That title totally sounds like something out of an episode of the 1966 Batman TV Series, doesn’t it?
“…but the Riddler’s clue, Robin. When is a door not a door?”
“When it’s ajar! He’s going to strike at the jarred fruit exhibit at the Gotham Pavilion!”
“I don’t think so, Robin. That’s too obvious. No, his devious mind works like an onion. You must peel back the onions to get to the core of his twisted scheme.”
“Ajar. Ajar…wait, Batman! Isn’t millionaire explorer Thaddeus A. Jar showing off his priceless collection of souvenirs at the Gotham Millionaire’s Club this afternoon?”
“Precisely, Robin! Good work, chum! Let’s race there fast!”
And yet, it’s all I could really come up with.
When is a door much more than a door?
When it gets me so darn excited, that’s when.
We’ve been making a lot of trips recently to what will soon be our son’s new elementary school for a series of Kindergarten nights designed to get the kids used to the environment, to the lessons (lots of tactile activities, games tied into words, letters, etc), and getting to know their soon to be teachers and classmates.
But you’re going to laugh when I tell you that one of the things that got me the most excited during one of these kindergarten prep nights was…just a door. Sure, the nostalgia of a small school, the same hallways, decorations and smells of the ones I remember as a kid sent me swirling into a delirium of reminiscence. But it was when the little guy asked to use the bathroom and I showed him where it was that I had my mind blown.
Look, they’re still little and they’re still figuring things out, and that includes things we take for granted as adults, like knowing how much/little to show in a public bathroom.
So, yeah. I got so excited about a bathroom stall door, I had to write about it.
I should get out more often. Who knows what I’d find.
It’s no big secret that I’m a list maker.
Usually, prior to calling it a day and heading to bed, I pull out my planner and start jotting down what I would like to accomplish the following day. It ranges from work assignments that I need to wade through to personal projects or writings (“blog post” shows up rather often. Guess how many times it doesn’t get crossed off the list?) to house maintenance and errands (“pick up coat from tailor” or “buy gutter downspout” were just some this week).
Needless to say, it’s gotten harder to work my way through the daily lists as the years progress, especially when there’s the daily responsibilities of parenthood involved. I’m often told that I put too much on the list each day, and I agree that it’s probably accurate.
Unfortunately it doesn’t make me feel any better when I stare at an incomplete list that’s not completely crossed off at the end of the night.
But I’m trying to take on a new perspective. It’s not easy by any means, and my instincts immediately become reluctant to do so, feeling like I’m not being productive enough.
However, I’m doing my best to cut back and cut some slack.
There comes a point where we have to stop beating ourselves up over what doesn’t get done on a laundry list of daily to-dos and take a moment to accept and celebrate what we did manage to accomplish.
Amid work, transporting kids here, there and everywhere, meals, bathtimes, storytimes, bedtimes, and all the questions in between, the weight of these little people’s world rests upon our shoulders as parents. That in itself can become monumental tasks on anyone’s endurance and energy. So we can not realistically expect ourselves to be as productive now, shouldering all that has to get done in a day just to survive, as we did against our lives at 27, 24, or the years when it was just us, be it just us as couple or just as individuals.
If we as parents can accomplish even one additional thing on top of the requirements of each day, then I think we need to teach ourselves to accept that as a win. Some days there will be more, some days there will be less, but speaking from experience we have to stop beating ourselves up when there just sometimes isn’t enough time in the day. Allow yourself a chance to breathe, to say “I did something” even if it’s just one thing. You’ve earned the small victory. Don’t let stress take it away from you.We have to give ourselves the small victories.
Because that’s honestly what they are amid everything else – victories.
Some time back I publicly gushed about what I normally gush about to any parent who will listen – my love of the PBS Kids series Odd Squad.
For those uninitiated, Odd Squad is an organization run by kids that investigate anything odd. Be it people who drink lemonade that turns their head to lemons, being turned into puppets, or stopping blobs and flying books, the agents of Odd Squad are on the case. Using (and through the power of entertainment and television, teaching) math skills, they get the job done with a lot of fun along the way.
And come on. Their Rogues Gallery is made up of the likes of Odd Todd, Noisemaker, Fladam, Symettric Al, Shapeshifter and more, this is creative gimmick-villainy on par with baddies out of Gotham City or The Flash.
It’s the kind of show you love to watch with your kids because it’s just as entertaining for the adults as it is for the young ones. And I love it.
At the time I originally wrote, the show was setting up for a big transition trading in its two leading characters of 40 episodes for, at the time, new, unknown characters. And with so much love for (original agents) Olive and Otto’s adventures combating odd, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
But I had faith in the show’s creators to keep the laughs and lessons coming in the same way they had since the beginning, despite any new faces.
And new faces is what we got. Gone were straight-laced Olive (Delila Bela) and goofball Otto (Filip Geljo), off to be bosses of their own Odd Squad branch. I had hoped we would get to keep scientist Oscar (Sean Michael Kyer) around a bit longer, but while his exit seemed necessary following quite the growth spurt between seasons, he did stick around for a few extra episodes to train a protege and allow his change to create perhaps one of my favorite jokes of the show..
We even get some more Dr. O (Peyton Kennedy) for a few episodes, which is fine by me, as her constantly introducing herself as “a doctor” and reminding people how they know her “we work together” never stops being funny.
The biggest upside is that despite the exits of beloved regulars, we still get Millie Davis as Ms. O at the helm, sending agents on their missions, making them scatter with a yell, and best of all, getting to show some great new sides to her with an enlarged role out from behind the boss’ desk in many episodes. She not only helps create a common thread throughout the various cast changes, but is just an absolute delight to watch.
I’m still holding out hope for another 1980s-set episode with Ms. O…sorry…Oprah when she was an agent.
Even Odd Squad arch-nemesis Odd Todd pops by for an episode in this hilariously titled Mid Day in the Garden of Good and Odd where the now reformed-Todd-turned-gardener helps the new agents crack a case only a former villain’s POV could. And along the way, Joshua Kilimnik once again gets the chance to show off his acting abilities jumping between cackling-Todd, conflicted-Todd, and master gardener-Todd.
But wait. All I’ve done is talk about who stuck around, right? Did this show even have a cast change? What are you doing to us, man?!
Okay, okay. So I wanted to get the kudos to the returning champs up front. So what are the major changes we’ve seen. The biggest, of course is who would fill the shoes of Olive and Otto as the squad’s main agents. For that we get the overly-excitable Olympia (Anna Cathcart) and the straight-laced, no-nonsense Otis (Isaac Kragten) in a somewhat personality reversal to Olive and Otto.
I waited a few episodes before deciding what I thought of this new team and I have to say…I like them. I really, really do. I can’t use the term pleasantly surprised because I had faith in the show’s creators to keep delivering the same great casting choices, writing, humor, and production that has made the show so darn enjoyable already. And they didn’t let us down.
The thing is, change can be tough for television audiences, but with Odd Squad, the concept lends itself to periodic change. Grown-ups aren’t allowed to be agents (only bumbling, hapless victims in town and man do I want to play one some day. would several years experience on camera as a News Anchor and a few decades of theater get me a shot? Guys?! Hello? Is this thing on?) so with that in mind, as agents age, they move on and new ones come in.
It’s built right into the concept and so far, the first round of transition has worked pretty well. Carrying over cast members where they can (Oscar for a few episodes, Ms. O and Dr. O more regularly into the new season) help create a level of comfort and familiarity for the audience as new faces emerge. Eventually, those new faces become the regulars as even newer faces could move in. It’s created to be self-sustaining, and the fresh faces means new characters, new situations, and keeps the writers, I would think, on their toes. Kid or adult, this show has never made a bad casting decision yet, providing some of the best acting and comedic timing I’ve ever seen in young actors. It’s hard to come by at any age and Odd Squad does it in spades every time.
The fact of the matter with any type of show that revolves around kids is that kids grow up. We all do. Fortunately with a show like Odd Squad, no matter our age, we can be a kid again.
I hope they’re solving missions for a long time.
I am fascinated with the ways children evolve from their completely dependent forms – making nothing but sounds or cries, but eventually forming words, then sentences, then complete conversations like little adults. From needing to be spoon-fed mushy puree to sitting down to a meal with mommy and daddy like the little human they are.
Lately I’ve gotten to witness more of the evolution as our son, now four, suddenly has begun to recognize words.
We were at Barnes and Noble recently with a friend and her little one, waiting for a cup of tea at the cafe (I love that African Autumn tea) before heading back to the children’s section for some Thomas the Train Engine time and general book browsing. Nearby stood the little countertop with napkins, creamers, stirrers, etc, and the flapping door of the garbage can underneath, with two words embossed across it.
“Does that say thank you?” his little voice asked.
“Does what, buddy?”
“That,” he said, pointing to the flapping door on the garbage can, clearly saying “Thank You” on it to those who throw away their trash and not litter.
“It does, buddy! How did you know that?!”
“I dunno. I just did.”
And thus has been a bit of a trend lately. We’ve been fortunate enough that he’s been interested in and fluent in his alphabet since early on, but this…THIS….to see his eyes move from one end to the other, his mind taking in these letters and putting them together, and recognizing the words they form. It has truly been a remarkable experience, as a parent, and just as a human being.
I thought back to a time in recent months at my mom’s house, where he was hanging out for a bit while Meg and I ran some errands and my mom asked about lunch. Not wanting to give away the options up front and lock ourselves into something he’d hear, we spelled our options, including when she said “I can make g-r-i-l-l-e-d c-h-e-e-s-e?”
“That would be great,” I said.
Then his little voice popped up, “Yeah, I LOVE grilled cheese.”
Or when I asked my wife what she was in the mood to watch as a family one particular evening, The Dick Van Dyke Show, or some Adam West B-a-t-m-a-n.
“Batman?” we heard pipe up.
Suddenly it dawned on me as we stood there at the cafe in front of the thank you sign, hearing him read this aloud, that he’s been doing it, little by little, right along – only I haven’t paid close enough attention to realize these are no flukes.
Seeing this string of word revelations over time is a revelation to me that we are in a brand new stage, one that will open the door to a whole new era of life, and of knowledge for him. I couldn’t be happier. Or prouder.
What’s that they say about a child’s laughter?
There truly is nothing quite like it, I’m convinced.
With both our little guy and the new little lady, we’ve been amazed at how early children start to shine through with their happiness, with smiles that light up an entire house with the mere stretch of a muscle.
I’ll never forget how infectious the little guy’s laugh would get once he’d start. One of the most vivid memories being the laugh riot that would ensue from him when I’d read The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems. Specifically two pages broken down into a series of small panels where Pigeon will find anything and everything wrong with the the bath – “too hot! too cold! too much water! too little water!” It was the kind of laugh fit that a stand-up comedian dreams of for their material.
And silly as it may sound, it just made me so incredibly happy through sheer proximity to that kind of joy. And now I get to do it all over again.
Our little lady’s laughs have gone from what sound like a little cough to an actual, audible laugh, wide smile across her face, at things that just seem pedestrian to you and I, but to her, are hilarity.
The other day I sang her name. That’s it. Just sang her name to her. It was slightly to the tune of Lovely from the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, but I’m no Sondheim, so that’s all it really was – her name. And she smiled, cooed, and then giggled the whole time.
And my heart soared.
There are times when I question what life is supposed to be. Am I at the right job? Am I doing what I should be? Are my talents being put to use? Am I being all that I can be?
But when I see the smile on the face of that baby girl, or that little boy, when I hear the uproarious sound of laughter come from those grinning faces, it’s hard to not catch some of that joy in its purest essence. And when I do, I realize I’m exactly where I should be – there, in that moment, to bear witness to this unadulterated, happiness.
A castle turned restaurant. Candlelight. Fine wine and amazing food late into the night.
This was a Valentine’s Day for my wife and I several years ago in the days before parenthood.
As I write this in the present, two kids later, it is again Valentine’s Day. There is no wine. Just a large supply of juice, water and hot tea. Amazing gourmet food replaced with bowls of hot soup. And I am the only person awake in our house – a rare sight on any given day, but particularly lately.
We’ve been sick. All of us.
Our son led the charge in this battle that he’s been fighting for over four weeks now. We’ve been to the doctor’s multiple times, the latest diagnosis being that whatever virus he’s been battling has turned into an ear infection.
I came down with it this past week and have been struggling to stay coherent for days.
Yesterday, my wife and our 3 month old began their path down the road to the sickness.
High fevers, constant hacking, headaches, noses that don’t stop running teamed with heads that won’t stop stuffing up, achiness in the bones.
It’s been a ride. I keep thinking back to sick days when I was single. Or even when it was just the two of us. The sick days usually consisted of tea, soup, TV, reading, and general lounging or sleeping as much as possible. The lounging/sleeping part being virtually impossible as a parent.
Being sick can cause irritability in anyone, but in the body of an already energetic three year old, that crankiness and obstinance gets knocked up to 11. That means any energy we adults have managed to muster or conserve amid the late night wake ups, comforting, medicine administration, feedings, diaper changes, etc quickly goes out the window in trying to negotiate with this little version of yourself who seems to want to thwart your every attempt at making him feel better at every turn.
Seriously. When I was sick as a kid, I loved being curled up with a blanket watching cartoons or looking at comics. Not our three year old. Sickness be damned, he is running, shouting, playing, dancing with as much boisterous energy as a Broadway show.
So it’s been trying. On all of us.
We exchanged Valentine’s Day cards in the morning amid coughing up our lungs into our tea (and the little guy’s juice), my wife surprising me with a DVD of one of my childhood favorites – Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks with Angela Lansbury and I her with a copy of the recently published The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney.
Other than that, we have done nothing all day with little regret. Between subzero temperatures outside and the virus that won’t quit, I can’t see any reason to even want to exit our warm home.
And on top of all the human sickness, one of our beloved cats is also ailing. He’s had a history of health issues since we found him, but it doesn’t make us worry any less. The veterinarian just prescribed some new medication to try a new approach to one of those ongoing health issues – his ear, which constantly gets filled with gunk no matter how much it’s cleaned out. While he’s still eating and drinking, he has suddenly become incredibly lethargic, and won’t/can’t open one eye. That same eye has been draining clear liquid as well, leaving a household already juggling sickness among four, adding a fifth to the roster.
Hacking and sniffling all the way, I got him to the vet where we learned he’s suffering from a form of conjunctivitis, also known as Pink Eye. Luckily for us that just means eye drops for the next several days and a return to the vet next week. As well as keeping the little man from getting too close to the all too catchy Pink Eye – a feat for Hercules, asking a three year old to keep away from the kitty while he’s sick and said three year old not seeing it as an invitation to do just that.
So yes, sick days have changed. Yes, Valentine’s Day has changed. But also, so what?
With parenthood comes responsibility. Sure, it may have been easier to rest up when you only had yourself to worry about, but who said parenting was easy? And Valentine’s Day? Let those who can’t help try to out-post each other on social media about how great their evenings are keep on clicking away during their evenings. Tis okay. Enjoy yourselves. Sincerely. Go ahead. Though I don’t know how much enjoying you’re doing if you have to take the time to convince the online world about it, but I digress, a post for another time, I suppose.
This Valentine’s Day, I was right where I wanted to be – with my loved ones. The sniffly noses, the coughs, the sleepless nights, I’ll take it. Cuz you know what? We’re in it together – war buddies in this battle against a virus so stubborn it wanted to take all four (five with the kitty) down together. But it won’t. It may win a few battles, sure. We may retreat to our cold mists and our hot teas here and there, but in the end, we will win, because we’ve got each other to care for. It’s where our hearts are.
And really, isn’t Valentine’s Day about love? Which is really about having your heart in the right place?