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Sundown Eclipses Serena

At this year’s trip to the BOTW Classic tennis tournament at Stanford, there are two main stars: Serena Williams and sundown. As for Serena, when Daddy walks up to the gate to the stadium with the twins, she is warming up for her match so close by that Daddy could reach over the fence to lift up her headphones, you know, to see what she is listening to. The kids are amazed that the woman they’ve only seen on TV is right there. Daddy picks them each up to see. Serena’s bodyguard just glares.

As for sundown, well, before it…

C (after the first point of the match, sitting sun-in-face): Who won?
D (whispering): Serena.
C (blank stare): Oh. (After the next point.) Who won?
D (whispering): Pliskova.

Who won? Serena. Who won? Pliskova. Who won? Serena. Who won? Pliskova. Who won? Serena. Who won? Pliskova. Who won? Serena. Who won? Pliskova. Meanwhile, Fisher fidgeted. And sweated.

At sundown…ICE CREAM.

After sundown…

F (during doubles warmups): Daddy, who do you want to win?
D: The tall girls.
F (turning to Uncle Pierce): Who do you want to win?
UP: The short girls.

Cory teams up with Uncle Pierce to root for the short girls (even though Cory is going to be a tall girl). Fisher teams up with Daddy to root for the tall girls. Breeze picks up. Crowd thins. Jackets come out. They each zap (with fingers crossed), clap, and snap to bring their team luck. Their faces rise and fall comically as their team either wins or loses a point. Every time the tall girls lose a point, Fisher’s shoulders drop, as he aaaaa-uuuuhhhh’s through a smile, while Cory gets in Daddy’s face to nanny-nanny-bootwhacker. And vice versa. At 9:30, after the first set, they don’t want to leave.

At bedtime, Fisher whispers, “Thank you for taking me to eh, er, uh tennis, Daddy. I liked it SO much. But, Daddy, I like the singles this much, [indicating a little] but I like the doubles THIS MUCH [indicating a lot].” Daddy smiles and kisses him good night: “You’re welcome, Fisher.” Cory has already passed out.

Of the two stars, they were definitely happier to see sundown…

Green Smoothie Connections

D: Guys, I have a connection!
C: What, Daddy?

The two have been arguing about something inane. Daddy decides to divert and redirect. A kindergarten exercise meant to develop reading comprehension is to encourage kids to find and talk through connections — anything that links two stories together, a story to a song, etc. So, when Daddy reads books to the twins, Daddy always tries to identify one or two connections in that story to something else. The kids don’t “have to” point out connections themselves, but because Daddy does it, they often do it, too (when they aren’t too tired, since book reading occurs most often before bed).

D: Mary Poppins just said that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.
F: What did you say, Daddy?
D: Mary Poppins just said that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, and Cory was joking earlier, pretending to be sick to get some medicine.

Cory smiles.

D: I bet the reason why you want some medicine is…
C: It tastes good.
D: And, I bet it tastes good because it has some sugar in it!
F: Does it have a spoonful of sugar?
D: Well, I don’t know about a spoonful, but I bet it has some. That’s a kind of connection.
F: Rum punch! Daddy, can you do the eh, er, uh rum like Mary Poppins does?
D (rolling it): R-r-r-r-rum punch!

They laugh. The conversation between them veers off into what they watch on TV, apparently inspired by Daddy’s mention of Mary Poppins. A few minutes later, it devolves into an argument that ends with each claiming to hate the other.

D: Okay, guys, that’s it. We don’t need this kind of arguing right now. We don’t need it. If you want to argue about peace in the Middle East or a raise in the minimum wage, okay, but arguing about whether you should watch My Little Pet Shop or My Little Pony first is just plain silly, especially because you aren’t watching either. At least not today.
C: But, Daddy, he…
F: She just always wants to…
D: Guys! That’s it. I’m all done. (Opening the refrigerator and reaching for Papa’s store of kale shake, then moving to the cabinet for two kids’ cups.) We were going to go out for a quick bike ride around the block after dinner, I know, but now, since you are arguing too much, that bike ride sits on…(pouring the re-shaken kale shake into the two cups)…the other side of this green smoothie.
F: What does that mean, Daddy?
D (placing a cup in front of each): That means dinner is not over until you each drink this green smoothie. That means no bike ride until you each drink your green smoothie.
C: But, Daddy…
F: Aaaaaahhhh! But, Daddy…
D (not knowing what she’s worried about, since she actually likes green smoothie and needs some to get things, um, moving and knowing full well what he’s worried about, since he struggle to choke down most veggies and hates green smoothie): No “but Daddies.” None. Drink.

Cory drinks hers with the rest of her food, pretending like it’s some chore when it isn’t. For Fisher, it’s a huge chore. He asks for a refill of ice water. Then, whenever he takes a small swig of his smoothie, he chases it down with ice water right away. He chafes, resists, pleads, but having drawn the line, Daddy is unwilling to erase it. It isn’t until Cory is excused and in her bike helmet, standing with Daddy over at the front door, ready to go ride, that Fisher drains the last two gulps from the cup in a dramatic final push. His face blanches. He sets the cup down, and he rushes to the door to go riding.

C (over her shoulder as she heads outside): Good job, Fisher.
F (turning back at the last minute): Oh, Daddy, I forgot.
D: Forgot what? Your helmet’s out here.
F: I just don’t like that taste, Daddy.

He runs back to the table and grabs something. He runs to the bathroom. Daddy finds him, with the something — a pirate eye patch — on, brushing his teeth. He apparently REALLY doesn’t like that taste. A few minutes later…

F (riding along a roadside evergreen bush with visible spider webs and leaves woven throughout, Daddy walk-jogging at his side): Oh, Daddy, I have a connection!
D: Oh? What’s that?
F: That bush is really green and so is that green smoothie!
D: That is a connection. You’re right. Good one, Fisher.


F: And it tastes like you put that er, eh, uh bush in the mixer with that smoothie, Daddy.
D (laughing): How do you know what that bush tastes like?
F: Did you put some of that bush in that er, eh uh green smoothie, Daddy?
D: No, do you want me to? That’d get some protein in there.
F: No! There are spiders in that bush. (Making a smiley, imp face.) Maybe that’s why I don’t like uh, er, eh how that smoothie tastes. Maybe that kale just has some spiders in it and it gets mixed in that smoothie.
D (reaching for him): There are no spiders in that smoothie, Fisher! Ima pinch-twist you for that!
F (laughing and speeding up): You can’t get me, Daddy! I can ride a bike now. So, I am faster! And those spiders in that smoothie taste yuck!

The Twentieth Bead

It’s mid-90s out.

F: Daddy, can we ride our bikes now?
D: Sure, but it’s hot outside.
C: Can we ride to the bagel shop?
D (reluctant to commit to a long, harrowing ride downtown in what will surely be aggravating heat): Yes, we can try. But, it’s pretty hot outside, guys.
F: I’m gonna get ready, Daddy.

Suspecting that their enthusiasm would never make it to downtown, Daddy slathers sunblock on Cory anyway, while Fisher, already outside, straps his helmet on. He sends her out to put her helmet on…and forms a plan.

F (halfway down the street): Daddy, you have a good brain. It IS hot outside.
D (looking back where she’s stopped in the shade): Thanks, Fisher. Cory, are you coming?
C: My legs are tired.
D: Um, we haven’t made it off our street.
C: But, my legs are tired.
D: Well, let’s just try to make it to your school. We can stop there and get a drink at the water fountain.
F: That’s a good plan, Daddy!
C: Can you carry my bike?
D: Um, no. You can ride your bike. It’s not that far.
C: But, Daddy…
D: Come on, Cory, don’t lollygag.

The lunch area at their school has about 25 picnic tables shaded under a huge, permanent tent. Daddy stops the two of them there. It looks like a good spot.

D: Okay, guys, ride your bikes over to the water fountain and get a drink.
F: Are you going to stay here?
D: Yes. Go on!

As the two pedal away, Daddy takes about 25 beads from his pocket and casts them in a wide arc toward the shaded tables. They ping around and settle into the gravel. Daddy lies down on the corner table. The kids return.

C: Daddy, can we rest here for a minute?
D (already lying down): Sure. We can get going to the bagel shop in a minute. I’m sure we’ll want to get going in a minute.
F (taking his helmet off): Daddy, this is where the big kids eat lunch.
C (taking hers off as well): We’re going to be big kids soon, right?
D: Right, but not for another year. This year, you will be kindergartners.

The kids start playing some game on the tables around Daddy that basically involves Fisher agreeing to rules that Cory makes up. Daddy watches, thinking, eh, maybe the beads weren’t needed. Their game continues.

F (chafing under all the rule-making after a while): Daddy, can we go to the bagel shop now?
D: Sure, it’s good that we stopped to gather our energies. Do you want to go get one more drink before we continue the journey?
F (putting his helmet back on): No, thank you, Daddy.
C (bending over): Look! A bead!
F: What did you say, Cory?
C: A bead!
F: Let me see.

Cory holds out an orange bead that she picked up from the gravel.

F: Oh, I like that bead, Cory. Daddy, can I find a bead, too?
C: I think the kids must have been making necklaces here or something, right, Daddy?
D: Yes, maybe. Fisher, do you see any?

Over the next half hour, they have a blast challenging each other to find beads. They place them on the lens cap to count them. After a count, a recount, and re-recount, they decide that they have found nineteen beads. Daddy bets that there must be a twentieth bead out there somewhere. “Where is that twentieth bead, guys? Can you find it? I bet there’s a twentieth bead!” It takes them almost another full half hour to find it. Daddy dozes in and out, enjoying the breeze and shade and the sound of their voices.

D: You found it!
F: We have to show Papa all these beads!
C: Yah, can you put them in your pocket, Daddy?
D: Sure, I will put them in this pocket right here. I’ll keep them there on our journey downtown.


F: Daddy, do we have to go to the bagel shop today?
D: No, we don’t HAVE to. But, I thought you wanted to…?
F: Well…
C: It’s kind of hot. And that’s a long way.
D: But, I thought we wanted to ride downtown…
F: Well…
C: We could just ride home…Papa will want to see our beads!
F: Oh, yah. We need to show them to him.
D: Well, why don’t we ride down that other street to go home? That’ll get us good practice. And then, we can cool down.
C (moving toward her bike and helmet): Okay! It is hot out here, Daddy.
F: That’s a good idea!
C: Daddy, you have our beads, right?
D (patting the pocket where the beads were, um, replaced): Yep! Got ‘em.

Daddy walks along as they zip in front and return, then back behind and return, practicing turning without stopping, watching where they are going, and moving to the side for oncoming cars. They are red-faced and eager for a/c as they approach the house, having never made it further than three or four blocks away.

F: Daddy, that was a good adventure.
C: Can I have a gogurt?
D: Yes, it was, Fisher. Yes, Cory, you can have a gogurt.

An adventure that involved a shaded nap and cost about five beads…

Hungry for the Weekend

C: How many days until it’s the weekend?
D: One. Tomorrow.
F: And after tomorrow, it’s the weekend?
D: Yes.
C: Yay! Then we can watch movies and eat ice cream and…
F: …go to the beach and fly kites and ride our bikes and…
D (laughing): Um, like the weekdays at camp are so hard? You know, when you draw pictures and play games with your friends and go swimming every day and make sun visors and jellyfish and slide down a water slide and…


C: No, Daddy. When it’s the weekend, we get to stay with Papa and with you.
F: Yah.

Aaaawwww, so sweet.

C (smiling): And we don’t have to eat eggs for breakfast.
F: Yay! Daddy, can Papa make waffles for breakfast on the weekend?

Aaaawwww, such a sweet tooth.

How the Whinoceros Got Another “R”

In the middle of a particularly whiny morning…

F: Let’s do W.
D: Okay, go!
F: Weinareiner!
D (seeing the neighbor walking her Weimaraner out the window): Good one, Fisher!
C: Whale!
D: Nice, Cory!
F: Um, Daddy, can you give us a hint?
D: What!? A hint? Already?
C: Rhinoceros!
D: Um, Cory, that starts with an “r.”
C: Oh.
D: But, you do know that rhinoceroses used to start with a “w”…
F: What did you say, Daddy?
D: Rhinoceroses used to be called whinoceroses. Yah, they didn’t always have their horns on their noses like that.

Fisher and Cory stare at Daddy.

D: Whinoceroses used to be big grey animals that tromped around the jungle whining all the time, really loud, through their horns. They’d go like this…(tromping)…”But, I don’t wanna brush my…waa waa waa”…(more tromping)…”And, Daddy, I don’t wanna clean my…waa waa waa…”

Cory lifts a hand up to hide a smile.

D: The whinoceroses’ noses used to be nice and flat. They used to carry around these big grey horns, though. They just tromped around all day and night, using those horns to make all their whining super loud…(tromping)…”But, Daddy, Fisher told me that I’m a waa, waa, waa” and “Daddy! Cory isn’t sharing the waa, waa, waa with me”…!
F: Did you er, uh, eh hear them, Daddy?
D: Oh, that was a long time ago. See, one day, a nice witch was traveling near where all the whinoceroses were doing their constant, non-stop, never-ending, loud-as-can-be whining, and she stopped and had to cover her ears. She asked the first one who came close by if he could please stop caterwauling that like.
F: What is catwalling?
D: In this story, it’s another word for “whining.”
F: Well, why didn’t that witch just say “whining”? That’s silly.

Cory is still hiding her smile.

D: Because variety is the spice of life. Well, that first whinoceros just whined back at that good little witch, “But, I don’t want to stop caterwauling about…waa, waa, waa.” He tromped away. But, the good little witch could still hear him. She could hear all of them, they were whining so much and so loudly. Before long, another whinoceros came along, whining as well. She asked her, “Why do you have to whine through your horn all day? It just blasts your self-pity around so everyone can hear it.” In response, that second whinoceros whined, through her horn, really loudly, “But, I don’t want to just whine to myself. I want to whine so that waa, waa, waa…”

They are rapt in attention.

D: Well, the good little witch wasn’t a full-grown witch yet. She was just learning. But, all the whinoceroses whining was breaking her concentration. So, she decided to try a reversal spell on the horns of those whinoceroses. You know, a spell that would make the sounds coming out of them softer, rather than louder. She stood at the edge of the whinoceroses’ land, she raised her hand, she cast her spell, and BAM! Every single horn flew away from each whinoceros, spun around in the air, and landed with the fat part of the horn right back on the whinoceros’s nose! And, do you know what?
F: What, Daddy?
D: It just stuck there! Those horns fixed themselves forever to those whinoceroses’ noses! Now, each whinoceros had a horn planted backwards, right there on its nose! Well, you can imagine that it’s hard to whine through a horn that’s plastered backwards on your nose, and without being able to whine so that everyone could hear them, do you know what those whinoceroses decided to do?
C: What, Daddy?
D: Stop whining! They just stopped. And, not only did that good little witch smile, even though her spell hadn’t worked exactly as she intended, so did everyone else who lived within earshot. They were so happy not to hear all that whining all day long.

Fisher and Cory stare.

D: And to this day, no one calls a rhinoceros a “whinoceros.” Because a rhinoceros barely says anything anymore. It’s an animal of few sounds. And, it certainly never ever whines. Thank goodness.

A couple breakfasts later, Fisher plays with a dinosaur figurine.

D: What’s that?
C (hesitantly, trying to remember): A whinosaurus?
F: No, Cory, no. It’s a whinoceros.
D (smiling and pointing and having randomly Googled “whinoceros”): Are you sure it isn’t a cryceratops? (Pause.) Have I ever told you that the triceratops used to be called the cryceratops?


F: No, but Daddy?
D: Yes?
F: Can this just be a whinoceros, Daddy?
D (smiling): Sure, Fisher, sure.

Better to quit while ahead.