Thursday, April 26, 2012

Okay, So Maybe I Lied

When people ask me about siblings, I always say that I have six brothers. Without fail, they say "wow! That's a lot of brothers! Any sisters?" I used to have a longer answer to this question, but over time I found that it was easier to just lie, and say "no." They then ask if I'm the youngest, to which I lie again, and say "yes."

Annie, age 5
The truth is, I did have a sister. Her name was Arianna Faye; we called her Annie. She was 14 months younger than me, and my only full-blooded sibling. All those brothers that I grew up with are either adopted or half brothers. But you know, whatever, those are all dumb details, and of course to me they're just My Brothers.

So why the lying and secrecy? Yes, I know - lying is bad. Lying about not having a sibling that I did actually have is even worse! In my defense, I feel guilty every time I incorrectly answer those well-meaning, curious people's questions. But what can I say? I'm lazy. The story is kind of a downer, catches people off guard, and just plain takes too long to tell in casual conversation.

Annie was born mentally and physically handicapped. No big deal, she was just learning at a slower pace than other kids her age. But she was learning. To walk, to feed herself, to talk. Then she got pneumonia and, as the story goes, when she was in the hospital, the doctor there overdosed her with some medication that she wasn't supposed to have in the first place. Needless to say, that fucked shit up, big time.

I have a few glimpses in my memory of Annie in those early years. She was able to interact to a degree. I would get really excited at any small advance she made. I dreamt of her "getting better" and coming to school with me, where we would work together to beat up Frank Miller - I couldn't do it on my own, hard as I tried. I longed for a sister in my house full of brothers. We would share clothes, keep secrets, braid hair.

Most of my memories, however, are from after The Incident. After that day, Annie couldn't walk - period. She couldn't talk - period. She had violent seizures, all day. We fed her through a catheter by connecting it to a G-tube that had been surgically inserted into her stomach. She wore diapers her entire life, needed oxygen, and spent her time either in bed, on the couch, or in a fully supportive wheelchair. She required 24 hour care, so we had night nurses that would come in from 6pm until 6am.

Because I was the second to youngest kid, as my older brothers moved out of the house one by one not only did their chores get added to mine, but more care of Annie did as well. This meant anything from mixing up and administering her liquid food, phenobarbital or other medications; to changing her diaper; to suctioning the glop from her mouth that she often coughed up but didn't have the muscle capacity to swallow. When I turned 16 I was thrilled to finally get my license, as I'd been driving since I was about 12 anyway. My mom bought me a used car - but only so that I could be home in time to get Annie off the shortbus she took to the school she went to. I didn't have much of a teenagehood. (But that car did have a tape of Lionel Richie's Dancing on the Ceiling in the tape player! I will forever associate any song from that album with short-tethered freedom).

Once, I was home on a Saturday afternoon by myself - a very rare situation. My folks were gone, Annie's nurse had taken her on some sort of outing. A guy from school called and asked if I wanted to go tubing. I automatically started to answer that I couldn't, but then realized that I was all alone in the house, and that I could go tubing! I will never, ever forget that feeling. I went out on the lake with other teenagers that I'd never actually hung out with outside of the classroom. I felt what it was like to be carefree and to have fun and fuck around, playing and being a kid, without a time limit or worrying that my mom was going to be pissed because I'd snuck out with Frank Miller in order to have that fun, like usual. It was an afternoon of pure bliss. And then I went home.

After The Incident, the doctors told my mother that Annie wouldn't live past the age of 7. After she passed that milestone, every time she got sick and ended up in the hospital, mom would be given a similar story. I vividly remember a nurse once saying to her "you might as well start saying your goodbyes, I doubt she'll make it through the night." Sensitive medical care, it was.

When Annie did pass away, she was 18. I was 19, and I'd just gotten a huge and ridiculous tattoo of a fairy the day before. The van I'd been driving had broken down on the train tracks, and I was stranded in downtown Kalamazoo when Frank Miller stumbled upon me sitting in a chair in the sunshine, feeling helpless. He took me with him to a friend's house, where I used the phone to call my roommates. I was given a message to call home.

Of course I knew why, in the way you always know, even though you have no reason to.

My step-dad told me that Annie had died early in the morning. I was in this stranger's bathroom, looking at a poster of a shirtless football player, trying not to touch my raw tattoo. I put the phone down and walked out, past Frank and out the door, down to the parking lot, where I sat in the car until Frank climbed in with me and I started sobbing. He had just gone through this with me when I'd learned that my chihuahua Fern had been killed while chasing a UPS truck a month or so earlier. So he knew to be comforting, but to not let me go off the deep end and to reign me back in with inappropriate jokes.

It took me quite a while to really mourn Annie's death after the initial "it was always expected but it's still a shock." I was so wrapped up in the resentment over my own lost childhood, having spent such a great amount of it caring for her, that I was simply stunned and numb when she died. I acted out by running to California, twice, and staying away from home for longer and longer stretches of time. I'm not terribly close with any of my older brothers, but we all love each other because that's what siblings do. I often get so caught up in my own life and joys and pain and drama that I forget - yes, actually forget - that I had a sister, since she isn't on facebook, or emailing or texting me to remind me that she's there, like my brothers sometimes do.

So when people exclaim "and no sisters?!" I always pause for a split second, deciding how to answer, and almost always say "no, no sisters. Just me."

It's just a much shorter answer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pinche Guero

Liam Pooping in Mexico - Christmas 2010
Before Erin and I had kids we had pretty ambitious plans concerning how we'd raise them.  We were going to only use cloth diapers, we would insist they eat only what we were eating, and while their young minds were sponges for acquiring new languages, they'd be learning Spanish.  I think both Erin and I are hoping the other forgot about the diaper thing, we got pretty close with the food thing (we just had it reversed), and there's still time for them to be bilingual, but unfortunately that's not looking good.

Their best hope is a "Spanish Language Immersion School" and there are some very fine ones in the Healdsburg area, but I think that route is most successful when paired with some at-home Spanish speaking, and that's the problem.  While I work at a winery where 9 out of 10 people speak Spanish as a first language, my brain apparently isn't quite the sponge it once was.  It's more like a wet napkin.  This was evidenced by my attempts to use Spanish more over the past couple of months.  I've been understanding quite a bit (I'm proud to say) so I figured, for the benefit of my sons' ripe and ready minds, it was time I started holding up my end of el conversacion, much to the dismay of my colleagues.

Everyone at work is very kind, but the looks they give me are telling.  It usually starts with a puzzled "I beg your pardon?" kind of look before snapping into an "Oh, you're trying to speak Spanish to me because my English is only 1000 times better than your Spanish.  How lovely.  Well I guess it's a good thing we're not too busy," look.  You know that one.

My work related phrases are pretty solid.  Things like "can you come to the lab please" and "can I get a measurement from tank number so and so" roll off my tongue easily enough, though I do have a bad habit of saying them like a Telemundo announcer.

Things get really problematic when I try to get conversational.

     "How's it going Miguel?", I'm asked

     "Nothing", I answer.  "I am well but I am tired because I have the children"

Parents taking care of five kids and working two jobs love hearing stuff like that from me.

Generally the effect is just annoying but occasionally I do some real damage.  Like last Wednesday a woman who's worked on the bottling line since she was sixteen asked me "How many bottles you want?"  I could have just answered with a number, but numbers aren't difficult until you get into the thousands.  I wanted to use a verb.  I knew "I need" but that seemed a bit rude so I went with "You know Bertrand Russell once said 'The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation' so I'm grateful for your inquiry.  I believe retaining TWO bottles for my aforementioned organoleptic evaluation will suffice.  Thank you so much."  Unfortunately, I got so distracted trying to come up with the right Spanish words I failed to achieve the most fundamental goal in responding to a question:  to give the correct answer.  I'd actually needed THREE.  Of course I didn't realize this until much later when the extra bottle I'd needed had already been boxed, wrapped, logged, paletted, and stacked from floor to eighty-foot ceiling.  The warehouse crew was not pleased.

I took full responsibility for this (in English) but evidentally my confession didn't make it to the misinformed victim of my crappy Spanish who had initially received the blame.  She stormed into my supervisor's office but didn't close the door because I obviously wasn't going to understand a word she was going to say.  But AH!  I understood quite a bit (I'm proud to say).  There's a lot you can pick up from context and tone.

I took advantage of the length of her diatribe to try and piece together a nice explanation (in Spanish) but all I could come up with was something like "I said to him you put many bottles there because I am very incorrect."  That wasn't really cutting it.  Plus I probably would have swapped some pronouns or something and ended up blaming her instead of myself.  The one thing I felt very confident I could say was "I'm sorry".  Not only could I say it correctly but I knew I could deliver it steeped in just enough sincerity and humility that all would be forgiven.

"Hey Lupita", I said bowing to her ever so slightly, "lo siento"

"Ophelia", she answered.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Yesterday I did my usual Monday morning Mr. Mom song and dance.  I got up, made a gourmet breakfast for Liam, he ate all the good parts, I ate the rest, and then we gathered up Finn and headed out to his preschool program Roots and Shoots.  When we got there I was stopped by the teacher who said I'm a shitty dad had recommended speech therapy for Liam.  She'd been contacted by the speech therapist to whom we'd been referred.  We had called the therapist two weeks prior and left a message about setting up a meeting but we'd never heard back.  We figured, "hey, she must have heard that he's brilliant and gifted and would be a terrible waste of her efforts.  Go Liam!".  But apparently the therapist had tried to call us but had learned that she'd been dialing the wrong number.  Evidently she'd misunderstood Erin's message.  Yup.  Didn't hear her right.  There's irony in there somewhere right?

Anywhat, I decided to start questioning this therapist's abilities.  I don't know anything about speech therapists' college but I think the best programs would be at the party's why: I had a brief stint as a bouncer at a popular bar in Davis (which if you know me is fucking hilarious) where I worked side by side with a deaf guy everyone called "Bish" because that's how he pronounced "Bitch".  As a result of spending six hours a night dealing with him and dozens of people so drunk they were hanging out talking to the bouncer, my ear became so well trained I could glean meaning out of the most muddled and incomprehensible speech.  That's training!  I once even listened to a drunken Welshman tell a joke and I knew when to laugh.  This therapist chick probably went to BYU or something.  Bah!!

I didn't share these concerns with the Roots and Shoots teacher because I'd also decided to pick apart things I didn't like about all these other "experts".  Like the fact that when I picked Liam up at the end of class he was doing one of the things that had the teachers concerned, which was "not participating in circle".  I tried to sneak in so I could watch this go down for a while but as soon as he sensed my presence he cried out "DADEEE!" and sprinted toward me like I'd just come back from the war.  It's a two-and-a-half hour class.  I'm wondering if he's really enjoying himself.  Seeing his reaction to me I thought, "Oh so he's 'not participating in circle', eh?  Like, he's not interested in what you guys are doing?  Funny, he can't get ENOUGH of whatever we do together at HOME.  WHATEVER it is!  I had him in hysterics yesterday doing dishes.  DISHES!!"

So I'm thinking he shouldn't go anymore.  In fact all these so-called experts have it wrong.  All he needs is more time with DADDY!!  YAY!!

Okay maybe I'm being selfish.  Am I fishing for excuses to keep him home?  I have to confess the Healdsburg Roots and Shoots program is pretty fantastic.  The teachers are great and they give him a nurturing environment where he gets to interact with other kids his age and do creative stuff that I can't duplicate at home.  Plus they really are helping us figure out if he needs a little extra help and I think he'll be happier as a result.  Whatevers.  So I'm probably confusing my desire to do what's best for him with my desire to spend my Monday mornings at home with him eating cereal bars in bed and watching How to Train Your Dragon.  But who says that isn't the key to lifelong happiness and success?  Yeah, it's probably more likely the key to living at home until you're forty.  I think if I had it my way he'd skip school altogether so that's probably not good.  Okay fine he can keep going.  I'll just practice fort building by myself for now and besides, summer is just around the corner.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stop the World

It's no secret that I love my friends, and my friends, they love me. Every once in a great while I am blessed with a visit from someone especially oldschool, and I stop everything. When my homegirl from Brooklyn emailed to ask if I'd have time on One Day Only for her and her man to visit, there was no need to check my schedule or muse about work or childcare or the weather. There was only "fuck to the yes, how long do I get you?"

With less than 24 hours with which to impress my people, I didn't mess around. Here is my guide for impressing people from big cities when they come to your land (if your land happens to be freaking gorgeous like mine. If not, you're on your own, suckers!)

1. Serve them a super boring salad, some flatbread from Trader Joe's and, needless to say, some sparkling wine immediately upon their arrival. They'll be really excited about it and will preface everything they compliment with 'California'. "Whoa, this California Salad is perfect! It's amazing!" You see, people who live in big cities with cold climates don't have access to the amount of edible greenery that we do here.

2. Take them to a winery. Make sure the wine is one of their favorite brands of all time. Call ahead and ask nonchalantly for the tasting room manager, who you happen to know and used to work with, at that exact winery.  Feel like a total rock star for desperately hanging on to this connection for the last nine years.

3. Once you arrive, act normal when you are told that you get to taste anything and everything you want, for free, including the most expensive wine they have. (Okay, we went to Ridge. They let us taste the Monte Bello, oh yes they did!) Continue to act normal when someone from the cellar comes out to say hello, and you miraculously remember the names of both his wife and his son. The fact that you do not, in fact, remember his name will be lost on him, thankfully. He will be so delighted that he will give you and your guests an after-hours private tour of the winery, along with tank and barrel tastings of upcoming vintages. This will make Mr. Brooklyn nearly weep with joy.

The Brooklyns can't believe this is real
4. After leaving the winery, arrange for California Cows to meander peacefully on the hills. Mrs. Brooklyn will be beside herself with adoration of these stupid animals.

5. Before dinner, go to the funky wine-country biker bar you've always wanted to go to, but have never had a reason. Make it seem like you're suggesting it solely for the benefit of their experience. THEY WILL FREAK OUT when they see this dusty crazy little bar. They will freak out EVEN MORE when they realize they can sit in adirondack chairs on the porch and watch the California Sun set over the California Vineyard across the street. Big points are scored here.

6. Go to a hipster bar in Healdsburg for some prosecco, and to compare and contrast the two bars. Run into some local wine people there, Jake and Laura Hawkes, to be exact. Really good people. Begin to lose track of the evening.

7. Eat dinner at Bistro Ralph, an old standby and another place at which you used to work. Decide it's a good idea to chat up Ralph when he comes in. He will not only remember you but will remember very random details about you, which he will share with your guests. Proceed to eat 10,000 Fries.

8. Get home safely, thanks to your boyfriend who volunteered early in the day to be the designated driver. Sleep.

9. In the morning, drag yourself out of your child's bunk bed, where you slept fitfully all night so that your guests could have your super fluffy cushie bed. When you go into the kitchen, find them awake, smiling, and in running gear. Remember promise from the night before to take them jogging around Spring Lake. Be immensely grateful when they don't hold you to that.

10. Make breakfast. Eat. Serve prosecco. Say goodbye. Maybe cry a little, but just a little. Because this visit stopped the world and made you so happy, and your life is really fucking great right now.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


There's something about Easter that's always left me feeling queasy.  I start feeling it about a week before the holiday, just this general ill feeling.  Like 'The Christmas Spirit' but instead 'The Easter Nausea'.  Part of it has to do with the traditions I think.  There's the egg dyeing.  The vinegar along with that sulphurous fart smell combine to make a stink that's always tickled my gag muscles.  Then there's all the pastels and fake plastic everything. And of course there's the god-awful candy.  The crap chocolate eggs in foil, the chocolate bunny (the eating of which was always pretty gruesome), and Peeps.  My god PEEPS?!  And let us not forget the sweetened ipecac that is the Cadbury Cream Egg.  One year I got so sick after eating a couple of those I started hallucinating.  My mom says it was a fever and just a coincidence but I suspect that, along with corn syrup and ground grub guts or whatever that stuff is, the Cadbury's were lacing that shit with some kind of psychotropic drug.  The whole thing was likely developed by the British government for interrogating war criminals but had to be retooled since it violated the Geneva Conventions.

I also can't ignore my Catholic upbringing.  I shouldn't say it's a nauseating chapter of the Bible but the Easter story isn't nearly as heart-warming as the Christmas story.  There certainly aren't any Easter carols.

In our household we've streamlined Easter.  In the morning Liam got an Easter basket and later we did the Easter egg hunt at my aunt's house.  The Bunny was pretty generous this year but he needn't have bothered.  The single "Mater" die cast figurine from Cars 2 was enough to satisfy all of Liam's needs, including food and sleep apparently.  May-er has now replaced all other prized possessions in Liam's life.  This morning when he was forced to be parted with his precious toy for ten minutes he endured what seemed to be crucifixion-esque suffering.  Apropos.

The pagan egg hunt took place in Sebastopol this year where along with Liam and Finn were five of their second cousins (i.e. my cousins' kids).  Second cousins are the best!  They're too closely related to you for any real romance to evolve (in California anyway) but not so close that you have to feel bad for having a major crush on them (yes, I'm speaking from personal experience).  Maybe it was just Spring in the air but I sensed a little second cousin adoration burgeoning between Liam and his impossibly cute cousin Noe.  That won't be weird for at least another ten years.

Finn spent the day doing his usual gig, bouncing on knees and drooling on shoulders.  Liam spent his time making a point of appearing to ignore Noe (so smooth) and wailing on the Easter egg hunt, but only after we agreed to let Mater ride in his basket.  He scored close to a dozen eggs, the contents of which were then mercifully eaten by me because Easter is, if nothing else, all about sacrifice.  My nausea should be subsiding any day now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Brother Series: Ben

Ben is my youngest brother, and my favorite. I realize I'm not supposed to say this, but he's the only one that ever reads this blog, so he wins by default.

He was trying to tickle me, little fucker
He was a shithead of a kid, the kind that I wanted to strangle for various reasons. Off the top of my head I can think of a couple of examples. One being that he was the type of kid that would blow out candles. You know - other people's birthday candles, candles when the power goes out during a tornado warning...the candle inside the INCREDIBLE jack-o-lantern that I'd just carved, in fact the first pumpkin I'd ever carved in my whole life, the one I was so proud proud in fact that I drove it all the way to my dad's house to show it off, where they turned off the lights so I could demonstrate how AMAZING it was when all aglow...only to have Ben blow out the candle. Repeatedly. Again and again (I'm sure you know what the word repeatedly means, but I'm just making sure you get the point here). Even after everyone started yelling and getting pissed, saying "Ben! Come on, cut it out!" he would just hesitate, snicker, then do it again. He was such a little prick.

Around the time I became of babysitting age, my step-mom put two-and-two together and asked if I might want to spend some more time at their place during the summer. Translation: Babysit my Shithead Kid for Free.

As a youth I was naive and eager to please, so of course I said yes. Aside from the fact that I had a lot more freedom in that house than in my own, I felt very worldly spending my summer months in Kalamazoo, and thought it might give me some much-needed clout when I went back to my hometown of Gobles. It didn't.

I had to feed and keep safe this youngest-born of my dad's, and every day as I was making lunch Ben would yell from the living room "I Want Lunch! Feed Me Lunch...SLAVE!" It killed me that I had to actually feed him after that. But I didn't want to make his mom mad, so I dished up his boxed mac n' cheese with a healthy side of lifelong resentment. I knew that would show him!

Ben is very cool now, if still a bit cocky in that I'm-Way-Better-Than-Everyone-Else way. Somehow he pulls that attitude off and has never been punched in the face, which I've never understood. In fact he and a friend of mine were discussing how they've never been punched in the face, despite being completely obnoxious dicks when they're drunk, so Ben punched him in the face...and STILL didn't get punched back! Voodoo.

Aside from finally being cool enough for me to want to hang out with socially, Ben has his own stuff going on, too. He's kind of a really, really good musician, and has contributed to lots of bands and albums and stuff.  He makes genius music mixes, and has gotten me through any number of situations with his depth of musical knowledge. I'm someone that is heavily affected by music, so I appreciate this skill. (Even though he for some reason doesn't have Peter Gabriel in his repertoire, I've finally  let that go).

He used to make me random mixes just for fun, with lots of Beach House and The Dirty Projectors on them. When my ex and I split up, I asked for a breakup mix - something to listen to when I needed to embrace my anger, heartbreak, and disillusionment. That mix included Famine Affair by Of Montreal. Just take a minute here and pretend you've been jilted. Now listen to that song. How does he do it?!  I also found this cover by James Blake appropriate.

We thought this would be
a really funny Christmas card...
to send to everyone else in our family.
Ben has been helping me plan all kinds of hijinks over the years, and recently moved to San Francisco to do so in closer proximity. Before he found his own place, he slept on my couch and "worked" from my dining room table. Basically this meant he turned on his computer then had a leisurely breakfast, shower, and then lunch; at which point he logged off and called it a day.

I talk to him more than any of  my other siblings but I honestly don't know what he does for a living. Something about computers...? I can't give you any more specifics than that.

I know that whatever he does pays well and affords him a really dumb lifestyle (read: I'm grumpy and crotchety and jealous). He drinks a lot of beer. The other night I got a text from him asking me to run down the street to the Russian River Brewing Company to buy him as much of their new fancy-pants limited-edition beer as I could. I tried to explain that I needed to somehow scrabble together enough money to pay my rent and bills, which already seemed unlikely, and that buying beer for him was not exactly in my budget. He assured me that he'd send me a check, and suggested that I just go ahead and use my credit card, because it would be expensive - like $10 a bottle. I patiently explained that I am not a rich person and don't have a credit card. He rolled his eyes (this was all via text, but I'm pretty sure I could read an eye-roll in there) and said just to get as many as I could.

I did some creative math and walked down for his beer, where I was informed that it was actually FIFTEEN dollars a bottle. Fuck! I thought about all the things I could pay off if I was a person who could afford $15 beers. I started getting bitter and feeling old. But then I remembered that there's a very slim chance that Ben will some day be married, maybe even with kids. And when money is really, really tight he'll look back on the days when he did nothing with his ever-flowing cash except drink it away - even though his intelligent and beautiful older sister Amanda warned him against it. And then I will GLOAT.

Oh yes, yes I will. That will be a glorious imaginary day, indeed.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tastes Like Chicken

One of the kids at our gym's daycare bit Finn in the face.  THE FUCKING FACE!  I didn't witness the act but I can just imagine sweet little Finn cooing and smiling for the little preschoolers when suddenly one of them leans in and CHOMP!  And right by his eye too!  Was he trying to eat his EYE?!  What kind of fucking kid wants to eat baby eyes??!!

I was furious and horrified for about five minutes.  I calmed down when A) I saw the bite and realized it wasn't so bad and B) took a look at Finn's face and had to admit, I kind of get it.  I mean look at that face.  It looks super tasty!  I kind of want to gnaw on that meaty little cheek right now.  I guess I can't really blame the kid.

Nom, Nom!
Besides, it would be hypocritical to get too upset.  I'm guilty of cheek biting too.  This one time when I was probably five and my sister Molly was seven, I bit her ass.  I couldn't help it!  We were walking to go get ice cream and (at the risk of sounding pervy) she's always had a round perky butt, and I had to bite it.  I just rolled up to her, bent down and CHOMP!  It turned her whole right cheek purple.  I'd gotten a mouthful.  I dont remember my parents really reprimanding me for it either.  Probably because they were sadistic like me and most likely tried to yell at me but were laughing while they did it.

Mmm, Crowned Sikh.  My favorite!

So Finn is okay.  The daycare people said he only cried for a minute and was fine.  I asked Erin which kid did it but she said she didn't know.  She didn't want to ask because she didn't want to hate the kid.  That was probably for the best. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Potty Training

Erin:  Hey, if you have to pee today can you do it on a Cheerio for Liam?

Me:  I'm sorry?

Erin: Yeah, they say that if you pee on a Cheerio it helps kids with potty training.

Me:  No problem.

I tend to choose my battles carefully. I had no idea how me peeing on cereal was supposed to help Liam and I really didn't care to find out. Frankly I was afraid to even Google "peeing on a Cheerio" just because that's likely to yield some horrifying results, so I was ready to take Erin's advice at face value.

Liam is two and a half so for the past couple of months I've been making half-assed attempts at potty training him.  This past weekend I went about it with my usual reluctance but started to do as Erin had asked.  I took a fistful of Cheerios with me to the bathroom Saturday morning so I could pee on them, but I backed out at the last second.  I remembered that I tend to leave my bowls of cereal unattended and could see this new skill of Liam's backfiring.

I haven't been apathetic with the potty training because I have an issue with pooing like you might think.  At this point me and poo are like old college roommates.  I've literally gone about my business doing things around the house, fully aware of an errant poo smear on my body for a good hour before taking steps to deal with it.  I've been apathetic about the potty training because doing anything outside of the house with the boys is already enough of a cattle drive.  I really didn't think I could handle adding a toilet to their list of needs.  I could picture me at the grocery store with Finn chucking a dozen eggs in the beer aisle and having a complete meltdown because three of them didn't break and then having little Liam take that moment to tell me "daddy, I have to go bathroom real bad".  Scenes like that are the leading cause of head explosions. 

I never understood why parents bemoan diapers.  It's so nice to have your kids go whenever and wherever they need to.  Why would anyone want to lose that sweet perk?  But a couple of months ago Liam started showing signs of being ready.  He'd been waking up with dry diapers because he's been "holding it" while he sleeps and he's been making it very obvious when he's taking a dump.  About 20 minutes after meals he retires to the same little corner of the living room, back behind the couches, and makes his Uri Geller face.

After breakfast this past Sunday I really couldn't think of an excuse when Erin asked if I could go sit him on the potty.  So I attached his little Baby Bjorn toddler-ass-sized adapter to the toilet and we got comfy.  He pointed out his 'pee-iss' as usual.  "Your penis is awesome pal" I confirmed with total sincerity.  Then we normally would have read a book but since I didn't have one handy I made up a song to the tune of Raffi's Going to the Zoo:

              We're gonna take a big poo today,
              Poo today,
              Poo today,

              We're gonna take a big poo today,
              It could take all day,

              We're gonna take a poo, poo, poo
              How about you, you, you?
              You can poo too, too, too,
              We're gonna take a poo, poo, poo

That's public domain so feel free to use it.  After a mere three choruses of this Liam got a familiar look on his face.  I looked to see if I was holding a bent spoon but there was no spoon.  Instead, in the dark shadows beyond his little toddler crotch I spotted a movement.  A bowel movement?  I looked up at Liam's face and, I kid you not, he said "eww...".  This was of course followed by a distinct "plop".  Erin, who had rushed into the bathroom once I'd alerted her of the signs, joined me in cheering, laughing, and jumping up and down.  We were ecstatic.

I guess I was ready for this.  I really thought I wouldn't have wanted to reach this milestone just yet but I was just so damn proud of my little pooper.  Sure it's not over yet.  It will be many months before we can retire the diapers for good, but it's a start.  Plus I was excited because I was reminded that watching my baby boy grow up is bad-ass.  When he was Finn's age I felt like I'd be losing something when he started to grow up, but that just isn't the case.

Once we calmed down we paid our respects to his little floater and said "bye-bye" as it swirled off into the sunset.  I figure we'll have plenty more episodes like that in the coming months and I'm pretty sure the novelty will wear off pretty quick.  But until then we are ROCKIN' the potty!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Brother Series: Chris

Chris - the oldest of my younger brothers - is a very gentle, soft-spoken vegan who wears old-man pants and bicycles everywhere. When I say 'everywhere' I mean to the grocery store, to the ocean, from Sonoma County to San Francisco, from Argentina to Peru. Places like that.

He grew up in a different, much cooler household than I did. There were things happening there like creative painting of the walls, experimental cooking, and sitting down for family meals. He grew up in Kalamazoo in a funky old Victorian house, whereas I grew up in a dog-pee infested crumbling old farmhouse 30 minutes away in the small farming town of Gobles.

I had a rigorous chore schedule and strict rules, including a midnight curfew on weekends, after which I always had to wake up my mom and let her smell my breath so she could decide if I'd been drinking (um, toothbrush, duh!). In contrast, our dad gave Chris and our younger brother Ben only three rules to abide by for a peaceful household:

1) Always Chew Your Food Well

2) Don't do Heroin

3) Don't Get any Girls Pregnant

I didn't think this last rule would be much of a problem for Chris. As a kid he used to insist on wearing his older sister Erin's purple sparkly one-piece bathing suit. He looked really cute in it! One year for Christmas, my step-mom was fretting over whether to get him the girl cabbage patch doll he'd asked for, or a more gender-appropriate boy. She asked for my opinion, and because I knew way more about boys than girls, I suggested the boy. Girls were weird. She got him the boy, and when Chris ripped off the wrapping paper and saw what was inside, he went nuts. The kind of nuts you go when you're disappointed and ANGRY. He cried inconsolably about it and threw the boy doll across the room.

As an adult he came to stay with us for a few months, so I sat him down to have 'The Talk'. I assured him that it was totally okay if he was gay, but he insisted that he wasn't. Again I told him that I loved him unconditionally and having a gay brother had always been one of my dreams, he could finally make it come true! Having a gay brother would complete the well-rounded, all-accepting, colors-of-the-rainbow thing I'd been working on for years by acquiring friends and family members from a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds. He would slowly shake his head and say in his very mumbly, muted way that he was not, in fact, gay. Great. So what's the point of having a Korean sort-of brother, a Mexican soul sister, one black and two Chinese friends?! Jeez! Oh, right, because I love them all so darn much...okay, fine.

I guess I kind of believe Chris now about the gay thing now.  He's got this really rad girl that he's engaged to.  She's tough as balls and would never date a homo, let alone marry one. They've been together for enough years at this point that she would have figured it out by now, too.

I've long-since forgiven him for all the hours he spent silently following me around the house, just as I'm sure he's forgiven me for whipping around and screaming "STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!" at him. I've also forgiven him for moving from San Francisco to Madison, Wisconsin. I know! I know. Who in their right mind would make such a geographic switch?! I've been asking myself that a lot over the last couple of years.

The kind of person that grew up dressing like a girl, that's who. This kid does whatever the fuck feels right to him. He is awesome.

He's cold and I will never visit him in the winter, but he's awesome.