Mem’s Pre-School

Note: I was blown away by the outpouring of love and support for this blog. I wasn’t expecting all the kind words and well-wishes. I didn’t even know that some of you followed along! Your notes touched me deeply. Thank you.

Lynnette’s parents are on a trip so Lynnette’s been home with the twins for the better part of two weeks. She dubbed this period “Mem’s Pre-School” before it even started. She’s been sending me messages and photos in regards to their activities. I’ve collected some of them here and will also post both Cole’s and Avery’s reviews of Mem’s Pre-School. It should be said: Mrs. Mem, the principal, teacher, chef, and dean of the school, is this week’s outstanding educator displaying school spirit and personal pride.

School: Mem’s Pre-School
Location: Mililani
Mascot: Elmos
School Song: “Happy Birthday”
Motto: Thank God They Aren’t Triplets

IMG_4226Sensory Play: (Play-doh) Lynnette concocted homemade play-doh that’s about 150 times more effective than any of Madison’s homemade slime. She made a small amount for each of the twins to roll, knead, and handle.

Avery’s Review: I cannot believe Mem actually let me play with something that does not belong to me! It was so nice to squeeze the green, but I don’t like for my hands to get dirty. I like the green because it strengthens my hand and arms muscles so I can open and shut the kitchen cabinets faster and harder than ever before! I also like to put some green in Abby’s fur! But how come Mem won’t let me eat the green?

IMG_4232Emergency Preparedness: Lynnette simulated a high-danger, high-tension situation in order to teach the twins valuable lessons in responsibility, problem-solving, and making sure you know where the house keys are.

Cole’s Review: Everyone makes mistakes. You can’t just leave a naturally curious child such as myself alone on a stairway and not expect me to explore my surroundings  – especially shiny knick-knacks that make click-clack noises. I’m just like daddy: I know how to work things, but now how they work. It’s his fault. Thank God I had my Nanny. Oh, and this Emergency Preparedness was junk.

IMG_4230Physical Education (climbing): As part of a well-rounded education, Lynnette built her curriculum to include physical tests of strength, speed, and athleticism.

Avery’s Review: Because I am cute and the baby and Mem loves me the most of all the people and dogs living in this house, I can get away with things they cannot. Daddy and Cole and Madison and Abby are not allowed to climb on counters but I can. What I like to do is tippy-toe to see what I want on a counter, then I pull myself up and grab the what I want with my grubby paws. Two days ago Daddy was getting ready for work but could not find his hair product. He wasted 5 minutes looking around for it and it was probably under the couch covered in saliva and dog fur! Tee-hee! He probably even got stuck in traffic. Daddy is the best. After Mem.

IMG_4238Role Play: Lynnette likes to have the twins role play to develop their social skills. Because of the numerous birthday celebrations this past week, Cole now associates anything with frosting  – cupcakes, cakes, doughnuts – with birthdays. How do we know? Because as soon as he sees a qualifying item, he starts pointing and saying “haburday”. Apparently, Cole was role playing singing happy birthday to me through my ’17 AP Lit shirt.

Cole’s Review: haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday.

IMG_4236Physical Education (cheer): Madison owns one purple pom-pom and one gold-pom-pom from when she used to bring them to the stadium during Damien games. Cole and Avery were tasked to come up with cheers and choreography in support of Damien, playing in the D1 State Championship game this Saturday.

Cole’s review: *to the tune of Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like”* White jerseys fitted just right / Championship game under lights / Lucky for you, that’s what I like / Lucky for you, that’s what I like / That mauve and gold gleams so bright / Oh, what a glorious sight / Lucky for you, that’s what I like/ Lucky for you, that’s what I like.

IMG_4237Music: I would pay any amount of money for Avery to never slam another cabinet door.

Avery’s Review: Mem went to Costco and bought new batteries because Daddy forgot and Mem put the new batteries inside of the DJ station because I LOVE MAKING LOUD NOISES. But when Daddy comes home I put away the DJ station so that I cannot bang it and I have an excuse to bang the drawers and cabinets. Also, Mem is home so she can protect me from Daddy who is mean because he tries to take me away from the cabinets which is just mean because I would never take Daddy away from something he loves by forcing her to sleep in my room every night preventing Daddy from sleeping in the same room as Mem since August. Because that would be mean. Tee-hee.

IMG_4239Driver’s Education: On the real, Madison is 9 and Lynnette have I have had preliminary talks about teaching her to drive that have gone like this:

Lynnette: I think you should teach her to drive.
Me: Me? Why?
Lynnette: You’re a teacher. You’d be better at it.
Me: But you’d never admit I’m better at you in anything unless is something you don’t care about or don’t want to do.
Lynnette: That’s right.

Cole’s Review: I like to climb around in the van and press all the buttons. Sometimes I stand in the driver’s seat and drool all over it and the steering wheel. Dad hates that. One time, I climbed over the middle seats and sat in the back row and I wouldn’t come out when Mem and Dad called me. Mom had to climb into the van to get me because dad was either too lazy or couldn’t fit and bend his body like that.

Nap time: For some people…

IMG_4234

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Thank You for Reading

Friends,

I’ve written a blog since the early days of MySpace. Back then, I wrote about popular culture and sports. Then Madison was born and my energies and thoughts shifted to her. During that transitional period, I was kind of sad that I could no longer keep up with movies and music and sports. I mean, I had been doing that for my entire life until the day Madison was born. Eventually, I came to see what my blog had become: a running diary of Madison’s life. It would allow her to know what her earliest moments were like for us; it would allow Lynnette and me to remember things we might have otherwise forgotten. I assumed that this would continue through the births and early lives of the twins. Like many, many things related to the twins, I made a serious miscalculation.

The best way I can explain it is as follows:

The past two  years have been a series of corners that we’ve had to turn. Call them whatever you want – breastfeeding, solid foods, crawling, walking, eating things off the floor – but every time we arrive at a corner and turn it, we find another corner somewhere off in the distance. I’d put my efforts into getting there, only to find another corner down a different street in the same town. “We just have to get through ____________________” Lynnette and I would say. And then we’d say it again.

Madison was an easy child. In retrospect, her 0-6 years were almost perfect, especially when juxtaposed with the chaos of Cole and Avery. Maybe I had more energy then. I don’t know. I just know this is hard. Over fall break I ended up grading essays at Mauka McDonald’s at 3 in the morning. Of course, I would never choose that willingly, but at the time, it was the best option available to me. I had to grade the papers. But can’t do any work at home. Ever. I’ve already tried and failed. Repeatedly. I knew that Cole and Avery would be life-changers, but like so many things in life, I simply could not appreciate the specific ways they would affect nearly every aspect of my life. I had an epiphany that morning at McDonald’s. I realized two things:

  1. The twins keep me so occupied that they’ve affected me in a fundamental way I didn’t even see. Because I am constantly worried about them in the present tense, and I always try to be aware of what I will likely have to do to or for or because of them in the near future, it is impossible for me to think deeply about anything else. Not sports, not music, not movies, not even the things we do as a family. Because where is the food bag? Is it almost lunch time? Don’t let Avery eat that! Get down, Cole! But thinking and overthinking things is who I am as a person. I’ve noticed that when I get home from an outing and want to write about it, I can’t because I wasn’t making mental notes when it was actually happening. I don’t dream. I don’t create. I am too caught up in all of the above. I am not the same.
  2. Things will probably go on like this for a while.

I always knew that this blog would end someday, but like so many on-going life experiences, it’s difficult to anticipate what that end might look like. Now? Now, I think it ends like this: I write when I can until I get worn out and/or can’t really think then consequently have nothing to say. We’re not there yet, but right now, in this moment, it feels like I am close. I  still hope to write once a week but I can’t even promise that.

All that said – and just in case I can’t get around to this later – I want to thank you all for reading. I used to write poetry and short stories but I need time and peace and quiet for that, and well, we’re fresh out of all that here. This blog was my last creative passion and the undefeated Father Time has come for that too. I have very deep feelings about this, but perhaps I’ve already said too much. Thank you for celebrating with us in the those good, good times. Thank you for commiserating with us when the room grew dark. Thank you for reaching out with advice, support, or just a note to say you enjoyed these stories. That was what I loved best: knowing you were out there, nodding along, laughing with/at us because you could totally relate.

Always,
Phil

1f

 

Avery Rio, Age 2

Avery Rio is horizontal on the couch watching some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She’s had a long day of turning 2.

42The Gravy Boat is still very much a work in progress. She had an appointment with one of her therapists today and we’re told that Avery’s making small strides in her development. We can see them, too. She remembers things (like Minnie Mouse) and recognizes people and places. Her vocabulary is slowly expanding, but blowing raspberries is still her go-to method of greeting and showing affection. It seems that more than anything else, the thing Avery loves is running in wide open spaces.

We picked her up a picture/word book for her birthday. She’s taken a few peeks at it and she’s fond of the food page, but she prefers her old maintstays That’s Not My Monkey and That’s Not My Puppy. I’m not surprised. Avery is a very particular kid. She knows what she likes and has no time for anything else.

I’m happiest about her increased willingness to play with me. Maybe she’s seen me watch wrestling too many times, but she knows that I’m the one who will catch her when she wants to execute high-cross body drops off her bed. Yesterday she stood at the end of the frame, waited for me to make eye contact, then made a gesture I’d never seen before. She got up on her tip-toes and waved her arms up and down – like she was making snow angels while standing. “Huh?” I said. Her eyes widened and her arms moved faster. “Oh, you wanna jump?” I said. I extended my arms toward her. She smiled, leaned, hesitated, then jumped off the bed. I caught her and rolled backward so as to land her on my chest. I wanted to ask her about her flight, but she was already squirreling off of me to get back on the bed for another jump.

3Here is a list of the things Avery is afraid of:

  1. The vacuum cleaner.

That’s it. That’s the list. Besides the terror she feels when I’m sucking up particles of toddler wake, she is basically fearless. You can see how this might be fantastic in theory. It is exhausting in practice.

And yet I find myself envious when watching her run, jump, and hurl herself into/off of/onto/atop whatever she’s decided to conquer on a given day. She literally does not give a [expletive of your choice] about anything other than what’s right in front of her face in the moment. It’s the kind of diem carpe-ing I speak of in class but never actually get around to for more than a few hours. I hope Avery grows out of it. Soon. But deep down, a sliver of me hopes she never does.

Happy birthday, Avery. I love you so.
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Cole Joseph, Age 2

Cole Joseph turned 2 today.

23He been trying to tell us that he’s a big boy for a few weeks now. He no longer sits in his high chair. He responds correctly to vocal cues. He alerts us to feces in his diaper. Real big boy stuff right?

Well, aside from learning halfway how a deadbolt works, Cole’s vocabulary has exploded in recent weeks. He says “Elmo”, “cookie”, “milk”, “bird”, “mouse” and today he broke out “birfday” for the first time. In an incredible show of critical thinking, he has taken to calling his binky “Nanny” instead of “na-na” because he realized “na-na” was also the word he uses for bananas. I’m stoked. For so long he was stuck at “Mom”, “Mad-Mad” and “ball”.

A couple of days ago Lynnette said she wanted to get Cole a sword for his birthday. “Really?” I said. “Yeah,” Lynnette said. “It’s what he likes.” Lynnette isn’t wrong. Recently Cole started engaging in duels with Madison. He’d use Madison’s old Nerf sword and Madison would use a soft Minnie Mouse baseball bat. We found a foam katana at Toys R Us. It’s supposed to be from The Walking Dead or something. Cole loves it. He’s been using it to slice through bubbles in the living room. He’s dueled Madison properly. Right now, he’s trying to slide the sword down the front of his shirt. I  have no idea what has inspired such an insane idea, but  – wait, now he’s using it to flip a light switch on and off. This is the kind of thing you never see coming.

4I see his confidence growing every day. He is a climber and a jumper and a bouncer. He skins his knees, bumps his head, and his hands are perpetually sticky. He’s a boy.

Today I watched him slowly walk to the edge of the slide and place one Croc’d foot over the incline. “Slide, Cole Boy!” I said. “No, no!” he said. He backed away. He jumped across a bridge, descended the stairs, squealed as he ran around the structure and started climbing the rock wall again. A few moments later, he yelled at me. “Da-da!” I whipped my head around just in time to seem him sit on the edge of the slide, then ride it down. “Cole Boy!” I shouted when I he sat up. We hit a high-five. It was a good reminder: he’s got all the time in the world, even if I feel like I don’t.

Happy birthday, Cole. I love you, son.
5

Cole Locked Lynnette and Avery Out of the House

I got a call from Lynnette with about 5 minutes left in homeroom this morning. Somehow, Cole locked Lynnette and Avery out of the house. The boy is too clever for his own good, apparently.

As Lynnette is home alone with the twins, she could only put one of them in the car at a time. She instructed Cole to wait at the stairs while she strapped Avery into the car. I can only assume what happened next. Cole, likely standing on the first or second step of the stairway, had enough strength, reach, and coordination to deadbolt the door to the garage.

So anyway, that call. Lynnette called and said that Cole locked himself inside of the house, along with Abby and all the house keys. Since Lynnette’s parents are out of town, they could not bring her the spare set we keep there. I told my bosses about this crazy situation. One of them laughed. I would have, too. So I got in my car about 5 minutes into first period and drove toward the freeway entrance. It was then that I looked down at my keys dangling from the ignition.

I called Lynnette.

“Hey, um. I’m not coming,” I said.
“What?!” Lynnette said.
“I don’t have house keys, either,” I said.
“[Expletive deleted]” she said.
“Yeah, I only have my work keys on here,” I said.
“Fine, I’ll call Jenn,” she said.

I could regale you with the winding and length tale which explains why I am not in possession of house keys at all times, but I’m going to save us all the trouble by skipping to the end: I’m a moron.

IMG_3890This is the position Lynnette found the lock in when she finally got back inside. Her cousin Jenn was able to get the spare keys and save the day and my son. THANKS, JENN! When I tried to explain to my students what had happened, one of them off-handedly said “Like father, like son.” My first instinct was to snap, to reply with rage. To question this child how he could so easily impugn me. But then I remembered the moral of the story in the paragraph above this one and simply uttered “You right.” I have done some incredibly stupid things in my day and as far as I can tell, I’m not done, either. Coincidentally, two nights ago Lynnette looked at Cole at the dinner table, then to me. She shook her head and said “You guys are exactly the same.” Since I happened to be eating dinner and not doing anything of note, I asked her what she meant. “You guys are clowns!” she said. She’s not wrong.

IMG_3888Cole had been crying through the entire ordeal. Lynnette sent me video clips of her imploring him to unlock the door while he responded with labored high-pitched screams. It was too sad to post here. Maybe when a little time passes.

In recent days Cole has grown increasingly clingy with Lynnette. He follows her around the house. He sits in her lap during meals. He is outraged when she takes the trash out and he is no allowed to accompany her. I can only imagine how angry and frustrated he might have been to find the door locked and no way to reach his beloved Mem. Why did Mem leave me? Why can’t I see Mem? How come I can hear her, but not see her? This all happened because Mem took Avery first because Avery is less trustworthy and consequently unlikely to sit on the stairs without burning the house down, I’ll show you who is less trustworthy, Mem! he must have thought to himself.

IMG_3889Lynnette’s sent pictures of the rest of the day’s activities and it looks like Cole Boy recovered. Well, not before he decided to pose for the camera here and tell the world how he really felt about his harrowing ordeal. I love this kid. And yes, we are exactly the same, clowns or not.

I can’t wait to ask him about his day. I don’t know that I’ll get to do that tonight. I haven’t been home yet and I won’t be for a while. There’s an open house at school tonight, which of course, is super-duper ironic in that none of this would happened if we simply had an open house this morning.

One Day on Kauai

1“Are you excited?” I asked Madison on our way to the airport. We had already stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. “Well, I started packing on Thursday,” she said. “So ‘yes’, then?” I said. “Yeah,” she said. She took a bite of her oatmeal. “Do you think it’s gonna feel weird without the twins?” she asked. “No,” I said. “But they’re always with us,” she said. “Honestly, I think we’re going to be so busy that we probably won’t notice,” I said. She made a noise that led me to believe she was unconvinced.

I signed Mad up for a window seat both ways. She spent the entire flight to Kauai staring out the window. “I see land!” she said after a few minutes. “You sure?” I said. She looked again. “Oh, no, those are just dark clouds,” she said. She laughed.

2We headed over to Lydgate State Park as soon as we got the rental car. The sky was gray and the roads were wet on the way out. It started drizzling as soon as we arrived at the Kamalani Playground. As soon as Madison started climbing around, it poured. We hid out under a covered part of the playground and the rain passed in about 10 minutes. The playground has seen better days – there were portions of it closed off or broken – but it was still pretty impressive. There is a smaller play area that I am sure Cole and Avery would have loved, and enough stairs, ramps, walkways, and original type structures to keep Madison busy. Exploring the structure made me curious and envious: who thought of this thing? Why don’t we have one on Oahu?

4Lynnette helped me with some food research and the only place I had my heart set on was Fish Express in Lihue. It is highly recommended on Yelp and the pictures were all I needed to carve some time in our schedule for it. I gotta be honest, it was only 10 AM, so I can’t really call it lunch. It was a snack. And the only thing Madison wanted from Fish Express was a bag of watermelon belts, so she got a snack, too. She also had the foresight to grab kulolo for Lynnette, the patron saint of Dad and Mad going on neighbor-island trips on a whim. Anyway, I got the spicy ahi with crab and the spicy lobster salad in the poke bowl. It was delicious. I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to get back there for dinner before accepting that we probably wouldn’t have the time. That realization was the worst part of the trip.

DCIM101GOPROG0645123.We did, however, double back to Lydgate. It was one of the first places mentioned as a safe beach for kids (and also adults who might not know how to swim). The sun finally came up right around 11:45, so Mad and I scooped up a small lunch for her and a Jamba Juice and gunned it back. The water was pretty cold, man. Once the sun made itself more steadily, known, though, it was pretty easy to get into it. I sat on the shore trying to connect the GoPro to my phone and looked out at Madison pulling cartwheels into the water. It reminded me of our old summers and school breaks. We really did spend every day looking for cool playgrounds or going to the beach or driving up to the pool. We did that every day. Now all of that seems just as implausible as leaving my house at 10:30 to party somewhere every weekend of my early ’20s. But both happened. I have pictures.

7“What was the reason we came to Kauai, again?” Oh, yeah. We got to the stadium just in time for the game and wouldn’t you know it – the weather gods once again displayed their keen sense of irony. It was HOT. Every once in a while clouds rolled through and shaded us, but for the most part, Madison and I fried on the bleachers. We bought water from Fish Express and the bottle had a squeeze top. Madison and I filled it with fountain water and used it spray each other as needed. It was needed a lot.

Oh, yeah! The Monarchs won! It was an ugly, ugly game, but a W is sexy no matter what, so Damien will play Hilo at Aloha Stadium on the 18th for the Division 1 State Championship. I can’t decide on the correct local celebratory slang, so I’m gonna use them all: CHEEEEEE-HUUUUU! YEAH YOU!! AWWWWWWRIGHT!!! RAJAH!!!! YESSSSAIIII!!!!!

8After the game (and having the seniors on the football team record a message for Lynnette), Mad and I took a beautiful drive out to the swinging bridge.

“Do you want to walk across a swinging bridge?” I asked Madison earlier that morning. “What do you mean?” she asked. “There’s a bridge built over a stream and we can go walk across it. Does that sound like something you’d like to do?” “Is it high?” she asked. “I don’t think so,” I said. “Let’s go!” she said. Well, she wasn’t so excited once we actually got on it. The bridge bounced and swung as we walked across it. At one point I accidentally caught my toe on a plank and stumbled. My shifting weight caused the bridge to pitch suddenly. “Dad!” Mad turned and shouted – but only after grabbing for the sides of the bridge. Oops.

9It was Mad’s choice for dinner so we made an obligatory stop at Hamura Saimin. Mad got a bowl with all her favorites and even ate a side of shrimp tempura. I tried very hard to avoid my phone and succeeded, except for taking this picture and at the end of dinner for looking at where to get dessert. We got to talking about how she never wants to go on a bridge again and – of course – what we thought Lynnette and the twins were up to at that very moment.

It really was like old times, all the running around outside then finding a new place to eat. Madison liked the saimin and the shrimp tempura disappeared before I noticed. She actually ate it all! I am positive that the saimin was good because I had one too, but it was probably the promise of ice cream that was the biggest motivator.

10Our flight home wasn’t until 11 PM, but we got back to the airport at 8:30 because it was raining and we ran out of things to do. We realized in the florescent lights of the airport gate that both of us had gotten a little crispy in the face. “Your face is red,” I said first. Madison turned to face me. “You have a raccoon tan,” she said. “What?!” I said. I already knew it was true. I wore my sunglasses all game. I turned on my phone’s front-facing camera and confirmed what I already knew: I looked rediculous. Sigh.

Madison fought it for as long as she could, but during the flight home, she took a nap. You have to understand, Madison’s hated naps since she was Cole and Avery’s age, and I can’t even remember the last time she actually took one. I always knew her napless streak would end someday, but I didn’t think it would be like this. When we landed and her eyes slowly opened, I let her hear it. “You took a nap!” I said. I expected her to deny it or make some excuse, but she didn’t. “It’s been a long day,” she said. Then, she closed her eyes until we finished taxiing to the gate. Wow.

Mem was in our thoughts all day. We both knew how lucky we were to have this day just for us. All the same, thanks again, Lynnette. Mad and I had a great day and none of it could have happened without you. I’m working on your birthday raincheck.

5

Halloween 2017

It certainly wasn’t a plan-job, and likely has something to do with the ubiquitousness of the Disney Corporation, but every member of my family dressed in a costume related to some Disney property or other for Halloween.

IMG_3626unnamed-1The nurses in Lynnette’s office decided to dress up and she got her costume early. She found some close-out green LuLaRoe leggings to pair with an official Disney “Little Mermaid” tu-tu and hair band and went as Ariel. Way back in 2015, I suggested that Lynnette dress as Ursula while pregnant with the twins. This did not go over super-well. Neither did the joke I made this year when Madison asked Lynnette if she was “going as the Little Mermaid.” Before Lynnette had the chance to reply, I said, “No, just the mermaid.” I caught a well-deserved middle finger.

Avery and Cole dressed as Lilo and Stitch, continuing the trend of dressing them up a pair. You may recall that we dressed them as Owl and Freddie Fox (formerly Sly) for Halloween last year. Well, In case you want to get a little behind-the-scenes look at how we decide the kids’ costumes, you’re in luck! Basically, we do it the same way we decide everything else: we just yell things at each other until we agree, then the yelling stops. “Apollo and Artemis!” “Batman and Robin from The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller!” “Ahi and Sake!” “Riggs and Murtaugh!” “Han Solo and Chewbacca!” “Axl Rose and Slash!” “Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott!” “Beer and Pizza!” “Lilo and Stitch!” There. Just like that.

Madison dressed as Mal, a character from the Descendants  show on the Disney Channel. The primary conceit of the show is as described to me by members of my English 4 Honors Class:

So..they’re all just these kids of Disney villains and they’re in a boarding school, right? Yeah, that’s right. But then the prince of the place – wherever they are – wants to like, give them a chance to be good and have a good life. Because they shouldn’t be judged based upon their parents’ actions. 

I have no idea if any of this is accurate but I was too lazy to look it up. So, this is what we’re going with. Anyway, Madison likes Mal, the daughter of Maleficent (of Sleeping Beauty fame). I watched a couple of episodes of this show because Madison covertly DVR’d them all. There’s a lot of soul-searching (Am I good or am I bad?) some existential questioning (If everyone already thinks I am bad or am going to be bad, should I just be bad?), and music/dance numbers (“chillin’ like a villain…”). But I digress. This is the first non-Pokemon costume in some years, and Madison was most excited about spraying her hair purple. She’s um, she’s growing up a little bit, ah?

unnamedThen there’s Abby. Lynnette dressed the Fur up in one of those front-facing dog costumes in the style of Princess Leia. The outfit came complete with a headband to create Leia’s signature buns. Lynnette took somewhere between 5 and 130 pictures of Abby in her costume, cackling the entire time like a witch tossing random ingredients into a cauldron in hopes of brewing up some concoction that will allow her a discount on Fighting Eel evening wear. Once again, she’s found a new way to rob Abby of her dignity. Look at her face. The despair. The disdain. Her pained eyes appear to shout Help me, Philby-wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope! But then I just took a bunch of pictures of her too. I almost don’t blame Abby for leaving turds on the carpet.