At breakfast, Daddy shows the twins the video in which their Uncle Glenn issued the ALS ice bucket challenge to them. Fisher ran around the house excited, yelling and laughing, “I hate Uncle Glenn!”
Our neighbors are over as the buckets come out, so naturally their two boys want in on the action. They each challenge a friend, and then the event spirals steadily downhill. Anyone who watches this video will be grateful that Papa stopped filming before the hardcore crying…
Taking the twins to an actual tennis court is dicey business. It’s hotter. No shade. Someone will have to go potty. Or someone will get a scrape from a fall or a cut from the edge of a canister lid. Or Fisher, usually Fisher, will just lose interest, and he will do so impossibly far from the alternative activities to occupy him while Cory continues to crack balls, no swing, no bike, no neighbors. His role as “ballie” has considerable appeal this weekend, due to a new ball basket. That lasts for twenty minutes.
After that, he and Papa start antagonizing each other. Papa tells Fisher to pick up balls since he doesn’t want to hit. Fisher tells Daddy that Papa won’t let him play. Papa says he isn’t trying. Fisher starts throwing balls at Papa’s back while Papa’s trying to toss others to Cory. He chucks a ball at Papa’s back…and runs, because, of course, Papa starts turning around to bean balls back toward him. At one point, while the two of them are taunting each other, laughing, and throwing balls back and forth, Daddy and Cory catch eyes. Daddy rolls his at her with a jerk of the head toward the jokers. Cory smiles and tries to roll her eyes back at Daddy. She doesn’t quite have the move down, looking more like a ghoul at Halloween with them rolled back in her head, but Daddy gets the point.
How will this end? Not well, of course. Twenty minutes later, Fisher stands at the net. Papa and Cory are on the other side. Papa tells him to move away from the net. He doesn’t comply. Papa repeats. “You are going to get hit by a ball.” Fisher fiddles. “Fisher, get off the net.” Nothing. “Move, Fisher.”
Papa picks up a ball, swings his racket, and fulfills the prophecy that he’s “going to get hit by a ball.” Ow. Tears. Fisher walks over to Daddy, crying and lifting his shirt to show a red circle. “Papa just…I don’t like…and Papa, he just…and that wasn’t nice…because Papa shouldn’t…” Daddy is sure that the afternoon amounts to two steps back for Fisher and tennis, but at breakfast the next morning, the two of them are laughing about the “antics.” Across the table, Daddy tries to catch Cory to share another eye roll, but she’s too busy laughing with them.
Daddy opens the kids’ door. Cory is already up and about, but Fisher is still sleeping. Daddy moves to stare at the top bunk at eye level. Fisher turns and sees his visitor. He stretches his arms out toward Daddy. Daddy lifts him out of the bunk (which can just barely still happen) and carries him to the sofa. The two settle in to a cuddling position.
D (rustling his hair, kissing him on the forehead while he wakes up): I love you, Fisher Bug.
F (whispering): I love you, too, Daddy.
D: You know soon, in about a week or so, we won’t be able to do this on weekdays anymore.
F: Why not, Daddy?
D (watching one of five dogs resist Cory’s attempts to make her into a doll): Because soon I am going to have to leave to go to work in San Francisco.
F: You have to leave early, like Papa?
D: Well, Papa will stay a little longer with you in the morning, but I have to catch the train to San Francisco.
F (patting Daddy’s shoulder): That’s okay, Daddy. (Pause.) Because you get to ride a train. And that’s fun.
Daddy smiles. Fisher definitely loves trains.
F: And do you have to work on the weekends?
D: No, not on the weekend. Hopefully never on the weekends anymore.
F: Well, let’s cuddle on the weekends then, okay, Daddy?
D: Okay, Fisher.
D (opening Cory’s summer notebook): Let’s do “W.”
F: What for, Daddy?
D: How about we do “w” for the watermelons that our plants outside. . .(pointing). . .will never grow?
C: Those are watermelon plants?
D: Yes, that one is. The other two are pumpkins.
F: Why are there no pumpkins, Daddy?
D: Because the plants didn’t get enough water, I guess. I’m not sure.
C: Well, if there are no watermelons, we shouldn’t just do “w” for watermelon, or…
F: How about we do “w” for water balloons? Like the ones from Pierce’s grandpa?
D: That’s a good idea. “Water balloon” it is. (Beginning to sound and write it out.) Now, what letter comes after “w”…
For her two extra words, Cory picks “walk” and “whale.” Fisher picks “walrus” and, um, “Weimaraner.” Both received a big sticker at the end of the page, but for different reasons.
D: Now, Cory, explain your pictures to me.
C (pointing to her whale): That’s my whale. He has water blowing out of his hole. And he has sharp teeth, but he’s nice. He’s just showing his teeth, just because. And, here is our neighbor Nancy out for a walk, so… And, then these are my water balloons. There’s a green one and a red one.
D: But, what are the blue dots in those balloons?
C: Well, you can’t see those really, but I showed the water inside them. Because otherwise they would be just balloons, not water balloons, so…
D: Awesome. Nice touch. Well, Cory you had solid technical merit, not the best because you had a few erases and a shaky couple of o’s, but solid. You really knocked the artistic impression score out of the park, though. I like the spray from your whale, the water in your balloons, and the fact that the person walking isn’t just any person, but it’s Nancy. You get a fairy sticker today.
D: Now, Fisher, explain your pictures to me.
F: That’s a walrus. He’s a toothwalker. So, he has big teeth.
D (pointing at a four-legged orange stick thing): What’s that?
F: That’s a Weimaraner.
D: Oh. An orange one?
F: Uh huh.
D: Not the usual gray?
D: And the orange circles?
F: Those are my water balloons. I only have orange ones.
D: Cool. So, Fisher, you knocked the technical merit score out of the park today. Really. Not only did you execute the letters well, but you challenged yourself with “Weimaraner.” I mean, we had to look that one up to be sure of the spelling, and…
F: …Daddy, it doesn’t sound like it’s spelled, right?
D: Right. Your artistic impression is solid, too.
F: But, I didn’t go a gray Weimaraner, though, Daddy.
D: That’s all right, you can…
C: Remember, Fisher, for artist impress…impress…impressing, you don’t have to be right or wrong because there is no right or wrong, right, Daddy?
D: Right. You just have to have an explanation for your picture. A reason why you chose this or that.
F (smiling): Okay.
D: And your artistic impression is solid, solid, solid. So, you get a grasshopper sticker today.
D: Now, school starts soon, so we need to make sure that we get through the rest of the letters before then.
C: Maybe we could just keep doing our notebooks after school starts. We could just call them winter notebooks or something.
D: Maybe we can. We’ll see. “Winter notebooks.” I like the sound of that.
They both smile as Daddy packs them away for tomorrow. A week or so later, in the front yard, about to walk to school…
F: Daddy! Daddy, look!
C: Wow, Daddy, look!
Apparently, discarding “watermelon for “w” was a bit premature…
The kids’ current placemats are maps: Fisher’s is a map of the world; Cory’s, of the United States. A frequent game is “name as many states as you can.” California (Papa’s family) and Missouri (Daddy’s family) trip off the tongue. The next guesses are not states, usually Mexico and London, followed by China. With some prodding, they can get Massachusetts (where Boston, Uncle Barry and Aunt Cheryl, and babysitter-extraodinaire Bridget are), Kansas (where Dorothy, Uncle Tim, and Aunt Therese are), and Texas (because Papa bought them “Don’t mess with Texas!” T-shirts on a business trip to Austin). It takes more work to get other states…
D: What about the state where it rained so much that it flooded?
F: What did you say, Daddy?
D: You remember those pictures of the water everywhere on the TV from Hurricane Sandy? What state was that?
C: New York!
D: That’s right, Cory!
C: Where everyone only has four fingers.
F: I think they should have called that hurr-cane Rainy instead of Sandy. Sandy doesn’t make sense, does it, Daddy? There wasn’t a lot of sand; there was a lot of rain on those streets, right?
D: Good point, Fisher.
A few weeks later…
D (pointing to New York): What’s this pink one?
D: No, Austin isn’t a state. It’s a city in Texas, and we already said Texas. This state is the one that had that big, big flood. Remember?
F: New York!
C: People only have four fingers there.
D (huh?): …right, Fisher, good job!
C: I have one, Daddy!
D: Yah, what?
D: Well, that’s awesome that you remembered Canada, but that’s a country, not a state…
A few weeks later…
C: Daddy, is Michigan a state?
C: Where is it?
D: It’s pretty near Missouri, where I am from, but you have to go north from Missouri a bit, toward Canada. And then a little east. Here I’ll show you.
F: That’s where Aunt Tammie is right now?
D (pointing on her placemat): See, this is Missouri. If you go up and over some, that’s Michigan. Yes, Aunt Tammie is there visiting relatives.
C: Oh. Do people in Michigan have five fingers or four?
D (huh?): What? Five fingers, you silly goose. Well, ten fingers, five on each hand.
C: Oh. Like we do, right?
D (thinking about it): Right. Some people say that your thumb is not a finger. So, those people will say that a person has four fingers and a thumb on each hand, rather than five fingers on each hand.
F (making a face): What!?
D: Yes, that’s what they say…
The next day or so, Fisher picks one of their favorite books to read at bedtime, one of the Knuffle Bunny books by Mo Willems. It is a cool trilogy about Trixie, her daddy, and her favorite stuffed animal, all set in New York City, until the third book, which goes global. (Thanks, Matt and Julie, they are still among the kids’ favorites!)
D (turning the page): “Before she knew it, the plane had landed. Trixie and her family left the airport and got on a train to go to…” See how tired Trixie is?
D: She’s as tired as you guys were when we landed in Boston.
F: I was tired that day, right, Daddy?
C: Me, too. (Pointing at Trixie’s dad.) See, Daddy, Trixie’s daddy only has four fingers.
D (staring): What?
C (counting them): 1-2-3-4. See?
D (looking at the other pictures): Wait. Oh.
C (counting Trixie’s fingers): 1-2-3-4. See? The people only have four fingers. They are from New York, so…
F: Daddy, why do they only have four fingers on er, eh, uh each hand?
D (not the “thumb is not a finger” thing after all): Um, I don’t know. That’s a really good question. I never noticed that before.
C: I don’t know why people in New York only have four fingers, so…
D: Well, people everywhere, including New York, have five fingers on each hand.
C: Then, why don’t Trixie and her daddy and her mommy have five fingers?
D: I really don’t know. (Pause.) Maybe the artist got tired of drawing fingers?
C: Maybe he got tired. Like Trixie.
D (laughing to himself): Huh. I get it now.
C: Get what?
D: Nothing. I just didn’t understand. Now, I get it. But, I don’t know why the artist only drew four fingers. It’s a good question.
F: Daddy, I have a good idea?
F: We can ask Siri! She’ll know!
D (smiling): Okay, we can ask Siri later. Not now. Right now Trixie is getting off the plane to visit…
C: Her Opa and Oma…
D (turning the page): That’s right.
F: Look, Daddy! See, Trixie’s Oma and Opa only have four fingers, too.
D: I see. Now. “Oma and Opa were so happy to see Trixie!…”