Ellie Has a Boyfriend

Once Gray’s story of his girlfriend, Hayley, began to flourish, Ellie felt left out. Not to be excluded, she told us about her boyfriend. He loves to dance. I think that’s all she really likes in him. And for Ellie, that’s all she really needs.

Having seen him, I can tell you he has flowing, brown hair. He has a solid group of friends, a good job and enjoys steak.

Ellie studied his dance moves and now executes them well for a 3-year-old. My parents had him over at their house one night a few months ago, to Ellie’s surprise. When she saw him, she blushed. A smile cemented her face. Here’s a photo of her beau.

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Yes, my daughter’s boyfriend is Alex the lion from Madagascar.

I grilled Ellie, trying to find out why she likes him. Is he cute? She shook her head in disgust. Three questions later, with the attitude of a teenager, she told me she didn’t want to talk about it.

Her favorite flick is Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. She asks to watch “Madagascard” as she pronounces it, with a “D” at the end, just about every day. She replies with an “Awwwwwww” that tails towards a higher pitch when I tell her no. In the movie, Alex comes to find his parents. They call him Alekay. It didn’t take long for Ellie to start calling her king of the jungle by the same name.

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Ellie’s preschool teacher talked to me about Ellie’s beast-of-a-man yesterday when I dropped the kids off at school.

“She is really into him,” she said with a sprinkle of surprise. Because, after all, it is a cartoon character.

But she is. Really into him.

The teacher lets her students to take home a stuffed animal/friend. The line leader, apparently designated via round robin, gets to pick their friend first. When Jax died, the preschool gave us Trixie, a maroon Triceratops Jax loved. This was his go-to selection from the class room. On Jax’s birthday my mother-in-law presented some stuffed animals as a way to give back to his teacher, who also happens to teach Gray and Ellie, to use in her class. One of which was Alex. The teacher, however, named it Jax. Coincidentally, Alex is Ellie’s favorite thing in the world. And she brings Alex (Jax in the class room) home at least once a week.

Last week she brought home a black dog with brown accents named Bailey instead. Someone else took Alex before she could. It was the girl who has a crush on Grayson. When I asked what happened, Gray said it wasn’t a nice thing to take Alex when Ellie wants him. Ellie genuinely seemed pissed. Not hurt or crying, but mad. Like, if this girl ever finds her own lovable furry friend, Ellie’s going to rip its head off and use it to paint a picture of Alex.

The next day at preschool, the teacher named Ellie the line leader. Alex was back in her grasp.

I’m kinda hoping this Alex the boyfriend thing lasts through high school. Then I won’t have to buy a shotgun.

Gray Has a Girlfriend

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Around May, my 3-year-old son, Gray, started talking about his girlfriend. Matter-of-factly, he’d wedge her in to conversation. Like it was an achievement. He was being humble, but wanted us know to know he had one.

As curious parents, my wife and I peppered the boy with questions about this lady friend. Over the course of the last several months we’ve developed a pretty good idea of who this girl is, based on eerily consistent and specific answers to our questions. And now, I present to you Grayson’s girlfriend – Hayley.

Gray met 2-year-old Hayley at B.J.’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. If you take him there he will show you the booth she ate at. She has brown hair and brown eyes. And she lives in a hotel.

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She was supposed to meet us at Roman Cucina in Fullerton for a Mother’s Day dinner, but never showed. Gray seem more relieved than hurt that she flaked on him.

While watching a Brewers’ tee-ball game in the spring, Gray pointed out a father from the other team. As we sat on the bleachers, having not discussed Hayley at all, he told me that this father, dressed in a bright orange construction shirt with jeans and tan boots, locked Hayley in a cage. Gray saved his woman when he pushed this man in to a mud pie. A couple of months later he mentioned parts of this same story. With the same details. Stoically. And I have no idea what a mud pie is.

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On Saturday, when we left the Harbor House Cafe, a woman in her early 30s with purple hair pulled her Bentley in to the parking lot. Gray told me that he colored Hayley’s hair red and called her Roxy. I was afraid to probe him further on this anecdote.

Now, Hayley has competition.

A girl in his preschool class has taken a keen liking to our boy. She has black hair with a fuzzy caterpillar for eyebrows. My wife said yesterday when she dropped the twins off in their class, said girl rushed to welcome Gray. We’ve asked if he still has a girlfriend, and who it is. And he firmly says it’s still Hayley.

But to be fair to this girl, really, how could she compete with Hayley? She lives in a hotel, she likes one of Gray’s favorite foods (pizza), she colors her hair and even goes by different names to spice things up. And she’s never around. Sounds like marriage material to me.

Like a Little Fonzie

Do not watch the clip below if you do not like the F word, the use of B!tch or the best movie EVER FRICKIN’ MADE.

Last night I lost my patience with Gray, my 2-year-old son. Over the past week or two he’s been exercising his free will. Which means he doesn’t listen, or doesn’t care, what I have to say. He instantly whines when something doesn’t go his way. He shrills as he runs through the house playing with his twin sister, Ellie. And he’s in super-annoying goof ball mode.

Generally I’m a pretty laid-back guy. On my good days I have the patience of a Buddhist monk. When my tank runs lows, I become Chef Gordon Ramsay.

I’ve spent most of the past five days with the rug rat, enduring his tantrums and decibel-blowing noise. It’s worn on me. Usually I’d be at work and have a break. But since it’s my first week of unemployment, I’m home. All. The. Time. By the end of the night I was snapping off rushed grunts. “NO.” “STOP.” “GRRRRAAAYYYSSSONNN.”

It wasn’t pretty. As a family we regularly watch America’s Funniest Videos while the twins sip their milk and wind down before bed time. Ellie squeezes in with my wife, who plays with her hair, and Gray leans next to me asking “What’s that?” for every single clip. But last night, I as he sat next to me, I shamefully spouted “Don’t talk to me.” My wife gave me that look of “Really? You just said that?” Yeahhhhhh. I suck.

When I woke up this morning I found my wife emailed me a blog post from Awesomely Awake entitled “How to Be a Calm Parent.” Shawn, the blogger, reached out to her Facebook fans and listed 25 ways to stay calm as a parent. In order to channel my inner Fonzie and “be cool” more consistently, I’ll be working on several of her recommendations below.

1. Own your Nos. There are times when I say no without even thinking and then one no leads to another no and soon we’re in a vicious cycle. I’ve learned that by really thinking before I respond I feel authentic power when I do say no — or yes. Try hard to not rush to saying no to your child just because of inconvenience.

It’s such an automatic reaction for all parents once your kid hits 2. I’m especially guilty when I feel inconvenienced. Not only do I get tired of saying it, but no doubt Gray and Ellie get sick of hearing it. And not only do I need to think before I use it, but I need to enforce it once I’ve said it. Damnit I need more energy for this parenting thing.

4. Solitude. I suspect that many of us who struggle with staying calm in the chaos also struggle with noise. Some people — extroverts — are happy with a ton of noise. I am not. Silence is often the medicine we need to replenish and rejuvenate ourselves and yet it may be the hardest to make happen. There are many other ways to stay at peace.

I’m an introvert as well. I fill my tank by being alone. Away from not only my kids, but my wife too. Yesterday, rather than sneaking in a couple of hours of alone time during naps, I helped clean the house. When my snapping period rolled around at night, I was wiped out. While I can’t always get quiet time to myself, I need to recognize when my patience is wearing earlier, so I can avoid being a total dick.

14. Exercise. Walk. Do yoga. Run. Whatever you can do to feel good on the inside will make parenting from the heart a lot better.

I probably need a punching bag. Not only will exercise help to exert built up frustrations, but I need the energy that it’ll give me. I can’t highlight this one enough for me. Yet I find myself rationalizing why I don’t exercise constantly. As I type this, there’s a treadmill behind me. Facing the TV. I’m gonna just continue to ignore it.

16. Get silly. I’ve said this before but doing something entirely out of the ordinary is a great way to turn things around quickly. Tell jokes. Just act nutty. You’ll laugh. SING. DANCE. Laugh. Deal with the consequences later, when everyone’s thinking more clearly.

When I’m floating on clouds of cotton candy, this is easy. When I feel like ripping Gray’s head off and punting it to the neighbor’s house, it’s the hardest thing in the world. I just need to take myself a LOT less seriously.

23. Be Grateful. Many of you mentioned that reminding yourself of how special it is to have a child is the best way to calm yourself down. Savoring the little moments. Being grateful for the time we have with our children. These are all big, heart-filled reminders of what it really means to be a parent, even when times are challenging.

You’d think I’d have mastered this one. And I did for several months after Jax died. Once I went back to work and rejoined the rat race, it went to shit. It shames me to write how I snapped at Gray last night. It shames me like you don’t even know. It’s crossed my mind several times today that it’s pretty fucked of me. I’ve been blessed with two beautiful, funny and compassionate kids. I wouldn’t be alive today without them. If they give me that “F you, dad” look every once in a while, who cares?!?!

25. When all else fails, hug it out. I love this one that came up on the Facebook page. Too often what our children need — and what we need in return — is that close connection and touch of the ones we love. My very spirited daughter responds positively to touch and so we snuggle often. So, instead of yelling or hurting, hug it out. If only we could pass this tip along to the rest of the world, right?

Both Gray and Ellie respond positively to touch. Gray is a cuddler and Ellie gets clingy and wants to be held. For me, it calms me down. And a few seconds of silence sneaks in to crush the momentum of tension. Plus it’s nice to show love in a moment of anger.

But the biggest thing for me to remember: they’re 2 and there’s two of them. What should I expect?

Boy/Girl Twins Will Never Ever Everrrrrrrrrrr Be Identical

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“Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina.”

- Unnamed little boy, Kindergarten Cop

Our twins are pretty dang cute. When we’re in public a stranger often asks if they are twins. Which is cool. I mean, Gray’s noticeably taller and thicker than Ellie. Yep, they’re twins.

“Are they identical?” A third of the time that question follows. And then I lose my shit.

It’s a boy and a girl.

“Naw,” I passively answer as I move along, uninterested in correcting the ignorant stranger.

This happens enough to my wife and I that it’s time for some education. Grab a seat, pull out your notebook and let’s begin. There will be a quiz at the end of the lesson.

Zygotes and shit

A zygote is a fertilized female reproductive cell. Identical twins are monozygotic. That means the fetuses formed from one fertilized egg that contains either XY (male) or XX (female) sex chromosomes, and then that one egg splits into two. As a result, there are two males or two females that share the same DNA and have similar attributes.

When two separate eggs are fertilized by two different sperm they are dizygotic (two zygotes). Fraternal twins are dizygotic and the combination can result in male or female, since they’re two separate cells. It’s the same genetic connection as regular siblings. They might look a like, they might not.

Let’s Break It Down

Two girls – identical or fraternal

Two boys – identical or fraternal

Boy/girl – fraternal

Our Situation

We ended up with twins because I didn’t want to pay a shit-ton of money for in vitro to have it not work. So I decided, against my anxious wife’s wishes, to increase the odds by transferring two fertilized A+-rated embryos into my wife’s uterus. And it fucking worked. Two embryos = two zygotes = fraternal twins.

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

Gray and Ellie are:

A) Identical twins

B) Fraternal twins

C) Super cute, OMG OMG OMG

D) Like the velociraptors from Jurassic Park.

I feel like the guy in the hat when I'm with the twins.

I feel like the guy in the hat when I’m with the twins.

Conclusion

Identical twins share the same DNA. They were formed from the same reproductive cell. Penises and vaginas don’t share the same DNA strands.

Correct answer to quiz is D) Like the Velociraptors from Jurassic Park.

What To Do When Your Child Says “F” You

Gray’s got this thing about him when he’s feeling ornery, which is at least once a day, it seems. Watch his eyes. They kind of light up. The corner of his mouth slightly rises just short of a smirk. And then he does exactly what you’ve told him not to do. Again. My wife and I agree that it feels like he’s flipping us off. “F you mom, I’ll do what I want to do,” is likely what’s going on in that skull of his. Go through this enough times and one starts to feel defeated. At a loss. My son’s going to be in jail by 16, isn’t he?

My wife took her frustration to her favorite spot on the Web in search of parental guidance, wisdom and understanding. She went to Pinterest.

Last week, during one of her night owl sessions, she emailed me three Pinterest links. The first two were Someecards that joked about not liking me because she’s out of meds and nagging because she cares, as silence is a sign of plodding my death. It’s funny ’cause it’s true. The third was a graph created by author Carol Tuttle, a creative marketing idea to promote her book The Child Whisperer.

The Child Whisperer

We’re in need of new ideas on discipline. Gray rarely balks at timeout. He knew the consequences and he was happy to serve his time. It was worth it to him. Ellie, however, cries like she’s been sentenced to death.

The gist of the book is children have one of four archetypes: The Fun-Loving Child, Sensitive Child, Determined Child and More Serious Child. Tuttle’s developed her philosophy through her work with children based on energy profiling. If we know how to read our child’s unsaid messages and respond appropriately, we will experience more cooperation and respect.

My wife and read the graph separately and came to the same conclusion – Gray is the Determined Child. He’s as loud as your alarm clock at 5 a.m. He’s as physical as Dennis Rodman boxing out to chase a rebound. And he covets adventure as if he was Indiana Jones. Except with food. He doesn’t want any crazy shit, like a cinnamon roll.

The first thing we talked about after reading this was saying “No” too often. Because he likes to explore he pushes boundaries constantly, followed by a lot of “No” and “Stop” from us. If he’s cooped up in the house too long he picks fights. He knows our house rules, but he’ll bust them just to stir things up. If he could write, “All don’ts and no play makes Gray a dull boy,” would be scribbled all over his bedroom wall in crayon.

Tuttle advises to encourage Gray, let him move fast and to allow adventure. They have an Ultimate Fighting Championship weight class for 2-year-olds, right?

My hope is to encourage anyone else at their wit’s end with their kids. Sometimes we just need a chart to simplify things, help us to understand our kids and keep us from slapping the “fuck you” off their precious little faces.