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You Make The Call

Which of the following was the most indulgent thing I did today while the kids had a snow day and I worked from home:

  1. Giving in and letting Boo watch a movie after breakfast
  2. Making hot apple cider and hot chocolate for the kids to enjoy after they came in from playing outside
  3. Baking a dark chocolate cake with chocolate chips for dessert
  4. Purchasing the NPR “Star Wars” radio play for Boo to listen to
  5. Offering to pay for the kids’ tickets for an hour at the trampoline gym tomorrow while they have their second snow day so that Irish Woman doesn’t axe murder me as a consequence of my childrens’ behavior

Driving Lesson Topics

Well, Girlie Bear is learning to drive and I’m learning to cope.

Here are a few of the topics we covered during our driving lesson tonight:

  • The existential differences between forward and backward motion
  • Braking and other ways to adjust your father’s spine without the expense of a visit to a chiropractor
  • Field first aid for whiplash and other spinal issues
  • Early warning signs of myocardial infarction in a middle-aged man of Scandinavian descent
  • Cause and Effect – What happens when you hit the accelerator instead of the brake
  • Use of peripheral vision to check mirrors instead of craning your neck across the passenger seat
  • Use of the command voice
  • Paranoia – Is it really necessary to stop at each and every intersection, regardless of the lack of a stop sign?

2 hours of driving practice down, 58 hours to go.

Growing Up Under My Roof

This is sort of PSA for young people.

The following are your rights while living under my roof:

  1. You have the right to know that you are loved.  This may mean that you get a hug after an ass chewing.
  2. You have the right to be safe in my home and to expect me to protect you.  This may mean that on occasion you will be growled at for doing things that are unsafe.
  3. You have the right to clean, serviceable clothing.  This may require some work on your part once you achieve a certain age.
  4. You have the right to safe, nutritious food.  This will include the occasional treat.  Emphasis on occasional.
  5. You have the right to an education, both in and out of school.
  6. You have the right to expect that I will provide for your healthcare, within reason.
  7. You have the right to clean your body on at least a daily basis.  But please remember that we only have one bathroom in the house.
  8. You have the right to communicate with your loved ones that do not live in my home.  Friends and schoolmates do not count, and non-emergency phone calls from non-family after 9 PM may invoke the nuclear option.

The following things are not rights while living under my roof:

  • Entertainment at the cost of the time, energy, and funds of other members of the household.  Learn to entertain yourself.
  • Living an easy life.  You will have daily, weekly, and on-demand chores.  I may or may not pay you for certain things, depending on whether they go above and beyond.
  • Transportation for non-educational or non-healthcare related activities.  I will, however, provide you with Leather Personnel Carriers so that you may walk anywhere you wish to go.
  • A paying job.  Schoolwork and your chores come first.
  • Cell phones, laptops, tablets, television, and music played at 11 on the volume dial.  I don’t care what year this is, and you will continue to draw breath if these things are not part of your daily life.

Here are some extraneous rules:

  • No smoking, no drinking, no other intoxicants, no overnight guests from your dating pool.  Also, no new holes in your body or permanent marks upon your skin.
  • Your hair will be clean, neat, and the same color it was when it came out of your scalp.
  • You will not go to school or out in public looking like Joe Shit the Rag Man.
  • “It’s not fair.” or “I’m frustrated” mean nothing to me.
  • My word and the word of Irish Woman is the final word on any subject under our roof.  If one of us tells you to do something, do it.  Complain afterward if you must, but doing as you’re told first will help you in your quest to prevent further ‘injustice’.
    • Seriously, when one of us tells you to jump, you better say “How high?” after you’re a foot in the air.
  • You are not an adult until you live independent from any outside support.  Until such time, you will be treated at an age appropriate level, but not as an adult.
  • Don’t try to bribe me, either with affection or especially good behavior.  If you need something, tell me about it and why it’s important.  If you want something, ask for it and accept my decision.
  • I reserve the right to change rules as I see fit.  You will be informed of these changes, but their enforcement will begin immediately after I feel you’ve had enough time to conform to them.
  • There are two reasons for failure:  lack of talent and lack of effort.  If you fail because, no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t do something, I will accept that and work with you to either develop your talents or find something more suited to you.  If you fail because you didn’t put forth the effort, may God have mercy on your soul.
    • In relation to this, when you need help, ask for it.  Two days before report cards come out is not the day to tell me that a certain class is kicking your ass.
  • You should never fear me, but you should fear my displeasure.

A Barbarian’s Daughter

The Lady of Eyre gazed down upon her husband’s dressing table.  Arrayed there were his best war kilt, his battle-scarred shirt of leather and ring armor, two daggers, a short mace, and an ancient battle-axe that bore the signet of the Minivandian clan.

“My love,” she asked, “what exactly are you doing?”

DaddyBear the Minivandian looked up from the stone he was running along the blade of Gnarlthing.  “My darling wife, I am preparing to avenge the honor of my daughter.” he growled from beneath heavy brows.

“Her honor?  But she has not lost her honor!” said the Lady of Eyre, a look of surprise upon her face.

“There is a code, woman, and the young knave who broke her heart also broke that code.”  said the Minivandian, his rough hands gently testing the edge of his sword, “‘If thou makest mine daughter weep, then I shall make thee weep.’ I did not write the code; I am only subject to it, and so is he.”

“Oh wonderful father and comical husband, put up that blade!  Listens to Stories has already called upon Adama of the Hoosier clan to escort her to the ball.  He has accepted the offer, so there is no harm done to her.  Besides, what has already been done to the young man who disappointed her is much worse than you could do with such crude instruments.” said the Lady of Eyre, a glint of lightning crossing her jade eyes.

“Eh?  What do you mean?  Has an accident befallen the fool?”  said DaddyBear as he guided Gnarlthing into its scabbard.

“Why, I only told the Young Prince the name and location of the boy who toyed with his sister’s affections.  I am guessing that something rather ugly, but probably less than fatal, is about to happen to him.” said the Lady of Eyre, an impish grin crossing her delicate visage.

“Lord have mercy, the poor bastard will be lucky to only come out of it with an affliction that lasts a month.  Which reminds me.  Remind me to instruct our son on the concept of mercy before he can get his curse complete.”  said DaddyBear.

“Yes, my love, I shall.  He must learn to control his temper and not actually harm those who wrong him or his kin.  Now, put up those weapons and get out more appropriate clothes.  Adama of the Hoosiers might as well be one of our own children, and there is no need for such things with him.” said the Lady of Eyre as she reached into the Minivandian’s trunk.

“Adama?  A fine lad.  He is a much better choice to escort our daughter to her ball this night.” grunted DaddyBear.

The Lady of Eyre laid out a new set of clothing for her husband and left him to change into them.  She also bade him to come to the great hall within the quarter-hour, as Listens to Stories would be ready to be taken to the home of the Hoosiers to retrieve young Adama and thence to the ball.

My Lord Daddybear changed into the clothing his wife had selected for him and headed to the great hall.  There, he met the aunts and grandmother of Listens to Stories, who had all gathered to see the young princess as she wore a lady’s gown for the first time.  Upon the hour, a hush fell over the room as the aunt closest to the portal to the chamber of Listens to Stories hissed that she was coming.   The Lady of Eyre slipped her hands up onto the eyes of the Minivandian and whispered a spell.  As she heard Listens to Stories enter the hall, she pulled her hands away.

DaddyBear the Minivandian beheld his daughter as she had been the day that he first allowed her to run and play with her brothers.  Her tresses were held up in two braids which the Minivandian had done himself.  Her clothing was of the same rough cloth as worn by the boys, with the only feminine touch being two embroidered wildflowers on the shirt.  Upon her feet were sandles made with the leather of a vermicious knid, which she would wear for three summers before even their unbelievable toughness could not withstand constant scuffing, kicking, climbing, and fighting.

As my Lord DaddyBear marvelled at the beauty of his young child, she changed before his eyes.  The auburn braids lengthened and brought themselves up into a woman’s styled hair.  She grew longer and leaner.  Her gap-toothed grin changed into a radiant smile of bright white teeth.   Her raiment changed from rough denim to draped purple silk, accented with a brooch of the finest firestones.

DaddyBear the Minivandian beheld his daughter as the young woman she had become.  Gone was the chubby tomboy of bygone years.  That little girl had been replaced with a beautiful young lady; strong, yet elegant; youthful, but not childlike.   DaddyBear  felt a twinge of fear in his heart as he realized that while he would always have his daughter, he would never have his little girl again.

The aunts and the Lady of Eyre fussed over Listens to Stories as they adjusted the dress and her hair.  Many compliments were made on her appearance and ability to walk in the shoes she and the Lady of Eyre had purchased for the evening.  Through all of this, the Minivandian sat upon his chair, contemplating just how many weapons and men at arms he would need in the coming years.

Stepping before her father, Listens to Stories turned to allow him to see how the dress fit.  He noted that it was modest without being overly conservative, pretty without being flashy, and to her father’s jaundiced eye, crushingly pretty.  Nodding his approval, he grunted “It will suffice.  Mind that you do not dance too vigorously this night, for that dress might not survive it.”

Listens to Stories, now grown to a young woman, wrapped her arms around her father.  “You are my favorite father.” she intoned the greeting she had shared with him her entire life.

“I am your only father, but thank you for the thought.” intoned the Minivandian, “You are my favorite daughter.”

“I am your only daughter, but thank you for the thought.” replied Listens to Stories, finishing the greeting and reminding DaddyBear that she would always be his little girl.

Then did the Minivandian place Listens to Stories into SilverRust, his mighty steed, and convey her to the manor of the clan of the Hoosiers.  Retrieving young Adama, who was fitted out in his best suit of clothes, they continued their journey to the hall of festivals.  Leaving Listens to Stories and Adama there to enjoy their evening, my lord DaddyBear returned to his home, there to spend the evening in quiet conversation with his wife and the aunts.

Much merriment was made by Listens to Stories that evening, and for many years did she look back on her first night as a young woman.  DaddyBear also looked back on that night, and it never failed to bring a smile to his noble countenance.  Many times did he see his daughter dressed for a festival, and many young men did he greet and judge over the years, until finally she found one who could look the Minivandian in the eye and was not afraid to take him up on his offer of sparring with blunted swords and axes while Listens to Stories finished her preparations.  That young man was enthusiastically received into the clan of the Minivandians, and DaddyBear later enjoyed many grandchildren with auburn hair and their mother’s easy smile.  Many adventures did Listens to Stories have in her own time, some with her father, but most as a warrior in her own right.  But those are stories for another time.  Now, let me tell you tales of high adventure…..

What’s the Difference?

I know, as a parent, that I’m not supposed to compare my children.  But something just happened that is absolutely remarkable, so I’m going to bend that rule just a tad.

Girlie Bear just came home with her first official progress report from her freshman year of high school.  She got 4 A’s, 1 A-, and 2 B’s, and all of her classes except for JROTC and Choir are in the “Advanced” college prep track.  She called me when she got home and was ecstatic about the grades, and actually had reasons for why the B’s weren’t A’s.  I, of course, reassured her that a B was entirely acceptable, but if she wanted to work to an A, I wouldn’t complain.

In comparison, at this point in his freshman year, Junior, who went to the same school and took the same classes from a lot of the same teachers, had one A (Band), 1 C, four D’s, and a couple of U’s, which is modern educational jargon for what we used to call an “F”.  The rational discussion I tried to start over what went wrong and what he was going to do to rectify the situation pretty much degenerated into one of those arguments that’s spoken of in hushed tones at family reunions after everyone has had a decade or so to cool off. 

Junior is very bright, as is his sister.  Girlie Bear has grown up here in Kentucky surrounded by college educated people who thought that getting a good education was the most important thing a young person can do.  Junior spent his educational years, up until his freshman year of high school, going to excellent schools in California with his mom and step-dad, both of whom are college educated and also value learning.  When he moved here to live with us and go to high school, he was in the same situation that Girlie Bear and Little Bear had grown up in.

So what is the difference? 

Junior was identified early in his life as one of the smart ones, but never seemed to polish talent with hard work.  He was one of those who didn’t do homework or participate in class, but could do OK to well on tests.  His teachers in California did him no favors by putting up with this, because when he reached middle and high school, the habit of hard work just wasn’t there.  When being smart wasn’t enough, and he was expected to also put in the hours and show product, he failed.  To a large part, I blame myself, if for no other reason than the fact that I, as his father, should have been more forceful in his younger years to get him held back until he matured enough to handle both being intelligent and doing the work.

Girlie Bear, on the other hand, has never had anyone tell her that she’s the smartest girl in the room.  Of course, I praise her when she does well, and I reward success as much as I try to motivate after failure, but we never blew sunshine up her skirt and as far as I know, neither did her teachers.  She learned early that if she wanted to succeed, she had to work hard at it, and the habits stuck.  It took one summer of giving up two days a week to go to math tutoring to convince her that it was easier to learn the first time.

The two have a much different attitude toward life.  If anything, Girlie Bear is too hard on herself.  If she comes home with a C on an assignment or test, we have to talk to her about how much she worked on it, and convince her that if she put forward her best effort, we were satisfied with the grade.  She still looks at each A she gets as manna from heaven, even if she busted her tail to get it.   Junior, on the other hand, looked at top marks as his birthright, and lower grades were blown off as “not his fault” or were because he “wasn’t interested” in the subject. 

Now, will the grades on a six week report card when they were 14 mean much in the long run?  Honestly no.  Unless Girlie Bear becomes a mathematician, she won’t use a lot of what she learns in Geometry.  The same goes for her other subjects.  But the habit of working hard and wanting to earn each and every thing she has will help her in life.  Junior is still struggling to learn that lesson, but he will eventually come around to it.  It’s just easier to do when you’re still sheltered by your parents and school.  Doing it when you and you alone are on the hook for food and shelter is much harder.

Every Four Year Old’s Favorite Game Show

Hello America, and welcome to the favorite game show of four-year-old boys everywhere:  WILL IT FLUSH?  The show where a certain young boy tests common household items to see if they will make their way down a standard 1940’s vintage toilet.

Today’s contestant:  A rubber ball with a plastic covering that has the earth printed on it.  She is a beautiful blue and green hue, compresses when gripped in a hand, and is approximately five centimeters in diameter.

OK, let’s join the action already in progress.  Boo has placed the ball in the commode and is pulling down on the handle now.  The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.  I haven’t been this excited about anything like this since he attempted to flush a 6 inch articulated toy soldier.  We all remember that incident, don’t we folks? The toy made it almost all the way down the pipe before its hand got caught on the bottom of the bowl, causing a rather spectacular water flow across the bathroom floor.

The bowl is filling now, and as you can see, the ball is bobbing around at the surface and is beginning to swirl around with the water.  OK, the water has reached its peak level and is starting to recede.  Yes!  He did it!  He flushed a rubber ball down the toilet!  The crowd is on its feet as our young hero runs off to tell his mother!

Remember, folks, WILL IT FLUSH? is brought to you by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Board, who urge all fathers to have a stiff drink before they investigate why there is a waterfall in the bathroom.  Remember, plunge responsibly!

Tune in tomorrow when he will see if his father’s toothbrush will flush!


OK, enough of that fooferah.  Boo did indeed flush his rubber earth ball down the toilet a couple of weeks ago.  When he told Irish Woman about it, he wasn’t exactly clear what he had done with it, and she thought he said he had thrown it away.

That is, she believed that until this morning, when the sink, commode, and bathtub in our onlyest bathroom all backed up at the same time.  Bottles of drain cleaner, a drain snake, and seeming hours of plunging were no avail.  I came home at lunchtime expecting to be able to work from home while I watched the roofers, but instead had to head to the basement with a pipe wrench.

I expected to find the usual gunky stuff you find in a clogged drain, and you can bet I did.  But this particular mess had a surprise center:  A rubber earth ball.

Now, did my talented young man get his ball stuck in the trap under the toilet?  Not with the force of 1940’s waste disposal equipment pushing it around, he didn’t.  No, this little blue marble found its way down the drain pipe, out the foundation of the house, and about six feet out into the yard on its way to the septic tank.  It got stuck on a transition point between two pipes, and provided just enough obstruction for all of the other detritus to stick to.

On a plus side, my foreign language skills got a workout, because I was cussing in three languages as I tore into the problem.  I fabricated a tool to get at it and break up the rest of the clog out of a length of lumber and some drywall screws, and got quite funky as I went elbow deep down the sewer pipe trying to fish the darn thing out.  Eventually I was successful, and the biohazard problem in our basement is all cleaned up too.

I now know I love that little boy with all my heart.  Because if I didn’t, I’d be on the national news tonight.

To quote Irish Woman, we knew the earth was going down the crapper; we just always figured that was a figure of speech.  I swear, that boy makes me glad I’m done having kids.

Parent Attention Levels

Boo and I are at the local splash park. Basically it’s a concrete pad with several water fountains in it that the kids can run through. Kind of like running through the sprinkler when we were kids, but much bigger.

Watching the other parents, I see a relationship between the number of kids they have and their level of attentiveness.

    Young parent with one child – Never more than 3 feet from the kid. One hand is occupied with a camera or cell phone. Is usually as wet as the child.
    Parent with 2 or 3 children – Sits at table and chats with other adults, but never takes eyes off of kids.
    Parent with 4 or 5 children – Brings a book, listens for screams from their child, occasionally makes visual contact to make sure kid is still present
    Parent with 6 or more spawn – Kids? What kids? A trash novel is their escape from the madness while their horde wears itself out.
    Grandparents – Fits in somewhere between the first and second category, depending on age of child, number of grandchildren present, and presence of parents.

I really ought to get a grant, put up a blind with cameras, and publish on this.

Overheard in the Living Room

Boo, looking at his latest coloring book – Daddy, where does Supaman come fwom?

Me – He comes from Krypton, very far away.

Boo – Mommy, where does Wonda Woman come fwom?

Irish Woman, looking down at the coloring book – Well, apparently she comes from the planet cleavage.  I guess that’s why Daddy likes her.


Yep, that’s my soulmate right there.

Parenting Question

Would I be a bad parent if I told Boo that if he wasn’t quiet after I tucked him in bed and turned out the light, the grue would get him?

On Parenting

A couple of thoughts here, and I beg your indulgence while I get a bit preachy.

First, a picture one of my FaceSpace friends:

When my parents split up, they violated each and every piece of advice the good judge would have given them.  We were sources of income, tools to harm each other, and inconveniences.  I’ve been divorced.  One of the most important promises I have ever kept was one I made to myself, and that was to never deride the mothers* of my children or allow anyone else to do it where it was at all possible they could hear.  Some of the worst arguments that Irish Woman and I have had were over me not showing anger over something the ex had done or letting Irish Woman complain to me in front of the kids.

My reward to my parents for the way they acted during and after their divorce is to make them non-entities in the lives of my children, and I will never put my children in the position of having to question whether or not being around me would be healthy for their children.  I bite my tongue, I deescalate to the point of prostration, and I give way more than should be asked just so that my kids never hear or see anything from me that will make them think that I believe that 50% of their make-up is wrong.

Anyway, it’s better for the ex’es to demonstrate their ignorance to the kids themselves.

Next, a note on stepchildren:  You divorce the spouse, not their children.  Little Bear was already baking when I met his mother, and he has known no father but me.  He is as much my son as Junior and Boo, and he always will be.  When you marry someone with kids, you take on an awesome responsibility, one that I believe is harder than if they were biologically yours.  You not only have to be a parental figure, whether you want to or not, you usually also have to deal with the other parental figure in the body of the ex.  You can either be a bad example, such as the wicked stepmother syndrome or the jerk stepdad, or you can just be a good parent.  If the marriage to their parent doesn’t work out, if the child still wants and needs you to be there for them, you should at least consider doing what it takes to be a part of their lives.

Finally, we get to the subject of an excellent post by cybrus.  As fathers, we don’t babysit, we parent.  I don’t spend time with my kids because I’m being forced, I do it because it’s what a father does. I agree with cybrus:  Dads need to get off their butts and parent, either solo or in tandem.  One of the reasons I haven’t spoken to my father in over 25 years is because his children were an imposition on his life, and we knew it.  Unless you want that for yourself, spend some time with your kids.

One last thought – Most of the people I know who have kids are excellent parents.  They love them, care for them, discipline them, and enjoy them.  It’s the parents who drop the ball that make life harder for everyone else.  If you’re taking care of business, you have my thanks.

*Yes, plural.  Quick hint to the young people out there:  Never get hitched when you’re on the rebound from a marriage.  It doesn’t end well for anyone involved.

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