Madison and I Survived Our First Quarter Together!

Well, we made it through the first quarter of our noble experiment otherwise known as Madison attending Damien. We took this celebratory photo last Friday just before heading back home:

1I know we don’t look super-excited or anything, and in a perfect world, we would have thrown a sprawling party in my classroom – for just the two of us – featuring sushi, Pokemon movies, and whatever junk food Madison is into this week because she saw it on YouTube. But that would have required more effort and energy than either of us had to give at 3:30 on the last day of the quarter. No, we had to settle for an awkward high-five and sugar-free, zero calorie drinks and tolerable traffic on the way home. I for one, did not complain.

3I feel as if Madison’s behavior changed in two particular ways during the quarter. First, I think the excitement of starting something brand new got the best of her during the first two weeks of the school year. She was up early and stayed up through the drive into Kalihi, through the early morning hours, and even on the way home. In the mornings she would ask questions or express a kind of curiousness about her new situation. On the way home, she would tell me about her day. That’s all over now. She passes out as soon as we get into the car in the morning and I have to shake her awake in the parking lot. One the way home, she kicks the seat back and punctuates my podcasts with snoring. It’s nice, kind of.

She’s also leaving my classroom earlier before school and coming back later after school because she’s “hanging out”. I don’t know what this specifically means, but she’s 11 and I’m 39 so I’m not super-confident I’d understand even if she told me. She speaks in memes, man. It makes me feel like spiderman turning to dust dot gif.

But I’m sure she can tell it better than I can. So here are some of her thoughts on her first (of 28!) quarter as a Monarch. As usual, her answers will be set in her customary pink text.

2Q: What is the thing about Damien that is most different from your old school?

A: Probably how insane the lunch period is. It’s way louder and you can sit by anyone you want, which is something that would never happen at my old school. I can actually eat now. 

Q: How would you describe what it is like to get up so early?

A: Rough but now I’m kind of used to it because my body grudgingly wakes me up 10 minutes before [dad] comes into my room. 

Q: What is the funniest thing you’ve seen at Damien so far?

A: Probably in the middle of homeroom, these kids just announced “Karen the Spider is alive again!” We found this giant spider and named it Karen. When we emptied out the trash, it was killed. So now whenever we see a random spider hanging out, its name is either Karen or Kyle. 

Q: Why?

A: I don’t know.

Q: What is the best/coolest thing you’ve learned about this quarter?

A: I learned about negative numbers. Economy. Money. Running a business.

Q: What is something you thought was going to happen but never really did?

A: I thought I was going to switch classes more. We stayed in one class at Mauka, except for music and Hawaiian class.

Q: What is something that you didn’t expect?

How advanced our computer systems are. I have a few textbooks but most of them are online textbooks.

Q: Do you like your Mac Book? What do you use it for other than school work?

A: Yeah. We’re making this “Things to Smile About” presentation – me and my friend group. We’re just doing it on our own to pass the time.

Q: Is it better or worse than you imagined? Why?

It’s a little bit of both. We have a few more freedoms – that lunch period, we can create slides, longer physical education times – than at my old school. I feel that 3:00 slump. I’m super-tired at the end of the day. That’s something I never experienced before.

Q: What do you see yourself getting involved with in the near and distant future?

A: I know next year I kinda wanna do cheerleading. Photography, maybe. That’s it so far.

From here to there, then. For now, we’ll just hope for good weather and try to enjoy fall break!

The End of Summer 2019

8Because today was hot but also drizzly, I planned to take the kids to 808 Bounce as a kind of summer blowout. I don’t know if that qualifies as a “summer blowout”, but it’s a Wednesday and Lynnette was at work. And then for the second time this summer, Avery refused to get out of the van once we parked in the lot outside of Ross Pearlridge. Cole, Madison, and I spent 10 minutes talking to Avery, repeating variations of “you ready to go?” until we just gave up and went on a search for functional Slurpee machines – which, it should be said, is harder than it sounds. And so this is how summer ended, not with a bang but harmonizing snores.

DCIM100GOPROG0451696.DCIM100GOPROG0351591.It’s hard to be too upset about it, though. We just came off a weekend at Aulani with both sets of grandparents. It was a great time featuring the following by quantity:

1) Sun
2) Delicious, expensive food
3) Trips by my parents down the Lazy River
4) Trips by my in-laws to the jacuzzi
5) Poolside naps with Mama

The kids loved spending time with Papa, Mama, Grandpa, and Grandma. We hope we can do something like this every summer. It’s the best time of the year but it feels a little short without some kind of big-ish thing.

I just told Cole that I have work tomorrow and he said “No. I love you.” It is the first time in his entire life that he has told me he loves me without being prompted or without first mentioning that he loves Lynnette, too. I was touched.

DCIM100GOPROG0131372.10The Sun God started off the summer pulling some brand new stunts in the pool and ended by growing some real confidence in the water. He’s not afraid to put his entire head underwater, to open his eyes underwater, and to swim short distances. “Don’t move back!” he says as he prepares to swim my way. My favorite thing to do is to lean back slightly as he takes his breath so he shouts “DON’T MOVE BACK!” and has to take another deep breath. I don’t know why he loves me.

We’ve also got the guy potty training and it’s going well, all things considered. The first day he had two accidents in a row because he simply didn’t understand the concept of underwear and their lack of soakability as compared to pull-ups. He’s gotten the hang of it now and Lynnette set up this cool sticker thing for him to post a sticker after every successful potty use. I think he’s padding his stats. “Only one at a time,” I said to him, calling him out on his overuse of stickers. “I’m just trying to find the stickers of the food I like,” he said. OK, don’t respond to the matter at hand. He restarts Tiny Tots tomorrow. He’s a little hesitant but I feel like he’ll fall right back into his habits with his friends and activities. I know that Lynnette and Mama are just thrilled that Cole will have other people’s ears to talk off.

DCIM100GOPROG0231472.9I love this picture because it really captures how crazy Avery is in the water. Back in May she was building up the courage to jump into the pool from a standing position on its edge. Once she conquered that, she’s been hellbent on jumping into the pool in a way that we can’t catch her or pulling off Billy Kidman’s shooting star press. Sadly, her attempts have been more like this, which, I mean, equal parts hilarious and terrifying. At Aulani, she jumped out and away from my reach so I had to pull her toward me by her swim suit as she just kind of hung a foot underwater. When I pulled her up, she was laughing!

Today’s standoff aside, this has been my best summer with Avery. She’s talking much more. She’s much more reasonable. She’s thrown far fewer tantrums. And of course, she’s provided our family with the official soundtrack of summer: her roll call of the Muppet Babies. KERMIT! ANIMAL! PIGGY! SUMMER! GONZO! FOZZY! Always in that order, and sometimes with a repeated GONZO! FOZZY! chorus at the end for effect. Lynnette and I are elated with her progress since she started school and we are excited for what skills she’ll add to her toolbox this year.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2202.7Madison spent this summer obliterating her personal records for swim time and screen time. In addition to all of the pool hours she accrued with the twins and me, she also went out with her friends. One night she came home from an all-day pool outing much darker than when she had left. “Did you re-apply?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, with a kind of irritated tone. But I don’t know if I believe her because all I could see were her teeth and eyeballs.

Due to some logistical issues, her time at Damien won’t start until the 12th. I think hearing that news was the happiest moment of her life. I don’t know what she’s going to do with the extra 11 days of summer but she better not waste them. She’s totally going to waste them. Anyway, as if my usual beginning-of-the-year anxiety and stress weren’t enough, it’s exacerbated by the start of this noble experiment, sending Madison to Damien. I don’t know what’s going to happen but I promise choke pictures.

DCIM100GOPROG0691941.I regret to say that Lynnette and I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time together this summer. She’s got a lot going on at work and the twins are like Venom symbiotes whenever she’s around. I tried to show her love by cooking dinner, washing the dishes, not letting the kids die, and decreasing the number of times I softly caress one or both of her buttocks as we pass each other in the kitchen. She’s grateful for the first two, really grateful about the third, but the last is really putting a strain on our marriage. I just don’t want to live this way, you know? Well, I hope that once we settle back into the routine of the school year that we’ll be able to sneak away on a few more dates.

So long, summer. I’m already thinking about when we’ll meet again.

13-year Anniversary

Last night I envisioned today unfolding in a straightforward fashion. The kids and I would go to Costco at open, pick up the weekly necessities as well as the main pieces of the dinner I would make to celebrate 13 years of wedded bliss with Lynnette. We would return home. We would hit the pool, get lunch, then chill out until Lynnette got home. We got to Costco early enough to secure a prime parking spot. Everything was going splendidly until we reached the back of the warehouse. They were out of pull-ups for Cole and Avery. I called the Kapolei store and they confirmed they had the pull-ups. I sighed. “We have to go to Kapolei,” I said. Madison sighed louder. By the time we loaded everything into the back of the van in the sweltering Kapolei Costco parking lot, it was almost 12. “No biggie”, I though. “Get lunch, go home, eat, rest, hit the pool for like an hour, then get home to prep dinner.” But then Cole fell asleep on the way back home and an hour later Avery put herself down for a nap. And Tuesday is the one day that Law and Order doesn’t marathon on either 1451 or 1646. All of this is to say that plans – even the mundane ones – rarely come off.

12Still, our Anniversary dinner of steak, sauted mushrooms and onions, and lobster tails came ready just as the twins finished eating their dinner. Avery scurried from the table to find her Muppet Babies friends, Madison disappeared into her iPad, but Cole stuck around for a little while to help us toss the lobster shells into the large plastic bowl set in the middle of the table. A few minutes later, it was just Lynnette and me. And Lynnette’s wine. We made small talk and joked mostly – but our conversation was punctuated by abrupt breaks as one or both of us calmly redirected the behaviors* of our children. I bought Lynnette the wine to go with her meal because at REDACTED years of age, she loves alcohol more than she did in her 20’s. I have spent the past 3 weeks or so watching what I eat and drink more closely than any other time in my life and I had a bottle of Coca-Cola saved for just an occasion, but alas – it had expired. The best laid plans and all that.

*screamed at

3By the end of the meal, Lynnette offered up her signature “I drunk!” so I offered to bathe the twins if she loaded the dishwasher. “Nah!” she said, and with that she spun in place and shouted “Time fo’ deegs!” I want to reiterate – because I cannot stress this enough – 3-drink Lynnette is the BEST LYNNETTE. A few minutes after she started with the bubbles, she ambled out of the bathroom and said “I like chrow da dog in bath with the twins, already.” Just in case it’s not coming across in print, Lynnette’s pidgin stay strong when she all reeep. “Do it,” I said. “It’s our anniversary.” Because I drank water at dinner, I knew there was no correlation between these two ideas, but Lynnette answered with a breathy “yeah” that hung in the living room for a few seconds. When I look at this picture of Abby’s bewildered countenance, I sympathize. Sometimes, I don’t know how I ended up here, either.


4

Well, that’s not entirely true. I know how this started. It started when I was 22 and called Lynnette in the middle of the night because I didn’t think about time zones. I was in my first year as an English teacher. I did not particularly enjoy that, as I had just come off a 4-year-long rager. I was obnoxious, pretentious, tried too hard to keep the party going, had an unhealthy, one-sided love affair with a perennially disappointing baseball team that affected my behavior to a ridiculous degree, and I thought too damn much about everything which of course complicated everything. And though in those days I had a jawline and my chest and stomach extended an equal distance from the rest of my body, I was kind of a mess as a person. I like to think I hid it well enough behind humor and stupidity. I don’t know that I was ready for a serious relationship or deserving of love. And despite this litany of flaws, Lynnette saw things in me that convinced her to give me a chance. And then she found enough beyond that to decide it was worth dealing with my special concoction of nonsense, quirks, and preposterous wants/needs for all eternity or at least until I achieve full adulthood – whichever comes first. This is the thing I have to remember when my life resembles a squeaky hamster wheel: the life I live is already a miracle, thanks to you.

Happy 13th Anniversary, my Love. Thank you for loving me.

Father’s Day 2019

IMG_1524Madison’s answers to Lynnette’s Father’s Day questionnaire have officially crossed over from endearing to a subtly scathing critique of my dadness as I draw nearer to mid-life. I am happy that I still have hair to gel, but man, Mad just goes after me with the “swim shorts when we’re not going swimming”. They’re hybrid shorts, Madison. Get it straight. I love, love, love how her answer to the job question gets more specific every year. But of course, the two answers that best illustrate my life are “always making sure Avery isn’t getting into anything” and “don’t engage with your brother”. The first is just the way Avery’s conditioned me to assume that if I cannot see or hear her, then she is in the process of destroying something or herself. That second is what I say to Madison whenever she decides (roughly 10-210 times a day) to enter a conversation with Cole that has no point at all but to frustrate and irritate the little guy. I absolutely dread the stuff she’s gonna come up with after a year or two at Damien.

IMG_1523My family bought me these fanny packs for my birthday. “I think you’ve outgrown the one you have now,” Lynnette said as I opened the first box. I don’t know if she meant in terms of what I need to put in it or the size of my stomach area. I mean, she’s right either way but you’re not supposed to say the quiet part out loud, you know?

When I opened the second box and found the blue fanny pack, I said “Why two?” “The gray one is for if you want to dress it up a little and the blue one is more casual,” Lynnette said, probably trying super hard not to smirk. She got through that line with a straight face and I give her credit for that. “You know,” she continued, “if you wanna match your bag to your outfit.

I hate that Lynnette knows me well enough to know that I consider these kinds of things. Though I am much older now, I still try to coordinate the colors of my clothing/shoes. My dad wore a fanny pack while we were growing up and I swore I would never wear one. It wasn’t so much that I thought they were uncool (it was maybe like 43% of it), but I just never thought there would come a time when I would need it. When I was going to the bars and clubs in my twenties, my wallet, phone, and cigarettes all fit in my jeans pockets. And because I wasn’t so plump then, the bulk didn’t really matter. In retrospect, I can trace the moment I needed a fanny pack to my unrelated decision to play Pokemon Go on two phones. That made it impossible for me to carry all my crap in my shorts pockets without looking like a kleptomaniac – at best. Look, I don’t think the packs are cool – but it’s so much easier to carry my stuff (which includes two different kinds of stomach pills!) and wearing a pack means I CAN WEAR SWIMMING SHORTS WHEN WE’RE NOT GOING SWIMMING, HATERS. On Thursday when I walked into Walmart to pick up some Krazy Glue and Listerine, I looked up and saw myself on the CC television screen as I tucked the keys into my bag. I swore under my breath. Damn if I wasn’t the spitting image of Alden Higa. Sigh. We all become our parents.

IMG_1510At the end of the day, my kids gave me the rarest of all gifts: pictures featuring all of them looking at the camera simultaneously. When Lynnette handed me back the camera I was stunned (but I shouldn’t be – they like looking at mom a lot better than looking at me and I cannot blame them). Every week, I try to get a family picture of all five of us gazing into the lens at the same time but it never happens. And then today this. Avery with the “I have any place better to be” face; Cole fidgeting with my bag strap; Madison with the fake smile; me failing to realize the twins’ legs aren’t adequately obscuring my gut. This is us, who we really are.

Summer is young but I know too well that she gets old far more quickly than going to playgrounds, pools, and Icee machines do.  Still, I’ve been blessed with so many great moments with these three already. I just gotta keep this energy up so we can make more summer memories. Thanks for a great Father’s Day, family. I love you.

The Summer So Far: Lots of Icee and Chlorine

IMG_2160Summer’s been pretty good so far. The sun’s been out so the Summer Squad has had many opportunities for our favorite adventures: playgrounds and pools.

Most of the playgrounds we haven’t visited are far away from our home, so that would require a weekend trip so as to avoid traffic on the way home. We’ve been sticking to the tried and true fenced-in playgrounds, then heading over to Target or 7-11 for Icees and Slurpies. Lynnette bought 2 Detective Pikachu cups and we get $.99 refills until the end of the year. Fine investments.

The newest thing, I guess, is that the twins are well-behaved enough for me to take them to the pool with Madison’s help. The pool (and really, any body of water in general) is Avery’s favorite thing in the entire world, so she is incredibly well-behaved if she knows we’re headed to the pool. She lets me put on her swim clothes without trouble; she even stands patiently as I apply sunscreen. When we get to the pool she puts her slippers up on the bench and sits patiently for me to sunscreen Mad and myself before we shower.

DCIM101GOPROG1217079.She was so jazzed the first time we went to the pool last week that she sang “Shwim, shwim, shwim,” the entire way to the rec center. The second time, she sat on the bench, kicked her legs back and forth and said “Wanna go shwim-shwim, guys?” over and over. She’s great. She started putting her head under the water on her own last week. She’s moved on to trying to float. The results have been mixed, but I’m so impressed that she’s trying things out on her own. One of the other things she’s trying out on her own is jumping from the edge of the pool – but not in my direction. She seems to think that it’s a game – and the objective is to jump anywhere I am not. She doesn’t even make eye contact, she climbs the rail, turns, then looks at where I am and flies anywhere else. Other than that, the only trouble she give me is when it’s time to leave. She melts down because I am taking her away from her favorite thing in the world. The process works like this:

  1. I tell Madison and Cole we are going to leave.
  2. Madison and Cole get their towels and all the slippers.
  3. I scoop up Avery and don’t say anything, I just start walking to the exit.
  4. Madison and Cole meet up with us in the parking lot.
  5. Madison gives Avery her milk and I change her.
  6. If Avery falls asleep on the short ride home, it immediately becomes a 5-star day.

DCIM102GOPROG1367543.On the same day that Avery started dipping her head underwater, Cole started falling forward into the shallows of the kiddie pool, using his hands to catch himself. He bravely put his face underwater. Then, he started “flying” around the pool by kicking off the bottom. “I gave you underwater knuckles,” he said. “Are you opening your eyes?” I said. “Yeah,” he said.

The last time Lynnette came with us, she coached Cole into swimming to her from the stairway. It’s about 5 feet and he kicks off, but I give the guy so much credit for attempting to swim when it’s not obvious he knows how but it is obvious that he can’t touch the bottom of the pool.

Side Story: On the day that we took these photos, I jokingly said “Uh-oh, I don’t know if they’re gonna let guys with red shirts into the pool today”. As I drove to the rec center. Only Cole was wearing red. There was a pause. “I’m sorry, guys.” Cole said from the back seat. Lynnette and I laughed. A few moments later, he continued: “I gotta go home and change!” I keep forgetting; one of the ways Cole is so very much like Madison at this age is he takes things extremely literally. “They’re not gonna let me in,” he said as we pulled into the lot. I felt kind of bad. “Well, we might as well ask,” I said. I scanned my MTA card and the person working the desk read off our names. Suffice it to say that I really wish I had my camera on Cole’s face when he heard his name. He’s such a sweet guy.

Congrats, Madison!

IMG_1253Madison graduated from Mililani Mauka Elementary on Friday. As yet, I am still empty when trying to come up with an answer to the eternal question of where the time went. Increasingly, there is more of it behind us, fading into the obscurity of my memory while less is preserved here in this blog space. Adulthood, parenthood, I think, is punctuated by milestones like this but mostly it is the grind of sameness that creates an illusion that nothing is changing. Then you wake up on a Friday and your oldest kid is wearing a bra and heels to her 5th grade graduation. “How do you feel?” Lynnette asked Madison as we walked through the courtyard. “What do you mean?” Madison replied. “This is the last time you’ll walk through here as a student,” Lynnette continued. There was a pause. “I hadn’t really thought about it,” Madison said. Same, Mad. Same.

IMG_1262IMG_1270“Think of some place you want to eat where we can’t go with the twins,” Lynnette told her earlier in the week. The fried mac and cheese balls made Macaroni Grill a no-doubter, I suppose. It’s nice to know that some things haven’t changed.

You might recall that Mad and Lynnette conspired to prank me on April Fool’s Day. They told me that Madison “started her menstruation” and let me believe it for a solid 15 minutes before letting me in on the joke. It was a wild 15 minutes inside my head. That bewilderment became begrudging respect and anger when I was told it wasn’t so. I vowed to get both of them back. Two weeks ago, I screamed Lynnette’s name in the living room like something horrible had happened. “ARE YOU CALLING ME?” Lynnette shouted from the bedroom. “YES!” I replied with the same urgency. Lynnette sprinted around the corner and into the living room. “What?” she said. I pointed to the TV “Edward’s going to reveal himself to the Volturi!” I said, pointing to the TV. One of the Twilight movies was on. She looked at me. She looked at the TV. she looked back at me. “F*******ck!” she shouted. It was my finest acting performance in a very long time.

On Friday, we gave Madison her graduation gift – it was an empty iPhone box. She was pretty salty about it but not for the reason I intended. She assumed there was nothing in the box before she even opened it because “that’s something dad would do” and damn, does she know me. So when she lifted the cover and there was no phone there, she wasn’t surprised. When I actually handed her the phone, however, she was stunned. She still couldn’t believe it. That it actually worked. That there was data on it. She tried to hide her glee behind semi-sarcastic comments, but Lynnette and I know her too well. “Well?” Lynnette said. “Finally,” Mad said through a half-smile.


Madison will attend Damien in the fall and she’s not excited about it. I don’t blame her. She didn’t really have a choice in the matter. But then again, neither did I. My parents selected Damien because it was the best education they could afford. I had my doubts (how the hell was I supposed to meet girls?!) but in retrospect, Damien was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I met my best friends there. I played baseball against some of the best local players in history. I somehow got into college through Damien. Really, that’s all I can hope for with Madison – that she makes the most of her time at Damien. That she builds lifelong friendships. That she takes advantage of the athletic and academic opportunities. That she joins some clubs and organizations. That over the next 7 years, she’ll grow into a well-rounded young woman like those who have passed through my classroom.

Mad,
Mem and I are so proud of you. As well as you have done in the classroom, I am even more impressed by your work as a big sister, especially with Avery. I think Gravy will miss you very much at school next year. I look forward to cruising through the zipper lane with you next year, doing my work in my classroom in the early morning while you sleep in a desk. I know that purple and gold probably aren’t your favorite colors but give them a chance. Congratulations on completing elementary school! Mem and I are sooo not ready for your next adventure – and maybe you aren’t either – but that’s part of what makes life so exciting. Viriliter Age.

BUT FIRST, SUMMER!

Avery Rio: Citizen of the Quarter

Avery Rio earned the Citizen of the Quarter Award (just like her big sister) and our entire family attended the school assembly to celebrate Avery and the other award winners.

IMG_2217 2Avery’s teacher arranged for Madison to escort Avery up to the stage to receive her award. It made for a wonderful moment and also a lot of practical sense. There’s no telling what kind of shape Avery’s certificate would have been in by the time she got it to us. Bite marks would not have been totally out of the question; we could have taken bets on the number of pieces it would have come home in. Lynnette, Cole, and I waited patiently for the girls to take the stage.

IMG_2234 2Avery, a true-life badass, decided to plop right down on the stage as soon as she received her award and special pencil. Madison played it pretty cool while her little sister used herself to perform a metaphorical mic drop. Avery’s swagger delighted some of the people in attendance. Awwws and muffled laughter cold be heard throughout the cafeteria and for some reason those sounds caused stress flashbacks to those times in college when I shot my shot and got Mutombo’d softly and…less than softly. ANYWAY, Madison and Avery got off the stage without incident and somehow if Cole can win Citizen of the Quarter some day, that would be incredible for our family.

IMG_2256 2Congratulations, Avery!

Mom and Dad are so proud of you. You’ve grown and learned so much since you started school way back in November! You use your words, you are much more patient and much less volatile. We cannot believe the way that you calmly take your shoes off outside of your classroom, place them on the shelf, then hurry off to class. We love it when you ask us with “please,” and follow up with “thaaaaank you!”. We will celebrate this weekend with chocolate milk, Lucky Charms, and the beach!