From the Archives: The Living Jungle-Gym

My dear readers,

I am excited to announce a couple of projects I am working on.

First, I am writing and collaborating a second children’s book on angels. I hope to have it finished and available by the end of the year.

Second, I have been writing a full novel for some time now, and I am finally close to finishing it. I hope to have it done early next year.

I bring this up now because I have a limited amount of time to write in, and I need to focus writing for the next two months on these books. I will still post articles when I can, but for the time being, you will see more articles pulled up from my archives.

So, for those of you who have been reading from my humble beginning, here is a nice nod to the past. And for those who have only just joined my readership, here is my first post, one you may have missed. Continue reading

He did it Again!

We’ve visited this before, but considering the circumstances I figured it might not be redundant. However, considering the multiple children growing within my house, duplicate events are bound to pop every up now and again.

Several nights ago, when I stayed up far too late, I ventured out of the silence and relative safety of my bedroom. I had set myself to the long walk through the house turning off every single light bulb that we own. (Mind you, this does not include the bulbs that have been burned out.) I suspect my children fear an invasion of vampires, or perhaps some other night-dwelling miscreant whose only weakness is the incandescent light bulb. While I understand I might be putting their lives in danger by casting the house into the black embrace of night, I am willing to take that risk.

So the lights were turned off one by one, and as I passed darkness followed. Down the hall I went. I poked my head into the first bedroom. #3 and #4 were fast asleep and #4 had stolen all the blankets off of her older sister. I evened out the blankets and flicked off the light.

To the next room, the two little blonde heads of #2 and #1 poke out from under their quilt. At least some of my children have learned to share their blankets. Click and the lights went out.

In the last bedroom #6 was fast asleep in his crib with his bottle dangling off his lip like a cigarette in the classic Humphrey Bogart style. In the bed across the room there was nobody. Huh, #5 was missing again. I flicked off the light switch.

After checking the laundry room for good measure, I looked into all the bedrooms again. When the second search turned up empty I poked my head into my bedroom to get backup, “Wife, do you know where our son is?”

Wife got out of bed and together we searched the bedrooms again. On the second go-through we found the little boy fast asleep under the bed of his sisters #1 and #2.little squirrel

“What the devil,” I said. “What’s he doing under there?”

Upon a closer scrutiny I discovered the reason for his cave-like accommodations. A ring of chocolate circled the little boy’s mouth. The pint-sized thief had gotten into the Christmas candy, and squirreled under the bed to avoid detection.

If it had not been so late, he would have been in a lot of trouble. But as it was, with the entire household sound asleep, a pardon was in order.chocolate thief

They Play Duck, Duck, Goose

A game of Duck-Duck-Goose ensued. #1 laid down the rules as #2, #3, #4, and #5 sat in something similar to a circle. “Everyone sit in a circle,” #1 instructed. “Everyone sit and I’m it, I’m it first. And… no! Sit down! Sit down!” she said as she chased #5 down and forced him back to the ground.

Once #5 was in place #1 began again. “I’m it. Ready?” The game then commenced. “Angel… angel… angel… angel…”

As she circled, #5 got up and started running around the circle on his own, all the while the rest of the girls shouted, “Me! Me! Pick me!”

“Angel… angel… DEVIL!” #2 shot up like a rocket and chased #1 around the now egg-shaped circle. #1 was safe and #5 dove into the moosh pot with the energy as if he knew what he was doing.

#2 started her own version of the game. “Train… train… train…” she said as she walked around the ever evolving circle. “Train… train… train… CABOOSE!” #1 was picked and pandemonium broke out.

#1 chased #2. #2 ran around the now rectangle. #3 and #4 protested loudly against the injustice on not getting picked. #5 made a mad dash around the then triangle, went once around the Christmas tree, and dove under the dinning room table.

I suppose what happened next was something close to a United Nations Peace Conference. #5 was physically drug from under the table by #1 back to the reforming circle. #3 and #4 complained that they wanted to play too. #2 shouted that she could pick who she wanted. #1 shouted above the whole crowd in the attempt to make a compromise while at the same time yanking #5 out of the moosh pot and back to his designated spot on the carpet.

Finally #1 took charge. “OK, I got it. I got it. I will sit and it is now her turn,” she said pointing to #4.

#4 stared her turn with, “Bug… bug… bug…” while at the same time #5 had escaped from the moosh pot and was running in the opposite direction to #4 frustrating #1. “Bug… bug… bug… FROG!” Following the proper rules of engagement #4 tapped #3 on the head.

#3 jumped up and chased #4 and at the same moment #5 rushed his two sisters head-on. The resulting catastrophe was #4 got knocked into the moosh pot and #3 into the Christmas tree. #1 tackled #5 and #2 flat-out disappeared into the back rooms.

With that ended another game of good, clean fun.

I feel the need to confess something, Wife and I were witness to the entire calamity from the safety of the dining room table. Throughout their comical game we did our utmost to remain sitting up while laughing at the non-scripted travesty before us. After all, there was no harm in it, until the Christmas tree was threatened that is.

The Santa Explanation

The Christmas tree is up and Wife has started her Advent long decorating that might end Christmas Eve. The Children have repositioned the Nativity set twice now, and Wife has reset the Nativity set twice now. The stockings have been hung up with uneven spacing and I have been scolded for pointing that out. I suppose she is right however, if it really bothered me I should fix it. Good thing I’m fine the way they are.

Needless to say, we are in the Christmas season. Four Sundays of Advent, Christmas Eve and Day, and the twelve days after until Epiphany, (the day the Three Wise Men showed up) how good it is to celebrate Christmas the Catholic way.

While we anticipate the coming celebration of the birth of Christ, our children have written and rewritten their wish lists. Saint Nick will have a sled full this year. And speaking of Santa Clause, #1 gave me a unique explanation about him last Sunday.

I was searching under a bed for one of the boy’s church shoes. #1 was hovering behind me when she said something that caught me off guard. “Daddy, Santa lives forever because he doesn’t have any children. Is that right?”

I was playing tug-of-war with a spider at the time and responded from beneath the bed with a typical, “I don’t know, we’ll see.”

She did not press the subject any further and I assumed she forgot about it relieving me of correcting a sticky subject that she was able to make weird, I was wrong.

A few days later when Wife was searching for the missing box of Christmas ornaments while #1 was following her around. Among her near constant jabbering she told her mother, “Santa and Mrs. Clause don’t have children because God gave them the gift of immortality. They would be sad if they had to watch their kids get old and die. They would be sad wouldn’t they Mom?”

Stumbled in the search, Wife told the little girl, “Yes, I think they would be.”

Finding herself vindicated, #1 bounced away to join her sisters.

Wife told me later about her explanation and said, “Looks like she thought it through.”

A time will come when she and the other children will learn the truth, but right now it is so much fun to see the Christmas magic in her that I used to know at her age.

Daddy so Stwong

Nothing spells rest on a long weekend like yard work; and I do mean nothing. I’m sure many of you reading this do the same thing; look forward to the extended holiday for rest… and spend most of it working harder than you normally would at the workplace. No exceptions here. I spent the last couple of days clearing the front yard for some large projects we are planning on.

One of the tasks I set before myself (something I do all too often) was to move a metal shed from one corner of the yard to another. Despite how heavy that sounds, with four brothers and my dad it moved quite easily. The only real danger was getting tripped by a child.

After the shed was set back down the kids swarmed around it as if they had never seen it before. I found myself encumbered by #3 clinging to my leg with admiration in her big blue eyes. “Daddy, you so stwong,” she lisped, as I tried to kick her off.

I didn’t think of what she said then, but for some reason I did later. It’s easy to dismiss children, especially when I have more work to accomplish and all she did was state the simple truth. I am strong. I could lift with one arm more than all my children combined could. But, it is the simple truth that made her statement endearing.

Little #3 acknowledged and admired my strength for no other reason than to make sure I knew it. In short, to show her love for me in the most honest way she knew how. As a father, I could not think of anything I would want from my children more than that.

She made me stop and think; that’s all Our Father in Heaven wants from us. We need to cling to His leg and announce to the world how good He is. Not that God does not know how great He is, I think He just wants His children to say it and rely on His strength.

Taking a leaf out of my little girl’s book, I turned my eyes skyward and said, “Father, you are so stwong, tanks.”

Giving Thanks

In thinking about this week’s post I could write about the many blessings I am thankful for. I could talk about the abundant gratefulness I owe to our Lord Jesus. I could list all the people, starting with my mother and ending with my wife, whom I am thankful to. Or, I could name all the ways I am appreciative of my beloved Wife.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving Day, I will do none of the above. Instead, I shall recall what my children were most thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, the gift of staying up really, really late. Allow me to elaborate… as if you didn’t see that coming.

The night was young after a long day of hearty meals and energetic games. After spending the day at the family park with grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and aunts, great-uncles and great-aunts, cousins and second cousins and cousins once removed… and if you feel a little tired after reading all that, you understand just how I felt. So tell me why, oh why did the children not feel that exhaustion?

Maybe they found their renewed energy in the catnap they took on the drive over to my in-laws. Maybe they were flying high as kites on pumpkin bread. Whether naps or carbohydrates, these loving little faces would not tire out. Believe me, I asked them repeatedly.

If I were to be honest, I was tired after the first Thanksgiving Day meal, but the second one put me right over the edge to nodding off (which can be quite rude depending on who I could be talking to). I know the kids ate the same meals I did. Between myself and my children I think we ate an entire turkey that day. But I was struggling to stay awake, while the kids would not sleep… I believe out of sheer will power.

I know #6 needed to sleep desperately; he just did not know it or flat refused to acknowledge it. He fussed and cried, but just try to lay him down… no luck. Every time I thought he was asleep, two minutes later I learned he was just faking me out. The boy should be an actor. I played musical beds with him half the evening while Wife, who was visiting with her parents and siblings, kept telling me, “Don’t worry about him. He’ll go to sleep when he’s ready.”

Well, he might go to sleep when he’s ready, BUT I’M READY RIGHT NOW! And like a good husband, I said nothing and finally surrendered to let #6 curl up in my lap. In the end, he put me to sleep, and Wife put us both to bed. I guess she was right in the end.

To close, I hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving and remembered all the gifts you are thankful for. Unlike the pilgrims, we no longer need Indians to save us from starvation. However, I sure could have used someone to save me from my own children’s late night endurance.

Cruise Baby

Throughout the years of our marriage, Wife and I have heard countless people comment on how hard it must be to raise so many children. Their expressions vary. In some faces I have seen a fearful expression as if we were sleeping in a bed of snakes and adding to the number all the time; while others seem to look on us as if we were running some kind of prison camp. There are plenty of folks who are encouraging though. But whether pro or con, terror or pity, nine times out of ten, our family is met with a gasp.

So I thought I would say something to set the record straight and perhaps more understanding will be gained. Either that or you might call me an outright liar. Ready? Here we go.

As I see it, with one child I could conceive the ease of the task. After all, the parents have a two to one ratio with the kid. In that case we had the upper hand. It was also possible to gang-up on the child.

With two children, the odds were even, but we still had a fighting chance. I could take on the first while Wife took on the second. Or at the very least, their mother could keep a hold of both children at the same time.

Three was the hardest. For the first time we the parents found ourselves outnumbered. If the children scattered, there was always the possibility that one could get away clean. I found it not unlike squeezing putty in my fist, the tighter I squeezed, the more splooged from between my fingers. And worse, the children were too young to entertain themselves, or more importantly, each other!

But the fourth child, oh the fourth is the cruise baby. At baby number four our first was then old enough to be a big help with the other two children. Momma finally got her little helper. #1 quickly went from go-for (go for a diaper, go for a blanket, go for your sister) to a real honest-to-goodness holder (hold the diaper bag, hold the purse, hold the baby) and she could accomplish her tasks with real enviable zeal.

From then on the rest of the kids were gravy. Everyone does their share to help, and with children the rule truly is “to each according to their abilities.” For example, the other night I was watching the children while Wife was at a baby shower. When she drove into the driveway, #3 was the first to spot her and alerted the rest of us. Immediately #4 joined #3 at the window aggressively watching their mother park the van. #2 did not move from her spot on the couch watching the movie. #5 and #6 were suspiciously missing. In the meantime, before Wife could open the front door, #1 completely cleared off the dining table. See, “to each according to their abilities.”

I hope this has cleared the air now.

And for those who are teetering on the edge of insanity with three children and can’t take any more, I offer my unsolicited advice. Take the plunge, the water is not as cold as you have been told, or maybe you just get used to it. Either way, I give you permission. Have yourself a fourth, have your cruise baby, and above all enjoy.

True troubles

This morning I awoke blurry eyed and in all respects a bit down cast. After a long night of painfully watching the election coverage, I had to get up early for work the next morning. A quick check on the final results before I left the house didn’t help an already sour mood caused by a lack of sleep.

Taxes in California are going up. We have a man in the White House who is in favor of more taxes. As well as a Mayor inSan Diegowho is also in favor of more taxes. These were the troubles that daunted me as I walked into the living room.

There I was met by all the children except the baby. And sitting on the couch were three of the girls steeped in a very heated argument. #1 and #3 were ganging up on #4. The disagreement I walked in on went something like this:

#4: “It’s Tuesday!”

#1 and #3 in unison: “No! It’s Wednesday!”

#4: “Naha, Gramma GG said it’s Tuseday!”

#1: “It’s not Tuesday any more, it’s Wednesday.”

#4 spotting her father: “Daddyyyyyyyyyyy!!!! Is today Tuesday?”

Shaking my head: “Sorry little one, yesterday was Tuesday, today is Wednesday.”

#4 grows a frown.

And I thought I had troubles.

North Pole vs. South Pole

Walking in the front door I came upon all four girls with their heads together bent over the globe on the dining room table. They were deep in discussion about which of the very colorful continents was the North Pole. The guesses ranged from Florida, to Egypt, to somewhere in western Russia.
When the children realized I was behind them, little squealing girls insisted on my help. Like any good home-schooling father, I attempted to ignore them and walk away, but they saw through my deception and I was roped in.
We started with an educated guess from #1. “Is this the North Pole?” she asked as she pointed to some point in the Mid West.

The North Pole?

“Ummm, not quite. It’s more like up here.” I then pointed to the proper place on the globe.
“Ohh, this is the North Pole,” said #1 as she tapped the plastic degree plate at the top of the world.
“No, that’s… something else. It’s under that, I mean…” As I looked upon the row of confused faces I was suddenly aware of just how a rat felt in a maze. I hastened to explain myself as I pointed to the empty ocean at the top of the world “It’s right here, but there’s no land. It’s all ice, but they don’t show ice on a globe. Ah…”
With my lightning quick mind I found myself changing the subject. “The South Pole has land, you see. The North Pole doesn’t, but the South Pole does.” We turned the globe upside down and a couple heads bonked as they leaned in.
I got a lot of “ooh’s” before someone asked, “What’s that?” pointing to Brazil.
So we did the Point-at-a-country and dad-will-read-what-it-is game all the way to dinner and into the meal.
About half way into the meal, and a full five minute after we put the globe away, #2 announced, “I don’t want go to the North Pole, I want to go to the South Pole.”
Well, I thought, I guess she really was listening to.
Not bad for a home-schooling dad.