It was a very exciting week for us. It usually is, but this exciting week was a special one for Wife and me. Last week, we officially became parents of The Gaggle. It was a long process. It usually is when you’re dealing with the state, but in all honesty, the wait wasn’t as long as it could have been.
So, what changes? Not much, really. The children have been with us for a long time now. They’ve been with us for over a year and we’ve got our routines down. In addition to school, we also have sports practice, doctor’s appointments, and visits with friends.
We’re going to trip over dirty clothes and find dirty dishes in random places. We’re going to stare in disbelief at the answers we receive to what we thought were simple questions.
We’re still going to have our vacations and our day trips. There will still be our weekend trips to Cape Cod. We’re going to trip over dirty clothes and find dirty dishes in random places. We’re going to stare in disbelief at the answers we receive to what we thought were simple questions. We’re going to shake our heads and facepalm when we see things that happen in our house.
We will continue to team children up when it comes to the chores around the house. We will continue to walk from room to room and wonder why things don’t get done around the house. We’ll hear about school and practice being, “great.” We’ll continue to deal with the challenges faced by us and other parents around the globe.
We arrived at court on the day of the festivities. We met with the judge before the proceedings officially began to get the rundown. We then went to the courtroom where things were officially declared. The judge officially named us parents to the Gaggle, now officially known as Slick, Slugger, and Lovie, and children were given a gavel to pound and declare our parenthood official.
One of the children, who had turned 18 before the adoption could become official, was not “adopted” in an official sense. The Oppressed realizing this, promptly drew up a decree of adoption and had Wife and I sign it. It hangs in our kitchen.
From there, we went to lunch to celebrate the day and our accomplishment. We then went home to rest from the excitement.
Friends came by over the weekend for dinner to celebrate and congratulated us on the good news. Our social media has been flooded with likes and comments congratulating us and wishing us the best as we continue our adventures in parenting. It’s always going to be exciting, maybe more exciting than we’d like. There’s going to be a problem, a practice to go to, a game to attend. There will be the hiccups that accompany the days in the life, but that’s okay. We love our children.
You read stories of American colonists hiding stores of ammunition ahead of the British army coming to seize it. Pirates hid treasure. People would secretly make then hide booze. People did whatever it took to make sure someone else didn’t take what was theirs.
I’m seriously considering these practices in my house. As you know, I’m usually the one who does the grocery shopping. Sometimes I need to go to the wholesale store. This is necessary when you have five children, three of them are in athletics (if you count cheerleading).
I get this. I played sports. I rode a bike. You sweat. You need to hydrate. It happens. I understand this. What I don’t understand is why one of the Gaggle needs to pack four sports drinks in the morning. He needs to stay hydrated. Do the water fountains not work in the school?
The Boy is one of the children in sports. He needs to hydrate. That would be fine if he actually finished his hydration. He doesn’t and he’s not the only one. Wife and I are constantly finding half-full (or half-empty) bottles around the house. They belong to nobody, of course. All of the children are perfect and they finish and properly dispose of everything they consume.
Sometimes I see something I think Wife will really like when I’m shopping so I grab it. Something nice to give her while she overworks at her job. I make sure to give it to her while the little pillagers are at school. If they’re home, I’ll tuck it under something in a bag, then retrieve it and, with great stealth, slip it under some papers or behind a book so she can enjoy it without having it poached by one of the Miracles of Christ.
Wife has seen what’s going on as we find depleted supplies of tonic and juice and assorted treats. She has resorted to taking some of these rations and storing them in special hiding places so she can enjoy a little something when she feels like it instead of gobbling up something for the sake of getting something she’d like before the children conduct their raid and it’s gonna forever.
Interestingly enough, my store of fruits and vegetables hasn’t been pilfered 🤔. It’s a fascinating thing that occurs at my house, but I haven’t had the need to hide apples, oranges, peaches, plums, or carrots. It’s a phenomenal situation, but this is one of the reasons they’re called the Miracles of Christ.
The colonists hid guns in woodpiles, bullets in sacks and barrels. Bruce Wayne has secret passages at Wayne Manor. Heroes have ways to hide and store necessary supplies for when they need it. Wife has taken to these tactics before the locusts – I mean, children – descend upon the spoils of a shopping trip. If we’re lucky, they’re absorbed in a screen that provides some mind-numbing experience for them. This allows us to find a place to hide something being saved for a special occasion or something that’s planned for a meal. Either way, we have our system. It may not be as elaborate of a system used to warn of British coming into Boston Harbor, but it does allow me and wife to preserve our stores and hold off the grocery shopping for another hour.
Keep in mind I said there are three people playing cards and there’s not a lot of time between turns, but my children (especially The Boy) are convinced they have the time to check their rooms, run downstairs, go somewhere and do something and be back in time for their next turn.
School is in. Classes have started. Assignments have commenced. All five children are in the routine of reading and writing.
It was a good summer. We got to get away a couple of times. We tried new things. Wife and I liked being able to try a new restaurant in the middle of our travels and the kids liked the donuts we got at Donut Dip. We had a good summer. It was nice to have a break from the excitement of the daily life of work, practice, and the daily crisis that befalls us.
We still get a little free time now and then. That usually happens at night when dinner is over and dishes are done by the child who has that task. They haven’t started them yet, but it’s just a matter of time. For a short time, before we send the children to bed to recharge the batteries for the upcoming day, people usually spend a few moments doing something. For me, that means playing a game with The Oppressed and The Boy. Sometimes one of The Gaggle will join us, especially if it’s a game of Monopoly (I love that child).
Lately, it’s been cards. We play a couple of games before sending the children to bed. The games are fun. The problem is that the children don’t understand they actually need to be there when they are playing. We play Uno at night. There are three of us, so theoretically, it’s a fast-paced game where you don’t need to wait very long for your turn.
With our house, there’s always something that steals our children’s attention. It doesn’t take much when it comes to our kids and it doesn’t matter what it is we’re doing at the time. My children think they can multi-task. I wish they felt this power when it came to picking up their rooms or whatever mess they left behind. It’s a strange power. It comes and goes like wi-fi signals.
We’ll start to play a game. It starts well. Everyone checks their hand, waits their turn, and throws a card. As the game progresses, though, the children feel a need to check on other things throughout the house. Keep in mind I said there are three people playing cards and there’s not a lot of time between turns, but my children (especially The Boy) are convinced they have the time to check their rooms, run downstairs, go somewhere and do something and be back in time for their next turn. They thrown down a card, jump up, and make a dash for it. Before they’ve left the room, I tell them it’s their turn and need to be back. They will be back, they tell me, right after they check out what needs to be checked out. They’ll be right back, and they do come back just in time to throw down another card before doing another lap around the house before coming back for their turn. Honestly, it’s almost like we’re back at Six Flags. Waiting a long time for something that’s a fraction of the time we spent waiting. Maybe that’ what The Boy is doing. Maybe he thinks we’re back at Six Flags and he’s pretending he’s still on Summer Vacation. Or maybe he just has that sudden burst of energy that evades him when we need to leave the house or pick up his room. I don’t know. I’ve mentioned before there are mysterious forces at my house; Forces that visit and leave messes in what were clean and tidy rooms and corners. Maybe these forces have found their way to my son. I wonder if they can get him to the car in time for football practice.
It’s September. That means transitioning from vacation to school. Hopefully, it will also mean having a few more uninterrupted conversations with my wife now that the Miracles of Christ are back in school.
Everyone is adjusting to the new schedules. Some children are dealing with the harsh reality of not waking up at noon. Other children are adjusting to a morning of getting dressed and leaving the house instead of rolling out of bed and going on autopilot to the television, generating just enough energy to stay vertical until they reach the couch.
I’m adjusting, too. I need to make sure I’m up early enough to get the little cherubs out of bed and on their way to the car or bus. I’m helping children get their breakfast and find their things so they can be on time for school. The first day of school was tough. Kids had tons of supplies to see themselves through the school year. Usually, we can get to the school a day or two before the official first day and drop the things off so children can just walk to their classrooms on Day One and not worry about anything else but making it to the classroom and seeing who they were sitting next to.
It didn’t happen this time. Oh, well. I dropped off The Oppressed and The Boy with their gear. Luckily, things fit in their bags and they were able to remain upright on their way into the building. I went home and did my work, patiently waiting for the time I could return to the school and find out about their day.
That glorious time came and I eagerly waited at the school parking lot for the doors to open and release the children from the temporary adult oppressors to the permanent oppressors. The Oppressed was in relatively good spirits and gave about as much information as I could expect. The Boy, on the other hand, was none too happy. Apparently, his teacher took his things from him as soon as he got to his room and locked them up on him. The Boy didn’t understand why the teacher had to take his things away from him without any explanation. I decided to find out more about this and asked The Oppressed, who just happened to be an alumna of this teacher. It turns out this teacher allows the students to keep what they need in their desks and the excess stock is kept in a closet. When the student needs something, the teacher will fetch it from the closet, thereby making sure that everything is accounted for, nothing gets lost, and the student has everything they need for a successful school year. The Boy didn’t exactly see it that way and was upset with his teacher for days because she, “stole” the things he needs for school. The Oppressed and I tried to explain what happened. The Boy said she should have spoke to him about it and asked him if it was alright to take his things before she took it. After all, The Boy reminded us, it’s his stuff.
Despite my inexperience and lack of know-how when it comes to parenting (I just live here with my children), I have learned there are times when it is best to just let kids sulk and stew about the cruel lot cast upon them by fate. At this point, all I can do is patiently wait for The Boy to need something and, at that time, the teacher will go to the closet and retrieve what he needs from the supply closet. Maybe then he will understand the grand scheme of the teacher and her classroom.
Time will tell. As of now, there are other things to deal with. Another round of the Homework Wars will be descending upon us. There are flag-football, cheerleading, and cross-country practices to attend. Wife and I have our own jobs. I know I said something about having uninterrupted conversations with my wife while the children are away, but there may be other things lurking in the shadows and waiting to snatch whatever chance I have to talk to her without someone or something jumping in and fill what I thought was an opening.
I’m not a runner. I never have been. One day… I almost lost to an offensive lineman. Running isn’t my forte. Now I have a child who wants to spend his time after school running. This is someone who lacks hustle when getting ready to leave the house, but who am I to step on one’s dreams?
Seasons come and go, especially in sports. When I was a child, seasons were divided into sports, school, and summer vacation. The sports seasons and their beginnings and ending remained when I moved from being a high school student to a newspaper reporter. I didn’t mind it, of course. I’ve enjoyed playing and watching sports my entire life.
I’ve taken that experience in sports and used it to teach my own children and those who have played under my tutelage during the baseball and football seasons. As a coach, I have served as a teacher, a motivator, and sometimes a therapist for those who watched someone step on their base or didn’t get the ball thrown to them on a certain play regardless of how many people were covering them. These are challenging times for me. Sometimes I have to explain to someone why they got pushed out of bounds. It’s because they had the ball and were running near the sidelines. Sorry, Champ. That’s how the game is played.
It’s not always easy, but then again, I’ve been watching sports long enough to figure a solution to the problem. That’s what I do. I fix things: game situations, strategies, bruised arms and egos. I find a solution and help the promising athlete back on their feet in on the field.
And then one of the Gaggle tells me they want to run cross-country. This threw me for a loop, especially when they originally wanted to play football. At least with football, I could offer a little advice. Cross-country? I get excited when I break the eight-minute mile. I’m not a runner. I never had been. One day at football practice in high school, I almost lost to an offensive lineman in the 40-yard dash. I had a baseball coach who told me to get the refrigerator out of my back pocket when I ran. I wasn’t fast. I’m still not fast. Running isn’t my forte.
Now I have a child who wants to spend his time after school running. This is someone who lacks hustle when getting ready to leave the house, but who am I to step on one’s dreams? Lucky for me, a friend of mine happens to be a runner. He was captain of the high school cross-country team. He beat me in every race and game we had. I’m not going to say if I let him win. We’re friends. No need to get into the past like that. Anyway, I sought his advice for running since I had none to give. He gave me some pointers that I passed along to the Gaggle. It should be interesting. This child will be running about three miles every day. He’s been excited about it. I haven’t dealt with high school sports in a while. I’m still getting back into it and figuring out captains’ practices (if any) and what the child needs in order to practice with the team (doctor’s forms, permission slips, CYA paperwork). There’s also the issue of making sure the child knows their schedule, when practice starts and ends. When and where the meets are. What they need for said practice and meets. I’m not worried. I’m sure they’ll be fine. They’re a teenager. What could possibly go wrong?
“The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings…”
Seasons inevitably change. Things come and go. That’s life. That’s the way it is. The end of one thing and the beginning of another gives us the chance to reflect on what was and what may follow.
The weather continues to get warmer and the school year is winding down. Both are reasons to be happy excited if you are a young man (or young lady). Unfortunately, we recently observed an ending: The end of the baseball season.
At the level I coached this year, the focus was more on fun and learning than scores, winners, and losers. Therefore, at the end of our 2021 season, I look at the improvements each player made. The Boys of Spring came to me in the cool, damp days of March and April. I did what I could to fix holes in their individual swings and flaws in their fielding and throwing. I kept it as simple and basic as I could. I reminded them to keep their glove down on the ground. I told them to relax at the plate and don’t swing for the fences. Improvements were made during the season and I’m glad to have played a small part during the journey.
There were also the deep, stimulating conversations we had during the game. These usually consisted of, “I’m tired.” “Can we go home?” “I need water.” “I have to go to the bathroom.” We had eight players on our squad this year. Five or six of them wanted to play first base at once. A simple bunt down the third base line would have meant a sure double. Luckily our opposition wasn’t so baseball-savvy.
One child spent the whole morning asking when we’d be done. I told him we had two more innings. He responded, “NO!” I apologized and quickly amended it to three. Apparently, this was not the answer he was looking for either. Another was excited to learn we share the same birthday month. We are now officially “Birthday Twins”.
The complaint department handled grievances regarding the lineup. I always tried to make sure the same person didn’t hit first or last every time. Occasionally, one or two of the players would try to change the lineup. By “change”, I mean write his name down and no one else’s. Other methods of altering the lineup included running to the dugout and being the first to get his helmet and bat thereby superseding the written lineup. I called Rob Manfred to make sure this was indeed a rule. I’m still waiting for confirmation.
There were displays of strength such as boys seeing if they could throw the ball over the fence instead of at the intended target. There were boys running away from the ball. This was when I reminded them they had a glove to protect them. There were two runners on a base. I reminded them it was one at a time. The boys told me about school and Pokémon. I told them about Mel Ott and George Brett. I traded stories of school with the children and bourbon and scotch tips with my assistant coaches.
It was a season of fun and learning. We taught baseball and smoothed over bruised egos. I hope the children enjoyed themselves. Thanks to my assistants D and R for their help. Thank you to C, D, J, J, L, M, R, and W for their (unending) feedback on my coaching and showing me the ways I can improve upon myself.
And I think I inadvertently hit two or three batters. Sorry about that.
I’m sure you are aware of the loss we all experienced last year when we needed to have a tree removed from our property. If you are not aware of Larry the Tree and the memories he provided the entire family (The Oppressed), allow me to once again share the story of our beloved tree and the day he was taken away from us in a cruel and heartless decision made by Wife and me. Here is the story that honors his memory. Larry the Tree – Drink your juice (and Other Crimes Against Humanity) (brave-daddy.com)
The Oppressed continues to remind me of what happened to Larry and how he is in a better place, no thanks to her parents. I thought it would be nice if you got it straight from the fingers of my daughter. Here it is, the life and times of Larry in her own words.
My father thought I should write a story on his blog (I am The Oppressed). I decided I will write about the famous Larry The Tree (from the perspective of The Oppressed). Now to begin:
One day I was doing schoolwork and I heard my parents were hiring someone to kill my good friend Larry the tree. They told me he was dead but he was still standing and dead things can’t stand; not to mention they killed him on this birthday, Earth Day. They also said they’ve never heard of the tree being named “Larry”. Well, if they took the time to pay attention, they would know his name. It was brutal. I mean, watching your friend die is 100% not ideal. Not to mention the same day Larry was killed, a Barbie doll (named “Tom”) was buried after suffering injuries from a head ripping. Larry’s funeral was small. I put up a grave, put flowers down, and prayed. Only me and two of my friends were there. I wore a black dress.
This is the true story of Larry.
Larry the tree
April 7, 1966 – April 22, 2020
Last words: “I don’t want to die.”
(The birthdate and final words are accurate according to The Oppressed)
Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger.
The sun is shining. The weather is getting warmer. Birds are singing. It means baseball season is arriving again. It also means a new crew of children to whom I will pass on my love and knowledge for and of the National Pastime.
It also means trying to nail down the names of six or seven new players, which usually means an afternoon of, “Hey!” since I need to get a message across to somebody fast. I might need to bring somebody’s attention to a ball thrown in their direction or wake somebody up who is not paying attention while they are on base and another baserunner is heading for that base. Who knows with this crew?
What I do know is this: There are some future managers on this team. I have a bunch of players who aren’t much for listening, but they love to remind the others where they need to be. They also like telling me who has already played first base and they haven’t hit yet.
Let’s start with my team on the field. The Boys of Summer take the field. Three of them are standing on first base. One might be catching. One or two might be somewhere else on the infield and ask if it’s alright where they are. My first order of the inning is to convince two of the boys on first that they need to play somewhere else. I usually tell them something like I can’t waste their arm at first base or I need someone with their speed somewhere else on the field. Something motivational that will convince them to move from the prized first base. This usually includes a promise that they can play first base later in the game.
That’s done. Players are in position. I look around to see my crew and make sure they’re ready. One is making a sand castle. Two more are practicing ninja dropkicks on the grass. My teams usually include different players doing the same things every year. I just guess who it’s going to be doing what.
Now we’re ready. Players in position. One is looking back at the concession stand. They smell something. Burgers. Chicken fingers. French fries. I remind the player they need to face forward and get ready in case the ball is hit to them. The ball is hit. The fielder fields it and the ball goes sailing over the first baseman’s head. I take this opportunity to remind everyone on the field (again) that the object of the game is to reach the first baseman’s glove, not to show how strong they are. I tell them it’s alright. There are no girls around. They don’t need to show off their strength and can save that for recess the next day.
Sometimes there will be two or three players chatting with each other in the middle of the game. Something urgent and compelling, I’m sure. These are Kindergartners and first-graders so I’m sure what’s being discussed is Earth-shattering. I break up the roundtables and direct the children’s attention to the man at the plate. I don’t need another player threatening to quit because they weren’t paying attention when the ball was hit to them and they took one on the leg or the arm. Our time on the field mercifully comes to an end and it’s our turn to bat.
Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst after 10 minutes on the field are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger. I am met with “Can I hit?” “Is it my turn?” “When can I bat?” This is when I am reminded by numerous people who didn’t get the chance to hit first in any inning last time.
I give the order. This isn’t an actual “game” so it’s a different order every inning in order to make sure the same person isn’t hitting first or last every time. I give the order and, throughout our turn to bat, remind my men who is hitting next and who is on deck. I’m at home plate, sometimes; making sure the feet are where they should be, hands are positioned right, elbow bent. My player is relaxed and ready. I check his feet. I remind him of the batters box (I draw one so they know where to stand) and tell him to stay there and wait for the ball. Level swing. This is what I tell them. Bats go everywhere. Players swing at angles Trigonometry Professors have never seen before. Some players want to stand behind the plate. They draw a box where the catcher normally plays and, since there’s a box there, it’s perfectly alright for them to be there. I explain that’s not the way it works and they need to stand in a Regulation batter’s box. Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.
Sometimes I pitch to the budding baseball battlers. These boys are still learning how to hit without a tee, so I am careful and cautious when it comes to pitching. Sometimes, however a pitch goes awry and I hit a batter. I hate that. Not as much as the one who gets hit, but I hate it. I run to the batter, make sure they’re alright and we don’t need to amputate. He’s alright and, after some prodding and convincing from the parents, returns to the box to finish his time at the plate.
He makes contact. Infielders pile upon each other for a chance to get the ball and throw the ball. They can finally do something. The batter runs. I remind him to run the other way. He changes course. I remind him to run without the bat. He flings the bat. Suddenly, I’m Pepper Martin diving out of the way in order to avoid the incoming bat. I’m in my forties and I still have my agility.
The day comes to an end. We line up at home plate, walk past the other team, and say, “Good game.” No handshakes because of the ‘Rona. I end our session with some words of wisdom. Something to inspire the troops. The Boy and I head home where he tells me about what I need to improve on.
My children are unhappy with the choices before them when it comes to meals. There are always better options. I just don’t share them with my poor, unhappy children. I keep them locked away while presenting them with the swill they are forced to consume every day.
One morning, The Oppressed wanted Carnation Instant Breakfast, just not the disgusting vanilla we had tucked away in the pantry. I asked what was wrong with the vanilla. She told me, “It’s disgusting.” She wanted chocolate. I told her vanilla was fine and there’s nothing wrong with vanilla. Here we have another obvious example of how I do not love my children. A truly loving parent would go to the store and buy chocolate or strawberry or another flavor of Carnation Instant Breakfast. One that a child would really like.
Much to her chagrin, I informed The Oppressed I would not be buying another flavor of Carnation Instant Breakfast until what we had was finished. This upset the child. It was another vivid example of how I do not love my children and do not see that they are fed and taken care of. She wanted a flavor other than vanilla. She really wanted “Carnation” and now she can’t have it. I remind her that’s not true. She can still have it. “I’m not drinking disgusting vanilla!” she exclaimed.
This brings us to my favorite part of the mealtime stories I share with you. We have cereal. None of the cereals we have taste good. They’re disgusting. We have granola bars. Disgusting. There is fruit. There is always plenty of fruit at our house. Disgusting. Disgusting. Disgusting. Everything is gross. She wants Carnation Instant Breakfast and she doesn’t want vanilla.
I inform my children the car will be leaving soon and they will be going to school with or without breakfast. The Oppressed chokes down a granola bar. A nasty, disgusting granola bar and washes it down with a glass of water. The juice we have is disgusting and she won’t drink milk. Disgusting. We drive to school. The Oppressed curses my name for making her eat disgusting subpar, un-tasty food. She asks when I will buy more Carnation. I will do so when the children finish what we already have. She looks forward, hoping someone will take one for the team and choke down the vanilla Carnation so the entire household (her) can get something tasty to have for breakfast soon.
Children are learning things every day. Sometimes they learn on their own and sometimes Wife or I need to teach them.
We had one such teachable moment with one of The Gaggle. They wanted to get a coffee. I stopped at a drive-thru so they could get one. The order was a little difficult as they kept changing their mind as to what it was they wanted. God bless the poor person taking the order. They never lost their temper or raised their voice once. Upon receiving the coffee, I drove away. I could see the look of disappointment in The Gaggle’s face as we made our way home.
“This is black,” they said.
“Yes. You wanted a black coffee,” I reminded them.
“They don’t put cream in a black coffee?”
I put my hand on the child’s shoulder and said no, they don’t put cream in a black coffee. That’s why they call it a “black coffee”. If the child had wanted cream, they should have said, “coffee with cream.”
“That’s dumb,” they said. “I should sue Starbuck’s”
I tell the child to go ahead and try, but Starbuck’s doesn’t care what just happened where we were.
“I mean McDonald’s.”
“Again,” I say, “Knock yourself out, but it’s not McDonald’s fault.”
“Wait,” they say as they look behind them, hoping to catch a glimpse of where we were. “Where were we?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m driving. I need to look forward so I can see where we’re going.”
“Well, wherever we were,” they say as they turn back and get settled. “We should sue them. They screwed up my coffee.”