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6 years ago today I took my wife to Women's Hospital in Houston to hold her hand while she underwent an amniotic decompression. It was going to relieve the pressure on the smaller of the twins that she was carrying in her belly and allow her to remain pregnant. We had done it before. (Do you like how I throw "we" out there like I'm getting stuck in the stomach with a 12 inch needle too?) We knew what to expect. We would watch on the ultrasound screen as the doctor drained the excess fluid, Kari would have some contractions, they would give her medication to stop the labor and 6-8 hours later we would go home. Kari was up on the exam table covered from neck to knees in what looks like blue paper towels. Her swollen belly exposed and prepped with iodine. The doctor was hovering over her, intently watching a video screen as the nurse maneuvered the ultrasound prob. He was poised with an enormous needle in his right hand, held straight up, elbow bent. His left hand poking a prodding my wife's abdomen, searching for the best area to start the procedure. The room was dark and the tension on my wife's face highlighted by the glow from the ultrasound monitor. It seemed to be taking him much longer than usual to pick the right spot. Instead of inserting the needle he mumbled some techno latin speak at the nurse. He put the needle away and turned to us. "They need to come out." He explained that baby "A" has too much fluid around her heart. It has been working so hard trying to pump all that blood that the other baby wasn't getting. "If we don't take her out we could lose her. And if we lose one, the other won't last long." Within an hour I was holding my wife's hand in the operating room. Watching my twins being born. I barely had a chance to glimpse them as they were whisked away by nurses to be put on ventilators. Up to that day I was sure that they would survive, but seeing them born and seeing them on the ventilators destroyed my confidence. Jordan especially scared me. She was so small, 1 pound 12 ounces. I could have nearly encircled her head with my thumb and forefinger. So pale. Trying so hard to breath. I was terrified. Madison was only slightly bigger and although she looked better to me, she was in worse shape than her sister. Even today just typing this, remembering it, makes it difficult to breath. That is how the adventure really began. When I get home from a trip and watch them run to greet me, flitting across the room on their toes they seem to move without actually touching the ground, flinging themselves into my arms and squeezing my neck so hard that it hurts a little, I feel blessed. Happy Birthday! My sweet little angles!

Seems sort of funny to me that the doctor's post operation advice was to get out and get some exercise. "I just stabbed you in the back with a metal instrument, drilled a hole in your spine, monkeyed about with your spinal cord, and cut out some of your disc. You need to get out and get moving!" Three days post op and it isn't sounding so ludicrous. The incision still hurts and the back is a little stiff, but I feel WAY better than I did two weeks ago. The surgery has been a long time coming. I hurt myself while water skiing in 1992 and the ol back has never been quite the same. About once or twice a year my back would "go out" again and I would be off my feet for a few days. But building a sand castle on Easter weekend with my nephew and my brother must have been the proverbial straw. I now know how that camel felt. Instead of getting better after a week, like it usually does, my back just kept getting worse. And after several episodes of not being able to stand up without tears streaming down my face I finally got an MRI. It turns out that I had two ruptured discs in my lower back and some sizable pieces of the disc were now pressing on my spinal cord and nerves. Looking at the cross section of my spinal cord on the MRI I could see that instead of being round, like it was in the rest of my back, it was being pressed into a U shape. By the time I got in to see the Neurosurgeon I didn't need much convincing that surgery was a good idea. At that point I would have done almost anything to relieve the pain. It was kind of comical watching the doctor work his way around to telling me that "The injury you have rarely gets better by itself..." I needed no convincing. I was ready to go to surgery that day! Being of the instant gratification generation, the 10 days I had to wait seemed never ending. I didn't really feel much anxiety about the procedure until they actually wheeled me into the O.R. The Anesthesiologist came to see me in the pre-op area, asked if I had any questions and if needed anything for anxiety. "Nope, I'm doing fine." I told him. "Oh, a tough guy, huh?" He replied with a smirk. But, when they wheeled me down the hall and into the O.R., past the sinks where the surgeons scrub in, and let me get a good look and all the equipment that they use to bring people back from the brink of death, I started to ponder my own mortality. I realized that these people were actually going to be cutting me open in a few minutes and wish I had taken the Anesthesiologist up on his offer. They parked me right in front of the operating table. It wasn't so much a table though. All black and covered with white and blue foam padding, it looked like a cross between some sort of exercise equipment and a hi-tech massage table. The combination of that hospital smell and all that exotic looking lifesaving equipment raised my anxiety from about 1 to about a 6. I couldn't help but wonder how many people had been wheeled in here and had never made it out. I felt like someone had set an anvil on my stomach and my mouth got very dry. I distracted myself by admiring the machine that makes the Micro part of a Microdiscectomy possible while the anesthesiologist babbled on about something in a cheery voice (why are those guys always so happy?) and I started to get light headed. I don't remember very much after that, but my back is feeling better. I seem to be recovering pretty quickly. Although, it isn't as "nearly painless" as I had heard it described by some. My parents have been a great help. The have taken all four of our girls for the last three days and given me some peace and quite around the house. Things are looking up.

Kari is out for the evening with Auntie Shell. So I decided to take the girls out for dinner. Just me and the kids. On the drive to IHOP (That is where they wanted to go) I was marveling at the progress we have made over the last couple of years. I never would have taken them all to a restaurant by myself on purpose even a year ago. But now it is sooo easy.

My blood pressure has still not come back to normal.

Before we even got to the restaurant Madison was in tears because she somehow scratched her arm. No idea how she did that while strapped in her car seat, but for the rest of the evening she would continue to insist (EVERY TWO MINUTES) that she have a bandaid. Which I didn't have...

At the restaurant we settled into a booth and examined the kids menu. They each changed their minds about what they wanted at least once. Madison, between tearful pleas for a bandaid, changed her mind 6 times. Rylee was starting to get a little restless while waiting for the food so I asked her to open a creamer and pour in in my coffee. You know, practice the fine motor skills. I don't know why I thought that was going to be a good idea. I should have seen it coming... Rylee opened it and poured it fine, but then all her sisters wanted to do it too. They preceded to come dangerously close to full on meltdown when I told them no.

Then they needed to pee. So we all marched to the bathroom. The phrase "like herding cats" comes to mind. Someone must have slipped them some sugar, because they were going ape. I think I kept repeating something like "Come here, come here, come here, comehere, comehere, comeer, comeercomeercomeercomeer, STOP!" We got the usual "Are they all yours?!!" "Whoa! All girls?!!!" "Man, are you in for trouble!" comments on the way to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom Reagan immediately locked herself in a stall, Jordan started crawling on the floor, and Madison began crying for a bandaid again. Rylee was pretty good.

The food had arrived by the time we got back to the table. I started to cut up Madison's waffle. I looked up to see Jordan had filled her waffle with strawberry syrup and was holding it up with both hands and stuffing it into her mouth, syrup dripping everywhere. Madison, between loud calls for a bandaid, insisted on ordering powdered sugar. Rylee was taking bites large enough to choke a donkey and Reagan poured at least a third of a bottle of syrup on her chocolate pancake.

There was about 4 minutes of peace while they were engaged stuffing their faces. But then Reagan and Jordan had to climb under the table (only one banged her head and required a kiss this time), then stand on the seats and wave at people, and play with sugar packets while dipping their elbows in left over syrup. Madison continued to demand a bandaid between devouring her meal and a large portion of mine.

I got them all out to the car with about a hundred more comments like "Come here, come here, come here, comehere, comehere, comeer, comeercomeercomeercomeer, STOP!"

They argued amongst themselves all the way home.

I don't have the time or energy to proof read this so forgive the misspellings and runonsentences.

It is great having inquisitive children... Most times.

I was driving Rylee and Reagan to school this morning when the following conversation occurred:

"Dad?" Rylee asked, to get my attention.

"Yeah?" I replied.

"Cannon says that there are two kids in his class that have two moms." She said. Cannon is my nephew who is a year older than Rylee and, I think, enjoys telling the girls any and everything that he thinks might be controversial or shocking.

Not wanting to get in to a whole alternative lifestyles conversation I decided that I could for now explain it away with the remarriage/step-mother scenario. Now this has pitfalls in itself, but I was pretty sure most of the resulting questions from that would be softballs for me. "Well, Rylee, it could be that those kid's Dads have gotten remarried and so now those kids have a stepmother, but still only have one real mom." I said. She was quiet for a bit. "Their stepmother is the same as their mom, but she didn't give birth to them; they never lived in her tummy."

Changing gears a bit Rylee said "Mom says that Madi and Jo were supposed to be boys." I chuckled a bit.

"Well, when we decided to have more children we already had two girls, you and Reagan, and so we were kind of hoping for a boy. And we didn't know that we were going to have two more kids at one time. But God decided that they should be girls." I explained.

"Mr. Pete and Ms. Melissa had a little boy baby." Rylee said. Those are our neighbors across the street.

"Yes, they did." I responded.

"How did they know it was a boy?" she asked.

"They didn't know until he was born." I said.

"How did you know that Madi and Jo were girls?" she asked.

"What do you mean?" I asked, wondering where this was going.

"Did they have long hair?" she continued.

"No, all babies have short hair. They all sort of look alike." I said with a smile.

"Then how do you know if they are boys or girls?" She asked.

"Well, boys and girls have different parts..." I said. How am I going to get out of this one? I can see the train coming.

"What different parts?" she asked.

I decided awhile back that I will shoot my kids straight on all issues except Santa and the tooth fairy. And so I plunged in with both feet.

"Girls have a vajay-jay." I said. Hoping that would satisfy her.

"What do boys have?" she asked.

"Um...well...Boys have a penis." I said.

"I KNOW WHAT A PENIS LOOKS LIKE!" Reagan piped up. I don't really remember how many times the word penis was used in the ensuing conversation, but it was a lot. My head started to swim with images of my girls standing at the front of their classes giving a lecture on anatomy.

"What does a penis look like?" Rylee asked.

"A PENIS is like a line with a circle." Reagan said. I the rear-view mirror I could see her using her right index finger to draw shapes in the air in front of herself.
"Daddy has a PENIS." Reagan continued.

"OH, I KNOW WHAT A PENIS LOOKS LIKE!" Rylee exclaimed. Here there was a little more discussion between the two of them. I missed it because I was trying to figure a way to keep a lid on this.

"Um...You girls know that you are not supposed to talk about this with the kids in your class, right? It just isn't good manners. Just like we don't talk about poop, right?" I said.

"Okay, Dad, we won't." They said.

So I am waiting for a call from the school. It should be coming any time now.

Pilots are notorious for being cheap. The old joke - How do you get copper wire? Answer: Two captains fighting over a penny. It holds some truth. However, in my case I like to think that I am merely frugal. Frugal out of necessity. Four kids can be hard on the wallet.

Heading out to a Paris restaurant, even an inexpensive one, can cost you 20 to 30 Euro. If you eat that way twice a day on a 6 day trip you have spent almost $600. At any rate the captain and I decided, in the interest of time and money, to purchase our dinner at the grocery store.

I picked up some chicken curry (turned out pretty bland), a baget, and an inexpensive Bordeaux. The store was packed with people and I waited patiently in line to check out. The woman in front of me was having some sort of issue. Not speaking the language I couldn't quite make out what it was, but she could not have taken longer if she decided to write a check and then forgot how to spell her name.

The man behind me became frustrated with the delay and, leaving his things on the belt, stomped toward the exit. In a scolding tone the cashier said something to him in French. The man spoke back to her, rather sharply I thought, and pushed in between the slow lady and myself. He set his brief case next to the register, unzipped it and indicated that he wanted the cashier to search it, a profession of innocence. The cashier waved him off and he stalked toward the exit. He then paced up and down in front of the registers for several minutes (the slow lady was still trying to figure out how to pay) and then he got back in line behind me. The cashier looked at me, rolled her eyes and smirked. I couldn't help but laugh.

"Bonsoir" I said to the cashier.
"Bonsoir - gibbity gibity giberish *unintelligible* sjeezkabom." is what I heard in reply.
"Je ne parle pas Francais." I said with a smile.
"You speak English?" the impatient man piped up. He was a black man. A little older than me, about 5 foot 7, with short hair, a broad face, flat nose, wide set eyes, and very dark skin. He was dressed in all grey and black wearing short black overcoat with a turned up collar. He had a white scarf wrapped around his neck and he carried himself with an air of pompous confidence.
"Yes. I speak English" I replied.
"She asked if you need a bag." He told me.
"Oh..Um, yes please." I said. "Merci." I said to him with what I am sure was a perfect French accent.
"You're welcome." He said with a smile. He had a large gap in between his front teeth. It occurred to me that he could probably spit really far with that big ol gap in his teeth. I never could spit through my teeth...

I stepped out away from the registers and waited for my captain, who was several people back in line. I paced back and forth a bit, eyed the scruffy homeless looking guy standing by the grocery carts for a moment and wondered how long it would be before he hit me up for change (the homeless tactics are pretty much the same the world over and I obviously look either gullible or generous and they thus pay me much attention). I had just decided that I would give him my last 2.40 Euro if he asked when I turned and saw that "impatient black French guy" was standing uncomfortably close to me with a big smile on his mug. I may have jumped a little.

He was standing much closer that most American will stand to you. The French are not as particular about personal hygiene and I don't like to stand that close. But, being charitable a cautious, I just raised my eyebrows a bit and waited to see what he wanted.
"Where are you from?" He asked.
"Um, Florida." I said. He looked confused. "The U.S." I elaborated.
"Ah! America." He said with delight.
"Yes, America. Florida."
"Yes,um, Sarasota." I said. He looked confused again. "Tampa? You know Miami?" I continued.
"Miami!" he said, delighted again.
"Yes, near Miami." I said, wondering where this was going.
"Why are you in Paris?"
"Work." I said.
"Where do you work?"
"I work for an airline." I said. His smile seemed to get much larger.
"Can I be your friend?" He asked with his big, effeminate, gap toothed smile.
" I'm married." I blurted with the utmost charm and grace.
"No, no, just friend." he said with sort of a bemused and bashful look. He kept smiling at me and pursed his lips. "Are you waiting for someone?" he asked.
"Ummm, yes. I am."
"I'm waiting for someone too." He tells me. I just stuck my bottom lip out slightly and nodded. (Jutting out the lower jaw and nodding thoughtfully is my go to expression when out of my comfort zone.)"I have fresh fish in here so I should go to put it away." He says.
"Okay." I reply.
"Can I give you my number?" He asks
"My phone doesn't work over here." I told him.
"My cell phone?" he continued.
"I am leaving tomorrow." I said. I think he finally got the hint.
"Okay, I must go. See You!" he chirped. And he swooshed off, in that way that the terribly effeminate have of swishing.

The captain walks up. Stops a few feet away, cocks his head to the side a bit, furrows his brow and says "What are doing?" with that tone of voice that says I know what was going on and I am now going to tease you about it. "Who was that?" he asked with a smirk.

"I just got hit on by an effeminate black Frenchman." I sighed. The captain was quite amused.

My beautiful wife spent the majority of the day cleaning up the devastation that our spawn have wreaked on our home. Her mood was justifiably off kilter. We literally could no see the floor in the game room upstairs and their rooms were not much better. They can create a mess faster than you can clean it up and we have had a very difficult time convincing them that toys should be put away after being played with.

I went up stairs to help for a few minutes while the kids were playing on the swings. After a few minutes I peeked out the window to check on them. I saw Reagan and Madison flinging handfuls of sand into the air. "That's not good" I thought.

So I went down stairs and outside to find Reagan gleefully dumping handfuls of sand on to Jordan's head and back. All three of them were covered from head to toe in the very fine black grit that is my back yard and shrieking with joy.

"REAGAN... WHAT made you think this was a good idea?" I asked. She flashed me a smile through all that grime, shrugged her shoulders and said, "I don't know..." She glanced down, slowly let the sand run through her fingers, glanced back up with a twinkle in her eye, smiled a little bigger and reached down to scoop up some more. I narrowed my eyes, inhaled through my teeth and let out a big sigh as Reagan dumped the sand down the front of her shirt and patted it.
"Stop...All of you come here right now." They all bounced over and cranked their little necks to look up at me, without an ounce of remorse.

"Do you know that Mom would be ABSOLUTELY furious if she saw you right now? She has been cleaning up your mess ALL day."

"Oh..." They all said in unison.

I figured that if Kari came down at that moment one of two things would happen: A) Her eyes would have gotten really wide. She would have gritted her teeth, raised her right hand in a tightly balled fist with her index finger extended, and then her head would have exploded from the sudden change in blood pressure. Or b) Her jaw would have dropped open for about two seconds while she took in the sight. Then her hands would have balled into fists as she set her teeth and flexed her jaw muscles. Her brow would furrow and we would be burned to a crisp by the laser stink-eye beams that would have shot from her eyes as we tried to flee for our lives.

Neither option sounded good to me. I like my wife and didn't want her head to explode and I didn't want me or my kids to perish in flames.

"Take your clothes off right now." I told them, "Go into my bathroom right now before Mom sees you. DO NOT touch ANYTHING. GO."

"We're naked!" They giggled and skipped off to rub their hands on the bathroom walls while I took their clothes to the laundry room.

I got to the bathroom in time to see Reagan bent over with a hand on each cheek, head on the floor, to give Jordan the best possible view, while Madison wiped her face on the clean towels.

I made some sort of guttural grunting sound. Not really sure where it came from... I turned on the shower and herded them inside.

After a good deal of scrubbing I got most of the sand out of their hair. I toweled them off and sent them to get jammies. I saw Kari walk by as we exited the bathroom and thought I saw her right eyebrow arch up a fraction of an inch, but she said nothing.


We had an absolutely amazing day yesterday. We ignored all the laundry and cleaning that needed to be done and headed out on the boat with my brother, Chad, and his family. We motored down to Midnight pass. Or what used to be Midnight pass, since there is no longer a pass to the Gulf. We set up the chairs and towels around the cooler and turned the kids loose to play in the sand and surf.

I have always found watching the kids play at the beach to be hugely entertaining and was not disappointed yesterday.

We brought along some Subway sandwiches. I gave a quarter of a ham and cheese to Madison and she danced off toward the water waving the sandwich in circles over her head. I watched her stumble a few times in the deep sand before I suggested that she sit down until she was done eating, so as to prevent her food from being dropped. She merely smiled at my suggestion, turned in a circle and pranced off toward the water, still waving her sandwich about like a flag. After about thirty seconds of splashing in the shallow water she tripped and landed on her hands and knees. She stood and examined her sandwich which was now sopping wet. I expected tears, but she was unfazed. She skipped over to where Kari and I were standing and thrust her hand out toward us.
"It got wet..." She said.
"I see. That is why I asked you to sit down until you got done eating." I said.
She thrust the sopping glop in her hand a little closer.
"It's wet." She said.
"What do you want me to do about it?"
"Dry it off..." She said.
"That isn't going to work" I told her.
"I wan more." She said.
"That was the last one, but there are some chips if you would like." I told her.
She looked at me, still holding her sandwich up, then looked at Kari. Kari shrugged. Madi looked back at me and seeing that she wasn't getting anywhere, turned and walked toward the cooler.
Kari and I watched her go with bemused smiles. Madison stopped at the beach bag that was sitting next to the cooler and began routing around with her free hand. She came out with a large blue beach towel. She wrapped the sandwich in the towel and started needing it like a glop of Play doh. After a moment she carefully unwrapped the sandwich. Satisfied with her work, she took it out, and dropped the towel, unceremoniously in the sand. She held up the sandwich, gave us a triumphant look and bounced off toward the water again.
On the third bounce, what was left of the sandwich slipped from her hand and landed in the sand. She froze. Stood there, knees bent, fingers splayed, just staring for several moments at her now very sandy, wet, sandwich. Slowly she bent down and with her thumb and index finger picked up the sandwich and dangled it at eye level. I could see that she was trying to decide on a course of action.
After a moment she stood and skipped back over to Kari and I and again held her meal up to us.
"It's dirty." she said.
"Yes, it's dirty." I said.
"You kween it off?" she asked.
"No, honey, we aren't going to be able to get all the sand off of there."
She frowned for just a moment, looked at Kari, then back at me. She then turned back toward the water. She pranced back into the surf, thrust her sandwich back into the water and sloshed it back and forth vigorously. She then bounced back to us and displayed her sandwich with another satisfied look that said "See! All better now!"
Just as Madi was about to shove the remains of the sandwich into her mouth Kari said, "Honey, honey, honey!" and with a mixture of amusement and sympathy explained that the sandwich was no longer fit for human consumption and should be given to the fish, because they were very hungry.

Kari and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

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