Monday, December 8, 2014

First Pancake

I rarely get much right the first time. I call it the "first pancake" phenomenon, because you always throw out the first pancake. This last weekend was the first weekend of the holiday season and it deserves to be chucked in the bin on top of the cracked eggs because I didn't get it right. Coincidentally, it even involved real pancakes.

I was set on getting my Norman Rockwell Christmas going full steam Saturday morning. What better way to kick it off than to get a Christmas tree? I'd always opted for the big, bushy, fat kind of tree you could decorate just by drunkenly throwing things at it, but Jodee's preference was for the prestigious "Silver Tip" which, ounce for ounce, is priced only slightly less than filet mignon. I conceded quickly despite her offers to compromise. I wanted her to love it and I wasn't going to spend a whole lot of time looking at other options because I was too busy keeping the boys from getting maimed. Finn hit the ground running as soon as we got to the tree lot, which was fine while he was sprinting among the trees, but not so great once his focus shifted to the open fire pit, the shed filled with machetes, the elaborate tree stand hole-drilling thingy, and the chainsaw wielding Kiwanis Club volunteer who may, or may not, have been filled with a little too much "holiday cheer". We made our choice fast and got the hell out of there.

Jodee had borrowed a friend's truck to haul out our tree, which in retrospect wasn't the best idea. I could have just as easily tucked our little waif of a tree under my wind shield wiper blade like a car wash coupon and spared myself from Liam's complete meltdown when we got into our car and watched our tree drive away in Jodee's borrowed truck. I followed Jodee closely shouting over Liam's cries of "MY TREE!! MY TREE!!!" with promises that we were going home to meet the tree and would never be parted from it again. Luckily it was a ten minute drive.

Once we got home things quickly turned tenuous. Earlier this year our cat nearly died after eating a lily. It occurred to Jodee to do a quick Google search regarding the toxicity of Christmas trees. Of course the first thing that popped up confirmed her worst fears. I tried reasoning that I had never heard of such a thing, but I knew that once the idea was in her mind, there's was no way she'd sleep at night. So, the tree went out on the porch....temporarily. I think Jodee's fear for the cat's safety was matched by her fear of ruining Christmas, so she spent the next few hours feverishly researching reputable sources and eventually learned from poison control that pine trees don't kill cats. They do make them barf, but what doesn't?

That night we set to decorating the tree. For adults, tree decorating is whimsical and nostalgic. For a three year old and a five year old, tree decorating is opening a box of fragile toys that you're not allowed to play with. There was lots of hitting.

The next morning I wanted to treat the boys to a little comfort foodie goodness. Sunday mornings we usually just head downtown for coffee and muffins, but this is Christmas dammit! I did a quick scan of ingredients in the kitchen and announced, "I shall make cornmeal pancakes! That's a thing, right?" I found a recipe and set to making the most vile breakfast I'd ever forced upon my children. Finn was on to me right away and pushed his chair away from the table screaming. Liam, however, trusted his daddy, despite the appearance of what was on his plate. I mean, how bad could it be? There's butter and syrup for crying-out-loud!

I saw him pack a couple of bites into his mouth so I was satisfied and went to clean the kitchen. A few minutes later I turned back and he was missing. I found him in the living room sitting in front of the tree on a decorative box. He seemed melancholy, so I asked what was wrong. He looked up at me with an expression on his face like he'd just mistaken a cat turd for a piece of Almond Roca and didn't know what to do about it. With crunchy corn death cakes still stuffed in his cheeks, I guided him over to the trash can where he half spit it out and half retched. I offered him a paper towel to wipe his mouth out and he asked for a second one. We went straight downtown so I could give the boys two muffins each, a $6 apple juice, and my promise to quit trying so hard and just let this Christmas happen.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Shut Up and Be Merry

It was Thanksgiving last Thursday and the stars aligned in such a way that my usual 50% custody of the kids was whittled down to something close to 18% for the entire holiday week. As divorced parents know, this happens around the holidays with the alternating week/alternating year dynamic of shared custody. Did I miss them? Yes, I did.*

Jodee and I had never had this kind of adult time alone. The first thing she did was run out to the drug store and buy us, you guessed it, a 1000 piece puzzle.

It was a collection of works from Norman Rockwell's covers of the Saturday Evening Post. After we'd finished the edges and I'd gotten through the better part of an image of two USO volunteers fawning over a blushing soldier eating donuts and spilling his coffee, I began to secretly wish my life was filled with that kind of sunny small-town iconography. Then I realized I was sipping coffee on a crisp December morning in my country home while doing a puzzle. There was even a cat.

When, and if, I ever get the kids back home, I'm going to force some Rockwellian moments upon them this holiday season for sure. I know, not all of them will take. My most idyllic plans involving the boys are the ones they take particular pleasure in ruining. I haven't forgotten Halloween.

But next weekend we're getting our tree. I'm sure I can coax the boys into indulging me in some completely contrived good cheer and holiday kitsch. Afterall, tis the season for shameless bribery.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Forgotten Son

The other day I was scrolling through my phone's giganto backlog of photos, trying to delete some and therefore make space for...more pictures. After flipping through a couple hundred or so, I came to a few that made me think 'oh, crap' - and not in the oops I made some bad choices while drinking with a camera nearby way. In a much worse way.

It appears as though I forgot my son's birthday.

Now before you think I'm a terrible parent, let me clarify: of course I didn't actually forget his birthday! I just forgot to tell you about it - oops! I guess I kinda got caught up telling you about our completely perfect summer camping trip (which was actually a birthday camping trip), so I never did the whole Birthday Blog thingy that every parent who has a blog does, because we can.

And now, goldangit, I can't really remember any funny or even slightly illuminating details to tell you about it, because it was three months ago! Who remembers things from that long ago?!

So I guess I'll just show you the pictures I found, and maybe they'll help jog my memory. Because of the kids' whackadoodle schedule, these aren't necessarily in order, but I'll pretend they are so you don't get a huge headache. You're welcome!

Jonah specifically requested Bavarian toaster waffles for his birthday breakfast. Uh, easy peasy. After getting all jacked up on syrup and powdered-sugar, he wanted to open his presents. Since Paulie hadn't surfaced yet, we took the party to him. He was delighted!

Being the mind-bogglingly sweet and easy-to-please kid that he is, Jonah decided that he wanted to spend some of his precious birthday time playing games. With his family. *tear of joy!*

He was, of course, victorious

This one, not so much

Then some friends and family came over, and he got some completely awesome presents. Jonah is always super eager to fix things around the house and to help Paulie with any number of his buildery projects, so needless to say he was stoked to get this rad tool box and drill - and I'm thrilled to have yet another man around the house to do stuff for me - woo hoooo!

Finally, Jonah got to round out his birthday by eating the dinner choice of birthday-havers everywhere: Pizza (duh - I mean come on. It's pizza). His sweet Auntie Brandy called up Mary's Pizza Shack and had his favorite pie delivered right to our front door. Damn, woman! You know how to make a kid happy!

He didn't want to share...but he did
This is where I would normally do the sigh, woe is me stuff and muse about how time flies and now my little boy is growing up and bla bla blaaaaa, but since it's been three damn months, I'm kinda used to it now.

Better luck next year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Growing Up

We reached some milestones this week. I turned 40 and Liam got his first professional haircut in two and a half years.

Jodee threw me an intimate party and hired the world's greatest duet to perform. Remember my post about The Paper Dolls from forever ago where I said I was going to have them play at my 40th birthday party?

Unfortunately they left their mics unattended. My apologies to our guests. I hope you were all drunk enough.

Liam's was a more impressive milestone. Here he is at his last haircut just before Easter 2012:

He never cared for strangers touching his head so his haircuts were infrequent, but after the one in the photo above, his objections to haircuts reached levels that could not be subdued by a lollipop. It fell to me for two years to act as his personal stylist and I'd just started to get pretty good at it, I think.

Not too shabby, right?

Still, he was due for a pro cut. He's really grown up a lot this past summer. I've been finding him open to negotiation (bribery) more than ever before, so I decided to give it a shot.

I knew it was going to take a little courage to face Liam's potentially volcanic reaction to being placed in the hands of a stranger with scissors, so naturally I sent Jodee. She was successful.

We'll get at least six months out of it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hell Skate

The kids and I found ourselves at Cal Skate yesterday, because what better way is there to spend a freakish 80 degree day in November than indoors, in the dark, risking bodily injury and wondering what is that smell? way too often? We say: None!!

Apparently, dozens of other families had the same idea. Fun times a thousand!

I was actually super excited to hit the rink, because I'm somewhat of a roller skating MASTER, ahem. I even briefly entertained the idea of joining the local Roller Derby team because my favorite thing to do is to skate really really fast! But then I remembered that I don't like to pair skating really really fast with mean, scary ladies and various broken bones, so I let that dream go.

So there we were - skating. The kids wanted me to stay with them but once I saw the pace they were keeping I was like "pshhhh I'm outta here, suckers! vroooooom!"

Evie quickly made some real progress and let go of the wall (but she still couldn't keep up with ol' JanikAttack [my derby name, of course], heh). I was super impressed with her ability to stay upright. Equally impressive were her falling capabilities - she's always been great at falling and getting right back up, because she is a badass.

Totally didn't fall

Roller skating on family day is kind of a challenge when you aren't keeping to the perimeter the whole time as my very intelligent son chose to do. Especially when you like to, um, go fast (did I mention I like to go fast?). There are quite a few obstacles to deal with. Sometimes people decide to skate in the wrong direction without any notice, sometimes (read: often) kids fall in front of you as you're barreling toward them, but worst of all is the slow weave: I'm going to meander to the to the to the ri-- I mean left more....

Basically what I'm saying is you have to keep your mind sharp and pretend you're Jason Bourne in order to get around the rink more than twice without dying or killing a small child. There are so many last-second situation changes to watch out for:

Luckily we all got blisters after about an hour so we decided to just share a crappy soft pretzel and call it a day.

Can't wait till next time!!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Last Weekend as a Thirtysomething Dad

I left my twenties as clueless as when I entered them. I went into my thirties with the vague notion that kids would be happening at some point during the decade. I figured I'd probably be pretty into them, but I had no idea to what degree. I don't know that anyone can know what it will really be like until it happens. It's a fantastic surprise.

Since it was my last weekend as a thirtysomething dad, and my thirties will forever be defined as "the decade my sons were born", I figured I should pull it together for one last hurrah. One of the many things I've learned in my struggles is that showing these boys a good time is not hard to do. You put their needs before your own and, at some point, include pizza.

On Friday I did my weekend grocery shopping trip on my lunch break for two reasons: 1) So they wouldn't have to endure the market and 2) so I could "forget" my groceries at the winery, forcing me to go back and retrieve them with the boys in tow. A winery, to a little kid, is basically an enormous play structure with candy that grows on little trees.

Late Harvest Zin

After that it was just your average night at home for dinner, movies, and a thousand piece puzzle.

Serious corner-piece action

Saturday started in the usual way. My 8am wake up call came rumbling down the hall and dove under my covers, demanding French Toast.

Always left
Always right

Now, it's pretty arrogant of me to assume that spending the entire weekend with just dad is every boy's dream, so I got them a girl. Coincidentally I had to host a tour at work for a few hours that afternoon so I had an excuse to invite the cute 15-year-old neighbor over to watch the boys....or more accurately, for them to watch her.

[ Not pictured, because that's creepy ]

That evening I took a big chance and took the boys out to dinner, in public, by myself. They sat, finished their cheeseburgers, fries, and lemonade, and were sweet and happy. Mind blown.


Sunday morning began in the same vein as Saturday, but a little earlier and a little rougher. I'd gotten the boys down early Saturday night and celebrated my window of freedom in my usual fashion. A rookie move.


I needed reinforcements, so it was off to Nana and Papa's house for brunch, followed by feeding farm animals and riding a carousel. We ended the night with pizza.

Finn speaks 'goat'

So, next weekend I'll be "Over the Hill". I prefer to think of it as "On Top of the Hill".

Best birthday present ever

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Love Notes

My daughter is all kinds of loving me lately.

I know this shouldn't be newsworthy information, but it is. Trust me. Since birth this girl has been able to go from sweet, fun-loving goofball of adorableness to head-spinning screamer of everything-is-unfairness at the drop of a hat, much to the bewilderment and confusion of all those around her. When I say 'all those around her' I mean anyone who is nearby to witness her acting this way toward me, because by all accounts I'm the only one with which she shares this joyful tradition.

People tell me that she only lets loose with her tirades around me because I'm her mother, and I'm the only person she feels truly comfortable unloading all of her pent-up wackadoodle emotions onto because she inherently knows that I love her until the end of time no matter damn what. And lets face it, that is true, so lucky me!

I never really know what mood she's going to be in when we encounter each other on any given day - sometimes she wakes up happy, sometimes she wakes up ready to collect heads. Who knows why? No one. No one knows why. We all just have to put on a smile, strap on extra jetpacks of patience and hope for the best. Again, I say 'we all' when I mean 'anyone who has the good fortune to be around me during these moments'.

She loves to mash her face against my face
Over the past several months however, Evie has been totally into me. It. Is. Awesome. She tells me how much she misses me when we aren't together, and I know she isn't just playing me because this is backed up by Paulie and her Aunties, who hear the same. She and I plan elaborate Evie and Mama activities, she insists I sit next to her at the dinner table, she asks if she can help with the dishes, she asks my opinion on any number of things she couldn't have cared less to ask about before. We talk for hours about life, love and stuffed animals.

In short: the kid finally likes me! I suspect it might have something to do with my working more, and/or taking a class one evening a week, both of which prevent me from being at her beck and call every moment of the day and thus forcing her to realize how good she's had it for so many years. Win!

It is entirely possible that I am imagining that reasoning, though. She might just be in a 'I Love Mom' phase. As shown below, on both the cover and final page of a book she recently made me:

There was one other page to the book, which went a little something like this:

She makes me 'laght' too!
Now, sure, these books and drawings have been coming at me left and right. A quick look at the calendar on which she records her favorite part of each day reads "Seeing my Mama," "Spending time with Mama," and "MAMA TIME!!!" But lest you think she's just trying to butter me up so I'll let her eat more candy or take her to get her nails did, I found proof that she's being sincere.

Before you judge - I found this OPEN, with the marker still inside of it, and facing upright. She'd left it on the coffee table and I was cleaning up in preparation for some guests. You all know that I revere the diary as a personal and sacred place, but I couldn't help but notice what she'd written:

The next page is equally charming and mom-loving Needless to say I closed it right up and put it away in her room like any privacy-respecting mother would do.

I am going to ride this wave of love for as long as I can - I'm sure it's going to extend from now until well past her teenage years. Or, on second thought, I'm pretty sure it's going to last FOREVER. *love!*

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

This year's Halloween started like every other...with a fantasy.

I've always had elaborate fantasies. As a little boy they usually involved me being insanely good at playground activities, like being able to do a forward flip and catch a kickball in midair, or skipping three monkey bars. As I got older the fantasies were about girls, but not in the way you'd think. I'd fantasize about finding a cute girl in the woods who had twisted her ankle while camping. I'd help her find her parents and maybe score a hug. After that came puberty and from then until Liam was born the fantasies were insanely disgusting of course, but since I became a dad my fantasies have reverted back to their old Judy Blume level.

The problem is lately I try to make my dreams a reality and this inevitably leads to disappointment, especially since the boys are now old enough to have opinions. In my mind this year we would do a group Halloween costume and the only thing overshadowing how adorably clever we were would be the radiant joy emanating from my two sons skipping merrily alongside their beloved father, basking in the admiration from strangers, and porking out on Snickers. I'd planned to pull out my old-timey sailor costume from last year, dress Liam as a dog, and dress Finn in red pajamas with white stripes and two blue circles sewn into the back.

The "GUESS WHAT'S INSIDE?" was going to be on his diapered butt. I'd even bought the felt. But like any dream involving the boys agreeing to my amazing ideas, it was not to be. Last Tuesday Liam endured yet another speech evaluation (this time for his ongoing medical diagnosis for ASD) and I rewarded him afterward with a trip to our local costume haberdasher Disguise the Limit. While browsing the aisles for the very best "Bingo the Dog" costume, Liam spotted an official Woody© costume and that was the end of it.

So with my dreams dashed there was no reason for Jodee to craft Finn's brilliant toy surprise outfit that I'd envisioned. He'd probably have torn it off in tears anyway, so I asked Erin if we had any old costumes we could reuse for him.

Erin: Thomas the Tank Engine?

me: Yes!

Erin: No, he won't wear the hat.

me: He could be an uncooperative turd for Halloween?

Erin: The hamburger may be too small but we could try it. What about Luke Skywalker?

How did I forget about Luke Skywalker? Don't I read the blog?!!

So Luke Skywalker and Woody it was. I went as a dejected father who should have known better (not pictured).

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Big Birthday FAIL

Keeping my (self-appointed) title of 'Best Girlfriend in the World' isn't always easy. Take Paulie's birthday, for example. Here is a list of all the ways I failed to pull off my intended Best Birthday Ever for my sweetheart:

1. I tracked down a guy who could come to the house to fix Paulie's gargantuan vintage console stereo's record player. This was no small feat, because as it turns out, most of the people who can do this are either retired or dead. Unfortunately, since this was going to be a surprise, this plan was foiled by conflicting schedules and, more than once, Paulie being at home when he wasn't supposed to be.

Hi, I'm a giant, glorified nic-nac holder

2. Since the records I'd bought him were now totally useless, I decided to make myself feel like less of a flake by making him breakfast. He requested an egg, toast and a sausage patty - easy, right?! In my state of distraction I accidentally bought pork sausage patties instead of vegetarian...which I served to him with a smile and pretended the mistake had been intentional. "Eat more protein, you!"

3. While shopping for the wrong sausage patties, I picked up a cake mix and a dented can of fruit which I intended to use to, well, bake a cake of course. Those things are still sitting on my kitchen counter - didn't quite get to the whole 'baking a cake' thing. Ooooops!

4. I planned a beach day on which I thought we'd stop by the Wild Flour bakery in Freestone for some bread, and Boon in Guerneville for dinner on our way back. Turns out both were closed on our beach day. That's right: CLOSED. Gah.

5. I forgot to buy a replacement gift. I mean, I did buy him something kind of last-minute and stupid when there were only a few days left before his birthday and the record player wasn't fixed yet, but because of my late planning, it didn't arrive in time. Actually now that I think about it, it still hasn't arrived. Christ.

Don't worry! All was not lost. Sure, I completely jacked up all of the surprises I'd planned on wowing my boyfriend with. He didn't seem to notice, though. Maybe because I deliberately and successfully made a point to distract him from the lack of an unwrappable gift. Oh, and I nailed it!

First, we went to The Marshall Store, where we ate oysters:

Then, we went to Hog Island Oyster Company, where we ate more oysters:

Then we went to Nick's Cove, where we ate...clam chowder and a salad. They have a little shack at the end of a dock where you can relax while waiting for your food, and when it's done, they call you to tell you it's ready! After we ate, I arranged a beautiful sky for Paulie to look at.

While there, he serenaded the dog while I fantasized/made plans for us to move into the shack forever where we would live a simple life filled with salty mornings and cozy woodstove evenings. *sigh* A girl can dream.

What a perfect day! On the way home, we stopped at The William Tell House, where the barkeep brought Paulie dessert with actual candles, and the whole bar sang Happy Birthday to him! I didn't get any decent photo documentation of this grand moment, sorry.

I did, however, get one photo of our final stop of the evening. Paulie and I have a very unfortunate tradition of ending every birthday extravaganza with a trip to The Zoo, a sticky old dive bar where, if you go at the wrong time of the evening you might order microwaved bagel dogs which will make you very, very sad the following day. Luckily, when we put last-minute word out that we were heading there, a bunch of friends rolled themselves off the couch/out of bed, and joined in the birthday-celebrating fun.

All of these people love Paulie.

But wait!! Do you want to know the best part of this whole story?? After work the following day, I was telling Paulie about all of the ways in which my plans to surprise him for his birthday had been shot to hell. I explained how many times I'd had to reschedule the record player repairman, much to my woe. As I laughed at myself, he was like "well, maybe I can fix it...."

Happy Birthday! Fix this, please!
Which of course, he proceeded to do. My kids are right - Paulie really can fix anything! Sure, he isn't exactly sure which combinations of his efforts resulted in the thing actually working, but still. The point is - he fixed it, and now I don't have to pay someone to come out and do it. WIN!!

The rest of our evening was spent listening to The Rolling Stones, Pete Seeger, The Beatles, and other old scratched records we'd been given that very day, by sheer coincidence.

I think it all worked out in the end.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Family Wagon

Well, it happened: we got a van.

Here, I'll prove it!

When I say that 'we' got a van I of course mean that Paulie heard through the grapevine that this sweet-ass ride was for sale and, since he's been dreaming of buying a van since he decided to date a single mother and did the math, he up and bought the dang thing!

For the record, the math went something like this: 1 hot girlfriend + her 2 kids + their friends + 1 teenager + his friend(s) = 2 cars to drive to every beach day = sad face. When I say 'the math went something like' I of course mean that this is the easiest possible way to do math (and it makes complete sense shut up), and this is how I did math back in my day. Please don't ask me how to do math today because ohmygod what the fuck common core?! Anyway, the main point of that digression was to prove to you that I CAN do math, after all. As long as it's not ridiculous math.

Anyway, back to the van.

It has gold octopus tentacles on it, you guys!! And it sits seven people, a couple of dogs, four beach chairs, two coolers, a bag of snacks, a backpack full of reading material, a purse, a soccer ball, 4 hoodies, and let's be honest: probably a dead body if we got creative.

This isn't our van but, uh, you get the idea. RIP druggie grandpa

Within an hour of bringing her home, we took the as-yet-unnamed van to the beach. This was fun because we got to find out rather quickly what quirks we'd be dealing with for the rest of our vanlationship. We were just past Sebastopol when it started screaming at us, which meant the oil was low. After unpacking all of the afore-mentioned beach-day stuff - minus a dead body - from the back of the van because of course that is where the engine is, Paulie found that the oil was not in fact low, so we continued on our journey.

We hadn't quite made it to Bodega Bay when Paulie pulled over again because the van was telling us that it was very hot and needed a rest. Again, he checked it out and deemed it just fine, so again, away we went. I watched the flashing red light under the thermostat but it seemed to stay a reasonable amount of centimeters away from the danger zone, so whatevs.

Needless to say we made it to the beach.

Thanks for getting us there, new van! Please don't listen to Paulie when he looks at you contemplatively and says things like "yeah now I'm kind of remembering how much I hate driving a high-maintenance vehicle" or "I just want things to work." He doesn't mean it!

p.s. what should we name the van??

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Odd Years

Yesterday Jodee and I took the boys to the Preston Harvest Festival; a local kid friendly event:

Come and enjoy live music by the Gold Coast Jazz Band, tractor rides, a U-pick pumpkin patch, seed saving, and participate in a Sauerkraut stomp. Kids will also be able to make bread sticks in our outdoor forno, decorate pumpkins, go on an fun-filled scavenger hunt, and spend time with our farm animals. We will be pressing organic apples for fresh cider and of course our tasting room will be open.

You see this kind of thing around here this time of year and you start writing your "Father of the Year" acceptance speech because OBVIOUSLY the kids are going to have the best day ever.

We lasted almost an hour.

NOT because the fine people at Preston Vineyards didn't deliver all they promised and more, but because Liam saw a ladder that he wasn't allowed to climb and that marked the end of our blissful afternoon.

I used to take them everywhere. One of our simple Saturday morning rituals was to walk down to the coffee shop and have muffins. The boys would stand with me in line, make big eyes at the pastry case, sit in over-sized chairs with their little chins barely above the edge of the table, and bliss out on gingerbread mini-muffins. So sweet, fun and innocent.

That was just last year. We're not welcome there anymore.

Now Finn immediately finds the most dangerous thing to climb and the grouchiest person to harass and goes apeshit, while Liam attempts to break the pastry case glass with his voice. Any attempt to quell the chaos results in knee paralysis, disappearing armpits, and lot and lots of screaming. The looks I get...oh man.

I don't think they're lashing out at me for the changes we've seen this last year. We're thriving in all aspects of our lives. Things have definitely improved, that's for certain. I wonder if I'm just blowing it as a dad and have done something to somehow cause their defiance, but then I wonder if it's just that a 5-year-old boy and 3-year-old boy are way harder to manage than a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. Certainly 3-years-old is harder than 2-years-old, that's been established. But 5-years-old being harder than 4-years-old? That doesn't really add up. Maybe it's the stress of being a brother of a 3-year-old that's putting Liam on edge, that makes sense. Conclusion: Not my fault, right?

To be fair they're not always little blond rage-monsters. We started our Preston visit out great. We rode a tractor and saw a sheep dog herding his sheep.  It was breezy, happy, and filled with love.

I love you, brother

I love you strawberry

I love you hay

Then Jodee and I heard the wine tasting room calling our names so we peeked in there. "Wanna go see the barrels?" I wisely offered my curious 5-year-old. He quickly scanned the barrel room for something to climb, spotted the ladder, and dashed for it. I intervened by the second wrung and all hell broke loose. I spent ten minutes trying to distract him with all the wonders of a Fall Harvest Festival but Liam was fixated and would never know happiness until he fell off that ladder. Meanwhile Finn figured out we really didn't want him to get run over by the tractor and that was that. We left in tears, but as we passed the electrified fencing and the enormous sheep dog guarding over its docile flock, I took note.