Archive for the 'Eli' Category

Breakfast of champions

I’m pretty sure that this is what my parents, who are visiting from New Mexico and coming up with novel ways of spoiling the grandkids, gave Eli and Slade for breakfast:

That’s right. Ice cream and Butterfingers. For breakfast. Christ almighty.

All that quality programming on TV is to blame. Honest.

I haven’t wanted to blog this summer. I’m not sure why. Maybe the drought here has dried out my brain. Or maybe it’s all the quality programming on TV. Or maybe I’ve just grown soft.

Whichever. Whatever.

I have been writing, though. I can’t help myself. Stories are a flooded river inside my head, and they pour out, in invitations to fictitious birthday parties that only I find funny, in stupid lists, in secret tales I type in the strong current of the night.

Here’s a sample of some of what’s seeped out. As with everything else here, some of this is very personal and most of it is very silly.

***

Some several days ago, I inquired of Sally, my wife, my delicate flower, my forever mate, which she might prefer for her birthday.

“An evening at the ballet?” I suggested. “Or, if you feel particularly adventurous, perhaps we might attend the opera? They’re performing Le nozze di Figaro in German at the Performing Arts Center. Yes! In German! Can you even imagine!”

Sally stared at me, slowly chewing a piece of gum. She sighed.

“Listen,” my beautiful daisy replied. “I want to get shit faced on my birthday. You understand me? I want to get polluted, loaded, plowed, pickled, fucked all the way up. Can you get that through that stone skull of yours?”

She exhaled noisily.

I replied, yes, that I quite well understood her intentions and that I could indeed arrange such festivities, adding that I was acquainted with just the respectable, responsible, upstanding citizens who would very much enjoy conversing with her and raising a glass of well-aged pinot in her honor.

“Whatever,” the love of my life said, scratching her arm pit and sniffing her hand. “I sure as shit don’t mind getting blitzed alone, but I guess it’s okay to have someone there to hold my hair if I puke.”

(Someone to hold her hair! My sweet thinks of the minutest of details!)

Thus, in honor of Sally’s forthcoming birthday, I would like to formally invite you—kindly neighbors, well-regarded friends, custodians of the greater good—to bless us with your presence at the waterfront park commencing at 5:00 this very Saturday. At my darling Sally’s insistence, we will provide an ample portion of an alcoholic beverage she’s dubbed “jungle juice.”

“Pray tell, what is jungle juice?” I inquired when she mentioned the libation. “Is that the vernacular for a martini?”

“Sure. Fine,” said my lovely lady. “Call it a martini. Call it a dingus. Call it whatever faggot name you want.”

(That gentle girl of mine! Inventing such colorful language! Such a card!)

We do so hope that you will be available on Saturday.

***

Slade’s new thing? Licking the floor. Sure. I know. The floor. The good news is that he only does this at day care and he only licks the bathroom floor.

Wait. That isn’t exactly good news, is it?

***

I wonder if I’ll catch that night flicker in your face again. I suspect I will. Some booze-blurry evening you’ll turn just so or giggle until you glow or sink a little, and I’ll glimpse it, electric as a full moon, that night, that kitchen, that pretty girl crying inaudibly on her birthday.

***

Slade’s favorite things:

  • The golf cart. “Golf cart, daddy! Golf cart!” he exclaims over and over and over, which was sweet at first but isn’t now.
  • Taco Bell.
  • His three blankets. He lugs them up and down the stairs and into the kitchen and bathrooms and garage and sometimes out into the front yard.
  • Doodle bugs.
  • School buses.
  • Rocks.
  • Balloons.
  • Grammy and Papoo.
  • Bubbles.

***

I’m trying to get Eli down for the night when he tells me he’s seen a monster.

“Really, Dad. It was standing there.” He points out the bedroom window.

“I see. What’d it look like?”

“Like a monster.”

“You mean purple and breathing fire and tall as a tree?”

“Daaad.”

“What? Oh. That’s right. Monsters aren’t purple. They’re black and they smell like shellfish and they look like enormous poop lumps.”

“Daaaad, monsters don’t look like poop.”

“They don’t?”

“No,” Eli sighs. “Monsters look like monsters.”

Monsters look like monsters. I get that, I think, and I suppose he’s right. Monsters do look like monsters, even if most of the time they appear like you and me.

Some of this matters

Sometimes I should quit. I was reminded of that last week, when, on a whim, Sally and I decided to spend a Chili’s gift certificate that we’d been sitting on for a couple of years.

The meal out started fine. We were seated without a wait. The boys were handed crayons. Our server took our drink order.

But as I paged through the extensive menu, Slade started dropping the crayons and yelling, and Eli kept poking me.

“Dad, Dad, Dad,” he said. “Do you want to play tic-tac-toe?”

“Not right now.”

“Dad, Dad. Can I get a lemonade?”

“Sure. I don’t know. Ask your mother.”

“Dad, Dad. How come I don’t have a green crayon?”

And so on.

Unable to make it through the menu, I finally asked Sally to just order me a sandwich or whatever and dragged Slade to the waiting area where he wouldn’t disturb the old timers next to us who seemed about as warm and personable as a cardboard box.

In the waiting area, Slade pointed at a toy, yanked it away from another kid, bellowed when I intervened, and attempted to throw the toy across the restaurant.

Into time out Slade went.

While Slade sat, an obese boy in a Tapout tee-shirt about Eli’s age waddled into the restaurant with his scruddy family, and I noticed two men drinking alone at the bar, and I remembered why we hadn’t used the gift certificate sooner.

I lugged Slade back to the table and asked Sally if she’d ordered.

“No,” she said. “Our waiter disappeared and I hate this place and I think we should go.”

“Wait? What? We can’t,” I objected. “We already ordered a lemonade.”

“So put two dollars on the table.”

“But we can’t just get up and leave.”

“Sure we can. Put the money on the table and let’s go.”

So we did. We quit dinner at Chili’s. Slade, whose spirits had turned, waved as we slinked past the hostess.

“Bye, bye,” he chirped.

“Thanks for coming, y’all” she said, oblivious or indifferent to our hasty exit.

****

It whispers in my head, commanding me to obey. It tells me to fight this life that’s untidy, loud, and fast. I follow its dictates most of the time. I edge the grass. I make up the bed. I nod and shake hands and laugh when I’m supposed to laugh. That’s what It wants me to do. Get back in line, It orders. Be polite. Don’t ever crack.

Something else whispers, too. Fuck it all, Else tells me. Leave the bed unmade. Dance alone in the dark house.

Laugh.

Let go.

Break sometimes.

Believe.

****

Mornings are a stupid sprint. Before the sun rises, Sally and I scramble to feed, clothe, and brush teeth. We pack snacks, favorite blankets, homework, reading logs, extra jackets, and sometimes lunch. We sign report cards, Tuesday folders, and day care forms. We scribble checks for the maid and the PTA and the class fund-raiser. We make coffee and part hair. We wipe mouths and noses and counter tops.

We remind: “10 minutes, Eli.”

We reprimand: “Stop flushing the toilet, Slade.”

We repeat: “Have a good day, Wife.” “Have a good day, Husband.”

And before 7:00 AM, Sally is listening to NPR in the car with Slade, and I’m standing at the bus stop with Eli.

Monday morning was particularly chaotic thanks to a late start, the disappearance of Eli’s third jacket this winter, and a knot in his shoe a minute before the bus’ scheduled arrival. But Eli, the dogs, and I made it in time and stood at the corner, breathing hard. It felt like we’d won a race.

Then Chuck peed on my shoe. I thought it was raining on my shoe and looked down, and there was Chuck, 100 pounds of lazy canine, with his leg raised.

“BAD, BAD, BAD DOG,” I exploded, yanking him back by collar. “You sit, Chuck. You sit and you stay.”

“What’d Chuck do, Dad?”

“He peed on my shoe.”

Eli laughed.

“Why’d he do that, Dad?”

“Who knows, Eli. Who knows.”

Let go, Else said. None of this matters. Let it go.

“Chuck, why did you do that, dude?” Eli asked. Chuck wagged his tail and looked up meekly, his ears back and his head down.

“I’m totally telling all my friends,” Eli exclaimed. “That’s awesome.”

“Um, yeah, I don’t know if I’d call it awesome.”

Eli stepped towards the bus, which had squeaked to a stop, and turned back: “Yes it is. It’s awesome.”

“Again. Not really,” I said, grinning a little now. “Hey, have fun today. And try to learn something for once.”

As the school bus smoked away into the grey day, Eli waved from his seat and smiled and mouthed “awesome” one more time.

****

It’s not awesome, but it is something, this time, this family, these small stories. And despite what Else whispers, some of this does matter: The grinning boy in the window of the clattering bus and the misbehaving two year old in the restaurant and the sleep-starved wife and even the apologetic dog. Some of this matters very much.

The D word

We’re driving home after a loud dinner at a local pizzeria when Eli informs Sally and me that he knows the D word.

Sally and I look at each other. The D word? Is that damn, dumbass, dingus, douche bag, or dick, I wonder? Or maybe dildo? That’d be just swell. Some little jerk teaching our six year old to say dildo.

As with most things parent, I have no idea how to handle the introduction of the D word. I mean, how should I respond? What should I say? It’s like I’ve been blasted into a foreign country, and I’m suddenly forced to communicate by nodding and pointing and grinning like a moron.

“Eli,” Sally asks. “What do you think the D word is?”

Sally seems oddly calm. Doesn’t she realize what’s happening here, that we’re witnessing the end of childhood and innocence and all that’s pure and good and right and beautiful?

“It’s a very bad word, Mom.”

A very bad word. Fantastic. Like dildo. Yes. It has to be dildo. I’m convinced now.

And I bet it was that turd Zachary from school who introduced our sweet child to that adult language. That does it. I’m calling his no-account parents as soon as we get home. I mean, really. Dildo. First graders shouldn’t be exposed to language like that.

“It’s okay, Eli,” Sally says. “You can tell us.”

I cringe and hold my breath and sweat a little and brace for damn, dumbass, dingus, douche bag, dick, and dildo.

“It’s dumb,” Eli states. “That’s the D word.”

Dumb. Oh. Of course. The D word is dumb. How could I be so, well, you know.

I exhale.

“Yes, son,” I explain, regaining my ability to speak. “That’s the D word, and we shouldn’t call people or pets that, except for maybe your cat Snurp, because he really is dumb.”

“Dad. You said the bad word.”

“Oh. Right. I mean Snurp is retar, um, not smart.”

Sally shakes her head and sighs. For some reason, she does that lots.

As we climb out of the car, I wonder how long before Eli learns those other D words. And then I wonder if he already knows them.

Today

Today my parents left after two weeks of indulging the grand kids and fixing our beat-up house and tolerating our animals. They loaded their bags into their red truck and inched away, a Norther blasting leaves off trees, the sky furnance blue, summer becoming fall.

Today Slade returned to daycare and Eli walked the long hall to Extended Care and Sally and I became parents again. “No video games till you pick up your LEGOs,” we directed Eli. “Gentle,” we reminded Slade.

Today the dogs’ leashes remained on their hooks and Slade ran up the driveway where the red truck had been and Eli told me he already missed his Grammy and Papoo.

And today I told Eli I already missed them, too.

When I grow up, I want to be a ninja

This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”
Clark Griswold

We logged 2000 miles on the family vacation in August, driving first to New Mexico to see family—good people, strange people—then road tripping it in the station wagon to Port Aransas, the epicenter of the Redneck Riviera, with our old pals the Tubres.

On the road, both the kids threw up, the dogs had the squirts, Slade—21 months old then—talked and yelled for hours that felt like weeks, and Eli, when not playing videos games or watching movies or vomiting, asked lots of questions:

Eli: How many roads are there in the world?

Me: 300.

. . . . .

Eli: What if you couldn’t ever go pee ever again?

Me: Uh.

Eli: I bet you’d die. Everybody has to pee and poop.

Me: Except butterflies. They don’t poop.

Eli: No, Dad, you’re wrong. Everything poops. Ever. Eee. Thing.

Me: Except butterflies.

. . . . .

Eli: You know what I want to be when I grow up?

Sally: What?

Eli: A ninja.

Sally: A ninja? You want to be a ninja?

Eli: Totally, dude. I’d kill all the bad guys. Pew, pew, pow, pow. That’d be awesome.

. . . . .

Eli: What if everybody in the whole world moved to Texas?

Sally: Um.

Eli: It’d be crazy, dude. Everybody would be fighting everyone all the time.

Sally: Good thing you’re going to be a ninja then.

Family vacations aren’t about relaxation and fun. I learned that as a child, and I see that still as a dad. They’re about busting up routines, seeing people who matter, experiencing the world beyond, and surviving. Most of all surviving.

Or maybe most of all connecting with the kids and Sally who I see so little of.

Whatever they are, I believe in family vacations, even if they’re expensive and the car smells like spilled milk for months and my ears are still ringing from the ruckus in the back seat.

In fact, Sally and I started scheming about our next outing almost as soon as we returned, and then the other night, Sally said she and I and the boys should leave the country next summer.

“You’re not right in the head,” I told her. “You realize that, right?”

And then I told her I was game. I suppose that means I’m not right in the head, either.

The thinnest kid on the field

If you don’t know Eli, you might think he’s smiling as he stands in front of the goal on this muggy fall morning. But his scrunched up eyebrows and damp eyes and head tilted down tell a different story. They tell me the boy wants to cry.

Lift your head up, Eli. Don’t give up.

I can’t do much from the sideline at the soccer game. I clap and encourage and break a little inside and watch as he hides the hurt. That’s all I can do.

Keep trying, Eli. Be strong.

It’s understandable why Eli feels low. Seconds before, the ball bounced off Eli’s shin and into the other team’s goal. That makes the score 2-0, and it’s almost certain that Eli and his teammates are headed towards another lopsided defeat. It’s been a rough season for this team, the only group of first graders in a league of second graders. They’ve yet to even score a goal.

“You’re playing well,” I tell Eli when he comes off for a rest. “You know you guys are doing great, right?” Eli nods and gulps water and doesn’t say anything.

As the game moves on, I lose track of the score. The other team makes more goals and Eli’s team doesn’t make any.

But Eli isn’t conceding. He’s running hard. He’s getting knocked down by the big boys on the other side and picking himself up and charging toward the ball.

And then, just like that, Eli cuts through two defenders along the far sideline, dribbles towards the goal, and hooks the ball cleanly into the net.

Our sideline erupts with cheers, Eli’s teammates give him high fives, and I hear a parent from the other team exclaim, “Oh my god. Did you see that kick?”

And the best part, for me anyway, is Eli, the thinnest kid on the field, jogging back on the grass, smiling as brightly as the sun.

I’ve written very little over the last few months. I could make excuses about long days at work and a toddler who wakes up at 6:00 AM and traffic and dishes in the sink, but truth is I could have made the time. I could have canceled cable and tossed the TV off the deck. I could’ve pounded Red Bull and typed strange stories all night.

I didn’t, though. I gave up.

Sometimes I forget that kids teach us as much as we teach them. But watching Eli on Saturday reminded me that I need to pick myself up and keep writing, even if the others are smarter and better, even if I’m looking down at the dirt.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing, right here, right now.

I’m blogging again.

And I’m trying to be as strong as that thinnest kid on the field.