Monthly Archives: September 2011

You Shouldn’t Say That Word

Kids are great. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

But as they rapidly advance from diapers and immobility to ambulating all on their own and developing amusing little personalities, there’s a downside. Namely, they start forming their own opinions and proceed to share those opinions with you at every turn. Not only that, but then they start telling you what’s what.

Will has learned what is and isn’t appropriate to say. Which is good for the most part. The thing that sucks is he’s like a little language Nazi, not letting us get away with anything anymore.

The following conversation has occurred every single day for the last month or so, in some form.

 

ME: “Honey, can you turn the TV on?”

WILL: “Dada, you forgot to say please.”

ME: “You’re right Will, I’m sorry. Honey, can you turn the TV on PLEASE?”

WILL: “Thank you Dada.”

MJ: “Sure, what do you wanna watch?”

WILL: “Ummm, excuse me Dada?”

ME: “Yes Will?”

WILL: “When I say thank you you didn’t say ‘you’re welcome.'”

ME: “Right again Miss Manners. Will, you are most very welcome.”

MJ: “What do you wanna watch??”

ME: “Can you put the Red Sox on—PLEASE?!”

MJ: “Why do you torture yourself? They stink!”

WILL: “Excuse me Mama?”

MJ: “Yes Will?”

WILL: “You shouldn’t say stink. It’s not nice.”

MJ: “I’m sorry Will, you’re right. I take it back.”

ME: (witnessing another John Lackey meltdown) “Son of a—! This team is KILLING me!”

WILL: “Dad! Don’t say kill. It’s mean.”

ME: “No, what’s mean is keeping me alive while the Red Sox blow a 9-game lead in September. If it wasn’t for this stupid team I might not be going bald!”

WILL: “Excuse me Dada—”

ME: “I know, I know. I shouldn’t say stupid, right?”

WILL: “Well, stupid is not nice.”

MJ: “Will, stop bothering dad. You know how he gets when the game is on.”

ME: (watching Carl Crawford underperform during another at-bat) “C’mon Crawford!! Will you please HIT THE BALL?!?”

WILL: “Excuse me—”

ME: “Oh c’mon Will. I didn’t say anything bad on that one. What could I have possibly said to offend your delicate sensibilities??”

WILL: “Dada, it’s mean to hit.”

ME: “No buddy, I don’t mean hit someone else. I’m talking about hitting the baseball with the bat. Remember, like when we’re out in the yard and I pitch to you? Yesterday you absolutely killed that ball and—”

WILL: “Dada, you shouldn’t say kill.”

ME: “Wow. Now I know what Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining felt like.”

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A Beautiful Parenting Moment

I’ve been blogging for nearly four years. In that time there has been good and bad, but some of my favorite posts have been about the unexpected and wonderful things Will has done. I’ve chronicled his smiles, his first words, his crawling and his first steps. The pages of this blog are his history. Our history. A virtual flip book that shows us all growing—in so many ways.

It goes without saying if I was making a Top 10 List of Kodak Moments I’d have limitless options. There are stories, videos and pictures of meaningful occurrences involving Will. A cornucopia of beautiful snapshots and instances of self-discovery that have forever changed my life. That have made me alternately swell with pride and tear up with joy. Memories I will always have in my heart that will make me smile whenever I think of them.

This is not one of those moments.

Hey, they can’t all be winners.

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Tough Questions

“Dada, why do we have to leave our house?”

Our condo is half-packed up and we’re officially in transition. I’d like to tell you we bought a new place. Hell, I’d settle for renting a place. But this move is a preemptive strike before we’re made to leave. That’s what happens when you buy a home at the absolute height of the market, said market completely collapses and you find yourself $100,000 upside-down. With an adjustable rate mortgage. Facing rising condo fees and unanticipated special assessments. Saddled with job loss and vastly reduced incomes. Not to mention the fact that MJ is temporarily out of work. Did I mention we’re being sued by our lovely condo association for good measure?

Despite the fact that we surrendered the house during bankruptcy, the bank doesn’t want it so they won’t foreclose. Which means the condo fees we can’t afford to pay just keep piling up. Which racks up late charges. Which racks up lawyer fees. But you can’t get blood from a stone, and I’m rockin’ it hardcore these days. They say investing in real estate is a sure thing. Well now I have a home on Cape Cod that I literally can’t even give back to the bank. How times change.

So now we become a burden to my parents, as I boomerang my pathetic ass back to my childhood home. This time with my family in tow. Don’t get me wrong, we’re beyond lucky to have family who don’t think twice about helping us and taking us in. But I feel like a failure for letting it come to this.

“Dada, I miss my kitties. Why can’t they live with us?”

Look, I hate cats. Hate them. But because my wife loves them, I’ve lived with two Maine coons for seven years. Even though we now have a grudging respect for one another, I have long looked forward to life without allergies and the general snottiness of the feline persuasion. And now I’m on the doorstep of such of life because my mom is extremely allergic to cats and we can’t take them with us.

But along comes a little boy who loves the cats. With no brother or sister to play with, he often turns his attention to his furry siblings. What I thought was merely cute play turned out to be a fairly deep bond. But asking my mom to forsake breathing in her own home is absolutely out of the question. I know she feels horrible, but there’s nothing anyone can do. The cats are going to live with my mother-in-law so they won’t be far. Only an hour away. But to a 3-year-old that trip might as well be to Antarctica.

“Dada, why do I have to go to a new school? I love my friends and I miss them.”

I’ve never had something incredibly sharp and jagged jammed straight into my heart. But I don’t have to be stabbed after that comment, because the look on his face and the sadness in his voice was more painful than any blade.

Will has flourished at his preschool over the last 12 months. He found stability, strength, independence and confidence there. And Will, a boy who once couldn’t play nicely around any other kids, now has a plethora of friends. Every single day he comes home and recites the litany of friends he played with, the games they enjoyed and how much fun he had. He’s comfortable there, he’s thriving there. And now I’m ripping him away from all that.

I’m left to wonder how one is judged as a man. Because if we’re talking provider, I’m failing miserably. I bought a house we could afford at the time, but now we can’t. And as a result, we’re literally losing the roof over our heads. Sure I work a lot and went out and found a job that pays more, but in the end it was a wash because MJ is out of work now through no fault of her own. She’s been fantastic at taking care of the house and I’m so proud of her for starting down a path that will take her back to school. But a real man provides at all costs and keeps things afloat. I really believe that. And by those standards, I’m way south of where I need to be.

But maybe a real man is someone who takes care of his family. Unfortunately, I’m failing there too.

I get up at 5:45 a.m. and leave for work at 6:30. It takes me anywhere from 2-3 hours to get to work. I work from 9 to 5. It’s at least another two hours to get home. It’s after 7 p.m. by the time I pull in to my parking space. That’s after dinner and exactly one hour before Will goes to bed. As any parent can tell you, that last hour before bed is not exactly a time for bonding. It’s filled with “brush your teeth” and “take a bath” and “make sure you go pee.” Yet I try to cram all my hugs, all my kisses and all my bonding into 60 minutes. The last 60 minutes of my son’s day, during which he is understandably tired, cranky and wants little to do with anyone. Nevermind a dad trying to relentlessly cuddle with him.

After he goes to bed I usually have to tend to the blog or one of my other writing projects I do on a part-time basis, so MJ goes to bed while I toil away on the computer. So much for being a good husband.

“Dada, can I have a brother or a sister?”

We both want to have another child so badly, but we don’t even have a home of our own. But more than that, MJ has to be off her current medication if we want to get pregnant. That means we literally have to choose between another baby and her mental well-being. Another child makes us complete but coming off the meds might send my wife over the edge. Meanwhile the meds keep my wife away from the edge, but the idea of not having another baby might send the wheels completely flying off the wagon.

In the end I can’t sacrifice my wife’s health. The thought of not having a second child makes me physically ache inside, but the thought of losing MJ makes me want to dig a hole and never come out. Either way you cut it, it’s not a choice I’m very fond of at the moment.

And somewhere in the middle of this tempest of misery and heartache I’m stuck in traffic either on my way to or from work. I can’t move. All I see are brake lights. I’m hemmed in while my son grows up without his beloved pets, without his friends and with a father he sees for an hour a day. I’m pretty sure some divorced dads get more time than that. The roof over his head isn’t even one I’ve provided. If I’m not providing enough financially and I’m not providing enough emotionally and I can’t give him the things he wants and needs…well, then what exactly am I doing?

“Dada, I miss you. Can you please work from home today and cuddle me?”

Sorry bud, I can’t. But I miss you too kid. I miss your mom too. I’m missing it all. And both you and mom deserve better.

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Tom Brady is Right: Get Nice & Lubed Up!

Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, inexplicably finds himself in hot water this morning for a seemingly harmless comment he made during a press conference yesterday. When asked about playing in front of the home crowd (a home crowd he has rightly criticized in the past for being too quiet during games), he said the following:

“Yeah, start drinking early,” Brady said with a snicker.
“Get nice and rowdy. It’s a 4:15 game.
A lot of time to get lubed up. Come out here
and cheer for the home team.”

Nothing wrong with that right? After all, tailgating and drinking before the game is a staple at every single football stadium across the country. It’s a pregame tradition to cook on the grill and pop a few beers in the parking lot prior to football. And a damn good tradition at that.

Yet somehow this has become a national story. And idiotic writers like Greg Couch at FOX News have stepped up on their righteous sober soapboxes in a moronic attempt to villify Brady and blame him for all rowdy fan behavior.

Folks, this is a fucking football game. These people who tailgate pay $50 to park, hundreds of dollars for game tickets and have been planning their trips for months. They were going to come to Gillette Stadium on Sunday and drink, regardless of what Tom Brady said. Anyone who fails to realize this deserves a Louisville Slugger to the temple.

But as I listened to the callers who phoned in to Boston talk shows about this, I couldn’t believe some of what I was hearing. People complaining about drunk fans at Gillette. Then they started complaining about fans who swear at Gillette and use vulgarity. And, of course, they used the all-too-familiar excuse of “children are harmed when they see drunk people and hear people swear.” And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with the “fans” of my favorite hometown football team.

Gillette Stadium is a white collar place filled with a wine and cheese crowd. They are lame, they are quiet and they have no idea what it’s like to be a real fan. They “shush” people and they yell at them for standing during the game (the horror!!). They notify security guards when someone swears. And because Gillette is now part of Patriot Place, it is now this half football stadium half mall hybrid. For God’s sake, they place movie times during the game!

Is it any wonder Tom Brady and the Patriots criticize the fans for being too quiet? The fans are conducting business deals during a crucial third down and talking about what SUV they’re going to buy for their next car.

Look, I’m not advocating for chaos. Fans should always feel safe and be in control of themselves. If someone is picking fights, they should be thrown out. If they are actively threatening someone, they should be thrown out. But standing up to root on your team is good. And while I won’t swear if there are kids around, there is NOTHING wrong with dropping a few F-bombs during the game. It’s fucking football for shit’s sake. If you take your kid to a place where there are 60,000 people, some of them are going to be drunk. Others will swear. And if you can’t handle that, don’t come to the game. Plain and simple.

But to blame Tom Brady or somehow hold him responsible should some idiot drink too much and pick a fight on Sunday, is just dumb. In fact, I think he’s right. The fans should get nice and lubed up. Maybe then they’ll actually pay attention to the game and cheer a little louder. Maybe then we won’t have the least formidable homefield advantage in the NFL. Maybe then we can return to being football fans, instead of waiting to see what time I Don’t Know How She Does It is playing.

In a hysterical display of idiocy, the Patriots PR staff tried to spin this story by releasing a statement that said Brady was only trying to advise fans to “stay hydrated, drink a lot of water, be loud, drink responsibly.” Suuuuuuuure. Because staying hydrated is essential when the expected temperature is a whopping 66 degrees. And we all know how important it is to get lubed up on water, right?

The Patriots are so hypocritical. Without these tailgaters paying $50 a pop to park their cars, they lose money. And without them paying $9 per beer once inside the stadium, they lose money. They know this, yet they feel the need to pathetically disguise Brady’s comments. It’s just sad.

It’s important not to drink and drive or get so drunk you lose control. But drinking at a football game is fun, it’s not against the law and Tom Brady did nothing wrong by encouraging it. Yet these yuppie, do-gooder morons can’t help but tell us that drinking and swearing at a professional sporting event built on violence and brute strength will somehow irrevocably harm our nation’s youth. And Tom Brady is responsible because he’s a role model and he told adults to do something completely legal that they were already going to do anyways? Give me a break!

While I urge everyone to be safe and responsible on Sunday, I hope fans are boozed up and ready to go by game time. I hope that—for once—the fans at Gillette Stadium remember that they are at a football game and it’s OK to be loud. And I hope reporters like Greg Cloud relax and have a beer.

It’s football people. Stop being such pussies.

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Keep the Fire Stoked

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

I hear that asked a lot. That very question can often be seen splayed across glossy magazine covers, along with surefire tips to keep your partner happy. Countless books, articles and talk shows are dedicated to nailing it down. And couples spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on marriage counselors and shrinks, who are supposed to lead them like horses to water to find the elusive answer.

So I guess I’m lucky to have accidentally stumbled across the answer in the unlikeliest of places.

MJ and I love camping. But, truth be told, I’m not much of an outdoorsman. I don’t know my knots, I don’t fish, I can’t drive a boat and—most embarrassing of all—my campfire capabilities are dubious at best. In fact, when MJ and I were still dating, we went on our first camping trip and she told me to start the fire. I couldn’t do it. I put the wood in a pile, got one scrap of newspaper and wondered why it wouldn’t catch.

You don’t really know true humiliation until the guy camping next to you is laughing at you as your girlfriend has to keep you warm with a fire of her own making.

I remember the next time we went camping, I thought I came prepared: I brought lighter fluid. I calmly told her I would take care of the fire and I proceeded to douse the ever-lovin’ shit out of the wood. As our cooking fire turned into an inferno, it’s safe to say there were a few eyebrows raised. Not mine, of course, since I inadvertently torched them right off my face. But as anyone who understands fire knows, my chemical attempt also fell flat and my buddies had even more ammunition against me.

I’m a passionate guy. Usually this is a good thing, but prior to dating MJ it was also a big problem.

When I liked a girl I jumped in with both feet and never hesitated. I fell hard, I fell fast and I fell head over heels. I was madly in love (madly being the key word) and every girl was “the one.” Or, in other words, I started every single relationship by dousing it in lighter fluid and reveling in the white hot flames of new romance. And make no mistake, that shit was intense. The first couple of months of a relationship were my specialty. As long as the accelerant still had things burning bright, I was all in. The beginning of any relationship is new and exciting and I thrived in it. Craved it.

But that kind of intensity is bound to fade. It’s impossible to maintain that heightened level of insanity over the long term. And because I began things by doing nothing more than lighting a match and throwing it on a pile of lighter fluid, eventually the fire would go out and I’d be left with a charred pile of wood that never really stood a chance.

Until MJ.

She showed me the importance of doing things right. She showed me how to prepare the fire and set it up for prolonged success. I discovered that searching for kindling and using it as a hotbed would not only get me an initial inferno, but also keep the fire burning hot for as long as possible. Once you’ve built the foundation, the embers on the bottom will keep things warm.

Sometimes it rains and dampens things. Other times you both get busy and forget to tend to the fire, to the point it goes out and all is extinguished.

This happened while I was camping. I had been busy and the fire died on me. I went to bed all pissed off for being so stupid. But an hour later, after I had fallen asleep in my tent, I woke up and looked around confused. The pitch blackness of the Maine woods was suddenly filled with flickering light, bouncing off the leaves on the trees. It took me a minute, but I realized it was our fire.

What I thought was dead turned out to simply be dormant. Despite having neglected the fire and poured water on it, the unseen embers were still burning hot. Hot enough to reignite the fire when neither of us thought it was possible, all on its own. But only because we took great care in making sure it was built right. Built to last. Built to burn not with early intensity which ultimately fizzles, but a long, slow heat that will see us through the rain and the times we don’t tend to one another properly.

Keep the home fires burning everyone, and trust that your embers are still burning hot even if you think all has been extinguished.

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