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When Life Feels Constipated

Living life with a toddler is a daily adventure. No shortage of blog post topics. The other day, she was sitting on the potty when this little exchange occurred.

She strained, “Ugh, it’s not working! It stuck. There’s a hino-cheer-us in there!”

“Oh,” I replied. “A rhinoceros is stuck in there?” (I believe this is in reference to a children’s book in which a rhino gets stuck in a tree—because that’s totally normal.)

“Uhuh,” she nodded, and then she looked down into the toilet bowl. “Where are you poopie? It’s ok. Come on out!”

I said, “Yeah, ya rhinoceros, get outta here.”

When I was a kid, like around seven or something, one of my teachers told me, “Finley! You’re slower than molasses coming out of a constipated cow!” I didn’t even know what molasses or constipated meant. I just shrugged and took it as a compliment. Now that I know what she actually meant, I still take it as a compliment.

Sometimes, life just feels like one big, boring waiting game. Like standing in the longest line ever at a Department of Motor Vehicles located inside of the newest ride at Disney World. Or waiting in the drive-thru outside of a Krispy Kreme on free-donut day and the apocalypse is scheduled for tomorrow. I hate waiting. It gets so frustrating. This is why we invented fast food and Internet right? I shouldn’t have to wait for anything.

But maybe there’s something essential about moments of waiting too. Waiting teaches us that the whole world doesn’t revolve around us and our itinerary, like how I need to speed up and cut this person off in traffic so that I can hurry up and wait at the next stop light. Waiting slows us down and gives us the opportunity to reflect on the world around us, like who is the fella with ostrich feathers in his hair and all the other weird people standing in this line? Being bored and waiting can help us to learn how to think, plan, and be creative.

Maybe waiting isn’t something to be avoided at all costs. Maybe waiting is a time that can be embraced and even cherished in our modern lives of frenzy and frantic. Maybe there’s an art to actively waiting.

So, the next time you find yourself stuck in a line or stuck on the toilet or stuck waiting on life to start, just remember to find ways to redeem the time. That and drink some prune juice.

I should really set a calendar reminder to delete this post before my daughter is old enough to be embarrassed by reading it…

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

– attributed to Anne Frank

Being a Foster Dad

Being a foster dad is awesome; an incredible blessing everyday. Truthfully, being a father in any capacity is a great gift and joy. One of the things that I love most about being a dad is all the things I get to teach my kids. Things like:

  • Teaching them how to be self-sufficient and solve problems on their own like when something goes wrong with the plumbing and good ole’ dad needs to fix it.
  • Or teaching them how to be inquisitive and proactive like when we need to watch YouTube tutorials on how to fix the plumbing when our first fix didn’t go so well.
  • Or teaching them how to be wise and humble like when we need to look up and call a real plumber to come fix the bigger mess that I made before the entire house floods over.
  • Also, teaching them how to match their clothes in the morning like how stripes and plaid go together because they both have lines in them, duh.
  • Also, also, teaching them how to eat a balanced diet like a lunch of pickles (vegetable), mac n’ cheese (grain and dairy), and spoons full of peanut butter right out of the jar (protein and fat). I can even teach them the value of recycling and conservation by saving leftover food in your hair or pockets for later. For myself, I grow a beard to reap the rewards of a nice little flavor-saver. Mmm… my mustache still smells and tastes like garlic knots.
  • And of course, teaching them more about their own selves and how to make various bodily noises and flatulent imitations.

With all these things and more, fostering brings a different kind of special to the mix. I am so deeply in love and in fondness of the little two-year-old girl we have. She may have other parents, but I am her daddy and she is my daughter—my little moon. And nothing will ever change that.

She may not have my eyes, but she has my every admiring glance and smile.

She may not have my ears, but she has my full attention and adoration.

She may not have my nose, but she has my sense of wonder and adventure.

She may not have my complexion, but she has all my hugs and kisses.

What she does have is what is most important. She has my heart. She has my mind. She has my soul. She has my very life, and I would gladly give it up for her.

She also seems to have my uncanny ability to make realistic fart raspberries on demand.

“It is not flesh and blood, but heart which makes us fathers and sons.”

– Friedrich von Schiller

Howdy Do Moon

Lessons from “An I CAN READ Book”

Our tenacious toddler goes through these bedtime story phases. One week it’s all about the Seuss. The next, she’s got to have more Elephant and Piggie. Another week: can’t get enough of that Hungry Caterpillar or Goodnight Moon. But lately, it’s been a Little Bear obsession. She’s got a fever, and the only medication is more Little Bear.

Many of these books are cute and charming. Some of them are just silly. And then some, I’m like, “What the what? How did this get published, and who buys it?” (Well, I guess we do since it’s in our home and I’m reading it.) And then sometimes, sometimes, we read a story, and I’m just thinking, “Oh, well that’s interesting… there must be a moral here somewhere…”

The classic tale of “Little Bear Goes to the Moon” is one such book.

So, basically, the story goes that Little Bear makes himself a space helmet (out of a cereal box or something) and decides that he wants to fly to the moon. He naturally and perceptively deduces that: (1) since birds can fly, he must be able to fly too, and (2) if he can fly, he must be able to fly to the moon. The logic is clearly irrefutable.

Little Bear goes on to inform his mother:

“Maybe some birds fly to the moon, I don’t know. And maybe I can fly like a bird,” said Little Bear.

“And maybe,” said Mother Bear, “you are a little fat bear cub with no wings and no feathers. Maybe if you jump up you will come down very fast, with a big plop.”

Wow, mom! Thanks a lot for believing in me! We all know what it’s like to have our mothers call us little fat bear cubs. Well, at least I do. The struggle is real.

“Maybe,” said Little Bear. “But I’m going now. Just look for me up in the sky.”

“Be back for lunch,” said Mother.

– Else Holmelund Minarik, 1957

Cut to commercial break. The nail-biting drama, right? Will Little Bear ever learn to fly? Will he make it to the moon? Will he make it back for lunch in time? What is for lunch by the way? I’m hungry.

So, maybe, you too can soar on the shiny, sparkle wings of your pegasus dreams. I don’t know. Unless you try, how will you know? And maybe we are all just little fat cubs with no wings and no feathers who will come down with a fast, big plop. But so what? At least we fracture our tail bones trying.

Like the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll still land somewhere among the vast, empty, dark void of the vacuum of space where there is no air to breathe and no one to hear you scream.” Wait, that doesn’t sound right or encouraging. Why is that a saying? Maybe I misremembered something… Was it shoot from the hip if you want to hit a bull in the eye, or don’t go flying for at least thirty minutes after eating…?

Anyways, maybe we try something that’s impractical or unrealistic. Maybe we fail. But maybe failure isn’t this thing to be avoided at all costs. Maybe failure is a great teacher. Maybe we become just that little bit better version of ourselves. And maybe we can just simply say to all the haters and doubters that, “Yeah, maybe I won’t succeed… But I’m going now. Just look for me up in the sky.”

Also, if you’re wondering whether or not Little Bear makes it to the moon and back in time for lunch—I’m not going to spoil it here. Go to the library. Read a book; don’t be a blubber-footed booby. And be back home in time for lunch. Your mother worked really hard to prepare this meal for you. Now eat it while it’s still warm, and you better be grateful or else I’ll turn this car around right now!

A Perfect Fit

I never knew toddlers could be so sarcastic.

This past week, our rambunctious not-quite-two-year-old tried on Mommy’s shoes (again). She successfully slipped her tiny twinkle toes inside the front flap and then began to teeter totter around the living room floor. She looked like a miniature retiree in over-sized slippers shuffling towards the kitchen for some chocolate pudding.

I looked at her, wide-eyed and mystified, and I asked, “Little moon, who’s shoes are those?”

She replied with the confidence of a honey badger, “They mine. My shoes!”

“Umm… Are you sure? They look a little big.”

“It not too big. It perfect!” She continued to wobble around like she was running a three-legged race with just herself.

“Sweetie, I think those are mommy’s shoes.”

“Nope. They not mommy’s shoes. They my shoes. They fit perfect. Perfect!” And then she giggled, clapped, jumped out of the shoes, and frolicked off towards more silly shenanigans.

Moments like these, I can’t help but be star-struck by the wisdom of children. They have a sort of knowledge about the world that is pure and simple—an innocent intuition and insight about reality. Here’s the thing: too many of us, too many times, are way too preoccupied with how well we “fit.” We want to fit in to society. We want to fit in with our jobs. We want to fit in with our families, friends, and even strangers. We often don’t even feel like we fit in with ourselves.

But who cares‽

Why does it matter so much what other people think (not to say that things don’t matter at all)? Don’t let others tell you who to be and how to be (not to say that other opinions or advice don’t matter at all). You do you. You are the only you after all, and no one can do you better than… well, you! Maybe if we all just spent a little more time being true to ourselves and truly good to others, then the world itself would fit just a little bit better. There’s so much about you that’s already perfect just the way it is. Maybe we just need to realize that we’re already a perfect fit.

Also, in general, you probably shouldn’t wear other peoples’ shoes. It’s only cute when a toddler does it. But again, don’t let me tell you how to live your life.

This Little Piggy (as retold by Dr. Fin)

Or: How changing the system must begin with changing the self

Once upon a time…

There was this one little piggy. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking: “another story about swine?” I’m not exactly sure what it says about the human condition that we return to piggly wiggly allegories time and again. Perhaps, deep down, we’re all really anxious and insecure about our place in the cosmos—feeling like predestined bacon trapped in pens awaiting our fate. Either that, or we’re just not very creative.

Anyhow, this one little piggy went to the market. I’m assuming they went shopping, but maybe the “market” is a euphemism for the slaughterhouse. Wow, this nursery rhyme got rather dark rather quickly.

Now, there was another little piggy who opted to stay home. Good for him or her. Smart choice. You never know what the “market” means nowadays.

Then, this third little piggy had roast beef. OK, wait a second, what‽ Since when the heck do pigs eat beef? Look, I know that pigs are omnivores and all, but seriously, when’s the last time you saw a pack of wild hogs hunting cattle? That would certainly be something for National Geographic to document. Does this mean that pigs are at the top of the pecking order at farms? Like, do the cows live in terror that they may one day become roast beef for a ravenous little piggy just so that the porker can then, in turn, become part of a Grand Slam breakfast platter? Gives a whole new perspective to the whole Animal Farm scenario.

But, of course, the fourth little piggy had none. Because the other one ate it all? Or maybe it was a peaceful protest against eating other animals. Gandhi pig?

And, then, inevitable as the love-bugs stuck to your car’s front hood, the fifth littlest piggy went “Wee, wee, wee!” all the way home. Afraid for their life or bubbling with the joyous thrill of life? You decide. Choose your own pig-themed adventure.

The End

Morals of the story:

  1. Don’t trust the “market.”
  2. Don’t mess with a hungry piggy.
  3. Do be the change that you want to see in the world; unless your ideas about change are terrible and would just make the world worse. In that case, refer to morals one and two: don’t.

Caution: Watch for Falling…

One bright, crisp morning I was sitting underneath a tree in a city park and reading. It was genuinely nice, dare I say, lovely? The air was surprisingly sweet and clean for the city. My mind drifted into the melodious pages before me. I was filled with a sense of peace and contentment.

But oh, how quickly things can change. From tranquility to terror.

As I sat and the moments passed, suddenly I heard something drop to the ground near me. I didn’t think too much of it. Acorn, I figured. But then I heard another, and then another. Then I felt something like rain hit my shoulder. I thought, “Oh bummer, it’s starting to rain, I better wrap this up and get moving.” Then a drop descended upon the top of my head and then my other shoulder and before I knew it, I was being bombarded by some strange shower.

And then, the horrifying realization: there were no rain clouds and the sun smiled with a naughty, villainous grin.

It was bird poop.

I dared to quickly glance up and receive confirmation. The tree I decided to sit under was the avian equivalent of a trucker’s interstate gas station. A migrating flock of birds had all decided to take rest on this particular tree and that particular moment to do their doody duty. I guess it’s like when you have the choice between a Wawa and a Citgo: the choice is obvious. And, tragically, I had sat under the Wawa.

I jumped up and ran for my life. And I was never the same again. Some life experiences change a person forever. After being caught in the rain of foul fowl feces… there’s no coming back from that. Today, I don’t sit underneath trees. I also don’t read.

Who knew reading could be so dangerous? Like a primitive version of Pokémon Go.

So, whenever you find yourself sitting at the park or the beach, or going for a stroll, or just living life in general (they could strike at any moment), remember to mind your surroundings. Watch out for falling poo.

Also, they should really put up signs for these things… Not that I would read them, but still…

In Homage to My Mom

My mother visited us this past Christmas. It’s great, I love it when she visits because she’s always so incredibly helpful at pointing out all the things that I can improve. It’s like having a permanent free life coach. You know, like one year I’m too skinny, another year I’m too fat; last year I needed to change my hairstyle, this year I need to shave. Like many, I would be totally lost without my mom’s constant advice and “constructive” criticism. Now I’m the perfect weight with flawless hair and skin, just ask my wife.

Besides her impeccable tastes, however, I love when my mom visits us because she is famous for bringing exotic gifts.

For example, a few Decembers ago, my mom brought a super useful set of items that I didn’t realize we so desperately needed. When I picked up her luggage I was taken aback and sarcastically asked, “Mom, what do you have in these bags, rocks‽” Well, I came home from work the next day to find the floor in our largest room completely covered with chestnuts. So, not rocks this time. It looked like some kind of weird Home Alone booby-trap scenario. My mom said that she was drying them out. Of course, how foolish of me to be confused. It makes perfect sense to fill an entire suitcase with 50 pounds worth of chestnuts, fly them across the country, and then lay them out to dry in your son’s sunroom.

Back to this last visit. This time…

It was rocks.

My mom brought a valise filled with rocks, ceramics, and bamboo. Because, as you know, we don’t have rocks here in Florida so it’s only natural that she would think it prudent to pack enough rocks for us to complete our interior home garden.

When I was a kid, I was sort of annoyed/embarrassed by these eccentric gifts. Shocking I know. But now: I love it. And I can hardly wait to see what she brings next.

So, thank you, mom. You’re the best, and I love you. I only hope that one day I can repay you in some small measure with equally pragmatic portmanteau products.

Also, remember children, never leave your mothers at home alone unless you want your entire living area turned into a makeshift hydroponics system.