the anus he never had. Absentee fathers? Problematic, no doubt. But waddling to the trough of life with no anus to help you process all the shit that said life subjects you to? Down right criminal!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to just stand by idly for another moment. I’m gonna befriend this anus-less pig. He’ll see. Even if he can’t ever find relief, at least, in me, he’ll always be able to find support. But how will I show him such support?

I know. I could introduce him to some new friends. I can see it now: “Pig with no anus, I’d like you to meet horse with no name.”

Maybe I could help the pig find a nice home. Hmmm. Can a pig with no anus buy a house with no credit? Hang on—phone’s ringing. Oh, it’s Bono, from U2. He wants me to tell the pig with no anus that he could always live where the streets have no name. Solid point, Bono. Thank you for taking a break from your sanctimonious agenda. You can go back to saving the world now. Please keep us informed of your tireless efforts via interviews in which you come off condescending—not that I blame you. If you didn’t talk down to us mere mortals, how could we ever fully appreciate your selfless efforts to fix all the things we’ve managed to mess up?

Wow, sorry about that. I didn’t mean to interrupt my tribute to the pig with no anus by bashing a man with no humility. But our sensational swine, I’m told, has taken no offense. It seems he doesn’t much care for U2, anyhow. His favorite band? C’mon people. You know this. All pigs without anuses like Men Without Hats. That’s what they get down to in the club. And without all that slippery pig shit on the dance floor? Safety Dance? You’re damn straight it is.

And when a pig with no anus meets a beautiful female pig at the club, you know what he does, don’t you? You don’t? Hmmm. I really thought you’d be catching on by now. A pig with no anus takes the sexy sow back to his place, where the streets have no name, so the pig with no anus can engage in sex (with no strings attached, of course).

What happens next is obvious. Our sensational swine and his sultry sow will spawn a new generation of pigs with no anuses, pigs who will go on to walk in their father’s hoofprints. And what’s even better is that they’ll be able to do so without having to worry about stepping in a bunch of pig dung.

Wow. Thinking about all the good that this pig with no anus is doing for the animal kingdom, as well as for mankind? It’s giving me shivers. Just one brave pig, refusing to give up, gritting, gutting, and sometimes (one would have to assume) grunting his way through life with little if any thought given to the fact that he’s gotten the shit end of the stick (so to speak). And just look at how much he is capable of accomplishing.

Do you know what else he is capable of accomplishing? Inspiring folks like me to write a post with no point. Oink, oink, y’all.

Different Routes to the Exact Same Place

If opposites really do attract, then I suppose Caroline and I are no exception. She’s the picture of well-organized domesticity while I’m the picture of chaotic bachelor dumbass-ticity. She stocks the fridge. I raid the pantry. She’s big on room service. I like cooking over a campfire. She could spend two hours in The Container Store looking for sub-containers to better organize her containers. I could spend two hours looking for my keys. Our dog, Briggs, makes her sneeze. Our dog, Briggs, makes me laugh. And the list goes on and on.

Accordingly we have very different parenting philosophies. She’s a choose-your-battles kind of gal while I’m more of a give-them-an-inch-and-they’ll-take-a-mile guy. Last night, with the bases loaded (all three of our two-year-olds sitting on their respective potties), our conflicting styles clashed. Jack was reluctant to stay on his potty because he wanted the toy computer. I quickly told him that wasn’t an option. “Just let him have it, honey,” said Caroline. “He can play with it while he’s doing his business.”

Feeling strongly that this was a bad call, I did what any smart, self-respecting husband would do. I caved. (After all, my husbanding philosophy happens to be Caroline’s parenting philosophy.) Still, I couldn’t help but to offer up my two cents.

“Fine, but don’t blame me if he turns into a ten-year-old who can’t take a shit without riding his bicycle into the bathroom.”

Dejected, I left the potty-training station and moved on to the homework station where our eight-year-old was having difficulty with her currency-oriented math assignment. If you offered a dollar for an apple that cost sixty-five cents, which two coins would you get back as change, and how many cents would those coins equal? While the answer is obvious—a quarter and a dime totaling thirty-five cents—Alli asked at least that many clarifying questions before eventually figuring it out.

Our math exploits were interrupted by a ruckus from the potty-training station. Jack had taken a whiz on the computer keyboard. I rolled my eyes at Caroline, giving her my best I-told-you-so look. “I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “The only reason why I let him have the computer is because I’m desperate for results! Do you realize that he hasn’t pooped since Sunday morning?”

Two and a half days without dropping the deuce? It seemed like Alli wasn’t the only one having a hard time breaking a dollar. Eventually our academic and scatological endeavors ran their course, and when they did, Alli took little Sammy upstairs to play in her room while Caroline bathed Jack. She felt the chore was beyond my capabilities due to Jack’s legendary constipation which by that time had rendered him a listless, fleshy mass of humanity; one who sporadically shouted Poo poo! while pointing toward his bottom and shaking his head “no.” I gladly took a seat next to Kirby, our baby girl, excited for some one-on-one time with her.

Have you ever felt under-appreciated? The minute Caroline left to bathe Jack, Kirby threw a fit, wailing incessantly as tears streamed down her tiny cheeks. I tried all my usual tricks to make her stop, but nothing worked. She’s reached that age when, every now and then, only Mommy will do. Eventually sanity (along with potential noise code violations) necessitated a mid-bath swap. Caroline took Kirby and I finished bathing Jack, taking particular caution when cleaning near his, um, yes, well, you know, his, um…that.

Minutes later Alli came rushing downstairs carrying Sam, who was in hysterics and flailing wildly in her arms. The back of his shirt was covered in blood that was trickling down from his head. He had bumped it on the neck of Alli’s guitar (which she can’t play) during a three-song Hannah Montana lip-synching bender. Luckily, it looked a lot worse than it actually was, and as soon as we cleaned the little guy off, order was once again restored.

Just before bedtime, the entire family gathered in the nursery. I watched as the triplets took turns kissing each other goodnight, an act which Alli facilitated with comical (and obeyed) commands she issued in her baby voice. Our once strife-laden evening had transformed into a peaceful, tranquil one thanks to four very different children coming together to share an earnest and loving moment. A half hour before, when Alli was filled with questions, and backed-up Jack was filled with something else? When tears flowed freely from Kirby while blood did the same thing from Sam? Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I was left with but one question. How could four kids with such different personalities, each traveling a million miles an hour in vastly different directions come together through all that madness to share such love?

I glanced at my beautiful wife who was busy picking up the toys I would have waited until morning to straighten up, the woman who was not only the truest love I have ever known, but who was also my virtual opposite, and I suddenly found the answer to my question, more than a little disappointed that I even had to ask it.

Twenty-Eight Things I’ve Learned as the Father of Triplets

okay, i can do this

1. Along with sporting events and campfires, babies are the biggest reason why the hotdog industry is still alive and kicking.

2. Human beings are born good. It’s the world that turns us bad.

3. Necessity taught me how to pick up and carry three babies at the same time.

4. Necessity also taught me how to relieve myself while holding two, and using my leg to keep the third out of, um, the line of fire.

5. Every adult has a Donald Duck voice.

6. Most Donald Duck voices suck.

7. No matter how lame the Donald Duck voice is, every baby still thinks it’s funny.

8. Little boys wear gowns. (Really??)

9. These gowns are manufactured by companies with names like Kissy Kissy. (Is that true???)

10. Said manufacturers, I’ve concluded, are trying to turn my boys into the laughing stock of the male baby community. Why don’t they just go ahead and hand out free ass-kickings with each emasculating purchase my wife insists on making?

11. You don’t have to be as careful as you think when checking on three babies in the middle of the night. They’re not gonna wake up.

12. When changing a diaper, pulling a wipe from the plastic container doesn’t go down as advertised. The one on top is almost always stuck and requires the diaper changer to dig for it.

13. If a three month old’s ding dong is exposed during that digging, there’s a two in five chance the changer gets doused.

14. I could invent the cure for all forms of cancer and my guy friends would still consider me nothing more than “that poor bastard with two-year-old triplets.”

15. Whenever one of our babies takes a shit in the tub, we have no idea which one it is.

16. Whenever one of our babies takes a shit in the tub, I automatically rule out my daughter for reasons pertaining to mental serenity.

17. I’m better at changing dirty diapers than most men.

18. I’m better at changing dirty diapers than most women.

19. I’m not so great at discarding dirty diapers in a secured manner.

WARNING: shit-eating grin often taken to literal level

warning: shit eating grin often taken to literal level

20. Because of #19, our dog has discovered that he likes to eat soiled diapers.

21. Ingesting these soiled diapers makes our dog throw up.

22. Kissing a dog on the mouth, it turns out, isn’t that great of an idea after all.

23. With three babies, it’s virtually impossible to be over-protective.

24. Those overprotective parents who act as if they’re the first couple to ever have a baby? The ones who treat their infant as if the very survival of planet Earth is directly proportional to their kid’s wellbeing? Y’all need to get over yourselves. Friendly reminder–you’re like the umpteenth billion couple to have a baby. Back in the stone ages, babies were raised in caves, for crying out loud. Babies aren’t gonna break. Quit treating them like they could. If your kid misses a nap, eats some dirt, or skins his knee, he’ll be okay. All you’re doing is creating a sissy. (Wait, you don’t work for a baby clothing manufacturer, do you?)

25. People think it’s perfectly okay to ask the parents of triplets extremely personal questions. Did y’all do in-vitro? People, that’s invasive stuff. (And no, we didn’t).

26. Doubling the size of your family overnight by quadrupling the number of children in it does not affect the amount of love you can give each one. Love is infinite, and infinity divided by any number is still infinity.

27. Buttons suck, snaps rock, and zippers RULE.

28. And the twenty-eighth thing I’ve learned as the father of triplets, the most important of them all is…well, you’ll have to buy my book in 2010 to find out what number twenty-eight is. And read it. You’ll have to read my book. All of it. Because it’s like the very last thing in there. And if you cheat and read the ending first, it won’t make any sense. (The preceding statements have been inspired by, and are therefore dedicated to my seventh-grade English teacher, Mrs. Gill, who busted out a similar, sorry vocal at least a thousand times. And it never worked. I probably shouldn’t have used it. My bad.)

Monster’s Scared

Monster

Last night, the noise emanating from the monitor sounded different from all the others we had heard in the past. Usually Lovie and I can tell within the first minute or two who it’s coming from as well as what the problem is. Sometimes it’s Monster letting us know he’s lost his blankie. Other times it’s Biggs telling us he’s pooped. Every now and then it’s Peanut babbling incoherently to herself. But none of these was the case last night. I made my way upstairs with curious impatience, wondering what the problem was as well as which of our triplets was the affected one.

The cries turned out to be Monster’s, the only respite coming whenever he shuddered out a sigh between his loud wails. I held my two-year-old close and whispered in his ear, but his cries continued. He wrapped his arms and legs around my torso with surprising and ever-increasing strength as he stared at the bathroom door, seemingly mesmerized by the light that shone from beneath it. I turned my body to divert his attention, but it didn’t work. He simply craned his head and continued his stare, still hypnotized by the spectacle, his cries growing louder, his little face mangled in a scowl that I had never seen him make before.

It finally registered—my little guy was frightened.

Worried the ruckus would wake the other two, I carried Monster to the bonus room where we sat on the blue couch in complete darkness, his wet cheek pressed against my dry one. After a while, his cries subsided, though the strength with which he clung to me never did. So I squeezed back, holding him even closer than before — close enough to feel the pounding of his heart so distinctly that it felt like my own, or at very least like one we shared. Thump-thump—thump-thump—thump-thump—thump-thump. I rocked him back and forth to the beat while running my fingers through his thick head of hair, pausing every now and then to softly kiss his forehead. Before long, he was out like a light.

While Monster slept, I contemplated the fear that had woken him, wishing he knew that there was nothing to be scared of. But even if he did, it probably wouldn’t have mattered — fear always sides with whatever you’re scared of. Suddenly I began thinking about the scary things that kept me up at night — the economy, our business, my book, my family’s safety, the health of my aging mom, my sister’s battle with cancer, the contentious relationships among my in-laws, and the unknown mystery that is the future as it relates to any one of those things. A wave of anxiety overcame me, which, when it had finally passed, left me with a feeling of futility.

I turned my attention back to Monster. He was sleeping peacefully as if he had already forgotten whatever it was that had scared him in the first place. His arms and legs were still wrapped around me, but no longer with the same force as before. His heartbeat was still pulsing its way through my body, but no longer with the same speed or ferocity. I started to take him back to his crib, but thought better of it. Moments like the one that Monster and I were sharing have a feeling which too often goes unfelt. And I wasn’t going to let that happen. I wasn’t done with that moment yet and neither was Monster.

So there we sat on the blue couch in the pitch-black bonus room, cheek-to-cheek, sharing the same heartbeat, as well as the same magical, primal moment that belonged to us and no one else. I basked in the comfort we were providing for one another and smiled at a sudden revelation.

Thanks to me, Monster wasn’t scared anymore. Thanks to him, I wasn’t either.

What Happens in the Bathroom Stays in the Bathroom

Caroline, is that you?

the triplets get their bath on

Have you ever tried to give three babies a bath at the same time? And if so, have you ever pulled it off successfully? (he asked with hope) Because if you have, Lovie and I would like some pointers. All we seem to be getting are floaters. And as far as we can remember, there’s no nursery rhyme that reads “Rub-a-dub-dub, a turd in the tub.” The first time the aqua deuce reared its ugly head, my neat-freak wife nearly fainted before finally pulling it together and embarking on a thorough, house-wide search, but alas, not one single biohazard suit could be found.

“Who did it?” I asked, as I corralled the kids while Lovie drained the tub.

“How in the world should I know? There’s three of them.” She had a point. Figuring out which of our triplets was the defecating daredevil was, at best, a crap shoot. (sorry)

The next night, it happened on my watch. Though I didn’t see anything that would incriminate any of the three, I immediately ruled out Peanut, if for no other reason than the mere thought of my sweet baby girl taking a shit in the bathtub was enough to make me move in with my therapist for the rest of my life. So I focused on my boys. I had a feeling it was Monster. After all, his body of work was clearly that of a little joker. I tried to stare the truth out of him, but he just stared right back with a wise-guy grin that said Prove it, big boy. So I set my sights on Biggs. And he… splashed me in the face. I had to come to grips with one simple fact—I had no leverage. And without it, I’d get no scoop on who dropped the poop.

Luckily for us, Monster, Biggs, and Peanut love baths, and the abrupt conclusions of said baths due these unidentified efforts soon rendered such efforts obsolete. Relieved, I thought that our scatological nightmares were behind us. That is until the boys made a little discovery.

Ah, the penis. Fascinating extensions of both man and mankind, no? Without them, it’d be impossible to create any more of these intoxicating flaps of skin. But, perhaps even more importantly, without them, Monster and Biggs would have nothing to relentlessly yank on during bath time. Peanut? She plays with plastic a rubber Dora toy. Monster and Biggs? They’ll play with their ding dongs, thank you very much.

One night, much to my chagrin, one of our boys—child privacy laws prohibit me from naming which one—reached down and pulled the other’s crank with the force of an Olympian anchoring a tug-o-war team. (And I thought the image of Peanut pooping in the tub would require lots of therapy…) After the aggressor finally relented, the two seemingly made peace and spent a few more minutes playing (with toys) before we finally got them out. I dried off Biggs as Lovie went to pull Monster out of his porcelain playground.

Look at him,” I said of our firstborn, his lips a never-before-seen shade of purple.

“He’s just cold,” said Lovie.

“I don’t know, babe,” I protested. “If my weenie was turned into Stretch Armstrong for thirty minutes? I’m pretty sure my lips would turn purple, too.”

Eventually, even the tugging of wankers ran its course, and, wouldn’t you know it? The baths became easier to negotiate, so much so that one night Lovie felt it safe to leave me in charge of manning the tub solo. Things were going smoothly until I realized that I had forgotten the diaper rash cream. It was in the kitchen. Fearful to leave the wee threesome in the tub alone, I decided to get them out and dry them before dashing to the kitchen and back to retrieve the ointment. Ten seconds. What could possibly happen?

I rushed back in the bathroom to find Biggs letting loose a relatively impressive stream of urine. On his sister’s left foot. So I did what any dad would do. I picked up my little girl and dunked her left leg in the toilet up to her knee. Don’t

wait til this clown sees what we've got planned for the shower. see ya!

worry, all you germ freaks out there. I chased it with a wipe.

I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that my harrowing bath-time experiences have not jaded my emerging and ongoing fatherhood career. But they have got me thinking long and hard about showers. I’m mean seriously, comparatively speaking, don’t they sound like a lay-up?

Tales From the Trips – A Slideshow

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