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.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Shotgun Finn Turns Three

Yes, it's been three whole years since the little nugget first ruined my CARFAX report. That means the "terrible twos" are over!


For you newer parents (like Scott and Amber Keneally, congrats you guys!) the "terrible twos" is a scam perpetuated by cruel prankster parents who want you to think that somehow turning three means the days of grand mal seizure tantrums and mass destruction are over, but they're really just getting started. You have one more year to go.

I asked myself, "what would Finn want to do for his birthday?"  Throw rocks at cars? Run naked in traffic? Get us on the personae non gratae list at every coffee shop in town? Fortunately my parents asked to visit which is a better gift than anything I could offer the boys.

He's only like this with my dad
They came at lunchtime and walked us down to the Healdsburg Bar & Grill, a local eatery that has been cursed with the epithet "kid friendly", the worst designation a restaurant can receive. It's a really great place, I feel bad for them. To my amazement the boys sat in their chairs, colored on their menus, ate their lunches, and were sweet, happy and adorable. It's like I don't know them anymore.

Afterward they were rewarded with ice cream for the journey home. Finn got his in a cup and froze his brain permanently from shoveling it into his face. Liam got a cone which naturally hinders rate of consumption, so once Finn was done, he was pissed. His brother had ice cream whilst he did not. He didn't scream or hit though, he just whined a bit and reached. Liam took it in stride and held his ground while I (pointlessly) explained the ice cream judicial system to Finn. Then this happened:

I love how Liam couldn't bear to watch. I couldn't look away.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Hello Friends! Amanda and I are once again participating in the "40 Days of Writing" project. What that means for us is we've committed to writing something everyday for 40 days in a row. What that means for you is quantity over quality. For example today I just wrote a word. One word. But I'm proud of it and I wanted it to be the title of this post so that when people google it one day, I'll get credit for it. Yes, I'm an egotistical twit.

Talking of which, here's a chat I just had with my impressively patient girlfriend, Jodee Anello:

me:  I made up a word today.

Jodee:  Oh?

me:  "Innaqueous"

Jodee:  ??

me:  I tried a wine today that was clean, but dull and watery.
Innocuous and aqueous
I googled it and nothing came up. It's my first invented word!!!

Jodee:  You may have something there?

me:  What's with the question mark??
You're goddamn right I "have something there"!
That something is an awesome contribution to the English language thankyouverymuchwhileyou'reup.

Jodee:  Hm

me:  I hate you and I'm using it as often as I can.
It's a dynamic word that can be used in the literal sense but also to describe things in the abstract.
Like the way jealous people feel about the triumphs of others.

Jodee:  I'll need to look up those words. I feel like Linus and you're an adult.

me:  Linus was brilliant. You're a Lucy.

Jodee:  Yeah
Fuck you

me:  Good one.

Jodee:  I know innocuous but not the other.

me:  Watery.

Jodee:  Innocent water?

me:  Oh for crying out loud.

Jodee:  Safe water?
Okay. I get it. It's a great word.
I'm not patronizing.

me:  Unoffensive and watery.
It was a clean wine but it lacked character and tasted watered down.

Jodee:  Perfect word.

me:  So you're not patronizing it.
The opposite would be "concentrated hurtfulness".
You could come up with a word for that.

Jodee:  Okay. Lemme think.
Wait, did you just say I was a mean person?

me:  Detranello

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rad Dad!

Hey you guys! Hi! I've missed you toooooooo!!!

So listen, I wanted to mention this one little thing to you, and then you can go about your day. Until I mention it again. 

My friend Tomas Moniz - founder, editor and writer for Rad Dad Magazine - is starting a fundraising campaign to keep his fantastic, thoughtful, introspective, funny, edgy and downright IMPORTANT magazine in publication for another year. 

2014 brought us three beautiful, well-crafted magazines full of wisdom, beautiful images, and stories we could all relate to, or will be able to relate to as our kids grow older and we're faced with bigger, wackier issues. Oh, one of which I helped to copy-edit, which was a lot of fun and taught me that Tomas is a very patient and understanding human being. I already knew he had a sense of humor, as proven when he invited me to read a story in Berkeley at one of his events and I failed miserably

Tomas is asking for help in spreading the word, and has made a Kickstarter Re-Subscription Drive, woo hoo! Go check it out and see if it seems like something you might be into. Or, if you're just feeling generous and want to see something completely different than the mainstream mags continue to find a little place out in the world, please go ahead and donate anyway. 

To quote Tomas, because I happen to agree: "there simply is nothing like Rad Dad Magazine out in the mainstream parenting world. In our pages, we promise to challenge the mainstream representations of parenting as monolithic, homogeneous, and safe."

Parenting is about the world we create! (...also a quote, I just left out the quotation marks because I'm a rebel and that's allowed when talking about Rad Dad). Let's help create a world we ALL feel good about parenting in!

Thanks friends! Love you! And, have a great day.