Monday, December 27, 2010

A sad ending to 2010

As most of you know, 2010 was not the best year for our family. In February we lost Mazha, and in less than a month, my sister lost her brother-in-law, Jack, and her nephew, Shawn; only to be followed by Jack’s wife two weeks ago. We lost our auntie Carol seven months to the day from when Mazha past. I’ve attended five other funerals and over a dozen memorial services (four for Mazha) for friends, family members of friends, volunteers and committee members.

Today, we had to put our 13year old Duncan, an Akita/Labrador mix, to sleep. The past month or so, he’s has some incontinence issues and we feared he was having kidney/bladder issues. The vet ran some blood work and did a urine exam and diagnosed him with Lyme disease. One more reason why I hate the deer in the Poconos.

Several medications later, it still wasn’t helping. Some dogs develop severe progressive kidney disease as sequelae to Lyme disease. This severe kidney failure is difficult to treat and may result in death of the dog. Some dogs may also develop heart problems or nervous system disease after being infected, in addition to lameness, swelling in the joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

This morning Duncan kept falling as he was having issues using his back legs, and then he was having breathing problems. He laid on the floor, covered in his quilt, and just looked at us. Kensi, who is his biggest fan, knew something wasn’t right. She leaned down to give him one final kiss, and he finally accepted her love’ns without blinking or turning his head. While he loved her dearly, he’d struggle accepting her affection by running from it – which only made her chase him more. In the end, she finally won out. She'll no longer be able to hide the fact that when she doesn't want to eat something, she sneeks it to him, and he covers for her.
Chris and I fought back the tears as we knew this was the end, and so did he.

Chris went and started the car, letting the seats down to make room for him. Duncan tried standing up, but kept hitting the wall as he attempt to walk. I scooped him up and walked up the snow filled driveway and placed him in the back seat for his final ride, the ride that brought him to all of the other puppies in the sky.
We'll miss you Lil' Man!
September 21, 1997 – December 27, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our Christmas wish was granted.

Last year I shared with you all Kensington’s first encounter with Santa Claus. Not every child enjoys their time with Santa. Some kids are plain scared of the fat man with a red suit. I was envisioning her sitting on old St. Nicks lap, with tears streaming down her face and mouth open wide with blood-curdling screams escaping her tiny, and yet very powerful, vocal box. You know the pictures I’m talking about. There are hundreds of websites and books dedicated to these disastrous family photos. I was hoping we’d experience this family tradition first-hand. To me, that cemented fatherhood. Unfortunately for me, our little angel was just that – a little angel. I asked Santa’s little elf to pinch her to make her cry and he looked at me like I was crazy. “No, seriously. Pinch her. It’s for my Christmas Card. There’s an extra $20 in it for if she goes from happy baby to wailing baby. But noooooooooooo. Santa’s little midget with pointy ears that looked like a Spock wannabe wouldn’t buy in to my scheme. Because of his unwillingness to grant MY holiday wish, we got a gorgeous princess, smiling away, on Santa’s lap.

And then this year happened. We arrived at Santa’s village just as he was about to take his cookie & Milk break. I tried to rush her in, but it was a no-go. The velvet rope went up and we were halted in the line. We had to wait for 30 minutes. Keeping a little munchkin occupied in line wasn’t the easiest thing to do. She wanted her hair bows out and I threaten her with never seeing another episode of The Backyardigans again if she even thought about touching her hair. Then after I made that statement, I started to wish she would test her luck. No such luck.

Santa arrived and Kensington was, once again, excited to see him… until she sat on his lap. Tears started streaming down her face. The photographer was trying to get her to stop crying by shaking some lame stuffed animal in front of her face (like that would make me smile). “Take the picture, Take the picture.” She just looked at us. “Take the PICTURE,” I grunted. She did so, and I quickly snatched up my tearful chickpea.

It had taken a year to wait for this moment, but my wish finally came true. Not every child enjoys their time with Santa, and that’s okay. She’s just following the tips she learned from the “Stranger Danger” videos we’ve been showing her.

"Silent Night... not in our house!"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sew Magical, Sew Cute (what parents will do for their kids)

Let the games begin… about a month ago we were informed by one of my colleagues that Lalaloopsy Dolls were the “in” toy this year. Her boyfriend and her were looking for them everywhere for his daughter, and we were all told to be on the lookout. This line of dolls are cute little creatures with button eyes that closely resemble the classic rag dolls from years ago (Think Tim Burton meets Strawberry Shortcake). The general story of the Lalaloopsy dolls is that they magically came to life as soon as the final stitch was sewn, and the magic that brought them to life also imbued them with personalities that matched the materials used to make their clothes. One Lalaloopsy doll's clothes were made from a baker's apron, and she loves to cook. Another's clothes were made from a painter's overalls, and she loves to paint. You get the gist. To me, it’s a marketing ploy to get girls to beg their parents to buy these rag dolls. They don’t really do anything.

While in Philly doing some Christmas shopping, I came across the last two in Toys R Us and called her to ask her if she wanted me to get one. Not sure if it was one of the ones she already has (There are 10 in the set), I bought one knowing I could return it if needed. Then it hit. The bug. Knowing that I had a coveted doll (I should have bought both), stirred up a monster in me, and it was contagious. The bug bit Chris as well.

The next day we were in our local Toy R Us and the crowd got brutal. A new truckload of dolls had arrived. Out of nowhere, Chris and I knew this meant ‘game on’. We were now going to hunt for all 10 of these sadistic creatures. The makers of Lalaloopsy did it right; they don’t have a single store sell the complete set. You have to hunt. And hunt we did. Long story short (because I have to get ready to Drive to Massachusetts in a couple hours), we were in 3 states, 12 stores, tons of pushing, biting, and pulling hair (between me and Chris for wondering why we’re doing this for a doll that our daughter doesn’t want or care about), and we finally collected the complete set. Many have told us to sell them on eBay to double our investment, but we couldn’t do that to our KGrace. So instead, we adorned our Christmas tree with them. Behold, our life size Lalaloopsy doll.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beyond Her Years

It seems like it was just yesterday that we brought our little girl home from the hospital. Now, she’s all grown up. She’s putting on make-up, driving around in her Hummer, going to dances with boys (yes, plural). We’ve once again started the process of, “The Courtship of Kensington Grace”. It seems like many parents want to arrange the marriage between their little one and ours. We’re totally up for it. When it comes to arranging a marriage for your child, what side of the fence you’re on affects your point of view regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the scenario. And seeing that in her school, there is one girl for every 9 boys, we’re the ones calling the shots.
If we leave the west for a few days and transplant ourselves into any culture that promotes arranged marriages, we will, in time, realize the logic behind this practice and appreciate the reasons why they work. Some of those reasons can be attributed to the wisdom of elders. Because they raised and cared for their children, they instinctively know what’s best for their children, which includes the decision to select a life partner. I’ve been in the dating world… it isn’t pretty. If there is anything we can do to thwart her from making the same mistakes we did, why wouldn’t we do so? :)

According to, the benefits of arranged marriages are:

1. Risk of incompatability is diminished (we know what’s good for her, and she’ll like it)

2. Idea of divorcing is unthinkable (Our new stance on life: If Gays can’t get married, Straights can’t get divorced. That should be the sanctity of marriage – 2 years ago, 48% of our elected House and Senate representatives were divorced. And yet they claim that gay marriage would be the fall of our country’s morals.)

3. Extended family support has its benefits (the more money the parents have, the better your chances. Support me, baby, support me all you want!)

They claim, there are some “minor” disadvantages as well.

1. Inability to make up one’s own mind (quite frankly, I think this is over-rated. I would much rather wake up and follow someone else’s schedule & plan, than to try to come up with my own. Call me lazy.)

2. Love takes second priority (Love? As my good friend Tina Turner once said, “What’s love got to do with it?)

3. Interference from extended family (See number 3 above. I can be bought out… and so can our daughter. She takes after her pappa!)

Let the bidding begin (please, bid increments must be in at least six-figures).

Circumventing Clause (Mrs. Clause, that is)

It has been a complete whirlwind in our house for the past month. With numerous social events on the calendar, five – yes, five birthday parties for our munchkin, mixed in with volunteer committee meetings, both of our sisters visiting (one from Texas, one from Atlanta), and two out of state conferences that I attended, I never knew where I was coming from or going to. Chris started sending me calendar invites so things would start popping up on my blackberry so I would know where I needed to drive to next, for the next event he committed me to. Funny, as mentioned in the previous post, he never sent the calendar invite for a 6pm Friday night holiday party. He too probably thought the timing was off and he didn’t want to confuse me anymore than I actually was.

Due to my coming and goings, Chris has been a trooper and wrapped up all of Kensington’s Christmas gifts from us… and all of the gifts from Santa are in the basement and have been unboxed, assembled, batteries inserted, and ready to be placed under the tree (well, we say that, but the way our tree is situated, it’s not really feasible). Albeit, one gift has remained upstairs because of the sheer size of it, and because it came from Mrs. Clause, not Santa himself. Mrs. Claus has been generally depicted in media as a fairly heavy-set, kindly, white-haired elderly female baking cookies somewhere in the background of the Santa Claus mythos. That’s not the case here, though she does assists in toy production, and oversees many elves on a daily basis. Her personality tends to be fairly consistent; she is usually seen as a calm, kind, and patient woman, often in contrast to Santa himself, who can be prone to acting too exuberant (come on, he’s on a deadline and his helpers have little nugget-fingers. Do you know how hard it is to use power tools with little snausages attached to you palm?) While, in the media, she is sometimes called Mother Christmas, and Mary Christmas has been suggested as her maiden name; we call her friend, advocate, co-architect.

Mrs. Clause’s gift was behind closed doors, and Chris and I have made every effort to ensure that KGrace didn’t see it if we had to go into the room. We’d crack the door open just a smidgen and creep in, only to hear a soft “knock, knock” followed by Kensington’s tiny fist pounding on the door. She knew something was up, and she was going to do her damnedest to get to the bottom of it. So, imaging our surprise when after dinner last week, we head into the living room for an exciting episode of “The Fresh Beat Band” (seriously, we need some adult entertainment in our lives. Nick Junior is starting to make me have nightmares), when from around the corner we hear, “Beep, Beep!” Chris and I, along with his sister, Rhonda, looked at each other. We’re pretty familiar with all of the toots, horns, chimes, etc on her toys. This was one we hadn’t heard before. We get up and follow the “beeps”. We come around the corner and in the storage room... the door is open (how in the world did she turn the knob? Note to self, get more child-proof door locks). And there she is… sitting in her gift. She flipped the power switch, fastened her seatbelt, and was ready to burn rubber.

Moral of this story: What our daughter wants, our daughter gets. Lord, help us all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“Got Jesus on my necklace”

These are words you don’t necessarily want your daughter to spew out in public. It’s not that we’re not of the Christian faith, or that we want to conceal our beliefs from public viewing; but repeating the mantra of Ke$ha (who isn’t the ideal role-model we would have selected for HRH), is a little embarrassing. For starters, she has a character in her name. Not just any character, but one that made me correct people when she first hit the scene because I thought she went by “Casha”. It was an understandable mispronunciation. And just look at her… glitter on her eyes, stockings ripped all up the side, looking sick and sexy-fied. Oh no-o-o (We should go-o-o). [editorial comment: two hours after this was posted, Chris gasped and stated that he was appauled by the previous two sentences, as well as the title of this post. He didn't realize this was pulled straight from Ke$ha's lyrics. So, if you too are not in tune with today's music, please don't be offended. This blog just may not be for you. Yes, Chris, I'm talking to you. Hahahaha.]
Kensington, in a display of expressing herself, has turned into a karaoke diva. Give that girl a microphone and a smoky bar-like setting, and she will own the stage. Unfortunately, she has been banned from most of the clubs in Eastern PA and Northern New Jersey (they stated that since she once signed a contract with a recording company, she’s ineligible to participate in “amateur” competitions – stupid rules. If there is wiggle room on American Idol, there should be the same considerations here at our local cabarets). Given that she can’t utilize the nightclubs as an outlet to illustrate her talents, she has deemed her car seat in the backseat of my truck the next best suitable place. Her audience… me and daddy (and whoever is lucky enough to gain admission into the two open spaces next to her). It’s a very, let’s say, up-close and personal performance. We look at it as if we were given backstage passes to every performance. It’s nice to know those connected to the box office.

This talent first showcased itself about eighteen months ago when Kensington was first introduced to the Black Eye Peas and “Boom Boom Pow” while traveling to and from school. She’d become overly excited each time it played on my SiriusXM radio. But anytime a country song would play, she’d scream with repulsion (Chris loves playing with my channels, so often when I start the car I get the pleasure of listening to his selections – Country and Christian - both I change as soon as I can). I’m don’t blame her… we have similar musical taste.

It moved from one song, to the themed songs of “The Backyardans,” “Blues Clues,” and “The Fresh Beat Band;” each she would hum along and bounce her head back and forth… now she’s included her signature move - stomp, stomp, stomp, quarter-spin, fall and repeat. Now she has expanded her participation beyond humming, and lengthened her repertoire to Top 40. Ill-fated as it is, Ke$ha and “We R Who We R” have been on the list for some time now. A few months ago, she would sing back-up… only spouting the last word in each sentence (which, because of Ke$ha’s own limited vocabulary were “dumb,” “numb,” and “young.” I swear that woman is a modern day Sylvia Plath). Now, she’s taking center stage and demands, at times, audience participation (which to me is just intolerable. When I pay good money to see someone in concert [Beyonce], don’t tell me “This is my favorite part of the concert, this is where you sing to ME” and point the microphone to the audience and expect us to belt out “to the left, to the left, everything you own in the box to the left”. Sorry. That was a tangent. I know. But it really does bother me. It’s bad enough I have Drunken Dianna next to me and I have to hear her sing along while I want to be “in the moment” with my bodacious Bee, and now I have 17,998 other inebriated people trying to camouflage a tune [Baby you dropped them keys, Hurry up before your taxi leaves].

Okay. I’m Back. Sorry Dianna, whoever you are. I didn’t mean to call you a bad singer. I was just using you as an example. We’ve all been next to a “Dianna”, and you just happened to be at the right concert at the wrong time.

Kensington now sings along to Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Neon Trees and her pappa’s personal favorite, Pink. Granted, her use of our language isn’t as extensive as, oh, lets say a 3 year old, but she tries. So, Chris and I look past the times when we too are bopping along to Mumford & Sons’ “Little Lion Man”, and it sounds like… I hate to say it… Dianna is riding along with us in the back seat.

Regretfully, Kensington signed the above mentioned contract with her record agency under protest by her management team (a little Bieber-esk if you ask me), and thus is unable to produce or perform in any videos that can be posted on this blog. We’ve tried to capture her on using several means… camcorder, video camera and even my blackberry. While she may love the camera to get her picture taken, she knows when we’re shooting video and refuses to belt out another tune. That’s what I call a Diva, with a capitol “D”. Sorry Dianna, I'm not talking about you again.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our own little "DADT"

On the eve of this country’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, we had our own little DADT incident here in our household. You see, Chris and I had another one of our communication mishaps. Friday night we had a holiday party to attend, and I assumed it started between 7 – 7:30. So, image my surprise when I received a call just prior to 6pm asking me where I was at. The party was to start at 6pm and I was nowhere close to the house. I told Chris to go without me, and I would pick Kensi up at school, get us both ready, and would be there by 7:30 (the proper time a holiday party on a Friday night should start, especially one so close to Christmas, which was cutting into my precious shopping time).

I enter the house with kiddo in tow, and rushed to change & juice her. Chris had her outfit picked out and her diaper bag was packed and ready at the door. I quickly hid the presents I was able to buy, and rushed upstairs to iron a dress shirt and sweater.

Chris and I are at a stage that we can actually turn our backs on Kensington and know that she’s going to be okay. Every outlet is plugged up, every cabinet drawer and door is latched or locked, and all sharp objects are hidden underneath my pillow waiting for January 1 when Chris’s life-insurance through both of our policies double. She’s content with playing in her playroom… putting her baby dolls to sleep, making Elmo drink from the teacup, rolling around in her ball house or her ball pool, pushing her stroller from one side of the living room to another or climbing the ladder to get the candy canes placed on the tree above her reach level.

I’ve finished ironing and, with a little pep in my step, called down from the balcony, “I love you, Kensi.” I hear her call back, muffled, “I love you, papa.” Things are good. I stroll to the bathroom, brush my teeth (note to self, no red wine for at least an hour now… Pinotage grapes taste way too sour when mixed with fluoride) and add a dab more product into my hair. Once downstairs, I head to her playroom (oh, the days of having an actual dining room). No Kensington. Okay, I see. We’re playing hide-and-seek. She’s in the pantry (i.e., taste-testing the bag of cookies to make sure Pappa and Daddy won’t be food poisoned – I believe in a past life, she was a royal food assayer). I open the door. Nothing. Really? That’s the first place I would have hidden when playing this game. I hear a whimper from behind the office door. Duncan is locked in the office. I’m sure our chickpea is in there as well. I open the door to two blue-bugged eyes staring at me. A black Sharpie hits the floor, with the cap off. She comes running, pushes me out of her way, and into the living room she goes. I look around the room. Yep. There it is. One of Chris’s filing cabinets that she loves placing stickers and magnets on, has now been tagged. I think she’s covering for Duncan. She found him midstroke and took the permanent marker from his paws to beg him to stop. She had to have shut the door behind her so I wouldn’t hear her scolding him.

She’ll never be labeled as a nark. We taught her right. So for now, we won’t ask… because surely, she’s not telling.