Add Water and Observe PFM.

Magic is a word that we use to describe too many things. We attach it to things we don’t want to research, so we assume it’s magic. In the military, I’ve heard too many acronyms to list, but my favorite is PFM. I won’t divulge the entire acronym, but the “p” is pure, and the “m” is magic. I assume you can figure out the rest. It is an immediate and disarming answer for when you have a great idea and have no clue how it will be accomplished. “How exactly do plan to get the the equipment from point A to point B with no resources?” “PFM, sir.” Everyone laughs and all the questions disappear. In a sense, the use of PFM is PFM.

Not that I am dismissive of magic, because it does happen. In fact, I’m watching it right now. My three offspring are huddled around a cheaply made, Chinese piece of plastic that is underneath an outdoor water faucet. And the sight is truly magical. I wasn’t there when Ernest Rutherford split the atom, but I imagine he was less surprised than my children when they figured out how to activate the outdoor water dispensing apparatus.

There is splashing, filling the water table, turning over the water table. More splashing and refilling. Toys, once thought old and past their prime, gain new life with the addition of water. Brothers who will argue over who owns which one of the hundred variations of Lightning McQueen, are sharing the toy that captures the imagination: a plastic cup. Callie is soaked from head to toe and has a smile so bright, the sun is envious.

This experience, like the mystery of magic, fades with time and experience. The goodwill eventually evaporates. The water table gets flipped one too many times. The plastic cup becomes a symbol of power that of course, is abused. Callie turns into a pumpkin once she realizes it is 15 minutes past nap time. And colds previous thought defeated, rear their ugly heads in the form of sniffles that have gotten too sniffly.

As I’m stripping the boys out of their wet clothes, I’m reflecting on where I have gone wrong. Less than twenty feet away are hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in toys. These toys go mostly unused and occupy valuable real estate in our house. A garden hose and a slightly inflated water bill would save so much money. I wrap the towel around Carson and pull him close to kiss his forehead. In this moment, I realize he and his siblings are worth every penny and chide myself for thinking a simple water table could replace all those toys.

Grant snuggles into the towel and Carson pulls the door to go inside. Over his shoulder he asks,”Dad, can we get in the shower?”

Pride Slays Thanksgiving and Hair Too

A green lawn is unattainable in the state of Florida for a person who doesn’t have the means of a golf course. Now you know. I just saved you countless hours spent watering and nurturing what will surely be a failed endeavor. It took me tripling my water bill and wasting hundreds of dollars to give in. I was a new homeowner. I wanted to take pride the appearance of my lawn, even if it was mostly brown with patches of green. I wanted to be the envy of my neighbors.

Pride is a weird word. It can change definitions like a chameleon. It can be the cause for reverence, or the source of being despised. It can be the seed that grows self-reliance. It can be the sun that wilts the leaves of cooperation. It is destructive and great at the same time.

Pride in your child, can have the same results. This past Saturday, pride was on display and I’ve been beaming ever since.

****

We had put it off long enough. The dreaded day that I had procrastinated to the point of negligence had arrived. Carson had begun the transformation from little boy, to long haired John Lennon worshipping hippie and the regression had to happen today. No rationalizing. No more delays. I was hours away from him talking with a fake British accent and getting a life ruining wife. The line in the sand had been drawn.

I whispered to him,”You wanna go get an Icee?” A cheap tactic, I know, but I wasn’t prepared for the wrestling match that would have ensued if I had been completely honest. Regardless, he sprinted to the car and was buckled in record time. His brother heard of our mission and followed behind in what would be described as a bucket of tears held together by flailing appendages. Lacey scooped him up and disappeared behind a closing garage door. Carson was undeterred and focused on that blue Icee.

The car ride was uneventful, mainly because Carson didn’t notice the Sonic when we drove by. I’m a master of distraction and he’s a trusting soul.

I applied the brakes and Carson immediately recognized where we were. “I’m not getting a haircut?” he asked.

“Yeah buddy, it’s haircut time.”

The tears escaped his eyes and he repeated that he wasn’t getting a haircut.

“Buddy, I need you to be really brave today. I know you can do it.”

He dried his eyes and we exited the car. He squeezed my hand as we walked in. The four barbers let out a collective sigh. They knew us. They knew what the next 20 minutes would look like. They knew the blows they would absorb from escaping arms and legs. They knew that I picked them at random when we first landed in Yuma. They knew they had spun the wheel of Carson and were winners for the next three years. They knew.

Or did they.

Carson and I climbed in the chair. He buried his face in my chest and cried. In between sobs, he asked,”Am I done?”a few hundred times. This was par for the course. What wasn’t normal was that he sat relatively still. I consoled him through the tears and the clippings and itching. The barber stopped to change guards and Carson took the opportunity to scotch guard my shoulder. Our faces locked and he asked,”I’m being brave dad?”.

“Of course, big guy. You’re being brave.”

The barber continued to shear away the unwanted hair. She consoled him through broken English and what sounded like sympathetic Spanish. Carson again asked if it was over. Broken English that I couldn’t decipher, but she stopped cutting. Carson took this to mean that all was good and popped out of my arms. The shirt immediately was removed and a dance that resembled Elaine Benes at an office party commenced.

I paid and we exited the shop. A skinny, pale, and shirtless Carson held my hand to the car. I scooped him and kissed his hair covered forehead. He settled into his car seat. The tears had dried and composure was fully regained. We rolled down the road toward the Icee store. I hadn’t lied, just delayed.

“I was brave, dad.”

I didn’t know if it was a question or a statement. Several seconds passed. More seconds. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t ruin this moment. The moment I was the most proud of my son. It wasn’t that he didn’t cry, or didn’t scream, or didn’t get upset. He did all of those things. It was that even though he was scared, he did it anyway. I asked him to be brave, and he was.

There are many times I’ve been proud of Carson. He has been the quiet protector and the unwilling sharer. Last Saturday, he became brave because he was asked. And that’s a great reason to be prideful.

Scars Are My Precious Roadmap

It was a normal day. I had just completed the only boring meeting of my day. Chinese or Subway? Chinese. But only because it would be the shortest line at the food court. Where did I park again? I hear the beep, but can’t see it. I find it and check my cell phone. Danato Andriacco had responded to my witty Facebook post. I closed Facebook and saw that Lacey had sent me five texts. This was a normal day.

That changed when I opened the texts. Carnage and horror are terms that I had used to describe football, meetings, and daily life. That seemed trivial and borderline insensitive as I read about the actual definitions of those words. I called Lacey as I drove and the conversation contained a sadness and anger that shouldn’t be discussed. This shouldn’t happen. This was not a normal day.

I rushed home and was glued to the news. I held my head and wiped a few tears that escaped. The grief of those poor people. The updates and the number killed going up. I leaned forward in my chair and said a prayer. Callie, my baby girl, knew I needed a smile. She obliged. I grabbed her off the ground and noticed every nuance of the hug. Her left hand tugged at my collar. Her right grabbed my ear. The drooly kiss didn’t bother me. I held her a little tighter. I froze this moment and decided afternoon work really wasn’t that important.

The boys returned from school. Relief and joy. I grabbed both of them and while Carson was able to escape, Grant was forced to endure my almost breakdown. Another moment frozen and placed in my memory bank.

Preparations for their preschool Christmas musical had to be made. It seemed minute and unimportant, but life has to go on. It has to. Clothes ironed. Naps. And unfortunately, a haircut for Carson. There has been much written about the ordeal that is a Carson haircut, so I won’t rehash the subject. Needless to say, a wrestling match with clippers ensued and Carson emerged more Johnny Unitas than Justin Beiber. The result was not just a shorter haircut, but a curtain was drawn on a road map of a life lived. A life that was more visible. A life dotted with exclamations that revealed themselves as scars. Scars that served as not too distant memories. Memories that shaped our lives.

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Carson, still distraught from the haircut experience, moved to the bath. His brown hair washed off and gathered by the drain. Despite my best efforts to console him, he remained upset. I sat with him as he cried into my shoulder. My hands traced the recently revealed scar on his head, then the one on his back. A rush of memories raced over me. The hospital stays. Eating nonstop McDonalds because it was in the hospital. The driving to Louisville from Pensacola and being on the endless route 29 that leads to I-65. Lacey’s strength. Sleeping in a chair meant for a person of average height. The surgeon coming into the waiting room. And the overwhelming relief I felt when he said everything was okay. Then we did it again two months later.

The map of Carson’s scars tell the story of pain, anxiety, and emotions that I didn’t think existed. But more importantly, they tell a story of resilience and how fortunate Lacey and I are to have him.

The water splashing my face, brings me back. The emotional five year old smacking my arm also helped. The tragedy came back too. The sounds of updates on the news in the background, I grab my son and hold him a little too tight. I think about the parents. They too had scars. Their scars told stories and brought back a flood of memories. They comforted their emotional child after a haircut. I sympathized, as I’m sure every parent sympathized, because as different as we may be, the feelings of being a parent are universal.

I hate that their hands won’t trace the scars that I’m sure were so precious to them. I hate that they won’t feel a tug of their ear or an overly drooly kiss. I hate that they will never get to see those scars fade. I hate that they won’t get to see new scars that I’m sure would have told a story. I hate this evil so much.

But not for the next couple of days. Instead, I will mourn for the parents and pray that God gives them peace in the knowledge that heaven, like all places, is better off with a few more kids around.

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A Question About Cats

Not sure what the question is, but the answer is yes. The answer is always yes. Yes, cats are the spawn of satan. They are the worst. Despite many cat lovers trying to justify their love for what I’m sure will be the pet of choice in hell, the discussion is over. They are awful. And don’t respond with all the positives of cats. The only positive is that they eventually die.

I believe cats were actually the animal that satan inhabited when he tempted Eve. Look at how a cat moves around. Does it not resemble a snake with legs? Adam was too distracted to get a good look at what it was, and retold his story wrong. I don’t blame him. He had a naked woman just walking around. You know she had a rockin’ bod. Her diet consisted of fresh everything. She was Paleo before it was cool. Crossfitters should have a shrine to her.

Back to the cats (see how easy it is to be distracted by a naked woman), I just don’t understand them. They serve no purpose. They’re not a loving animal. Humans are a huge inconvenience to them. They excrete waste inside your house. Despite the CIA’s best effort to find an actual use for these aloof felines, they failed miserably. And if our government thinks it’s a waste of money, well, there is no redeeming quality, because they will waste money on anything.

Where does this hatred come from you ask? This morning, I emptied a sandbox that stray cats had been using as a lavatory. This opened a portal to rage that I can rarely recall feeling. All my memories of cats flooded back to me. They obviously weren’t pleasant.

Childhood Sandbox

My neighbors growing up were cat people. I would say cat owners, but that implies some responsibility on their part. The cats were allowed to roam free and the world was their oyster. My sandbox was their toilet. Many a sandcastle was ruined by discovering what surprises these awful animals left me. This could’ve been me, if my sandcastle sculpturing growth hadn’t been stunted by cat poo and urine.

Father’s Boat

My Pops has a few inanimate objects that he loves. His 1964 Chris Craft is one of those things. Many hours were spent working on it. Many times being stranded out on the lake with the engine cover up while he worked on it. A beam in our barn fell on it and he definitely shed some tears. He loved that boat.

Remember those cat people neighbors? Again, they allowed their awful animals to freely inhabit whatever environment they chose and that included my dad’s classic boat. Upholstery that had survived three children, didn’t stand a chance against a half dozen cats. Over a thousand dollars of damage. My dad was found weeks later huddled in a corner, rocking, and mumbling something about Garfield being the only good cat. I assume it was his love of lasagna that made him okay to my dad.

These memories are just a snippet my completely irrational, yet undeniably justifiable disdain for cats. As I easily and effortlessly flipped a sandbox filled with over 400 lbs of sand (no big deal), my son protested. I said,”Grant, I’m not going to let you play in poo.” His response,”I love to play in poo. It’s my favorite thing to do.” That quickly became a song, thus furthering my point that cats are bad. They affect children’s brains and make them want to play in poo.

I’m not saying they can’t serve any purpose, but we need to explore options more thoroughly, because they aren’t cutting it as domesticated animals. Testing of makeup and experimental drugs gets my vote. Let them serve mankind the only way they know how: by being one step above a cadaver.

Nail in the coffin: They are the mascot for the athletic team loosely affiliated with the university that resides in Lexington.

Cats are the worst.

A Douchy Love Letter to My Wife

Men thrive on the known. We are very reasoned and simple. Something isn’t right? Change it. Hungry? Eat. Something needs fixed? Hit it really, really hard with a hammer until it’s fixed. Lacey once spent her 20,000 word allotment to tell me all of her problems, which I solved in a series of nods and grunts that wouldn’t have counted towards my 7,000 word allotment. Men thrive in situations that contain problems and solutions. We are programmed problem solvers that hate the unknown. This hatred if the unknown, is of course why God made us need women.

Thursday night, I sat down to watch “A Football Life” on the NFL Network. Most of these contain a behind the scenes look behind Hall of Fame players or championship seasons. A glorified look at glory. This episode’s subject matter was Chris Speilman, the All-American and Pro Bowl linebacker. Before you roll your eyes, I know he is a Buckeye, and to be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t have cared to watch this episode had he not been a Buckeye. And that would have been my loss.

The episode chronicled his life as football player, but more importantly, his marriage to his high school sweetheart, Stephanie. Stephanie, in addition to being a doting football wife, was a breast cancer survivor/thriver/victim. I won’t summarize/ruin the episode, but is an absolute must-watch. I found myself amazed by the growth, sacrifice, and love. A salty, watery discharge may have escaped my eyes.

After I gathered my composure and depleted our tissue supply (don’t judge), I realized what strength truly is. Despite my efforts in the gym to sculpt my guns to gigantic proportions, my wife is the strong one in our relationship.

Exhibit A
After two hours of pointless pushing, Lacey was wheeled into the operating room where she was unceremoniously ripped open to reveal a child with a rather bulbous head. Within a day she was walking around barking orders like General Patton. In addition to that large head, our first born also had a defective ticker. Despite many trips from Pensacola to Louisville, I never heard her complain. In fact, when my mother was feeling weepy about one of the many surgeries, Lacey, in a very indignant tone, said,”Buck up, champ. It’s going to be okay.” And everything was okay. I’m not sure if I didn’t worry because Lacey didn’t worry, or if I was too stupid to worry, but I never felt uneasy about the situation. I knew it would turn out fine.

Exhibit B
In 2011, I deployed to fight the war on terror by applying my keen coffee making skills and document binding acumen. Behind, I left a pregnant Lacey with a three and one year old. I also had recently moved her from one dumpy house, to a less expensive dumpy house (she did complain about the house). Her response to this situation: “It’s bad timing, but whatever.” Well-intentioned people tried to comfort her, but they would aways ask ridiculous questions. Like how she was going to do it without me there. She would reply, indignantly of course,”Well, it’s not like I have a choice. Either I do it, or I don’t. I have no choice in the matter.”

Despite the rigors of that deployment (coffee burns, paper cuts), I never worried about what was going on at home. Lacey had it.

Exhibit C
Lacey drinks more Mountain Dew than a normal human being should. Her heart wants to burst, but it’s too afraid of what Lacey will do to it if it does.

Those three examples are just a glimpse into the many reasons that make Lacey the strong one. Recently, we’ve made some life changing decisions and I really have no idea where life will lead 14 months from now. That scares the bejeebus out of me. I’m making plans and trying to mitigate the unknown. Known variables are easy to plan for. Unknown variables are disastrous. But I’m relieved to know that when I’m in my darkest hour I’ll have Lacey to slap me in the face and indignantly tell me,”Buck up, champ. It’s going to be okay.”

Tupac Knew

Changes? That’s just the way it is. At least that’s what I tell myself. In Arizona, there really aren’t the tell tale signs of fall that I see in other’s Facebook pics. There are no leaves changing. No packing that hoodie for later that night. I built a fire a week ago and enjoyed it by sweating my posterior into non-existence. For the part of Arizona I reside in, there’s desert, and darker shade of desert. Despite all this, it really is a cool place to live. I just wish I had more seasonal change.

Changes in the Casa de Crutchfield are much more visible. But not in the way you would think. Sure, the task of raising three children that are four and under, produces an immense amount of change, but it is more than I thought it would be. The way I see things, and my reactions to things have been altered and I don’t remember when it happened.

I’m sure this wasn’t the first event, but it happened tonight, so it’s fresh in my mind. My oldest son approached me with a request for ice cream. Dinner was 20 or so minutes away and without thinking I said,”After you eat dinner.” I know this is what a responsible parent would say. If you took a poll of 100 parents, this would be the most generic response. It would be the number one answer on Family Feud. No one else would have an answer, except for the too creative aunt that you realize far too late is a liability. She costs you the fast money and future holidays are awkward.

When did I become responsible? I’m not too far removed from picking out all the marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms. Not long ago, I sat in our car watching Cars, just to see how it would end. I own three collared shirts and one of them is an Ohio State polo my mom bought me less than a year ago.

The point? Why does anyone trust me to raise children? No. When did I go from Lucky Charms aficionado, to semi-responsible pre-dinner-dessert-denying father? Again, I can’t pinpoint the exact date, but lately it has been so in your face. I finish my sentence and I can’t believe what I just said. How can you not notice maturity when your breakfast consists oatmeal and coffee? That you have become the bedtime enforcer. That HGTV is on your TV and it’s okay. Persons in room to light ratio infuriates you. Puddles are not awesome.

While responsibility and grown-up-ness a grown up isn’t all bad. Maturity causes you to not care about what other people think. Not in a senior-citizen-nurse-groping-way, but in a go urinate up a rope kinda way. You notice more. Things mean more to you. An 18 year can’t appreciate how beautiful it is when your kids sleep. They wouldn’t understand how bad you want your daughter to say “dada”. A worksheet with recognizable name isn’t a piece of paper. It’s a treasure. They couldn’t fully get how a dad can don a cape and wear an “S” on his chest if he finds the Buzz and Woody cars underneath the bed.

Maturity definitely isn’t what I expected. There have been more surprises than I care to share. But I don’t
think I will reach full maturity anytime soon, but I’ll keep you up to date on when the transformation is complete. Ask me again in 40 years.

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Lazy Saturdays?

Saturday September 22, 2012. I roll over and check the clock. It’s 6:12 am and I’m debating to myself if I have to go to the bathroom that bad. It’s too risky. The sound of me getting up, doing my biz, then returning to bed, is a chance I’m not willing to take. I wait. I try to force myself back to sleep. The covers are pulled tightly to my neck. I squeeze. The stupid neighbor’s dog barks. I begin a cost/benefit analysis. If I go to the bathroom now, I’m up for the day. The boys are going to tear through that door anyway, so why bother. The risk of uromycotysis is too great. But the possibility of 20-30 minutes more sleep is also appealing. It’s so rare that they sleep past 6 am. Did the toilet just flush? I know I heard it. My mind races as I add more pressure by trying not to think of a waterfall. Just go to sleep. I think of Iraq Jason who thought nothing of peeing in a closely stowed bottle. The toilet is mocking me from behind the door. The light invites me. The covers are warm. My heart beats faster as sweat beads form. I throw my covers at Lacey and my jealousy of her joyous slumber enrages me. The toilet again flushes. Lacey surely heard it too. Yet she acts as though she’s asleep. The fact that she knows that I know she’s acting as if she is asleep causes confusion. Why would she act asleep? Is she mocking me as well? Does she think my plight is some joke?

I cry out,”Why do you mock me toilet?” It responds with a calm, antagonistic flush.

I curse under my breath as I check my watch. 6:14. Two minutes? Why did that last glass of milk have to be full? If its bovine goodness hadn’t been so sweet, I’d be enjoying this “late” Saturday morning instead of suffering this torture. Lacey is enjoying her sleep. Again, another flush. Lacey exhales and I’m sure she snickered. Why is this funny to her? Does she not know of uromycotysis? The sprinklers come on. This isn’t the correct time. This certainly is the work of the toilet. Did I not clean you enough? Why do you haunt me toilet? Panic sets in. I cannot continue and the toilet knows it. It reminds me, taunts me.

As I am starting to spin into full Tell-Tale Heart mode, my insanity is stunted by two boys at full sprint infiltrating our room.

Lacey rolls my way and asks,”Give me two hours now and you can get two hours later.” Her voice sounds like a mixture of Darth Vader, Bane, and lead singer of AC/DC after an all night bender. The fact that she’s bargaining means she serious. That fact that I think she’s bargaining, makes me cute to her. I comply, because it really wasn’t a request. My watch is set for 8:32 and I will forcibly enforce if need be.

The next hour or so is a haze. Coffee, cereal, requests for cosmic brownies. The boys remove all of the couch cushions. The octonauts run on loop. I drink my second cup of coffee. Train sets are brought to the living room. The couch cushions create a great landing pad on the floor. Third cup. Carson squeals. Grant laughs in a sinister manner and I remark that his mannerisms are similar to Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day when he speaks of King Kong

Callie is awakened by all the noise and has a surprise waiting in her diaper. The disappointment is quite noticeable when I learn it isn’t a toaster. Shortly after, Lacey emerges from our room well rested and more than ready to carpe diem. Not really. She nods my way as if to say,”Hey dog, thanks for the solid. I’ll let you watch the game in peace yo.” I nod back, accepting her proposal. Mountain Dew at 8:30 is her drug of choice. She settles into the couch and assumes the expression of haze I had two hours prior.

The turd, I mean game, reaches its completion. Lacey and I revisit a promise made earlier in the week. For some strange reason, our boys love the pastime of bowling. I was indifferent on the sport until I saw my boys faces light up with enough energy to power our house. But from a child’s perspective, bowling is the opposite of what parents tell them is acceptable. It’s loud. Heavy orbs are hurled at objects to disrupt order. The more chaos, the better. Congealed cheese product is served as a delicacy when combined with stale corn chips. Pop/soda/coke are okay. It’s a playground of taboo.

The bowling was what I expected. Strike, strike, spare for me. Six pound spheres attempting to bounce their way down the lane for the boys. The stern look from the counter with every impact is burning a hole in the back of my head. I cringe every time my 45 inch kid projects the six pound ball from his shoulder. It lands with a clank that tests the durability of the lane. All in all, a fairly standard Crutchfield bowling experience. Minus the bathroom excursion with Grant.

After our first game, Grant announces that his digestive processes have culminated. This is of no shock to me because the restroom facilities are in the “Perfect Storm” of disease and pestilence. First of all, it’s a bowling alley. We thoughtlessly strap on shoes that just minutes ago were worn by someone who could have been nursing a good case of janeway lesions. Next, we grab a ball that some freakishly awkward 13 year old, with large, impetigo ridden hands, just used to bowl a 92, while flipping his head back to keep his ridiculous Justin Bieber bangs out of his face. His zit-faced girlfriend thinks about how dreamy he is as she slathers ointment on her hands for the tungiasis she is battling. Next we order french fries and nachos…

My point: The bowling alley is gross. Now plop a restroom in the middle of it and you’ll understand why I knew Grant would have to go. The “Perfect Storm”.

Grant and I enter the lair of gross. I tell him repeatedly not to touch anything. I sanitize the seat as best I can. The questioning begins.

“Grant, just poo?”

“Just poo dad.”

“Are you sure?”

He nods.

I put him on the poorly sanitized throne. A burst of urine strikes my tacky bowling footwear. Grant laughs. I remind him that he just informed me that his intentions were for a number two only. He doesn’t respond. The process continues. I remind him again not to touch anything. We begin the basic game of ninja hands, in which I am slapping his hands as he tries (and has moderate success) to touch everything.

After what seemed like an eternity in the petri dish (<;5 min), Grant completes his biz. I move him to the sink to begin decontamination. I'm not a ridiculous germaphobe, but I thought starting at the shoulder and working my way down to the hands was the best strategy, until I could run him through the car wash. As I'm scrubbing the left inner tricep of my middle child, I catch a glimpse of the image in the mirror. I stop. I stare. The image smiles, then laughs.

In this moment, I want nothing more than a Delorean equipped with a flux capacitor. I want to take the image that just laughed at me in the mirror and show it to my 24 year old self. He wouldn't believe me. He doesn't even know Lacey Howard. And laughing about getting his shoes peed on is out of the question. This isn't how my 24 year old self would envision an awesome Saturday.

And he'd be wrong.

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