Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Feeding time for the twins has evolved greatly over the last twenty-two months. It started out as a bizarre sideshow novelty act, evolved into a scene from "The Fly", switched to just plain gross, and has now become only slightly messy and amusing. I shall attempt to re-create each of these phases in detail, but I warn you, it's not for the faint of heart.

This was by far my favorite stage, for two reasons: 1) it required no participation from me whatsoever, and 2) who doesn't love a carnival freak show!? It may not have been as gawk worthy as the Elephant Man or the bearded lady, but it still filled me with shock and awe, and I didn't even have to pay admission. If I only had a straw hat and a cane I could have made a fortune.

I had seen women breast feeding in the restaurant before, sitting in a corner booth and trying to be very discreet, covering themselves with a blanket. I must admit this always left me a little embarrassed, and I thought these women were very brazen for doing such a thing in public. Enter the twins. My wife was topless for six months straight, and I can still draw her mammaries from memory. Burned into my retina is the image of the large u-shaped pillow around her belly, my son perched on one side and my daughter on the other, both attached like hairless parasites to her chafed and swollen udders, draining her of the life force necessary to sustain their own existence. There were salves and balms applied between feedings, which occurred in regular intervals, dissecting the clock face into pieces of La Leche League pie. Sometimes this became a bit much for the wife, and the alternative was a mechanical breast pump which was somehow even more preversely entertaining than the parasitic feeding frenzy it replaced. I miss this stage.

When we started the twins on solid foods, I was called upon to do my part and shovel spoonfuls of colorful goo into the uncooperative mouths of my otherwise beautiful children. This was the single most disgusting act I have ever been forced to subject myself to. No airplane noise or choo choo sound was able to coerce my childrens lips to part, and the act quickly deteriorated into a waiting game whereupon any smile or yawn was met with the quick and forceful jab of spoon into mouth. Not to be outdone, the children would simply spit out the goo, leaving me to scrape it off their chins and try again. And again. This half an hour or so was more stressful than any IRS audit. I love my kids, but this was almost too much for me to stomach. In the mouth, out of the mouth, catch it with the tiny spoon, and back in again. It reminded me of "The Fly" vomiting on his food before eating it. Ugh.

Finger foods saved my children. Just about the time I was ready to give up on them, feeding time was downgraded to just plain gross. This stage again required very little participation on my part, mostly hosing them down after they smeared themselves with whatever foodstuff was made available to them. At this point, we gave up on bibs, opting instead to strip them naked and let them rub themselves from head to chest with peanut butter, jelly, pizza, cheerios, and ketchup. Jack began food fights and discovered holes in his highchair into which he could stuff anything he did not wish to eat. Ella was much neater by comparison, although we quickly discovered that spaghetti dinners would always be followed by bathtime, even though she looked positively radiant in marinara mascara. The worst part about this stage was the cleanup, as the twins often left the kitchen resembling a slaughterhouse caught in a tornado.

Although far from dextrous, the twins have begun to master the fork and spoon. This process has been gradual and deliberate, and met with great encouragement from the wife and me. They are growing up and growing fast. When dinner time is announced, they run to the highchairs and fall upon the food before them with great verve and gusto. Usually. We no longer have to cook separate meals for them, which makes life easier and also helps out with the grocery bills. Family dinners have become much less stressful, and we can sit back and marvel at the wonderful job we have done molding these alien parasites into little human beings. Oh, sure, sometimes food still hits the floor, but the difference is that now they are forced to pick it up and throw it away. And they actually think this is fun! The good news is that they now eat more food than they waste, they say "Mmmmmmm!" when they like what they're eating, and they don't completely embarrass us when dining out.

They are growing up so fast, and I wonder what the next step will be. Will they fold napkins into their laps? Will they drink from their sippy cups with their pinkies in the air? Will they know which course the little fork is used for? Or will they sniff the cork, swirl the glass, and debate the merits of tannin and it's impact upon the palatte?

Monday, September 29, 2008


When I get home from work at one in the morning, there is nothing I like better than unwinding in front of the television for an hour or so before curling up next to my slumbering spouse. The house is quiet, there is nobody awake to bother me, and anything in the fridge is fair game. Although, occasionally, I'll find something interesting on the Tivo list to watch, I usually just grab the remote and pray that the Knife Show is on. Last weekend, however, I found a new home shopping show called Shop Erotic. The name sounded provocative, so I flipped over to see what this was all about.

It was just what the name implied, however that didn't soften the blow or lessen the shock of seeing two attractive women displaying a variety of erotic toys made out of varying materials and describing their use rather explicitly. It was not at all pornographic, mind you. The Asian naughty librarian host and her bubbly blonde sidekick were fully clad, and they did not actually demonstrate the use of the products they were selling. But the products did have names like the "Pink Nubby", "Jesse's Penetrator", and the "Clone A Willy Glow In The Dark Kit".

I have never seen such a display of gels, foam rubber, chrome, glass, and latex in my life. The girls were very adept at discussing the merits of each type of material and the possibilities they provided. But the alarming aspect was the explicit language they used to describe the way these toys could be employed. Words like "insertion" and "tri-gasm" should only be uttered on Cinemax or Pay-Per-View. I could not believe this was on basic cable for all to see!

Before I turned it off, I set the Tivo to record the rest of the program. "My wife will never believe me", I thought. And, sure enough, in the morning when my wife arose, I had the pleasure of watching her jaw drop as she took in the display of "beautiful art glass that I would be proud to display on my mantle". Her only response was, "I can't watch this in front of the kids."

Thursday, September 25, 2008


There are striking similarities in behavior between the young and old. My father was 72 years old when he passed away, and as my son approaches his second birthday, I can't help but draw comparisons between the two most influential males in my life. There are differences to be sure, and thankfully so. Jack doesn't smoke, drink, curse, fish, watch porn, or love jazz... yet.

He does, however, drool. Alot. Dad once tried to quit smoking by sucking on cinnamon sticks. They are similar in size and shape to cigarettes, but, unfortunately, they are hollow and provided excess saliva with a direct escape route from his mouth to his shirt. Drooling is much cuter on Jack.

Dad had a much greater command of the English language than my son, but without his dentures in place, they were equally unintelligible. Also much cuter on Jack.

Dad loved trains. Jack loves Thomas the Train. That's a toss up. We'll give it to Dad.

Jack gets depressed when an episode of Thomas is over. Dad got depressed when his lap dance was over. Another toss up.

Dad could use his cell phone to call friends, but was unable to program numbers into his phone, no matter how many times I showed him how easy it was. Jack has the same rudimentary cell phone skills.

Dad had a computer and chatted with many friends on the internet, although he was far from computer savvy. Jack managed to move my toolbar to the top of the screen without even using the mouse, and now I can't move it back. (Not so much a similarity, I just needed to vent.)

Jack has no control over his bodily functions and does his business in a diaper, although, we are working on potty training. Last week, he pooped in the potty, then got excited and peed on the carpet. Dad didn't soil himself, although there were many close calls where I had to suddenly stop the truck and then look the other way and pray there were no cops as he peed on the side of the highway in rush hour traffic. Three and a half minutes is a long time to listen to an old man tinkle on pavement. The constant sighs of relief are also a tad uncomfortable.

Other shared traits:
Making me laugh like nobody else can.
Abiding love of bologna.
Embarrassing me thoroughly like nobody else can.
Making me grateful for what I have been given.
The frequent passing of gas.
Increasing my patience.
An abundance of ear wax.
Teaching me that life is precious.

I don't know just how similar to Dad my son will remain. Who knows if he'll like fishing, clothes that don't match, or Dizzy Gillespe as much as my father did. I can only hope that he keeps some of the more endearing characteristics already in his possession, such as his charm, his laugh, and perhaps most importantly, his teeth.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


The male of the species is a funny thing. Centuries of genetic programming and survival instincts dictate that we are in constant competition with each other. Whether it's climbing the corporate ladder or playing a game of Monopoly, we want to win at all costs. This is sometimes apparent in very subtle circumstances that shouldn't be competitive at all, such as a visit to White Castle.

On a recent trip to Nashville, I was traveling with two business companions from very different backgrounds. But let's focus on Tito (not his real name). Tito is an entrepreneur, well educated at an historically black college, a father of two kids in private school, and married to a wife who sits high on the totem pole of her corporation. He has a great sense of humor and we spent most of the week throwing racial stereotypes at each other just for fun, seeing who could top the other one.

Tito is bigger than me, although only by a couple of notches of the belt. He often jokes that he doesn't miss many meals, and I suppose the same argument could me made about me. It's hard to go hungry when we manage restaurants for a living. I have actually been trying to eat healthy and exercise in an effort to lose weight, but a week away from home marked a return to convenient over-eating, which peaked on the last day, on our way out of town, on a visit to White Castle.

I was eying the menu board as Tito began to order a pitiful combo of 3 White Castles, fries, and a Coke. When he added a chicken sandwich, I saw my opening. Shame was my tactic of choice as I baited him on the hook.

Me- "You're only getting three White Castles? This may be the last time you get to eat White Castle for months. You'd better get some to take home with you. Why don't we split that Combo #3. Twenty White Castles and four fries and we can add a couple of Cokes. Or you can get some fruit punch. I know how you people like that stuff."

Tito- "First of all, it's drink. Fruit drink. Second of all, that's a good idea you got there, Jew boy."

I'm not Jewish, however this had been a recurring theme over the week. After all, what's more stereotypically white than Judaism? So Tito changes the order and decides to up the ante on me when the lady behind the counter wants to know if he still wants the extra chicken sandwich. He does, which prompts me to add on a pulled bbq sandwich in an effort not to be outdone. Oh, yeah. It's on. Tito settles for a large soda, and in order to establish my dominance, I am forced into a jumbo. This was part of Tito's strategy, I was to find out later.

At the table, we divvy up the food and settle in. There has been no mention of a contest mind you, but as the ketchup is squeezed from tiny packets, we are clearly sizing each other up. I make an early decision to start with the bbq sandwich, to get it out of the way first. Tito leaves the chicken sandwich for later. I was one bbq sandwich and six White Castles in when he broke the silence.

Tito- "So what, man, you ain't drinking no soda?"

I noticed his cup was almost full as I removed my lid to reveal a cup half empty. This did not sit well with my opponent.

Tito- "Damn. You're doing pretty good over there, man. Hey, I don't think I like this chicken sandwich. It's kinda..."

He might as well have thrown in the towel. Making excuses not to eat all he had ordered? He should have lead with the chicken sandwich. My game plan was clearly superior, but with two White Castles to go, I hit the wall. I did not want to take another bite of tiny burger, but I was unwilling to suffer defeat. I would win at all costs. Victory would be mine. I disconnected my brain, and soldiered on.

Tito- "Man, you're like that skinny Japanese guy that can eat all those hot dogs. Alright, man. I gotta give it to you. You win."

Keep in mind that this competition was completely unspoken, and yet a winner was declared. That winner was me. Men are always trying to outdo each other. How else can you explain the Hummer, or 72 inch plasma TV's? We are constantly striving to have more, do more, be more than the guy next to us. And what is our motivation? Why do we do it? What is the prize for being number 1? My prize was simply sleeping in the back seat all the way back to Atlanta, a full belly, and knowing I had given my best. Until next time, Tito!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Having attended weeks of childbirth classes, I felt very prepared for the birth of my twins. In my wallet was a card upon which was written the names and telephone numbers of our OB/GYN along with helpful tips in order to keep me calm and rational during what would surely be a stressful experience for the wife and me. The restaurant business has made me an expert in dealing with disaster in a rational manner, so I assumed that when I got the call, I would remain calm, cool, collected, and confident.

I had just taken possession of my Biggie sized combo of reconstituted chicken, recombinant growth hormone, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil when my cell phone rang. "I'm pretty sure my water just broke, or else I just peed on myself." This statement alone would have sent most fathers-to-be into absolute shock, but not me. "Oh yeah? Well, what color is it?" I calmly asked, taking a bite out of my chicken sandwich. "Umm, it's kind of murky." Dipping a salty french fry into a crimson pool of velvety ketchup I coolly queried, "What does it smell like?". I had been well trained, indeed. I dialed the doctors number and explained the situation. The doctor sounded annoyed, probably due to the fact that my speech was impaired by the mastication of fast food, and she called the wife directly for more information.

It was about half way through the meal when it happened. My phone rang again and the wife informed me that there was now a small discharge of blood. My heart sank. I made a mad dash for the car and all the way home my mind was a mangled mess of electrical impulses, each one informing me that I was already a terrible father, and the kids weren't even here yet. I found the wife still perched on her porcelain pedestal, helped her to dress, and raced toward the hospital, both of us excited and nervous and anxious to meet our children for the very first time. Even through her contractions, she assured me that I was going to be a great dad. It made both of us stronger just being together; neither of us realizing exactly what lay ahead.

The contraction monitor was a useful piece of technology for which I was grateful, as the peaks and valleys being graphed in real time served as a warning for the violent mood swings and bipolar disorders that would overtake my wife for the next few hours. It was alarmingly accurate, predicting the tensing of muscles, the reddening of the epidermis, and the beading of sweat upon the brow. Fascinating. Does this thing come in a PMS model? During one particularly lengthy contraction, a nurse's aid came over to investigate. "I'm just going to lift this sheet and take a look," she announced. My wife felt compelled to warn her as if this was her first day working in delivery, "Be careful. There's a lot of fluid down there." The poor little woman had misunderstood, as evidenced by the look of puzzlement on her face and her next confused question: "There's FOOD down here?!". In obvious pain, but not enough to dull her razor sharp wit, my wife replied in a tone dripping with sarcasm and annoyance, "Yeah, I'm sneaking in a fried chicken. FLUID! FLEW-ID. F.L.U.I.D.!".

After a brief separation during which my wife was prepped for a caeseraion, I was ushered into the operating theater through the back door like a deliveryman. I was greeted by my wife's head and a guy named Bert. My wife's head was separated from her body by a large blue sheet. She seemed to be unaware that her body was being pulled apart by a team of medical professionals, focusing instead on Bert, to whom she was talking as if he were an old friend. Bert was a masked bandit whose only distinguishing feature seemed to be a pair of rimless glasses. He spoke reassuringly and had a very soothing effect upon my wife aside from the fact that he controlled her anesthesia. I was not so easily sedated, and couldn't help but wonder just what exactly was going on beyond the blue curtain. I got up my courage and peeked around the side, but the sight of bloody stainless steel surgical tools and a glimpse of entrails that might be found on the floor of an industrial meat packing plant was enough to make me see the folly of my brief curiosity and hasten a speedy retreat to the safety of my wife's talking head and the lenses Bert had apparently stolen from some unsuspecting frames.

And when I least expected it, two hands held up a red and pink squiggle of baby fat, announced "Here's your son", and then quickly disappeared behind the curtain again. I looked at my wife, astonished, then I looked at Bert and I could see his eyes smiling at me from behind those pilfered lenses. Just then, a nurse appeared from around the curtain holding a tiny blanket concealing the most precious treasure I had ever seen. "Would you like to hold your daughter?", she asked. And as I sat there with my wife's head by my side and my daughter in my arms, I knew that my fears of being a bad father were completely unfounded. There was no way I was going to screw this up. Here were these perfect little people that we had made together that would fill our lives with misery and joy and love and pain from this moment forward. It was the proudest moment of my life, and I was relieved that we had all made it through together. As my wife was taken to recovery, I staggered out to share the news with the family, and search for another chicken sandwich.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Ah, nap time. The midday return of sanity and serenity. Up to two whole hours devoid of screaming, yelling, shouting, and screeching. And the kids are pretty quiet, too. It's the time of day that allows my wife the freedom to Flicker and Twitter as much as she likes. (Perhaps I should clarify that Flicker and Twitter are websites, not unspeakable acts of self pleasure.) It is a time to decompress, to relax, to let your guard down and forget that you're a parent, if only for a fleeting moment.

The twins don't always take full advantage of nap time. Sometimes we can hear strange noises emanating from their room. We never investigate because, frankly, we're on break, and if we can hear them making noise, then they must be alive and well. But sometimes I wonder what exactly goes on in there. What's all the giggling about?

Some months ago I was on the telephone and stepped outside so as not to disturb the wife and kids during nap time. My neighbor happened to be walking his dog and as he and I exchanged a pleasant greeting, he said something I didn't understand, and began making his way across my front yard toward the twin's window. When I asked him to repeat himself, he replied, "I'm going to see the little girl". As I spun around, I was surprised to see Ella at the window bouncing like a Tigger and laughing like Tickle Me Elmo. She's usually wary of people she doesn't know very well, so this shocked me quite a bit. The dog stood with her paws on the window, tongue out, tail wagging, as my neighbor waved to my daughter and tapped on the glass to my amazement and to her utter delight.

As the man and his dog resumed their walk, I asked him how often this visitation occurred. "Oh, we stop and see her every day. She usually sees us coming down the hill and gets all excited. See you tomorrow!" he replied. I took a moment to gather my wits about me once again, turned and headed back into the house to tell the wife what I had just witnessed. "Honey, do you have any idea what goes on around here while you're Flickering your Twitter?"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The toddlers have installed secret passageways throughout the house. It's just like the classic board game "Clue", except without the conservatory and the billiard room, and Col. Mustard lives in the fridge and bleeds on my ham sandwich. OK, it's not much like "Clue", and I don't have proof, but I highly suspect that somewhere hidden behind the bookcase is a dimly lit tunnel that leads directly to the shower in the spare bathroom. This tunnel is not only used for sneaking past Mom and Dad, but, more importantly, I'm convinced that this is where they keep their STASH!

This Easter, I stayed up late stuffing chocolate into plastic egg shells planning to hold an Easter egg hunt for my restaurant employees. I went to bed and left the eggs in a plastic bag within toddler reach. I was tired, and I wasn't thinking clearly. I awoke Easter Sunday to find at least a dozen eggs had been pilfered, their broken shells scattered across the floor, their treasures plundered. There sat my lovely children, brown smears across their chins, colored aluminum wrappers gripped tightly in their little fingers, and huge smiles revealing cocoa veneers by Dr. Cadbury, D.D.S. I conceded defeat and went to work with the remaining eggs.

For weeks afterward, we kept finding them chewing on those shiny pastel wrappers. We knew they had a stash somewhere, but where? We tore the house apart. We looked under cribs and in closets. We moved heavy furniture. We examined Mr. Bear for loose stitches. Try as we may, we could not find those chocolates anywhere. Eventually, the stash dried up, and the wife and I quickly forgot all about it. Until today.

You see, we thought we had put away all of the crayons until the children become more responsible. (By "more responsible", I mean they should actually be able to spell the word "responsible" before gaining access to crayons again.) In the past few weeks they have managed to color on everything from the furniture to the TV to the sliding glass door to the walls themselves. We put the crayons up when not in use, but one or two always seem to escape, and the temptation is too great for toddlers to withstand. So we have temporarily suspended their coloring privileges. But, today, Ella produced a crayon from her stash and proceeded to color on the back of the couch...again. It wasn't even a whole crayon. It was a pitifully small shard of burnt umber that might have been used to mark time served on the walls of a Turkish prison. I just hope she isn't hiding a shiv and planning to shank me in the shower before escaping from justice through her secret passageway to the bookcase. The headline would surely read, "Miss Scarlet, in the Shower, with the homemade Knife".

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I was warned before the birth of my children that everything would change, especially my sex life. I am proud to report that my wife and I still manage to get intimate with each other at least three times a week. Unfortunately, our weeks have changed from the traditional seven days to forty-two.

What used to be a lengthy, enjoyable foray into our physical desires has now become an all too brief race to satisfy our diminishing needs, which, I'm proud to say, I usually win. Instead of leisurely walking hand in hand through a romantic garden, pausing to smell the flowers along the way, we now sprint toward the finish line without a single hurdle impeding our progress.

We used to be adventuresome. No room in the house was sacred. No piece of furniture safe. Now, we are confined to the bedroom with the lights out and the baby monitor on. Try to be amorous when you can hear every murmur of toddlers who refuse to sleep even hours after they have been lain into their cribs. Nothing kills the mood like your son's voice suddenly shouting, "Hi!", or your daughter singing the theme song to "Elmo's World".

Nowadays, on the rare occasion that I'm home in time to actually go to bed with my wife, we both lie there thinking the same thing: I'd like to get a little, but I sure could use the rest. I never thought I'd have to choose between sex and sleep. After all, sleep follows sex like the paparazzi follow Brittany Spears. But after an entire day of being climbed on, kneed in the groin, scratched, pinched, head-butted, stood on, drooled on, bitten, and clawed by two heathen toddlers, neither one of us really wants to be touched by anything but the covers. So, we curl up into the fetal position, stick our fingers into our mouths, and feel just a little bit guilty for the fourteen or so seconds it takes for the snoring to begin. Maybe we'll have sex next week...


The restaurant business is an unstable, unpredictable one. No two days are the same, and that's what I like about it. There is a constant revolving door of employees and their daily dramas, menu items that are here today, gone tomorrow, and the hustle and bustle of vendors through the back door delivering gossip about your competitors along with produce and beer. Policy changes come down the pike, inventories fluctuate, and equipment breaks down. But in this state of flux there is one undying constant: customer complaints.

There are dozens of complaints thrust upon me every day. Most of them are easily corrected without incident and without raising the ire of the mighty paying customer. The majority of the dining public understands that we are only human and mistakes are inevitable. There are, however, occasions where a customer is so famished and frail that the slightest thing can set them off, triggering a flood of emotions and a rush of adrenaline so great that they shake uncontrollably like an epileptic with Parkinson's disease.

I was called to the front door to deal with a man who was unhappy with his food which he had purchased to go. It had taken so long, and he was so hungry when he finally got home that he could not be bothered with utensils, and with a passionate desire to quench his hunger, he simply bit the end off of his baked potato. In so doing, he revealed a natural imperfection within the Idaho Russet, which he could only assume was a worm. I tried to calmly explain that sometimes potatoes have bad spots inside, and that we are unable to submit every tuber to a cat scan before serving. I then apologized profusely, and reimbursed the man for the price of his meal. "I'm keeping this potato!" he said threateningly as if to imply that it would be submitted to a laboratory for further testing. I wonder if he still has it to this day, perhaps in a glass jar on display next to his bowling trophies.

I received a phone call from another to go customer who informed me that there were no grilled vegetables in his entree. This would have been a terrible oversight, as the skewer of veggies was an integral part of the dish. In an effort to clarify the situation, I inquired whether there had been any zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, or onions in the box. He said that indeed there were, to which I replied that those were the vegetables called for in the recipe. "An onion is NOT a vegetable. LOOK IT UP!" he screamed as he slammed down the phone. I did, and it is.

And God forbid you should make someone wait for a table five minutes longer than you predicted. Red faced and veins bulging, stomachs twisted and tied into elaborate knots heretofore reserved for bondaged submissives, ready to explode with furious anger they will confront you with their battle cry, "You told me fifteen minutes and that was TWENTY MINUTES AGO!". Then they will invariably demand something for free, or for their bill to be discounted. I wonder if these people have ever been to the doctor for a three-thirty appointment and then demanded a free prostrate exam when the nurse finally calls for them at four-fifteen.

Poor service? Don't tip. Didn't like it? Order something else next time. A fly landed in your tea? He was thirsty. Get a replacement. Life is not perfect, and neither are we. Some people actually think that they are, and those are the people who like to point out every minute mistake, every detailed flaw, and then refuse to let you do anything to rectify the situation. "No," they'll say. "I didn't tell you because I wanted something for free. I just wanted you to know why I will never come back." Well, sir, I value your input, and I hope that it makes you feel superior to point out the shortcomings of others. I'm sure you have never admitted to a mistake in your life and you're probably only bitter because you did the right thing all those years ago and married the girl that you didn't love but knocked up in the back seat of your father's Monte Carlo and can't help dreaming of how great your life could have been without the weight of unwanted children and a nagging spouse dragging you down. Thank you for your business, unfortunately I have to go extract a stray kitten from underneath the fryers. Just when I thought I'd seen it all...

Monday, September 8, 2008


We live five hours away from our nearest relatives, so if the wife and I would like some alone time, or if our schedules don't mesh, we are forced to leave our precious offspring in the tenuous care of relative strangers. The restaurant business affords me access to a small group of giggly but somewhat responsible high school girls who have demonstrated sufficiently their abilities to remain calm under pressure, think on their feet, and perhaps most importantly, ask me for help when they are in over their heads. Although I don't know all the details of their personal lives, we do have a certain level of trust.

On one particular occasion, however, we needed a babysitter during school hours, when all of my tried and true girls were filling their heads with Euclidean geometry and debating whether or not to get pregnant before graduation. In a pinch, we decided to allow an untested twenty something employee of mine to fill in. She was not one of my better employees, but she had volunteered numerous times when the wife and kids would come in for dinner, and we were really in a bind.

She arrived during nap time, on her cell phone, in a very heated conversation with whom I presumed to be her carousing and controlling boyfriend. She payed absolutely no attention as I excused myself to get ready for work. In the shower, every drop of water slapped me in the face and cried, "No! Don't leave your kids with this insecure woman! The only thing lower than her I.Q. is her self esteem!". After thirty minutes of worst case scenario analysis, I returned to find the argument being cut short, the babysitter sensing that I might have some pertinent information to impart upon her before leaving for work.

I should have grabbed the kids and ran. Instead, as I explained the rituals and feeding habits of two small omnivores, I noticed for the first time the troll-like appearance of this vacuous doormat of a woman. Her eyes were a bit jaundiced and entirely too close together, like a double yolked egg. She had the upturned snout of a mulefoot sow. Her hair arose from dark roots and tried to escape at her shoulders where it had been bleached out of existence. Her skin was ailing and pock marked. Her breasts marked the first of three distinct rolls of squalid flesh beneath her shirt, each one protruding far beyond the one above it. Her lips were strangely loose and seemed to be beyond her control. When she spoke it was as if her voice was overdubbed, the sound not matching the shape of the mouth, and when she smoked it was as if she was trying to fellate her cigarette. She repulsed me terribly, probably because I sensed that my children would not be safe under her charge. But I had little choice now, and left for work as worried as I have ever been without seeing flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror.

When my wife arrived home, the kids were still breathing, with all extremities still attached. They were pre-toddlers back then, able to crawl and stand, but unable to walk and climb like the spider monkeys they have now become. The babysitter greeted my wife with a startling revelation in an entirely flippant, nonchalant, and eerily proud tone; "Ella flipped off the end table like three times!". What kind of idiot would admit this outright? Did she think we would find it amusing that she had allowed this to happen multiple times? Not to mention the fact that my daughter couldn't even climb up on the couch herself! The babysitter had actually ENABLED my precious little girl to endanger herself over and over again. Thankfully Ella was alright, and the babysitter was out of our house, forever.

The worst part of course was that I still had to work with this moron. In this day and age you need a litany of paperwork and documentation to fire someone unless they steal from you or stab a customer. Unfortunately, she never did either. I did learn my lesson, though, and her ugly visage was a constant reminder. Don't let anyone watch your kids that you don't thoroughly trust, and always trust your instincts above all.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


As hurricane Gustav was bearing down on the Gulf Coast last week and all eyes were on New Orleans, I could not help but feel remorseful for all those people facing the possibility of yet another natural disaster the likes of Katrina. I absolutely love New Orleans for it's history, it's traditions, and it's culture. There is no place on earth like it. So as the fate of this great American treasure was the center of water cooler discussions around the world, I was surprised to hear a few people say that they should never have tried to rebuild after Katrina. It is to those cynics that I pose the question, "Have you never raised toddlers?".

Every day my house is destroyed by Hurricane Jack and tropical storm Ella. And every day we rebuild it. The weather starts to turn every morning at 7:00. Through the baby monitor, we can hear Tropical Storm Ella groaning and mumbling herself to life, softly at first and then gaining momentum like thunder rolling in the distance. Then comes the squeak of the bed springs as she bounces full force, unable to contain the energy amassing inside of her. She must be unleashed! Meanwhile, Hurricane Jack is deceptively calm. He has been downgraded to a tropical depression overnight. Our meteorologists warn us, however, that we should still keep a close eye on him as he could easily regain strength over the warm waters of the Gulf.

There is a calm before the storm as they down their morning milk. I believe they use this time to plot their paths of destruction. As soon as the last drop of milk has disappeared, Ella makes landfall at the bookcase. The tearing of pages and maiming of covers is merciless. Books fly in every direction. Some are thrust into your hand to read while others are thrust into your groin for no good reason. Crayons appear out of nowhere and vandalism leaves ugly scars upon perfectly good literature. I pray that she never discovers fire.

Jack has now been re-classified as a category five and is dumping several inches of milk all over the love seat. The ottoman (which acts as a floodgate when wedged between the love seat and the entertainment center) was only designed to withstand a category three. Now both storms are loose and a state of emergency is declared. Magazines, pajama bottoms, water bottles, toys of all shapes and sizes, cell phones, coffee cups, diapers, remote controls, shoes, teddy bears, blankets, books, and golf balls dot the landscape for as far as the eye can see.

During nap time, we survey the damage and start to clean up the aftermath. The psychological effects on the survivors may not be known for quite a while. But we have no time to think about that. Like those citizens of New Orleans who refuse to give up, we too shall rebuild. But unlike them, we are forced to do it in the eye of the storm, for after nap time, we will feel the wrath of Hurricane Jack and Tropical Storm Ella once again.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I discipline my children because I love them. I understand that the boundaries we set and the behaviors we reward at home will prepare my children for any variety of social interaction they are likely to encounter. I would like for them to grow up well adjusted and to act like civilized human beings instead of throwing feces, coloring on the furniture, and torturing the family cat as is their primal nature. Actually, this is why my wife disciplines our children, as she is the primary caretaker of our beautiful twins, and a fine job she has done thus far. I go along with whatever she says mostly out of instinct and fear.

There are several methods of discipline from which to chose, and each one can be effective if used properly. Apparently the favored technique most often brandished by my lovely wife is the raising of the voice. Most mornings after working late at the restaurant I am awakened by my true love's voice at a thousand or so decibels shouting "NO, NO!" or "HEY!" or "THAT'S ENOUGH". This is invariably followed by a brief period of soft sobbing as I shuffle through the living room toward my first cup of coffee.

Another option is the Time Out. This usually occurs about halfway through the fifteen minute loop of Headline News, when the children resume whatever behavior sparked the raising of the voice that woke me up in the first place. Now the wife places them into two small chairs in the corner of the room, facing the wall. This produces a sustained period of sharp, shrill, staccato shrieking of a rhythmic nature which reverberates throughout the room and sends me for my second cup of coffee.

The last resort in my house is the swatting of the butt. Now, before you go accusing us of beating our kids, let me just comfort you with the fact that the swatting of the butt is almost always buffered by a soggy diaper. The soggy diaper acts as a sponge that absorbs most of the blunt force of the swatting of the butt, redirecting it outwardly in a radial pattern away from the toddler's tushy. This is an attention getter of the greatest magnitude; an act so shocking to the toddler brain, it's only response is what I call "the windup and the pitch". This response begins with complete silence as the toddler's mouth opens wide, the eyes go all squinty, the bottom lip protrudes, and the lungs fill slowly with air to about 110% capacity. This is the windup. Then comes the pitch... a cry so loud and so high pitched that it actually shatters the coffee mug and leaves me with first degree burns, ensuring that I'm painfully awake and prepared to face the rest of my day.

So it should come as no surprise that one recent afternoon I was proud to let my wife take a much needed nap as I watched our little angels, confidently prepared for whatever behavioral issues might arise. I knew the routine, the protocol. I had witnessed it countless times. What could possibly go wrong? And so it began that my son should test his boundaries by climbing up onto the TV stand, stretching up on his tippy toes to reach the newly replaced DVD/VCR combo which is now perched high above the realm of toddlers and their crayons, or so I thought.

"NO, NO, JACK!" came the raising of the voice. "GET DOWN!" it thundered. This was completely ineffective. There was no sobbing, no remorse, no guilt, just bare knuckled determination on behalf of the toddler to push those shiny blue buttons on the DVD player while simultaneously pushing Daddy's buttons, too. I knew what I had to do. "Let's go to Time Out." I rallied as I scooped him up into my arms. And then I made my fatal mistake. Unwilling to listen to the shrill, staccato screaming at full volume, I decided the best course of action would be to place him into his crib to serve out his sentence of solitude.

Feeling triumphant, I returned to the couch thinking that this discipline stuff might actually work, and turned my attention back to my daughter who was behaving quite well, indeed. I tuned out the crying coming from the twin's bedroom (an ability that both amazes and angers my wife) and hadn't even noticed the quiet set in until I saw him... the boy... Jack... come bouncing back into the living room as if nothing had happened and go right back to climbing on the TV stand.

A million thoughts raced through my head at that exact moment. So many things I wanted to say, but my tongue would not move. My brain could not process a single word into audible existence. The shock of it all left me confused, stunned, unsure what to do or think. How did he get out of that crib? Should I put him back and see if he can do it again? Is this a milestone? Should I be concerned for his safety? Should I be proud? No. I should recognize that he is blatantly disobeying me and continue to my last course of action, the dreaded swatting of the butt.

I gave him one swift swat as I pulled him off the TV stand and waited for the windup and the pitch. But to my surprise, there was only soft sobbing and he was headed back up to the summit of the TV stand once again. Inconcievable! It was at this point that my wife came out of the bedroom to diffuse the situation. It was a good thing, too, because I was in over my head in uncharted territory. I was actually contemplating waterboarding...


In my house, fewer things strike terror deeper into my heart than peace and quiet. This will only sound strange to those of you who haven't raised small children before. With the twins just a few short months away from their second birthday, peace and quiet are the harbingers of doom and destruction around here. The warning signs are entirely too subtle. I've heard that just before you die of hypothermia, your body becomes warm and comfortable, no longer cold at all, and that this false sense of well being is actually the final warning sign that your life is about to be snuffed out. That's what peace and quiet is like for me.

I've learned this fact the hard way, as I have learned nearly everything in my life, through bitter and chilling experience. Months ago, the wife went off to the grocery store and left her overworked and tired husband in charge of the twin tornadoes. I was all too happy to oblige, as she was due some "me time", although, I soon found myself dozing on the couch amidst all the noise and squalor of wild animal rogue children as only fathers can do. I have no idea how long it took for the deafening silence to jar me from my from my unconsciousness, but my spider senses were tingling as I cautiously arose to check on the children. Hmm, not in their bedroom, not in the kitchen. "Jack? Ella?". Not in the playroom, not in the laundry room. A quick glance at the newly installed cat door to the garage. Nah, couldn't be. "Jack?Ella?". The quiet was taunting me now. Let's see, not in the spare bedroom, not in the bathroom, and our bedroom door is shut. Don't panic. Remain calm. Retrace your steps. Not in their bedroom, bathroom, playroom, spare bedroom, kitchen, nor in the laundry room, and our bedroom door is shut. A long gaze at the cat door and a pit of despair in my stomach. Could they have possibly...

Out into the garage I go, the overhead door is wide open, and panic sets in. Up to the street, looking right, looking left. Don't call their names out loud or the neighbors will think you're an unfit Dad. This is crazy! There's no way they're out here! Or is there? Back inside. "Jack! Ella!". A crescendo of silence. Then a moment of clarity. Our bedroom. Have they learned to open and shut doors? My heart starts to beat again as the door slowly opens, and, lo and behold, there they are, quiet as can be, stuffing every lost crayon, loose screw, lone sock, and other miscellaneous debris into the VCR side of our DVD/VCR combo. My relief is only overshadowed by my mental exhaustion and the comforting thought that my wife will never know about this incident if I don't tell her myself. Which, of course, I did.

I have to tell you that from that moment on, I have never had illusions that my stay-at-home wife has it easy. In so many ways, her job is much harder than mine, and she never gets a day off. All she gets is a little help around the house every now and then from yours truly, and the occasional stolen moment alone at the grocery store, which from this point forward will be clouded with doubt as to the safety of her children in the hands of their narcoleptic father.


God created Sundays for the normal people, the nine to fivers, the weekenders, and I believe he did it to smite us lowly restaurant workers. You see, for you normal people, Sundays are well spent with family. It's the one day of the week that everyone gets dressed up together and goes to church to tithe and enjoy fellowship and revel in the word of the Lord. A cleansing and cathartic experience after which the whole family enjoys breaking bread together. More often than not, though, the preacher goes long, and Mom and Dad converse with members of the congregation after the service while young children pull at the hems of their slacks and dresses with pangs of hunger in the pits of their stomachs. And hunger, my friends, can do strange things to even the most pious individuals.

In the service industry, however, Sundays have an entirely different slant. We are torn from our slumber and forced to face our hangovers with fur coated tongues. There is no time for family as we try to recall what went horribly wrong the night before at the bar after work. Showers are spent calculating exactly which Red Headed Slut or JagerBomb or shot of Patron pushed us over the edge of the cliff. As we don our uniforms, our minds try to piece together the events of the previous night; clouded and murky and disjointed bits of memory that make little sense in the misfiring synapses of our pounding brains. It is at this point that we pray to God that we didn't do anything too stupid or embarrassing the night before, perhaps our only religious effort of the day.

Enter the after church crowd, their souls cleansed, their sins forgiven, their patience and tolerance defiled by empty bellies craving sustenance at any cost, tempers shortened by low blood sugar, and behaviors quite unsaintly. Many of them will be forced to wait even longer for their daily bread, as the restaurants cannot accomodate the overwhelming overflow of eager customers all released from fire and brimstone at exactly the same moment. By the time the ravenous suits and ties and Sunday dresses finally arrive at the table all foaming at the mouth and chomping at the bit, they have little but contempt left for those of us who have merely prayed to the porcelain god, and for we, the walking dead, the feeling is mutual.

There are no trucks that deliver goods on Sunday. After the two busiest days of the week, the odds of NOT running out of any product are staggeringly against you. Even the most meticulous manager, skilled at ordering, rattling off useage figures, and calculating customer counts cannot forsee the whims and fancies of the public at large, nor can he control the rate of decay of produce, or prevent accidental spillage, or the malfunction of refrigeration equipment. Sunday is the day of reckoning. It tests your metal. It is not for the weak of heart, or for those with a history of stroke in their families. Things will get ugly, feelings will be hurt, and apologies may even be called for.

And yet, after all the customers are fed, and the egos are stroked, and the complaints are listened to, and the fires are put out, and the hangovers subside there is a sense of accomplishment that is unlike Friday or Saturday nights'. You did your best with what you had to work with. You lived to fight another day. You rallied the troops and got the job done. And the normal people? The nine to fivers? The weekenders? Well, once their blood sugar returns to normal so do their behaviors. It is their nature to forgive, and even a sin as great as running out of strawberry waffles is once again overlooked. That is, at least, until next Sunday...

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I like to think of myself as a decent man. Although I'm far from perfect, I'm a devoted father and husband to my wife and kids. I work long hours in a restaurant, read countless books to my children, help with the dishes when I'm home, fix things that are broken, mow the yard before it's embarrassingly long, change the foulest of diapers, encourage my wife to get out of the house alone once in a while to maintain her facade of sanity, and I love every minute of it. But try as I may, I still have one significant downfall, an inherent character flaw that has troubled me since my youth. Garbage.

For as long as I can remember, it has been my job to take out the garbage. That foul, rank sack of stench that plagues kitchens around the globe. That which is unwanted, discarded, unused, forsaken, and cast out of our lives forever becomes my responsibility to get rid of once and for all. Why is this task so daunting? Who among us has not felt unwanted or had a love that was unrequited? Who among us has never been discarded and jilted by a lover? Who among us has not been forsaken, abandoned, given up?

In this consumer society, packaging alone comprises a great portion of our daily trash. I once spent seven hours contemplating the travels of a plastic water bottle. Where was it born? In a factory in Wisconsin? Where was it filled? At a beautiful mountain stream in eastern France? Was it sad to leave such a beautiful place, even though it bore the fruit of their union in fulfillment of it's own divine purpose? Did it travel by boat, plane, rail car, and truck to find me in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert? Was this a significant moment in the life of that water bottle, or just really good LSD? Whatever it was, it didn't last forever, and I'm ashamed to admit that when it was over, I threw that bottle into the trash for someone else to dispose of, once and for all.

Perhaps it was this experience (and the guilt and shame that I bear to this day as a result) that makes it difficult for me to "kick it to the curb", so to speak. Perhaps this is why my lovely wife has to remind me ad nauseum to take out the garbage before I leave for work. I know it bothers her. I know she doesn't enjoy repeating herself. I know she doesn't want to harp on me. Still, she does it anyway, because I leave her no choice. Perhaps I'm reluctant to sentence those derelict objects to life in the landfill. Or perhaps I'm just forgetful. I think of myself as a decent man. Even decent men have their faults. Mine is forgetting to take out the garbage.