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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.

I was sitting out back this evening enjoying a refreshing adult beverage with my beautiful wife. We were discussing the days events when Reagan, our four year old, came out through the sliding glass door. She skipped around for a few minutes and then noticed a dead dragon fly on the ground.
"Oh! Is he dead?" She asked, looking rather hurt.
"Yes, honey, he is dead" I said.
She squatted down and inspected him more closely and tentatively prodded him with her index finger. Without taking her eyes from the dragon fly she said, "Can we pick him up?"
"Yes, you can pick him up." I said.
She gently placed him in the palm of her hand and stood up. She held it so the golden light of the late afternoon sun shown upon him and gazed at him intently for several minutes. She gently caressed his glittery wings and frowned. Madison came over to investigate and she too gently stroked the little dragon fly's wings. Reagan then turned to me and very solemnly asked "Dad, can we bury him."
"Yes, we can bury him. That would be nice. The poor guy." I said. "Do you need me to help or can you do it by yourself?"
"I can do it by myself." She said and glanced back down at her upturned palm.
Then she noticed a june bug crawling a just in front of her. She squatted down again, careful not to upset the dragon fly in her hand, and peered for a moment at the june bug. Then with her free hand she reached over and picked up a shoe and SMACKED the june bug repeatedly.
"Look, Dad! I made his blood come out!" She shrieked with delight.
"Uh huh, you sure did." I said.
Then she and Madison walked out in the yard and, after a few words, laid the dragon fly to rest in a shallow grave dug with a plastic shovel.

My mind was wandering a bit as I drove Rylee to school this morning. We were discussing the odds of her catching a leprechaun with the shoe box that she was bringing to school strictly for that purpose, when two squirrels raced in front of my truck. They were having a serious disagreement about something and it almost got them run over. I spent the next several minutes pondering what in the world squirrels have to fight about. There must be a thousand oaks just in my neighborhood and about a billion untouched acorns on the ground in my yard. Plenty to go around... What else would they be fighting about?

The conversation then turned to garbage trucks. "WHY would Henry, the boy in my class, LOVE garbage trucks?" Rylee asked.
"Well...They are really big powerful machines." I said. "And they are loud."
"But why does he love them?"
"I am explaining to you the attributes of heavy equipment that might fascinate a young man. Like hydraulics!"
"What's hydraulics?"
"Hydraulics are what power the arms on the front that pick up the garbage bins. They use fluid to push a piston in a cylinder. You know the syringe that we use to give you medicine?" And I continued to expound on hydraulic principals, but I won't bore you with that. I finished with "Boys just like big machines. Do you like big machines?"
"Umm, no." She said. I guess she isn't going to be my tomboy.

We pulled into the school parking lot "I hope your day goes swimmingly." I said
"What is swimmingly?" She asked
"That means I hope that your day goes smoothly and everything goes your way."
"What is smoothly?"
"I just hope you have a good day and that you are happy all day."

At this point you are probably thinking, "Yeah, you are strange." Well, I won't deny that, but I came across someone even stranger at the grocery store.

I pulled into the Sweet Bay parking lot to pick up some breakfast things for the other three girls. The lot was mostly empty, but I parked right next to the only car in the lot. It was a smart car. I have a Yukon and I couldn't resist parking my gas guzzling, DVD equipped, urban assault vehicle next to the sorriest excuse for a car ever invented and admiring the size difference. I have nothing against saving some gas. I cringe every time I pull up to the pump and have to swipe my card twice to fill up, but Smart cars just have no style. But I digress.

I did my shopping and hit the express lane, even though I had eleven items. (I'm a rebel at heart I guess. I also like to enter through the exit door, mostly because it irritates my wife.) In front of me was a ragged looking fellow. Worn out work boots, covered by filthy faded Levis, a dark blue Members Only jacket that was obviously purchased when they were still in style, about two decades ago. Long stringy hair, that in his younger days must have been blond, tumbled out from under a floppy, camouflage print, mesh hat. His face had that weathered look that one gets from years of working out doors and was covered with a scrubby looking goatee.

I had run across him a few times before at the check out. Always early in the morning and he was always buying beer. He looked about a step away from being homeless. Not that I have much room to talk. My daily wardrobe choices might very well put me in the same category, but he looked pretty rough.

As I said, I had met him before and he always seemed fairly personable, if not totally lucid, so I greeted him. "How ya doin?" I said. He gave me that look you give when someone greets you like they know you, but you have no idea who they are and so you try to pull off that you totally remember them. He sort of reeled back and opened his eyes wide. "Hey, buddy! I'm doin good?" He glanced down at my basket and then turned to the check out lady, Joy. "Put his stuff on mine." He said.
"Aw, you don't have to do that." I said.
"No, I'm getting it." he continued.
"Really, that isn't necessary." I said.
"Ring it up." He said, turning to Joy. "Let me do this." he said back in my direction.
"Well, okay. Thanks. That is very kind of you." I said.
He glanced at Joy's name tag and said "Joy, that is a nice name." and then he looked at me. There was a sort of awkward pause, so to fill the void I said, "Yeah, Joy, it's a happy name, isn't it?" Joy directed him to punch in his pin and then to verify the amount. The guy seemed a little confused by the whole process and I wondered if he was already hammered.

"I never got your name." I said, extending my hand. He shook my hand and then looked a little uncomfortable and said "I'll talk to you outside."
"Um, okay." I said with a shrug.
I loaded the bags in the cart and followed him out side.
"That was really kind of you, thanks a lot." I said, "My name is Mark."
"T.J." he said with a smile. Then he produced the receipt and said "The reason I did that is that I need some cash. It was $17.89. So if you could just give me the cash?"
"Ummm, I don't have any cash." I said with a sigh. I thought about reminding him that when you use a debit card you have the opportunity to get cash back, but as I watched him swaying on his feet I decided that it would be a waste of breath.
"Just a minute, I will go get some cash." I said. So I strolled back into the store and bought a pack of gum, Rylee likes gum anyway, and got $20 back. Joy looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "He did that so I would give him cash..." I told her.
"Do you know him?" She asked, clearly suspicious.
"I have met him in line here a few times. I think he is harmless." I said.
Joy gave me a twenty. "Could I have some smaller bills?"
"You will have to go to customer service." She said.

So I got change and walked outside where I left TJ and my grocery cart. They weren't there. I was thinking "Well, he paid for them anyway... What is he going to do with four pounds of frozen French toast sticks, two dozen eggs, some bananas and a loaf of Wonder bread?" and then I noticed he had walked a little ways down the sidewalk. He was standing there with a lit Marlboro rooting through my grocery bags. He looked up and nonchalantly tied the bag in a knot and set it back in the basket. "This is one strange dude, I wonder what he is up to?" I was thinking to myself.

I gave TJ his $18 and headed to my car while he was slurred something about bumping into old friends in the Sweet Bay parking lot. "Alright, I'll catch ya later." I said as I was getting out of earshot.

On the way home I saw a dead cat in the road. The poor guy was flat as a pancake. There was a vulture standing next to it and as I passed another vulture landed next to the cat and the two birds stood very erect and eyed each other. Neither making a move toward the cat. I was trying to imagine what they would be saying if they could talk.
"You gonna eat that?"
"I was thinkin bout it..."
"It looks a little ripe."
An awkward pause.
"Why don't you try it?"
"No, no, after you."

Then on reflecting upon what had been going through my mind I started to wonder if maybe I am the strange one.


I am going to have to give my girls some insturction on identifying different types of rocks and minerals.

Recently my job took me to Athens, Greece. I walked up to the Akropolis and thought it would be neat if I brought some rocks back for the girls. I didn't steal any marble slabs or anything, just some stray stones from the walkways. Ever since I gave those to the girls they have been obsessed with collecting rocks. They have spent hours digging through the yard and come up with some interesting specimens. I had no idea that we had that many rocks in the yard. It appears now that there may be more rocks and sand that grass.

This morning I stepped out side to feed the dog and notice a good size pile of rocks on the patio table and I stopped to take a look at their collection. Most of them were white in color, but at the top of the pile there was a darker one. I thought "What is that?" So I looked a little closer.

Yep, the reason it was darker was that it had previously been dog food.

It occurred to me that I don't really spend that much time doing things with the kids. When I am not flying I spend most of the time at home trying to get the kids to leave me alone and stop whining long enough for me to get some dishes washed or food prepared or a wall painted. I was starting to feel a little guilty that I had not spend any "quality" time with them. And so today I took Reagan from school straight to Dairy Queen. That was nice. I picked up Rylee early from her after school program. That was nice too. Then I thought it would be fun if I got the big green ball from upstairs and we all kicked it around together in the back yard.

I had images in my head of my daughters frolicking through the back yard with huge grins on their faces, their hair shimmering like gold in the late afternoon sun. I pictured them being overwhelmingly happy that Dad had taken some time and devoted it strictly to playing with them.

It took about ten minutes to find the ball and convince Jordan to put on some pants. I finally got Jordan and Rylee out the door and told them what I had in mind. For emphasis I gave the ball a good kick. It soared into the air, bounced off the tree and went into the pool. So I had to take down the pool fence to get it while Rylee lectured me on the risks of getting her feet wet and dirty by playing with the ball now that it had been in the pool and advising me to dry it off before we continued. "It'll be fine. It will be dry in no time. Don't worry about it. Come on." I said.

I proceeded to kick the ball down the hill and out into the open grass. Jordan followed me down and Rylee stopped at the top of the hill. "I don't have shoes on, Dad." She said.
"That is okay." I said and kicked off my flip flops.
"But I want shoes..."
"You don't need shoes."
"I'll be right back." She said and disappeared inside.

I called to Reagan and Madison, who were playing on the side of the house. "Reagan...Reagan...Madison...REAGAN..." They must be deaf.
I walked back up the hill. "Madi and Reagan, come here. Lets play ball." Madison came trotting over with a smile. Reagan, who had just seen the neighbors sprinklers come on disappeared without a word to retrieve her bathing suit.

So for a few minutes Jordan, Madi, and I kicked the ball around and were having a pretty good time. Then Rylee came out, stood at the top of the hill, lifted up her left foot to show me the flip flops that she had donned. "Okay, you have your shoes. Come on." I said. She trotted down the hill. "Alright, Rylee, I will kick the ball to you and you kick it to Jordan and Jordan will kick it to Madi." I said
"No, no, no, Dad, I wan't to play basketball." She ran over to the fence and started to explain the rules of her version of basketball. She was describing the placement of the imaginary hoops when Reagan reemerged from the house in her swimsuit, trotted down the hill, kicked the ball and began dribbling it down the yard like Pele. "NOOOOO! Dad! She is cheating! REAGAN!!!" Rylee shrieked.
"Rylee, come on, lets just kick the ball." I said and ran after Reagan. Rylee scowled, marched up the hill did an abrupt about face and with arms straight down at her sides, fist bunched into tight fists, yelled "I'm not playing! This isn't what I want to do!"
"Rylee..." I said with what must have been an exasperated tone. But she turned on her heel and marched into the house and slammed the door. She did come back out to shout at us a few minutes later, but it was unintelligible.

So Jordan and I chased Reagan for a few minutes. It took Jordan about two minutes to realize that she wasn't having fun and collapse on the ground in tears. Madison reappeared. She had slipped away to put on her swimsuit as well. For a moment I thought about the fact that they had just added to the amount of laundry that need to be done, but banished that to the back of my mind. I tried to organize them into a rough circle so that we could kick the ball back and forth. That didn't really work... I have a new found respect for kindergarten P.E. teachers. Every time the ball was kicked to anyone but Jordan she would collapse to the ground and begin to sob again. "Jo, come on, we have to share. Madi, kick the ball to Jo." I said. Madison instead threw herself on top of the ball. Reagan, who was surely only trying to help (uh huh) tried to kick the ball and instead connected with Madison's arm. "Oops. Saweeee." she said, not looking very concerned, as Madison joined her sister in wailing at the top of her lungs.

It pretty much went down hill from there. I did get a few more giggles by picking them up under the arms and twirling in a circle, but every time I put a kid down she would start to cry again.

So my attempt at family time ended up with four dirty kids, two of whom where crying inconsolably, one who was having a temper tantrum, and me feeling dizzy and somewhat nauseous.

And then I stepped in some dog poop.


Not sure what I ate, but I was recently about as sick as I have ever been. I hadn't eaten anything unusual, but a three a.m. on Monday my body violently disagreed with something. It lasted almost two days and I learned a few things:
1. You don't really appreciate having a squeaky clean toilet until you have your head stuck in there for several hours. I will buy more toilet bowl cleaner next time I am at the store.
2. I need to start streching or something. I have had a bad back for a long time and sleeping for anymore than about 6 hours becomes very painful. So when you are too ill to remain standing and too sore to lie down it makes for a completely miserable time.
3. When you see your three year old walk by with an uncapped indelable marker and you don't care, you may have food poisoning.
4. Three year olds will still jump on your stomach even if you tell them that you don't feel well. And giggle while doing it.
5. My wife is really an angel.

I am no longer hoping for a quick death and am off to Rome for the first time with the mandate to bring back "something" for my wife.

Yesterday was the first time that I was not excited to get home to see my girls. The reason that I was less than enthusiastic about my homecoming was that I was coming home to be the enforcer. The admistering agent of righteous retribution. We don't spank much. However, on this occasion we wanted to make a big impression. She, Rylee, was told that I would give her a spanking when I got home. Us thinking that the punishment might mean more coming from "Dad" and maybe waiting for it all day would make her think a little more about her behavior. I suppose that you are wondering what her crime was.

Behavior at school was the problem. We found out yesterday that for the last three weeks Rylee has been hiding under her desk and not coming out when she didn't want to do something. She was not getting spanked for that. She has also been screaming out at the top of her lungs, often, when she gets angry about something. She was not getting spanked for that either. At lunch yesterday she wanted Chantal's cookie. Up till now Chantal has been Rylee's good friend. Rylee had asked her several times if she could have her cookie and Chantal told her "No." So Rylee screamed and hit her. That was what got her a couple of swats on the rump.

I am troubled by a couple of things. Why has this been going on for three weeks and this is the first that we are hearing of it? How is it that our lovely, polite, well behaved little girl is now having these issues? Last month her teacher told us that she wished that she could clone Rylee, that she was a near perfect student. Now she sounds like sort of a little brat. What has changed?

Anyway, I felt a little sick all the way home. I had to keep rewinding my book on tape because my mind kept drifting to "How are you going to handle THIS one Mark?" Should I put on "stern" right away? Should I give her a hug? I had been gone for nearly a week so I had to get my hug. And I wanted her to know that I love her no matter what. BUT she was still in trouble.

So when I walked in the door I got the usual "DADDY!!! Daddy is home!" from three of the girls. I pretty much expected that. I got my hugs and kisses from them and then turned my attention to Rylee. She was sitting at the kitchen table looking somewhat glum. I expected that too. "Can I have a hug please?" I asked. She nodded. I gave her a big hug "I missed you. I love you very much." I told her.
"I love you too." she said. "You are going to spank me." she said in a sort of matter of fact way.
"Yes, I am. We will talk about that in a minute." I was thinking of putting it off for a little longer. Mostly because I just didn't want to do it. But then thought it would be better for all of us to just get it over with. "Come with me. I want to talk to you first." She hopped down and followed me into the bed room.
"Dad, could you spank me first?" she asked. I didn't expect that. I supposed she had the same thing on her mind. Let's get this over with as soon as possible.
"No, I want to talk to you first." I said as I sat her on the bed and squatted down to talk to her eye to eye. "Do you know why you are getting a spanking?" I asked.
"Because I hit Chantal."
"That is right. The only time that it is ever okay to hit is if someone is trying to hurt you and won't stop. You have the right to defend yourself. But you hit someone because they wouldn't give you their cookie. Over a cookie! That is not okay. Ever.
Ms. Mayl called us today and told us that you have been hidding under your desk and not coming out when things arn't going your way AND that you have been screaming when you get angry. That is unacceptable. You are not getting spanked for that, but it better not continue." Here I gave her the serious stink eye. She didn't even blink. I wasn't sure if that was because she was paying close attention or if she was totally unfazed. "Mom and I are very disapointed. And embarrassed. Do you know what this makes Ms. Mayl think?" I asked.
"What?" she asked with big doe eyes.
"She thinks that we aren't good parents. She thinks that we didn't teach you good manners. And that isn't true. You dissapointed Ms. Mayl too. You were doing so good, you were her favorite student... So Okay?"

So she took her punishment and walked stoically out of the bed room without even a tear. And I started thinking "Uh oh, what am I going to do if that had no effect at all?" But then she burst into tears and ran up to her room. I let her sulk for a little while and then went up to make sure that she knew that her punishment was over and she didn't have to go sulk anymore.

Sometimes the parenting thing is difficult.

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