Christmas Came Early This Year

Vincent had "Santa's Secret Shop" at school this past week. You know, where you get to shop at school with "your own money" and they help you pick and wrap the presents. Vincent loved this. So much so that he didn't want to wait until December 25th to give us all our gifts. Christmas came on December 15th this year.

He was intensely proud of this activity, which was so cool to see. He had never had the experience of independent shopping before. And he was practical to boot. Check out what I got - it's an ice scraper inside a warm and fuzzy mitt! And it's personalized!! How appropriate for this past weekend, too.

Our child has done his part to help the GDP. And he's proud of it.


Christmas Spirit?

You may remember this. Or even this. Well I apologize but this year's version isn't nearly as exciting. I still kind of love it for different reasons, though. It's like they're thinking, "C'mon. That all you got, dude? Entertain me. Some ear flapping and tail wagging and I'm supposed to be impressed?"

It's also a very honest representation of the past few months. The stir-craziness caused by too much time at home recovering from the latest minor illness has us all in a bit of a trance. We need some serious time away from...stuff.

Now if it started speaking to each of them specifically and reciting their Christmas lists, then we'd be onto something.

Don't let me downplay their excitement for the holidays, though. They're at great ages for this time of year and we're trying to involve ourselves in as much as possible. You gotta get it in while you can, right? Soon enough they'll be waiting for a real dog to be shaking it's ears and tail on the floor, singing holiday songs.

No. We're not getting a dog.



The Island of Misfit Toys

The handiwork of a three year old with a multitude of Christmas knick knacks at his level. Headless Nutcrackers. Maimed Santas. Busted ornaments. All collected on the kitchen counter for eventual gluing. You think they come alive at night to sing and dance?


Masked Medicine Man

This is what happens when you don't take your medicine. This masked figure will approach you and force you to take it. DON'T YOU FORGET IT.


I Am Your Father.

This is the greatest. Some of Vincent's friends have been talking to him about Star Wars. He hadn't gotten into it previously so now he's curious. A few weeks back, we rented the first one (Episode IV, the real first one), sat down and watched the whole thing. The film is pretty heavy on politics and setup but he enjoyed several moments and wanted to know more about the characters.

I told him I had a whole case full of guys in Mom-Mom's basement and that blew his mind. We picked them up and he hasn't been the same since. Constantly taking them out, setting them up, putting them back, asking names, affiliations, what the other movies are like. I'm completely geeked out and heartwarmed at the same time. We've got Empire and Jedi set to record later this week (is Jedi too much for a 5 year old? Jabba, the Rancor...) and we're both equally pumped.

I'm sure this is a common thing among 30 something Dads - reliving the Star Wars glory days. My question is, how come it still resonates with kids? What is it about Star Wars? Is The Force real?


Pink Drips, Eardrum Rips & Busted Lips

Pete - singin' the blues.

You know I'm not one to complain when we get sick. Its such a normal part of parenthood, family life, preschool, whatever. Kids bring germs home. They cough, sneeze and breathe all over everything, infect the house, give it to their parents, get it back from their parents, blah blah blah. It's the cold season. It happens.

Still, this season has been some bullshit. Over and above the typical stuff. About 6 weeks ago, I started a Brett family pink eye co-op. I had never had it in my life before getting it most likely from a hotel while away for work (gross, right?). So I took some drops, but probably not for as long as I should have. A week later, Peter's got it. We followed the protocol for him and took him to his pediatrician. A week of antibiotic drops later and he's golden.

Two weeks later, I get it again. Then he gets it again. Then me again briefly. Then my Mom, who watches the boys a couple of days a week. It was conjunction junction around here. Four rounds of sheet, pillowcase, blanket, everything washings later and things appear to be back to normal. Fingers crossed.

From there, Rosalie gets a bad ear situation - clogging, pain, ringing. She battles through Thanksgiving, which we hosted, and woke up the next day with serious issues. Bad ear infection. So bad that it most likely ruptured her eardrum. For real. We weren't exactly sure because she's a Spartan and doesn't really tell people when she's in pain. So she's been down for the count this weekend, letting the antibiotics do their good work. By the way, are there many worse words in the English language than "ruptured?" Name me five.

Finally, earlier today, the boys and I were outside when Peter took off for the house, tripped over a stone step and smashed right onto the edge of the deck, lips-first. The poor kid was pouring blood as I scooped him up, ran inside, kicking the door open like a firefighter to work on him. Luckily no teeth were damaged but he bonked the everloving hell out of his upper lip. Brilliant idea of the month goes to my sick wife, who brought him a popsicle to bring the swelling down, knowing he woudn't keep ice on his lip for more than 3 seconds. But would he keep wild berry sugar-ice? Yes.

He's fine now but he's definitely aware of his huge top lip ("I can't eat my chicken because I've got a broken lip, Mommy."). On top of that, it makes for a very uncomfortable pacifier experience so he went to bed for the first time in his life tonight without one. Tearlessly!

I may change the name of this blog to Warrior Milk after all these tough people I live with. So bring it on, winter. That all you got?

Oh, it is? Good.


Peter Camus

I've written previously about the random thoughts that kids, Peter in this instance, always seem to verbalize. It's one of the simplest, most unexpected pleasures of parenting.

You want an example? Sure. I've got a couple. With Pete, it usually happens just before I leave his bed to let him fall asleep. He'll be chillaxing with BlankiePaci and suddenly pop Paci out of his mouth, turn to me and whisper something like this.

"Dad. Dad. Do squirrels eat flowers?"


"Dad. Dad. Dad. Whennnn. Ummm. When I drop my ketchup on the floor. At McDonald's. Who cleeeaans it up?"

What's great about it is that we both get a fun little existential quiz every night. It's the little things like this I think about at this time of year. Thankful as hell for them.


Photo of the Moment

Kids. Leaves. Welcome to Marchwood in November, friends.

38 bags as of today, btw. We're only getting revved up.



Pure rock & roll. He's going crazy to The Hives' "Declare Guerre Nucleaire," which is pure rock & roll filth in the best possible way. Immediately after this was shot, he asked to hear it again and just before I obliged, I played the first 2 seconds of Them's seminal "I Can Only Give You Everything" just to mix it up a little. He was overly tired (from rocking, of course), got angry with me and threw his guitar.

I reprimanded him for throwing his valued instrument but I'd be lying if there wasn't a tiny part of me thrilled with the audacity and Pete Townsendness of it all.

Oh, and speaking of tired, the other audio you hear is poor, sleepy Pete, whining ever so quietly and wanting no more of this noise.


Words of the Week

Quick follow-up to my previous post. Over the weekend, Peter sneezed violently, right into his most prized possession - Blankie. He looked up sadly to Rosalie and said,

"I bless youd on my blankie."



We've got some sickness up in here. Over the past month, none of us have been able to get healthy. The boys have been battling fevers and colds. Pete and I have been trading conjunctivitis, Rose feels like garbage - it's neverending. Sure, it could be worse but I figured I'd give you an explanation of why we've been among the missing lately. We're kind of a mess.
So we've upped the tea intake. We've introduced the boys to the non-Taurine Vitamin Water flavors (Grape and Orange). We've invested in childrens' Motrin. We've visited the doctor and we're fighting back. But stay away from us for another week or so. It could be this.
I'm not kidding.


Happy Halloween, y'all.

From the rootinest, tootinest...um...family this side of the Susquehannie. For the one or two people who don't know who this is, it's Jessie from Toy Story 2. Find her here if you don't believe us.

Happy Halloween, friends. Photos of the boys and their entourage to come.


Photo Catch-Up

Things have been moving so quickly lately that I'm feeling a catch-up is in order. For us as well as anyone who reads this. Lots happening, little time to stop and take it in. Let's take a few moments, shall we?

First day of school. The backpack means we're no longer messing around.

Cousin John enjoying the Brett Bros.' fingerpainting experience.

Vincent showing off the preferred painting hardware.

Perhaps the greatest photo ever taken of my sons. Rosalie gets the credit. Something about Pete's expression and Vincent sort of hiding. This was in the middle of a serious driveway painting session.

Now this is interesting. Veeery interesting.

Workin' on his Scooby Doo pinata. Yep - they still make Scooby Doo stuff and yep - Vincent is into it.

Pete picking apples at Highland Orchards. He's not in mid-throw motion. Rather, I simply asked him to show me his apple. And no, he didn't throw it at me.

"Jim, I'm an adult. Why do I need to show you this apple? It's an apple."

Shades n' tongues.

I think we're gonna frame this one.

He couldn't "walk another step."

Our backyard, October. This is the image I need to keep with me when I'm picking up leaves into January. They were beautiful at one point.
Cheers, fall.


An Idea (This post is about leaves)

As you may have discerned from the 78 posts I wrote about leaves last fall and winter, our yard is no stranger to autumn's bountiful product. As much as we'd love to pay someone hundreds of dollars to magically make them all go away one day, it's not in the cards. I could always resort to nuns and college students again but that was too weird. So for this year, our second in this house, we're thinking about drinking them away. Or rather, having a leaf cleanup party. Using good food, good beer and our personal charms and cute children to lure friends and family over, put a giant brown bag in their hands and let them have at it. Sounds fun, right? You know it does. So look for future posts - and potentially a Facebook invite if I can bring myself to do it. There's nothing like helping out friends in need while getting good and drunk and throwing leaves around. That's what I always say, at least.



The big man turned five yesterday. Five. years. old. We always heard the cliche about how fast it goes but man - that's no joke. We've been parents for 5 years. There's something official about the number five. Half a decade. This is serious here, people.

I'll post photos from his birthday weekend soon, but I just had to stop from the tornado that is life for a minute and think about this. Five.

Vincent is five.

Happy birthday, big kid.


The Auntie Kate Conversations

I love it when I get unsolicited content. My sister Kate sent this my way recently. The boys were with my Mom and decided to call Auntie Kate. She then transcribed the conversations and sent them to me not knowing that doing so would get her published. You have to love it when kids get on the phone.

Call #1:
Auntie Kate: Hello?
Vincent: Hi.
Auntie Kate: Hey buddy! What are you doing?
V: Auntie Kate, I need you to call...can you call...the um, mouse...the....(pause to consult with Mom-Mom)...the Mole Protector?
AK: The Mole Protector?
V: Yeah, we have a mole mystery and we need you to call the mole protector.
AK: Ok!
V: Ok, bye.

Call #2:
AK: Hello?
V: Hi.
AK: What’s up?
V: Auntie Kate, can you call Scooby Doo and the Gang?
AK: Sure.
V: and Super Why?
AK: Sure.
V: We’ve got some more mysteries to solve.
AK: Oh. Got it.
V: Guess what I had for breakfast
AK: What?
V: Orange juice, and soup!
AK: Soup isn’t breakfast!

Call #3
AK: Hello?
Pete: Hi Auntie Kate!!!!!
AK: Hey Pete! How’s it going?
P: What are you doin’ at work?
AK: I’m typing. What are you doing at Mom Mom’s?
P: I was a bad boy.
AK: You were being a bad boy?
P: Yeah!
AK: Why?
P: I were throwing orange juice out all over the place
AK: You poured your orange juice out on purpose? Yeah, you shouldn’t do that.
P: How’s Kyle doin?
AK: He’s good, he’s at home.
P: Why?
AK: Because he doesn’t have to go to work yet
P: Kay. What are you doin’ at work?
AK: I’m typing
Crinkle crinkle beep beep Mom mom in background
Vincent again: Auntie Kate?
AK: Yeah buddy?
V: Can you also call the Incredibles?
AK: You got it
V: K



Tell me. What is it about sour citrus fruits that kids love? Is it just my kids? They love lemons and limes. Both of them. We go to a restaurant and have to order a few extra at the beginning of the meal. That's really the only time they get them or else Dr. Jeff the Dentist will give us The Enamel Lecture.

Friends with kids - do you have little sour addicts, too?


Soccer Kid

*It’s not easy to decipher which one he is in the photos. Just look for one of the smaller kids with the gray long-sleeve under the black t-shirt.
Another season, another first. The big man started a 7-week soccer intro program last week. Quite honestly, it was at the encouragement of Chief since soccer has never been something I was enthusiastic about. I played for one year when I was about 10. Our team went 1-11 for a tyrannical, Napoleonic Greek coach who's daughter kicked the ball so hard she nearly she put me out of commission with a shot to the mid-section. So yeah, I was more of a baseball kid.

When it comes to my kids though, I'll go with the flow. And after a little bit of reassurance, Vincent jumped in headfirst. The program itself is pretty great. Coached by two really young British kids (one English and properly fauxhawked, one Scottish), the group learns about soccer and the context of soccer through games and basic exercises. It wasn't the pure chaos of other youth soccer programs nor was it a competitive atmosphere. It was based on fun. At one point, the coaches were teaching the kids how to plead to a referee not to give them a red card. No joke. So yeah - a little about the real context of soccer, which I'm totally ok with.

He really seemed to enjoy it, which showed me a lot. For as apprehensive as he's been with change so far in his life (...wonder where he gets that...), he rolled right along with this. I was fully prepared to have to nudge him every Saturday morning but I doubt I'll have to. Maybe it was my nervousness that he'd have to play for an overlord with a testicle-seeking footed daughter.

Nope. All fun and games. Soccer - my new favorite sport.


Words of the Week

Our bedtime routine underwent some changes once Peter got his big boy bed. Remember, their beds are pushed together. After books, I tuck both of them in, then lay with Pete for a few minutes, make up songs, help him turn his brain off until he's ready to konk. From there, I crawl over to Vincent's bed, let him scratch my arm (a longtime comfort mechanism of his), while stretching to hold Pete's hand with my free extremity. If you could have a photo of it, I would look ridiculous.

Lately, Vincent hasn't needed much help getting to sleep. After nearly five years of difficulty, the combination of Peter in the room and the routine beginning with Peter, thus forcing him to wait, has allowed him to figure out how to put himself to sleep. As great as this feat is, he doesn't much care for it. He wants the time to armscratch while still awake. Which leads us to this week's words.

Last night, the books were done, the light was out, the tucking was finishing and I said, "Okay Vincent, I'll be over in five minutes but you'll probably already be asleep." To which he replied in that quiet whine of an exhausted kid,

"I don't want me to be!"


Truck Accident

A couple of weeks back, we attended our local Touch a Truck event. You may remember (or you may not) me writing about this a couple of years back. I went on a tirade about clowns. Still hate 'em, by the way. So the gist of Touch a Truck is this - tons of local civil service, construction and labor companies park their coolest trucks in a giant municipal lot and kids can climb all over them. It's great, cheap fun. No, I'm not writing about this as an excuse to show you awesome photos. I'm writing about it because it directly relates to one of the great early traumas in Pete's life.

The night he got his penis caught in a truck.

No, not a real truck thankfully. A toy truck. Here's the deal. It was about 7:30 PM and he was playing with his toys, naked. This isn't an uncommon occurrence. The boys take baths and like that time to prance around freely before being confined in their PJs. I mean, who wouldn't? This is the time before they learn self-consciousness so it's our job as parents to encourage behavior like this.

So he's playing with his trucks, naked, in a corner facing the fireplace. I can only see the back of him from across the room. Suddenly I hear an odd sound and I turn to see a pretty wicked pre-cry. You know, like a "JESUS CHRIST WHAT DID I JUST DO?" moment before the pain strikes? This was the moment he realized that a small portion of his penis had gotten stuck around the tire of one of his small, motorized toy trucks.

Then the screaming starts and I run over to see what the deal is. The issue is immediately apparent and I quickly decide to remove him from the cramped area and into a more suitable operating environment. Upon laying him down on the couch, I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this. Pete's screaming, Vincent's hovering, Rose is trying her best to help but I'm freaking out as much as Pete is. Empathy and all. After about 30 seconds that felt like 30 days, I wound the wheel back, releasing the tiny imprisoned piece of Pete's boyhood. The relief in the room was palpable and after a bit of ice, he was a new man. No blood or permanent damage. The kid's got one tough...erm...situation.
There's no moral here other than the obvious one - don't get your motorized toys near your penis. Even today, the kid remembers it well. He raced a little car across the kitchen floor saying, "Watch out, Daddy. You don't want it to get your peesh."
Lessons learned.


Words of the Week

New feature on Da Milk - funny verbal tidbits from the past week (or so. Yeah - sorry for the delay). It's our version of Kids Say the Darndest Things.

Vincent started his new school this week and it being a parochial school, he was introduced to the concept of holy water - something that could be confusing to the newcomer.

Upon telling my Mom about his first day, one of the first things he mentioned was this phenomenon:

"Mom-Mom (smiling)! They gave me God water!"

Refreshing God Water. You know, we should think about marketing that.


In the Milky Way

I make a daily case for always having a camera on me. These were taken during a very quick trip to Milky Way Farm in Chester Springs. The place is great. You can go eat homemade ice cream, then get super close to real animals. If it gets better than that, these kids don't know it. So with bellies full, they walk from stinky animal to stinky animal while we feverishly try to capture cool moments before they run away to the next thing. It was around 7:30pm, so the light was really nice.

<---When I broke out my camera(phone), there were only two calves checking Vincent out. The black one must've stuck its head out at the very last second and it totally makes it.

This one (below) is the real Vincent and Pete. Anticipating the arrival of a friendly sheep that 2 seconds later they will both jump back away from, fearing a lick.

That's all I got for now. Stay tuned for photos of giant trucks and a related story that will make my male readers cringe. Only minor injuries, of course.


Laying Down the Law

Let me preface this by saying the boys are usually good. We have our days, as all families do, but they're good kids. That said, the following is an entire voicemail, left for me by my beloved wife today that I thought bore transcription. Rose - don't hate me.

3:22 PM, a very calm and rational-sounding wife:

"Hey babe, it's me. I'm in the middle of a bit of a standoff here...sooo.... I am not going to be cleaning up the family room. I told the boys ten times they had to do it (Ed. note - Clean up after themselves.) so ummm.. they're not allowed to do anything tonight until that room gets cleaned up. I mean, I'm gonna be here for the next hour then I think you need to be the one to make them do it (Ed. note - She was meeting a friend for dinner - a rare treat) but if not, I think you have to be the one to enforce it...because...I just....I can't do anything other than ask a million billion times and punish and...we're already not getting a DVD from the library this week and so...that's it. If they would rather play than clean up the mess than that's fine but they have to clean it up tonight when you get home. Ok? Ok - love you."
Ah parenthood. I learned later that Pete had squeezed toothpaste all over his feet today as well. Wish I had a picture of that, actually.
Dear stay-at-home parents - you rule.


Fudgsicle Soup

The boys cracked each other up tonight making some "fudgsicle soup." It started innocently enough, with the boys...well...eating fudgsicles. Then Vincent rubs it on his nose to get a laugh, Pete follows suit and the next thing you know, it's in both of their hair, on their clothes and bowls are swinging all over the table.

Meanwhile, instead of stopping it, Daddy's reaching for the camera to put the episode on his blog because it's hilarious. I only wish I could've captured Peter laughing at his hardest. You get a bit of it here but there was a point when he couldn't catch his breath.

Ah to be young and sugared.


The OC

It's taken us a couple of weeks to go through our photos from Ocean City. Well, we've done it and here they are. I'll save commentary for my captions below.

Pete and I had an early morning one day on the beach. Early enough that I didn't think I needed to change him out of his PJs. I was wrong.

Speaking of mornings, here they are feeding some intense seagulls.
I have a tattoo. Whatevs.
Love this one. Grampa and Uncle Joe trying to get the kite to work with Vincent looking on intently.
I'm Caroline. I like Cheese Doodles. This is how I eat them.

Look closely and you'll see yours truly playing backseat police helicopter driver.

The seagull feeding morning. On watch.

Love this one. Blankie & Paci making an appearance with Mommy.

Blurry buddies.
I have a thing for taking pictures of shoes. Why?
The Karate Kid.
Vincent wore this through the entire first two days. On the beach and everything. Super Why.

With Auntie Kate. And Super Why.