Holly likes to have nice meals where we sit down at the table as a family, say our prayers and eat good healthy organic food in a peaceful manner, talking and telling stories from the day. Lately it hasn’t been so peaceful.

For the past couple weeks, our one-year-old, Luke, had been trying to say something that we’d not been able to understand. Then, two nights ago, we figured out what he was saying. He was trying to say, “FORK,” but he wasn’t saying the ‘r’ and he was mispronouncing the ‘o’. Think about it.

He would say it at the table, really loudly. It was kind of distracting. I’d look over at Holly, and she’d have her game face on, “Everything is okay. Just pretend nothing is happening.” Luke of course was not perturbed, he’d just get louder. There he’d be at his end of the table, across from me at the foot of the table, standing on his chair. Before too long, he’d be howling the word into the air like a wolf in a story he’s been read.

I’d look over at Holly, and whisper, “Should I get out the video camera.

“NO.” She’d whisper back. “Everything is just fine, there is no problem.”

Luke would start yelling the word louder and faster.

I’d say, “It’d be really cute later.”

She’d lean over and say, “I’m just thankful no high school kids are here.”

“Yeah, that’d be really bad.”

His patience would start to give way and he’d start banging his hand on the table.

After a while, our pre-school aged son, would ask, “What is that word he’s saying? What is he saying?”

By this time Luke would be all worked up, and would start banging his cup or bowl against the table as he would continue his yelling one word chant, punctuated each time with a sharp crack of his plate against the table.

I suppose, at this point it’s important to ask, “Are parents stupid?” Imagine the scene: a perfectly normal 1.8 year old asking for something everyone else at the table has. It’s something he uses almost every day. He’s only mispronouncing it by a tiny bit. And yet we don’t have a clue what he’s trying to say. Am I stupid? Is Holly Stupid?

These are important questions to ask yourself when you have kids.

These are the questions the kids are asking.

I just couldn’t go with the ‘stupid’ theory. The word that seems to fit is DENIAL. Denial is a great parental technique, it turns out.

You see, to us it just did NOT seem possible that we’d have a child saying such word. We do NOT have a TV. We don’t listen to shock radio. Neither boy has a parent or significant adult in their lives, at this time, who swears around the home or even at work at all. None of their friends swear, or have enough influence on them to cause this type of behavior. Logically, it just did NOT make sense that we had a son who swore. And yet, here he was at the end of the table, saying this word over and over and over. It was quite a puzzle. I guess it makes sense. We did what the books say we’re supposed to do when a child accidentally happens across a swear word as he’s learning to speak and pretended it wasn’t happening.

Eventually, Luke would give up, get down from his chair, and walk over to my side of the table to get some food.

Well, eventually we did figure it out. I think that Mark was the one that eventually said, “I think he wants a fork.” Then it dawned on us. Of course he wanted a fork.

It was the only thing that made sense.

The meals are a bit more peaceful now that we’ve learned what he’s been saying.

And the Luke is still pretty cute.

Juneau (track meet)

On the way back from Juneau on the fast ferry, as Holly and Luke slept at one of the booths and I read my book (Empire, by Orson Scott Card), Mark was playing with a Haines boy named Cameron. They were playing along for quite a while at the booth, then all of a sudden Cameron ran off and then Mark jumped down to the floor, landed right beside my head and said in a quiet voice, “Daddy, can I go play a video game with Cameron?”

I just had to chuckle, inwardly, about the question and all it entailed. I said, “Mark, do you even know what a video game is?”

He looked at me very seriously, looked around to make sure Cameron wasn’t watching and said in a whisper, “What is it?”

At that point I did have to chuckle out loud, “A video game isn’t a regular game where you run around and play tag or chase, or catch or wrestle, or even pretend stuff in a story. It’s a game where you sit still and look at a screen and operate some controls to move things around or control things on the screen. It’s fun, but you don’t get to run around.”

“Oh.” He said with a somewhat serious expression. “Can I go play the game with Cameron?”

I looked over at Cameron, who didn’t have any obvious computer or game on him, then over at Holly to see she was asleep then said “Yeah, you can go play the game.”

He jumped up and ran off.

After reading a few more pages of the book (which I do recommend with perhaps 3.5 out of 5 stars) I went over to where they’d gone to see how things were progressing. Around a corner in the aft of the ship they were trying to get one of the race track—driving arcade games to work, but all they had for coins was a dollar coin.  Cameron traded me the coin for a dollar bill, and they discussed how they’d take turns. On Mark’s turn, Cam was going to operate the peddles while Mark steered.

A few minutes later, Mark came running back to me and asked if he could have another dollar. I said, “Mark, we can’t afford to keep putting dollars in the machine—it won’t stop taking money and it will cost too much.”

He was a bit downcast, but not too much. Then about ten minutes later, he came back and in a whisper asked if he could have just a quarter. I said, “Later on, if you want we can get some video games for my computer and you can learn to play those if you want. Does that sound good?” He nodded, but looked a little confused. “Did you know that lots of people use their computers mostly for playing games? That’s what John Charles mostly does with his computer does with his computer.  Did you know that?”


“We can get some video games later on, for my computer at home.  Did you get to play the game?”

“Yeah, I got to play, but I drove off the road.”

“Yeah.  It happens.  Later on, we’ll get a game and you can learn to play it at home.”

At that he ran off and went to play with his plastic animals: bears, tigers, and lions, with a few cats and dogs thrown in for good measure—lately he’s been pretending with Blackie (Grandma Plucker) that we’re going to buy a bunch of pets—dogs.

We went to Juneau this weekend and had fun getting away for a while. Holly had to get a prenatal checkup at the Juneau Birth Center and we’re a little surprised that they have almost doubled their rates since we had Luke two years ago. It’s now $10,000 to have a baby and instead of making the birthing classes optional, they are now all included in the price with attendance optional. I guess that they have so many people that go to them without insurance that they needed to raise the rates to the maximum insurance companies will pay to help make ends meet—what can you do?

It’s tempting to just get a hotel room and then apologize when we leave. Opps—sorry about the mess in the bathroom.

At Chapel by the Lake, we went to a retreat lead by Eugene Peterson, author of the Message, a translation of the Bible. He was a very thought-provoking speaker and I’m convinced I need to grow up more and am starting to work on that. Probably the best part of the trip was debriefing and deconstructing his lectures afterwards both in the small groups organized by the church, and then afterwards at Tracy’s house—we had a gob of fun talking about the various points, the delivery methods, and how churches operate, grow, and don’t grow, in our experience.

I shot some pictures of the Haines Track kids in Juneau at the invitational—that is a big meet! It would have been nice to have seen the prelims on Friday, as we didn’t have a whole lot of kids running in the Finals on Saturday—two key races I missed were Christine Hansen’s races in the hurdles; we arrived late for the 100 hurdles and we didn’t stay long enough for the 300m low hurdles.

The Family Bed

Costco Memory Foam Bed: delivered from Anchorage by the Greens $649.

If you’re like me, you cringe and get a little embarrassed if someone in polite company starts to discuss “the family bed.” Then after the initial embarrassment wears off, you’re nowhere to be found, having moved off to any conversation where topics are more familiar, and the ground a bit more solid.

Lately, it’s been a little too crowded in our queen sized bed.  If it were just Holly and me there’d be enough room… but it’s not. When she was expecting our first boy, Holly read a lot!  I am NOT kidding. She read a ton of books. I’m talking on the order of eight to fifteen books a day.  And if hindsight were the equal of foresight, I’d have removed a number of books from the house which had overstayed their welcome, as far as I was concerned.  One, or perhaps many, of these books detailed sleeping arrangements.  After many months of discussion, Holly eventually convinced me that the easiest night-time routines would be achieved with the baby sleeping next to a warm body in a “Family bed.”  The primary advantages of the “family bed,” she said were:

1) It’s warmer in the big bed than in a crib, so the baby would be all warm cozy (we keep the house at 65 degrees F).  When a baby is born, he or she is shocked by the coldness of the world outside and likes to be nestled in to a big warm body—preferably the maternal unit.

2) The baby would sleep more soundly because they’d be right next to their mother, and they’d be hearing the soporific breathing of the parents.

3) There would be less chance of crib death.  Barring accidental suffocation, the baby would be less likely to forget to breathe in and breathe out, while in the close company of other biological units that were carrying on a steady tempo of breathing in and breathing out.

4) It’s easier to feed a baby who wakes up hungry or thirsty, all a mother would have to do is nurse the baby right there in bed.  Everyone concerned would have a minimum of fuss.

5) If the baby was NOT in the main “family bed” the father would have to take the baby to and from the crib all night as the baby’s needs were met—that’s all I needed to hear.  I suppose this was where I might have put my foot down and decided to tell her how things were going be under my roof, or some such talk.  But the time for that has long since past and at the present time we’ve got two good sleepers and a third one due in November.

In reality “the family bed” is NOT as far ‘out there’ as some might suggest.

Imagine, for a second, that there exists a spectrum of sleeping arrangements for families with kids.  On one end, is the most traditional: parents in the “big bed” and each of the kids in their own individual beds, cribs, or bunk beds, and perhaps in a separate kid’s room or even an individual room for each child.  This has worked well a for great long time, for as long, I suppose, as people have had the wherewithal to build houses with multiple beds and rooms—and is the type of sleeping arrangement with which I am most familiar.  The traditional model allows varied bed times for all those in the family.  Parents can watch the late show, enjoy the occasional chick flick, watch a drama from time to time, or even take in an action film, all the while pretending their lives haven’t changed ‘too’ much with the addition of the offspring.

On the other end of the spectrum is the “family bed” where everyone piles into a big bed and goes to sleep at the same time. 

Somewhere in the middle of these extremes are the families that have a “big bed” and then have a crib on the floor next to the bed, or adjacent to the bed, or a toddler bed, or even bunk beds in the same or different rooms.  In this happy median, I would imagine kids going to sleep at various times and sleeping soundly through the entire night and waking up bright eyed and ready to take on a new day—right. 

Actually, I’d be willing to bet that in many homes the kids and parents struggle over bed times and wake-up times; kids sometimes go to sleep when they’re told to. More often than not the ‘big bed’ gets piled with people in the mornings as kids climb into the warmth of the parent’s bed at, perhaps, inopportune times.

In our ‘Family Bed’ we’ve reached a critical point: Luke is all over the place; sleeping this way and that, pitching and rolling, arms flopping forward and aft: really it’s been a mess.  Don’t get me wrong. He’s a cute little guy and when he’s asleep, he looks like an angel—don’t all toddlers look angelic when they’re asleep?  Sometimes, I wish they’d sleep a bit more… I digress.

I guess I said all of that just to say, “WE JUST GOT A FREAKING KING SIZED MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS from COSTCO!!”  I’m hoping that my back is not as sore tomorrow morning. 

Sleep tight


There’s a serious cold going around town.  The other night, Mark Daniel went past the point where the cough was helping him clear his throat and went into the mode where every time he coughed it got worse, so he just started to cough more and more.  Of course the only kind of medicine we have in the house is Ibuprofen, so all I could do in the dark of night was get him some water to drink.

When I was growing up, we had all sorts of medicine in the cabinet, and we took Dimetapp whenever we got the sniffles, Pepto Bismal, aspirin, Tylenol, Visine, nose spray (I think it was epinephrine), cough medicine of various types, throat lozenges (medicated), cough drops (unmediated), Vicks rub (whatever that was).  We had vitamin C, vitamin E, and some multivitamin pills around; there were allergy pills, of various types–we always did finish our antibiotic pills when we went on those, there were teas.  Seems like we were always getting colds or strep throat, indigestion or something that required a trip to the medicine cabinet.

So Mark was there coughing his lungs out, just about to cry from the pain, and I started to get upset that Holly didn’t keep all the medicines around–plus whenever I buy any, they always seem to vanish or get put in storage.  All I wanted was a medicated throat lozenge for Mark so he wouldn’t have to keep coughing and could go back to sleep–actually, I think what I really wanted, looking back on it, was to go back to sleep myself.  I looked through all the stuff in the bathroom cabinets then started to poke around the closet to see if I could locate the large paper bag of stuff that had been cleaned out of the bathroom this past fall.  No luck.

So I got Mark a drink of warm water, and for some reason his coughing stopped enough that he went back to sleep.  In the morning, I told Holly I was going to the store right away to by some cough syrup and some medicated throat lozenges, as soon as I was off work.

So, sure enough, I hadn’t even had time to leave work yet when Holly showed up at school with the boys, Mark wasn’t coughing but was running around as if nothing was wrong, coughing occasionally, but no coughing fits.  She handed me a foil-covered tube of square cough drops and said she’d just come from the store and had gotten some non-sugar cough drops, with no medicine in them, and also some non-sugar cough syrup from the local organic food store.  Typical.

Normally, I’d’ve tempted to charge off to the local grocery store and buy some really strong stuff like I’d want that would really numb the throat, then get some thick syrupy red cough syrup, like I had when I was a kid: and show here what was what–but only for a second.  Instead I shrugged and got my water bottle down for Mark and Luke to get a drink of water from my water bottle.

So Holly wins another battle on how to raise the kids. I don’t know if she wins most of them because her way is better, or because I don’t have the will to fight it. But secretly, I think it’s because she’s smarter about kids and medicine: neither of the boys has ever had as much as an aspirin.

Aside: the water bottle is one of the Whaler Mascot Blue and White water bottles which they sell at the school store up in Barrow—bought by one of my former students who went to Barrow for a week