My Night

I got off early from work yesterday, at 5:00pm.  Well, it was supposed to be at 5, but it turned out to be 5:15 because I had to take care of a sale I had been working on all day.  I had the order, but it took me over 5 hours to get the order in the system and get the appropriate authorizations to actually write it.

Hey, it’s retail, what can I say?  Everything you heard about it is true.  I actually like the selling part of it, most of the time, like when the customer seems to be interested in what I’m saying and they are not texting or calling their significant other or next door neighbor or their best friend’s dentist or their daughter’s teacher’s cousin who, coincidentally, know more about appliances than I do even though I’ve been doing this for seven years.

In the big picture, the nice people I tend to help more than the “bad” people.  Luckily, there are few “bad” people.  But, one “bad” person can ruin a day.  Feel free to substitute any word – negative, mean, nasty, cheap, smelly, breathing – into my euphemism.  “Bad” people come in all shapes, sizes, religions, genders, races and sexual preferences.  Bottom line, they all suck as customers.  But, I digress.

Nevertheless, on this day, I got off at 5:15 and immediately gunned my car and raced home to take care of the little buggers.  I got home and they were watching TV.  Ok, TV is not inherently a “bad” thing.   I mean, I watch it.  Sergeant Major Mommy (SMM) watches it and woe be to the person who stands between her Zombie Walking Dead TV series or that set in medieval times fantasy adventure sexy show, Bowling for Trolls.

I watched more TV when I was a kid than the little buggers do now and I turned out ok, mostly.

So, I prepare for dinner and prepare the dinner.  We eat dinner.  Well, I eat dinner. Archibald (not his real name) eats part of his dinner while Mortimer (not his real name, either) disregards dinner entirely.  One thing I did do as a kid, and I still do, I eat food.  Now, I don’t like everything like cooked spinach which looks like it came up from the ocean floor via a whale’s regurgitation or blue cheese which came from a sour cow.  I mean how can it not be sour if the cheese is blue?  Was the cow blue too?  At least the farmer who raised it could have played some “happy”  (Yanni? Air Supply? Donna Summer?) music in the barn so the cow would not have spawned blue cheese.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

About this time, SMM calls and says she is working late so she won’t be home to help me (moi, numero uno, big daddy, Mr. Right) with the homework and maybe not the bath and maybe not the reading to the little buggers before bed time.  It is the best of times, it is the worst of times… But, I digress.

I am on my own.

After what passes for dinner is over, we tackle homework.  I’m not sure in what year schools decided to give homework to second graders that was as hard and as extensive as homework I had in graduate school.  However, Morty does his homework mostly on his own, thank God, and I help Archie who needs some extra help.

Archie was diagnosed with a Learning Disability last year and is receiving special attention in his school.  Thank God for that, too.  But, Archie is a little challenging to get him to sit down and actually do the homework.

Morty goes right to his work and I check on him regularly, but he seems to be doing it with some minor corrections by me, like he makes backward 6s and 9s.

Of course, Archie is a little more challenging and after 15 minutes of chasing him around the house, I catch him.  I threaten to take the straight jacket off grandma and use it on him if he doesn’t sit and do his homework.  But, he just laughs.  Ok, it’s a joke, I would never put a straight jacket on grandma (anymore).

Actually, Archie does a good job once he starts on his reading.  He has come a long way just in the past couple of months with the extra tutoring we secured for him.  And, even though I’m his daddy, he is an incredibly cute kid.  Morty is very cute, too.  It still baffles us as to how these two beings turned out so differently after sharing embryonic bunk beds for nine months.

Archie likes to sit on daddy’s lap.  So, on the couch, he climbs up and is reading a book HE HAS NEVER READ BEFORE and doing an admirable job when, don’t ya know, mommy makes her grand entrance.  It is a very good sign when daddy has the buggers doing homework when SMM walks in.  She’s happy, I’m happy.

How she came to be home earlier than I anticipated is surely a miracle right up there with Lourdes and the Miracle Mets.

The boys finish their homework. They take baths.  Daddy reads to them for nighty-night time and they drift off to boogie slumberland.  I love it when things work out.

My sons - Anarchy and Chaos - and me.  I'm the one in the middle.
My sons – Anarchy and Chaos – and me. I’m the one in the middle.

What’s in a number?

I remember seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I was very young at the time and all my brothers and sisters wanted to see them, but for some reason I didn’t.  I don’t remember why.  The Beatles have since become one of my favorite bands.  In fact, it isn’t long after this that they became a favorite.  The melodies and harmonies, the lyrics and imagery, the personalities.  They had it all.  Still have it even though, sad to say, only two of the originals are left.

One of my thoughts on naming our twins was: John Paul and George Ringo.  Unfortunately, my better half vetoed that suggestion.  We had agreed that the names we chose we would both have to agree on.

In any case, the sadder news is that my boys, the dynamic duo, the chips off the old block, the little buggers have never heard of The Beatles.  To them, modern music is something more, shall we say, electronic with a driving rhythm and outrageous lyrics.  Not that all contemporary music is bad, it’s just “evolved”.

I remember where I was when I heard the news that JFK was shot and his brother and Martin.  I remember the miracle Mets, Mr. October, disco, punk rock, Watergate, all the Presidents, the Olympics every four years (who could ever forget Peggy Fleming or Dorothy Hamill or Nadia Comenici or even the original Bruce Jenner).

I remember the “New Math”, conjugating French verbs in grade school, nuns who were almost as terrifying as the ex-Marine in gym class in high school, all my loves in every grade whether they knew they were or not (Claire, where are you?), my buddies in every grade and the one I still have from my second grade class.

Yes, I’m 58 and my kids just turned 7.  No, I didn’t plan it that way.  In high school, when I took this religion class (I went to a parochial school), there was an exercise where I was paired with a girl and we had to plan our lives so that we could begin thinking about what life would be like when we graduated.  The thought never came up that I would wait until my 50’s to have kids.

That thought never came up until I met my second wife and she said she would like to have kids and I said, yeah, that sounds good.  Of course, by then I was over 40.

My first wife said she didn’t want kids and I said, yeah, neither do I.   I didn’t think I did.  What did I know?

The first marriage ended and I never thought I would meet a woman and have kids.  I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be married again.  I wasn’t even sure I was “marriage material”, whatever that means.  I mean, I was 40 and by that time, women my age already had kids and if they didn’t, they knew they didn’t want them.  Meeting a woman who was substantially younger than me and having kids seemed, what, improbable?

But, then again, as Han Solo said, don’t tell me the odds.  After all, I’m the one who moved to NYC and became a professional actor at 40.  Hey, it didn’t last long, but at least I did it.

Becoming a daddy did seem like a remote possibility even with my penchant for odds-bucking.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I met a wonderful woman and she said Yes and let’s have kids and I said ok.  I mean it sounded like a good idea at the time.

Reality is often different that imagination.  And after three years or so of “trying”, we got pregnant.  Don’t be fooled, if she’s pregnant, I might as well be pregnant cause I have to live with her during.  I may not have the weight gain, but I certainly had everything else, like the midnight cravings for ice cream or massages.  I mean if she had the cravings, I had to be the fulfiller of said cravings.  You know what I mean.

What does one say when the doctor says, upon the initial exam of mommy, “how do you feel about twins?”  All I could say was, I knew it was a bad time to give up drinking.  (I had to give up drinking during the “trying” phase cause, contrary to popular belief, alcohol inhibits sperm mobility and those guys were on a perilous enough mission as it was!)

I don’t regret having kids in the least.  They are the joys of my life with mommy.  I miss being younger so that I can be more active with them, more energetic, and so that they could see what daddy was like in his prime physical condition, how fast he could run or how he could shoot a basketball or throw a baseball.

But, what I have now I didn’t have then.  Whenever I hear the word ‘maturity’ I cringe.  I don’t think of myself as mature.  I certainly don’t think of myself as wiser.  I do think of myself as ‘more experienced’.  In the end, if it helps them with homework or teachers or girlfriends or sports or anything and everything else, that’s not such a bad thing.   I’ll beat the odds.

School’s In

First day of School.  Alarm clock rings at 5:30am and daddy hits snooze.  And again, seven minutes later, and seven minutes later, and seven minutes later, and finally, seven minutes later, daddy picks up alarm clock, stumbles to bathroom, casually opens window and throws alarm clock out window.  Our backyard is littered with alarm clocks, clock radios really.  I go into a store and someone always announces my entrance with, Big Daddy’s here, will the person responsible for clock radios please lock them down.  It’s amazing, every store, every time.  You’d think clock radios were an endangered species!

Did I mention that SMM (Sergeant Major Mommy) NEVER has the clock radio on her side of the bed.  She would never hear it anyway and if it did go off, she would let it buzz until forever.   So, daddy (me, moi, numero uno, big daddy, Mr. Right) has the dubious task of listening to the darned thing (technical term).  (FYI: SMM doesn’t even own a watch, just saying).

Nevertheless, daddy gets up, showers and makes coffee (not necessarily in that order).

I have about 20 minutes before I have to wake up the little buggers and start the process to get them ready for school.  To prime myself for the cataclysmic event, I down six cups of coffee.

Phase One:

So, the time comes to wake them up.  I turn on the CD player with their favorite CD which is Disco Favorites cause they like to dance.  I pour the milk in their cups and walk into their room, careful not to break my neck on the Lego landmines. I raise the curtains as unobtrusively as possible.  Good morning, I say.  And then, I turn into a drill sergeant, YOU’RE MOMMA IS NOT HERE TO SAVE YOU BOYS!  YOU HAVE TO GET UP AND GET READY FOR SCHOOL IF YOU WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING OF YOUR LIVES, UNLESS YOU WANT TO GO THROUGH LIFE AS A SEVEN YEAR-OLD SLACKER!!!

They respond, Yes, Daddy, then turn over and mumble, five more minutes.  Obviously, they take after the wife’s side of the family.


She mumbles, five more minutes, and I shake my head and retreat back to the boys.

YOUR BREAKFAST IS NOT GONNA COOK ITSELF!  WHAT DO YOU WANT AND IT BETTER BE SOMETHING NUTRIOUS AND EASY TO MAKE AND WE HAVE IT!?  Archibald (not his real name) mumbles Waffles and Mortimer (not his real name, either) says, what are my choices?  I need choices.  I can’t be expected to pick something off your dream list and heaven forbid, we don’t have it and I’m stuck with nothing to eat.

I reply, ok, well, since you put it like that we have French toast sticks, waffles or cereal.  He smiles, French toast sticks and I scurry off to get the little buggers their breakfast.

On my trip back to the kitchen, I check on mommy.  She is clearly out of bed by this time and in the shower.  Good thing.  I hate to threaten her with taking away things, like her Ipad, if she can’t get ready on time.

Ten minutes later, breakfast is ready. The boys still haven’t budged from their beds.  Archie!  Morty!  It’s your first day of school!  Aren’t you excited!  I’m so excited all I can do is end each sentence with an exclamation mark!!!

The boys eat and about the same time they finish, SMM comes out of the bathroom.

End of Phase One.

Phase Two:

SMM begins to prepare lunches for the boys.

They have new backpacks and new lunchboxes this year.  They picked them out themselves.  Archie has a Grim Reaper backpack and a skull and crossbones lunchbox.  I hope he doesn’t become a Goth.  I told him that he can’t have any tattoos or body piercings until he’s AT LEAST ten.  He said ok, but I think he’s still thinking about it.  Morty has a backpack and lunchbox that have dollar signs all over them.  He says he wants to be a lawyer and that he is hoping to sit for the Bar exam next year.  I say, Ok, but you’d better pass second grade first.

I tell the boys, It is now 7:30 and time to brush your teeth.  They have retired into their bedroom and have been constructing more booby traps with Legos.  I hate to break them away from such focused work, but, as I tell them, we are on a strict time schedule and cannot afford to miss the bus, unless THEY WANT TO WALK TO SCHOOL.

This doesn’t phase them.  They continue playing until I drop my bomb, No TV, No dessert, No Kindle.  They immediately stop, stare at each other, yell NO at the same time, and get up also at the same time (it’s amazing how different they are and they are now acting in unison).

We head into the bathroom and brush our teeth, daddy, too, and rinse our mouths with mouthwash.

Mommy finishes the lunches at approximately the same time.

End of Phase Two.

Phase Three:

It’s time to get dressed.

I have come a long way in my care for the boys.  I used to always pick out their clothes for the day.  But, since they are trying to be more independent, I relinquish my clothes-picking-out to them.  I do oversee it though.  Of course, I’m a guy.  My fashion sense is somewhat narrower than SMM’s and there has been that occasion, like every other day, that SMM doesn’t like my fashion selections for the little buggers and she picks out something completely different.  Nevertheless, I pick out shorts and socks.  Underwear and shirts they can pick out.

I steer Archie away from the black shirts to something tye-dyed.  Morty looks for a superhero shirt, but chooses a muscle shirt with a peace sign on it.  I can live with those choices.  SMM looks like she can, too.

7:50am.  All the boys have to do is put on their socks and their shoes, get their backpacks and head out the door.  However, Archie spontaneously decides now would be a good time to play hide and seek.  Morty, the enabler that he is, is all for it.  I spend ten minutes chasing them around with their socks in hand.

8:00am.  Socks on.  Shoes on.  Backpacks in place.  We open the door and go outside and see the two kids from across the street already waiting.  The boys run to join them and at 8:03, the bus arrives.  Daddy, who usually gets the bus-waiting duty, and the mommy of the kids across the street look at each other, shrug our shoulders and say almost simultaneously, mission accomplished.  Whew!

Things will be better tomorrow morning, I tell myself.  Haha.

Birthday Party

Mommy (hereinafter SMM or Sergeant Major Mommy) comes to me and tells me that is my responsibility to plan the boys’ birthday party this year.  I suppose it would have been easier if she said it was my responsibility to find Jimmy Hoffa.

In previous years, the boys have celebrated their birthday by huge and extravagant parties which lasted days, cost thousands of dollars and involved more than 132, 000 people.  Sending out the invitations alone took almost a year.

But now, I (me, moi, numero uno, big daddy, Mr. Right) have a week.

The first thing I need to do is hire a concierge.  After all, she can’t really expect me to do all of the planning, coordination, decorating, guest management, gift buying, label printing, envelope stuffing, food preparation and chauffeuring all by myself, can she???  Even SMM has a heart.

Check that, the first thing I need to do is plan the location, of course.  Where is it going to be this year?  All they’ve been asking for is an elephant ride. Unfortunately, a safari in Kenya is out of the question. I can’t get the time off work.

No, no, no, the first thing I need to do is take a break, get something to eat and take a nap.  SMM will surely let me eat something.

Oh ok, it’s the boys, gotta take care of the little buggers first, don’t I?

The real first thing I need to do is read my emails, check my Twitter account, update my Facebook page, edit my blog, then take out the trash, clean the kitchen, put the laundry in the dryer, clean the boys’ room, mow the front yard, trim the hedges, paint the garage door, put the dishes in the dishwasher, sweep the dining room, pay the bills, balance my checkbook, make all the beds, go to the grocery, drop off my shirts at the cleaners, dispose of the old TV, solve world hunger and of course, then, finally, solve my own hunger.

About this time SMM calls and ask me how it’s going and how far I’ve gotten.  I tell her that I’ve had to take care of a few things first, but that I am well on my way to solving the Birthday Party riddle and that it will be done before she gets home.  Luckily, it is my day off and I am now primed and ready to tackle the assignment since all my chore prerequisites are taken care of.

But, where do I start?  Oh yeah, the checkbook.  Well, this year has been a tough one financially since we’ve spent extra money on Archibald’s tutoring and daddy hasn’t done so well on his fantasy football only because Joe Namath is not interested in playing football anymore since he retired thirty years ago.  Ugh!

That’s ok.  We can still have fun and be together as a family and have some friends meet us somewhere, even if it is only local corner grocery where we can share some big mouth slushees.

Finally, the first thing I need to do is check the finances.  Done.  Check.  No finances, but now I know.

The SECOND thing I need to do is…. eat.  All of this planning has really helped me work up an appetite.

The second second thing I need to do is sleep.  I’m tired.

Well, it’s now almost two weeks later and Daddy failed miserably in the task he was assigned.  Ok, maybe it was not failed miserably in the execution of the birthday festivities, but it was horrendous in the planning.

On the day, SMM and moi were very tired and the little buggers were more than happy to go to that place that serves cheezy pizza and has a million thousand pinball and video games.  Of course, we had to take Grandma (Gma) who wanted to attend and help the boys celebrate.  The boys loved it and so did Gma interestingly enough.

Gma’s birthday is only in three weeks and we now what she likes and, of course, the boys would like help her celebrate.  It seems my planning for Gma’s bday is a lot easier.  Now, I can have a snack and lay down for a few minutes to “rest my eyes”.

TV or not TV!

We don’t let the boys watch much television.  Like everything else, we feel it is ok in moderation.  Of course, the boys don’t quite get that.  They would like to watch tv a lot more.  Their tastes have changed through the years, too.

Yes, they just turned seven, but their tastes in programs have changed.  When they were very small, like 6 months, they were really into true life crime shows.  Maybe it was a little early for those types of shows and some people would respectfully assert that the boys were way too young, but SMM (Sergeant Major Mommy) and I thought those shows would not only help prepare them for real life, but also (added benefit) develop their logic and deduction skills.  Too bad they cried at lot at those shows, but, as we told them, it was for their own good.  The irony is that they would cry if they did not watch them.  On the other hand, they did cry a lot anyway in the early months.

Archibald (not his real name) and Mortimer (not his real name, either) watched a lot of the kiddie dinosaurs, small mammal characters and huggable aliens, as well as the fairy tale royalty, sea animals with human voices, and big people who dressed like little people.  The boys found them all interesting for a while, until they got older or friends told them about other shows.

SMM and I always kept their tv viewing to a regulated amount.   Ok, so maybe I was a little more lenient with their tv watching.   Mommy was more strict, is more strict.  Nevertheless, I DO NOT use the tv equipment as a babysitter.  That is, UNLESS the Yankees are on and, more specifically, winning.  Or, one of their really, really favorite shows is on.  Or, Daddy (when did I start referring to myself in the third person?) has to get some laundry done, or washing dishes, or monitoring his Twitter account.  I mean, those are important things, are they not?  Daddy (oops, me) needs to take care of his social media platforms not only to manage his transition to a new job and career, but ultimately to enhance his/my sense of well-being which can only be done through social media since, interestingly enough, my real life social contacts have dwindled since having kids.

I met a fellow online Daddy a few weeks ago.  He is a real-life Daddy, too, but I “met” him on Twitter, of all places.  Coincidentally, he lives only a few miles away and we decided to meet up for lunch one day.  We shared Daddy stories as well as a mutual understanding of what it means to be a Daddy today vs. 20, 30, or 40 years ago.  It was very enlightening and comforting that what seems like just a personal experience of being a Daddy with all its struggles and triumphs, is shared by other Dads.

Plus, daddies are “networking” with other daddies to enhance their own individual parenting (daddying?) styles, i.e., what works, what doesn’t, how to do this or that, etc.  What people would think of guys getting together and talking sports, women or cars, is usurped by guys/daddies sharing and communicating what is, for most, a totally rewarding, but also totally new, act of being a daddy.

Oops, I would like to go on, but the little buggers just got home and Alien-Dinosaur-Machine-Animals is on and they were hoping to see it and I have to send out some Tweets….

The Toy

Having twins isn’t easy.  Swimming the English Channel isn’t easy either, but it’s doable, with some practice and training.  I haven’t found any training for raising kids.  Sure there are books, though one has to wonder if all the books on the market actually work.  Don’t believe me, just look at the newest generation.  I rest my case.

Of course I can’t place all of the blame on the parents.  The kids are involved in the “raising kids” process, too, aren’t they?  Maybe if the little buggers actually LISTENED to their parents, a great many problems could be avoided, like injuries, hurt feelings and most importantly, parental stress.   But then again, maybe problems shouldn’t be avoided altogether.  Kids might actually learn something from falling down literally or metaphorically. And then, they’d listen!  Or maybe not.  Did you listen to your parents regardless of how many thousands of times they told you they knew better?  And you, and me, turned out relatively ok, didn’t we?  Well, I did.  Who knows about you?

So I’m driving little Archibald (not his real name) and Mortimer (not his real name, either) on their way to their new summer camp yesterday.  Their previous camp ended last week unceremoniously.  They had a talent show on the next-to-last day, which Sergeant Major Mommy (SMM) taped on her cell phone and kept viewing for three days to the detriment of the kids (and daddy) when she literally stayed in bed and watched the video and then kept saying “Awwww” every three seconds.  (Note: imagine hearing THAT for three days in a row!)  Nevertheless, the camp ended and everyone said Good bye, See you at school or see you next summer or see you on (any one of the thousands of) social media sites (where people don’t actually see each other anyway).

When we leave the house, little Archie decides to take one of the birthday toys they had received the preceding week.  Mortie chose not to take anything.   So, we’re off.  Not three minutes into the drive does little Mortie decide that “the toy” actually “belonged” to him and that little Archie should share it.

Archie respectfully disagreed with Mortie’s assessment and counter-offered that he would share “when he was good and ready.”  Now, keep in mind, that Mortie is a consummate (or will be someday) attorney.  He replied, “Now, see here, Archie.  That particular toy was given to me and even though it was given under the pretense that we would co-own “the toy”, it does rightfully and dutifully belong to me and the only reason you have it is that I have given my consent for you to play with it.  However, at this time, I am revoking that consent and thus, you are legally and responsibly bound to return said item to me, it’s rightful owner.”

Archie said NO! and the fight ensued.

The only thing that saved them (and daddy) is that they were both buckled into child seats.  Otherwise, well, who knows what kind of devastation would have occurred?

Daddy is driving and trying to remain cool, calm and collected while quietly chastising their behavior and keeping the car on the road while navigating the twenty-five hundred traffic lights and hundreds of blind drivers in the three-mile drive.   Nevertheless, daddy, rather uncharacteristically, says in a borderline loud voice “Stop it.  If I have to stop this car, “the toy” will become an ex-toy and it will magically transform in a reverse kind of metamorphosis into “car food”. The term we had for that kind of condition in Ohio was road kill.”

The two Vikings suddenly realize the severity of the situation and the urgency in daddy’s voice and they lowered their bazookas and quickly ceased all hostilities.

We arrive at the camp, the little buggers, daddy and “the toy” in perfect condition.  When I asked them later in the day if they learned anything from “the toy” incident, they replied, Yeah, keep all toys out of Ohio if you don’t want them to become road kill.