Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kids update, Is it Meth??; Target, The Danger Game, Baby Stock Fund, Costco, Music class, The Power of 4, Seaworld, and The Honey Bear

Hello everyone,

I know it’s been a long time and my apologies. I saw some of you at the BlackBerry WES conference in Orlando a couple weeks back and felt bad that I haven’t written but it was good because it had me wanting to get back at it.

The kids are getting bigger every day and now we have full mobility of the twins. That probably sounds bad like they were disabled and are now healed (“Praise Jesus!”) but what it means is that the NBA playoffs take on a whole different meaning. Thanks to Sportscenter I can now improve my parenting skills. (Yes, men this is a justification for watching all the highlights you need and pass it off as continuing education.) I find myself watching NBA highlights of the Celtics vs. Lakers to see what the latest scheme is for a two-on-three zone. One of the times my heart skips a beat is when we are at the park and Emily needs to go to the bathroom so Terri takes her, I now have Jordan going one way and Grace the other. “Gracie, come back here, let’s go down this slide,” is my plea while trying to sound confident. She, of course, knows what’s going on and just to tease me looks back and smiles, then turns and scoots across the playground. “Ugh!”

When did they get so damn fast?! I will head into the kitchen to get a bottle and only steps behind me is Grace (pat-pat-pat-pat) like a cheetah powered pentameter. Jordan reminds me of Dash from The Incredibles with his “march-run” where the legs are going up and down like pistons in an engine. That and most times he’s all excited when running with a big smile on his face. Did God plan kids for the 21st century, I think so? Think about it, we are more connected then ever to the office, friends and family, although virtually, and I never have time to work out so my “gym time” consists of running, free weights, bench press, squats, tennis, and bowling…almost daily. (Chasing them, lifting, playing “up-and-down” with Jordan, picking them up from crying or eating, and general crankiness, and then, of course, there’s the Wii.) On weekends we are constantly moving and Sunday, after spending the morning at the zoo everyone ended up taking a nap, including me on the floor downstairs and Terri with Emily up in her little twin bed.

Emily is such a cute little girl that I forget she’s just three and with the twins around I keep thinking she knows more than she does. Terri says I don’t have the patience for her as much as them and she’s probably right. I guess I expect more from her and I feel horrible that she doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt from me. She’s almost completely able to go to the bathroom all by herself and can get the DVD’s or some items out of fridge on her own. Next comes the Daddy B & R training course (Beer and Remote for those of you playing at home). “Can you get daddy a beer? And don’t forget the opener in the center drawer.”

Grace is our “superstar” and “little devil” right now. You can tell her to go get a book and she’ll say “bk” then, sometimes shake her head ‘yes’, and head to the bookshelf. Just today she said “I did it,” according to Terri and I figure we’ll have her doing math by two and AP courses in 2010. If you give Grace something to put in the garbage then she’ll go into the kitchen and throw it away, and if you ask her to go get bunny, her favorite bedtime friend, she’ll go into the bedroom and grab bunny; coming back with a great big smile! She’s a little devil because she’ll crawl up on the couch and want to look over the railing to the lower floor. That and the other day she tried to crawl under Pavlina’s car in the driveway out back. Anything she can and wants to get into she will try to.

Jordan is my “mini-me” since he just lights up when he sees me. Since I’ve been getting the cold shoulder treatment from Emily when Terri’s around it’s quite refreshing. Terri thinks it’s a little too much and he does it more then Emily ever did, well, what can I say, we testosterone cavemen have to stick together when it comes to being surrounded by women. They even dressed up the poor boy in a dress one day while I was at work. What’s up with that?! Jordan is also such a boy compared to the other two in that he loves to pound stuff, open and close cabinets and throw stuff. We bought him some cars and trucks at Target just so he could have his own “things” to throw around. On the speaking front the poor boy wants to talk as much as his next breath but can’t and gets very frustrated.

Is it Meth??

[On a side note: Are kids legal methamphetamine addicts? The symptoms of someone who takes meth in large doses are: irritability, aggressive behavior, anxiety, excitement, auditory hallucinations, and paranoia along with delusions and psychosis. Okay, this is my son lately…OMG! Pick him up and he wants down, go to change his diapers and after three seconds he’s kicking, and in a textbook wrestling move he goes from his back to crawling position in 1.5 seconds. Boundless energy then all of sudden they’re asleep. What about the times when the kids are in your arms and they must be thinking, “What’s that over there? (Pointing) Over there!? The bright screen thing that you sit down at and don’t want me to touch. Or down there, what’s that? Did someone just say something? Who’s that? I want to touch that?” Its meth or they are acting like Paris or Britney with paparazzi around.]


Speaking of Target we recently became “that family” on a visit there. Let me paint the picture for you: It’s Sunday afternoon, the circular for the week just came out and every type of family you can imagine converges on one of the three Target’s on the north side of Chicago. We just happened to pick the Elston location which is the busiest. The kids extent of play time at this point if the day is going to Target…there’s a park in the near future but right now it’s cart riding in the retail Olympics. Emily decided to have a breakdown over her new shoes in the parking lot that carried on in to the entrance…the middle of the entrance…then over by the circular. Then literally three minutes later she was happy as a clam walking through the clothing racks while looking/hiding from me. Later Grace wanted up then down on the floor so she could discover what this place was like from 24 inches. What she was about to discover is that shopping carts hurt little legs and if daddy walks too far away from Jordan then a shriek that says, “You’re leaving me?! How can you leave me?? I’m your cute little boy, your ‘mini-me’. What in the world would have you want to do that?”

So, I pick up Grace and she starts fighting me and trying to get out of my grip. Then in the basket she goes and the crocodile tears come and I can see the ‘virtual breakdown map’ (which mirrors that of your local TV weatherman. It’s the one that has the curved line with the pointed triangles coming right toward your geographic location. It’s coming and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.) and in moments I’m hit by the QB: Quadruple Breakdown: Œ Full tears,  Facial expressions of total pain, Ž Hands-in-the-air ‘pick me up now damn it!’  Kicking and motions to get out of the basket.

This is where I want to make a PA announcement: “This is Chris Coughlin, father of three kids in isle 37, who are tired and in need of food and open spaces in which to run. Make a hole people! You can take your 10 items or less rule and put it where the sun don’t shine ‘cause I’m on a mission to get out of the store before I’m fitted for a straight jacket.” It’s such a joy to be ‘that parent’…God help me if I ever have to go through it again. We picked up so many extra toys and towels/beach equipment on the way through the store to make the kids happy that we left behind an entire full basket of stuff that we ‘decided not to buy’ (insert smile to the minimum wage clerk here while I’m experiencing dual emotions of embarrassment and ‘I don’t really care what you think because I need to get to my minivan’)

One last Target anecdote: We were at this same Target about a month ago and spent an hour-and-a-half inside during which Emily asked to go to the bathroom six times (‘no s*#t!’…pun intended) and she pooped twice. We also traversed the store three times probably racked up 300+ yards in ‘carting’ (to bad I didn’t pick myself in the parent fantasy league for carting that week). On a clear day in May we could have been more efficient with oxygen tanks while trying to summit Everest. (Either way you leave behind a lot of crap…)

The Danger Game

Where did this come from? I remember doing this but I was older and it involved rolling apples out on our busy street into traffic, snowballs at cars, or bottle rocket fights with my crazy brother who would hold them as the rocket started. One of our danger games is during diaper changing time in the girl’s bedroom. One by one or all at the same time they’ll get on Emily’s bed and stand up and Emily will jump while the other two just think it’s funny. It’s so hard not to laugh and be firm. Kids daddy thinks you’re really funny but right now needs to show you the serious face which none of you will take seriously…but thanks for playing. It’s so ironic that Jordan will catch his hand in one of the drawers in the kitchen, scream bloody murder and learn his lesson but when it comes to the bed it’s the trampoline without a memory. Yesterday I was thinking, ‘well you can cry but I don’t feel too sorry for you because I’ve said 19 times in the last five minutes to sit down.’

The other things they like to do, especially the twins, is play with the electrical plugs, the lamp on the table and Grace will climb a chair anywhere even if it’s not stable. Like those people who will climb a mountain just because it’s there is the same thought process she has. At the zoo yesterday she was trying to climb a chair at a table of the family next to us. I figure it’s the child version of an adult sitting down at your table unannounced at Applebee’s and grabbing a wing and dipping it in the blue cheese. “Hi. How are you?” J This is where taking things a day at a time is nice as I don’t want to think about snowballs, apples, or dating at this time.

Baby stock: SToRK

I think someone at Bear Stearns needs to come up with a new fund for those of us who are parents and to get out of the hole they’ve dug with the mortgage crisis. Baby Stock to the rescue! STRK (Affectionately known as “Stork”) for short the stock will consist of the performance of these companies: Costco, P&G, Kimberly Clark, Honda, Toyota, Target, Baby Gap, Carter's, Knob Creek, Robert Mondavi, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Direct TV, and Nintendo.

Now follow my thinking here: You’re pregnant with your first, second…or eighth child. Where do you go to stock up? Costco, of course to buy diapers and wipes made by P&G and Kimberly Clark; see where I’m going? Now you need a minivan and the top two choices out there are Honda and Toyota. After the little wonder comes into your world and you’ve had two hours of sleep you need to make your next run to Target, Baby Gap or Carter’s for supplies and clothes so the kid isn’t stuck in the hospital issued toga or Johnny, Jimmy, Jenny, Jessica, Jeb-a-dia, Jackson, Juanita, or Junior’s clothes (yes, eight if you were counting at home and my little tribute to the Dugger family… Baby Gap and Carter’s has the latest clothes and the deals to match.

Well now you’re both tired from taking care of the one or the many and you’re thinking: I need a drink, a couch, and a clicker. Grab the Knob Creek (Fortune Brands) bourbon from the liquor storage area (we don’t have a cabinet because 1. We’d look like bad parents. 2. It’s another thing to clean prior to showings. 3. Little people love to put finger prints on things like that) and a little diet coke with lime or a glass of wine from Robert Mondavi. Turn on Comcast and Direct TV then when you’ve had enough start up the Wii.

So, let’s do the math here. The stocks are below and here’s their numbers over the past year. Note that the average of all except Nintendo is a 22.35% return rate over the last year. Not bad when we’re paying $4.00+ for gas and gold is over $900 an ounce.

Over the past year:
Costco: +37%
P&G: +7%
Kimberly Clark: +2.4%
Honda: +18%
Toyota: +8.7%
Target: +10.9%
Gap: +19%
Carters: +15%
Fortune Brands: +11.3% (The fine owners of Knob Creek bourbon…my favorite stock of the group)
Constellation Brds +53.0% (Mondavi Wines)
Comcast: +35%
Direct TV: +51%
Nintendo: +475%


We literally go to Costco every Saturday morning after our Music Together class. We buy two cartons of blueberries, two blackberries, a large container of strawberries, one of cherries, one of grapes, and raspberries if they have them. Its pounds of fruit and the little monkeys go through it every week. The timing and savings are very important here. Whereas 10 years ago I was asleep after a night out partying and the closest consistent fruit consumption I had was a cherry at the bar while waiting for my drink, I am now up at 6:00 am—or earlier—on Saturday morning with the little people eating and getting ready for music class. Timing is critical since we talked to Costco managers a couple times after missing the pallet of blueberries a couple weeks in a row; yes, this can ruin a weekend. We now get there at 9:45 a.m. and head straight back to the fruit section. Once again, 10 years ago I was looking for a good conversation with friends or a woman I am now talking to store managers in order to best position myself for Baby Satisfaction (BS…yes, it’s all BS now)…oh my how things have changed! Here’s the other thing, we buy our weekly groceries at Whole Foods and they are known for their organics and high prices. Blueberries there in the little 1” x 4” x 4” box are $3.99-$4.99 and when we buy the blueberry supertanker (3.5” x 4” x 8”) from Costco it’s only $5.99. Don’t even get me started about the raspberries made out of gold at Whole Foods! I think they need to start listing the price by ounces so that I can feel like I’m getting a deal.

Music Together

This is the most awesome music class I’ve ever taken part of. Every Saturday morning we go to a church in Andersonville and participate in this class meant to introduce kids to music, rhythm, singing and dancing. (Lord knows I don’t need them just learning the “white man’s overbite” and embarrassing themselves on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’) The class starts with the “Hello everyone” song where we welcome all the kids by name, the mommy’s and daddy’s, and Julie, our teacher. We then start singing songs and do some dancing to CD’s and making rhythms ourselves by clapping or sounds. The kids have completely grown up in the class and Emily, who’s still pretty shy around groups, will walk up to Julie the teacher or to the other side of the room and then run to Terri or I. Since the kids are free to do whatever they want and they are not in chairs there is a lot of “getting up to do my thing” moments which allows them to have fun and get some energy out. Grace will walk out in the middle of the circle and just stand there and watch Julie. Completely oblivious to what’s going on around her.

My favorite two times during the class are during the “Let’s all play with instruments” part and when it’s time to “blow out the light”. The instruments part is when Julie brings out a big bin of instruments for the kids to take and play with while music is playing in the background. Bells, drums, clappers, chimes and sticks are all a part of this box. Then it’s time to “Blow out the light.” This is when we get to lay down and close our eyes after one of the lights is “blown out” …it lasts all of 11 seconds and then this one bratty kid is always the first to say, “WAKE UP,” without even giving us adults a moment to enjoy the moments of peace. I want to say to her, “One minute, that’s all I ask. Please God, I just want to sleep in and I don’t get to anymore. Do you understand that? No, you don’t, you’re a kid and sleeping in for me is reserved as a rare treat like a truffle on my pillow at some business conference in Houston.” I’m just afraid that I’ll snap one day and do this and all the parents will look at me like I’m crazy and call Lakeview Hospital for the insane. “Mr. Coughlin, your jacket is waiting. Please come with us and it’s not a good idea to resist.”

The Power of Four

I’ve noticed how “fours” are showing up in my life lately. The obvious being the outrageous price of gas but then it got me thinking: Four other people in my immediate family, $4.69 gas and I'm not proud that we have the highest prices in the nation! One station that is notorious for having the highest prices in the city has their full service at $4.97, $4.98, and $4.99. Pretty soon I'll be able to chill in my car and tell the dude in the little white cap that I've decided to revisit my childhood when we got Full Serve. "Fill it up sonny.” Of course then I was 10 and gas was $.50 a gallon. It takes me four hours a day to commute to and from my office if I’m taking the train.

I use 409 more than ever thanks to the house selling process, it’s forty miles from my house to my office, the number of kids I’ll have if I don’t use protection: four.


Back in February Terri had to attend a trade show in Orlando and since she was gone for 10 days we decided that it was a good opportunity for us to take Emily to Disneyworld and Seaworld. The twins stayed with Pavlina for the weekend and we thought it would give Emily a break from them so she could just be paid attention to by mommy and daddy. Flying down I think I was more anxious for her now that she's older and more aware. I was talking her through the take off and landing and making it fun like I enjoy it so she wouldn't be scared. She said, "Going to see mommy," countless times on the way to down and had one little accident on the plane but the timing was great because we were at a stopover in Nashville.

Terri and I were thinking that after each day we’d have some time to hang out and catch up, just the two of us but Emily was like the Energizer Bunny going non-stop each day. We did the Seaworld-Disneyworld-Seaworld again trip and I can’t tell you how much we loved Seaworld over Disneyworld. Disney was packed, and it seemed like you had to walk a long ways to get to the next ride compared to Seaworld, and they had all the animals that Emily was excited about. We saw the dolphin show twice and Emily loved every minute of it. Disneyworld seemed like a convention of fat people. I was amazed at all of them just roaming around and riding the rides. “Excuse me sir, you can’t go on this ride because the 1,500 donuts you’ve consumed over the last year are blocking your ass’s ability to get into the seat. Will you kindly step to the side to let others through?”

There was one ride Emily and I went on, flying Dumbo or something like that, where we waited in line for 25 minutes and we are ready to get on next when Emily says, ‘I have to go pee-pee,’ Are you kidding me?!? I go over and tell the attendant that Emily needs to go to the bathroom and can we come back in. Luckily she said this happens a lot and 10 minutes later we were back to the front of the line ready to go. Thank God for the people at Disney thinking this one through.

I can see us going back once more when the kids are older but with a family of five I don’t know if we’ll be going before the kids are 10 or at an age when they can appreciate it. At today’s rates flights would run around $2,500 round trip and then there’s $200+ a night for the hotel, $600-$1,000 for food plus rental car costs and fuel.

Emily experienced petting a stingray by having me hold a little fish between my fingers on the surface of the pool they were in. They’d come over my hand and suck up the fish and once or twice scared the hell out of me because of the sucking sensation on my hand. I was afraid I was going to end up like the Crock Hunter guy; I can see it now, Tourist Killed by Feeding Stingray, now on (Thanks to CNN’s latest technology you can put that headline on a t-shirt…no kidding. Go to their web site and check it out. My kids would be at my funeral all dressed in white t-shirts: Tourist Killed by Feeding Stingray. Jordan would have to tell observers, “Yeah, that was my dad.”

Later on we had the chance to do one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen: Dolphin feeding. They’d come right up to you and make their chirping sounds as Em’ threw fish into their mouths! If you haven’t done it with your kids you have to make it one of stops in Orlando.

The Honey Bear

One night during the trip Emily was coughing a lot and having trouble getting to sleep. We didn’t have any medicine with us and after seeking advice a couple years ago from our doctor he said honey is just as effective as medicine. The issue was that we didn’t have a car. So, at 1:45 am I called downstairs to the front desk and told them I needed a cab. 15 minutes later I’m in shorts, t-shirt and glasses with disheveled hair looking just a couple steps better off than a homeless guy with a shopping cart. I tell the cabby I need to go to the nearest Walgreen’s and explain the situation. He understands but there’s a problem, he doesn’t know where that is and tries to check his GPS. The area is “new” on the map and obviously he didn’t have a Navteq update. After making a call he realizes there’s a new one not far from the hotel so we head off in that direction. When he gets there I ask him to wait for me and him as I don’t have any place to go and here’s a look at my IL drivers license. So, I run inside but after five minutes of searching I can’t find anything close to honey (they should have a ‘honey bear’ section or put it with the medicine!) I ask the night clerk and she takes me right to the little shelf, a 4”x 6”x 6” square area that holds five honey bears. I get back in the cab and we head back to the hotel. When I get back to the room at almost 2:30 am Emily is sound asleep and I’ve just purchased the most expensive honey bear in my life.

$29.96: $28 cab ride + $1.96 for the actual bear. Believe me that sucker wasn’t being left behind in the room and was in my backpack on the plane. He lived out his days in Chicago and was buried in the recycle bin after his life was used up.