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.

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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.

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.

 

Why Fathers Hate Family Vacations–Part Two

A bit of insight into the world of little kids--there is nothing on this earth funnier than a fart.

A bit of insight into the world of little kids–there is nothing on this earth funnier than a fart.

If you haven’t already, I would invite you to read part one of Why Father’s Dread Family Vacations. Really, I could make this into a whole series. But I won’t. Probably. Not sure I have the strength to delve too deep into the many reasons why vacations suck like a Dyson vacuum.

We left off with the car finally being packed, the kids buckled into their seats and the Partington family about to set off on a family vacation.

Huzzah.

With our large SUV packed to the brim, resembling an overstuffed burrito with pillows and blankets poking out of the cracked windows, we departed while singing along to the CD that was blasting out our ear drums—No, not a good ol’ rock n’ roll song, but a yippy-yappy version of Do Your Ears Hang Low, featuring lots of tuba-playing and sound effects one might hear on a carnival ride.

One thing non-parents should know and parents of older children should be reminded of is that young children learn by repetition. And so when the next song began, the boys voiced their objections and demanded that we play Do Your Ears Hang Low a second time. Hint to parents of young children—DO NOT ALLOW THIS! They will want to hear the song approximately 763 times before one of two things happens: you begin a gradual plummet into some dark abyss within your subconscious mind that you never knew existed, or the song will permanently embed into the deepest pockets of your brain and never ever leave, much like a homemade wedding gift that wasn’t included in your registry.

My wife and I are fortunate in that we purchased a vehicle with built-in TV screens and DVD players for the backseats. When we bought the car, we never thought we’d use them but felt differently after the first long trip with the kids.

Before you judge us, know that I understand how too much television watching can be a bad thing. But it’s funny how the rotting of a child’s mind suddenly doesn’t seem so awful when placed against losing one’s mind and committing murder.

Think I’m being over dramatic? Witness a typical conversation between the five-and-three-year-old in the middle of one such trip.

Five-year-old: “Stop looking at me.”

Three-year-old: “I’m NOT.”

Five-year-old: “STOP LOOKING AT ME!”

Five-year-old: “STOP IT! MOMMMMMMMM! He’s LOOKING at me!”

My wife: “He must think you’re handsome. Just ignore him.”

Five-year-old: “But he won’t stop looking at me and I don’t like it! Kyle, I don’t like it. STOP LOOKING AT ME!”

Three-year-old: “I WON’T!”

Me: (only half-paying attention) “Kyle, stop looking at your brother.”

My wife, shooting me dagger eyes: “Really? That’s what ya go? My hero.”

Five-year-old: “HE’S SMILING AT ME NOW!!! KYLE STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!!!”

Such is our life. Being crammed in an SUV with the kids for so long kind of makes you feel like one of those snakes-in-a-prank-cans that shoot out when someone opens it. Incidentally, this is also how I feel at the end of these road trips, like everything just kind of shoots out of the car in a massive explosion–bags, clothes, toys, noose…

As bad as having three kids in the car can be, it’s made that much worse if ever an outsider comes along for the ride. On one such car ride, an extended family member sat shot gun (that’s “sat shot gun,” not to be confused with “sat with a shot gun,” which might have been a wiser move). When she first asked for a ride, my wife and I looked at each other as if a police officer had just asked us, “What’s that sound coming from the trunk?” Reluctantly, we agreed and so began our plummet into the abyss.

I drove and my wife sat behind us in the middle row next to the youngest. We had the GPS system on to help us find what was beginning to feel like the Lost City of Atlantis, what with all the turns and random roads that didn’t appear on any map not coated in vinegar.

Now, you should know that as good as my five-year-old’s vocabulary is, he still struggles with certain words, as many five-year-old kids do. For example, he always says “re-nect” instead of “connect” and “ree” as “three.” At a point, just after the GPS woman’s voice prompted me to make a left turn in approximately 200 feet, my five-year-old blurted out from the back of the car, “DADDY, IS SHE GIVING YOU ERECTIONS?”

While the next words were probably spoken only a few seconds after he said this, the pause seemed to last forever.

“Whh..what?” my wife asked.

“Erections,” he said again. “She gave Daddy erections, Mommy.”

In my peripheries, I could see my extended family member shifting in her seat, calculating her chances of survival if she were to leap out of the moving vehicle and onto the freeway.

That’s when the middle child farted—a loud ripper, like the ramping up of a chainsaw.

Another bit of insight into the world of little kids—there is nothing on this earth funnier than a fart. Laughter ensued—high-pitched, squealing laughter from my two oldest boys…

…and all this is what prompted my wife to put on Frozen for the remainder of the trip. Another hint to parents of young children: sometimes digitally manufactured peace is the way to go.

 

Happy Father’s Day – The Art of Breakfast in Bed

Father's Day is all about family--and breakfast in bed...for some reason.

Father’s Day is all about family–and breakfast in bed…for some reason.

Did you know that Father’s Day is a direct result of a daughter loving her dad enough to visit local churches, shopkeepers, government officials, etc. in order to establish a day in his honor? Sonora Smart Dodd was her name, and this all happened in Spokane, Washington—my home state (you can read the full story at history.com).

Of course, I have all boys—no daughters—and the grandest display of respect and admiration I get from them is when they pull a half-eaten cucumber from their mouths, toss it onto my dinner plate and offer it as a present because, “It’s yucky, Daddy” and “do YOU want it?”

So thoughtful are my boys.

Father’s Day is not one of the major holidays on my sons’ radars, and that really isn’t all their faults either. My wife and I unintentionally arranged it so that our birthdays line up in a neat row: one in March, one in April, two in May and one in June. That leaves only a couple weeks before Father’s Day and then a mere six months before Christmas. The malls have barely taken down all the Easter and Mother’s Day paraphernalia before tossing a few Dad’s Day cards on the shelf, which are quickly knocked to the floor by thirty-foot blow up reindeer and singing Santa Clauses.

Thankfully, my wife never forgets. Last year, she lovingly asked me what I wanted for Father’s Day, to which I responded that I wanted nothing more than for her to take the boys out for the day so I could watch poorly made action movies by myself wearing just my underwear, while eating stale pizza and drinking beer…and I wanted to do all this without any judgments applied.

She laughed, and it occurred to me that this is the real secret to why our marriage works so well: she thinks I’m funny and, for the sake of a peaceful household, I don’t tell her that I was in no way joking.

And so, on the actual day of honoring fathers, I awoke with a sigh, got dressed and put on my best OMG…This-musical/blinking-Goofy-tie-is-JUST-what-I-wanted face and head downstairs into the madness. I only just make it outside my room when I’m met by a stampede of little children.

“No, no!” they cried out. “We made you breakfast in bed! Go back to bed, Daddy!”

The thing about Father’s Day—for some odd reason—is that it’s all about the breakfast in bed. My sons’ little gremlin hands—covered in some gooey slime that didn’t resemble anything I’d ever recognized in a breakfast ensemble—were now shoving me back as best they could, painting my jeans to the colors of purple, brown and yellow. My wife was grinning wide—payback, I suppose, for the half-hearted macaroni art I had them gift her on Mother’s Day.

I slid back onto the bed atop the covers. Of course, they insisted I get back under the covers and so, like a slug in a drain pipe, I slithered in as the sticky entrails left on my jeans by my boys’ grubby fingers smeared the underside of the sheets. I didn’t fret, however. The sheets would need to be washed anyway—perhaps even fumigated—as the boys would insist on joining me.

One by one—which, in the world of young children, translates as all at once and in violent fashion—my boys hopped into the bed, smacking each other for claiming the hand-grip the other had intended to reach for, yelling and squabbling over who got to sit on the middlemost side of the bed, and more than twice dropping the plate of burnt toast, cereal, juice and a side order of salt-pile amidst the calamity.

“Do you like it, Daddy?”

“Even more than last year,” I said, which wasn’t a lie, because this version didn’t have anything too unnatural floating at the surface of the orange juice.

It’s the simple things that make this day special.

In spite of all this, I appreciate the effort and especially the love behind it. I really do. I also appreciate the unrelenting smirk on my wife’s face as she video records all this from the foot of the bed. She likes to video document everything, as if some future version of humanity will one day depend on our life experiences to learn how to survive in a more hostile world.

Come to think of it…that might not be too far off track.

Here’s to all the Dad’s out there, to whom I pose the question, Why in God’s name aren’t there any football games being played on Father’s Day?

And to my own Dad: I get it now…I’m sorry, you poor, poor man.

 

 

Why Fathers Dread Family Vacations – Part One

Family vacations present new adventures and wonder...at least for the kids.

Family vacations present new adventures and wonder…at least for the kids.

Growing up, it was hard to understand why my father never got as excited as the rest of us over family vacations. Whether it was getting on a plane and spending a week in Disneyland or simply camping at a nearby state park, when a family trip was approaching, my sister and I would sometimes have our bags packed as early as a week in advance (perhaps the only time we were ever ahead of schedule in those days), as we dreamt about what the adventure might hold for us. My father never seemed to want to breach the subject. At the time, a part of me thought he was a curmudgeon for it—these days, I know better.

Any trip that requires packing luggage also requires the father to load the car and then fetch the small toy at the bottom of whatever suitcase has already been buried under other luggage in the back of said car to stop the one-year-old from screaming like a hurricane warning siren. More than that, with small children come larger and more oddly shaped items to pack, making for one crazy game of real-life Tetris.

Now, don’t feel bad for me—at least not entirely. My wife has it way worse when it comes to family packing and getting the kids ready. Typically when I’m outside packing the car, she’s inside chasing the two-year-old with a pair of two-year-old pants, yelling at him to put them on as he screams back, “NOPANTSNOPANTSNOPANT!” Meanwhile, the four-year-old is following my wife with his own pants on his head, because “look, Mom, I’m funny…I’m funny, Mommy!” (and I know just what my wife is thinking at this point: at least HE has his pants ON!) and, through all this, the one-year-old empties the bathroom wastebasket of its contents…and wears it as a hat to mimic the four-year-old.

I hear all of this from outside the house, fighting the urge to prolong the process of packing up the car because–once I do–I know I’ll have to tag in to this madness.

But this time I’m lucky. This time my wife exits the house with the children dressed and ready—one child wearing mismatched shoes and a shirt meant for a child two years younger, another with marker blemishes across his face, and another with his diaper on the outside of his pants.

We are now ready to depart…or so I foolishly think.

I look at the back end of our SUV with a broad smile and a long sigh of relief, thrilled with how tightly and efficiently I was able to pack that car. I really am a prodigy at these sorts of things. Then I look to my right, where my wife is carrying a baby basinet that seems more appropriately sized for a small horse, one that bears a shape that is not conducive to packing into an already-overstuffed SUV.

“Do you have room for this?”

Remarkably, she is able to repress her frustration from her earlier dealings with the children. Sure, she’s glaring at me like I just put one of her scrapbooking scissors into a bin that was clearly meant for scrapbooking ink stamps, and sure her left eye is twitching like a twerking Miley Cyrus…but all three kids and myself had yet to be maimed. Knowing what it’s like to get the kids ready for anything, I call that a win.

And so I look at the massive baby bed next to her, and then back at the car, noticing how the body of it droops heavily toward the back wheels. I know this item won’t fit. Of course it won’t fit, but I have to be delicate, have to use that charm of mine that once won over her affection enough to agree to spend the rest of her life with me.

But knocking her up won’t help in this situation, Phil.

Kidding, kidding! Sheesh, that’s how rumors get started.

But I do have a fleeting thought that how I respond here could dictate how long of a life I get to enjoy–and so with careful deliberation, I come upon the exact right words:

“Yes, hun.”

Her eyes soften and her grimace twists into a smile. She mouths the words, “Thank you,” and proceeds in buckling the boys into their car seats. I had made it…I had survived.

And that’s when I did the dumbest thing ever.

“Uh, you know Kyle’s diaper is outside of his pants.”

…and while I can’t tell you exactly what happened next—I blacked out through most of it—I am fairly certain that whatever happened is the reason I now have a slight limp whenever I attempt a sharp left turn.

Finally, we get in the car and begin our journey…

…but that’s for another day.