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Archive for the ‘My Crew’ Category

Three Years Ago Today

B-Day

I barged into the room with a purpose, but couldn’t remember for the life of me what that purpose was until I saw the familiar red banner of the USA Today sports section. Birthday or not, the world of college football stops for no one. I hadn’t planned on watching any of the action that day, but I was such a bag of nerves that I desperately needed a distraction. After reviewing the docket of games, I decided to place a small wager on one of them—a symbolic fifty dollar bet that I was sure to win. For that day was a lucky one—it was three of my four children’s birthday. Auburn catching seventeen points against Florida at The Swamp was my selection.

On the way out the door, I jumped at my own reflection in the mirror, surprised at what looked back at me—a haggard man clad in jeans and an untucked blue button-down with big dark circles under his eyes offset by visible sweat rings protruding from each armpit. Lovely.

I walked the bleached sterile, hallway back to the labor and delivery unit where Caroline had been transferred earlier that morning. It was there she’d receive her epidural and go over the last-minute details of what was to follow. On my way, I pondered the decision I had yet to make—above the curtain or below it during the C-section?

After extensive research on the matter, I learned that above the curtain was a great option because, from that vantage point, you could see an infant’s first moment unencumbered. Below the curtain was also great, because, well, you couldn’t see anything. A C-section, after all, is major abdominal surgery and abdominal surgery meant guts. I’m not into guts. While I desperately wanted to see each child’s first breath, doing so would come with the risk of catching a glimpse of what was moved out of the way to get each child that first breath. Given my squeamish nature, potential fainting spells could not be disregarded. I entered the room undecided.

Randy, a barrel-chested nurse anesthetist with wavy brown hair, was busily administering the epidural shot in Caroline’s spine. I sat down and pretended to be preoccupied with my newspaper, but I guess I wasn’t very convincing as Randy fired several questions my way, though I couldn’t tell you what they were or how I answered them. A few moments later, Dr. Barron, our pastor, came by to wish us well. We spoke about sports, football I think, before he politely excused himself to the general waiting area. Family and friends continued to file into our room. I spoke with all of them but don’t recall much of what was said. It’s hard to make small talk before big moments.

Peggy came to wheel Caroline to the delivery room and instructed me to meet her in the small hallway that separated it from the rest of the floor once Caroline was fully prepped. I had fifteen minutes to kill, and I spent the first few of them staring out the window thinking of everything imaginable, but nothing in particular. It was a gorgeous morning, not a cloud in the sky, which was a shade of blue that bordered on perfection of some significant sort. I wondered how anything could be so beautiful as well as why a sight I had seen countless times in my life suddenly evoked such feelings of grandeur.

It wasn’t that long ago when I was walking the earth alone, hoping to share the love inside of me with my very own family, though I remained skeptical I was destined for such a blessing. But in just twenty minutes, I would welcome my second, third, and fourth child into this world—my first three biological ones.

I put on the scrubs Peggy had given me and noticed a wet smudge on the blue top. I rubbed my eyes and conducted a quick survey of the back of my hand which confirmed what the scrubs had reported—my eyes were moist, but not with tears of anxiety or even joy—but rather tears of resolve. The same resolve that never let me give up on falling in love and having a family. The same resolve that led me to Caroline and Alli. The same resolve that helped lead us through the thirty-six-week maze to where we were at that exact moment. I dried my eyes and made my way to the hallway outside the delivery room.

Once there, I tried to wash my trembling hands in a deep stainless-steel sink, but I couldn’t find the handle to turn it on. There wasn’t one. You had to step on a pedal to get the water to come out. Still shaking, I examined my two soap choices and selected the one on the left. It was lotion. Undeterred, I got it right the second time. The area no longer felt like a small hallway adjacent to a delivery room but rather like a long skinny holding cell, which I began to pace. After a few minutes, the butterflies in my stomach compelled me to sit down on the metal bench opposite the delivery room door. I stared at the opaque glass.

What’s going on in there? What are they doing to her?

Peggy walked into the hallway from the hospital side. “I thought you were already in the delivery room,” I said.

“I was, but I stepped out to get this chart,” she answered while waiving a clipboard as proof. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I answered. “Nothing.”

“Promise?” she asked.

“Promise.”

“Okay. Hey, I’ll stick my head out when it’s time for you to come in.”

“Peggy,” I said, just as she had turned to enter the delivery room.

“John,” she answered with a smile.

“Everything’s going to be okay, right? I mean with Caroline.”

“Everything’s going to be fine.”

“What about the babies?”

“They’ll be fine, too. You’ve got about five minutes. Hang in there.”

I rested my elbows on my knees and held my head in my hands, staring down at the cold white floor between my feet and tried to think random thoughts. A warm spring day popped into my mind, one with a sky similar to the one I’d stared at ten minutes earlier. It was Alli’s first baseball practice. Her dad and I were standing on either side of her when Alli’s coach beckoned her to practice fielding grounders. She looked up at me, her blue eyes gray with fear.

“John, come with me,” she pleaded while tugging at my shirt. It wasn’t unusual for a parent to take the infield with a child at that age, particularly during the first few practices of the year, but I hesitated awkwardly.

“Rob, you go,” I said with an inviting nod toward her father.

“No, John, you go. You’re good at this stuff.”

I walked Alli to the infield for her very first time and felt so proud to be alongside her—so proud to love her. The image of us in the late afternoon sun—Alli slapping her mitt, me patting the top of the Oriole hat that covered her thick blond hair—froze in my mind, allowing me to admire it from every single angle until a sinking feeling came over me.

How in the world could I duplicate that love three times over? It’s physically impossible to be in more than one place at the same time. I could never simultaneously be with each of the triplets on such an occasion. I’d never be able to love the triplets like I loved Alli. Even if I could, they’d never be able to feel that love the same way because it would be divided by three. It’s not that I wouldn’t try. It’s just that it seemed impossible.

Peggy gently nudged my shoulder—I hadn’t even heard her approach. I looked at the opaque glass and was surprised at the clarity, but I shouldn’t have been. The door was open. “We’re ready for you,” she said, gesturing toward the room our babies would soon share with us. I walked inside and took the seat reserved for me right beside Caroline, immediately noticing the sheet partition that extended up from her chest.

Oh yeah, above it, or below it? I guess it’ll be a game-time decision.

There were more people in the room than I was expecting. In addition to Peggy, there were three other nurses, the nurse anesthetist, three doctors from the NICU, and last, but not least, the leader of the procession, Dr. Saraceno. I held Caroline’s hand and stared directly at her. If she was nervous, she didn’t show it. She flashed me a serene smile, making her eyes wide as she did so. She looked a little out of it, but she was calm. She looked happy. I was, too. It was time.

Lost in our gaze, I almost didn’t notice the sudden bustle of activity that was going on all around us. One of the nurses rushed up to Dr. Saraceno. Our firstborn was about to breathe his first breath. I stood up, still holding Caroline’s hand, looking first at her, then toward Dr. Saraceno who skillfully pulled Samuel Cave Osborne (Monster) into the world. His tiny arms vacillated with surprising speed, but his elbows never left his side. His little red face appeared smooshed, possibly from sharing the womb of his small momma with his brother and sister for so long. He had a tuft of dark hair that went well with his pronounced widow’s peak.

Sam! You’re here!

Peggy cut Sam’s umbilical cord, an act he acknowledged with an ear-piercing scream. One of the NICU doctors carried him away to a sink on the far wall. She cleaned him up before weighing him and depositing him in an isolette off to the side of the foot of the bed. There were two other empty ones forming a row toward us on our right, both waiting patiently for an occupant.

“Baby A, four pounds, nine-and-a-half ounces. Nine seventeen,” someone announced.

The NICU doctor jotted down notes as Peggy and another nurse tended to Sam. I watched as they monitored our perfect little man until a tear clouded my view. I wiped it away and turned my attention back to Dr. Saraceno just in time to see him pulling out John Turner Osborne (Biggs).

Jack! Mommy and I have been waiting for you!

Just after Jack took his first breath, someone handed me a baby blanket with Sam’s footprint and handprint before handing me Sam himself. His eyes were closed. His mouth was open. He was still screaming. I showed him to Caroline who managed to smile adoringly at our firstborn just before he was taken from me. I looked back toward Jack in time to see Peggy cut his cord. Jack didn’t utter a peep. I wasn’t sure, but I thought he yawned. Like Sam, he had a little pear-shaped torso with tiny arms and legs. Unlike Sam, his entire body was still. He had a nonchalant air about him, as if he’d been born a million times before and knew exactly what to expect. He was a little longer and leaner than Sam, particularly his face, but I guessed him to weigh about the same as his brother. His brother. Wow. Jack was whisked away by one of the NICU doctors and cleaned off in much the same way Sam had been, only without all the screaming. He, too, was weighed and then placed in his own isolette.

“Baby B, four pounds, nine ounces. Nine eighteen.”

I turned my attention back to Dr. Saraceno just as he was pulling out Caroline Kirby (Peanut). I was standing again, though I didn’t remember leaving my seat. Dr. Saraceno held our daughter in the air and I fell in love for the third time in two minutes.

Kirby, look at you, pumpkin. You’re absolutely beautiful!

She was tiny, much smaller than the boys. She made a funny face, her lips pursed; the upper one almost touching her nose. Her head was perfectly round and small—smaller than a baseball.

“Baby C, three pounds, five ounces. Nine nineteen.”

As Kirby was placed in her isolate, a nurse handed me a blanket with Jack’s prints, before carefully giving me Jack. I looked at my lean little guy before stealing a glance at Kirby, just as two of the NICU doctors began working with her, one poking and prodding, the other taking her temperature. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the third NICU doctor rushing toward her.

What’s wrong?

“Nothing to worry about John,” Dr. Saraceno reassured. “Every baby under four pounds gets that treatment. She looks great, buddy.”

I looked back at Sam. He was still screaming, lying on his back in the isolate to the right of the foot of the bed. Then I peeked at Jack. He was still lying silently in the middle isolette. I looked at Kirby, but it was harder to catch a glimpse of her with all the latexed hands that continued to assess her. When I did manage to get one, she was still beautiful. She was the closest to me, but the furthest from reach, as I wasn’t allowed to hold her. Each of our babies looked different. Each of our babies looked perfect.

Kirby opened her mouth for the first time, making another funny face as she did so. A scream that started faint and grew ever louder in a perfect crescendo escaped from her parted lips. It rivaled Sam’s, only more delicate. She lifted her itty bitty legs in the air and as she did, I was shocked to notice she was so little that she didn’t even seem to have a bottom—just two tiny flesh-colored sticks attached directly to her back. With her limbs in the air and spread apart, she let out a relatively impressive stream of urine, an act which temporarily silenced her.

If there’s vinegar in there, then it’s official—she’s just like her momma.

“Baby C has voided.”

Voided, hmmm.

Someone placed Kirby’s blanket in my lap on top of the other two. Look at that little footprint! I showed it to Caroline, but she didn’t seem to notice. She gave my hand a gentle pump as she looked alternately at our three babies. I followed suit before feeling something rubbing against my forearm. Unbeknownst to me, three ID bracelets had been secured around my wrist—one for each baby.

Four nurses, three doctors, three blankets, two screams, two parents, two babies held, two boys, one girl, and one new application for the word voided. Entropy had surely never been more perfectly askew.

Sam and Jack stayed with us in the delivery room as Dr. Saraceno sewed Caroline back up. He thought they were probably big enough to stay in the nursery, but wouldn’t say for sure. The nurses closed Kirby’s isolette to keep her temperature stable and took her away for further evaluation—again, standard operating procedure for a baby under four pounds. She would probably spend a “considerable amount of time” in the NICU due to her size, but Dr. Saraceno wouldn’t speculate how long. At that point we didn’t care. Like her brothers, she was out of the womb. Like her brothers, her first few moments indicated nothing out of the ordinary. Our commute was finally over, but the journey was just beginning.

And thus, it was so. The Osborne triplets had begun their reign of Planet Earth. One by one, each of the hospital staff on hand congratulated us and told us how beautiful the babies were. They say that to everyone and everyone believes them. We did, too. They were telling the truth.

Once Dr. Saraceno was completely finished, the nurses took down the sheet. Whether I would peer above that sheet or stay below it had never even crossed my mind. I had merely acted instinctively. Since I witnessed each of our babies coming out of the womb, I knew I had been above it, though I wondered why I hadn’t noticed the things I was scared I might. Love must see only the things that matter.

I turned around and looked out the window that was behind us—the sky was still perfectly blue, just like that day at the ballpark with Alli. I thought of her practice, and then my concern of not being able to simultaneously love three children as effectively as I loved Alli. I breathed a sigh of relief at the knowledge gained in my first moments as a father of triplets—I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

It would, too, be possible to love Sam, Jack, and Kirby—all three at the same time, and all three every bit as much as I loved Alli. In fact, it would be impossible not to. And what’s more, they’d feel every single ounce of it. Because love is infinite. And infinity divided by three is still infinity.

* * *

The preceding was a chapter from my book, Tales from the Trips, which is available for only $9.00 directly from the publisher.

Happy Birthday, guys! I LOVE YOU! Here’s a slide show of some old pics along with a few we took on Monday when we gave them the birthday presents and cupcakes. (Pookie’s with her dad today, and we wanted her to be a part of it, so we did it early.)

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Ten Seconds of Goodness

Lovie took Pook to soccer practice the other night which left yours truly in charge of the wee threesome. Only they’re not so wee anymore. Our little guys are almost three!

Monster makes me smile — even when he looks sad and makes a mess.

my little monster

Biggs makes me wonder. Because that’s what this pensive little boy spends a lot of time doing. Wondering. His eyes say it all.

biggs likes to think

And peanut makes me melt. Sometimes she just sits there and looks sweet.

sweet peanut

More often, though, she’s chatting away which usually makes me laugh. But on this night, it almost made me cry. Because out of nowhere, Peanut gave me a gift I’ll never forget — ten of the purest seconds of Goodness I’ve ever experienced. I’m SO happy I had my flip nearby.

Everyone always asks us how we do it — you know — three toddlers and all. But our question is how can we not? We wish everyone had the privilege of simultaneously feeling such unconditional love for three (or more) same-aged children.

monster, peanut, and biggs

Because Lovie, Pookie, and I consider it a blessing — one which leaves us with the following question for all you moms, dads, and siblings of singletons.

How are you content with just one?

Author reserves the right to take this sentimental post down the next time his junior associates engage in shenanigans detrimental to his mental well being. Don’t worry, though. Something will happen within that very hour which will compel him to put the post back up. Kinda comes with the territory.

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I can’t decide if this is super-cute or wildly disturbing.

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Happy Campers

Marriage. Lotta hard work, no? To have a successful one, much compromise is needed. At least that’s what Lovie and I have found. Perhaps the most amazing middle ground we’ve ever reached is the very one upon which we slept this past weekend.

You see, I’m an avid camper. I go at least four times a year. One of those excursions is my annual section hike of the Appalachian Trail. When we first met, Lovie thought such trips sounded miserable.

“My idea of camping out is ordering room service from the Ritz Carlton.”

Secretly, I vowed to change that. And I had a plan. The vehicle of change? Pookie. That’s right. I used my own stepdaughter as a pawn to capture the queen so I could drag her royal ass to the woods. And it worked like a charm. After all, Pookie, like virtually all kids who are given the chance, was hooked on camping from word go.

“I’d rather camp than go to Hilton Head” was her exact quote upon returning from our first outing. Lovie’s eyes grew wide with wonder. Soon after, she began asking countless questions about this noble outdoor pursuit, questions my ears recognized as buying signs.

“Where do you go to the bathroom?”

“How do you cook your food?”

“How do you stay warm?”

“What do you do during the day?”

Instead of capitalizing on these questions and trying to score an immediate sale, I simply answered them, hoping my explanations would lead this inquisitive horse to the very water she wondered how I purified. (Note to readers — stay away from analogies that depict your wife as a horse. It’s okay for me to do it because I’m a highly trained professional.) I had a hunch that no hard sell would be needed. This product was capable of selling itself.

Which is exactly what it did. Lovie and I have camped together a grand total of three times. Until this weekend, that is, when we went on our fourth excursion — our second as a family. We made arrangements for the triplets (thanks, Brenda!) so Lovie and I could take Pookie and her friend, Miss M, for a fun-filled weekend in the woods. Here’s how it went down.

We took two cars. Lovie, Pookie, and Miss M rode in one and met me at the campsite around five. Me? I left early Friday morning to procure a spot and get our camp set up. So I took all our stuff.

the stuff

Oh. And our canoe. I was also responsible for that, too.

I had the perfect campsite in mind, located in an area I know inside and out. But I also had a backup — actually two backups — just in case. As fate would have it, however, we got our number one choice. It’s one of my favorite spots in the world. Look how clean the water is.

the perfect campsite

As soon as I got there, I started setting up. I divided the camp into two main sections — an area where our tent would be, and another area where we’d spend most of our waking hours. Check out our kitchen, complete with an eight foot by eight foot pop-up, where we kept a five foot table, our large plastic tubs of dried food, as well as our coolers which contained the rest of our food. It was there where I set up my camp stove which I’d use to cook my award-winning bacon and eggs. Below the kitchen, you’ll see the makeshift grill I put together. After all, if you wanna eat well in the woods, you gotta do some grilling.

Lovie rummaging through the kitchen

Just below our grill was the fire ring. Solid choice on the locale if I do say so myself. Right on the water.

Here’s a shot of our preposterously large tent which has three rooms. One for Lovie and me.

Turn left from there and you’ll find an empty room. Well, empty except for some of Pookie and Miss M’s stuff spilling out into it. One day the trips will kick it there.

Then, turn right and you run into the room where Pook and M slept.

Here’s our site from the water. Note the tent on the higher ground to the left separate from the rest of camp.

Something crucial for any extended campout? Activities. Lovie likes to fish, y’all.

exhibit a

With all of her angling activity, she earned a new nickname.

Catfish.

She’s really taken to it. If you’re at the M3Summit in Atlanta, be sure to call her by the new moniker. (Especially if you wanna see me get slapped.)

exhibit b: ol' Catfish tries a different spot.

The girls preferred another activity — canoeing. They had a blast.

I found an activity I like, too.

is drinking cold beer an activity?

But our main activity was the one which ate up most of Saturday — whitewater rafting down the Nantahala River, just a forty-five minute drive from camp. Eight miles of excitement and fun.

we caught a little air on that one.

Did we eat well?

three NY strips w/ twice baked potatoes and asparagus

Um, yeah. We ate just fine. But just when I thought we’d had enough food for the day, Pookie and M went poking around in the kitchen.

Because they knew we’d not forgotten to bring s’mores. And they were right.

It took a lot of work to pull off such a wonderful weekend, nearly as many hours planning, commuting, setting up, and breaking down as the actual hours spent on the trip itself. Some would contend that it’s too much work.

Miss M has Lovie and Pookie in stitches with her ghost story about a tomato.

But I would disagree. After all, there’s something to be gained from camping which you just can’t get from ordering room service at the Ritz. Just ask Catfish. She’ll tell you.

Thank you, Lovie, for meeting me more than halfway on this one. With each trip, we’re building memories which will last forever.

I love you.

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The world of parenting is dotted with countless commitments, responsibilities, and extracurricular activities of our children. You know, soccer practices, swim meets, school functions, and the like. Whenever these events occur regularly and for an extended period of time, mini-societies are spawn. Societies in which the kids are the focal point. Societies in which most parents play but a supporting role, usually that of chauffeur. Societies in which these chauffeurs are bound by the laws of common decency to engage in awkward conversation with the other chauffeurs regardless of how well they know their counterparts. Societies in which a ruling class of adults will govern. Societies in which many interesting dynamics exist.

With the triplets now at preschool two days per week, and with Lovie in charge of getting them there safely, I’ve suddenly become a member of yet another society. Only this one doesn’t require that I bullshit aimlessly with strangers. In fact, my only requirements are to pick kids up and drop them off. That’s right. I’m now a proud member of the Carpool Society. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong. First off, it turns out that being prompt is a big deal. Which shouldn’t present that big of a problem. Unless, of course, the driver thinks school starts at 8:30 when it actually starts at 8:15.

No wonder Lovie wanted me to leave so early.

Luckily, I got Pookie and her friends to school on time, albeit barely. A wave of relief swept over me until the sight of carefully orchestrated, soccer-mom-operated SUVs brought upon another wave. One of anxiety. After all, if this rookie was fumbling with incorrect start times, no telling what else I didn’t know. I had the sinking suspicion that these right-hand-only-turning divas would make mince meet out of me in short order.

As if my peers in this Auto-Bond society weren’t daunting enough, suddenly before me stood the ruling class of adults presiding over the carpool line, their smiling faces belying the steely disposition required to attain such a lofty and authoritative post. My hands trembled, struggling to maintain their grip of my leather-covered steering wheel. My right foot sat like a boulder atop the break pedal, rendering me unable to lift it, and, therefore, unable to coast the few feet that now separated me from the car in front of us.

What was I to do? Pull up and bridge the gap? Or wait until the three cars at the very front rid themselves of their backpack-toting cargo such that I could assume the foremost position of the unloading area, thereby allowing those behind me to fully occupy the yellow lane, thus allowing for maximum unloading? In a moment, my mind locked in on its answer.

Pull up and unload now, it said. Who’s to know how long the cars in front of you will take? Better to keep the unloading process going rather than to get greedy and wait for a maximum unloading opportunity which may not quickly present itself.

Wrong move. Or so one of the kids told me. One is to wait and pull all the way up. Embarrassed, I quickly put my car back in gear to follow protocol, the lead cars having vacated the lane and permitting me access to the very front. But one of the kids had already the door open. Which allowed the sinful sounds of my stereo to pollute the carbon-monoxide-filled air, a no-no, I have since learned. All stereos are to be turned off in the carpool line.

How Footloose-ean.

Surely my peers scoffed at my embarrassing faux pas and would delight in recounting my cumbersome navigation of the carpool society at the water cooler, gym, country club, or wherever their day might take them.

Not to mention the ruling class. The only thing that could have possibly drawn more disapproval from the elite would have been a poorly timed cell call.

I drove out of the parking lot that morning with hampered pride, but also with an unwavering determination. One that will compel me to one day master the intricacies of the carpool line such that I can promptly, safely, responsibly, and efficiently execute my commuting duties, thus pleasing both my peers and superiors.

Incidentally, if any of y’all have the handbook, would you mind emailing me?

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Happy Anniversary, Lovie

lovie and me moments after arriving at our reception.

Exactly four years ago from today, Lovie and I stood at the alter in front of Dr. William Barron in a small chapel inside Sequoyah Presbyterian Church and made a solemn oath before God and fifty of our closest friends and family members. To love, honor and cherish one another for the rest of our lives. With only Alli by our side, the three of us became one that day, completely unaware that we’d double the size of our family in thirteen scant months thanks to a triple blessing which no one could have ever predicted.

Simply put, I’m incredibly in love with my beautiful wife and my four wonderful children. I’m also genuinely humbled by the good fortune bestowed upon me and so thankful to have the opportunity to be the patriarch of our unique clan. None of it would have ever come to pass had the love of my life not uttered those two magical words while holding my sweaty hands and looking directly into my eyes with her beautiful, bright blue ones.

To pay homage, a quick recap of our marriage by the numbers:

13 — years of parenting. (9 w/ the trips and 4 with Pookie)
12 — total pounds of babies Lovie birthed on 9/29/07. (actually 12.4375, but I rounded down.)
11 — total weeks of bedrest.
10 — times per day I annoy Lovie.
9 — times per day I annoy myself.
8 — individual shoes our children require.
7 — times Lovie will ask me why I uploaded such a lame picture of us for this post.
6 — times I’ll tell her it was the only wedding pic I had on this computer. (I’ll be asleep the seventh time she asks me, therefore unable to respond.)
5 — weeks of hospitalized bedrest.
4 — gallons of milk we go through per week.
3 — glorious births.
2 — houses owned.
1 — crazy-ass dog.
0 — percentage chance we’ll ever get divorced.

Happy anniversary, Lovie! I love you so much!

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Pookie may not ever win any penmanship awards, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of her writing. Within the past year or so, she’s taken to leaving her mother and me notes, usually in the kitchen to prohibit us from various sweets she’s classified as hers and hers only. Whenever I run across one of her communiques, I know I’m in for a treat, even if the note’s purpose is to actually deny me one.

Accordingly, I was tickled pink when I found one of her sloppily written doctrines the other night. But my delight quickly disappeared as I read the downward-tilting and crooked verse of her scribblings. It was the lyrics to Katie Perry’s California Gurls — more specifically, Snoop Dogg’s part.

Color me old school, but no little girl should ever write all that ass, hangin’ out. Ever. Speaking of hangin’, y’all hang tight. I gotta puke real quick.

K. I’m back. *wipes mouth with Kleenex.* Where was I?

I’ll tell you where I was — smack dab in the middle of a crisis. One which I can no longer ignore. Pookie’s been asking me for months to download various (and morally questionable) songs on her iPod, California Gurls among them. And maybe I’m just a big prude, but I’ve found it difficult to give my pony-tail-sporting daughter unfettered access to tunes such as Jerimiah’s Birthday Sex. So I’ve been putting her off.

But truth be told, I’m split right down the middle on this one. On the one hand, many of today’s popular songs contain lyrics dripping with age-inappropriate themes. And while I realize that Pook probably isn’t catching the double entendre when Katie belts out Sun-kissed skin so hot, we’ll melt your popsicle, I’d still rather she not be exposed to veiled fellatio references (or is it coitus?), thank you very much. Hell, I’m having a hard enough time with her John Stamos obsession. (Damn you, Nikelodeon.)

But on the other hand, songs containing sexually explicit themes, misogynistic lyrics, and drug references are hardly anything new. Recently, Elise LeQuire White shared with me a comical essay she once wrote about super-cheesy songs. One of those referenced was a tune I’d not thought of in years — Sammy John’s Chevy Van. Reading Elise’s cleverly penned column reminded me just how much I loved that song when I was in kindergarten. Its premise? Sammy is driving around one day in his Chevy van when he stops to pick up some random-ass, hitch-hiking chick who naps innocently for a bit in his front seat. Before waking up, that is, at which point she grabs the singer “by the hand.” Next thing you know it, ol’ Sammy’s relentlessly banging this nomadic nymphomaniac in the back of his (presumably disgusting and pimped out) vehicle. Hardly an appropriate song for a five-year-old to know by heart, yet I turned out okay, right?

Crickets.

My point? Just as I was during the seventies, Pookie’s getting plenty of exposure to today’s pop culture regardless of what I do. Her bio dad’s girlfriend has much older children. Each and every time she returns from his house, she’s learned something new, most likely from one of these older kids whom she idolizes. Not that I’m blaming her dad (or his girlfriend) at all. I was the youngest of five, so I get it. You think I discovered Chevy Van all by myself? So if Pookie is going to stumble upon the very things I’m trying to shield her from in the first place, why even bother?

* * *

The other day, I read a wonderful post by one of my fellow speakers at next month’s M3 Summit in Atlanta, Jason Falls. His topic was a controversial one — the proposed thirteen-story Manhattan Islamic community center just two blocks from ground zero. Jason’s take was as succinct as it was clear. “Religious zealots,” he writes, “are to blame for the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They were extremists of their religion. Religious zealots were to blame for the events of Nov. 18, 1978. (the Jonestown Massacre) They were extremists of their religion. Blaming 9/11 on Muslims is like blaming Jonestown on Methodists. You’re generalizing and stereotyping and dividing our country. And you’re helping the cause not of Muslims, but of the extremists.”

I couldn’t agree with Jason any more. The day our country decides where various places of worship belong and where they do not will be a sad one, indeed. For it will mean that our government will have imposed the power of censorship on its citizens, thus rendering the first amendment — the right to gather and convene, as well as freedom of speech — impotent. And I don’t mean to get all John Milton on you, but his appeal to Parliament in 1644 to rescind government-sanctioned censorship, Areopagitica, is widely regarded as the best argument ever made against censorship of any kind. I was required to read excerpts from it for one of my high school English classes. It struck a chord with me then, and it still strikes a chord with me now.

Why? Because I’m all about freedom of speech. So given that, I can’t help but wonder why I’m all undone about a few age-inappropriate lyrics my nine-year-old probably doesn’t even understand just yet.

The answer is a simple one. I don’t want my little girl to grow up mistaking misogynistic sentiments as healthy ones. I don’t want her goal in life to be a sought-after piece of scantily-clad ass. I don’t want her to aspire to be the momentary apple of someone like Snoop Dogg’s eye when, in California Gurls, he raps kiss her, touch her, squeeze her buns. (By the way Snoop, buns? Really?)

* * *

So what should I do? Pull a Tipper Gore and censor everything my daughter listens to? Even though I know she’ll easily gain access to it regardless of my efforts? Because that’s essentially what I’ve been doing by putting her off, censoring, that is, and it obviously isn’t working. Thanks to the internet, she’s mere keystrokes away from pulling up any number of vulgar things, no matter how many safety features we employ on our computer. (By the way, does anyone else find it ironic that the queen of censorship was married to the guy who invented the anything-but-censored internet?)

So censorship? No. If I object to it in Manhattan, why should I employ it in my home? Instead, I think I’ll take off my Hypocrite Panties and allow my daughter access to the media she’s hell-bent on accessing anyway. Will I keep my eye on her? You bet. Will I impose limits on her? Of course. But will I censor her? No. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I’m a man of faith. So I’ll lean heavily on it and trust that the strength of our family and the direction it provides will be sufficient enough to preclude Pookie from the miswired legions of her generation who will eventually get swept away in a sea of pop culture superficiality. I’ll stay as plugged in as I can to the things she likes, enough, at least, to be able to chime in with my two cents each and every time the opportunity presents itself.

By doing so, I’ll be a bigger part of her life than I would be if I were to simply deny her access to any and everything that doesn’t completely jive with the values I’m hoping she’ll one day embrace. By doing so, I’ll be better plugged in to her and the issues she’ll face as she creeps ever closer toward adolescence. By doing so, I’ll likely be able to keep an even closer eye on her as she won’t be forced to go behind my back to sneak a forbidden cookie from the alluring jar.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some songs to download. And while I’m not necessarily thrilled about it, at least there’s a silver lining.

None of them are sung by Justin Bieber. That kid gives me the creeps.

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