Thursday, May 3, 2012

Freaking Out for Car Seats

When my girls were still in bottles and diapers, I dreamt about the days with bottles and diapers. I wished forward to a time when the dishwasher wouldn't be full of bottles and nipples and the freezer wouldn't be full of frozen milk. I coveted the times when a diaper bag and all its wonderful contents would not be an absolute necessity every time we left the house. Those times are over for us, but there is another milestone that we just passed and it is the one that has been the bane of my existence for the past six years. Car Seats.

When I was young, from before I can remember to when I was eight or nine, my family had an old green and yellow Ford cargo van. It was a beauty. It had one bench seat in the back with an empty carpeted cargo area behind it, and we would ride the back of the bench seat like it was a horse, and play all sorts of games and wrestle in the back while Mom or Dad was driving us somewhere. Now, if there had been some sort of accident, all of us would likely have been killed or maimed for life and it goes without saying that I could never drive around the suburbs of Chicago or Chicago itself without my kids strapped safely in their seats, but car seats are a massive pain in the butt. When you see some new mother or father carrying an infant car seat around, it just doesn't translate to the viewer how awkward it feels to carry this heavy thing out away from your body so your legs don't bump it and have your arm turned in the wrong direction to hold it straight. It is like carrying a water bucket, but the water is sleeping and if it wakes up your wife will kill you, and if it gets cold the women in the store will scold you etc... I am sure there are some parents out there with three or more kids who can blame their "tennis" elbow on carrying their kids around in car seats. And then there is the getting of the heavy thing into the car. (not my best sentence) If you have a smaller car, it is a miracle if you don't bump your head and jerk the baby all over the place in the process, and if you have any back issues they will just get worse putting in car seats. They have to be facing backward for awhile and so you see the classic chauffeur set up with dad driving and mom in the back seat entertaining the baby.

Then you graduate to the front facing child seat that will last until the kid is old enough for a booster seat. This has become a modern marvel of luxurious padding that does everything but keep your kid from sweating through the back of his or her clothes. This still has the five-point harness system developed by Nascar and it attaches to the car itself in about five different places, making it especially difficult to transfer from one car to another. When you have one child and you have to fumble with this harness system every time you get in and out of the car, it isn't so bad, but when you are on your subsequent children and you have to fumble with all of this while keeping an eye on your other children and standing in the snow it gets a little bit more frustrating. And then there is ML.

IR had car seat issues. There were days in the car when she would writhe and scream and pull at her coat because everything was itchy, and I thought those days were bad, but something happened. IR was putting on her coat when she was about three and a half, and she said "Daddy, I'm not going to worry about my coat or my car seat anymore."

"Okay," was my response, and I was happy to hear it, but I didn't believe her. I was not prepared for the ability of my little three year old to just make a decision to be okay about something. I was completely unaware that a child's will could work in my favor. I was wrong. She simply stopped worrying about it and from that day on she never had a tantrum in the car about her coat or the car seat ever again. That is IR. Anybody who knows ML knows that that is not ML.

ML is always convinced that the seat belt is too tight. She is also convinced that the car seat somehow hurts her butt more than any other seat, and the last wonderful problem she has is that her lower back gets hot. Needless to say, we get all three of these complaints in the car sometimes, and winter is especially bad because of the winter coat situation. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that if we were in the car more than five minutes, ML was screaming, "Tooooo tight, Tooooo tight" in her hoarse tortured voice, or "My baaaack is hoooootttt, my baaaack is hooooott", or "My butt hurrrrrts, My butt hurrrrts." It even got to the point where she would lean forward, stick her left hand in between her legs, under her butt and reach back with her right hand to pull her coat up off of her lower back. She would ride that way for hours. The only analogy I can think of is that it looked like she was sitting on the toilet and wiping her butt with both hands at the same time. Timeouts didn't work. Taking toys away didn't work. Completely losing my mind and scaring both girls didn't work. Ignoring her didn't work. Although my dad did tell me that when she did it in his car, he just sternly told her to be quiet and she did. Thanks Dad, that makes me feel much better. That didn't work for us, so we took it one step further--we threw toys away. I would pick a toy for the day and put it in the car with me and if she started to wriggle and whine about her butt hurting or her back being hot, I would show her the little doll or the plastic horse that I thought was expendable and threaten to destroy it, and there were times that I wanted to destroy it--I wanted to put that innocent little doll on the asphalt and drive over it or smash that helpless little plastic horse with a hammer. But I refrained from the violence.

It only took two toys gently placed in the garbage for her to take me seriously, along with some concessions on our part--or my part--I won't include my wife in my illegal activities. I put her in a booster before she turned four, which didn't solve the problem, but made the old car seat seem even worse to her, and I folded up one of IR's old fleece coats and put it on her seat for cushion, which did help a little.

Now, both my girls get in their seats and put on their seat belts all by themselves, and errands don't seem so bad now...until they fight over who gets to sit in the front of the shopping cart.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back to School (Yes, I know it isn't back to school time)

One of the complications that comes with writing a blog is timing. I have been wanting to write about the whole "back to school" process for long time, but my discipline has been lacking, but the blog is back and I can't move on without addressing an issue that every parent confronts. Getting a child ready for a new school year is more complicated than I ever thought possible. As I have in the past and will in the future I thank my mother and apologize profusely for everything she did every year of my schooling and for my being completely and utterly oblivious to all that she went through in the process. I love you mom.

As I am writing this, IR is beginning spring break of her first year of traditional schooling. She started kindergarten in August of last year, so the experience we had in getting her ready for this first year of school might seem overdue, but sometimes it takes a long time to digest and contemplate the traumatic experiences in life and I would like to think the time that has passed in the interim may have served to allow perspective on the subject.

There are too many corporate driven holidays to count these days. Too many reasons for people to get out and shop. But the whole back to school phenomena has escaped me for a while. I failed to see why a new school year required new shoes and new clothes and new everything as the ads would have me believe. I still fail to see why a new school year reguires new shoes, but now I understand that back to school shopping is not about shoes. Back to school shopping is about more than new shoes. Back to school shopping is about social status. Back to school shopping is about low school budgets. Back to school is about planning and competition. Back to school is about being ready. In other words, back to school is the litmus test of your readiness to parent a school age child. At least in my limited experience as a parent.

I know I have readers with small children who think they have braved the worst of the sleepless nights and gag-worthy diapers, but I can only warn you of the formidable dangers that lie in your path. Sleep deprivation has its own charms. I see the haggard faces of new mothers as they wander the aisles of the grocery store while their newborn babies wriggle in the car seats. I sympathize. But let me tell you about our first back to school shopping experience.

Start of School: August 22nd

Around April 15th :
My wife calls me as I am picking IR and the neighbor boy up from school. "We need to go back to school shopping for IR" My wife announced. "Okay" I said in agreement, thinking at the the time that it was a little early. My wife loved school at IR's age and I despised it, and our ideas about back to school shopping fell along those same lines.

Around May 25th :
I am laying in bed about to fall asleep and I am startled awake by my wonderful wife. "We need to go back to school shopping for IR!"..."Okay," I respond when my heart rate drops back below 150.

On about six different occasions in June and July I receive this text: "We need 2 go back 2 school shopping!" to which my response is "Okey Dokey"

August 20th: Back to school shopping at Target

We come prepared with the list. Pencils, crayons, hand sanitizer, two folders, markers, dry erase markers, paper towels, moist cleaning wipes, pencil box etc... But it is worse than it sounds because they are specific. The pencils have to be yellow and they have to come in a package of twenty. The crayons have to be in a package of sixteen and the dry erase markers in a package of four and they have to be the non stinky kind. The pencil box has specific dimensions as well. We get to the section of our Target that contains the seasonal items and find four half aisles of pencil, crayon, marker, and folder armageddon. Hand sanitizer is in the pencil bin and crayons are mixed in with the dry erase markers and none of them match the requirements of our little list. Those of you who know my wife know that she only busts out certain words when she is beyond her normal stress threshold, and before I can even begin to think of a way to make all of this sound better she yells "What the hell is this?" I am not exaggerating. The traffic jam of red plastic shopping carts fell silent for a moment as all the parents and kids in our vicinity processed what they just heard.

"Honey, its not that bad, we can get a few things here and try some other places. And please don't yell." I said. But one look at her face told me that I wasn't helping.

"When?" And the look I received with that question was all the answer I needed. This was my fault because we didn't go back to school shopping earlier like she said we should. And then she picked up a box of pencils and threw them in the cart. All the while our two little girls were saying things like "Here are some markers!", and "I found the folders!"

I was of the mind that we could just get some pencils and markers and crayons and be done with it, but my wife was convinced that if we didn't get the right ones that we would be the pariahs of the new group of parents we were going to be a part of. We couldn't have that, so we went to six different stores and pooled our resources with neighbors to make sure that we got everything we needed.

I found out later that most of it goes into the school supplies and the excess is sold at the end of the year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


As I sit here, staring at the title of this post and contemplating the ways in which I could possibly explain the absence of any new posts for a very long time, I find that my brain would rather focus on the awkwardness of the word awkward. I also feel somehow untrustworthy and lazy for neglecting something that I committed myself to doing. But in the interest of restarting this blog and hopefully winning back some readers I will fall back on something that two people said to me about my blog that I will shamelessly repeat here to explain my absence. These two people appreciated the honesty of my blog--more specifically the honesty in reference to actions or thoughts that someone else might have sugar coated. So instead of compiling a list of excuses as to why I have neglected to write anything for this blog for so long, I will be honest. Pure laziness. The girls are getting older and can entertain each other for long periods of time, so the absence of any naps is just not a good excuse. I also wrote many blog posts after I started working nights, so that doesn't explain anything either. Even now, as I am writing this blog, my wonderful ML, who will be four in a few months, is happily squatting over a bowl on the floor with a necklace of beads dangling between her legs pretending to pee for my aged black lab. I think she is trying to potty train him, because he is having difficulty with that part of the aging process. For whatever reason, she could care less what I am doing right now. IR, who is six now, is at afternoon kindergarten and will happily jump down from the bus in a few minutes and refuse to tell me anything about her day, even though(unlike me) she loves school and isn't happy about the upcoming spring break. Tonight we will be busy, ML has ballet and tap class where she will pay attention for about half the time and will spend the rest picking her underwear out of her butt and making faces at herself in the mirror. After that IR has gymnastics and tonight parents are allowed to watch so we will brave the busy parking lot and throng of families waiting to cram into the few seats available to take way too many pictures and videos. Even on this busy day, when dinner is rushed and life seems to move too fast, I am sitting here writing this blog and that confirms that I have no excuse for my long delay. Except that maybe I have been procrastinating with this first post for a while. I have never been good at introducing myself and I am even worse at re-establishing a connection with an old friend that I haven't seen in a while. Reunions make me sweat, and as this feels like that, I have been cowardly avoiding it. I know better at this point than to make any posting promises, but now that the bandage has been ripped off, I will be back more often.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Swimming With Guy: The Results

Writing a blog is tough because I want to write well, but writing well takes time and I wanted to get these results out fast, so please excuse the brevity of this post. I will write a longer blog about the experience of the triathlon and everything surrounding it later.

First, I would like to thank the Vitale family and all of my family and friends for being incredibly supportive. Secondly, I would like to indulge in what my old (yes I said old) swimming coach would have called "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda".

I did not win the swim, but my time was faster than the best swimmer from the 2010 race. I finished the swim in 8:28, two seconds faster than the best from last year, but about a minute slower than the best swimmer this year.

I didn't win the triathlon, of course, but my time "would" have been top ten from the 2010 race, but was only good enough for fifteenth place this year. It may sound like I am disappointed with that result, but I'm not. I am very happy with my performance and even happier that I was able to share it with all the people who are nice enough to read this blog.

The link for the results of the 2011 race is on the menu bar on the right. They are separated into age groups, but my wonderfully talented accountant wife has used her magical skills in excel to combine all the results into one list for me, so I could see where I ranked in the overall competition. If you would like to see that list, send me an email and I will get it to you.

My results

2010 Overall Time : 1:22:28 VS. 2011 Overall Time: 1:08:08
2010 Place: 82nd VS. 2011 Place: 15th
2010 Swim: 10:19 VS. 2011 Swim: 8:28
2010 Bike: 39:00 VS. 2011 Bike: 32:54
2010 Run: 27:30 VS. 2011 Run: 23:17

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Swimming with Guy #2

Shortly after Guy Vitale was diagnosed with cancer, my dad told me a story. I would love to say that my dad has the kind of memory that leaves no detail unremembered, but unfortunately it is more accurate to say that you’re just lucky if he remembers your name. Regardless, I have been using this story as motivation for months, so I will do my best to tell it accurately on my end.

I think it’s safe to say that there are some universal fears. It is a rare sixth grader that doesn’t dread walking the tiled hallways of junior high for the first time. In my time as a teacher, even the most confident students suffered the uncontrollable hand shaking, blushing, and accelerated speech so symptomatic of the oral presentation. It is rare that a day goes by in my house without my wife or daughters screaming “SPIDER!!!” and pointing to a small black speck moving slowly up the wall. But there are other kinds of fear. We are afraid of that lump just under our skin or that mole on our shoulder, or even worse, the look on our doctor’s face before he or she tells us that it is indeed cancer. I can’t imagine my reaction in a situation like that, but I know I wouldn’t be as brave as Guy was. When Guy was diagnosed, he had to endure that meeting—had to hear the words and process them just like everybody else who is attacked by cancer. He had to hear his oncologist, someone he trusted, tell him that he had stage four cancer, and he had to endure another specialist’s more pessimistic assessment that he only had three months to live. These are the kinds of moments that define us. There is no right way to react to a proclamation that you only have three months to live, but I think Guy’s reaction says a lot about who he was. Guy’s only words in that fateful moment…”Bull Shit.”

I can’t even begin to articulate the effect this story has had on me. As a writing teacher, I preached the importance of the minutest choices that we make as writers. As a parent, I lecture my daughters everyday about the importance of making good choices. In my attempt to be a triathlete, I am faced everyday with choices that will most definitely affect my performance on August 20th in the Three Rivers Triathlon. But I don’t think I understood what the important decisions were until my dad told me this story about Guy. I used to think that the important decisions were more macro than micro—that the choice of college was more important than the work put into a particular paper or the choice of job was more important than the choice to do your best every day or in each moment. When Guy said “Bull Shit”, he didn’t just say it once. He said it every day. He said it every time he felt nauseous but went for a swim anyway. He said it every time somebody poked him with another needle or made him lie still while they scanned his body. He said it every time he got out of bed in the morning and with every breath he took. Most importantly, he said it every time the voice in his head said “Wouldn’t it be easier to just let it happen? You’re tired. Nobody would blame you. Its stage four cancer, your chances are slim at best.”

I have spent too much of my life letting that voice influence my choices. I have spent too much of my life thinking that the choice to do something only happens once—that commitment means that all you have to do is show up. I used to think that if someone beat me at something it was because they were simply more talented or had been doing it longer and there have even been times that I very absurdly thought that they were just having a better day than me. I used to think that doing my best was only about giving everything of myself to a task on the day it “mattered”. I did my best last year at the Three Rivers Triathlon. I didn’t have anything left when I crossed the finish line in just over one hour and twenty two minutes, and I was proud of my performance on that day—I was proud that I finished, and I actually believed the voice in my head when it told me that the people that beat me were simply better. I actually believed that the men and women that seemed an endless parade passing me on the bike and the run were simply better than me. Now I know that they just made better choices—I know that they worked harder. Thanks to Guy, I approach these choices differently now.

Last year, if I was having a bad morning, exercise was the first thing to go. If I got up later than usual, ML was in a bad mood, or IR was especially sensitive, I would skip going to the gym. This year I have made different choices. Even if I work eleven p.m. to five a.m., then sleep until awakened at eight by two little girls fighting over a toy they hardly play with anymore, I still eat breakfast, feed the girls, feed the dog, get everyone ready and go to the gym. Last year, if I had made it to the gym on such a day I would have taken it easy. I would have let the voice in my head convince me that it was okay to make it a light day. I would have let it convince me that thirty minutes on the bike was enough, that nobody expected me to do much in the triathlon and that I knew I could finish and that was enough. This year I push just as hard as any other day. I make sure I get at least eighty minutes of exercise five days a week and I don’t let excuses get in the way. Swimming has been the biggest revelation. I realized that I have to choose to make every stroke count--that momentum is too easily lost when I don’t concentrate. When Guy said, “Bull shit”, he committed himself to the idea that he could beat cancer, so when I decided to do this triathlon to honor him I committed myself to the idea that I could win. Guy didn’t exactly beat Cancer, but he did beat his cancer for a while. His commitment to beat Cancer allowed him to live more than a year beyond his doctor’s original prognosis and he fought with everything he had until the end. I don’t think Guy would say that he regretted his commitment to beat cancer, knowing the outcome, because there were many rewards. He got to meet his first grandchild and be in the pool with him when he swam for the first time, and that is just one life experience of many that I’m sure he would never give back.

Like I have said before, my odds of winning this triathlon are only slightly better than the Cubs winning the World Series this year, but my commitment to win has driven me to work harder than I ever would have if I had just committed to finish. I have learned things about myself that I would not have known otherwise. At the time of the triathlon last year, I weighed in at 228 lbs. As of right now, I weigh 188 lbs. Last year, I competed in the Shamrock Shuffle, which is a five-mile race in Downtown Chicago and I finished in 47:50. This year, it was a stepping-stone in my plan for the triathlon and I set a goal in January to finish in 35:00. I didn’t quite reach that goal, but on April 10th I did finish in 37:31, bettering my previous time by more than ten minutes. More importantly, before that day, I didn’t think I could run a mile in 7:30 and not only did I do that, but that was my average pace over five miles. None of this has anything to do with talent. It all comes down to a commitment to the effort of achieving something that seems beyond reach. It is ignoring the voice that at this very moment is telling me to delete this entire paragraph because it seems like I am bragging and, worse than that, is creating expectations that I am afraid that I will not live up to. Just like Guy, win or lose, succeed or fail, I would never give back the life experiences and lessons that I have learned in the pursuit of this triathlon.

Guy’s daughter Alexis is an inspiration too. In fact, my decision to publish a blog at all was somewhat influenced by her bravery. I was terribly impressed by the idea of someone creating an organization, let alone a charity. It is one thing to have a good idea or a good intention, but it takes a special kind of drive to follow that idea all the way to fruition. Hopes Song is still fairly young though and, like all charities, needs a lot of people to believe in it enough to support it and give it strength. Sometimes I think people get discouraged from helping because they don’t think that their contribution is enough. What is the point? Right? We can’t listen to that voice. Credit card companies make billions on transaction fees that are sometimes less than five cents apiece. If ten people give ten dollars apiece, does that money somehow have less power than if one person gives one hundred? Yes, this is my appeal. According to the stats on my blog, more than three hundred people read my post “Swimming With Guy”, but less than twenty have pledged any money. If you don’t like my convoluted pledge scheme of giving Hopes Song more money the better I do, then just give whatever you can. If everyone gives a little, it can make a huge difference in the lives of the families that Hopes Song benefits. Hopes Song is a 501(c)3 charity and all donations are tax deductible. Please visit the website to learn more about the people Hopes Song has helped and donate if you can:

Here is my convoluted scheme again, if you would like to pledge based on this send me an email at

If Mike…
Finishes I will give ______
Finishes in the top fifty I will give_______
Finishes in the top twenty I will give _______
Finishes in the top ten I will give _______
Finishes in the top five I will give ______
Wins the triathlon, I will give ________

A character in Paul Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, said “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I would like to believe that is true, but I have a friend who said something that is easier for me to believe. He told me, “Contrary to what you might think, and how some people act, most of us like to see people succeed and we combine our hopes with the hopes of people who are brave enough to declare their intentions to succeed.” I am asking you to combine your hopes with ours and give other people the chance to fight Cancer like Guy did.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Freaking Out for Kindergarten Cocktails

Imagine if you will, your worst nightmare--the thing or situation that scares you more than anything. Imagine that you are forced to endure this torture by people that claim to be caregivers, but worst of all, imagine that one of the people you trust and love most in life is holding you down while these "caregivers" torture you mercilessly. Imagine all this, but add something, add the fact that the person you love and trust is laughing while holding you down. My five-year-old daughter, IR, experienced this very situation not long ago.
"Daddy, am I going to get shots at the doctor?"
"I'm not sure honey, but I think so."
"How many shots?"
"I don't know honey, but you will be brave right?"
"Yes. But I would like to know how many shots."
"I will find out for you."
I have been present for every shot IR has received and the pediatrician has said that after they turn four it gets better. That statement never made sense to me, because the older kids get, the smarter they get, and the smarter they get, the better they are able to anticipate and imagine, and as that happens, their fears seem to grow exponentially. IR's ability to remember, anticipate and imagine has taken her fear of getting shots to a whole new level. I have to stress that the story I am about to tell is NOT exaggerated for effect.
To save time, I scheduled ML's three year checkup at the same time as IR's kindergarten checkup. This was the first problem. ML didn't need shots so IR literally and figuratively felt the sting of unfairness.
At the end of a fairly standard visit, the girls were declared healthy and I was told that IR would need the "kindergarten cocktail" of four shots. The doctor left.
"Are we done daddy?" Asked the hopeful IR.
"No, sweetie, you have to get some shots."
"Does ML have to get any?"
"No, she doesn't need any today."
"Why do I need shots, but she doesn't?" At this point I should establish the IR Freakout Scale. It goes from 0 to 100, with 0 being completely calm and content and 100 being a complete loss of bodily control, hyperventilation, and borderline passing out. You might ask why not just a scale from 0 to 10, but I just don't feel like 10 provides an adequate description for her ability to freak out. At the beginning of the visit to the doctor, the possibility of shots had IR at about 35 on the Freakout scale. She appeared to be calm, but little things that didn't usually bother her were causing tears. When I told her that she needed shots and her sister didn't she jumped to about 55 on the scale. Tears started rolling and her hands went directly to her mouth. Bringing her hands to her mouth is a sign that the 50 threshold had been passed and we were getting dangerously close to a freakout.
After a few minutes the nurse who was going to administer the vaccinations came in. She was a little gruff and very businesslike in her approach to IR. The sight of the tray with the needles immediately sent IR above 70 on the scale.
"Daddy, how many?"
"Four shots."
"Four?" 85 on the scale now, full blown crying with sobs and hitches and pleading for some sort of pardon. It was hard to concentrate as the nurse was having me sign the necessary papers for the vaccinations.
"Okay, I need you to put her up on the table and hold her arms, I will take care of the rest." The nurse said this to me and sent IR to 99 on the Freakout Scale. Full blown screaming and slapping away my hands as I tried to pick her up to put her on the table.
"NOOOOO...NOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOOO" She kept screaming as I finally got a hold of her and put her on the table. The nurse crossed IR's arms in front of her chest and told me to hold her that way. I leaned over her and held her down with my face right in front of hers. "NOOOOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOO, please daddy, pleeeaaaase NOOOOOOOOOO" At this point I might confidently say that most parents would be heartbroken at the thought of being the one who was holding this beautiful child down while she was in such pain. My wife got a little teary when I told her about it. But I guess I am different, because when IR was dangerously close to 100 on the Freakout Scale, and my face was one inch from hers and I could feel her tense as each of the four needles pierced her skin, I didn't cry--I laughed. I tried not to, but I giggled uncontrollably. I tried to hide it, but I couldn't--we were too close, and as my lovely wife likes to remind me all the time, my whole body shakes when I laugh. So my beautiful, smart, sensitive and dramatic little girl was on the verge of passing out and I was holding her down and laughing, and she knew it.
When it was over, the nurse told her to sit up.
"Calm down sweetie, calm down." I pleaded, though I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The whole scene was completed by the sight of my dramatic little girl walking stiff legged out to the car like she had casts on both legs.
When my wife came home she asked IR how the doctor visit went.
"I freaked out." She said and went back to her drawing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Count of Daddy Cristo

One of the beneficial side effects of my new employment as a night stocker at a grocery store is that I get to listen to books on my ipod. They are technically podcasts of classic books that are in the public domain and read by volunteers--in other words, free. I have been enlightening myself with books that I have never had the heart to pick up and read. I have already listened to Wuthering Heights, Crime and Punishment, and War and Peace. Most recently I have been listening to The Count of Monte Cristo, and it has given form to my own thoughts of vengeance.

For anyone who has not read The Count of Monte Cristo, it is the ultimate story of revenge. The shortest summary I can achieve goes like this: A man is condemned to life in a dungeon by his jealous counterparts, suffers fourteen years of imprisonment where he is educated by a fellow prisoner and given a map to a buried treasure. The other prisoner dies, the man escapes, finds his treasure, which he uses over the course of many years to exact revenge on the men who betrayed him.

I am about to go off on a fantasy of revenge, but please understand that I don't equate anything of my life or my revenge with the good Count--I just need to think there will be payback someday. (Yes, Mom, I know you are enjoying yours right now)

Someday, when IR is old enough, I am going to make her start cooking and doing dishes. I can only imagine what she will be like, but I know what I am going to say. IR is going to come in, after some sort of practice and plop down on the couch. “Hi sweetie how was your day?” I will ask.
“Fine.” She will answer and not take her eyes off the TV. It will probably be Access Entertainment Hollywood Inside hosted by some child star whose career was revived by the Dancing With the Stars of past Dancing with the Stars where past contestants of Dancing With the Stars partner with a new b-level celebrity and are coached by the aging professional dancers.
“I’m hungry.” I will sit down next to her and change the channel to Wheel of Fortune. Pat Sajak will just do intros and commentary at this point, because it will take him too long to remember if there is an E in “Riding in a Solar Car”.
“So, eat something.”
“I want you to make me dinner.”
“Seriously?” She will take back the remote and change it back to her show. We will sit and watch while Will Smith’s three-year-old granddaughter, Willowina is photographed on the red carpet as an oscar nominee at the Academy Awards. “You are just telling me to make you dinner?”
“Please make me dinner?” She will sit for another five minutes while Willowina tells the interviewer that she has wanted an Oscar since she was little.
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know.”
“You just want me to make something?”
“Yes, and I’m hungry, so could you do it now?”
“Right now. Okay.” She will drop the remote on the couch and stomp into the kitchen and she will close cabinet doors a little too hard and stand for too long in front of the open refrigerator. I will hear her running some water and she will come back in and sit down again.
“What are you making?”
“I don’t want spaghetti.”
“Are you being serious?”
“I don’t want spaghetti.”
“Well, that is what I"m making, because you didn’t tell me what you wanted.”
As an added measure I will ask for buttered bread and salad and not eat the salad and I will ask for seconds of spaghetti and not eat it. I will also use at least two forks and a spoon and I will find a way to dirty two butter knives. I will then proceed to get up and watch TV and then throw a fit when she cleans up my dishes. I will proclaim that I was not done eating and that I want more spaghetti. I could do that every night for five years and it still wouldn’t be even.
The second chore that my daughters will be tasked with is the laundry. They will start by doing their own clothes, but I will let them do mine as well. I fear they will play the same trick I did on my wife’s clothes that I did when we first got married. Yes, I shrunk a few sweaters on purpose. I am not proud of it. I was young and stupid--something my daughters will also be. I picture my daughter ML at the wonderful age of fifteen, coming home from school and so excited to see me. She will run up the stairs and give me a big hug and tell me how much she missed me. She will also tell me about her day and how she aced her quiz on The Grapes of Wrath because we talked about it after she read it. Yes, this is a fantasy.
But this will actually have to happen on a day we spend together. It will be a Saturday morning. I will walk into her room and throw off her covers.
“What are you doing? Its Saturday get out!” She will put her pillow over her face and turn on her side away from me.
“Get up, its laundry day.”
“So. Go do the laundry.”
“It’s your job now, so get to it.” I will continue this wonderful new day for ML by taking my shirt off and putting it in the hamper.
“Why did you do that?” She will ask.
“I just wanted to.” I will answer and go get a new shirt. Later I will accidentally drip some milk from my cereal onto my shirt and be forced to go upstairs and get yet another new shirt.
“Did you do that on purpose?”
“Of course not.” I will have to be careful here, because both of my girls will have been subjected to more than ten years of my almost constant sarcasm. IR already calls me on it sometimes.
I will spend the rest of the day stepping in puddles, wiping my Cheeto fingers on my pants, eating waffles with too much syrup, and other things of the sort. I will also buy three sets of pajamas and refuse to wear them more than one night in a row.
Is my pain and suffering on anywhere near the same level as the good Count of Monte Cristo? No, of course not, but when you have committed yourself to the care of tiny people whose brains are developing in unpredictable ways, strange things can happen to you. For example, you might find yourself fantasizing about being the father of teenage girls. What I have discovered about The Count of Monte Cristo is that it is as much about love as it is about revenge, so I don't feel so bad about plotting my vengeance on two of the three people I love most.