Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Reader

Ella loves to read. She loves books and everything about them. She loves the flow of iambic pentameter as well as the strange and wonderful rhythms and rhymes of a certain Dr. Suess. She loves pop up books, and lift a flap books, and books that hold no physical surprises equally. She used to love the taste of books and the sound of pages being torn apart, but, thankfully, she has outgrown this curiously destructive stage of reading. She now prefers her books to remain intact so that they keep their stories straight.

Every morning around nine o'clock, I am awakened by Jack's crying. He inevitably does something he's not supposed to do, earns a stern and loud matronly scolding, and finds himself in time out. The crying gets louder. (And the time out spot is right by my bedroom door. I don't think that this is intentional on the part of the wife, it's just a convenient corner. Or is it?) It is precisely this moment every morning that Ella decides it's time for Daddy to get up.

She is a very helpful little girl. And polite. She toddles up to my night table, grabs my glasses and thrusts them at me while saying, "Glasses, Daddy. Thank you, your welcome." Then she hands me a shirt from the dirty pile of laundry beside my bed. Then she hands me another shirt. And usually another one for good measure. I guess she wants me to have options. Then come the shoes, and I know it's time to excavate myself from underneath the mound of dirty laundry and search for a cup of coffee. (Ella never gives me pants or socks. The twins hate pants and socks for reasons unknown to me, and remove them as frequently as possible. Half of our day is spent putting them in pants and socks. In their toddler Utopia, pants and socks would not exist. Underwear would come with pockets, I suppose.)

Landing on the couch, I try to drink as much coffee as possible while Ella roots through her cache of books. When she finds just the right one, she plods over toward me, all red hair and grinning teeth, and shoves the book directly into my hand before climbing into my lap. As I read to her, I like to let her finish the sentences for me. It's irresistibly cute. No sooner than I pronounce, "The End", Ella is off again, digging through her stacks for another favorite read, while I slam more coffee down my gullet. She's back again, and if my hands aren't free, then, no matter, she thrusts the book underneath my chin and climbs back into position. She's an improviser, that one. This routine continues for four or five books, until Daddy decides to eat something, or Mommy decides that Daddy should take out the garbage or perform some other decidedly adult activity.

Throughout the day, Ella will lay on the floor for hours, turning page after page, reciting the rhythms and the words she can pronounce. When checking on them during naptime, Jack is usually in bed and Ella is usually on the floor with a book over her face. And lately at bedtime, we have to put the baby gate up, because Ella will open the door to let some light in, bring all of her books up to the doorway, and read in that small patch of light until she falls asleep and we can move her to her bed.

Other girls love dolls, or dressing up. Some love horses and rainbows. Some are Tomboys, and love to do little boy things and get dirty. But Ella desires none of these things. For my little girl, there is nothing like Daddy's lap and the sound of his voice reading stories about Elmo's blanket. And I secretly wish that this could go on forever, that she will always be this little girl who loves her Daddy. And loves to read.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The restaurant business is filled with people from all walks of life. It is a melting pot of nationalities, personalities, and sexual orientations. We are very tolerant of each others differences, and that is a wonderful thing. If only the rest of the world were so forgiving. The following story shall illustrate that coincidence is the mother of all comedy...

Imagine that there is a male server of alternate sexual orientation. He has a cold. He is seated with two like minded males, and decides that he doesn't want to wait on them. For whatever reason, he asks a brand new server to trade tables. She agrees. After she takes their order, she is at the computer ringing in their check.

The male server is waiting behind the new server to use the computer. He can't help but notice that at the top of her check, written in all capitols is the word FAGS. Feigning disgust, he questions whether it is appropriate to label her table in such an obvious way. Wouldn't it be just as effective to put the table number at the top of the check? Does she have to point out their sexual orientation? Does she have to label them as FAGS?

Quite innocently, she replies, "That's just an abbreviation." Incredulously, the alternatively oriented male server says, "An abbreviation? For what?"

Again, with absolute innocence, she replies, "He ordered the Fresh Atlantic Grilled Salmon."

And that is why I love the restaurant business. Just when you think you've seen it all, you haven't.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


We took the twins for their first visit to Chuck E. Cheese this afternoon. For thirty bucks, we got two soft drinks, mediocre pizza, twenty game tokens, and priceless people watching. Granted, the food is not the number one draw of this particular establishment, rather it's the twenty-five cent video games and the allure of winning tickets and then redeeming them for utterly worthless prizes that you would never allow your children to buy with real money.

Although the concept remains the same, today's modern Chuck E. Cheese is not what I remember from my youth. It's too slick and technologically advanced. Gone are the stage and animatronic animal band, replaced by a wall of flat screen TV's playing MTV-like videos of the new incarnation of Chuck E. Cheese. I remember waiting with nervous anticipation for the curtain to open and Chuck's band to rock the stage. Sure, their moves were limited and they only knew a few songs, but those cats had soul. Now, the soul is gone, and Chuck is limited to two dimensional status. It's a shame, really.

The only thing better than watching the kids enjoy all of the games and flashing lights was profiling the parents. You can learn alot about a person inside a Chuck E. Cheese. For instance, there is the dad playing arcade basketball. He's the competitive type, the kind every carny on the midway looks for. He'll spend every cent he has until he has won the prize, even if it means his poor kid has to stand by and watch until he is bored to tears. There is the loving mother who tries to make sure her child enjoys the experience, trying to teach him the joys of SkeeBall even though he can barely roll the ball. She knows it's not about winning, it's about spending time with your children.

And then there is the lottery mom. She's my favorite. She's thirty pounds overweight, smells like tobacco, and her kid is nowhere in sight. You can't miss her. She's the one standing at the Wheel of Fortune yelling, "Lee! I hit the jackpot! Two hundred and fifty tokens!". What she won was actually two hundred and fifty tickets, not tokens. Two hundred and fifty tokens is worth about sixty-two dollars. In this economy, I might get excited about that, too. But two hundred and fifty tickets at Chuck E.Cheese doesn't go that far. Best case scenario, you get eight stickers, four temporary tattoos, a giant plastic cockroach, and a pair of chineese fingercuffs. Not a bad haul, but go to any dollar store and buy those items, and you'll save about fifty-eight bucks.

Nevertheless, the twins had a great time. There were buttons to push and games to play and lots of room to run around in. They weren't really interested in lunch as there was way too much stuff to distract their attention. Although there wasn't much stuff for kids their age, it was still fun trying to teach them how to play classic games like Whack-A-Mole. And the best part? They took a two and a half hour nap when we got home. That alone was worth the thirty bucks!