About authorphilpartington

Phil is a writing enthusiast of many years, having been published in numerous online and national print trade and sports publications over the past decade. He has spent the past five years delving back into the world of fiction writing, focussing on the fantasy, horror and suspense genres. Deshay of the Woods is his first novel.

Original Song: “Don’t Wake the Two-Year-Old”

Wrote a song a while back about my then two-year-old (now four) and how he struggles to wake up in the morning. Hope you enjoy. Lyrics are below.

You can also check out my YouTube channel.

Lyrics by Phil Partington

It’s 6 a.m. You try to sleep in
But with the sunrise, a child creeps in-
Side your room and as sure as snot
You’re utterly doomed

But thankfully, the toddler still sleeps
For morning time brings out the beast
With fingers crossed, you dare to take a peek
And suddenly sneeze

Don’t wake the two-year-old
He breathes fire out past his cheeks
Gets in your mind. Twists your dreams.
Makes you cry. Makes you scream.

There ain’t no monster under his bed.
He scratched and clawed it, till it was dead.
With beady eyes and gnarled teeth,
My two-year-old is the monster you see.

It’s time to hide.
This is no place for foolish pride.
Your heroism will not fly this time.

No time for myself.
I need a nap like nothing else.
And when he grows up, I hope to hell
He has four like himself.

Don’t wake the two-year-old
He breathes fire out past his cheeks
Gets in your mind. Twists your dreams.
Makes you cry. Makes you scream.

Don’t wake the two-year-old.

 

 

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Utter Updates

Just a quick check in. It’s been ages since I’ve written here — sorry for that. I have some good excuses! For one, we added another little one to the mix. That’s right. Our flock just got one bigger…this time a girl! That means we have a six, four and two-year-old, as well as a newborn. I know there are others who have more young kids than that, perhaps even under more strenuous of circumstances, but screw you…we think this is hard :).

Anyway, Utter Dadness is back, or at least that’s the plan. Be on the lookout for more activity once again and thanks for your patience.

A Dad’s Christmas Reflection

Christmas is a time where we celebrate the intrusion of a fat stranger in a red jump suit.

Christmas is a time where we celebrate the intrusion of a fat stranger in a red jump suit into our home who doesn’t even use the front door.

Now that I’m a parent and the innocence of childhood has left me like last night’s “taco surprise” dinner, I find myself wondering about the tradition that is Santa Claus. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Christmas. Love pretty much everything about it—the traditions, the smells, the sights. I don’t even care that it’s reached a stage of commercialism that’s made the Hilton sisters seem like minimalists.

But Santa Claus. As the kids say: WTF?

Three hundred and sixty four days of the year we put the fear of God into our young ones about not talking to strangers, not accepting candy or gifts from strangers, and not to ever open the door and let one into your house without the presence and permission of a parent. Yet Christmas is a time where we celebrate the intrusion of one such stranger: a jolly fat man in a red jump suit, who comes with the promise of toys and candy. And not even through the front door, which–if he’s truly welcome–would make the most sense. Nope, he’s going to slide down the chimney while you sleep, and this after watching you for a year’s time–when you’re sleeping…when you’re awake…when you’ve been bad…

I’ve also often wondered how, if Santa carries around enough coal for all the bad kids, how does he keep his gloves and beard so snowy white?

And where does he leave these presents, the children ask? Under the carcass of a tree you’ve erected in your living room meant as a kind of totem representing joy and love and peace, that’s been ordained in lights and glass balls and candy canes and bells, made visible through your living room window as a warning to all the other trees to stop discarding their God-forsaken pine needles into your gutters.

In spite of all this, however, I won’t stop with these traditions. I love these traditions, but I’m fairly certain it’s yet another way that I’m setting my kids up for permanent scarring. I’m making a game out of it: when I hit fifty ways, I treat myself to a chocolate bar.

Honestly, though, I lurve Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of all, which is absurd because it’s the most stressful, busiest, most expensive, coldest of holidays, and drives the kiddies to a mental state of a Minion on methamphetamines.

The meeting of Santa Claus is what it’s all about, though. I’m not talking about mall Santa, where they charge you a kidney and the soul of your first born in exchange for a photo. We don’t waste our time with those. We visit the Santa Claus at a quaint tree nursery in a small, rural town. The dynamics of the interchange is fascinating. My oldest, who’s five and already well-versed in the art of filibustering, went first. He climbed up on Santa’s lap without hesitation and laid out the details of the two presents he wanted most, what each button of the toys did, the backstory of one of them–a crime-fighting vessel of sorts–and which local stores featured current deals on the product. He even offered a third option in the case that these toys were too expensive.

Santa, not understanding any of this, gasped and said, “Well, that is a lot to ask for—have you really been that good?”

My heart sunk. I knew even before the words escaped his beard-covered lips the mistake he had made.

My oldest started with a deep breath—this is always a bad sign—and continued in elaborate detail the events of the past week where he had been particularly good, and then the one event he could recall where he was not-so-good.

Santa, still not really understanding anything he said like his parents who’d had become well-verse in five-year-old slur, smiled and said, “I’ll have to check my list.”

This interchange took precisely eleven minutes and forty-seven seconds, just long enough for the eighteen-month-old to lose all interest and want to hone in on as many expensive glassware in the store that he could.

My middle child was next in line. His interaction with Santa lasted precisely eleven-point-forty-seven seconds,  with his shoulders sunk forward and his eyes directed at his own shoes.

“Do you want to sit on Santa’s lap, little boy?”

Silence. Not even a squeak. My son was playing dead.

The youngest didn’t even last that long before releasing the strident tears meant to alarm passersby of the impending horror upon him–a creature so foul that it must have been sent to this earth by the Dukes of Hell, and hell-bent on removing his brains with a metal funnel and rubber tubing only to insert its own dark conscience into the body with the purpose of walking the earth as an imposter.

So I really have no idea what an eighteen-month-old’s imagination is capable of, so I improved.

Christmas is a strange holiday. Really, it’s bat-turd bizarre, but it’s also fantastic and so I’d like to wish each and every one of you a truly merry day of decorating dead trees and inviting fat men in red jump suits to break and enter your cozy abode.

Or, if you don’t celebrate the holiday, have a great Sunday.

A Dad’s Halloween: Trick or Trick?

Trick-or-treating doesn't start afterhours.

Trick-or-treating doesn’t start afterhours.

I’ve been busy, so there hasn’t been a new blog post in some time. I don’t apologize for it, but I’ve had numerous requests to continue. So here goes. I’m a bit behind on the calendar, but hopefully it’s still relatable. Enjoy!

Halloween is a tricky holiday for parents of young kids. One might think all the work is in simply walking them around and making sure they aren’t hit by cars. Not the case. Trick-or-treating doesn’t start afterhours, either. It starts with the costume.

Some parents make their kids’ costumes. I can only imagine this is due to a strong love for sewing, because it saves money, or because they have a flask of Scotch hidden somewhere in their sewing desk. To me, making a costume seems awful and exhausting. When I was a kid, my mom tried to teach me how to sew. How to cross-stitch, to be more accurate. I was to follow a pattern laid out for me, yet I was a lazy sewer and so the picture that was supposed to be the feature of a blanket had so many piled-up knots on the backside that we had to make it into a pillow. I’d dare say my wife is a talented sewer, but she has managed to retain most of her sanity like me, and so agreed that buying costumes for the kids was our best bet.

That’s when I saw the prices. I couldn’t have sold enough blood to warrant the purchase of a plastic dagger, a rice-paper-thin shawl and a mask that comprised my oldest boy’s first choice of costumes. The middle child wasn’t any thriftier. Yet, when I suggested they both get under-the-counter jobs to help pay for these, it was me who got the stink eye from my wife.

The world makes no sense.

So we bought costumes for the kiddies, except for the 16-month-old who wore the Mickey Mouse hand-me-down. The oldest was a skeleton/grim reaper thing and the middle child was a ninja turtle. For good measure, my wife decided on an Elsa costume from the movie, Frozen. I raised a brow at how much this one cost, but decided to let it go (pun intended). I swiped my credit card with tears brimming, at first trying to conceal my angst but then realizing that every father in the checkout line behind me was bawling in much the same way. My heart reached out to them, and theirs to me, I’m sure. It felt much like the time when the Delta Tau Chi fraternity in Animal House was disbanded by the mean Dean of Students, or when Rudy Ruettiger was told he wouldn’t get to play in the final game.

And then it came: the trick-or-treating hour, which gives new meaning to the term, The Long Mile. I looked outside to the dump of rain bouncing off the pavement. We’d need a canoe to get through it, but I knew there was no opting out of this. I didn’t even breach the subject for fearing of the children turning into the gremlins they are and ripping my limbs off in a maniacal rage. No, we were going trick-or-treating—and I was afraid.

On our way out the door, my oldest asked, “Dad, why aren’t you dressed up yet?” At which point my loving, but vindictive wife, gave me a look that hinting that that thing I probably did a while back that ticked her off but that she’d sworn wouldn’t ever be used against me was in danger of being revived if I didn’t go find a costume to wear. I am still a stupid husband, but over the years this hound has learned a few survival techniques to marriage.

I ran to the garage and dug up my old Grim Reaper outfit—a thin, black cloak and a plastic scythe—and then met my wife and kids in the front drive way.

We moved into the house we currently live in about a year and a half ago. We love it—absolutely adore the neighborhood—but most of our neighbors don’t have kids who are age-appropriate for trick-or-treating. The ones who do typically find other neighborhoods to candy-grub at. So when we began knocking on doors, we were met with a lot of stunned faces and frantic Wow, we haven’t had a trick-or-treater in maybe ten years! This was usually followed with a Just a minute, and then a scrambling about the house in search of something that would pass as a suitable Halloween treat. No one had turned their lights off to indicate they weren’t celebrating the holiday this year, and nobody took heed to my wife’s insistence that it was just fine if they didn’t have any candy to share. I always inserted a subtle, “we’ll gladly take money” whenever she said this, but I’m pretty sure it was never heard amidst my grunt which followed the elbow she sent into my gut.

I started making a game of trying to guess what the neighbor might return to the door with: we saw colorful hard candies that had likely been sitting in a glass jar for as long as the elderly woman had had dentures and couldn’t eat it, jolly ranchers that had fused to their wrappers, leftover fried chicken, among other unconventional delights.

When we were roughly halfway through our route, my wife and I had to start explaining to our oldest that he probably shouldn’t tell folks why the candy they gave him was subpar in comparison to what was given three houses down. In hindsight, though, his guidance on the difference between a Christmas character and Halloween character may have been a help to the neighbor who had supplied him with Santa Claus chocolates.

With a waterlogged toddler on one hip, three flashlights and two jack-o-lantern buckets around my other arm, as well as a plastic scythe pinned to my shoulder by my chin, I braved the elements, realizing that my soaked feet could no longer walk in full stride because of how frayed and tangled the bottom of my ragged Grim Reaper cloak had become. When finally we walked through the front doorway of our warm house, the kids leapt into the living room, planted themselves on the floor leaving behind a trail of mud and pine needles, and dumped their candies into separate piles.

The art of counting one’s Halloween candy is a time-tested tradition and one that I’m convinced is encoded into our DNA. Nobody ever taught my 16-month-older how to do this or that it was necessary, yet there he was, county and sorting his sweets like a practiced accountant while fending off his older brother from sneaking peeks to see if his stash was any better.

Meanwhile, after shedding myself of the Grim Reaper costume that was now a pile of disintegrated blackness on the entryway floor, I plopped myself onto the couch. My wife, still donning her Elsa hair—a blonde, braided wig—played referee between the three and ensuring none of them ate any candy without permission. Watching this ordeal, I realized how primordial Halloween really is—how it brings out our caveman instincts and forces us to become the beasts we dress up as. But then after a few minutes—once the middle child finally gave up his mission of trying to steal candy from his brother—the 16-month-old picked up a roll of Smarties and handed it to him with wide eyes and a big grin on his face.

The sight of this warmed my heart. Maybe there was hope for humanity, after all.

And right as the middle child was about to accept that roll of Smarties, the youngest pulled it back and whacked him in the face. Of course, the wife used this as another teaching moment—she’s very good at that—but it made me think I need to introduce another time-tested tradition into the fold—the one where dad drinks a shot or three beforehand.

Ah the holidays.

The Curse of Bad Baby Names

Kids are strange enough without needing a strange name.

Kids are strange enough even without a bizarre name.

In this country, you have to get a license to drive a car and a separate license to ride a motor cycle. For those of you not born here, you get to take a painstakingly difficult test just to be called a citizen and have the grand privilege of paying taxes. Heck, a person has to go through years of rigorous training and schooling just for the honor of calling themselves an astronaut so they can get launched into space in a sardine can while wearing a 1940s scuba suit and pissing in a vacuum hose. And with all this, there is still no training, schooling or accountability measure whatsoever required for parents tasked with naming their children. As a result, there are hordes of millennials walking the streets with legal names like Sabre, Cocoa and Colon.

COLON! Dear God. Why stop there, I wonder, when PoopTube is such a viable option?

I know I will probably offend someone, but I can’t hold my tongue any longer. The truth of it is that my opinion on what you name your child matters about as much as what I think about the holes left in the front of men’s boxers (Is that supposed to be for sticking things in or letting things out?). But dammit, this is America, where civility comes second to shock-value media, Trans-fats-in-a-box-with-a-toy, and blasting on social media as many untenable opinions as possible on topics nobody should be caring about anyway.

With that said, I do feel at least a prick of empathy to the offended. I am, after all, convinced that God gave us the ability to bear children for the very purpose of screwing them up in our own unique and special way. My own plan is to instill upon mine an unhealthy (and mildly creepy) love for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, as well as a set of carefully selected irrational fears to include: boy bands, hyperactive ghost children who live in the crawlspace of our house, and Tupperware museums that can be found in the heart of some Podunk town that’s sole claim to fame is a dairy cow named Berta who has a spot on her back that resembles the silhouette of Jesus Christ. If naming your child after your World of Warcraft character is your thing, who am I to argue? I know I should simply shake your hand and wish you well…

…but I can’t. I just can’t. I think what tipped me over the edge was the name that read on the badge of a girl who recently wrapped up a pound of deli meat for me.

Princess.

For the love of…

What this poor child doesn’t know is that, where I come from, the synonym for princess is not so flattering.

I absolutely believe that this kind of reckless naming of babies should be considered as a severe form of child abuse by the courts. Some of the cruelest names I’ve come across or have been told about in recent years include: Lemonjello and Orangejello (pronounced LEM-AHN-JELO and OR-AHN-JELO, respectively), Sunday, Saint, Whisper, Danger and Baby. It compels me to want to research the possible side effects that epidural might have on the name-picking part of a mother’s brain.

Abcde (pronounced AB-SID-EE) is another name that makes me think we should all just receive a number in lieu of a name. It’s a girl’s name, and this article claims that 328 people in the US are named this.

I will pause for you to rinse out the bit of throw up that has undoubtedly found its way into your mouth.

Now brace yourself, because this next one is far worse.

Pop quiz. How would you pronounce the following name?

A-Ha (a variation in spelling I’ve seen is A-A).

Give up? Hint: it’s not Aha! or even Ah-Ah!

Nope. It’s A-DASH-UH.

Feel that prickly feeling under your scalp? That’s stupidity seeping in like battery acid leaking into a gas line…and that stupidity seems to be spreading.

All this speaks nothing about odd spellings of more common names. I can only guess that this phenomenon derives from lost bets or self-medicating with mushrooms found in the backyard. I should be clear to note that my feelings on this exclude foreign variations of spelling for a particular name, especially when the family is of that descent or there is some significance behind it. I’m speaking more to the let’s-name-our-child-Mykkyl-just-to-be-different kinds of scenarios.

I mean, can you really imagine a President Mykkyl? Doctor Elizabreth (that’s not a misspelling)? CEO Aliviyah?

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Let’s bring these names to light. Please share in the comments the strange names you’ve seen or heard. We may not be able to stop the outbreak, but hopefully, with dedication and unification, we can contain it.

Check out UD’s New Daddy Diction page

diction3It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. All I can say is that I’m a working father of three–being busy sort of comes with the territory. The good news is, I have new stories, new insights and new anecdotes, so bear with me. In the meantime, please check out the new Daddy Diction section to bring yourself up to speed on my father vernacular. It may come in handy. Heck, it may save your life*.

You can view the page here.

 

* No idea how, but ya never know.

How Modern Kid Shows Affect Children’s Play

Young boys tend to like dinosaurs, trucks and super heroes.

Young boys tend to like dinosaurs, trucks and super heroes.

It’s time to get real, to roll up my sleeves and dive into a topic that really moves me. I’ll admit, the following might be controversial to some, but it’s a subject that needs to be breached—and I am of course talking about children’s television shows, specifically the kinds my boys like to watch.

Now, I’m no dummy, according to this internet test I took the other day that said on a scale from guppy to dolphin, I was as smart as the savviest of parrotfish. I recognize that many young boys like dinosaurs, trucks and super heroes, and I get that that warrants the production of TV shows about those kinds of things, but I’m getting a little tired of shows about robots that can turn from a truck into a kind of mechanical dinosaur and then go out into the city and fight crime spouting absurd catch phrases, like “Dinosaur-Truck-Bot Man wins AGAIN!”

Recently, I watched an episode of a kid’s show that took it one step further. Based in a world where the only living things were truck-dinosaurs—that is to say, dinosaurs with big wheels and other construction machine elements, as well as little “lizard” things that mostly resembled tools—the premise of this show was simply to build and break things.

But I can forgive all the truck-dinosaur-robot-superheroes. I really, really can. I can even forgive the senseless plot lines, hackneyed catch phrases and the make-me-want-to-drive-my-head-into-the-drywall kind of characters. What I can’t get over is the anime influence (or at least what I perceive as the anime influence). Thank you, Pokemon. Thank you, Dragon Ball Z. You have effectively soiled my understanding of child’s play.

When I was a boy (and it pains me to use that phrase), we used sticks as swords. That hasn’t changed. My sons are all well practiced at procuring the sharpest, thickest piece of fallen tree branch they can find with which to impale their enemies (aka, their brothers). I’ve often envisioned that—when I’m not looking—they pull out some of the finest analytic devices technology can provide to test the quality of wood, angle, shape and solidity of each branch before selecting what they conclude is the perfect weapon for “fighting bad guys.”

Young boys tend to like violence. Whether that’s learned or not is hard to say—and I’m OK with that. What I have a hard time with is what the anime influence has done to this ritual of play. One morning while sipping my morning tea…or mimosa, depending on the hour…I looked outside into the backyard where the sun had cast its splendor upon a grand display of nature’s beauty. Flowers opened their petals, reaching for the sun’s warmth, squirrels danced about the trees like the horny rats they are, and birds perched on our trellis for a better chance to doody on our picnic table.

It is amazing what one finds beautiful after his third mimosa on a Sunday morning.

Next my eyes panned over the grass where my two oldest sons were chasing each other with sticks  powerful swords. I grinned and took another sip, wondering what fun world their imaginations must have taken them to—feeling a bit envious of them, truth be told.

Then the strangest thing—the three-year-old turned to face his older brother and made a kind of squat, turning both hands to fists and keeping them at his sides. His face twisted into some kind of expression of pain, but he didn’t seem to be hurt.

And then it hit me…like a bag of bricks across the face…

“HOLY HELL, HE’S POOPING HIS PANTS!”

Only I didn’t say pooping.

I nearly dropped the glass of mimosa (but I didn’t–relax. I’m a responsible parent, after all) on my way out the back door, sprinting to where my boys were playing with their sticks*.

“HOLD IT IN! HOLD IT IN,” I barked.

My boys looked at me like I’d sniffed one too many of the baby’s fresh diapers.

“Don’t poop your pants!” I said.

They glanced at each other, and my five-year-old gave an expression I will never forget, one that seemed to say, I’ll take this one, bro.

“Dad, he’s not pooping his pants. He’s shooting his power at me. We’re fighting.”

My son might as well have told me he had weaponized his own boogers with a sneeze ray. I had no idea what he was talking about—until I thought back on some of the more recent kid shows I’ve seen with my sons.

The anime influence. And out came a heavy sigh.

When the heroes of these shows fight a villain, half the time he (or she) does not use physical combat. Instead, the hero makes a face, grits his/her teeth and moans like one of the Williams sisters in a tennis match. This causes a kind of otherworldly reaction that brings about a nimbus of color all around him, which prompts another grunt and suddenly the translucent color launches in the direction of the hero’s intended target.

It sounds all fine and good…heck, it looks great on the shows. However, when my boys attempt this–void of magical prowess, themselves–what it looks like is much different. What it looks like is two young kids simultaneously defecating in my backyard.

And this is why neither is allowed to play in the front yard anymore, where neighbors can see. If ever you Google Earth my house and see my boys wincing and squatting, just know they’re probably sword fighting.

Probably.

 

*…which would take on a WHOLE other context if I was telling a different story, but we’ll save that one for another time.