Fictional Gift-Givers



I was very excited a few years ago when I heard the news that my little brother and his wife were expecting twins. Their children were going to be about a year younger than Alaina, and it would be great that they would be able to grow up together.  There are  many things that you are unprepared for with babies, so I was also glad that I was going to be able to continue dispensing my invaluable  wisdom, of which my brother has always been very grateful.  In other words, I was looking forward to laughing at him.

I didn’t even have to wait for their birth. That Christmas my brother solemnly declared that there would be no talk of Santa Claus for his children.  He was emphatic that he wasn’t ever going to  lie to them.

I understood the point he was making and applauded his intentions. I also laughed at him. I have nothing but respect for anybody that refuses to give their children presents from fictional characters for whatever their reasons, I was just very skeptical about his ability to hold to his views.  Every time I see a picture on Facebook of his children sitting on Santa’s lap or visiting with the Easter Bunny I still laugh.

There is one thing that will always trump good intentions, and that is keeping our children happy. What makes kids happy? Presents. Opening presents makes kids happy, which in turn makes me happy. They only have one birthday a year. That isn’t enough for me.

I try very hard not to spoil my children. Alaina is at the age where she wants everything that she sees on  television commercials. Kayla is at an age where she must constantly procure new clothing. Very rarely do either of them get what they want, but both are reasonably content with what they have and handle our repeated denials appropriately.

They do very well with fat guys in red suits and magical bunnies however.  Sometimes I wish there were more of these imaginary characters bestowing gifts. My wife vetoed a visit from Cupid on Valentine’s Day, so I didn’t even bother asking about Lucky the Leprechaun.  It’s probably for the best if our daughter isn’t asking her little friends what Uncle Sam brought them on Independence Day.


Sam Eagle


Alaina is a pretty bright child. I don’t imagine that there will be many years before she starts questioning the existence of unicorn riding tooth fairies, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.  Eventually we’ll explain the real origins of the holidays and some of the non-present related traditions.

I suppose it’s possible that she will be angry with us for lying to her as a child, but I think it’s more likely that she’ll be disappointed that there really isn’t a Baby New Year.


An F for Teacher


Every day I have people telling me to do things that I don’t want to do or don’t think I need to do.  Besides having a wife and actual bosses, I work in a hospital where every doctor on site is basically my boss.  I shut my mouth and do what I’m told because that’s what adults do.  It’s called life.

We recently received an e-mail from one of the teenager’s teachers expressing concern because when asked to stop texting and remove her ear buds in class, the teenager informed her teacher that he needed to “drop the subject before she got mad.”  She has tried this same tactic at home. Threatening to get angry?  Was there an accident that I missed where she was exposed to high doses of gamma radiation?  Should we really be expected to back down from the wrath of a fifteen year old girl?




It seems to have worked at school though. The phone was not taken from her, there was no trip to the principal’s office.  The impression I get is that we were only notified because this has happened before.  She, of course ,assures us that “everyone does it.”  Shouldn’t a “no phones during class time” policy be implied?   I’m guessing that the e-mail home was an attempt to put the responsibility of discipline on our shoulders, thus allowing the teacher to remain the “good guy”. The teachers at her new school also allow the students to call them by their first names.  Is the lack of respect so prevalent in today’s teenagers that teachers have given up any pretext of trying to receive it?

Besides the actual “learning stuff”, I believe learning respect for authority is one of the most important functions of school.  The three year old listens to us about as well as you’d expect from a three year old, but she knows that she is supposed to.  She now needs to get used to the idea that there are other people that she needs to mind, starting with her teachers.

I’m aware that as long as there has been teenagers, there have been old men like me lamenting their lack of respect and worrying about the future. So far every generation has managed to keep society functional.

I do have real concerns, however, about how well she is being prepared for the “real world.”  I don’t know when it happened or how I missed the clues, but some serious attitude adjustments are going to be necessary for her to be a productive member of the work force eventually.

We’ll continue to try and impart these lessons at home.  In my house, I still demand respect.  I’m not sure how much I’m actually getting, but I’ll keep on demanding it anyway.  Kayla is not my “friend,” my “peer” or my “equal.” She is my daughter. There are rights and privileges that she can expect as such, but I shall be accorded respect in return.

I really wish that her teachers felt the same way, because somewhere down the road a boss is certainly going to.





Confessions of a Bad Eater









It may seem like summer is never going to arrive in Connecticut, but efforts are underway in our house to reclaim our bathing suit shapes. My wife and I have very different methods to achieve these goals. She eats healthier, spending extra money on low-carb, all-natural type foods.  She eats lots of salad and spends time reading about what is in the food she buys. I’m more of a believer in portion control, limiting myself to eight pieces of pizza in a sitting instead of twelve.

She shares stories on Facebook about GMO’s,  I’m reading stories about UFO’s. So far her methods have proven more successful.

I have a severely impeded sense of smell and taste, most likely resulting from having my nose broken several times.  This is often very beneficial working in healthcare, but leads me to gravitate towards spicier foods. I’m not a “picky” eater, just “limited” in the things I make. I’ve literally had buffalo chicken fajitas for lunch the last three days. I don’t like foods that are “grown” except pasta covered in cheese.  Barley and wheat are ingredients in beer. I eat corn and potatoes during holiday dinners so that my mother and mother- in- law don’t yell at me.  I prefer them in whiskey and fries.

Kayla seems to be taking my love of spiciness to a totally different level. I don’t know if it is an acquired taste she has developed by living with me all these years, but yesterday she was observed dumping copious amounts of hot sauce on a hot dog before eating it. If my stomach is lined with lead, hers is pure adamantium.

My wife and I work opposite hours from each other and have figured out a division of labor that seems to work for us. I think that our children are fortunate that on most nights dinner duties fall to her. She cooks a lot of low fat chicken and wheat pasta with organic sauce. The kids are forced to eat their vegetables. Alaina seems to be a big fan of cucumbers and is usually open to trying new things, but I really regret not having my camera  last night as she tried mashed cauliflower for the first time. I didn’t try it.

I do my best. I grill meat instead of frying it. Alaina has strawberries or a banana every morning with her breakfast. She has an apple with lunch. Snacks are usually granola or cereal bars. I just can’t bring myself to force her to eat her vegetables.

Because they’re yucky.





It’s a Trap!




Whenever forced to actually play by herself,  Alaina can usually be found taking care of her “babies.” Some of these are actual baby dolls, some are stuffed animals. She soothes them why they “cry”, feeds them when they are “hungry”. She has been discouraged from giving them any more baths, but basically does a great job of taking care of them. I get the feeling that she would be a great big sister.

Unfortunately, she has also recently come to the conclusion that she would make a great big sister, and has been repeatedly nagging us to go ahead and make that happen. She’s pretty confused about the “how” involved in this, but a few days ago she told her mother that if it involved a race, she was pretty sure that she was fast enough to win.  Apparently babies are a prize to be won like ribbons or trophies.

Surprisingly, Kayla is also interested in this, but I think her motives involve having somebody else to keep her sister occupied. There have been times over this winter when I have considered putting “free babysitting” ads on Facebook just to try and solicit a playmate for Alaina. I’d have taken just about any toddler offered for a few hours of peace on non-school days. A little more practice with sharing certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

I’m sure it would be great for both of them. My little brother is three years younger than me. According to my parents I was always very protective of him as a baby. These early lessons in responsibility helped shape the person I ultimately became.

I can see why many people have another child when their first gets to be Alaina’s age. She is turning into such a “little person” now that it is easy to miss having a little baby. It seems ridiculous that she is going to be four in a few months. Kayla turning sixteen this summer is just as crazy.  She wasn’t much more than a year older than Alaina is now when I first met her.

Since starting this blog I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all the moments we’ve had with them over the years.  Looking at pictures like this certainly doesn’t help.




Luckily, I took preemptive measures to avoid falling into this trap. I apologize to anybody that thought this was leading up to an announcement, but you’re going to be disappointed.  It’s easy to forget how much of a pain in the ass these little angels actually are. I really have no desire to go back to the days of dirty diapers and up-all-nights. The toddler and the teen combine to consume as much time, money, and energy as I have to offer.

I’ll just buy Alaina another doll, and if occasionally I pretend to burp it, don’t judge me.


Apple for the Teacher





This is Alaina’s first year of pre-school, and overall it’s gone very well. She goes for three hours, three days a week, which is probably enough for her at this point, if not necessarily for us. She is very extroverted, so there has never been any separation anxiety. Our only problems seem to come when it is time to go home. She enjoys learning, has new friends to play with, and likes her teacher.

This last one is probably the most important. Kayla is having a much more successful year in high school after transferring, and liking her new teachers seems to play a big part in this. Smaller class sizes and slightly less drama help as well.

I can’t imagine a job that I would dislike more than teaching. Having to deal with snotty little know-it-alls is hard enough when you know that you are responsible for their existence. I can’t imagine several dozen of these a day.  By the nature of my job, everyone that I deal with daily is either sick or injured, the times when people are at their worst. Over 20+ years, I’ve seen severed limbs, childhood cancers, people expire right in front of me. I’ve been puked on, peed on, and on occasion, shat on. I wouldn’t last a week as a teacher.

If I had to switch places for a day though, pre-school seems the way to go. At least the general cuteness of most of the children would help balance out the inevitable frustration. As long as they seem to be making some progress with their letters and nobody gets bitten, most parents are going to be content with the job you’re doing. I’m sure there is much more to the job than this, but my kid is making good progress with her letters and hasn’t been bitten, so I’m content.

The one time I feel a pre-school teacher has a harder time than their counterparts in higher grades is when it comes time for parent-teacher conferences. Sitting at those small desks across from actual adults as you discuss their toddler’s development seems particularly awkward. I don’t know at what age parents begin to appreciate that their child has individual strengths and weaknesses, but at age three your own is still the cutest, smartest, most well behaved child in the world. Your biggest worry is that they may miss out on being President because of foolishly pursuing a career in modeling or brain surgery. No parent wants to hear any different.

We just returned from a conference with Alaina’s teacher, which was pretty uneventful. Apparently she is the cutest, smartest, and most well-behaved child in her class.

At least that is what I think she said. Those chairs are very uncomfortable.



Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms