Queen Soloman

Today, I came upon RU sitting on the floor, carefully ripping up a long cardboard tube the kids had been playing with earlier.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m tearing this up. So that we can’t use it.”

“Yeeeessssssssss, I see that. Why are you tearing it up so that you can’t use it?”

“So there won’t be a problem if my sister and I both want to use it at the same time. Now we can’t.”

Way to head that off at the pass!

I Could Really Use That Eighth Day of the Week the Beatles Sang About 

Little busy around here these days. We noticed that houses in our neighborhood were now selling rather quickly and for good money. So we decided to strike while the iron was hot and get our house on the market. And we’ve got to do it pronto because we’d already planned a trip to Iceland for the first week of November and we want the house to be staged before we take off.

Iceland? Yes, the Wife found a heck of a deal a while ago. Now that I’m a full-time dad it’s easy for me to travel and take my work with me, so we took advantage of the opportunity. I’m sure international travel will provide for some good posts.
In the meantime, however, we not only have a big trip to prepare for but a house to pack up as well. Of course, we still have all kinds of things already scheduled for this week, everything from doctor appointments to oil changes to a concert, and not all of it can be put off.
Are we crazy? Yes, but we’re also crazy.
On top of that, MeToo seems to have just come down with the pox.
So this seemed like a good time (or maybe just the only time) to test the sleep medication we picked up for the flight to Iceland. After all, some folks (such as the Wife) don’t react normally to medicine that puts other people out. Wouldn’t you know it, now RU is weeping and MeToo is crawling around on the ceiling. So much for that stuff!
So please bear with me, Dear Reader, as my posts are likely to be sporadic for the next couple of weeks.

The Dad “Cooks:” A Salad

So it’s time for dinner. You’ve made your kids biscuits and gravy for breakfast and cowboy beans for lunch. Thinking back on it, yesterday they had Swedish pancakes for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch, and leftovers from last week’s barbecue chicken for dinner (the less said about dinner from the night before that, the better). Here, then, is the Dad’s “Oh, crap, I just realized I haven’t served my kids fruit or vegetables in at least two days” salad.

The real trick with this one is to use whatever’s at hand while still creating something that’s healthy (because that’s the point) and still resembles something your family would want to eat. This particular salad was put together while under fire — it was dinner time now and I had to throw something together — so there aren’t any pictures. Just use your imagination.

The Dad’s “Oh, Crap, I Just Realized I Haven’t Served My Kids Fruit or Vegetables in at Least Two Days” Salad

First, we need something green and leafy. We’re in a CSA, so surely we have something that will fit the bill. Let’s see… There’s kale, turnip greens, another bag of kale, cabbage, kale leftover from last week, spinach, and some arugula. I’m going to go with the arugula, but the spinach would probably work just as well. Regular ol’ lettuce is great for most salads but not for what I have in mind here.

Get a big bowl and put the arugula in it.

It’s Fall, so we definitely have some apples. I’m just going to use half of one so I don’t deplete the Wife’s supply too much (after all, sometimes she gets the bug to make an apple pie, or apple cake, or cinnamon apples over ice cream, or some other wonderful treat of that nature). Cut the apple up into bits that are an appropriate size for the baby to eat. Set some aside for the baby.

Put the sliced apple into the bowl. Wait, don’t do that yet. First, wash the arugula, then put it back in the bowl, then put the apple bits in.

Let’s try thinking ahead a little. Instead of what we were about to do, let’s get out a little skillet and get about a quarter of a stick of butter melting on it. Got your attention now, huh? Yeah, this is gonna be a great salad. Grab a bag of pecans from the pantry. Once the butter has melted, put about two tablespoons of brown sugar in there. Stir it up, and turn it on mediumish heat.

While we’re waiting for the brown sugar to caramelize, get some goat cheese out of the fridge. How much do we put in the salad? I dunno. Enough. Whether you scoop it out of its packaging with a knife, fork, or spoon, it should crumble up nicely as you scrape it into the bowl.

Now, back to the stove. Ideally, you want to turn the heat off right when the mixture of brown sugar and butter is just starting to turn dark and sticky. I’ve done this bit two or three times now, and in my experience its better to take the heat off too soon than too late. Now, throw a bunch of pecans into the skillet and mix them around to get a good coating. If your timing was just right, they should get covered in a dark, tar-like substance that hardens when it cools. If you did this step too early, you’ll just end up with pecans smothered in a brown sugar/butter mixture that just stays wet when it cools. Either way, this most difficult part of this recipe is right here where you’re tempted to just give your kids the arugula, apples, and goat cheese while you stand in the kitchen and eat sweet, buttery pecans directly out of the skillet.

Assuming you don’t give in to that temptation, dump the pecans in the bowl with the rest and pour some balsamic vinegar over it all for dressing. As you mix it all up, the still-hot pecans will get the goat cheese melty. I kinda think that’s a shame, but it does distribute the stuff more evenly throughout the salad if you mix it all up thoroughly.

That’s it. Dump some into salad bowls for the kids, find something for the baby to go along with the cut-up apple bits, and eat yours out of the big bowl you mixed it all up in (because the pecans like to hide on the bottom during the mixing process). Enjoy!

Ingredients

* A big bowl of arugula

* Half an apple, diced (that does mean “cut into small bits,” right?)

* 2 tablespoons of butter

* 2 tablespoons of brown sugar

* Pecans or half pecans or pecan bits sufficient to cover the bottom of the skillet

* Goat cheese — as much as you can get away with

* Balsamic vinegar

Thanks a Lot, Granma Cake

RU (sobbing in the now empty bathtub): “Daddy, I’m cold! I need you to help me out of the tub!”

The Dad: “Well, first, you are perfectly capable of stepping out and getting your towel yourself. Second, because I know you prefer for me to help you, I told you that I would if you got out right away. You waited until I was leaving to help MeToo get her pajamas on and then you suddenly wanted to get out. And, thirdly, when I started to help you out of the tub, what did you do?”

RU: “I flicked water in your face.”

The Dad: “That’s right, and you haven’t even apologized for —“

RU: “I’m sorry, Daddy! I don’t know why Granma Cake showed me how to do that because it isn’t very nice. But sometimes I forget that it’s not nice and I do it.”

The Dad: “Yeah, I don’t know why Granma Cake thought it was a good idea to teach you and MeToo to flick water in people’s faces, either, but I wish she hadn’t.”

RU: “Me too!”

The Dad: “But since you have also learned that it isn’t nice you now know how to do it and that you shouldn’t do it, right? I forgive you, RU. Here, let me help you out of the tub.”

(But I’m still waiting for Granma Cake to say she’s sorry.)

Change of Plans

We’ve just dropped the Wife off at her appointment. It is 11:30. We need to pick her up and then get the girls to Granma Cake’s house (not 10 minutes away) at 1:00.

There’s a park with a really good playground 20 minutes away (well, 21 minutes according to my phone’s map, but we’ll round down). Play there for 15 minutes, then 20 minutes to come back. Add in 5 minutes to hit a drive thru so we can have lunch on the way there or back.

So:

20 minutes to the park
15 minutes to play
5 minutes to get food
+20 minutes to get back
________________________
60 minutes total (or one hour)

That puts us returning at 12:30, giving us plenty of leeway. Perfect!

I don’t know precisely how long it took to arrive at the park, but we didn’t have any problems, so let’s say it took exactly 21 minutes as advertised. Then it takes at least 5 minutes to get from the car to the playground. So what we’re really looking at is more like this:

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
15 minutes to play
5 minutes to get back to the van
5 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
72 minutes total (arriving back at 12:42)

At the park, which has a huge open field next to the enclosed playground, someone had dumped all the high school students in the county. I have no clue what they were doing there, but there they were. Having nothing to do (because they’re teenagers), some of them had followed a vestigial childhood instinct and wandered into the playground until they filled all the available space. Try to imagine a cross between an obstacle course and a crowded elevator.

Enough of the kids were sufficiently aware of the world outside themselves that the two preschoolers and their baby-wearing dad were able to push towards the interior of the playground. Even so, the place was choked with juveniles. They stood gabbing at the top of the slides, lounged across the top of the monkey bars, squeezed into swings, hung on the bridge like magpies on a line, huddled cliquishly in the playhouses, and — occasionally — rocketed past on hormone-fueled legs.

It was not a place where my kids could be, let alone play. But what the heck could I do with them? They didn’t need to be shoved back into the van and driven around. They needed to run and swing and play, at least for a quarter of an hour.

The Brownian motion of the high schoolers eventually moved us to where I could spy the toddler area, which, miraculously, was underpopulated. Having found a place where the girls could actually do something, I decided to give them until 12:15 to play. That meant we’d spend more total time there than I had first planned, but it still put us back where we needed to be by about 12:45.

At 12:12, someone blew a whistle in the distance and the teens began to shuffle to the single exit like a horde of zombies moving towards the sound of gunfire. We were stuck until the herd of them sifted its way out of the playground, and even then we’d need to wait to disperse back out and move on to wherever it was they were signaled to go.

“Five more minutes, girls.”

“I’m hot and my feet are sweaty. I just wanna sit down.”

Oh, crap, is teenageness contagious?

If we manage to stick precisely to that five-minute deadline (I calculated to myself), we would leave at 12:17. Five minutes back to the car, twenty to get back… Yeah, 12:47 is okay.

“Let’s head out, girls. Back to the van.”

“Daddy, I have to go potty.”

Starting time: 11:30
21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
5 minutes to get back to the van
5 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
83 minutes total (arriving back at 12:53)

“Daddy, slow down, I’m tired.”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
5 8 minutes to get back to the van
5 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
86 minutes total (arriving back at 12:56)

“Welcome to Dairy Queen, can I take your order?”

“Ah… Hang on, I’m trying to see where your kids’ menu is listed here. Do you have milk?”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
8 minutes to get back to the van
5 7 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
88 minutes total (arriving back at 12:58)

“Arrrrrghhh!”

“Why did you make that noise, Daddy?”

“One of the cars in front of us didn’t go when it should have and so we’ve missed the turn arrow and have to wait for it to be green again.”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
8 minutes to get back to the van
7 minutes to get food
+21 24 minutes to get back
________________________
91 minutes total (arriving back at 1:01)

“Razin’ frazin’ dang-blasted…!”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
8 minutes to get back to the van
7 minutes to get food
+24 26 minutes to get back
________________________
93 minutes total (arriving back at 1:03)

Just a few minutes after the girls were supposed to be at Granma Cake’s house, I pulled in to pick up the Wife. She hurried right out.

“Hey, did you already drop the kids off with my mom?”

“No, they’re, ah, still in the back. Getting you was on the way. Hop on in. We’ll drop ‘em off and go do our thing.”

“Well, there’s been a change in plans…”

Tonight I’m Gonna Potty Like It’s 1999

What is it about public restrooms? Whenever I take my girls into one they immediately lose all concerns about hygiene, the ability to control their volume, and any sense of balance. Do any of you other parents out there ever sound like this?

“Now, we’re in a public restroom and it’s very icky, so don’t touch anything. Just keep your hands on your belly. No, you don’t need to lock the door, I just locked the door. Don’t lean against the wall. Stop touching the potty! Hands on your belly! HANDS ON YOUR BELLY!”

As I’ve mentioned before, the division of labor the Wife and I have worked out means that handling waste removal is primarily my responsibility. This was well and good when we were dealing with infants. The Wife nursed them and I took them potty. It made sense. (And, yes, I took them potty as infants; we practice Elimination Communication.)

Unfortunately, that policy may have been a little short-sighted because now that I’m taking them potty it means we’re going into the men’s room. Surely anyone who has ever glimpsed a men’s restroom would know they are not places you want your children to be unless they are sealed inside a space suit. Even in the nicest, cleanest, classiest men’s room of all, you can bet that every square inch of the floor has been peed on at one time or another.

If you, Dear Reader, are not a man and are not familiar with the male members of our species, I don’t want to give you the impression that we all revert to some gross, animalistic state as soon as we get out of the immediate presence of the fairer sex. But there are some pretty disgusting dudes out there and the rest of us have to share the bathrooms with them. Let me tell you, sometimes being able to pee without physically touching the toilet is a real boon because the nastier it is, the further away you can be. And, yes, that just leads to a whole disgusting feedback loop until you might as well just urinate on the outside of the building but there’s no sanitary alternative.

Child: “I gotta go potty go potty go potty!”

The Dad: “Yes, but first let me wipe the toilet off. Just stand over there and keep your hands on your belly.”

Child: “Why did someone write on the walls?”

The Dad: “I don’t know. Stop walking around, just be still.”

Child: “Why?”

The Dad: “Look down at the floor. Is it wet right there?”

Child: “Why is it wet there?”

The Dad: “I don’t know but if you step in it we’ll have to throw away your shoes. Let me lift you onto the potty, okay? Don’t put your hands on it!

Child: “Daddy, what does it say?”

The Dad: “Now when you’re done, let me help you off so you don’t touch any of this over here. What does what say?”

Child: “What does it say that someone wrote on the walls?”

The Dad: “Uh… I don’t know. Here, let me wipe you.”

Child: “You dropped a piece of toilet paper…”

The Dad: “Nononononononono! Don’t pick it up off the floor. For the love of God, don’t touch the floor.”

Child: “But you dropped the —“

The Dad: “It’s dead now, just leave it.”

Frequently, I have to take both my girls at the same time.

The Dad: “MeToo, do you need to go potty?”

MeToo: “No.”

RU: “I need to go potty.”

MeToo: “Me too! I need to go potty right now!”

This can sometimes lead to more rambunctiousness than I think is appropriate for a public restroom. Giggling, cheering, and loud chants of “Pee-pee! Pee-pee!” might be the norm in the women’s bathroom, but they’re pretty out of place in the men’s.

I’ve never been in a women’s room (naturally), but I once walked by one while the door was open and saw a couch — a small one, but an actual couch — inside the bathroom. That blew my mind. Such a thing is not to be found in the gentlemen’s WC. Just as well, because my girls would want to sit on it or bounce up and down or build a fort with the pillows.

Based on what I’ve seen in movies and on TV, and have had described to me by female friends, here are some things that can be found in a women’s restroom:

* Furniture
* Plants
* Tasteful decorations
* Dry Floors
* Paper Towels

Based on my own experience, here is a list of things that one can find in a men’s restroom:

* Puddles
* Unflushed, perhaps now unflushable, toilets
* A urinal cake with a dozen cigarettes in it
* A urinal with an ashtray in it
* Urinals
* Limericks, racist rants, or the specific date, time, and location where one can have a good time

Of the two lists, I know which one I’d prefer my kids to be exposed to — or, at least, accidentally bump into. I’ve only just gotten MeToo convinced that the things on the walls with water in them are for going potty in, not for washing hands (“No, MeToo, you can’t go potty in them”).

My Wife is a very smart person, so I’m sure that she is aware at least of the general disparity between the state of a typical women’s public restroom vs that of the men’s. Yet, for reasons I cannot fathom, she not only allows our children to be taken into a men’s room but actually seems to prefer that I take them potty. I just don’t get it.

If we have another baby, maybe I’ll use the opportunity to try convincing her to switch our deal around. She can take the children potty in the sanitary and tasteful women’s rooms and I’ll get up several times in the night to breast-feed the baby.