Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rachel of Troy: The Face That Launched 1000 Tantrums

I totally understand. Her face was etched in my mind the moment I first saw her fourteen years ago. Well, technically, it was the fuchsia dress she was wearing, but that's a different story altogether.

Turns out she's still driving the boys crazy.

But I'm not jealous. No sir. Not one bit. I'm too exhausted to be jealous.

Mini-Me and 'The Wubster', though? They've got the greenest blue eyes I've ever seen.

The other night was supposed to be a fun, treat-filled, quality-family-bonding kind of evening. Mini-Me read (was read) forty books, completing the local library's summer reading program, and we wanted to celebrate. Plus, he didn't cry when I dropped him off at the sitter's. It was a good day!

Turns out the boys had other plans. They were blood thirsty. They were ready to divide and conquer. They were hell-bent on waging warfare on hallowed grounds.

"This is exciting! Mommy hasn't been to the library with us, yet. You can show her where all the books are."

[Ten years in the area and we just got library cards this summer. This relationship was long overdue.]


"Well, she just hasn't. She has to work during the day when we've been going."


"Mommy's not a teacher. She doesn't get as long of a summer vacation as I do."


Hindsight has proven this interrogative style to actually be a code system more complex and difficult to break than that used by the Wind talkers of WWII. Mini-Me was positioning himself for battle while distracting us with redundancy.

Inside the serene lobby of the library the subterfuge continued.

"Mommy, this is where we return our books. I can do it!"

"Mommy, this way…this is where they keep my books."

"Mommy, here are the Thomas books."

Rach and I looked at each other and shared a "Wow! What an independent, responsible boy he's becoming. This is fun!" moment. It was a fleeting moment.

Hearing the code words "Tank Engine," 'The Wubster', a tank engine himself, toddled his mommy towards the non-fiction books and out of Mini-Me's sight. This could be post-traumatic stress talking, but I'm pretty sure he was laughing deeply and maniacally at the time.

"Where's mommy? Mommy! Mommy! I want mommy!"

"Shhh, buddy. She's with 'The Wubster'. She'll be right back. Shhh. We're in the library; we have to be quiet."


[That font's called 'Matisse'. I was looking for 'EarPiercingScreamWhenIReallyHaveNoReasonToScreamInAPublicPlaceExceptToMortifyMyParents'. It must not have transferred over from my old computer. ]


"Buddy, please! Shhh. Let's go get your reading prizes."

'The Wubster' toddled Rach back into sight wearing an 'I've-got-mommy-and-you-don't' smile. Mini-Me, content that mommy was nearby, focused his attention on his reading prizes, especially the day-glo green book bag that was too large and therefore sure to eventually cause issues on top of the jealousy. It did.

For the time being, though, I perused new picture books, Rach sifted through board books with 'The Wubster', and Mini-Me quietly loaded up his new bag with Bob the Builder books. It was another fleeting moment.

"Whoa, buddy! You've gotta lotta books there! Why don't you just pick two of those so other kids have some to choose?"


"Because ten Bob the Builder books are too many."

"Why? I want all of them! WAAAAAAAHHH!"

'The Wubster' looked up from the board book he was chewing on, realized Mini-Me was stealing the show, and sought his own glory.

"Unngh unnngh unnnngh ennhh Ennnhhh EnnnnHHHH!"



"Mommy I want up! WAAAAAAAHHH!"

"Hey! Why don't you go with the sacrificial lamb mommy and pick out two DVDs. I'll take care of the books."

They did. But it wasn't easy. Nor was it quiet. The book bag became an issue.

Finally with tears wiped and books and DVDs in hand, we headed for the front desk. 'The Wubster' sensed time was running out to make his presence known, so he made his presence known. Rach escorted him out of the building before Marian could offer a single shush. Turns out Mini-Me's incredibly attentive.

"Where's mommy? Mommy! Mommy! I want mommy! I WANT MOMMY! WAAAAAAAHHH!"

"Buddy! It's the library. You can't cry in the library. They have signs about it."

*sniff* "Where?"

"Up there." I pointed to the arched entry over the children's area where the word 'Kids' is written in at least ten different languages. It was worth a shot.

Mini-Me paused briefly as he looked up.


Rach heard the tantrum from outside, came back in and, from 100 feet away, gave him a look that grabbed him by the ear and dragged him out of the library. Kicking and screaming, of course. I was left alone in line, wearing my cloak of mortification and drowning in the now awkward silence.

    "Why's that boy crying, mommy?"

    "He must be tired. He's had a long day."

If only they knew the Trojan War brewing in front of their eyes.

If only we were smart enough to go straight home.

"Let's run to IGA real quick."

"I want to go in!"

"Only if you promise not to cry."

"I promise…"

[Twenty feet into the store later]

"Unngh unnngh unnnngh enhh Enhhh EnHHHH!"



"Mommy I want mommy! WAAAAAAAHHH!"




Thursday, July 23, 2009

Save Ferris!

I'm pretty sure I got Buellered today.

Mini-Me woke up complaining of a "yucky tummy" and both he and 'The Wubster' did feel hot to the touch, so I called the sitter and ditched 'Advanced' computer training to take care of my boys.

I don't think I gave Mini-Me enough time alone to hold the thermometer up to a light bulb, but if I did, he certainly deserves an Oscar for acting like holding it under his tongue was going to strip away his soul and three toenails.

The kid has me thinking he knows more than he's telling.

So what if he wouldn't eat, took a three hour nap, still had a fever in the evening, and actually fell asleep when we tucked him in. Once he found out he was staying home this morning his demeanor changed, he shifted into eighth gear, and he lost focus just long enough for me to catch sight of a twinkle in his eyes.

He's only three and he's wise beyond his high school years.

Pray for us!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Top Ten Nuggets of Knowledge I Learned on My Summer Vacation

10 – Flying with children is a great way to practice hands-on explorations of new math!

For instance, I learned that ((2 children + 0.23 naps) / 6 adults) x (10 hours of flying / 7 time zone changes) = (FUN!) x (Sarcasm / Joy of stepping foot in Hawaii)

However, ((2 children + 3 interrupted naps) / 6 adults) x ((10 hours of flying x (1 missing plane + 1 broken fuel pump + 1 unexpected deplaning + 1 LONG line of frustrated passengers + 300 frantic phone calls + 1 time out ) / 3 hours delayed) / (- 7 time zone changes)) = (MISERABLE EXHAUSTION – Sarcasm) / Home Sweet Home

Really, it's not hard to compute as long as you keep your integers separate from your binomials and always remember to carry the aspirin.

9 – If you need something carried, I'm your Sherpa!

We tried to pack light. We really did, but packing light while travelling with two kids too young to haul their own luggage—one of whom can't walk by himself yet—usually meant whoever wasn't carrying 'The Wubster' was loaded down with the bulk of the bags and our big-hearted family members picked up any leftovers. Since 'The Wubster' is a momma's boy I carried a lot of stuff. To top it off, our room at the resort is one of the furthest from parking. That's cool because it's right on the cliffs along the ocean, but uncool when hauling bags to and from the car, and especially uncool when they turn on the sprinklers along the section with the 75° incline and zamboni-smooth concrete. Tenzing Norgay never complained, though, and neither did I.

8 – 'The Wubster' is a natural Karate Kid.

When Mini-Me first encountered sand on our trip two years ago he knelt down and squeezed it as hard as he could. 'The Wubster' broke out 'The Crane Pose'. I sorted through the pictures last night and there's not a single one of him in the sand with both feet down. Watch out Johnny Lawrence

7 – You can ruin a hot dog…and fries.

"No, Mini-Me. You will eat what we bought you. That's dinner. There's nothing else and especially no dessert! It doesn't taste bad…it's a hot dog."

We were on our way to see the lava entry at night on the Big Island and made a quick stop at an L&L Drive In to pick up the traditional plate lunch fare which we had enjoyed at another L&L the first night on the island. While Karen, Mah-Geh!, and I ordered Hawaiian-style, Rach and Mini-Me went for traditional Americana with a cheeseburger, hotdog, and fries.

It's not unusual for Rach to not enjoy food. A hint of onion here, a whiff of most other vegetables there and the food is ruined. Mini-Me takes after her…sort of. For him, though, it's a lack of turkey here or a lack of refried black beans there and he'll turn up his nose. Typically, though, hot dogs fly low on his radar and will do if they must. I wasn't surprised when Rach said her burger was bad. I chalked it up to an overzealous chef who was a bit free with his onions. Mini-Me's complaints, though, were attributed to his over-tired condition. When he continued to refuse to eat both the dog AND fries, I finally stepped in and took a bite of both.

"Stop whining…just let me see it." [CHOMP] "Mmm…sthee…ith naht bad. Ith justh a hawt dawg" [GULP…COUGH]. "What about the fries? Just eat those."

"No, daddy."

"C'mon…here, lemme have one."

I try not to spit food out because I abhor Mini-Me's habit of doing that, but the hot dog and fries tasted like Guy Fieri'd just dished out his infamous 9 volt, sautéed metal, and year-old fryer oil casserole. My taste buds have been mutilated.

The closest experience I could use to describe how it felt is our honeymoon. (Rach, wait! Don't stop reading!)

At the resort's sushi restaurant I made Rach eat a piece of ginger after telling her it was a piece of fish that tasted like smoked ham. I truly believed it was the same thing I had just eaten…oops. Her face contorted in ways even Plastic-Man couldn't mimic.

Needless to say, before making it to the lava entry we made an unanticipated stop at a grocery store to buy Mini-Me dinner attempt #2: yogurt and Cinnamon Life. Who could ruin that?

6 – Mini-Me loves the ladies!

Poor Maggie and Auntie Karen! When they signed up for this trip to Hawaii I doubt they realized they'd spend the entire time hunted by a stalker more dangerous than a rabid rhino and more annoying than the TMZ paparazzi.


"Her name is Maggie, buddy…she'll probably answer if you say it right."

"Okay. Maggie, look out your window…Maggie, why…Maggie, come…Maggie, Maggie, Maggie…"

Sorry, Maggie, for teaching him to say your name right.

Of course, on odd days of the week it went more like this:

"Auntie Karen, what's…Auntie Karen, hold…Auntie Karen, why… Auntie Karen, Auntie Karen, Auntie Karen…"

The kid couldn't keep his hands off the girls and when they weren't around, he wouldn't stop asking where they were. Rach still clung to some status as 'Mommy', but I quickly became a speck of dirt swept under an old doormat Mini-Me wouldn't bother using to wipe his shoes clean.

5 – A $2.48 purchase at Wal-Mart can buy back your son's love…at least a little bit.

Mini-Me fell in love with building sandcastles. Swimming in the ocean was cool for about ten minutes until he walked out of the water and squeezed sand between his fingers. In that moment he also looked at the kids down the beach and developed an extreme case of p-n-s envy…that's pail-and-shovel envy…he's three for goodness sake. Geez!

On our next trip to Wal-Mart, Mini-Me actually wanted to hold my hand, wanted to talk to me, wanted to spend time in my presence. All because of four magic words:

"I'll buy you one."

"A blue one?"

"I don't know what they have, buddy, but we'll see."

"I want a blue one."

"I know"

"Daddy, can I get this fire truck?"

"No, we're here to get a pail and shovel." (No tears…amazing!)

"I want a blue one."

"I know."

"Daddy, can I get this train?"

"No" (Still no tears? Yes!)


"No. (Cacti could grow in these arid conditions!) But here's a pail…it's green."

"Can I get it?" (Seriously? No tears about it not being blue?!? This is miraculous!)

"Yep…let's go find mommy."

There was no price tag and I didn't care. We were getting that pail and shovel. Blue, green, pink…didn't matter to him…didn't matter to me. It was the only one in the whole beach aisle and it was ours. I'd fight off an army of begging orphans if necessary to secure possession of these sand tools.

Of course, on the way out we found an end cap with a thousand pails and shovels, including plenty of blue ones. All was right with the universe, no tears were shed, and Mini-Me loved me again…for a little while, at least.

4 – Wanna attract ladies at the beach…tell 'em you've got crabs.

The Kailua-Kona area of the Big Island isn't really known for spectacular beaches, so with limited options near our condo, Mini-Me, Auntie K, Mah-geh!, and I walked a half mile or so to one of the only beaches on the main strip. It's a good thing we hadn't planned on snorkeling since this beach connected directly to a harbor full of outrigger canoes, paddle boards, and cruise ship shuttles. Instead, Mini-Me and I used his pail and shovel to build a sand hotel. He worked on the main building while I built a sea wall and then began work on a system of tunnels and bridges.

While digging out the third bridge my hand slipped into a cavern beneath the sand. I thought I saw movement so I called Mini-Me, Karen, and Mah-geh! over anticipating a small crab. As is usual, once they were watching nothing appeared. I went about my business and as I scooped out another handful of sand

"Oh! There he is! He's huge! We're gonna be condemned!"

I jumped back as a crab the size of my fist scurried beneath bridge #2. Mini-Me, Karen, Mah-geh!, a woman whose kids were building a castle nearby, and a woman whose daughter was demolishing one of our earlier creations all came over to witness the spectacle. They were duly impressed as I taunted it with our shovel until it lashed out with its pincer. In fact I know there were many other women on the beach who were just too shy to wade through the commotion and examine the extent of my crab infestation.

3 – Mini-Me deviously enjoys waiting until the server delivers our food to tell me he has to poop.

"Look buddy, our food's here."

[Indifferent semi-disgust at the lack of turkey, cheese, and refried black beans followed by a minute or so for me to savor the victuals on my plate]

"My tummy hurts, daddy. I need to poop."

Every time we went out to eat. No exaggeration. Every

I started to get the feeling that the underlying issue wasn't the Cracklin' Oat Bran diet we've put him on, but rather a public toilet fetish.

I went to college with a guy who wouldn't touch a public toilet no matter the circumstances. Mini-Me's the opposite. It was all I could do to keep him from resting his forehead on some of the nastiest toilets in all Hawaii when he was pulling his pants up or down. I know he's a three-year-old boy, but, buddy, you need to learn that when it comes to public toilets, if it looks gross and smells gross it is gross. No why's about it!

The only fear the kid has in public restrooms centers around loud flushing toilets or those awesome new Xlerator hand dryers that pump out an F-15s worth of propulsion to dry your hands. I love flushing/drying with those when Mini-Me's in the bathroom. Consider it payback, young man, for all the luke-warm meals I ate this trip.

2 – Nothing says 'Aloha!' like warm urine on your leg.

I've already mentioned Mini-Me's Hawaiian toilet fetish. So, what better way to wrap up the vacation than by taking him to the bathroom at Kona Airport.

"Alright buddy, let's try to potty."

"I don't have to, daddy."

"I know, but you should at least try."

"I don't have to." [There are those tears.]

"Please try."


"Watch what you're doing. Don't touch the toilet. Pay attention, buddy. Hey! Pay attention! You're peeing on me!"

Turns out he DID have to pee. A lot.

"Sorry, daddy."

Umm-hmm…I'm adding that to my list of ways you love me.

1 – Finding a corner of the world with no cell service truly sucks when you decide to lose your family there.

Yeah, that's right. I lost my family.

This wasn't the standard we-got-separated-at-Payless lost family, though. I'm talking about losing them in the movie-of-the-week style of adrenaline-overload-oh-my-god-my-family's-at-the-bottom-of-3500-foot-deep-Waimea-Canyon-life-flashing-before-my-eyes-will-Valerie-Bertinelli-be-available-to-star lost family.

All because I wanted to find a piece of Tupperware hidden in the forest.

It's fairly well known that I enjoy geocaching (using the Global Positioning Satellites to hunt for 'treasures' hidden at specific sets of coordinates). My wife's put up with it for two years now, but, for the most part, my extended family has escaped the torture. Unfortunately, it's probably their newest peeve and the fodder for night terrors after our hike to Berry Flat Trail.

Since this was my fourth trip to Kauai, I got the brilliant idea to use geocaches as research for new trails and sights we'd never found before. It was working out perfectly: cool stuff to look at plus a cache for me to find. Typically when hunting a cache I'll follow the GPS receiver routing until I get within 1/10th of a mile and then I switch to off-road mode for the final hunt. What sometimes happens, then, is that the GPS receiver thinks that a particular road is perfect for the approach when in fact it's quite the opposite. That's what happened in trying to find this particular trail/cache.

We turned off the main drag onto a dirt road that took us up, and up, and up, but didn't seem to be taking us where we wanted, eventually went back and parked at an initial fork in the road, hiked down an incredibly rough road-not-taken, discovered that the .5 miles to the trailhead was actually 1.1 miles (oops), and hiked that entire distance along a road as opposed to a lovely, scenic trail as I'd promised the family.

Turns out, after I bolted ahead with 'The Wubster' on my back and found the cache, I reread in my notes that one of the previous cachers had posted "Do NOT follow GPS routing to this cache" and instead recommended taking the YMCA camp road. I hoped to save the rest of the group (Rach, Mini-Me, ma-in-law, pa-in-law, Auntie K, and Mah-Geh!) the uphill portion of the trek, but when I got back to them they were only about 1/10th of a mile from the trailhead. We decided they would continue on to the trail while Auntie K, Mah-Geh!, and I hiked back for the cars.

The return hike and drive took no more than 30 minutes, and as we hiked further and further along the trail we grew more and more confused.

"Doug, they wouldn't have come this far. Did you tell them where the trail was?"

"I thought so. Let me run ahead and take a look."

"Okay, we'll stay here and take amusing pictures looking concerned because right now this is funny" (Not actual dialogue, but it'll help the screenwriters out since that's what happened).

I ran ahead and followed the trail until I reached a point where the trail followed an incline I didn't think they would attempt with 'The Wubster' on Rach's back and Mini-Me in need of a nap.

"No sign of them up ahead."

"Maybe we missed them and they're back at the cars."

I'll spare you the middle part where they weren't back at the cars and we split up to search along the nearby side roads multiple times. I'll also skip the fact that I reran the trail twice, miraculously avoiding exposed roots and inevitable face plants, yelling their names, straining for a response. My run down--and most of the way back up--a steep gravel road that they wouldn't have possibly travelled doesn't merit mentioning either.

Instead I'll fast forward three hours to the point where I sat in the car at the trailhead waiting for Karen and Mah-geh! to return from checking for them back where we parked the cars in the hope that maybe, just maybe, they hitched a ride back there and we missed each other on the trail. As I waited, the panic I'd mostly kept at bay started filling my head with images of falls from cliffs, rabid chicken attacks, abduction by menehune, or some other disastrous fate.

Within a half hour, Karen returned, alone, to tell me she and Mah-Geh! finally found them back where we originally parked the cars. It seems that while hiking the trail, Logan stopped and said, "I am in red dirt stepped so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er." Convinced by the eloquence of a three-year-old, they chose to keep going and assumed we'd eventually just figure it out.

Finally knowing they were safe, I collapsed beside my car, emotionally overwhelmed and physically exhausted. When I finally rejoined them under the trees near the state park's museum, Mini-Me ran towards me with a big smile and I scooped him into my arms, tears in my eyes.

"I thought I lost you, buddy!"

"He's making me sad, mommy! Can I have a cookie now, daddy?"

He wasn't excited to see me, he had no idea anything might be wrong. He was simply excited to see the car because Rach had promised him a cookie and the cookies were in the trunk. Oh to be three again.