Hey, Old Man!

old manOh,  look at you, you magnificent tool.  I don’t even know where to start.  Are you drunk in this picture?  You have to be drunk.  Tell me you’re drunk, ’cause I’m having a hard enough time believing that I’m going to turn out like this.

Oh, and one question – WHERE THE HELL IS OUR HAIR??  What on God’s earth possessed you to do that to our head?  Is that natural or did you just lose your mind??  I’m going to go with natural, because I need to believe that I don’t actually turn into an even bigger tool than I already am.

So, yeah, you wrote about how you would like to go back in time and kick your own ass when you were me. Doesn’t look like it should be much of a problem seeing as how you appear to have packed on about 50 extra pounds.  What happened to working out all the time?  I mean, I know I’m not a gym rat or anything, but at least I get some cardio in every now and then.  Well, not the days I’ve got fraternity stuff going on.  Or usually the days after, because I might be moving a little slow if you get my meaning.  Crap.  You remember all this!  You remember how skinny I am!  What the hell did you do to my body??  Kick my ass.  I oughtta hop in a time machine and kick YOUR ass!

Oh, and don’t wine to me about school.  Apparently I got the diploma, so what are you complaining about?  As long as you’re not working with money, you should be fine.  Don’t forget that’s the one thing we promised ourselves – that we’d NEVER work with money!

(Editor’s note – I work with money).

Okay, so apparently now I’m bald and fat.  Fantastic.  How in the hell did you manage to get married?  What woman had enough love in her heart to actually choose this?  Like I don’t have enough problems getting a date now!  How did you end up with a quality woman.  Seriously, you left that out of the letter.  You’re supposed to tell me so I sidestep all the screwy relationships and don’t mess up when I meet her.  Don’t give me that, “you need to go through it all to learn how to be with her” crap either!  I’m getting real tired of spending all my time either in the friendship zone or on the wrong girl’s hook.  Come on, man!  You couldn’t have sent me her address??

All I know is that you better be treating her like the angel she is EVERYDAY.  All I’ve wanted all my life is to fall for someone who sees something more in me than I do.  Someone who can be my everything.  You damn well better not be screwing that up!  You hold on to her and tell her how much she means to you every chance you get.  Don’t get lazy!  If she was foolish enough to choose you, then you better be proving yourself worth it non-stop!  Don’t be taking her for granted.  You say you remember what that feels like.

The same goes for those kids.  I can’t believe someone actually decided to have kids with us, let alone make them!  Twice!  You’re telling me that we’ve got two boys?  Weird.  For some reason I always thought we’d have a girl.  I’m not suggesting you go make another one or anything.  Two’s good.  Worked for Mom and Dad.  Should work for us.

So two boys.  One of them has something called autism?  I have no idea what that is.  It sounds scary as hell.  With all the problems we’ve had growing up,  I wish I could say I’m surprised.  That’s something I worry about all the time.  That I’m gonna pass on something bad to my kids.  Looks like that turned out to be the case.  How do you live with that, knowing that he probably has it because of you?  I don’t think I’ll do anything different, though, based on knowing.  I mean, according to you I’m going to love him like I’ve never loved anything before.  Why would I give up the chance for that?  Mom and Dad helped me along through all the therapies and stuff I had to take as a kid.  If I really do love him that much, I’ll do the same for him in a heartbeat.

Dude, you are living my dream.  All I ever wanted was that family.  It’s not like I’m career-oriented or anything.  I can’t believe everything actually works out.  You got friends who’ve been with you since you were me, a beautiful wife, two kids.  When did we ever want anything else?  You should be dancing on the ceiling if you’re not already!  Like I said before, you better appreciate every bit of it!  I don’t know how you managed to get all this, but you damn sure better not take it for granted!

You obviously took our hair for granted, you prick.  Look how that worked out!

 

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Payback or What I Want From My Kids

Parenting can be a thankless job.  Sure we get Mother’s and Father’s Days, and every once in a while they’ll make us some little craft or art project out of the blue, but for the most part parenting is a one-way street.  We raise them, care for them, provide for them, and they go on about their lives never questioning the golden parachute that is provided them during their time with us.

Then they move out and we’re lucky if we get a phone call once a week.

Well, I say enough is enough!!  Considering all the time, money, and sleepless nights I’ve put in so far, and the countless examples of such that are still to come, I’ve determined that I have a completely reasonable set of expectations for how they can pay me back for all this selfless love and giving once they come of age:

My Perfectly Reasonable Demands:

  1. They will embark upon careers that will allow me to realize my life-long dream of an existence of leisure.  Whether it be renowned scientist, professional athlete, or lucky s.o.b. with a winning lottery ticket, I don’t care.  I’m flexible.  I just need them to be rich and supporting me in the manner to which I wish to become accustomed.
  2. Keeping that in mind, I believe I should also have final say on any significant others with whom they may wish to share our riches.  Need to make sure we don’t get any gold-diggers siphoning off Daddy’s portion of the fortune.  Applicants for the spousal position will be judged on age, body type, gender, and how adorable they think their bae’s old man is.
  3. While we’re at it, I want to make sure that I don’t become too intrusive into their lives.  Once I’ve arranged their marriages, they will definitely need their own space.  Therefore I just require a nice, secluded cabin somewhere with a built in-home theatre and a staff of willing help that will clean up after the wife and I to see after our every need.  The butler’s name will be Waldo.  Doesn’t matter if that’s his actual name or not.  He’ll make enough to where he won’t have a problem with me calling him Waldo.
  4. Checking off the necessities list, I will also require transportation.  I expect to wake up to this one fine Christmas morning, birthday, or Father’s Day: th(The day doesn’t matter, just make sure it’s fully detailed, in pristine condition, and that the atomic battery is to power and turbines are to speed).
  5. Finally, in respect of the fact that I have given them some space, they should understand that this is a privilege, not a right.  I expect them to be at my beck and call at all times, day or night, 365 days a year until I leave this blessed Earth.  The monument celebrating the selfless love and unconditional support I’ve always given them should be grandiose, for lack of a better word.

All perfectly reasonable expectations, yes?

Well, maybe not so much.

It always amazes me when I hear stories about how parents basically expect their children to live their entire lives as if it was some form of do-over for said parents themselves.  We all have regrets in life.  It’s not on our kids to make up for them, and it’s not on them to make true the dreams that we had every opportunity to fulfill ourselves.

Parenting is indeed a one-way street in the sense that it’s on us to provide them what they need to live their own dreams.  Don’t get me wrong – I expect a certain level of respect for what their mother and I have done and will do for them as time goes on.  However, it’s not fair to expect them to bend over backwards just to make me happy.  That’s my job, not theirs.  That said, while I’ll do my best to provide them the opportunities to do so, the reverse holds true as well.  Mommy and Daddy can’t make their dreams come true for them.  That’s on them.

So with that said, here’s what I really want once they come of age:

More Reasonable Expectations:

  1. That they show some respect not just for what we do for them, but for what others (family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc.) do for them as well.
  2. That whatever they decide to do, it’s something that fulfills them.  Money is important to a point (they will have to support themselves) but finding something that makes them happy to get out of bed in the morning and gives them a sense of pride is even more important.
  3. Whoever they bring home, regardless of race, gender, religion, etc., treats them with love and respect and appreciates them for who they are, not what they can do for them.  It would also be nice if the significant others liked hanging out with the family as well.
  4. Maybe a phone call every other week or so just to let us know what’s going on with their lives
  5. That when they have kids of their own, they’ll feel inclined to pass on the same lessons and values we tried to instill in them, and maybe add some new stuff to the mix that we never thought of.

THOSE seems perfectly reasonable.  I don’t think we should have any problem there.

That said, if they DO happen to strike it rich, and they WANT to get me that Batmobile, I won’t say no…….

Help Wanted

th

To this day, I can’t believe I got hired for this job. Twice.

Working Title:                 Child Development Administrative Partner (aka “Dad”)

Position Number:            2

Position Status:                Never-Ending

Work Schedule:               On-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year

Purpose of Postion:

  • To successfully raise a healthy, self affirmed individual of gender tbd, in an effort to insure self-sufficiency and removal of the grown child from the administrator’s residence within a rough timeline of 18 to 25 years

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Duties may vary based on unique needs of the child
    • Basic responsibilities include:
      • Keeping the child in one piece (nightly inspection to insure ten fingers / ten toes / all respective limbs remain in place mandatory)
      • Handling / disposal of toxic material (aka pooty diapers, snot from face after sneezes, etc.)
      • Frequent play interactions, including acting as substitute jungle gym or tea party guest when necessary
      • Sharing of life lessons that weren’t realized by the applicant himself until he became responsible for another human life
      • Frequent apology calls to parents now that it is realized just what kind of hell they were put through when applicant was the child
      • Conflict de-escalation at such time as applicant’s partner becomes ready to post the children on Craig’s List

Qualifications

  • No experience necessary.  All training will come on the job.  Background in culinary arts, conflict resolution, handling of hazardous material, philosophy, child psychology, dramatic acting, routine home maintenance, technical skills, athletics, and fluency in “child-speak” all preferred, but not necessary
  • Applicants should note that simple ability to physically procreate with another to produce a child is not a guarantee of fitness for the position.  Lack of ability to do so is also not a disqualifier.  Applicants will be judged solely on ability and willingness to “dad it up”.

Minimum Education:

  • None

Preferred Education:

  • Viewing of at least one birthing video; reading of one of those “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” books.

Compensation

  • Upon hiring, applicant will become responsible for forfeiting 99.999999% of take-home from secondary position to the needs and wants of the child.  Compensation may take the form of hugs, kisses, shout-out during graduation speech, child becoming totally self-sufficient upon reaching age of maturation.
  • Retirement plan – no guarantee child won’t place applicant “in a very nice retirement community” during twilight years

Pay Grade

  • Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,haaaaaaa!! Seriously, applicant will need at least one other job

Job Open Date

  • Remember that night with the tequila?

Job Close Date

  • N/A

Open Until Filled

  • Yes (Kind of an ironic way to put it, no?)

Interested parties should contact the Hiring Manager (aka “Mom”) to apply in person.  Flowers, wine, and a viewing of “Dirty Dancing” can only help.

 

 

 

Profiles in Disorder: Mama Angel

12993370_10208645981734440_5105689471599135085_nThey say that behind every powerful man, there is a stronger woman guiding and supporting him.

Fortunately in my case, this also holds true for overgrown, neurotic man-children.

Please join me as I at long last pull the curtain and reveal the magnificence of she who is my wife, mother of my children, and head administrator of our homey little asylum….

MAMA ANGEL:

Aliases: Princess Angel Tiger War Kitten the First, Mommy/Mommy/Mommy (always uttered thrice), Dirty Hippie

Age: Yeah, right.  Like I’m that stupid.

Occupation: Optician

Dream Occupations: Cat Whisperer, Roadie for Metallica

Likes: Being “Mommy/Mommy/Mommy”, babies, kittens, tap-dancing, crocheting, shiny things, full-grown cats, parades, the films of Grace Kelly, the music of Tom Petty, little pink tutus, You Tube videos featuring kittens and/or full-grown cats, mimosas, proper skin care,  the sublime rock power that is Metallica,  the egregious affront to the eyes, ears, and mind that was Hallie Berry’s “Catwoman”, her cats, Doctor Who (really!), over-grown, neurotic man-children who get her turned on to Doctor Who

Dislikes: Waking up early, being called a “Dirtie Hippie”, dish-washing, constantly being called-out on her love for the egregious affront to the eyes, ears, and mind that was Hallie Berry’s “Catwoman”, me complaining about her cats

Celebrities I’d have to be okay with her leaving me for:  Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, James Hetfield (lead vocalist of Metallica), Leonardo DiCaprio, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant (God I hate “Bridget Jones’s Diary”), a rejuvenated Sean Connery

Spirit Animal: Really?  You haven’t caught on to the theme yet?  Shall I draw a picture?

tumblr_m0amj5OCtL1r0iydho1_500

Famous Quote:  “All right, Fart-Nuts!!  Mommy’s coming downstairs, AND HELL’S COMING WITH ME!!”  (The children may have been acting-out a bit too much that morning….)

BIO:  Born in an explosive burst of glitter and sparkles in a small, Kentucky town you’ve never heard of (Flemingsburg – “Covered Bridge Capital of the U.S.A”), the child that would one day become Mama Angel immediately displayed a love of whimsy and demand for obedience that she would one day pass on to her children.  This was most inappropriately illustrated the day that she pantsed her mother in the local grocery store after being told she would not be getting the “My Little Pony” she had her eye on.

Allowed to continue breathing after the public humiliation she foisted upon her innocent and well-meaning mother, the little angel would grow into a beautiful young woman full of life, humor, and barely restrained contempt for those unable to color coordinate their clothing.

Ironic, considering who she would end up marrying.

As it turned out, ours was your typical love story:

Boy breaks glasses.
Boy tapes glasses and goes to mall to buy new pair.
Boy meets Girl who sells him new glasses.
Girl flirts with Boy.
Boy thinks she’s just trying to close the sale (Boy is immensely clueless).
Boy leaves mall with new glasses Girl sold him.
Boy can’t get Girl out of his mind.
Boy keeps coming up with excuses to go to the mall to see if Girl is working.
Girl notices Boy constantly walking by the Deb Women’s Store across the hall.
Girl assumes Boy is a cross-dresser.
Boy dresses up for an interview for a job he didn’t get.
Boy figures he’ll never look better, maybe it’s time to grow a pair and ask out Girl.
Boy goes back to Girl’s work, with ingenious excuse of needing his frames adjusted.
Boy’s brilliant plan seems to backfire when it appears that he will instead be assisted by Sweet Old German Lady.
Girl notices Boy is back, takes hapless customer off Sweet Old German Lady’s hands.
Boy babbles while Girl looks at frames.
Boy confesses to Girl that his frames didn’t need adjusting.
Girl responds, “yeah, I know”.
Boy responds, “well I have a crooked head so you couldn’t really know”.
Girl smirks.
Boy asks Girl if he can take her out to lunch.
Girls says, “no”.
Boy hears fighter plane in his head going down in a savage burst of flames.
Girl then says, “but you can take me out to dinner”.
Hilarity ensued.

Three years of dating and seven more of mariage later, I still find myself in complete wonder that this Beauty would ever give the time of day to my Beast.  There are times I still catch myself getting completely lost in the radiance of her beautiful smile.  She’s the best thing that ever happened to me, a best friend who has given me truly priceless gifts in the forms of her love and our children.  She is everything to me.

And she knows it.  Which is how we recently ended up with two damn cats.

Still, life would be dull and gray without her.  Not just my clothing, mind you, but my world itself would be immeasurably darker without her.  She is the yin to my yang, the Bonnie to my Clyde, the sacrificial lamb I offer up to the children whenever they’re particularly irksome.  Where I’m introverted, she’s extroverted.  Where I’m quiet, she’s loud.  Where I just want to sneak out the back, she wants to dive in headfirst.  To paraphrase the immortal Jack Nicholson (who I’m sure she’d also totally leave me for if he were 40 years younger), she makes me want to be a better man.

In the end, all the things that truly matter in my life – our home, our children, that bottle of Maker’s Mark she got for being an ambassador – I have because she loves me.  It is a love that I don’t know that I’ll ever feel worthy of, but will spend every day of the rest of my life trying to be.  Of all the things I’m thankful for in this life, her love is the first that always comes to mind.

But I’m still not getting her another damn cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Terms

benji-7“They say he has autism.”

I didn’t go with my wife to the appointment with the developmental pediatrician that day. I had taken a couple sick days not too long before then, and I didn’t think it would be prudent to take another day off. I remember telling her I wasn’t worried about what she was going to tell us. “He’s just a little behind”, I had said, confident in the outcome of the appointment. “I was behind. I had to go to therapy and all that.  Look, he’s only two. We’ve got plenty of time for him to catch up.” With that, I gave her a kiss and snuck out as quietly as I could so as not to wake my boy.

Four hours later, she called me at work to give me the news. I could tell how hard she was fighting to hold the tears back.   She had been terrified that day. At two years old, our boy wasn’t walking, spoke less than ten words (most of which were incredibly difficult to make out), and seemed to spend most of his time in his own little world.  He was also  prone to meltdowns at the weirdest times, set off for reasons neither she nor I could determine.   One of the workers at the daycare had actually asked her if he had been diagnosed autistic.  My wife had gotten upset by that, which in hindsight was because she had figured out what I hadn’t.  No, I just waved it off as a mother being overly concerned and sent her off to receive the most life-changing news our family would ever receive by herself.

I’ll never forgive myself for that.

I stared at the receiver in shock.  I’d been so sure.  “Wait,” I stammered out, firmly entrenched in the first stage of grief (disbelief). “He uses words. He looks me in the eye! He loves to be loved on!  That’ s not what autistic kids do!”

“Honey, the doctor’s positive. He fit all the criteria. He’ got it.”  She finally lost the fight, sobbing into the phone.  That’s when I learned the first and most important fact about autism:

If you’ve ever met a kid with autism, you’ve only ever met one kid with autism.

The next few weeks were spent trying to come to terms with what we learned.  There’s a very steep learning curve when your child receives an autism diagnosis.  You find yourself scurrying to put as much information and help together as possible. You find yourself splitting your time between trying to educate yourself and looking for any snippet of information that will convince you that your child’s still going to be able to lead some kind of normal life. You even find yourself pouring through those articles about B vitamin deficiencies, gut bacteria, and fevers that “break the autism” when your kid is sick.   Basically, simple issues with simple solutions that will take care of the far more complex problem.

Thankfully, one of my oldest and best friends had already been through a lot of this.  His former girlfriend had a young son who’s autistic, and he still plays a huge part of the boy’s life.  He also played a huge part in helping us those first few months, and I’ll always love him for that.  Experienced support is crucial in those early days, and I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking it out, whether it be family, friends, or a local support group.  Thanks to him, I was able to sift through all the bull pretty quickly and focus on what would actually be helpful.

And so our research began.  One of the resources we came across was a website for an organization called “Autism Speaks” (autismspeaks.org).  On the website, they actually have a glossary on the site, full of common terms associated with being diagnosed. Some of the ones we’ve encountered and used the most include:

Autism Spectrum Disorders  an umbrella term for a wide spectrum of neurobiological disorders that affect a child’s ability to interact, communicate, relate, play, imagine, and learn. These disorders not only affect how the brain develops and works, but may also be related to immunological, gastrointestinal, and metabolic problems. Signs and symptoms are seen in early childhood.

– Echolalia the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others. Children with ASD often display echolalia in the process of learning to talk. Immediate echolalia is the exact repetition of someone else’s speech, immediately or soon after the child hears it.

– Hyperresponsiveness– abnormal sensitivity or over reactivity to sensory input. This is the state of feeling overwhelmed by what most people would consider common or ordinary stimuli of sound, sight, taste, touch, or smell.

Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests common in children with ASD. Children with ASD may appear to have odd or unusual behaviors such as a very strong interest in a particular kind of object (e.g., lint, people’s hair) or parts of objects, or certain activities.

Etc., etc, etc. The glossary goes on and on. For other common terms as well as an extensive list of articles, tool kits,  first hand experiences, and lists of resources in your area, I’ll refer you to the site.

After almost three years, I still feel as if we’ve barely scratched the surface. As he gets older, we’re always encountering new terms and challenges. Still in the mad rush of it all, I noticed something; despite the difficulty he had in putting them together, our boy made use of some common terms of his own:

-“Hello, there!!”- His standard greeting, an indication of his excitement to be seeing you

-“Hugs?”- Self-explanatory. This child is the huggingest kid you’ll ever meet.

-“Tickles?”- Not so much a question as a demand for the immediate provision of sensory input via rigorous bear-hugs and tickling to the extremities, particularly the back and sides of the torso or “belly”.

-“Moke!”- A request for sustenance, usually of the dairy persuasion, but also including poultry distributed in nugget form.

-“WOO-HOO!”- It’s on.

For us, it meant that while we were scrambling to find the right therapies and tools to help him, he was going on with his happy little life and finding his own ways to let us know what he needed.

Even though he’s made (and continues to make) great strides in communicating since then, those early attempts at communication served as signs for another term, one more important than all the others to be found on-line or in any medical journals:

– Hope – an optimistic attitude of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation”.

That particular term, along with it’s frequent companion, “love”, are what’s kept us going, and what helped us to recognize that the only true indicator of success is our boy’s happiness, and how he feels about himself. It’s not about what we want for him. It’s about what he wants for himself, and what brings him happiness. It’s about living on his own terms.

In the end, those are the only terms that matter.

 

To My Boy on His 5th Birthday

I know it’s hard
When you can’t find the words to say.
But the truth, my darling boy,
Is that you speak volumes in your own special way.
With a laugh, with a smile,
With a dance to your own happy beat,
You show us all a life that couldn’t be more sweet.
And even on the days when it’s hard,
When you can’t get anyone to understand,
Just know that I’ll always be here,
Ready to take your hand.
Because you’re my Cray-Cray, my darling boy,
A little whirlwind who’s brought me so much joy.
No matter how tough things might get,
I know your best days are still ahead of you yet.
So Happy Birthday, sweet boy! Time to dance and play!
Daddy loves you more than words can ever say.

Happy Birthday, little buddy…….

The Twelve Days of Craziness

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Mommy and Daddy begged for these:

12 Hours for sleeping,

11 Maids-a-cleaning,

10 Amazon Prime orders shipping,

9 Grown-up-movie viewings,

8 Adult beverages chilling

7 Days of no screaming,

6 Chefs to do the cooking,

5 More days off

4 Filled-up flasks

3 Bottles of aspirin

2 Contented kids

And an offer to keep them tonight from Grammyyyyyy!!

Happy Holidays, Everyone!