We were Ready for my son’s Birthday Party Until…

Life is a special occasion, right? There is always something to remember and celebrate. At our house, with six children, there is usually a milestone to celebrate. We had a little celebration recently for The Boy’s birthday. I was in charge of putting together a special celebration to mark the latest spin around the sun.

It took The Boy a little while to actually make up his mind. He kept going back and forth between rock-climbing and jumping on trampolines. Trampolines won out. I went to the indoor trampoline park to book the party. After the venue was secured, we informed friends of the The Boy and their parents of the celebration. I implored fathers to attend the party so I would have friends to talk to.

Before the party, I needed to make return trips to order more pizza and make sure the guest count was accurate. The Oppressed and I went to the store to buy decorations and party favors. Pokémon was the theme of the party, and we travelled to the store to collect the appropriate favors. The Boy did not join us. He was too busy attending to the social demands of his schedule.

I need to recognize the efforts of The Oppressed here. Her vision regarding the party led to one of the signature items of the day. We had found some goodie bags to store the favors when my youngest daughter spotted plastic containers that resembled Pokémon balls. The balls were the perfect size to hold the favors and resembled the very item handled by characters in the Pokémon cartoon. Favors were prepared. Pizza ordered. Everything in place… Or so I thought.

A Birthday Cake

I had a birthday cake ordered for the party. The nice people in charge of the cake kindly requested 24 hours’ notice for the order. I gave 72. I know I’m kind and benevolent.

I asked to pick up the cake two hours before the party was scheduled to begin. I wanted everything to be in place for the party. I arrived promptly to pick up the birthday cake for the celebration. Alas there was no cake to be picked up and no humans around to answer my questions.

I look around. There is no one to rectify the situation. Time is running out and I need to find the cake. It’s getting desperate. Luckily, I recently read a wartime spy novel and was able to glean some basic skills. I just need to subdue an employee, secure their credentials, and make my way behind the bakery to find my son’s birthday cake. It seems a little involved, but I love my child and it is his birthday party.

I make my way around the store to find the necessary items to subdue the employee and secure their credentials. I expertly and covertly find and combine what I need. I have my quarry and am ready to execute my mission. They approach me.

“May I help you?” they ask.

“Why, yes,” I reply.” I ordered a cake and I’m here to pick it up.”

The nice person retreats to the back of the bakery and retrieves my cake. I bring the birthday cake to the front and pay for it. I discard the items I thought I would need to subdue an employee and continue on with my mission.

Party Balloons

It is now time to pick up the balloons for the party. We had ordered large, gigantic red, yellow and white balloons in keeping with the Pokémon theme. The party is scheduled to begin at 5:15. The balloon store is conveniently across the street from the venue and balloons are scheduled to be delivered at 5:00… Or so I thought.

I arrive at the venue with the cake and receive grateful cheers and adulations from parents and children alike. I go to the rented room and leave the cake on the table. I look around and admire the decoration and placement of the procured favors. I can’t help but notice a lack of balloons. A lack of large, Pokémon color-themed balloons. I ask Wife if she has seen the beautiful balloons. She hasn’t. I ask the nice people behind the counter if they have seen any beautiful Pokémon color-themed balloons. They have not. Something seems amiss. I call the nice people at the party goods store. Apparently, there was some miscommunication.

When they said the balloons would be delivered at 5:00, I didn’t know 5:00 actually meant the beginning of a two-hour window when we could expect the balloons. Considering we have the room for about an hour, this obviously doesn’t work with our schedule. I get in my car and drive across the street (it’s a fairly busy street and I don’t want to get hit by a car since I haven’t had pizza yet) to the store to get the balloons.

I return with the Pokémon color-themed balloons, and I see the pizzas have arrived. I leave the balloons in the room and see two fathers who have brought their children to the party. I rejoice at having fellow fathers to commiserate with. We talk until it is time for pizza.

Pizza is about to be served. Note the snazzy Pokémon-themed balloons on the right.

We adjourn to the room where everything is laid out beautifully for our guests. You would never know there was a SNAFU with the cake, or a slight logistical error with the balloons. Children and adults alike sit down to pizza and then cake. I mingle with the other adults who got sucked into another child’s birthday party. After eating, everyone leaves and someone else cleans up the mess. That may have been the best present of all, and it wasn’t even my birthday.

Check out more on my Facebook page.

Pizza Bagels, Video Games, and Batteries

I needed to drop one of my children at their friend’s house last week. I know the father, so I stayed for a bit and talked over a beer. We were in the living room, where one of his kids was playing video games.

I’ve met a lot of kids over the course of parenthood, foster parenting, coaching, school pickup and drop-off, and a variety of other circumstances and duties. I think teens are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school was no exception. Loyal daddies and mommies are familiar with our friend Wilt. Wilt was a child of another friend who seemed to know everything about life, especially basketball. Check out the link I so generously provided. If you have teenagers, you’ll understand what I’m telling you.

I think teenagers are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school is no exception.

My child and I arrive at the house and the younger children quickly disappear upstairs. I remain downstairs, where “15” is dealing with one of the many challenges you face when trying to assemble a team on a video game. Dad is also in the living room finishing up work before getting ready to go out for the evening. It’s not an easy time for “15”. He’s playing a soccer game on his console, and he’s trying to assemble a national team. Apparently American soccer players are few and far between, and the good ones are even harder to find. I would like to help him, but I know nothing about who plays soccer, let alone where they hail from.

My friend and I watch “15” scroll through lists of players and their attributes. I offer whatever advice I can, but nothing works. The game works in a certain way, and you can’t just create a player and place him on your team. I literally haven’t played a soccer video game since last century, so I’m pretty much useless.

The Smoke Alarm

It gets harder for “15”. Not only does the field of available players lack what he needs, but the battery in the living room’s smoke alarm died, and there is an annoying “chirp” signaling the need for a new one. Each shrill call for a new battery is grating on the virtual general manager, who is having enough headaches with his lacking roster. He’s finally had enough, and he marches to the smoke detector, pulls it from the wall, and then the real struggle begins.

“15” has the smoke detector in his hands. The battery needs to be replaced, but first the old battery needs to be extracted. The Chinese water torture is getting to be too much for the lad, who can get the compartment open, but can’t get the battery out. Dad is enjoying this and so am I, to be honest with you. Finally, I show mercy to the poor child and take the battery out for them. After said extraction, I hold up the 9-volt nemesis and sing, “Ta-daa!” Now it’s time for a new battery, but there is no 9-volt battery in the house. So, the smoke detector sits on the end table sans battery for the time being.

Pizza Bagel (and a new battery)

I return home to take care of some chores and duties while my child is away at her friends. My friend has plans that evening, so I am sure to be there promptly to take my child home. I arrive at the house with a gift for “15”. A brand new 9-volt battery. To this day, I am mad at myself for not putting a bow on it.

Loaded and ready

I proudly present the lad with the gift and the life lesson. He installs the battery and places the smoke detector back in its proper place. Dad and I are proud of the child for doing his part to keep the house and his family safe and secure. Now, it’s back to video games where he has moved on from soccer to basketball. Dad and I are watching him scroll through teams and players. “15” makes some comments about Larry Bird, causing Dad to educate his child about Bird and Bill Russell. Meanwhile, we continue to watch him play.

“Hey, Auerbach,” I say.

“What?”

“I called you ‘Auerbach’.” Dad laughs. The child has no idea what I’m talking about, nor does he understand the reference to his basketball personnel moves.

It’s time for a break in the action. “15” needs food. His dad follows him to the kitchen for a beer. “15” wants to make a pizza bagel. Dad and I watch the child struggle to slice a pre-sliced bagel. We remind the child it’s already pre-sliced, but this doesn’t matter to him because it’s not, “pre-sliced enough”. He gets the bagel sliced and prepares with sauce and toasts it. When it’s done, he has enough grated parmesan cheese for a dozen pizza bagels.

“Hey, Fieri,” I say after a sip of my beer, “Do you want some bagel to go with that cheese?”

One of the beers I received.

He tells me he has a solution and carefully shakes some cheese from one slice of the bagel onto the other slice. He then proceeds to eat the bagel while standing up, back turned to the counter. Crumbs fall to the floor. I tell him I’m willing to bet Dad has invested in some plates for the house. Dad tells me he needs to constantly remind him to use a plate when eating. I had no idea it was so chronic.

I drive home with my child, asking how things went for them. I get home and enjoy one of the beers my friend sent home with me. I sip on my beer while watching some important, informative video on Harry Potter with The Oppressed and I wonder if parents of teenagers were really meant to survive.

My new book, “A Collection of Short Stories” is now available on Apple Books.

A Busy Day of Celtics Basketball and the RMV

There was a particularly busy day for the family. Of all days, it was on Wife’s birthday. The day started like any other day. I dropped off The Oppressed and The Boy at school. From there, I was off to the RMV to get an ID for one of my older children who were going to take a trip. There was one small “problem”: We needed the ID fast and the only branch that would give us an appointment when we needed it was on the other side of the state.

That was fine with me. I love driving. A chance to take a ride with one of my kids makes it even better. We made our way across the fair Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I asked our child how they were doing. They responded, “Great.” I told them I was excited to spend the day taking a drive them. I asked if they were excited. They answered, “Oh, yeah. Totally.”

Mass RMV 🚗 🚙

While we were driving, I told our child about a fun, exciting time I had at an RMV a couple of years ago. I needed to conduct business at a local RMV and saw a quasi-altercation between a customer and a nice lady behind the counter. A policeman had to get involved and said customer was escorted from the premises. For a moment, it looked like they were going to be arrested. They weren’t, and everyone continued with their day.

“Who knows?” I said to my child. “We may see some excitement today. Then again, we’ll be in Western Mass. People there tend to be nicer and more laid back, but there’s always a chance.

A policeman had to get involved and said customer was escorted from the premises. For a moment, it looked like they were going to be arrested.

We made good time getting to the RMV. We dropped off kids late enough in the morning, so we didn’t hit traffic on the Mass Pike. We got to the RMV with time to spare. We sat in the car for a couple of minutes, as it was not time for our appointment yet. I decided we should take a shot and go in. Let’s see if someone cancelled and we can be seen early.

We walk in and check with the nice people at the front desk. They look at our paperwork. We’re good to go. We wait for our number to be called. When it’s called, we go to the assigned window. Paperwork checked and stamped. Photo taken. Alas, there were no altercations to witness. We walked out of the RMV with an ID at the time our appointment was scheduled to begin.

Shopping for Gifts

We pull out of the lot. My child asked if we could do some shopping. There are some things they would like to get for a friend. We find a nearby mall on the GPS. My child isn’t sure what they should get their friend. I ask questions to try to help them get some ideas. We walk around the mall. They find a store. FYE. We walk in. Child walks around looking for something for their friend. I look around the store for a CD. I think I’ve done a good job parenting today and I’m worth it. They walk out with gifts for their friend. I walk out with a new Doors CD. I listen to the CD on the ride back. My child hears nothing but what’s playing through their earbuds. Their loss.

Boston Celtics Basketball

We get home. I drop off the child with their new ID and continue on to school where I get The Boy and The Oppressed. I tell them about my day and the fun I had driving across the state.

There’s plenty to do. I bring the children home and help them with their homework. We need to make sure things are finished earlier than usual. Remember when I told you it was Wife’s birthday? Well, it just so happens that Wife was able to secure tickets for all of us to see the Celtics. Slugger just happens to love basketball, so we decide to have an early celebration of Slugger’s birthday on Wife’s birthday. We make sure the children are ready to go. Preparations are made. It’s been quite the day for me. I went into Western Mass during the day, and I’ll be in Boston that night. I don’t remember the last time I was at a Celtics game. I think Rick Pitino was the coach. I don’t think he’ll be walking through that door tonight.

It’s a close game. The Celtics trailed but were able to pull it off. 108-102 over the Denver Nuggets. It was an exciting game. I think Slugger and I enjoyed it the most, which is the case when we go to sporting events. After the game we stop at a restaurant for something to eat but before we exit the TD BankNorth Garden, I notice a mural of the Rolling Stones on the wall. I explain to The Oppressed that one night in 1999, my dad and I travelled to the Garden, then known as the FleetCenter to see the Rolling Stones perform. I don’t know if the picture was from that night, but I had her stand in front of the picture and sent it to Dad

From the restaurant, we drive home. It’s been a long day. I collapse into bed. I took a road trip with one of my children. I went to a Celtics game. We celebrated two birthdays. Jealous? You should be.

A long night, but a good one

Saying Good-bye to my Grandmother

1928-2022

My grandmother passed away recently. This wasn’t shocking news to anyone. She was 94 years old, and her health had been failing, which is often the case when you reach 94. I’ve said it before, and I’ll tell you now: We are born, we die. Enjoy the in-between.

No one lives forever. That’s common knowledge, but with some people, you wonder. My grandmother, “Grammy”, who went on to become known as “Great-Grammy G” when the next generation made its appearance, was the stuff you read about and see in movies. Grammy raised 11 children. My dad was the oldest. I think my aunt, the youngest, was in elementary school when Grammy’s husband, “Bud” passed away.

(L-R) Santa Claus, me, Grammy

My house has five, sometimes six kids. I think a basketball team in my house is a hassle. I can just imagine what a football team could have been like. Grammy took care of them all. She took care of them while working full-time. I was grateful for all the aunt and uncles I had, especially when Christmas came along and there were no other children. My brother, sister, and I had a great racket going until said aunts and uncles ruined it by having kids of their own.

It wasn’t easy for her, but she never complained, and she never quit. She woke up every morning and did her thing. She read. She did puzzles. On Sundays she went to church like all good Irish Catholics. She was there for anyone and everyone through thick and thin. I remember her taking care of my uncle after a car accident. Another uncle, her son-in-law, died in the beginning of 2005. I don’t doubt she was there for my aunt offering whatever support was needed. Another aunt, her daughter, died in 2006. My grandmother was with her at the hospital making her as comfortable as she could. After the memorial service, I mentioned being concerned about Grammy after burying her daughter. My dad said, “Grammy’s a tough old bird.” So, she was.

Holy Family Church. Where Grammy (and sometimes, me) attended mass. (Photo: facebook.com)

Grammy, for the most part, stayed in Lynn, Mass, where she raised her family, worked, then retired. I was one of the first people who found out about her retirement. At least I think I was. I was riding my bike one evening in the summer of 1993 when I decided on a whim to visit. We were sitting at the kitchen table drinking Lipton Iced Tea, a drink I always associated with her, when she told me she was retiring. That fall, Grammy, her children and grandchildren got together to celebrate her retirement. As usual, it was a raucous, fun-filled event that was packed to the rafters with relatives, friends and other well-wishers. It was always an exciting time when my family got together.

My confirmation. Fall, 1993. Grammy was my sponsor.

It was exciting with the family or just with her. All of the grandchildren remember the day they became taller than Grammy. That meant lunch at the now-defunct Porthole restaurant. A rite-of-passage that celebrated our literal growing up. Years ago, she took my brother and me to a Christmas party hosted by her boss. I don’t remember if my sister had been born, yet. I forgot her name, but I remember her boss walking around the house with a light-up Santa hat, greeting visitors and talking to guests. The house was small, and the crowd was big. It was hot that night in that house.

The Christmas Pageant. Look closely and you can see my head over the podium.

Speaking of Christmas, I had the honor of narrating the Christmas pageant in kindergarten. Thirty-five years later, Grammy still talked about the day I narrated the Christmas pageant. There was a part where shepherds and wise men weren’t where they were supposed to be. They were probably following the wrong star. I was reminding them where they needed to be, totally oblivious to the hot mike in front of me. My grandmother always made sure to mention that part, too. I told people if I wrote a best seller or won a major award, someone, Barbara Walters, Lester Holt, anyone would find her and interview her. She would tell them about the time her grandson narrated the Christmas pageant and directed people to their right place.

Luckily, we had our chance to say our good-byes. People at one time or another visited, said hello, and said good-bye. We thought we were going to lose her during the height of Coronapalooza. She beat that, too. Like I said: No one lives forever, but sometimes you wonder.

So, that’s it. Grammy has left us. She’s left the mortal coil to see “Bud”, Wayne, and Patty. She’ll say hello to Charlie and Janice and scores of other friends and relatives she hasn’t seen in years or decades. Her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren will come together again and again Grammy will be the central reason for us coming together, just like we did on all those Sunday afternoons to celebrate her birthday. Just like we did on those Christmas evenings. I now leave you with the words written by Norma to everyone and anyone who ever saw her or received a card from her at any time in their life:

Love and Prayers, Forever and Always.

Follow me on Twitter @Greg_the_Brave

Children, Smart Technology, and Parenting in the time of Uber Eats

The children in our house, all of them, like to remind me from time to time how old I am. Apparently, people over a certain age are called “Boomer” by the future of our country. The traditional “Baby Boomers” no longer have this special term exclusively. If you are out of high school, or college (I’m not quite sure how it works), you are a “Boomer”.

Whatever. These are the people who need to be reminded to take their jacket with them when they leave the house on a cold and frosty morning. These are the same people who “forgot” to close a car door. These Miracles of Christ do amazing things that leave you guessing and wondering. You have children. You understand what I’m saying.

Uber Eats logo
Savior of my children.

These misinformed malcontents tend to delight in the fact that I can’t understand, won’t embrace technological advances. Uber Eats is an example. People can’t leave the house anymore for fast food. People are this lazy. I am jealous of whoever thought of this, and I think about the people who utilize this and wonder how I’m not rich yet.

Math work done on a piece of graph paper.
Old-school schoolwork.

Another example of the generation gap is homework. You, a loyal reader, are aware of “The Homework Wars” that occur at our home. The Oppressed will occasionally ask for help with her math. I will go over the problems with her. We will come to a step, and I will ask her what the answer to this problem is. She will ask our smart technology what the answer is. Meanwhile, I will do the work on paper in the old-fashioned way. Sometimes the technology will short out, sometimes it won’t hear her. I usually get the answer first in my old, “Boomer” way. Sometimes it will be a tie. It doesn’t matter. My early-adopting children know what they’re doing, and we have the technology. My kids are ready to utilize that technology, and I would be well-advised to adopt it, embrace it, and use it.

I still say people are misinformed. There’s being an early adopter and there’s rushing and getting ahead of one’s self. Recently, I’ve been getting emails from AARP. You and I both know I’m nowhere near eligible for that lobby.

Some people think the email is accurate. It’s spam, of course. Someone is pretending to represent this fine organization hoping to steal personal information. I’m not falling for it. I know how young I am, and I know this is either spam or an actual mistake.

An email inbox with a message from AARP.
What the…?

Back to the children. There are constant debates about methods, styles, and different tastes in all kinds of things. Whatever it is I’m reading, watching, listening to, children like to give their unsolicited opinion. Sometimes I will engage and explain to them why they are so misguided, other times I’m just too busy doing what I’m doing to tell them why they’re wrong. Even if I did have the time, I don’t think they would listen, anyway. Which is too bad, because they obviously need the help and guidance.

Walk to School Day with the Kids

We had a special day at the school of The Oppressed and The Boy. We had our annual “Walk to School Day”. Allow me to explain to you why this is a special event in my town. Sidewalks are few and far between. My neighborhood has no sidewalks at all, and we share the road with cars. It’s fun. Once you get out of my neighborhood, there may or may not be a sidewalk on one side that people walking in both directions can share. New York is a walking city. Some say Boston is a walking city. My city? Not so much.

I walked to school every day from the first grade to the eighth. I went to high school in a different town, so walking would have taken a while and proven a little difficult. When my kids started school, it was hard for me to understand how kids couldn’t walk to a school they live so close to, but here we are: Unable to walk to school every day.

Houses in a suburban neighborhood with walkways shoveled after getting 30 inches of snow.
The 30 inches of snow we received. Luckily, some was gone before our walk.

That’s alright. “Walk to School Day” gave me a chance to do something with my younger kids. One, like me, wishes we could do it every day. Another is happy to take a car to and from school. I tell both children we can’t walk to school if everyone doesn’t agree to walk. I don’t like taking the car, but it’s what I can do to keep everyone happy.

So, the day we walk to school finally arrived. Police were stationed at various points to make sure there was some type of demarcation between cars and pedestrians. One of my children had band practice. I carried their instrument for them so they wouldn’t be burdened too much. We made it to school. Hearts beating, blood pumping. Luckily, the day wasn’t as cold as it had been and some of the 30+ inches of snow we got had been cleared enough for us to move our legs. Our children were happy to be at school. The Oppressed was very happy because it meant the walk was over and she was promised we could drive home.

Children and parents in front of school in the morning.
Arriving at school. The end
of an arduous march.

That was fine. I was happy to walk home that morning and get a little more exercise. On the way home, I ran into someone who felt the need to bend my ear about something. I honestly don’t remember what, but they had a lot to say. I guess I forgot to remove the sign from my face that says, “Tell me Your Life Story”.

So, that was our morning walk. I went about my business and did what I needed to do after our morning constitutional. That afternoon, I went to pick up the children. As we were walking away from the building, The Oppressed reminds me I said we were driving home. I reminded her I never said what afternoon that was. You ever see hope leave a child’s face? It’s hilarious. I wish I had a camera.

“A Collection of Short Stories” is now available on Apple Books.

Bedtime Stories for Children

The end of the day is always something Wife and I look forward to. The children go to bed and we can unwind, read, lay down in bed, fall asleep and recharge our batteries for the challenges and battles we’ll face the next day.

Before I can slip into Dreamland, however, I have a few obligations I must honor with the cherubs. Every night, I am expected to provide a story. The Oppressed and The Boy want a story before they fall asleep, and they want different kinds of stories.

The Boy is first. There is usually some negotiation on which stories we’re going to read. I’ve bought some books for his room that I thought he would enjoy. He hasn’t enjoyed them and we read something else. If I try to read something he doesn’t want, he’ll get out of bed, take the book out of my hands and replace it with a more acceptable book. if I try to read something else, he will get back out of bed and fix my transgression and make sure it remains fixed. We read his selection(s).

This is where I make my nightly selection with the boy. He thought the Tom Clancy novel looked nice so he added it to his bookcase.

He’s chosen some novels and novellas for story time. We haven’t finished them, but we certainly started a few. Again, I try to recommend those books we’ve started. I get into them and would love to see what happens next. Alas, his heart and attention span have moved on, and we’re going to read something different.

I read until he falls asleep. Once I hear snores, I make my way to The Oppressed’s room. It’s time for another round of Story Time. This time, though, I don’t read. This time, I am expected to make up a story, usually about a princess. It has to be a new story every night. It can’t be the same as one I told earlier. Variations are acceptable, but no duplicates. Different night, different story. She likes to test my creativity.

When this is done, I get to power down for the evening and rest until the next day’s demands require me to be vertical again. I’m not needed until then… Or so I think.

There have been a few occasions where I have been derelict in my duties. As mentioned before, I read to The Boy until he falls asleep, then proceed to The Oppressed. There are times when The Boy will be standing at the door of The Oppressed, insisting I left while he was still awake (never happened) and informs me I must return to his room to continue reading the book I never finished. The Oppressed is a good sport about it and lets me return to finish the book I already read. Once that is done, I return to The Oppressed to finish my story obligations. She doesn’t mind because usually I start the routine over, which means an extra story for her.

My reading nook with The Boy.

Stories are finished. I can go to my own bed and put another day behind me. The morning will call with its usual duties, some of which include telling another story, like the one you’re reading now. At least this time I don’t need to wait for anyone to fall asleep before I can walk away.

Stories finished. Children sleeping. Daddy can now end the day. I go to my room and climb into bed. I don’t need a story. I have enough drama in my life and it tires me. I fall asleep until duty summons me again.

Birthday Party

We are negotiating our way through January. The children are back in school. Wife is hard at work kicking butt and taking names, like she always does. I am sitting in front of my computer reading, writing, editing, and working on whatever comes in front of me.

The children have adjusted to their time being consumed by the cruel and unusual academic punishments. It was a nice Christmas Break, but I think the house is glad to have the little Miracles of Christ out and back at school.

We can’t just hit the ground running, though. There needs to be some consideration for the fatigue and struggles our children suffer. That’s why they invented three-day weekends. It gives them a chance to process the labors of the previous days and weeks. It’s tough. Not only do they have to sit through school, but sometimes, God forbid, there’s homework for them to do after school. Sometimes they’re able to suck it up and do it. Other times it’s a nightmare that never seems to end. It’s hard for them, too.

There are also times where they need to go to school, but it’s only for a half day. Again, this brings joy to their faces. For me, it means I have half the time to do what I need to do before heading back to school to pick them up. It’s incredible, sometimes. On full days, I ask what they did. They answer, “Nothing.” I don’t know what half of nothing is, but I get the same answer when I pick them up on half-days.

It’s the same thing when The Boy goes to his friends’ houses. They do nothing. He’ll bring a toy, maybe some Pokémon cards. When he gets back, he did nothing. Whatever it is, it’s easier than the legal torture he’s subjected to in school.

The children must admit, though, that life isn’t always readin’, ritin’, and rackin’ brains. There are times where the clouds open up and let a little sunshine in. Sunshine came on one particular weekend when the boy was invited to a birthday party. I escorted him. The party was a few towns away, which meant a little drive. I love driving, especially when someone is with me. It means a chance to play some music and talk.

An exterior shot of a Chuck E Cheese.
The site of the party.
(Photo: chuckecheese.com)

I look back at The Boy and ask if he’s ready for the party. Is he excited about it? He ducks out of my view and hides his face. He doesn’t want to talk. He just wants to get to the party and play with his friends.

The party is at Chuck E. Cheese, a haven for poor, mistreated innocent children like my son. The children congregate toward each other. I find grown-ups to commiserate with. One of the grown-ups just happened to be a neighbor. I coached his kids during one of my stints. We get to talking about parenthood and the thankless duties we perform.

He proceeds to tell me about the previous weeks his family had, which included a couple of hockey games they attended. I listen to the tales of family bonding and watching the Boston Bruins together. Snacks, drinks, and hockey. What a time they must have had. My children aren’t much for watching sports. Like you, my neighbor is a loyal reader and he’s well aware of where sports rank on the list of my children’s interests.

After a little game-playing and running around a crowded arcade, like children like to do, it was time for food. Pizza and chicken bites. Staples of a birthday party. My ongoing quest to shed some inches from my waist was sidetracked yet again. Both the pizza and the chicken were good. This led me and other adults to discuss where we get our pizza when ordering at home.

Pizza and chicken are finished. Time for cake. I decline the cake after going slightly crazy with the pizza and chicken. After cake, there’s a little time left for some more games before heading back home. The Boy and I play together in the final stage of the birthday party.

The Chuck E Cheese mascot posing for pictures with children.
A quick break from pizza and games.

Party’s over. It’s time to head back home. I ask The Boy if he had a good time. He did. I look in the mirror as I talk to him. He ducks and hides again. I adjust the radio. I was thinking about the talk of hockey, and I wonder if we’d be lucky to find a game. Sure enough, we do. I explain faceoffs, one-timers, and checking to the boy, who informs me that this is boring.

We get home. Wife is there. She asks how the party went. I tell her it was good. I talked to the neighbors. The pizza was good, and I ate more than I should have once again.

“What did you do?” Wife asked The Boy.

“Nothing,” The Boy answered.

Change a Car Battery

Learning opportunities and teachable moments were plenty for us recently. Slick’s car was out of commission. We weren’t sure what the problem was, but it wouldn’t start. Based on my limited past experiences with my own cars, I was thinking battery, starter, or alternator. For Slick’s sake, I was hoping battery.

An old car battery. Don’t ask
where the screw came from.

We tested the battery. Dead as a doornail. I thank the automotive deities for the easier and cheaper of the problems. My experiences have also taught me the battery could still be good, it just needs a little tightening. Call me crazy, but I like to make sure I don’t need to spend extra money before I spend extra money.

Slick and I give everything a once-over and, unfortunately, we need to buy a new battery. At this point, a friend of ours was walking past. He dabbles in cars and comes over to see what we’re doing and how it’s going. We explain what’s going on. At this point, everyone is inside the house. We’re still discussing the situation with Wife, who has since come down to the kitchen to say hello.

I decide for Slick we should call Triple AAA. It’s night. It’s cold, in the teens and I’m delicate. I need to put children to bed, which includes reading stories. I really don’t want to be out there messing with the business of going to a store, going back, loosening a corroded car battery in frigid weather, replacing, tightening, and securing a battery when I can be in my warm house safe from the elements and letting someone else, someone who does this for their job, do their job and earn their money so they can buy their wife and children nice things.

Friend tells me it’s wrong and crazy to get a marked-up battery from Triple AAA. Go to Wal-Mart. It’s cheaper and it’s not difficult to replace a battery. These reasons are true and valid, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s cold and late. I get out-voted and Slick and I are off to Wal-Mart for a car battery.

Buying a Car Battery

We climb into my car. The engine turns. I’m waiting for things to warm up as I stew over my democratic defeat and the sudden need to leave my cozy home. I’m delicate.

We get to Wal-Mart and make our way to the automotive section. Batteries galore, just not the battery we need. We go up and down the aisle hoping to find our battery. Alas, the Wal-Mart gods are not with us, and we need to seek our battery elsewhere. My Triple AAA idea is looking better.

We head back in the direction of home, keeping an open eye for an auto parts shop. It pleases the gods that we should come across one. We enter. There’s a man behind a counter eating a sandwich. Another is behind the counter looking at his phone. We explain to the nice men that we are looking for a battery. We’re looking for the size. Sandwich gets up from the counter and leads us to where the batteries are. Praise be, they have our battery in stock. I turn around with the prize, and Sandwich is already back at his seat.

Installing a Car Battery

New car battery installed.

We get back in the car with the newly procured power source. It’s late. It’s still cold, but we need to put the new battery in so Slick can do what he needs to do.

We pull into the driveway. There’s not much as far as light goes. We only have so many lights outside. It reminds me of a time in high school when someone needed to change a tire, but that’s another story for another time.

Hood popped. We stand over the situation with our cell phones trying to illuminate what’s under the hood. Slick looks a little closer.

“Is that a screwdriver?” he asks.

It is a screwdriver!

I look closer with my own phone. Sure enough, there is a screwdriver handle sticking out from all of the parts, wires, bells, and whistles. Slick removes the screwdriver. I’m glad it just comes out, and it wasn’t something used to hold parts together or fill a gap that shouldn’t be there. We work over the car; one person loosening connectors and another illuminating. We remove the old battery and install the new one. Car starts, hood closes, and we both hustle up the steps and into the house. It’s cold and I’m delicate.

A Stay at Home Dad gets Sick

I was out of commission for a couple of days last week. I’m not sure what hit me, but it wasn’t pleasant. Stomachaches, nausea, chills. A lot of things that didn’t make for pleasant mornings or pleasant days. I was able to put on my “big boy” pants long enough during the day to get some things done around the house, but once dinner was almost done, I needed to tap out and go to bed. I hated that because the porkchops I had cooked smelled good.

My home for
two days.

I proceeded to spend the following day in bed. I fell asleep, woke up, found some games to play, answered messages from adoring fans. It was nice. Wife held it down for me during my brief convalescence. She took the kids to school in the morning. If she tried to wake me, I didn’t notice. I was out of it.

It was how I spent the first day of being sick: Being in and out of sleep, trying to stay warm Wishing I could be well enough to at least drink something. I wasn’t hungry but I was thirsty. I tried to drink some coffee but it didn’t agree with me and I had to quit after a couple of sips.

I was however, able to drink tea and, before I went down to the count, I noticed I was feeling a little off and bought a couple of bottles of iced green tea to help me fight through whatever it was that was coming on to me.

Everyone was glad to have me back. Not because they love me or my cooking, though.

It wasn’t exactly an ideal situation. I couldn’t stand. Couldn’t walk. Laundry and dishes piling up. I wondered about the pick-ups and drop-offs and Wife’s schedule. She was able to get it done for me and I was very grateful for that.

I was starting to feel better the next day. I was able to drink a cup of coffee. I allowed myself some toast. I was hungry but was still feeling a little more delicate than I normally am. The kids were at school so I allowed myself to go downstairs.

While I was in recovery mode, I took the time to check out some selections from my DVD library to pass the time. It was only a short time, so I was only able to watch two movies. I watched “L.A. Confidential” and the original “Death Wish”. There’s a ton of movies I’ve been wanting to see and haven’t gotten around to. (No, I hadn’t seen those two and I know how old they are). Needing to be off my feet and take it easy gave me the chance to watch them.

Watching these movies was a nice way of taking it easy for a day or two. I was soon feeling well enough to return to my father and husband duties and cook and clean. Everyone was glad to have me back. Not because they love me or my cooking, though. They were glad to have me back to helping with the chores.