Three Years Ago Today

I barged into the room with a purpose, but couldn’t remember for the life of me what that purpose was until I saw the familiar red banner of the USA Today sports section. Birthday or not, the world of college football stops for no one. I hadn’t planned on watching any of the action that day, but I was such a bag of nerves that I desperately needed a distraction. After reviewing the docket of games, I decided to place a small wager on one of them—a symbolic fifty dollar bet that I was sure to win. For that day was a lucky one—it was three of my four children’s birthday. Auburn catching seventeen points against Florida at The Swamp was my selection. [Read more...]

Ten Seconds of Goodness

Lovie took Pook to soccer practice the other night which left yours truly in charge of the wee threesome. Only they’re not so wee anymore. Our little guys are almost three! [Read more...]

Walk a Mile in Our Shoes

I can’t decide if this is super-cute or wildly disturbing.

Happy Campers

Marriage. Lotta hard work, no? To have a successful one, much compromise is needed. At least that’s what Lovie and I have found. Perhaps the most amazing middle ground we’ve ever reached is the very one upon which we slept this past weekend.

You see, I’m an avid camper. I go at least four times a year. One of those excursions is my annual section hike of the Appalachian Trail. When we first met, Lovie thought such trips sounded miserable.

“My idea of camping out is ordering room service from the Ritz Carlton.”

Secretly, I vowed to change that. And I had a plan. The vehicle of change? Pookie. That’s right. I used my own stepdaughter as a pawn to capture the queen so I could drag her royal ass to the woods. And it worked like a charm. After all, Pookie, like virtually all kids who are given the chance, was hooked on camping from word go.

“I’d rather camp than go to Hilton Head” was her exact quote upon returning from our first outing. Lovie’s eyes grew wide with wonder. Soon after, she began asking countless questions about this noble outdoor pursuit, questions my ears recognized as buying signs.

“Where do you go to the bathroom?”

“How do you cook your food?”

“How do you stay warm?”

“What do you do during the day?”

Instead of capitalizing on these questions and trying to score an immediate sale, I simply answered them, hoping my explanations would lead this inquisitive horse to the very water she wondered how I purified. (Note to readers — stay away from analogies that depict your wife as a horse. It’s okay for me to do it because I’m a highly trained professional.) I had a hunch that no hard sell would be needed. This product was capable of selling itself.

Which is exactly what it did. Lovie and I have camped together a grand total of three times. Until this weekend, that is, when we went on our fourth excursion — our second as a family. We made arrangements for the triplets (thanks, Brenda!) so Lovie and I could take Pookie and her friend, Miss M, for a fun-filled weekend in the woods. Here’s how it went down.

We took two cars. Lovie, Pookie, and Miss M rode in one and met me at the campsite around five. Me? I left early Friday morning to procure a spot and get our camp set up. So I took all our stuff.

the stuff

Oh. And our canoe. I was also responsible for that, too.

I had the perfect campsite in mind, located in an area I know inside and out. But I also had a backup — actually two backups — just in case. As fate would have it, however, we got our number one choice. It’s one of my favorite spots in the world. Look how clean the water is.

the perfect campsite

As soon as I got there, I started setting up. I divided the camp into two main sections — an area where our tent would be, and another area where we’d spend most of our waking hours. Check out our kitchen, complete with an eight foot by eight foot pop-up, where we kept a five foot table, our large plastic tubs of dried food, as well as our coolers which contained the rest of our food. It was there where I set up my camp stove which I’d use to cook my award-winning bacon and eggs. Below the kitchen, you’ll see the makeshift grill I put together. After all, if you wanna eat well in the woods, you gotta do some grilling.

Lovie rummaging through the kitchen

Just below our grill was the fire ring. Solid choice on the locale if I do say so myself. Right on the water.

Here’s a shot of our preposterously large tent which has three rooms. One for Lovie and me.

Turn left from there and you’ll find an empty room. Well, empty except for some of Pookie and Miss M’s stuff spilling out into it. One day the trips will kick it there.

Then, turn right and you run into the room where Pook and M slept.

Here’s our site from the water. Note the tent on the higher ground to the left separate from the rest of camp.

Something crucial for any extended campout? Activities. Lovie likes to fish, y’all.

exhibit a

With all of her angling activity, she earned a new nickname.

Catfish.

She’s really taken to it. If you’re at the M3Summit in Atlanta, be sure to call her by the new moniker. (Especially if you wanna see me get slapped.)

exhibit b: ol' Catfish tries a different spot.

The girls preferred another activity — canoeing. They had a blast.

I found an activity I like, too.

is drinking cold beer an activity?

But our main activity was the one which ate up most of Saturday — whitewater rafting down the Nantahala River, just a forty-five minute drive from camp. Eight miles of excitement and fun.

we caught a little air on that one.

Did we eat well?

three NY strips w/ twice baked potatoes and asparagus

Um, yeah. We ate just fine. But just when I thought we’d had enough food for the day, Pookie and M went poking around in the kitchen.

Because they knew we’d not forgotten to bring s’mores. And they were right.

It took a lot of work to pull off such a wonderful weekend, nearly as many hours planning, commuting, setting up, and breaking down as the actual hours spent on the trip itself. Some would contend that it’s too much work.

Miss M has Lovie and Pookie in stitches with her ghost story about a tomato.

But I would disagree. After all, there’s something to be gained from camping which you just can’t get from ordering room service at the Ritz. Just ask Catfish. She’ll tell you.

Thank you, Lovie, for meeting me more than halfway on this one. With each trip, we’re building memories which will last forever.

I love you.

Last Summer

Pookie’s already back in school. So are the trips, for that matter. Yesterday was their first day. Ever.

It’s hard to believe, but in mere weeks we’ll be referring to the beautiful season that just slipped through our fingers as last summer.

Only I’m not quite ready to let it go yet. So I paid homage to it. In part so I could relive it whenever I felt the urge to do so. If you’ve got three minutes, I hope you’ll relive it with me.

It was a good summer, y’all. I’m gonna miss it.

This Pirate’s Look at 40

Mother, mother ocean,

I have heard you call.

Wanted to sail upon your waters

Since I was three feet tall.

This pirate's look at 40?

No complaints, y'all.

None.

Here’s a quick slide-show from the rest of our vacation which includes these pics as well as a few others.


Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

[slideshow]

Talkin’ With Pook

pook at the beach

Today is a special day. It’s Pookie’s ninth birthday. I’ve had the good fortune of being her step dad for nearly four years now. All told, I’ve known her for two thirds of her life.

And I’ve loved her every minute of it.

While Caroline was carrying the triplets, countless well intentioned people would say something along these lines: “Just wait til you have your own children.”

“I’m sure. I’ve got Alli, so I know what you mean.”

“Yeah, but just wait. You’ll see.”

The insinuation, of course, was that I didn’t know what they meant and that I wouldn’t until I had my own biological children. And I understand what those people meant. The best day of my life (aside from my wedding day) was the one when the wee threesome began their reign of planet Earth. But that said, I don’t love Alli any differently than I do A, B, or C, except, perhaps, for the fact that I love her like a parent loves his or her first child.

My point? The fact that she’s not “mine” has never made a difference. And it never will.

When I proposed to Lovie, it was important to me that Pookie be part of the process. So after I sought permission from Lovie’s mom (her dad is deceased), I sought the same thing from Pook. Here’s how it went down.

“Pookie, I got something very important I wanna talk to you about. So pick anywhere in the whole house where you want to have a serious chat.”

Oddly, she chose the very corner of her momma’s bedroom where we sat Indian style facing one another. Perhaps odder still, my hands were damp with anxiety.

Deep breath.

“You know I love you, right?” I began.

“Yeeeessss,” she answered coyly.

“Did you know I love your mommy, too?”

“I thought you loved her!” She wore a grin that stretched from one ear to another.

“Well you’re right. In fact, I love your mommy so much that I wanna marry her.”

A look of genuine disappointment came across Pookie’s face. “But Mommy’s already married,” she said while looking down at the planks of the hardwood floor, her finger tracing an imaginary pattern.

Understandable confusion for sure. After all, Pookie was only four, and divorce is anything but black and white. A less prepared man might have been derailed by such confusion. But luckily, I had anticipated this stumbling block.

“Oh, honey, your mommy’s actually not married to your daddy any more. That’s why you live in this house,” I said, making a sweeping gesture with my arm. “Remember that book It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear?”

Of course she did. She and her mom read it together all the time. I had even read it to her a time or two.

“Well, it’s just like Koko Bear’s Mommy and Daddy. They were all grumpy and grumbly when they lived together so they decided not to be married any more and moved into different homes. So, just like Koko Bear, you have two homes now.”

“Well, if you married Mommy, where would you live?”

“I’d move in with y’all.”

Pook’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Would Briggs come, too?”

Hmmm. The downside seemed to be that the prospect of living with my dog was more appealing than that of living with me. But the upside? I had a trump card. So I laid it down like Phil Ivey.

“He sure would, honey.”

Excitement turned to flat-out jubilation. “You better bring his food!”

“I will, honey. I will. So whaddya say?”

Permission granted.

Pookie, thank you for letting me marry your mom. And thank you, also, for being such a wonderful daughter. I can’t believe you’re nine, already! You’re becoming such a big girl, and I want you to know how proud I am of you! Happy Birthday, sweetheart! I love you SO VERY MUCH!

pookie always makes a splash in whatever she does!

The Struggle for Freedom

As we inch closer to the Fourth of July, I thought it’d be the perfect time to parallel two epic struggles for freedom — The American Revolution and one which you may not yet know about.

Freedom — it’s a tricky little paradox, no? Though entire wars have been fought to attain it, neither side of those wars has ever defined it the same way. To the British colonists, freedom meant escaping the tyrannical rule of the throne. Yet to England, that same freedom was experienced as nothing more than dangerous insubordination. Fast forward nearly 250 years to the other fight for freedom, the one that’s happening as we “speak” in my very home.

That’s right, Lovie and I have been under attack for quite sometime now, as our wee threesome have teamed up in an attempt to collectively undermine our authority. Though there are many small skirmishes each and every day, of late there has been one flat-out battle, and it’s waged at bedtime. Which brings me back to the paradoxical nature of freedom. To Lovie and me, it’s attained when we finally get our three monsters down for the night. Yet our trio will never go quietly into that good night because, to them, being told when to go to bed violates their freedom. Simply put? They’re not going down without a fight.

The parallels between our ongoing fight and the American Revolution do not end with the paradoxical takes on freedom. They’re only just beginning, though I will admit, they may not be readily apparent to the casual observer. No, there’s not an ocean between us, but there is a flight of stairs. And, no, the reigning authority doesn’t speak with a cockney accent, but we do roll with a mild southern drawl. And no, our insurgents haven’t gone so far as to throw a Boston Tea Party. But the do Often Pee in the Potty.

And though they haven’t come up with a slogan behind which to rally, it’s simply because they’re too young to formally articulate one. While the colonists were galvanized by “No taxation without representation,” our guys seem to circle the wagons with something along the lines of “Bedtime’s bullshit, y’all.”

Betime's bullshit, y'all.

Little cutie-pie C, believe it or not, was the leader of the charge when the attacks first began. The only one to have graduated to a “big bed,” she took it upon herself to repeatedly get out of that bed and scream bloody murder. At first we thought it was just a phase, which to be fair, it was. But it was also a grim harbinger of things to come.

Having roused the rebels into action, C now goes to bed without event. She’s passed the baton to her brothers, A and B, who currently carry the midnight torch while my adorable little peanut gets her beauty sleep. Each night, we can hear the boys plotting in not-so-quiet tones, speaking much like Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid – with little or no regard for grammatical nuances such as tense or subject-verb agreement.

The Bedtime Bandits hours before the battle.

After such strategy sessions, a period of eerie silence ensues which will inevitably be broken by the tell-tale thump-thump – not the beating of a heart, mind you, but rather the landing of little feet. The noise serves as confirmation that one of our junior associates has scaled the thirty-inch crib wall and leapt onto the plush carpet of freedom, from whence he can and will openly defy the monarch by playing with his toys, grabbing a book, or perhaps even rocking a forbidden nighttime deuce on the big potty.

You know what will sometimes put an end to the uprising? A swift smack on the ass. That’s right. The King is a spanker. And while he completely understands and respects parents who don’t spank their children, his counter to their stance is but one sentence. Show the King a parent who doesn’t spank, and the King’ll show you a parent who doesn’t have toddler triplets. Once the King administers his can of whoop-ass, order is often restored.

But not always. You see, it seems as if the freedom fighters have learned to execute the landing of their forbidden jumps with silent agility, thus pushing their nighttime envelope further still. Yet even if they hit the carpet of emancipation without alerting the ruling party, sooner or later, the duo will slip up. Like the other night when the King and Queen heard the sound of muffled screaming through the royal monitor.

The King and Queen quickly scurried upstairs to see what was the matter, more than a little puzzled. Why are their cries muffled? they wondered. Predictably, A and B were out of their cribs. Unpredictably, they had locked themselves in the bathroom which adjoins their sleeping quarters which explained why the cries weren’t as loud as normal.

“Just open the door,” the King urged the rebels, though his words were probably inaudible thanks to their deafening cries. “I don’t get it,” he told the Queen. “They know how to open the door even when it’s locked. All they have to do is twist the handle.” Another thing he didn’t get was why the air was heavy with the scent of lotion. Or was it baby shampoo?
-
The King retreated to Princess Pookie’s quarters to look for something to help him spring the soldiers who by that point were nobly screaming “Mommy!” With the glossy cover of a Hannah Montana notepad, the King jimmied the lock and sprung the little idealists from their ironic and temporary incarceration.
-
The regal couple were not prepared for what they next saw. Virtually every single thing in the bathroom was covered with a mixture of lotion and Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. (No more tears, my ass.) The floor was completely coated in a goopy mess. As was the vanity cabinet. Even the boys, themselves were covered with the concoction from head to toe, so much so that B’s ongoing cries were accompanied by bubbles each and every time he opened his mouth to emit one.
-
The doorknob was not immune, either. It got slimed, too, which, incidentally, is why A and B were trapped — their hands couldn’t hold a grip as they tried to twist the handle. In their efforts, they must have accidentally pushed the button and locked themselves inside. (Good thing the King used to be a garden-variety hoodlum, or they might still be trapped). Newly freed, A and B scurried to the Queen, slipping and sliding along the way like intoxicated chimpanzees ice-skating across a frozen pond.
-
The Queen gave them a bath after which the King gave them a spanking and order was eventually restored. But the ruling authorities weren’t born yesterday. They know another battle will soon be waged. And another one after that. And another one, still.

It is with equal amounts of dread and thankfulness with which they will await said battles. After all, their kingdom is a blessed one. And they know it. That’s why they fight to keep it in tact.

Happy Fourth of July, y’all.

Gone Fishin’

A man can’t be a man unless, at least every now and then, he’s allowed to be a man. You follow?

Lovie does. That’s why she grants me the occasional hall pass to get out into the woods where I can scrub myself free of worldly worries long enough to eat dinner by an open fire to the soundtrack of running water and crackling wood.

This weekend, two friends and I went on a backpacking trip to do some fishing, ultimately ending up a little over six miles in, camping alongside a pristine mountain stream. Since we were above 3,000 feet, we were able to catch some brookies (of the southern Appalachian variety). These small, beautiful fish live in water which roars over boulders and carves its way through the valley, down the rolling foothills of the Smokey Mountains, reluctantly providing anglers tiny pockets of opportunity to snag these native delights. Hours seem like minutes as they, like many of the coveted fish, swim right by and turn into the past, one five-second drift at a time.

My friend did an excellent job documenting our trip, right up to the meal we gorged on once we finally got out of the woods. Click to check out his slide show. Oh. One warning…there are some random pics of bear-shit that my buddy decided to include. May need to talk to him about that…

Photo Haikus

This post is proud to be a part of Fatherhood Friday. Go check out what the other great dads are blogging about today by visiting dad-blogs.

Quick note to my Ktown peeps — my blog got a shout out on Live at Five at Four on Wednesday. A big thank you to Katie Granju for the love. If you’re visiting because of the reference, take a peek around, as this is not my typical post. But this is. So’s this. Oh, and maybe this, too.

Moving on…

If you stop by my modest blog regularly, you know that I’m usually good for a (reasonably) solid literary effort.

Today? Not as much. All I got for you this time is nine pictures. Three of A, three of B, and three of C.

Well, I suppose I have a little more than that. I’ve also written a haiku for each of our toddlers–one line per picture. So why the haikus? I’ll explain them with yet another:

Just a normal night.
Until I saw something else,
Mundanely magic.

Sammy Monster

He's stoked for bath time!

can be tentative at first,

He likes to fill the cup up.

Our Sammy monster.

Laid Back Jack

Jack is sensitive.

Curious and to himself,

thoughtful, shy, and sweet.

Kirby Girl

Kirby's precocious.

So charming like her mommy,

beautiful like Pook.

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