Archive for the 'Other people’s kids' Category

JT, iCarly, Overboard, Patience

April 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

11 am

We drive down to St. Louis for the day, Tiffany and the babies and I. It’s a peaceful drive, even though it’s cold and cloudy, and we left about an hour late per usual. Our entertainment for the trip is provided by my wife’s new phone, a Samsung Somethinerother that has a 4G connection. We’ve got Pandora Radio opened up, and we both think the Steely Dan channel is a great idea for about the first three minutes. We spend the rest of the drive listening to Justin Timberlake Radio.

A lot of people discount Timberlake’s talent or straight out can’t stand him. When he dumped the boy band and went solo, I wanted not to like him, but he hired The Neptunes and put out some perfectly good pop songs. Then he did “Dick in a Box” on SNL with Andy Samberg, and I couldn’t not like him. On top of it, for probably the first six months I knew Tiffany, Timberlake’s FutureSexLoveSound was the only CD she would play in her car. We got to know that album very well as we were falling in love and doing crazy shit like getting married and moving away after knowing each other for 11 weeks.

"Every single holiday, a dick in a box..."

When you create a station on Pandora based around an artist, only every third or fourth song is by that artist. The rest is matched up on an eHarmony-esque compatibility scale that encompasses similar artists and styles. So the JT channel had some good R+B I’d never heard and equal parts unabashed Britney/Christina-type stuff. During a family drive, when everyone’s in a good mood, I don’t mind that sort of music at all. My wife’s kept up on music and celebrity gossip over the years, too, so each song generally sparks a different mini-conversation.

1 pm

Eleven people sit down to our family dinner, which includes a hard- and soft-shell taco bar with chips and a vat of chili con queso. But attendance comes in two waves. The first group includes me, my two spawn, Tiffany’s parents, and my brother- and sister-in-law.

Sarah uses the occasion to bond extensively for the first time with her Uncle Tom*. Which means, in so many words, that Sarah’s seat is next to Tom’s, so she’s going to spend the duration of the dinner making sure Tom sees everything that Sarah sees. (“Tom, look, chips!” “Tom, you see a ceiling?” And so on.)

The second group includes Tiffany, my stepson Josh and two daughters of Tiffany’s best friend, who attend so many of our family dinners they should consider changing their last names. By the time they all get back, I’ve had a couple pounds of Mexican food and am finishing dessert.

Once Sarah lies down for her nap and Silas falls asleep in his car carrier, I stretch across the upstairs sofa. Fall almost instantly into a half-consciousness where I can still mostly hear what’s being said. Then fall completely asleep. I don’t often get the chance, but I love taking naps in unusual yet safe places. I end up on the couch for well over two hours.

8 pm

Tiffany and Josh leave to drive the older daughter back home so she can get some overnight stuff, and meanwhile I’m downstairs watching the younger daughter and my two kids. This little girl, who’s 6, has come across as bashful over almost four years’ worth of holiday gatherings. Tonight, she wants to talk.

Specifically, she wants to talk about “iCarly,” which is on the TV right now. She has complete vocal mastery of this episode’s plot points and how they fit into the bigger story arc of the “iCarly” canon. She also knows what on the show is funny.

[Teenage boy character’s elevator dumbwaiter door thingie opens. There’s a giant mound of pillows.]
“He ordered two pillows. They sent him 200 pillows. That’s funny.”
[Teenage boy character somehow gets stuck and immersed in the pillows.]
“Look, he can’t get out. That’s funny. The door’s about to fall on his back. That’s hilarious!”
[Sure enough, the door falls on the kid’s back, and he reacts with an overdrawn comic expression of pain, as the 6 year old and laugh track issue forth a cacaphony of mirth.]

To me, “iCarly” seems like it’s written on the second grade level. This kid’s going into first grade in the fall. She knows what’s up.


Apparently, there's a soundtrack and everything.

We’re barely across the Illinois state line, headed home. Silas is asleep, Sarah’s quietly eating a snack, and on the three-inch iPod screen, propped up against the car’s radio and cassette deck**, the 1987 Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn softball romance comedy Overboard is just getting to the fun parts. I’m ready to conclude it a peaceful ending to a peaceful day.

Then Sarah bites one of her fingers while eating. She starts crying and screaming, waking up her little brother, who starts crying and screaming, and the next hour or so is one tense ordeal. I’d describe it further, but I’ve already done an awful lot of mental work to dominate and subdue all memories of Midnight Overboard Road Trip Screamfest 2011. It sucked for everyone, let’s just say.

2 am

This is the peaceful ending I was waiting for. Everyone’s asleep but me and Silas, who is barely awake by the time I pick him up and hold him close while swaying us back and forth softly under the ceiling fan in the living room. It’s dark, save the light over the kitchen sink, and the iPod plays softly on random in the background. As I’m alone with my baby boy, having a daddy-son dance, on comes “Patience” by Guns-N-Roses. Normally, I’d skip it. Tonight, it seems so perfectly appropriate as to be completely contrived. Which somehow makes it even more appropriate. Silas falls asleep, a Bob Marley song comes on, then Daddy’s ready for bed, too.

*Yes, I’ve already mentioned in this blog that my kids have an actual Uncle Tom, and that I think that’s funny, and now I’m repeating that sentiment because I still think it’s funny. Uncle Tom. Tee hee.

**Yes, cassette deck.


Sarah's Silly Spider costume, the first time around.

Seven kids, one house, one Saturday

March 30, 2011

Andrew Hicks

2:20 pm

Tiffany and I have just spent an hour cleaning up our house to welcome, on the spur of the moment, one of her female coworkers, his husband and their five(!) kids. The female coworker has been successfully selling Avon products for the past two months, and my wife wants in. So they’re gonna try to get some Avon work done while her five kids, my two kids and we two dads hang out in the house.

In the front door they bound. Almost a half-dozen of them, all stacked right on top of each other in age, from 2 years old up to 8. Their parents brought over a giant bag of Popeye’s chicken for lunch, and with the herd of kids sitting around my kitchen table, Dad stands watch. He sneaks a bite of a chicken leg here and there while issuing fatherly instructions rapid-fire to each individual kid as needed.

I stare at this unfamiliar scene like I’m watching three-dimensional reality television, and I suddenly make a mental note not to bitch about my two-child workload for the rest of the day. The dinner scene is the most peaceful part of the visit. Once mealtime is up, the five kids and my 2 year old are turned loose throughout all of the upstairs, save the master bedroom. For me, all this seems like one part novelty, one part fun, one part tiring and one part complete chaos.


4:55 pm

In the past two hours, there have been toys strewn, crayons eaten and at least a hundred questions asked of me personally. My makeshift rubber ducky pond for the kids to play with has, naturally, resulted in a watery mess. The father of all these kids, knowing I’m a novice at corraling a roomful of preschoolers and elementary agers, has been giving me regular unsolicited parenting advice. Which I always welcome and take under consideration, of course.

I also hear about his typical day — wake up at two in the morning, deliver newspapers for three hours, return home, get the five kids awake and dressed and fed, drive two kids across town to one daycare, drop mom off at work, drive the other three kids to another daycare, return home, rest a couple hours, go pick up everybody from three different places, make dinner for everyone, give baths, supervise homework, put five kids to bed, have a tiny slice of personal time, then sleep a few hours until it’s two in the morning again. Once more, I will reiterate — not gonna complain about my two-kid workload for the rest of the day.

The other dad and I take a few minutes away from the rugrat cacaphony by going downstairs for a quick smoke that turns into a high-quality, 20-minute conversation about grown folks’ things. Dude’s cool, and he’s got a master’s in computer science. He knows things about the other side of the web game — in other words, not just the creative stuff like I do. We might be able to help each other. It’s a productive and enjoyable conversation, and it’s interrupted by my wife, who tells me she needs my help with Sarah, who’s crying her 2-year-old head off because of something one of the bigger kids did. Back to dad life.


5:45 pm

Tiffany realized, when Sarah’s toddler tears lasted far longer and were more dramatic than usual, that she hadn’t had anything to eat for hours. Oops, we both forgot. So I take Sarah over to the refrigerator to find something quick to feed her. She sees a trio of peppers — one red, one orange and one yellow — and is fascinated by them.

I let her play with the red pepper. She wants the orange one. I give her the orange one and, what the hell, she can play with the yellow one, too. She was just in tears in part because her uncharacteristically forgetful parents haven’t fed her in a long time. Keep her happy.

Sarah places the peppers side by side by side on the floor, OCD-style, with equal distance between the three peppers. She picks them back up, stacking them in her hands, and goes to set them down on the kitchen counter, again leaving equal distance between peppers. Then it’s into the living room, where Sarah displays the peppers — meticulously spaced apart, natch — on her little blue and white table.

I leave my daughter with her pepper toys, and it’s back to the fridge. I find and peel an orange , and I set it on a plate on the little blue and white table. The other kids crowd around. Everyone wants some orange. I divvy it up. Make sure my hungry daughter got a second piece. Then back to the kitchen. One more orange in the crisper. Kids are crowding into the kitchen. I show them our plastic scalpel-looking orange peeler. Let the oldest kid try peeling it. She’s pretty smart and intuitive about it. Then the peeler changes hands to a younger kid, and I feel like an irresponsible dude for a few seconds before I get it back.

The second orange is quickly devoured by all kids. I have one apple. It gets devoured. They start asking about the peppers. What are those? What do they taste like? Are they sweet? I remember I’ve already cut up a yellow pepper, so I ask the 4 year old if he wants to try some. He says he does. I give him a piece. He chews it thoughtfully and pronounces it good. Asks for more. Now they all want to try yellow pepper. They love it, they want some orange pepper now. The oldest kid wants her peppers steamed. It’s an orgy of fruits and vegetables. I feel like Jamie Oliver. Next will come the lesson on what’s really in your chicken nuggets.

Fifteen minutes later, we all say our goodbyes — every kid saying goodbye and thank you to each of us all at the same time. I promise to hook up with Other Dad on Facebook. The front door shuts, and the new quiet almost instantly permeates. The house is a wreck. I’m a little worn down, but I feel good.


Dad POV shot of Silas's dome.