Mystery New Year's Goal–Childhelp

Recently I blogged about my New Year’s goals. (I don’t make resolutions. They sound too dire…) I hope to become a better husband to Lovie and a better dad to Pookie, A, B, and C. I also hope to become a better Christian and in turn, a better man. I ended the post by referring to a mystery goal–one that readers would “hear about soon.”

Many of you know that I’ve written a parenting memoir called Tales from the Trips. What most of you don’t know is that I plan on donating thirty percent of the net proceeds from the sale of my book to charity, more specifically to an incredible organization called Childhelp.

And that’s my mystery New Year’s goal–to help raise as much money and awareness for Childhelp as possible.

All you have to do to assist is buy my book! Tales from the Trips will be officially released in April (National Child Abuse Prevention month) and available through Amazon.com. However, a limited number of pre-release editions can be purchased directly from the publisher later this month. (Buying direct from the publisher means a bigger donation to Childhelp!) Please send me an email at john@laughterthoughtmedia.com if you’d like to be notified as soon as I have them in hand. The cost of the book is $14.95 plus tax, shipping, and handling. If you’ve already signed up, don’t worry! I’ve got you down.

So who is Childhelp, and what, exactly, do they do? Childhelp® was founded in 1959 by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, and has become a leading national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect.  Childhelp’s approach focuses on prevention, intervention and treatment. They have a National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD) which fields calls twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in addition to having a physical presence in many communities across the country.

Here are some of the programs they offer in those communities.

Good-Touch/Bad-Touch®:

A child abuse prevention and education program within elementary schools which reaches over 450,000 annually.

Residential treatment facilities (Villages):

Entities which provide specialized, comprehensive care for severely abused children. In addition to psychotherapy, counseling, medical care, and on-site schools, the programs also include art, animal-assisted, music and recreational therapy to help heal the heart, soul, and body of each child in our care.

Therapeutic Group Homes:

Entities which provide a nurturing refuge for abused and neglected children until they can be placed in foster care, with adoptive parents or returned to their families, as determined by the courts.

Therapeutic Foster Care

Entities which provide recruitment, training and certification for foster families with access to 24 hour professional counseling and support.

Children’s Advocacy Centers

A coalition of law enforcement, prosecution, social service agencies, medical professionals, and crisis counselors working together to utilize a highly effective, one-stop approach to the investigation of child abuse. The concept of the Children’s Advocacy Center is also available within a mobile unit to provide services for abused children in remote areas.

I have seen firsthand the amazing good that Childhelp has done in my community of Knoxville, TN, where we are lucky enough to have a Child Advocacy Center as well as a Foster Care program. In 2008 alone, Childhelp touched the lives of over 1,300 children, up 250% from 2000. Their impact will do nothing but continue to grow, and this year, I hope to be a small part of that growth.

To keep up to date on the latest developments, please visit me here or at the Tales from the Trips website. I’ll make sure to pass along more details as they develop.

Trips to Work

I don’t know about you, but now that the holidays are officially over, I am so ready to get back to work. Don’t get me wrong, my time off was very nice, but with Pookie out of school, and the toddler trio in full effect, I couldn’t have managed another day at home if I tried. Unless of course, the kids magically disappeared and left Lovie and me at home by ourselves.

Wait a minute. That’s really not such a bad idea. And with Pookie starting school on Monday, that leaves just the triplets we’d need to farm off. Hmm. Assuming I can find them decent-paying jobs, maybe they could be the ones to go back to work while Lovie and I enjoy a little more down time.

Of course, their employer would have to be extremely flexible. Starting with dress code. The boys are a little young to be wearing power ties, but we’ll make sure to have them in their boldest “big boy pants.” No tasteful pant suit for C, either, but her Hello Kitty bow and “big girl panties” should do the trick.

here. take these. just in case.

Assuming they get to work at eight o’clock sharp, their first stop will be the company cafeteria. No coffee and bagel, though. More like “na-nas” and “joos.” After breakfast, it’ll just about be time for them to get crackin’, but first, they’ll need to take a turn on the potty. After all, they can’t go all day in their big boy pants/big girl panties without taking a turn on the potty. All companies are already equipped with handicapped toilets. I wonder what their plastic pottie seat situation is? No biggie either way. If need be, they can always take ours.

I hope it doesn’t annoy their co-workers when they hear happy voices singing “Pee pee YAY! Pee pee YAY!” and “Bye-bye pee pee,” from the stall next to theirs. If it does, at least they can take solace knowing that such singing will be short lived. Soon there’ll be a fight over who gets to flush the toilet.

Oh. And I guess we ought to warn their boss about the post-bathroom visit. You know. The one where they stampede out of the bathroom and run (naked) all the way to his office and start bitching until they get an M&M? He’d better have some cookies on hand, too, in case they drop the deuce. It gets ugly when they’re no cookies.

By then, it’ll be close to ten—just enough time for a coupla hours of work. Of course, they’re only two, so it’ll be hard for them to stay focused, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. Unless there’s a window in the office. Because if there is one, the wee threesome will congregate there and leave smudge marks with their tiny hands while bidding a fond farewell to everything they see. At least everything they see that they know the word for.

“Bye-bye plane. Bye-Bye truck. Bye-bye birdie. Bye-bye doggie. Bye-bye car.”

Sure hope their co-workers get used to all the bye-byes. On second thought, I guess it doesn’t matter—sadly, they’ll have no choice in the matter. Each and every time one of them walks by the triplets’ office, be it to get some water, or to make a photo-copy, or perhaps just to embark on a bathroom break of their own, the loud and gleeful bye-byes will begin yet again, this time directed at them. Too bad they won’t know that explaining you’re not actually leaving won’t remedy the situation. Oh well. They’ll find out soon enough.

After a quick lunch, it’ll be nap time. I wonder what the company policy on naps is. From my limited experience in corporate America, I seem to remember that sleeping on the job is usually frowned upon. Maybe the trips can sneak a nap in during a meeting or something. Surely someone will be giving a bullshit, power-point presentation. Those typically go down in a dark room.

Uh oh. That means there’ll be a fight about who gets to flip out the lights.

Maybe this isn’t such a great idea after all. They’re an adorable lot, but they sure require tons of work. And attention. And patience. It’s probably best if they stay at home.

Which brings me back to my initial point. l don’t know about you, but now that the holidays are officially over, I am so ready to get back to work.

The Good, the Bad, and the Snuggie

Okay. So the Christmas season of 2009 is officially in the books. Here’s a little recap of how the holiday went down in our neck of the woods via something I like to call The Good, the Bad, and the Snuggie.

It’s important to note that potty training is alive and well in our house. In fact, B is doing so well that he went all “next level” on us. One night in early December he commandeered C’s pink car, you know, a little toddler toy that wee ones roll around on? With a seat that lifts up so the wee ones can put their blankies inside? Well this wee one decided to put his wee-wee inside.

What? I see you lift up the lid all the time. Hypocrite.

Shortly thereafter, we got a bit of snow, a rare occurence in our fair city these days. Sadly, Pookie was with her dad, but A, B, and C got into the spirit and even took time to pose next to a snowman.

B, C, and A ain't skeert of a little cold.

C, B, A, and Frosty.

Then the holiday season got amped up a bit when Lovie, Pookie, and I went ice skating at an outside rink on Friday the 11th. Look how pretty Pookie and Lovie are.

Lovie and Pookie fixin' to get their skate on.

When I get done skating with her, I think I'll go on a quick tri-state crime spree.

Pookie, graceful as always.

That Sunday, Lovie, Pookie, and C went to a cookie-swap, which left the boys and me to hang out during the afternoon. Excited to have some quality male bonding time, I anxiously went upstairs just past four to wake them from their nap, but but before I took even a single step into their room, I knew something was drastically awry. Long story short, one of the boys had experienced the blow out of the century. The pictural evidence of said blow out is truly remarkable, but Lovie insisted that I leave it out. (I could, however, be coaxed into inserting it with a well phrased request or two…) We had a good afternoon, but from that point until Christmas, it was official. A stomach bug had infiltrated our clan and would remain throughout the holidays, eventually affecting nearly everyone.

Still, by Christmas, we had rebounded. Despite a couple of us waking up looking pretty rough…

B, halway undone on Christmas morning, and somehow the possessor of a gender-inappropriate passi.

A, our little monster, on Christmas morning.

…all in all we felt much better and were ready to enjoy the day. Pookie didn’t get back from her dad’s until 2:00, so after breakfast we played in the garage for a bit before going for a ride in the car.

B and A, feeling better, and excited for Pookie to get back home.

Little Sissy waiting for her turn in the Barbie jeep. Wait, does that mean my BOYS are playing in the Barbie jeep? Fellas...

Finally, it was time for us all to gather round the tree. Lovie’s mom and her fiance’ came over, and together, the eight of us enjoyed a wonderful little slice of Christmas.

There are enough lights on this tree to illuminate a small village. A small, dark village.

Pookie loved her green fleece.

B plays with the cars that go in the big truck.

A waits for a turn with the cars.

Sweet Pea, C, plays with the latch board. Yes. That's a wipe on her head. No. We don't know why, either.

The day after Christmas was another big one as that night, Lovie’s mom and her fiance’ got married. Pookie and her cousin would walk her down the aisle. Pook looked beautiful and so did her grandmom. A, B, and C looked great, too, but we were in such a hurry that, unfortunately, we didn’t get pictures. Aside from their baptism, the trips had never been to such a ceremony. We were more than a little nervous about how they would do. Thankfully they were great, especially given the little stomach bug that was still alive and well.

Until the very end, that is.

As the moment was drawing nigh when the happy couple would be pronounced man and wife, an unmistakable low rumble escaped one of the trios’ backsides. Followed by two more just like it. Followed by a sweet, little high-pitched voice singing “Toot, toot, toot. Toot, toot, toot.”

Though not exactly according to script, the minor transgression did nothing but add (a pretty good amount of) laughter to the happy occasion and with its conclusion, the gauntlet of the holidays had passed. Not only did we survive, we triumped. But that’s not to say we didn’t come out unscathed. For on Sunday the 27th, the stomach bug reared its ugly head again on a morning car ride.

Oh boy.

Two hours later, feeling very queazy, I limped back to our bedroom. It would be twenty hours before I re-emerged and during that time, I did everything imaginable except eat. It’s Monday night and I still haven’t had anything more than a handful of crackers, a chicken sandwhich, and an English muffin. But as bad as my stomach has felt during the past thirty-six hours, it could never have compared to the sinking feeling it had on Christmas when Pookie opened a gift from Santa–a gift that I can assure you I knew nothing about.

Santa? How could you?

So it’s official. I live in a house equipped with a Snuggie. And I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think the fact that it’s a snuggie “for kids” makes it even worse. I looked into a couple of reputable snuggie relocation programs, but was told it wouldn’t make a difference. I’d still be considered in violation. So I’ve contacted the authorities and have made the neccessary arrangements. I’ll be meeting them on January 8th to hand in my man card. Since I’m a first-time offender, they’ve been kind enough to let me keep it through the bowl games.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Banners That Hang on Shapeless Walls

Why is it that many of us become so reflective during the holiday season? What is it about the end of the year that has most of us taking stock of our lives? And why is it that during these evaluations, we only seem to notice what we don’t have? Or what we haven’t done? Or who we haven’t become?

I’ve got a rule. I’m not great at following it, but still, I’ve got a rule–and, no, this rule doesn’t prohibit me from looking back on my life. After all, it’s impossible to drive without taking a peek in the rear-view mirror every now and then. But my rule does pertain to the act of looking back. Whenever I do so, I’m not allowed to critique the journey. I’m only allowed to admire the view.

No lamenting decisions made, paths not taken, or (perceived) opportunities missed. Such reflections fill one with irrational regrets, and such regrets are filled with darkness. And thanks to my rule, darkness is of no use to me. When’s the last time anyone was wowed by a glimpse of the Grand Canyon in the pitch-black night? For me to admire whatever it is I see in my rear-view, I need a lot of light.

Light brings the world to life by casting its revealing presence upon the images, events, and people that define it. Light illuminates so that we may take notes on all that is around us, and in turn convert those notes into memories, the most precious of which hang like banners on the shapeless walls that line our souls. Light touches our essence and allows us to associate images with feelings. Light allows us to admire whatever it is we see in our rear-view.

Below you’ll find what I’m seeing in mine: a little home-made video I made of A, B, and C on Christmas night, 2008. My rule encourages me to watch this video. There are no regrets hidden within–only joy which gives me a genuine admiration of one magical night in my lifelong journey, a journey I’m navigating the best way I know how.

This is one of the precious memories that hangs like a banner on the shapeless walls that line my soul. Memories like this one are what I want to focus on each and every holiday season. How about you? Merry Christmas!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEjenc4z6YA]

Instant Classic

Okay, let’s see here…Lovie? Check. (Don’t let the near-perfect smile fool you. She’s barely holding it together, but Lovie’s still a check.)

Alright…Pookie? Check.

A, B, and C? Check.

Bald spot? Check.

Meltdowns? That’s a check and a double check thanks to both A and C.

Look of fear? Yup. B’s got that covered. Check.

Santa? Santa? Uh oh. Where in the world is Santa?

Houston, we have a problem. Santa’s nowhere to be found, and I don’t like our chances of getting this bunch back here for a second picture. In fact, I think the dad just made a beeline for the bar.

WAIT. WAIT. My bad. We got him. Santa’s in there. His eye that is. And that’s all we really need. You know, the whole “He’s sees you when you’re sleeping,” bit. We’re good. False alarm.

from l to r: B, Lovie, C, Santa's eye, Pookie, A, and me.

Father Time Fathering Triplets

Lovie, can you get my dentures for me? I think that B is playing with them again.

Well it happened. This past Tuesday. I turned forty. And while I am totally fine with it, even I have to admit that I’m starting to feel my age, especially when it comes to containing our two-year-old triplets. Simply put, I’m not the man at forty that I was at thirty, or even thirty-five. At least physcially. That said, there are some real benefits to hitting this mile-marker as they relate to my family. Here are my top ten.

10. The trips eat dinner at five and go down by seven leaving me a brief, but effective window for bingo.

9. I’m finally as old as my wife. (Sorry, Lovie)

8. Simultaneous meltdowns by three fussy two-year olds? They’re starting not to bother me. My hearing’s not what it used to be.

7. Even on the rare occasions when such meltdowns do bother me, I can always spit out my dentures. They’re usually good for a laugh. Especially when I chase A, B, and C around the house while chomping them together with my hand.

6. Whenever I hear one of the trips crying through the monitor at three in the morning, it’s not that big of a deal for me to get up and see what the problem is. It’s overwhelmingly likely that I need to pee anyway.

5. If we run out of diapers, I’m happy to let them borrow my Depends.

4. They love to play with my cane.

3. But that’s nothing compared to the joy they get from swinging on the crossbar of my walker.

2. I’m becoming more and more like Pookie. It turns out that I, too, like to watch TV with the volume turned up super-loud.

1. Whenever one of the trips is constipated, no more running to the store. I’m more than happy to share my prune juice with them.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and we’ve come to grips
With life that is crazy and laden with trips.
But not ones to islands, or Vegas, or Rome.
‘Cuz our trips are little and mess up our home.

It all started quickly, too sudden it seemed,
When I fell in love with the girl of my dreams.
One who is pretty, and witty, and kind.
I fell for her spirit, her body, and mind.

It wasn’t just her who melted my heart,
But also her daughter, who played a key part
Of bringing this bachelor right down to his knees
To ask her sweet momma to “marry me, please.”

Just thirteen months later much chaos ensued
When three little babies came into our brood.
The first months were trying, of that there’s no doubt.
The triplets were crying which caused me to shout:

“MY GOODNESS, what happened to life as I knew it?
My cell phone is shattered. A baby just threw it.
If I pick up one, another will cry.
One of them just took a whiz in my eye.”

They kept us up late and woke us up early.
These two little boys and this one little girlie.
My Lovie, my Pookie, my doggy, and me
Did all that we could to take care of the three.

Our first Christmas came, and then we were a part
Of magical moments that rang in my heart.
Lovie, and Pookie, and A, B, and C,
Gathered together and sat by the tree.

Of all of the things that we opened that day,
Not one of them mattered to me in a way
That rivaled the way that I felt about them.
For they are my gift that was given by Him.

Pookie with (from l to r) B, C, and A

The next time we gathered around by the tree,
Our babies were starting to walk aimlessly.
The start of their journey, it filled me with tears,
And forced me to ponder the upcoming years.

Just who would they be and where would they go?
There really was no certain way that we’d know.
But one thing was sure, the three were much fun.
Their magical journey in life had begun.

(clockwise) Me, Pookie, B, C, A, and Lovie

And now they enjoy their third Christmastime,
Which prompts me to break out in this little rhyme.
A tribute, my friend, to all that I see.
A tribute I give to our little three.

Combine them with Pook, and our crew is complete,
With four little beings and their eight little feet.
My Lovie and I, we seldom have time,
To sit on the couch, relax and unwind.

We take care of Pookie and tend to the trips,
And wish we had pointers, some ideas, or tips.
‘Cause this year it seems just as hard as it gets.
Even for us. And we’re seasoned vets.

Toddlers, I tell you, are ruthless, my friend.
Off in the distance, they’re screaming again.
And three of them running all kinds of amuck?
Yanking on Elmo? Demanding a truck?

Don’t CARE what you say–not even the Gotties
Could deal with the three as they sit on their potties.
Or how ‘bout the noise that always abounds?
It leaves our heads spinning around and around.

But all of that matters quite little to me.
‘Cuz this is our life–it’s all meant to be.
Oh what we would give for a break here and there?
We’ll wait til we’re old til we rock in a chair.

And now I will leave you with this earnest thread,
that’s sewn in a quilt to lay on your bed.
To help you stay warm this cold winter night.
To help you remember–continue the fight.

We’ve all got our issues, our hassles, our lives.
We’ve all lost a loved one who still lives inside.
If with you this Christmas, or Heaven above,
I hope you are warmed by the glow of their love.

So all you who read this take nothing for granted.
Use this fine season to grow what you’ve planted.
In pots that are family that soak up the Light.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

A

B

C

Pookie

Remember the reason. Be thankful for your blessings. Focus on Goodness. -jco-

Ashton Kutcher, Alyssa Milano, Twitter, The Triplets & Me

So perhaps you’ve heard of one Ashton Kutcher,  actor-hearthrob,  Mr. Demi Moore, fellow stepdad, new media magnate, and Twitter force of nature.

Well, to my great surprise, he’s heard of me. Or at least, he somehow ran across one of my You Tube videos – one depicting a night I spent solo parenting the triplets without Lovie, who was enjoying a much-deserved evening out with Pookie.  I still have no idea how Ashton Kutcher happened on my video, but however it happened, he was nice enough to tweet about it.

Yes, you read that right Ashton Kutcher gave my video a shout out to his 4 million-plus Twitter followers.  Not long after that, Alyssa Milano (who was always the boss in my book), tweeted about my video as well.  And now, parenting bloggers are talking it up, and people are trying to get Ellen Degeneres to notice it via Twitter.

This is amazing.

And here’s the video that seems to be capturing people’s attention.

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.

Tales From the Trips – A Slideshow

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