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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Matching Wits

"Better a witty fool than a foolish wit." - William Shakespeare

Peanut should have a new name. If I were still blogging regularly and chronicling our daily interactions and experiences, I would have renamed her “Tweenut” by now.

You see, our dear Peanut Tweenut recently turned 12. TWELVE! And she is every bit the aloof, dismissive, self-centered know-it-all that we you were at that age.

Don’t get me wrong... I still love her to pieces.

And every now and then, we get to experience the Peanut we know is in there. The Peanut that will one day grow into a mighty oak. (Do peanuts grow into oak trees? I digress.)

Sweet, funny, intelligent Peanut.

This is the story of one of those times.

Tweenut said something so witty, so clever, that it prompted me to wipe away the cobwebs from DKL once again and fire off this blog post. We were in the car, just me and her. I was so proud and impressed that I had to call My Director from the car to tell her what she had said, after I was done laughing.

Luna and Matey now watch over us from
on top of the cabinet in the living room.
It all starts, as many of our stories so often do, with our dogs. Now, I haven’t shared this - or anything, for that matter - with you yet, so we’re gonna do it right now, fast and painful like ripping off a Band-Aid. Here goes: our two beloved dogs, Luna and Matey, have gone to the rainbow bridge. Luna in November. Matey in January. It was a very difficult couple of months. We still love them and miss them so very much and sometimes can’t believe they are gone. They were sewn into the fabric of our family. Still are. Despite their being gone in body, they remain with us in spirit. Always. And here’s an example.

So Tweenut and I were in the car, going from soccer to lunch to lacrosse on a typical busy suburban Saturday. Even though I was following the GPS, I was unfamiliar with exactly where we were and shouted, in Matey’s voice, “Where are we?!” (You don’t give your dogs voices? Shame on you.)

Matey’s voice is best described as laid back and matter-of-fact, like Thomas Haden Church’s character on Wings. But with a lisp. (Because when he lost his eye in a knife fight before we adopted him, it affected his speech. What, your rescue dogs don’t have a dark, made-up back story? Shame on you.)

Where are we?!” I shouted in Matey’s lispy voice to make Tweenut laugh. Then I proceeded to remind her of a joke My Director and I made the previous weekend about Matey posthumously. (They still amuse us from beyond.)

Since Luna died first, and since she was the one true love of my life (apologies to My Director. She's aware), we asked our priest to come to the house to bless her ashes. It was a sweet little ceremony, if you could even call it that. I cried like a toddler who’s upset at the color of his fork.

Recently, Tweenut asked why we hadn’t come around to getting Matey's ashes blessed. (Typical second child syndrome is why.). This was refreshing thoughtfulness from Tweenut so I reached out to our priest again. But this time I told her she didn’t have to come to the house. She said just bring his ashes to church on Sunday and she’d do it after the service.

The first weekend after that we were away. The second was Tweenut’s Sunday birthday party with our families. The third we were just being lazy and didn’t want to go to church. And that is where our Matey shenanigans begin.

My Director had recorded all of the Jurassic Park movies for us to watch. So instead of going to church, we decided to lay on the couch and binge a little. (“Binge a little” being an oxymoron, of course.)

At one point during our sloth in this season of Lenten sacrifice, my Matey madness kicked in. So in full throated Matey voice I proclaimed, “Guys....” (Matey always starts his proclamations with “Guys...” I hope the PC police don’t take offense that he’s being hetero-normative or whatever. If they do, shame on them. He is a dead one-eyed dog, after all. Give him a break.)

“Guys,” Me-Matey said. “My ashes are sitting here in this cabinet, a shelf below Luna’s, mind you. Unblessed. That’s ridickerous.” (Matey couldn’t pronounce “ridiculous.” Another consequence of the pre-adoption knife fight.)
Matey's right. His ashes are on the bottom shelf.
Luna is perched on the shelf above him.

“And instead of getting me blessed today, you’re watching Jurassic Park?!,” Matey continued. (Jurassic, of course is pronounced “Jurathic” in Matey’s voice. Just so ya know.)

But he wasn’t done. “A movie that’s 25 years old! Daddy was a senior in high school when it was in theaters! Again...ridickerous.”

He was upset. And he had good reason to be. He sits there unblessed and physically and spiritually below Luna in the pecking order even in death. My Director and I had a good laugh at that one. I love that our dogs still bring us such joy even though they’re no longer with us. (And I admit, we’re a little crazy.)

Fast forward to the aforementioned Saturday suburban car ride. After my impromptu, “Where are we?!” in Matey's voice I reminded Tweenut of the Jurassic Park gag with My Director and me and Matey's ashes. Like a true Tweenut, she had gone out with her friends by that point in our Lazy Sunday.

I started doing the gag and she chimed in immediately, adding in Matey’s voice without skipping a beat: “Monstey would be so offended.”

Monstey, you see, was Matey’s favorite toy. It was a dinosaur. He slept with it, played with it, he adored it. He even made sweet love to it one Christmas morning: (You can also hear My Matey voice in this video.) And therein, my friends, lies the genius in Tweenut’s comment. She advanced the story. She used wit and improvisation to do it. She was smart and clever and didn’t miss a beat.

I told her this. I then explained wit to her. “It’s humor with intelligence,” I said.

“Anyone can make a fool of themselves and be a clown,” I told her. “It takes brains to be witty. To be truly funny."

This may be a small thing. You may be reading this and asking me, “This is what you re-emerged from blog hibernation for?”

Yes. Because it’s up to me as a dad to recognize the little things that are actually big things. Because Tweenut is trying out her sense of humor. She’s pushing the envelope sometimes and crossing the line others. We tell her when she crosses the line. When she's decidedly not funny.

And I need to tell her when she gets it right. I need to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Especially when she’s the one being extraordinary.

I’m not saying I'm going to hand out participation trophies. But as she navigates these awkward and sometimes unforgiving years, I'm the one who needs to realize that she’s still a child, even if she doesn’t want to admit it. Even if she doesn’t act like it because she’s not my baby anymore.

Especially with “Tweenut” in full force.

You see, a dad and his Tweenut don’t have a lot in common. At least, not this one. One thing we do have in common, if I may be so bold, is wit.

I am so proud of my witty daughter.

“Monstey would be so offended,” is proof that Tweenut is not going to be the clown. It's easy to be the clown. To get the cheap laugh. But she’s smart. She gets it. Wait for your comedic moment and pounce without compromising your self-worth.

I should stop and celebrate more when the future comes out of my child’s mouth and it’s a bright one. If I don’t, then shame on me.

PS: Our newest member of the family arrived for Christmas. Meet Mocha:

She has brought laughter and joy these past few months and even has her own voice already. 

We just came upon the anniversary of Matey joining our family, which reminded me of THIS POST.
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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

"For it's hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind, if you're young at heart."-Frank Sinatra

To call this post my triumphant return to blogging would be assuming two things: 1) That I will once again write and post here consistently. 2) That this post is good enough to qualify as triumphant. I can't make any promises regarding #1. The mood just struck me, so I wrote this. As for #2, you dear reader will be the judge of that. So without further ado...

It's the end of an era. The turning of a page. A rite of passage. And whatever other cliche you wish to ascribe to what happened last week. We loaded Peanut's play kitchen into the swagger wagon and drove it to my brother-in-law's house in Vermont. What once stood at the center of Peanut's make-believe universe and a key part of our home for nearly a decade will now provide years of joy, laughter, and memories to our nephew and niece in a far-away place, only to be seen by us once or twice a year.

While I am all for de-cluttering and organizing - a place for everything and everything in its place, I like to say. (Actually, I never say that. That's a Ben Franklin quote if I'm not mistaken. And despite my above-average intelligence and moderate professional success, I am no Ben Franklin.) But I digress...

Christmas morning 2008: Peanut discovers Santa's surprise
Despite the utmost desire for order and harmony in our home, this was a melancholy moment for both me and My Director. We stood there in the driveway, staring longingly at the kitchen unceremoniously lying on its back after we placed it in the swagger wagon...in repose, if you will. We looked at each other and simultaneously gave the pouty face...lower lip outstretched...eyes wrinkled...a faux frown that wasn't so faux. This was the kitchen's final resting place in its original home. But our period of mourning didn't last too long. We held firm and stood strong. For our sake, and for the good of the empire. And to show Peanut we mean business.

You see, purging relics from the past does not come easy for her. In fact, she resists at every turn. It's always a fight. Let's face it: she's a hoarder. To describe her room as a disgrace would be an insult to actual disgraces like our country's current political climate, the final episode of The Sopranos, and the New York Jets. This child's bedroom is a monument to chaos. It needs an exorcism. Her room is so dysfunctional that I now require her to meet me in the hallway to kiss me goodnight, for entering puts me at risk of an immediate case of agita. And so help me if I step on another piece of Calico critter furniture, the entire God-forsaken neighborhood is going to end up on the curb.
A small glimpse of the agita-inducing chaos
from an otherwise lovely sunny morning 

I know what you're probably thinking: I am the parent, she is the child. It's my house and she's living in it. (I actually say these very things to Peanut all of the time.) Therefore, she should clean her room. Right? But you need to understand something: the force is strong in this one. And My Director, just as organized and OCD as I am if not more, is a willing enabler. She, the stronger one of the two of us, has succumbed to the madness. So I am outnumbered. I choose my battles, and I have opted out of this one. I avoid the madness.

Relinquishing her kitchen did not come easy. We planted the seed at least a year ago. We were planning a home renovation that would turn what was Peanut's playroom - the longtime home of her play kitchen - into a seating area just off of what is now our new actual kitchen. Before this process, we moved Peanut's toys to the basement and set her up down there. And she embraced this change. She's 10 now. And while she is still clinging to remnants of her childhood innocence like a real-life Andy from Toy Story, she had definitely long outgrown the kitchen.

We will wage the bedroom battle one day in the near future, the three of us converging in an inevitable war to decide who sits upon our proverbial Iron Throne. (I think I'm gonna win that one. Does that make me Khaleesi? Or Jon Snow? Does is make Peanut Cersei? Perish the thought.) For now, while we rummage through what remains of Peanut's playful preschool past, and decide what stays and what goes, sentimentality overtakes my need for household efficiency. That's because Peanut herself, in a moment of honesty bereft of any toy-hoarding, purge-preventing agenda, said something that caused me to tap the brakes on the de-cluttering.

She was talking to My Director about one of her good friends. This particular friend is, according to Peanut, "in a hurry to grow up." An astute observation from a 10-year old, if I do say so myself. I think at this age you get a lot of that: the fine line between kids who want to be preteens and those who want to cling to childhood for as long as they can.

"She hardly ever wants to play with toys," Peanut lamented.

My little girl is growing up. But she doesn't want to grow up so fast. Her kitchen is gone, but her childhood is still here. There's plenty of time for social media, makeup, and God knows whatever else lies ahead. For now, she's going to be the little girl she wants to be, until she's ready to move on.

And I'm fine with that.

She still has to clean her room.

One day.

Stay tuned...

Back in the day, my first post to go viral - as the kids say - was about holding onto Peanut's innocence for as long as possible. The trolls of the internet let me have it, if I remember correctly. You can read it HERE if you're so inclined. And judge for yourself.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jim Dandy to the Rescue

"My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate." -Thornton Wilder

There are few greater joys in childhood than when your parents announce the family will be going out for ice cream that night. Immediately, visions of combinations of flavors and toppings flood your head like sugarplums on a sleepy Christmas Eve. Oh, the wondrous, endless possibilities. You dream of multiple scoops with multiple sauces, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. You even venture to imagine what it would be like to order and consume the Stanley Cup of ice cream sundaes: The Jim Dandy.

Five scoops of ice cream, marshmallow, strawberry, and chocolate topping, walnuts, bananas, sprinkles and whipped cream served in a massive goblet. A confectionery paradise that my siblings and I would clamor for any time my dad would agree to take us to Friendly's. We'd pile in the back of the car - four of us crammed in, dreaming of Jim Dandy's frozen goodness, vocalizing our wishes.

My dad had the ability to go from zero to maniac in less than six seconds. More like three. That's how little time it took him to crush our chilled dreams and dash our ice cream spirits.
Ok... but do you have to yell like a madman? Ice cream was YOUR idea, crazy person. Excuse us for getting excited. Of course, we'd never say these things out loud, out of fear of a solid smack from Mr. Not-so-Softee. We'd end up getting a scoop or two. Maybe one topping. Two max. While DAD got a Jim Dandy. The hypocrite.

This little passion play took place so frequently that it has become part of my dad's legend. So for the first time, My Director and I decided to perpetuate that legend, and took Peanut for a Jim Dandy on Saturday.

She approves of this obnoxious concoction.
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What is "The Streak?" Click here to read more.