Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bracing Ourselves

A simple well visit to the pediatrician from July 2014 will stick with us for a while. Well visits are supposed to be pretty low-maintenance-- in and out, everything's great, cover your eye and read the 4th line, ok try the 5th line, breathe in, breathe out, breathe deeply, see you in a year, maybe try eating some vegetables for a change.

This time it was different - and not just because all three kids were actually in the Well Room at the same time. The middle child was shown to not have any muscles at all based on some seriously gross gross motor skills, but my daughter also received some significant, routine-altering news at the same visit.

I'll admit, when I got home from work, and my wife informed me that our daughter may have scoliosis. at first I may have laughed a little. When I was in junior high, every single one of us was diagnosed with scoliosis, or its distant cousin "possible scoliosis."

Leave me alone. I'm in the shower.
Our universal sign for "the bathroom is in use."

This came after getting our annual physical which involved having an 85-year-old man grab our scrotum, us turning our heads, coughing, then contorting our bodies into the shape of a lower-case "n." Pretty sure only the last part was used in the "possible scoliosis"diagnosis. But we ALL had possible scoliosis. I knew kids were advanced these days--I didn't learn my multiplication tables nearly as early as my daughter is-- but receiving the "possible scoliosis" treatment six years in front of her Daddy? Unheard of.

Still, in the interest of due diligence, we accompanied our daughter to the children's hospital just to make sure. Sure enough, the x-rays revealed a 33-degree curvature of the spine. Textbook scoliosis. (How could we as parents not see it? Draw an imaginary line from one shoulder blade to another, you get a cliff the Price Is Right yodeler is afraid to scale. How do we NOT see that? What kind of parents are we?)

What does this mean? It means to avoid surgery later in life, my daughter would need to wear a brace for the balance of her growing years. 22 hours a day, every day until she's done growing. Nobody does anything for 22 hours a day, especially 7-year-olds, without a crying fit or a nearly unlawful amount in bribery. This was going to be a challenge. Not sure if we were ready for it.

At first our daughter embraced it. The back brace she'd wear like a giant Band-Aid. Kids love Band-Aids because they bring an disproportionate amount of attention to its bearer, so when you have a plastic Band-aid the size of your torso, you probably get to sit in the queen chair for a week and win Teacher's Pet status indefinitely.

Before and after
A little before and after.
But then stark reality started to set in. 22 hours with that thing on. A tight piece of plastic, wrapped around your back, while you sleep, while you sit in school, while you live. This thing and its larger versions will grow with you and be a part of you for the rest of your childhood. And you KNOW your parents will nag you about it. You may take it off to shower, to play your violin, to go to gym class. That's it. So, yeah, a little apprehension.

But in yet another example of kids proving more resilient than their parents, she's killing this brace thing. Soon after receiving the brace, my daughter's teacher had her stand up in the front of the class and explain just what was going on (show-and-tell style.) She explained why she got to sit "in the spinny chair" with a pillow when the rest of the kids are sitting on the floor, and why she has to run down to the school nurse every Tuesday before gym class. She explained that her spine was "crooked" and the brace would help keep it from getting worse.

And that's why second-grade kids are awesome-- they get it. Maybe not right away, but eventually they get it. They're curious but innocent. They seek answers but don't judge. They think everything is cool and are so willing and able to adapt. We should all be so smartly naive.

Within weeks, the brace became virtually a non-issue, and now it's part of who she is and who she will be. She may never get to the 22-hour plateau, but close enough. There are so many reasons to be thankful in this situation: To the hospital, for giving my daughter the best attention you can give a girl and for talking us through the options, pros and cons, and for talking us down off the ledge. To our daughter's teacher, who made her feel so comfortable and let her educate her own classmates. And to our pediatrician, who first suspected trouble at a routine well visit...without that heads-up, we may never have known until surgery was the only option. (Go to your well visits folks!)

And most thankful for a brave little girl who understands what she needs to do to get better. This potential game-changer then turns out to be just a bump in the road. Just a part of life. There was, however, a time when my daughter wanted to commemorate the whole thing with a family video to show we were "all about that brace (that brace)." We poiltely declined. Besides, that's been done already I think. Done better than we can.

She can still do this with a brace on. I never could.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Night Before the Night Before the Night Before the Night Before the Night Before Christmas

Adopt a new family tradition...or else.
In our house this year, Santa Claus came on the night of Saturday, December 21. The celebration thus starts early and doesn’t end until sometime after Christmas, or until the only method of communication between my wife and me is flipping the lower lip repeatedly with the index finger, making constant “blih blih blih” sounds, whichever comes first.

Thus, our meager preparations for Santa’s early arrival are catalogued below, through the voice of a timeless classic:
Twas the night before the night before the night before the night before the night before Christmas, and the house is a mess.
We’re wishing we were less like us, and more like the family Holderness.
Some stockings we’ve hung by the chimney with care
With hopes that they don’t catch fire, since the flames shoot right there.

The children are nestled, all snug in my bed,
Pile of half-eaten Saltine crumbs up by their head.
Idiot parents are we to allow this each night,
We do have a kitchen in this house somewhere, right?

Mamma wears no kerchief; I don no cap.
It ain't 1824 no more. Nobody wears all that crap.
We aim to “settle our brains,” (is that a euphemism for dying?)
But we can’t “settle our brains” til we remember where we hid the gifts, or die trying.

“They’re out in the garage,” Mamma says “or maybe the nursery,
Just remember to disable the alarm. The code is our anniversary.”
“Enough with the impossible riddles; just tell me the code,” I plead with her now.
“We must get these gifts under the tree before the kids wake somehow.”

I disable the alarm with some clutch memory; my wife should be proud
But then trip over a garbage can lid, Jesus LORD those things are loud.
Next thing I hear are tiny footsteps upstairs,
Quickly I drop all the presents of theirs.

“Daddy, is that you?” my daughter whispers down
In the moment of truth, I lie with a frown.
"Ho, ho,…uhh, no. Now off to bed, uhhh, good night!”
A piss poor rendering of Santa, sounded more like Barry White.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Neighborhood teens beat the mailbox again with a ladder?
Didn’t bother to look, didn’t bother to care.
Little did I know Santa’s sleigh was parked right out there.

“Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen!

Lauren, Catherine, Lana too,
Bette Davis… We love you!”

A full dozen reindeer these days Santa employs
Needing more horsepower for all the extra toys
And mixing in some females, Santa thought it best
To keep the long trip from becoming a total reindeer sausage fest.

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
Of course they did; I guess that’s what “coursers” do?
How did everyone fit up there, intact and all?
Not like we live in the damned Taj Mahal.

Someone then began the trek down the chimney
Next time just use the wide open doors, buddy.
Or, do whatever, try as you might.
Just whatever you do, don’t put out the pilot light.

He was dressed all in fur, at my in-laws’ he’d not freeze.
For inside their house it’s always 86 degrees.
But inside our abode, where fresh meat can be stored
He’d need every layer and perhaps three layers more.

He was everything I’d imagined: big boots, big belt, big beard, big hat.
No need for details of the shaking belly and all that.
I stood there in awe, my thoughts all inverted.
Poor kid who “saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” – ew, how perverted.

 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then started to twerk turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And blew a giant snot rocket giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

As he struggled to leave the ground, he noticed the wide open door
And decided “the hell with this, this year I’ve got 10 million chimneys more.”
Then he looked back at me and paused, dazed and confused.
When he saw who was atop the toilet, he was not amused.

“Buddy, is that you? Or Jingle, or Snowball, or Mike?
What the hell is your name? You elves all look alike.”
“His name is Holly,” I said with a shrug.
"Look, my daughter named him, I was leaning toward Doug.”

“Holly?” he asked. “Kids these days haven’t a clue.
Anyway, whatever, HOLLY, get off the can, you’re coming with me, too.”
And there went my elf, who sat upon our shelf.
Not gonna lie, I smiled when he left, in spite of myself.

His butt was so thin, too hard to place anywhere.
Would that I had such a compact derriere.
My kids would shout, “Don’t touch him! You’ll take away his magic!”
“Shove your brother in the laundry hamper one more time; the results will be tragic.”

Then Santa sprang to his sleigh, as much as a fat man can.
But before he got in, I wanted a word with the man.
“Where’s Rudolph?” I asked, pointing to the 12. “And what’s up with these guys?”
“Rudolph’s nose was bright, but that one right there, she’s got Bette Davis eyes.”

I assumed the boys all thought her a spy,
With her Greta Garbo standoff sigh,
But just went inside and settled my brain,
Shook my head, and thought “this will probably never happen again.”

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

As I turned to Momma to give her a kiss,
She said, “That elf…now that is something we will not miss.”

Happy Christmas!


Christmas Vacation Countdown, Part 2

We're ready to unveil our family's Top Five lines from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, based on use within the household and extended family. The first half of the Top Ten are here.

Once again, the requisite photo. Because in 2014, adults need stories with pictures.
Once again these aren't necessarily the best or funniest lines, otherwise we would have found a spot for "Last year he was a pixie dust spreader on the Tilt-A-Whirl. He thinks that maybe next year he'll be guessing people's weights or barking for the Yak woman. Did you ever see her, Clark? She's got these horns coming out of her head...ugly as sin, but a sweet gal. And a helluva good cook" or "That ain't the friggin' Christmas star, Griz, that's the light of the sewage treatment plant" or, of course, "Shitter was full," which, given the flush rates in our household, is a phrase to keep an eye on in the future.

But those have no real practical use in the real world. Instead, our #5 and #4 lines have been used in various forms.

#5.  This is a surprise, Clark. This is just a real nice surprise. Just a Real. Nice. Surpriiiiise.

You can hear Clark's back cracking in the bear hug as you read it. Or if you can't, you can hear it here. We've used this set of lines on Christmas presents, in thank you cards, on custom-made T-shirts, and even in wedding proposals. And it's gaining momentum. We get some weird looks from the kids when we say it, but we're used to that. Won't be the last time. Most of the surprises we have as parents aren't of the pleasant variety, so anytime    

#4.  If this isn't the biggest bag over the head, punch in the face I ever got , Goddammit! Accompanied by swift kicking motions to bags of Christmas presents accumulated under the Christmas tree, this versatile phrase can be applied to any sense of wrongdoing perpetrated against a member of the family. It's basically an adult version of the standard temper tantrum my kids throw when they don't get their onw way.

But this one gets used in all seetings...familial, corporate, societal, DMV, sports teams losing, Fantasy Football teams losing (especially Fantasy Football teams losing) you name it.

See also: #7: It's all part of the experience, honey. If you overuse "bag over the head" you're likely to get hit with an "It's all part of the experience, honey." So stop whining, get the bag off your head, buck up, press on, and have the hap-hap-happiest...wait, we're getting them all confused now.

#3: You serious, Clark?
If you're a fan of the movie, you've said it. Over anything. The more mundane the topic, the better. But it's genuine. Just as Eddie stopped to confirm Clark's playful announcement that "an airline pilot spotted Santa's sleigh on its way in from New York," you can confirm any piece of useful information you receive by saying the same thing.

Though I'd keep it playful, and not use it when you hear a family member is having quadruple-bypass surgery or has just lost his job. Jury's still out on whether you can use it if you hear a loved one is "in the clinic, gettin' cured off the Wild Turkey." I say yes. Go ahead.

#2. I don't KNOW, Margo. 
Our daughter has thought on occasion that her name is Margo, as she is usually on the receiving end of this well-worn phrase. We may have called her Margo even when not using this phrase just because.

To be fair, she's usually the one in the house asking the impossible questions that invite eye-rolling and sarcastic answers. Questions such as "Where's my dress?" "Where are my shoes?" or "Where's my hairbrush?" She has yet to ask why the carpet is all wet, though if she does, you can rest assured the answer will be, "Because you forgot to tuck the shower curtain in again, Margo," For all other questions, however, "I don't KNOW, Margo" is the go-to response.

You also have to wonder if the guy who played Todd "gets that" a lot. Does anyone recognize him in the street? Because if so, I can imagine a cadre of less sophisticated people flocking to him saying, "I don't KNOW, Margo," and asking him to sign the backs of their T-shirts. Poor guy.

Before we reveal the most used Christmas Vacation phrase in our family, let's take one more timeout to recognize three characters who came up empty in our countdown despite numerous laughs generated. Art, Bethany, and Uncle Louis all got shut out and that's a shame. Here then is a mini Top 15 of lines just by them that you can break out when the mood strikes or the situation calls for it:

15. "The little lights are not twinkling."
14. "Damn it, Bethany, he guessed it."
13. "I need to eat, so I can take my back pills." (Got my mom with that one once.)
12. "This house is bigger than your old one."
11. "Grace? She passed away 30 years ago."
10. "What are you gonna bawl all over it or ya gonna open it?"
9. "Don't throw me down, Clark."
8. "Hey Griz, you're not doing anything constructive. Run into the living room, get my stogie."
7. "It was an ugly tree anyway."
6. "What is it? A letter confirming your reservation at the nuthouse?"
5. "So what's the matter with you?"
4. "At least it's out of its misery."
3. "Oh dear, did I break wind?"
2. "Da BLES-SING!"
1. " I should say it? I should say it? Hello, everybody!"

And now on to the #1 most used phrase from Christmas Vacation:

#1. "I don't know what to say except it's Christmas and we're all in misery."

This one has picked up a ton of momentum in recent years as we've become adults and discovered that the magic of Christmas is purely man-made. We use it as a funny way to explain away the stress of the holiday season, although at times the phrase "Much truth is said in jest" applies.

This is a phrase I'd like to eradicate from our speech in future years but we'll see. Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year so why all the misery? What's the cause of the stress? Is it the pursuit of perfection? (If so I blame Lexus and their "cars with bows" ads.) Is it the cookies? Are we trying to do too much?

Of course we're all trying to do too much. It's Christmas! That's what Christmas is all about! This is why New Year's Resolution season comes so soon we can dial ourselves back from the excesses of the most recent holiday season.

We can't do it all. This year we didn't put the toy train around the Christmas Tree, (forgot) didn't build the gingerbread house, (ran out of time) or do the Christmas cookie puzzle (forgot and ran out of time.) And so what? Christmas was still magical. I think? Let me go ask the kids. OK yeah, it was magical. Hopefully not solely because of that damned elf either.

Take a look back at your Christmas. Did you claim to be in misery at any point? Can you do without the thing that you were doing at the time when you said it? Then see if you can not do it next year.

But if you're a parent and your kids still believe in the magic of Christmas, and you connected with all the people who are important to you, then it was a good holiday. No misery required.

And that's the list. We hope it "enhanced your holiday spirit." 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Vacation Countdown

Not everybody loves National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as much as we do in this household. So much that we’ve seen it from every angle, noticed every little nuance, basically analyzed the thing to death. And we don’t mind quoting it every now and again. So as a bit of an advent present to those of you who do the Christmas thing…here starts a brief rundown of the 10 most-used Christmas Vacation lines in our house. Note these aren’t necessarily the 10 best lines, just the 10 we use the most when talking to each other and trying to keep sane.

First, The Best of the Rest: These didn’t quite make the cut, not because they aren’t outstanding, but because we just use other lines more.
The big rant where Clark calls his boss 24 names. Probably deserves to be in the Top Ten but I’ve never been able to memorize it, even though I’ve spent virtually eons memorizing more frivolous items. So I never actually use it but just sit in awe of it.
We thank Clark Griswold for at least taking his frustrations out on his boss rather than the lead reindeer on Santa’s cavalcade. Because even though all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names, we doubt Dasher or Dancer had the gall to refer to the new guy as “Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer,” much less “Rudolph the Fat-Assed, Bug-Eyed, Spotty-Lipped, Worm-Headed Sack of Monkey S**t Reindeer.” Though maybe they did. And even if they did, we wouldn’t repeat that in front of our kids, because, as ever, we’re letting YOUR kids teach our kids all the swear words.
Once again I'm required to accompany each post with a picture.
All that said, Clark himself did punch his yard ornament Santa in the face and karate chop all the reindeer’s antlers off, so maybe he would have had some choice words in the heat of the moment for Rudolph, too. Hallelujah, Holy S**t.
"I’d like to see if I can fumigate this here chair." Again, not terribly relevant in our house except for when one of us has gas or spills a month’s worth of old milk into it.
"Oh here they are, here come the nuts." As the Griswold grandparents are watching the Christmas parade on TV or sleeping through it, the announcer, played by Doug Llewelyn, (yes that Doug Llewelyn from The People’s Court and Nirvana’s “In Bloom” video) notices that the wind is blowing the Nutcracker float off course. We say the line any time there is a bowl of nuts out, because we’re small-minded. And we’ll probably say it if we’re ever fortunate to be home when our kids get off the bus after school.

And finishing in last place?
Anything anybody says during the sledding scene. Would like to see some of the deleted scenes and see if we can’t replace the sledding scene with something from the archives.
On to the countdown:
10: "We’re going to press on, and we’re going have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye. And when Santa shoves his fat white ass down that chimney, he’s going to find the jolliest bunch of a-holes this side of the nuthouse."
OK, so we don’t really say all that, especially to our kids, but we at least start it when things are going crazy. We stop, breathe, collect ourselves, and press on. If kids are around we may change “since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye” to “We’ll have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer went down in history.” No, we won’t do that at all. Unless Burl Ives said it? Who knows?

9. "And I'll give AUDREY a quarter, too, Audrey."

People may look at this list and wonder how this made it, but this one simple, throw-away line is one of my favorites because it so perfectly embodies old people. Sure, senile Aunt Bethany and Uncle Louis have funnier lines that are delivered in sometimes spectacular fashion, but let's dissect these 8 words a little further.

First, in the line before, Nora Griswold is offering Rusty a quarter to rub the painful burr on her heel. And Rusty is stuck in a corner because he's been offered a woefully small award to perform such an awful task for a beloved family member. But to Nora Griswold this is big money, because she's from another era entirely, where that quarter probably gets her a down payment on a car.

It's funny because she then offers Audrey the same amount while expecting nothing in return, which is classic, old person behavior. The same people who preached "an honest day's pay for an honest day's work," and "didn't need no welfare state...everybody PULLED his WEIGHT!!" then turn around and make sure everything is exactly equal within the family, presumably to keep peace. The fact that she calls Audrey's name TWICE, with particular emphasis on the first instance, to draw attention to this act of benevolence just caps this perfect embodiment of old people. I'll do that one day and without shame.

Enough social commentary. I use this line a fair amount of time in the house, usually when I drop a coin on the kitchen floor, and kids come out of the woodwork like Hungry, Hungry Hippos to scoop it up. Strictly for sanity's sake, I'll offer a coin of equal value to the other two kids so they also have something to drop in their piggy bank. I promise you we're not Socialists. But when I give out the other two coins, I channel Nora Griswold and say,"And I'll give AUDREY a nickel, too, Audrey" and change the names. The kids have no idea what I'm doing. They'll know soon enough.

8. "Save the neck for me, Clark."

Sadly, this line is slowly sliding off the coutdown as the rest of the family catches on and family gatherings diminish in number. In the early days, before folks realized that 1 in 5 of our spoken sentences at family gatherings is a direct quote from the movie, we'd get some strange looks and some grossed-out looks like Ellen gives Eddie. Then we'd explain ourselves.

Now that people are up up to speed, they're offering me or one of my siblings or cousins the bird's neck before we have a chance to formally request it. Looks like this great line will soon have to be tucked away for good or at least put on a long hiatus, at the end of which we will no longer be getting together as an extended family, save for funerals. Long live "Save the neck for me, Clark."

7. "It's all part of the experience, honey."

Another line that doesn't get its due. As the Griswolds traipse through the forest, trudging up a hill in search of the perfect family Christmas tree, an increasingly agitated and cold Audrey's eyes have frozen and she can't talk any more. Her mother Ellen finally tells Clark, "Audrey's frozen from the waist down." To which clark dismissively responds, "It's all part of the experience, honey."

When kids are whining, bitching, moaning, complaining or when I'm doing the same at work, I'll pre-empt the complaining with an "It's all part of the experience." I try to not be as dismissive as Clark without adding fuel to the fire by caring too mcuh about the infraction. Just trying to put an end to all the whining. Especially my own.

Not everything can be simply "part of the experience," however. 'Dad, the kitcken counter is on fire!" Not part of the experience. "Honey, we may have left one of the kids back at the jumpy house place." Not part of the experience. "Daddy, he's standing in the spot I wanted to stand in and now he's looking at me." That's part of the experience. Go find your shoes. Then go find your brother's shoes.

6. "You set standards no family can live up to."

Many would think this is said about me, but I'm actually the one who uses it, to my wife, especially around Christmas, when she claims that nothing Christmas-ish can really happen until the entire house is immaculate.

Which is a joke, because kids. If Jesus is indeed the reason for the season, and the Virgin Mary decided not to have Him until the house was totally clean, we'd still be waiting for Christmas. Part of my role in the relationship is to ensure that the house is barely clean enough for Santa to come in and drop off the presents without waking the kids by tripping over their discarded toys from (literally) yesteryear. But also to try to convince everyone else not to freak out about the dishes.

Can't wait to see #5 through #1? Here they are.           

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Storm Before the Calm

          One of the countless advantages parents of this age hold over the generation before is digital photography. Another one is kid leashes, and a third is not having your kids constantly ask if Air Supply is two women, two men, or a man and a woman. I wondered about that last one a lot. But the digital photography pretty much trumps everything.

Because now we can acquire a mountain of holiday pictures in the hopes that just one makes our kids look cute for the requisite holiday card. Our parents had to pick from six. Hence,

This extra probability virtually guarantees at least one altogether not terrible photo, one that belies all the chaos preceding and surrounding it. Still, the holiday picture expedition consistently proves daunting, taxing, frustrating, exhausting. Here, then, are some easy ways to diminish the storm before the calm:
1.    Clothing – it’s always important to pick out the kids’ clothing the night before the scheduled picture day. This will save important time the next morning, time to be spent extracting gum from the kids’ hair. However, if the kids are dressed and haven’t yet brushed their teeth, please do NOT let your kids brush their teeth after they have put on their holiday clothes. Unless you can find another outfit on the fly or can work the dribble into a snow scene on your son’s sartorial Winter Wonderland dreamscape. Maybe smoke coming from the snowman’s pipe? Maybe a mini-blizzard on Rudolph’s nose? Your kids’ teeth are just not that important, 4 out of 5 dentists will concede.

      1a. Shoes – 78% of all families who show up late to anything do so because they were missing a shoe. Everyone knows this. Simple solution: Buy two identical pairs of all shoes and keep the second pair in your safe deposit box and hire a full-time guard. You won’t be disappointed.

      1b. Helmets – There aren’t three greater indignities in the world than banging your head when entering or exiting a car, which results in tantrums and tears by folks of any age. To minimize the impact of a kid losing his or her shit by banging their head, provide them all with helmets to wear when exiting the car. Hockey, football, astronaut, the activity is immaterial. Just wear the headgear. Do NOT mess up the hair, though.

      1c. Pajamas – Leave them at home. Your kids will love you later for it. Especially the one for whom you bought that skin-tight candy cane number. Yikes.

2.    Ventriloquism – Teaching your kids ventriloquism will pay key dividends when you’re stuck with the overzealous photographer who gets too specific with the trigger words. Gone are the days of the simple “say cheese,” in favor of polysyllabic, often gross, bluster like “say chesseburgers” or “say elephant farts!!”

Two-year-olds will try to say exactly what you tell them to, so please, commercial photographers, stop requiring them to possess a degree in linguistics to get a picture. We had the “say cheeseburgers” lady, so we came away with two dozen pictures of kids saying the “ur” part. Go ahead, as you read this, say the syllable “ur” while smiling. Look how stupid you look. We got 72 of those faces. If only we had enrolled them in extracurricular ventriloquism school, we’d have an entire album of kids jamming their top and bottom teeth together into forced smiles. You can practically hear the teeth grinding.

2a. Teach your kids it’s okay to use the word “fart” if you haven’t done so already. This will avoid the 7 or so shots where your kids are all looking to your wife with the “she said it was ok to say farts!” face. Eyebrows raised.

This tree has nothing to do with kids pictures, but I'm required by law to add a picture.
3.    Nourishment – Make sure your kids are well-fed before the photo session. If they are not, you will be forced to bribe them with a trip to a burger joint afterwards, where they will say “cheeseburgers” over and over.

4.    Temper expectations – The probability of failure is very high. Always remember what your second-grade baseball coach taught you: “It only takes one.” Not sure what that meant in terms of baseball, but it’s quite clear in terms of kiddie photography. Just get the one good shot, it’s in there somewhere.

5.    Bonus item: Don’t order the wallet-sized pictures. Hint: Here in the 21st Century, nobody carries pictures in their wallet. There’s this thing called Facebook. Or Shutterfly. Or Snapfish. 
If you have kids and haven't gone to get your pictures taken yet, maybe some of these hints will prove helpful. If you're in receipt of one of our cards, just consider the above before tossing it in the trash. Or maybe your kids are beyond the age and you're in the "been there done that" phase, and you're jealous of all the advances in photography. Regardless, enjoy the holiday and say "Stinky cheeseburger farts!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Confessions of a 7-year-old Girl - and more poop updates

The ongoing saga surrounding the littlest one pooping in the toilet took a turn for the worse when he made a deposit in the bathtub, just two short steps from the damned toilet. This is a new low for the boy, who continues to impress with his ability to "stay dry" throughout most of the day, only to continually disappoint in the evening. The bribe behavior chart, such an effective tool for the first two children, has had no impact on the stubborn third child. What do you get the kid who apparently has everything and doesn't poop?

Meanwhile, the girl had her First Confession (capitalized for effect) tonight, even though technically in seven years, she hasn't done anything wrong, at least that I could see. Certainly nothing sinful, and definitely not coveting her neighbor's house or ass. Perhaps she bore false witness those handful of times she tried to get her brothers in trouble. Maybe she failed to honor her father and mother a time or two...maybe forgot to remember the Sabbath and stayed in bed and prayed at St. Holy Mattress of the Sheets. OK yeah, confess your sins, girl. So she did, and without incident. When her little brother's turn comes up, he'll probably be pooping his pants somewhere...which by then will be in violation of our house's unofficial 11th Commandment.

Oh, and today was Veterans' Day, so thank you, vets. Come on, New York Stock Exchange, capitalism won't die if you close one more day. Better this day for our next major national holiday then the day after the Super Bowl.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

9 Completely Unrelated Thoughts

One week down, three to go in the Post a Day for a Month Challenge. Whatever doesn't kill you, may still hospitalize you.

Quick thoughts on a Saturday night:

--Days after trying to poop 10 times in one setting to quickly earn some toy trucks, the youngest has since soiled his drawers twice while only peeing on the toilet. This negative-two effort now means he must poop 12 times on the toilet before getting his toys. If he were smart, he'd take up prune juice. He also still finds ways to poop in his sleep at night, which may explain why his brother comes over in the middle of the night. You can practically see the little squiggly marks emanating from that room the next morning. I jump in the shower and pretend not to notice.

--Any time we eat out, the over/under on number of items that hit the floor is 8.5, the number of kids who spend time under the table is 2.5, and the number of trips to the bathroom we make is also 2.5.

--Sometimes it's not unreasonable to expect the fort to hold itself down.

--When I have to share a room with someone who snores all night, then hear them say the next morning that THEY didn't sleep well at all last night, I want to throw them off a balcony.

--We don't have a "house cleaner" because nobody else really wants to set foot in this house. We also don't have a Roomba because it would have suffered a concussion by now.

--Our oldest, the self-proclaimed "Boss of the Children" doesn't realize that, in her role as middle management, she gets blamed for all of her younger brothers' missteps, which includes the potty training fails. She may soon relinquish that role and resume just being a seven-year-old.

--We're raising our kids Catholic, and so minutes after having a frank discussion with our oldest about her First Reconciliation and the importance of asking God's forgiveness for her sins, we tell all our kids that the boxes the mailman brought to their door (containing some of their Xmas gifts) aren't for them. Later we'll tell them they were brought by a fat, jolly elf who operated a reindeer-powered sleigh.

--Nothing that has black olives on it should ever be called "Supreme."

--The iPad screen is quickly replacing the crack between the bed and the wall as the go-to place for kids to wipe their boogers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

We Are the Dishwashers

Our dishwasher broke several weeks ago, so we are now the dishwashers. Makes us realize the dishwasher is something you don't realize you love until it's gone. Like gluten. (Thanks, Rice Chex.)

The green light at the top won't stop blinking. It's trying to tell us something?
Still, there is an opportunity here. The youngest, of all people, has noticed that we are spending more of our ever-diminishing free time washing everyone's dishes and has even offered to help wash them himself. That presents us with the ongoing conundrum of letting him help and splashing water all over the place and making the process way more tedious than it already is, or just doing it ourselves and finishing it in under five hours.

The kid has also suggested that the Easter Bunny wash the dishes. The Easter Bunny? Where did that come from? While we would appreciate a make-believe animal coming through and doing our work for us, the Easter Bunny comes but once a year. Actually, we're on the same pace, so why not?

Meanwhile, the poor dishwasher seems to want to help...lights blinking all over the place, gives you the impression it wants to live but just can't, but won't give up. It fights the good fight but ultimately it died doing what it did best, saving us a few minutes each

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Did I Miss? November 6

Another day when my kids hit the sack before I get home...sigh...this is what happened...

We finally brought out the armada in the war against pooping our pants. Tired of listening to how continent our youngest can be within the walls of Day Care only to have him come home and slide away and hide under the kitchen table to load up, we bribed him with offered him a fleet of toy trucks. (Retail Price: $5.88)

The toys that will keep our house from smelling like poop. Pictured at bottom: A two-year-old pic of the Easter Bunny.
He declined for six weeks, opting instead to suddenly disappear and quietly soil himself instead of going through the rigors of pooping on the toilet. We suspected something was amiss when he started disappearing. He never disappears, he's always in our faces, making himself available at all times and leaving a trail of toys in his wake, which we find in the middle of the night with our feet.

Tonight he found the trucks and decided he wanted to play with them. This, shortly after once again smudging up the face of Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

"Ohhhhhh, no," my wife said she said, before explaining that he can't have the trucks until he poops on the potty at home ten times in a row. He seemed so agreeable to the deal that he immediately went to the can and tried to poop all ten times right then and there...nearly giving himself a childhood hernia, if there is such a thing? Or bursting a blood vessel in his anus. We'll see if the enthusiasm continues or wanes, but if trucks are on the line, then these days might be over (I hope you took the over.)

For Christmas and then his birthday last year, we got the middle one the complete set of mini-NFL football helmets. (OK, maybe they were for me, too.) Every week, we organize them in order of the week's NFL matchups, and each week, when I ask for the Seahawks, Texans, Bears, Falcons, Jaguars, Panthers, Ravens, or even Buccaneers helmets, he always hands me the Broncos, and I have to say a variation of "That's not a bird, that's a HORSE."

So now he has become obsessed with death, which always unsettles me when he speaks so frankly about it. Tonight he asked what people are like when they're dead. When my wife responded that they don't do anything, he insisted that Dad (who apparently will go first) will still eat with us, go to work, and, most importantly, move the football helmets. Somebody PLEASE move the football helmets for him when I'm gone.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Did I Miss? November 5

Today was yet another day when I didn't see my kids to ask them how their day was, so I got the scoop from their mother, who reported as follows:

The youngest continues his quest to extend Halloween into November by riding around on a broom. He also rushes to his mother's side after she blows her nose and asks, "Do you have boogies?" He has a way with women...

The middle child, who is trying to learn the piano, will be getting a holiday song book courtesy of his teacher. His teacher says he has never seen anyone that age with the attention span of my son. I'll take his word for it, since his attention hasn't spanned wide enough to actually practice at home, ever.

And the oldest, the girl, reprises her role as the supreme agitator. Time and again, we question why she refuses to be totally happy until someone else is completely miserable. She usually tries to make the middle child cry before the car has left the Day Care parking lot. She is at her best when she's the only kid in the room. When the other two are around, there is a quick, definite degradation in behavior.

We are very thankful that the public rarely sees these sides of our kids, but they're there. We'd invite you over to see it firsthand, but our Roomba is busy giving itself a concussion. Nobody wants to see that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween In Review

Now that Halloween is over, let's take a look at what we learned this year about the holiday:

1. My wife still hates the holiday. Maybe it's because she has to deal with lots of kids dressed up at school, then has to come home and deal with three more. Or maybe she hates candy.

2. We contributed one Elsa and two ninja turtles to the official final count, so we have kids who fail to think outside the box...just like their dad. Maybe next year they'll just go as a box. Or I'll dress as a box and they can Trick or Treat outside me.

3. The little one has a chance to be the kid who comes up with some good 2 years old he has an imagination unlike his older siblings. He has been riding around the house as a witch on a broom, as if he has just discovered witches on Oct 30 and wishes he could extend the holiday out a little. He also still dumps water on his head in the bathtub and shouts Ice Bucket Challenge!

4. My wife stayed home to "give out candy" even though we were the only people in the neighborhood participating. I'm a sucker.

5. Because we were the only ones participating, it seemed awkward going to people's houses and taking their candy. One family shut all their lights off and pretended to not be home but their dogs barked incessantly when we walked past. I wanted to stand there until 1:30 AM just to see what would happen.

6. As awkward as it was, going to eight houses (six people answered the door) and getting home for pizza after an hour is my idea of Halloween...minimally intrusive. The kids reported they got "a whole bunch" of candy, so we'll probably continue to do this and not travel to someone else's development, with people we know even less, spend three hours instead of one, all in the name of enhancing Halloween. We do Halloween just fine.

7. Seriously, no Ana? All Elsa? No Duke of Weaseltown?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Raising Sienna

Do yourself a favor and go take a look at Raising Sienna, a site by Lorne Jaffe. Read as much as you can in whatever free time you're afforded, then bookmark the site, and go back and read more when you're able. Read everything on this site. Such honest, direct discussion about anxiety, depression, and parenting. Plus, Lorne will be on the radio! Tuesday at 11:20 am.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Wheel Drive - Part 2

There was plenty of guesswork involved Saturday as we tried to get a tire changed…how many tires? What model of car? All Wheel Drive or Front Wheel Drive? We decided on 2, Equinox LT, and Front Wheel Drive as our final answers and then handed in our exams and felt like we earned a solid C.

The key to the All Wheel Drive thing is that the tire required for AWD was not in stock, (even though I could look around and see enough tires to fill a sports stadium) and would have to be ordered in 1-2 business days. Which is highly inconvenient for someone driving on a donut, whose 50-mile life was mostly used up. This is probably the reason I guessed “not AWD,” since the “not AWD” tires were, in fact, in stock, and could be replaced in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Wait, what? 2 hours and 45 minutes in the middle of the day? This is something that I, as a parent of three, would pay $10,000 for. I didn’t realize all I had to do was get some tires changed …maybe I should have gotten four.

Except the only place I had to go was a mall. Me in a mall for 3 hours is like sending a kid into a workplace. Lots of crewing around, nothing getting accomplished. The better scenario would be for my wife to have three hours in the mall, and me at home so I can play Mario Kart get some work done around the house.

My wife, if given 3 hours in a mall this time of year, would have all the Christmas shopping done, including the gifts Santa will get all the credit for, plus presents for family, friends, teachers, Day Care staff, random recipient at office White Elephant, random recipient at family White Elephant, mailman, garbage man, and 12 other people I’m not thinking of and won’t until December 24.

Instead I spent 45 minutes in a book store watching a 2-year-old and an overmatched grandparent try to negotiate a down elevator, which looked like this (at the 35:00 mark.) This came after the kid grabbed a CD or book and refused to let the clerk check it out without causing a massive scene.

This means I added three items to my unofficial developmental milestones for kids:

1.    Can your child handle a down escalator without backing up traffic?
2.    Can your child handle himself when he has to give a store clerk his newest favorite thing for 15 seconds?
      2a.    Can your child handle himself when you try to microwave his food for 15 seconds?

I spent the rest of the time in the mall people-watching and trying to eat whipped cream with a straw--because no fancy drink topped with whipped cream ever comes with a spoon—before walking around aimlessly looking for Santa Claus.

With an hour left and me playing with things in the Lego store, I got a call from the shop. Excited that I might get out early, the guy on the other end instead informed me that my car was in face All Wheel Drive (I told them it wasn’t) but they had the proper tires in stock (they told me they didn’t.) Two wrongs just made a right, I think. At this point, with my head spinning during my second trip through the book store, I just shook my head and read 10 pages or so of each football book plus Mindy Kaling’s book.

While there, I made a vow: Enough of this…I’m going to teach my kids everything I know about cars. Which should take 52 seconds, but still. Of course, by the time they’re old enough to operate their own fingertip-operated flying transporters (they’re not growing up until the year 2158), they won’t want to hear about any “cars.” But I’ll at least have them pay attention to the year, make, and model, and have them ask the dealer if it has All-Wing Drive.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Wheel Drive vs. Front Wheel Drive

Driving north to work on Interstate 95 last Friday, I felt my car trying to tell me something. I usually don't listen because I hate cars, and they never tell me something good like, "I love watching you drive." They're usually trying to tell me something bad news and jargon-y like, "The governor on your rear differential is about to wear out your fan belt and cause viscosity buildup under the pistons of your catalytic converter. Check Engine." I wouldn't own a car if I didn't have to. I miss the days when I could walk everywhere I needed to go. So does my waistline.

Maybe the car wasn't literally trying to tell me something because I don't have anything fancy equipped with the sultry woman's voice, but there appeared a message on the panel in front of me...the right wheel tire pressure was 3.

3? Seemed kinda low. Usually that number is in the 30s or so, I think. So this is a big problem. Then by the time I process all the information, it's at 1, then 0, and suddenly I'm doing 6 mph on one of the busiest, truck-infested highways in the country. Time to move over to the shoulder, shout some choice words into the steering wheel, call AAA, then pray all of those semis racing by me at 75 mph are operated by competent, awake, alert, happy individuals.

I was glad not to have any kids with me, because they would have gone bananas. But once you get over the initial shock of your Chevy Equinox shaking every time a Dodge Neon drives by, much less a tractor trailer, you're free to check the late NBA and NHL scores and catch up on some emails until the guy comes to put the spare on. (I'm sure as hell not changing a tire on I-95 in my business casual attire. not without a film crew and Mike Rowe on hand.)

Ah, the spare tire. I know there are good reasons (trunk space, weight) why the spare tire is ridiculously small, forcing you to drive like Laurel and Hardy up the Interstate, turning you into that old lady you want to cuss at but you can't because you can't see her when you get by her, making you late for your important business meeting. When I'm named Secretary of the Interior, I'm requiring all roads to have a Spare Tire lane just so those unfortunate souls have a place to drive guilt-free. I'm also inventing a tire that allows you to go faster than 50 mph on it and longer than 50 miles.

All of this brings us to Saturday, when I need to buy a new, real tire so I don't ruin the trusty spare and find myself in another predicament. There are far, far too many questions that need to be answered when buying a tire(s).

1. How many tires? It might as well be a game show with its own wheel to spin. The obvious answer is, "However many went flat yesterday," but you have to account for tread wear, balance, mileage, and at least three other things, none of which I know anything about, so I mentally spin the game show wheel and come up with a number. Today I said two. Who knows.

2. Are there any superfluous letters at the end of the model of your car? For example, please don't say just "Chevy Equinox." Is it an LT, LZ, LZT, LXZT, or B-Sharp? Apparently all of these take different tires.

3. Is the car All Wheel Drive or Front Wheel Drive? For the love of God, who cares. It was explained to me why this is important, but I didn't listen. I simply do not care. Like a "classic" movie that's been oversold to me and I'll never watch, I never want to find out what the differences are between AWD, FWD, or even RWD. Don't tell me. I'm not la la la la...

I always assumed it had something to do with being able to go really fast through a 15-foot-high pile of snow or driving on steep, rocky terrain like we see in a commercial, but since the only "off-roading" I'll be doing is driving on the striped, weirdly shaped "Land of Indecision" between the highway and the off ramp, I never bothered to figure out the difference and never will.

Still, even though the difference between AWD, FWD, and RWD means nothing to me, I still need to know which one my car is, because of course different tires for each. (Of course.) The owner's manual didn't specifically say it was AWD (apparently AWD is better?) but it didn't say it wasn't, either. So I took to the internets and for $30 I could find out. Not that interested, so I guessed. 50-50 chance, right?

What does any of this have to do with kids or parenting? Here's Part 2!

This silliness has a Facebook Page!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Punkin Guts

My wife and I this week wondered aloud how bored the first guy who carved a face into a squash must have been. And how this bizarro act could have possibly caught on with the masses without Pinterest. Then we each offered the Gods of Spare Time a burnt offering of a month's salary in exchange for that much time to come up with our own weird phenomenon...or to get laundry caught up...before realizing that there aren't any holidays left.

So next summer we'll petition the month of August to create a holiday that celebrates dry brown grass or oppressive humidity, and we'll carve Tic Tac Toe boards into cow patties and eat pale, tasteless watermelon cut into the shape of William Howard Taft, proclaim that this should become a "tradition" and BOOM! an August holiday is born. Stay glued to Pinterest to find out to see how that works out.

In the meantime, a different Halloween issue has crept into our consciousness...whose job is it to clean the orange stringy crap out of pumpkins? More than one correspondent reported that boys have pawned that duty off on their moms, insisting that the inside of a pumpkin is a place they'd rather not go. BOYS, mind you. The same kids who will eat heads off of worms, pack dirt into their open wounds, and poop in their brother's pillowcase. But cleaning out a pumpkin goes too far for today's BOYS. Boys will no longer be boys.

Seems like a lot of work...
And I agree with them. The inside of a pumpkin is a hellish place that is better off left to nature. If pumpkins were truly meant to be gutted, all anyone would do is cut the lid off, flip it over, and let the seeds and strings slide into the trash can. Or, for the truly sadistic, onto a newspaper (daddy, what's a newspaper?) so we can separate the seeds from the strings, then cook the seeds what with them, exactly?

But instead, the crap inside a pumpkin maybe trickles out but mostly just sticks fast to the side, grasping for dear life, forcing us to use perfectly fine eating utensils to hollow out a space for these faces, maps of the Baltic, or whatever we're carving in them for "fun." And it's always good to have a special utensil on hand that specializes in pumpkin-gutting. But if you live in this house, it will be lost before November. Or it will break in half at first contact.

This is where kids don't understand the impact of their actions. Several weeks ago, as we visited the pumpkin patch, picking our own pumpkins, contributing to the ever-burgeoning "let other people pay for the privilege of doing your job" industry (seriously, apple and pumpkin farmers have to be just laughing at us each fall), we go get the biggest, heaviest, fullest pumpkins we can find because Dad has never thrown out his back. When we announced the conception of our third child, the phrase we heard most often (ahead of "Congratulations!") was "zone defense." We survive most of the time, but this is one instance when we could have used a third, surrogate parent... either to carry the third pumpkin or the third kid or help us negotiate a twisted network of vines before our biceps ripped apart or our hernias arrived.

Unfortunately, at home one pumpkin never made jack-o'lantern status. An unseasonably warm October meant the garage was not the usual cool, dry place where we could house three pumpkins -- not to mention over 10,000 apples -- without some deterioration. One way to ensure a smooth exit of a pumpkin's insides to the outside is to wholly rot the thing out, then pick it up like an injured baby bird, only to have the guts predictably spill all over your dress pants, shoes, and, somehow, your car as you take the Lord's name in vain. And the whole garage smells like pumpkin stomach acid...which isn't latest flavor at Starbucks, though it could be. Luckily, we somehow managed to accumulate several "back up" pumpkins from who knows where, so our 2-year-old never noticed his prized squash died a very real, palpable death. Very palpable.

Now, faced with the daunting task of cleaning out these rotunda-sized plants, kids were regretting their decisions to pick huge pumpkins and were also regretting their choice in dads, since theirs ran to the sink 16 times during the process to clean this menacing, orange, flesh-eating gunk off his wrists. Luckily, their mother isn't as selectively OCD, and she helped finish the job, mostly because she wanted the process to end before midnight.

So, who in the family should go in there and get the guts out? The dad? The kids? The mom? What do we do with those seeds? Is pumpkin-carving still necessary to a successful Halloween? There are still many unanswered questions to this odd-but-still-not-as-odd-as-a-fictional-rabbit-hiding-decorative-eggs-that-house-candy holiday tradition. Does anyone have any answers? Or are we still going to do this because that's what we did last year? Cause next year we can just pick watermelons or something. Less mess, right?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Decisions, Decisions: "Pee" is for Playground

Parents make hundreds of decisions every day, not all of them involving pizza toppings or vaccinations. (One of those is harder than you think.) But as parents we make our money when we make the decisions in between. We have to be able to think fast, think clearly, think coherently, and absent any of those conditions, just ask the other parent. Or any parent. Just find a responsible parent immediately.

Today we have a situation that calls for the coherence and quick thinking that only an experienced parent can muster. I said "experienced" not "old." So let's turn this thing over to my old childhood friend Lynne who recently faced a scenario that no parent envies. That time I said "old."

So you've seen the title. Back when I was a working girl (no, not that kind, get your mind out of the gutters, I'm a freakin PMP --Project Management Professional-- for goodness sakes), I would pick up my son from school from kiss and ride. "Kiss and Ride" is the nice name for "if you live within a mile from the school, you get to drive your kid to and from school every day." I don't work anymore. (Define work?) But, I get to hang out with the cool moms at the playground after school. We set up our soccer chairs, talk about our haircuts, and now that I'm officially in the fold, I get to bring my dog.
Let's stop right there for a second. A Kiss and Ride? I'd never heard of such a thing. Sounds like a good idea, even for DC. Do they have these on Capitol Hill?

But then I broke my foot.  
Lynne has broken every bone in her body twice. She'll start Round 3 at the bottom I guess. By Halloween I expect a profile pic of her wrapped entirely in gauze but not because it's Halloween.

Those who know me well enough, know this isn't a rare thing. So I was on crutches. And then my kid did the "mom mom mom I have to pee! Noooowwwwww!" In the middle of the playground. The school is closed. No port a potty. I'm screwed. So... what do you do?  
Quick, parents, what do you do? Your kid is on the playground, has to pee, eyes about to explode, dancing the Dance of Shame in front of everybody, grabbing himself ferociously which puts the shame in the Dance of Shame, for SOME reason there is no port-a-potty on a playground in front of a school. There is no time to waste. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO? HURRY. I HAVE TO PEE! NOOOOOWWWW!!

This is Reason #357 to never potty-train your kids. Kids in diapers never have this problem. Parents of kids in diapers never have this problem. Only "big kids" and their parents have this problem. Keep your children young forever by never potty-training them.

Frankly I'd tell my kids to hold it until we got somewhere with a toilet. They might protest a little, or a lot, but deep down I know and they know they can hold it. But I also know my kids have bladders the size of potato sacks. The 5-year-old, in fact, has the superhuman ability to not pee before bed AND not pee the bed that same night. He is also born with a biological clock that wakes him at precisely the proper time in the dead of night to come over to OUR bathroom, NOT turn the light on, pee directly into the bowl with a force that would break glass, then try to crawl into bed with us. (Oh no you don't, kid.) Your kid may be a superhero, but mine can pee in the dark with a perfectly acceptable margin of error-ish. Win.

But that's just my kid. What did a hobbled Lynne do in the same situation? Let's find out!

A teacher friend of mine was there and offered to take him into the woods. He (my kid) NEVER would have made it home. So we peed in the woods. 
Lynne doesn't have a little girl, does she? 

And then seventeen other kids had to pee in the woods.
This is brilliant. A Peed Piper tale if ever we heard one.

As you can see, there is no right answer to this question, Though there are seemingly dozens of wrong answers. The key is to know as much about your kids as possible without wiring out your brain. Height, weight, and allergies to medicines that may cause their face to shrivel are all important. But sometimes Bladder Size is the single most important thing you can know, and it informs your decision whether to go search out a gas station bathroom or just go in the woods. I think Lynne made the right call. 17 kids peeing in the woods is better than one peeing in his pants.

Have a tough call for Decisions, Decisions? Drop it in the comments.

This whole circus has a Facebook page, which is here:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Four Horsemen of the Kidpocalypse

On the heels of the Mount Rushmore of Gross, and in keeping with the quartet theme, you can take one look at your kids and easily make a transition to...

The Four Horsemen of the Kidpocalypse.

As you know, the media can take a neutral, nothing sort of thing and blow it out of proportion in a good way by placing it on a Mount Rushmore. To do the same in a bad way, they simply add the suffix -pocalypse to it, and soon we have words like "Snowpocalypse or Sharknadopocalypse." Thanks, media, for that. Really. We're grateful. However, the media never seems to take the deeper dive and get into the Four Horsemen of the Sharknadopocalypse, and that just embodies lazy journalism.

New Rule: Anyone with a child may declare a full-blown kidpocalypse in his or her house. But in so doing, they must provide evidence of Four actual Horsemen of Said Kidpocalypse or risk losing all remaining credibility with whoever deals out credibility these days.

So here are the Four Horsemen of the Kidpocalypse...yours of course will vary:
They seem like harmless creatures.

1. Conquest - Any time we get the oldest on the bus on time with her lunchbox and a minimum of tears directly resulting from a hair situation, we have conquered. When we sit down at a restaurant after a 30-45 minute wait where all five of us have openly questioned whether the buzzer thingie actually works, we have conquered. (Who cares what happens in the restaurant after that,) Any time we go to the photography studio for Christmas pictures and don't have to apologize to anybody for "that scene" or for bloodying the all-white background, we have conquered. Conquest is usually riding a white horse, hopping with a stick between its legs.

2. War - Toss a dead flip phone from 2005 between two of your kids and have them contact their oldest living female relative. (At least they try to reach a living relative.) Hand one of your kids the buzzer thingie at the restaurant and explain to him or her the importance of watching it, while the other two look on, curious and hurt. Ten minutes later, try to negotiate a time-share between the kids. Five minutes after that, take the thing back because it hasn't lit up or buzzed in 15 minutes, so it must be one of Grandma's old boring rotary telephones or sewing needles. Or it's broken. Inform your kids there is only enough chocolate milk left for one glass. Hide the iPad cord. Place your children's car seats within arm's length of each other. Inform your oldest that she must go to CCD while her brothers get to stay in their pajamas and watch cartoons (this is the original Holy War.) All of these things invite War, which is often depicted riding a red horse, which is ridiculous. If my child tries to color a horse red in school, his teacher tells him "no" and has him start over. Red Horse sounds better suited as a beer name than as a symbol of impending doom.

3. Famine - Cook anything for your kids that isn't cotton candy or Fruit by the Foot-based. Famine ensues. Famine arrives on a black horse, the veritable "dark horse" in the Kidpocalypse, the unheard of force that causes the end of principled enough to starve themselves to death in protest over the absence of cotton candy, as an example. In this case, I would think famine should arrive on either a pink or blue horse. Like My Little Ponies.

4. Death - Admittedly, it's a little jarring when your kids start understanding death, then using it very matter-of-factly in sentences like, "Daddy, did your grandma die?" and "Nana's kitty is DEAD." And you feel a bit more mortal when they understand a little more and ask, "Daddy, when are you going to die? How old will I be when you die?" It's chilling.

Death, then, arrives on a pale horse, but the ancient texts (Wikipedia) don't indicate what color, just pale. Not helpful. Perhaps a whiter shade of pale? From beyond the pale? Whatever.

As always, yours may vary. Many interpretations of the Kidpocalypse include pestilence, for example, which kids often bring home from school or Day Care. Then the family spends the next four months passing pestilence back and forth. (Make sure you get your Pestilence shots this fall.)

But enough of this. Nobody's dying here, just like the world is not ending when there is a lot of snow. And your world doesn't end when you have kids (don't answer that), so let's dial back the drama by refraining from attaching -pocalypse to everything. There is no Kidpocalypse or Snowpocalypse or Sharknadopocalypse.

But when there's only one cookie left in the bag? It's sheer Kidmageddon.