Drawings Which Borderline Demean Me

Coloring pencils? Or esteem-piercing daggers? Could go either way, really.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, yet the picture of me that I’ve posted after the jump left me with just two.

Holy. Shit.

Because that’s how bad it is. I mean, seriously, it’s borderline demeaning. And what’s even worse? It was friendly fire in that my beautiful stepdaughter is the one who drew it. (I’ve blogged about it before in a post called Donuts with Dads.) But I’ve decided to turn that frown upside down by increasing the exposure of the embarrassing rendering.

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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.

Snoop Dogg’s In The Miz-osque

Pookie may not ever win any penmanship awards, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of her writing. Within the past year or so, she’s taken to leaving her mother and me notes, usually in the kitchen to prohibit us from various sweets she’s classified as hers and hers only. Whenever I run across one of her communiques, I know I’m in for a treat, even if the note’s purpose is to actually deny me one.

Accordingly, I was tickled pink when I found one of her sloppily written doctrines the other night. But my delight quickly disappeared as I read the downward-tilting and crooked verse of her scribblings. It was the lyrics to Katie Perry’s California Gurls – more specifically, Snoop Dogg’s part.

Color me old school, but no little girl should ever write all that ass, hangin’ out. Ever. Speaking of hangin’, y’all hang tight. I gotta puke real quick.

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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.

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!

Control Issues

okay, you guys start with "twuck," and i'll chime in with bus. got it?

We’ve officially reached the echo stage at our house. You know, when at least one phrase from every sentence spoken gets repeated by a toddler? While that might get a touch old fairly quickly, it’s nowhere near as bad as hearing the triplets repeat their own words. Incessantly. Which is what’s been happening in the car lately.

All three of them were going nuts this past Saturday. “Show, Daddy, show. Show, Daddy, show. Show, Daddy, show.”

No. They’re not repeating their favorite Ben Roethlisberger pick-up lines. They’re demanding to watch a video in the car while we run our Saturday errands. (Pongo and Perdita. We’re off Elmo.)

At least that demand could be met, which pleased our little associates and quickly restored the peace.

For a little bit.

“Twuck,” said B.

“What’s that, buddy?” I asked.

“Twuck.”

“I don’t see any trucks.”

“Twuck.” This time it was A.

“Twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck” they began chanting in unison, each iteration louder than the previous one.

They wanted to see trucks, which put Lovie and me at the mercy of the truck Gods. Though they’re money on the interstate, they’re shaky at best on windy neighborhood roads. Which is where we were at the time. Which meant we were in for several minutes of “twuck” talk.

At least C isn’t big on trucks. She’s more of a…

“Bus.”

…bus kinda gal.

“Bus,” she said again. “Bus, bus, bus, bus, bus!”

Allow me to breakdown the situation for you. Three toddlers, wanting to see two different things, doing one annoying thing to drive home their point. Lovie and I were frustrated to say the least. Why? Because we weren’t in control of the situation.

From the very first day we brought our little guys home, one thing was clear. If Lovie and I didn’t establish control quickly, it’d be the tail that wagged the dog around our house for eighteen years. So we set a strict schedule for the triplets from day one. We seldom deviate from it. Nap times, feed times, bath times, and bed times are all set in stone. We got started early on the potty, successfully training all three shortly after their second birthday. We always make them clean up after themselves, we hardly ever pick them up and carry them, and we’re not afraid to put them in time out. Please and thank you are a must, as is sir and ma’am.

Old shool? Maybe. Instill-respectful-order school? You bet.

We’re pretty damn strict. And people can say whatever they want about it, but unless we want our family life to resemble a methodically moving train wreck riddled with endless fussing and distracting drama, we have to put the hammer down. And we like our end result. Because of our philosophy, the trips are down by seven each night, allowing us to spend some quality time with Pookie at the end of our day without the presence of an echo. And Pookie needs that. Come to think of it, her parents need that, too! And we get it, so long as we have control of the situation.

Which is what made our Saturday drive all the more difficult. We had no control of the situation. Not only could we not physically stop A, B, and C from their chanting, we also couldn’t magically make buses and trucks appear while driving down Northshore to Kroger. So their simultaneous, bi-gender, vehicular-related meltdowns were difficult to endure.

Twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck.

Bus bus. Bus bus.

Twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck.

Bus bus. Bus bus.

After about ten minutes? Let’s just say we were over all of the twuckin’ bussy-ness. If Lovie and I could have produced a gaggle of eighteen-wheelers, each pulling a trailer of buses, we would have done so in a New York minute. Because we needed to get control of the situation, and that was impossible because…well…

Because our triplets were trying to do the same thing. That is, they, too, wanted control of the situation. So it was a battle of wills. We wanted order. They wanted trucks and buses. In this instance, neither side won.

And we’re okay with that. If we keep it up, we’ll win our fair share. And if we win our fair share, I have a feeling that the triplets and Pookie will be winners, too.

Our Pookie Gets Kookie–Lets Loose on Dr. Seuss

Pookie and her classmates paid tribute to the late, great Dr. Seuss in honor of his March 2nd birthday by creating their very own version of his 1974 classic There’s a Wocket in My Pocket. Lovie and I are usually well aware of Pookie’s various assignments, but this one caught us off guard. In fact, the first time we learned of it was when she brought the completed project home earlier this week.

How great is that? Seriously? I mean who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? I couldn’t wait to read all of the nonsensical rhymes that these sweet children had come up with.

One girl depicted the mysterious presence of a JHOTTER on her FLYSWATTER, which was drinking her flavored WATER. Adorable!

Another child wrote of a SHAT on his CAT which liked his friend MATT. I kinda wondered if this kid wasn’t confused, though. I’d be willing to bet it was nothing more than a CAT who SHAT on a MATT, but, hey, it ain’t my book.

One boy detailed the presence of a WACKET in his JACKET which was making a lot of RACKET. Well, I suppose that one’s okay as long as he didn’t WACKET in his JACKET. Because that really would be a RACKET, you know.

Another boy reported a LONUT on his DONUT that was eating his COCONUT. Good effort, but probably my least favorite of the bunch thus far. I’d put it just behind the one about the cat that was taking a shit all over the place. And, hey, I don’t mean to pry, but you really don’t want anything messing with your DONUTS, especially if it’s eating your COCONUT for crying out loud. Plus, it’s a little early for the onset of a LONUT, don’t you think?

If I were that kid’s father, I’d be hauling his ass to the doctor post haste. What’s that? No appointments available? No problem. Me and Mr. LONUT, here, will be happy to wait. You know, just in case someone bails. We need to see you ASAP. That’s right. We don’t mess around when it comes to the parts down there. The last thing we want is for this thing to get worse and turn into a case of Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t care what Sam has to say about it. You do NOT want that.

I waited with bated breath until I finally came across Pookie’s contribution. It’s the second one on the page below.

“Lovie! We need to redo the password on the DVR. I’m pretty sure Pookie’s been watching Meet the Parents!”

Is it just me, or does that font make the “o” in “Focker” look a lot like a “u?”

“Look on the bright side,” I told Lovie. “At least the sport’s not called sucker. Then we’d have a real problem on our hands. Oh, and don’t forget to put that boy with the LONUT issue on the blacklist, okay honey? The last thing we want is for that kid to wind up taking Pookie to the prom one day. I’m not so sure about the one with the JACKET either. Better put him down, too. Just in case.”

And Briggs Makes Seven

“Your dumbass dog is at it, again,” announced my pregnant wife one night early on in our marriage. Lovie was referring to my faithful chocolate lab, Briggs.

What, exactly, was Briggs doing, you ask? Slowly, steadily, and silently releasing dense clouds of noxious gas. Pockets of reprehensibility so flagrant as to even be equipped with their own (and noticeably different) barometric pressures. Tiny, malodorous weather fronts of filth which were greatly disgusting my lovely wife. I looked over at my hound only to find him sprawled out on his bed, his mouth eerily agape, snoring like a bear.

Birggs

That’s right. Briggs was sleep-farting.

And he’s got other bad habits, too. Like going certifiably ape-shit each and every time an outsider bursts our domestic bubble. A knock at the back door, the ringing of the front doorbell, or even a barely audible conversation between two women taking a leisurely neighborhood stroll is enough to send Briggs into a frenzy. A full-blown gallop ensues, throw rugs helplessly askew in his wake, Briggs sliding out of control with each and every change of direction his dash requires, eventually culminating in his breathless arrival at wherever the action is, panting with desperate impatience while shamelessly rocking a solid inch-and-a-half of pink lipstick as he awaits our visitor with… um… excitement.

As soon as said visitor enters the house, Briggs’ll make a bee-line for the toy bin and deftly snatch whatever’s on top, before galloping back to his new friend with the welcome gift he’s selected, wrapped thoughtfully in his slobber. He’ll then circle our dumbfounded (and slightly frightened) guest with speeds that conjure up images of the Tasmanian Devil until he feels it’s just the right time to engage in a little world-class crotch-sniffing.

And I haven’t even touched upon his legendary dirty-diaper escapades. Briggs makes Marley look like one of Paris Hilton’s lap dogs. So the fact that Lovie was having a hard time adjusting to him early in our marriage wasn’t surprising at all. What was surprising, however, was that not only did she eventually accept Briggs, she also ended up liking him.

Pookie and Briggs during one of his calmer moments.

Briggs’s birthday is in December, and as each holiday season approaches, Lovie and I wonder if enough dog years have passed to notice a decrease in his high energy level. This year was sure to be the one, right? After all, he’d be seven. But, if anything, his energy level was even higher thanks to our broken invisible fence. Without it, we couldn’t even let Briggs go outside to blow off some steam without fearing he’d leave our property, barge into an unsuspecting neighbor’s house, and start dry humping their four-year-old.

So his outside activities were limited to bathroom-related engagements only. At least that was the plan. The actual outcome was that Briggs made countless escapes. No fewer than eight different households came to our assistance with either a phone call alerting us of his whereabouts, or in two cases, front-door delivery.

Everyone was very nice about it, but Lovie and I were all too aware that we had likely become “those neighbors.” In our minds, three two-year olds is pretty much a good enough excuse to let anything slide a little bit. But it’s not like others realize what we’re up against. (except for one family–shout out to the Huneycutts) So I was always embarrassed whenever we got one of the dreaded phone calls and often turned to humor as a way of masking my shame.

Ring-ring.

“Hello.”

“John, it’s Anne. I think I see Briggs across the street in the Baker’s yard. He’s sniffing around their nativity scene. He’s right beside the three wise men.”

“Well, at least it’s comforting to know that he’s keeping good company, right Anne?”

We finally got the fence fixed in January. But our relentless brown hero has grown so enchanted with his neighborhood jaunts that he’s decided such strolls are easily worth the jolt of electricity he’ll endure as he hurdles through our invisible barrier to embark upon one. So we’ve been keeping him inside again, unless, of course, it’s time for him to use the bathroom. But having been burned in the past, we’re often skeptical when he whines as if he needs to go. Ever the clever hound, he’s taken to offering up undeniable proof of his plight via large piles discretely left beside the side door.

And that’s where we are right now. At just two and a half years old, all three of our little guys are going poo poo in the potty while their dog is droppin’ the deuce on the kitchen floor. I wonder if we could somehow teach Briggs how to use the toilet.

Donuts With Dads

Yesterday was a big day for Pookie. Her second grade class was holding a special event–Donuts With Dads. It’s an annual thing, so I’ve known about it for a while, and I gotta say, I was more than a little curious about how it would go down. After all, her real dad lives right here in town, so his attendance was a given. But what about mine? I would have been okay if I’d been left out of the mix. Being a stepdad can be tough. And so can being a stepdaughter. Accordingly, I figured that on some level, this would be a difficult decision for her.

On Monday, Lovie broke the great news. Pookie wanted “both of her dads” to go. (Insert your California joke here.) I was obviously thrilled, but also knew that a certain degree of awkwardness would likely ensue. But as Pookie led her father and me around the classroom on the “scavenger hunt,” I was pleasantly surprised by how skillfully she was navigating the situation. It wasn’t awkward at all.

Until we went to the far wall to admire the cute drawings the class had made of their dads and I saw this soon-to-be-classic staring right back at me:

Egads! My eyes quickly scanned the entire wall until I found the drawing she had made of her biological father, and, well, it’s safe to say that I got the short end of the crayon.

Forget, for a moment, that the left side of my face is bulging out as if experiencing the gravitational pull of a large planet. And forget the fact fact, if you will, that there is a certain, though difficult-to-pinpoint, alien element to the depiction. And forget, also, the zipper on my fleece (I’m reasonably sure that’s what she was drawing) looks like Uncle Jed’s shotgun.

Take a gander at my head, more specifically my hair–and disregard the fact that I don’t have a crew cut and that my real hair is not six inches off my ears. Focus, instead at the very, very top of my hair.

There are only a handful of explanations.

  1. To enhance the aforementioned alien theme, Pookie has drawn a flying saucer which has landed on my head.
  2. I’m sporting a flesh-toned yamaka.
  3. Pookie believes that I’m actually a volcano.
  4. Pookie’s imagining that I’ve recently endured a lobotomy.
  5. The circle is actually a halo, a symbolic representation of the angelic role I’ve played in Pookie’s life.
  6. Or, most likely, that skin-toned circle that is surrounded by hair is Pookie’s artistic rendering of my bald spot.

I suppose that’s how she sees me. And I’m okay with that. Especially given the fact that her insistence that I be a part of the festivities tells me something else about how she sees me.

As her dad.

I love you, Pook.

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