The End is the Beginning of the End

With school back in session and Labor Day weekend upon us, summer is officially over. Okay, so technically it’s not over until September 23, but you know, summer is over for all intents and purposes.

My Fifth Grader

My title alludes to Milly. She started fifth grade this past Tuesday. So the end of summer is the beginning of the end of her elementary school career.

I was rather disappointed in how the summer ended. Long story short, Fawkes and Phoenix had both come down with a fever late the week before, and Tristen figured out on Sunday that they had hand, foot, and mouth disease. I’d heard of it, but didn’t know what it was. It sounds worse than it actually is, but it’s highly contagious.

Torrie had picked Milly up from Amanda at Mayfaire as she had bought tickets months ago for a showing of My Neighbor Totoro, which Torrie had shown Milly some years ago and, since it was coming to a limited release in theaters, she thought it would be fun to take her.

And so Milly, Torrie, and Sebastian went to see it. After they got back I warned Milly that the boys had been a bit sick and, even though they were feeling fine, she should limit contact with them. Still, the four of us decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood, and by the time we got partway through Tristen, who was back home with Griffin, told me she was sure what the boys had had. I’d planned on spending a bit of time with Milly the next day, it being the last day of her summer break, but decided she’d be better off if she went back to her mom’s house. I’d have hated for her to get sick and miss some of her first week of school.

The first week went fine. I picked Milly up her first day back. I ended up having Fawkes and Phoenix with me (Torrie was going to watch them but got invited to be a witness a for a courthouse wedding ceremony on pretty short notice), which made her bus being about 45 minutes late really fun. I had told Amanda I was going to have her back early that day (to reduce any possible leftover exposure to the HFM, ironically), so we grabbed a treat of her choice (a McFlurry) then hung out at Smith Creek Park for a little while.

I picked Milly up the next day too. The bus wasn’t quite as late and it was just me and Griffin that time. We went on home for a normal afternoon.

Right now Milly is at Topsail Island doing the annual Labor Day beach thing with Amanda’s family. She texted me around 10:00, ostensibly to say hi, but also to get the login to my Adobe account because she had been logged out of an app I installed for her. Whatever the true motivation behind the contact, it was nice to hear from her.

I’m saving this for last because I probably shouldn’t even mention it, but Milly told me the other day that her mom suggested getting her some sports bras to wear. And yes, I think it was a good idea. Didn’t really notice anything all summer, then fifth grade stars and it’s like, yeah, okay…

I have, of course, been rather lax on updates. It’s really shameful, because I get “on this day” reminders from Facebook that often have posts I wrote when Milly was a baby, and there’s been so much going on with my current babies.

Fawkes and Phoenix are 18 months old now, Griffin four.


It’s funny how much different Griffin looks from when he was born. He’s a solid, chunky little boy now, with a nice, fat, round head. Every morning when you get him up from the bassinet (which is still by our bed and probably will be until he can sleep enough in the wee hours not to wake his brothers up when we put him in their room) he gives you such a big smile. He’s a pretty easy smile now, and while he’s not quite ticklish, I think he’s getting there.

He laughs sometimes, too. Tuesday night I think it was, he was sitting in my lap at the table and started laughing his ass off at Phoenix, who was sitting at the table eating his dinner to our right. I’m not even sure why he was laughing so much; Phoenix wasn’t really doing anything. It was great though.

He will gurgle talk to you a good bit. Oftentimes if you get your face really close to his and give him a few seconds he’ll start in on it.

Griffin enjoys sitting in the bouncy swing. Sometimes he’ll fall asleep in it, though I don’t let him stay there when I see that happen.

Tristen started feeding him some rice cereal at dinner, though she’d remarked that he doesn’t seem to be taking to spoon-feeding like his brothers did.

His eyebrows are coming in. I think they’re going to be kind pretty thick. And we thought for a while that his eyes might go blue, but today I was looking at them and I don’t think that’s going to be the case. They’re still sort of an indeterminate gray color.

We think he’s finally starting to resemble someone from the family too, and that person is his mother. That’s nice, since so many people think the twins look like me.

Fawkes and Phoenix

Fawkes and Phoenix have been walking for a few weeks now. Fawkes started it and Phoenix got onboard a couple days later. It’s already so natural for them that I don’t even give it a second thought most of the time.

The biggest thing with them though is that they’re starting to talk more. I feel like they’re saying new things every day. They’ve been able to say “Dada” and “Mama” and “hi” and “bye” for a long time. And “dat” which means pretty much everything.

The next stage was a few animals noises, “moo” being their favorite until we taught them how to blow air through tight lips to make an elephant sound. They picked up on “meow” and “baa” and a sort of growl for lions. More recently they’ve been doing “woof” and, for a few days now, have been doing “hoo” for an owl.

The coolest thing was when Fawkes said “cheese” on Monday. Phoenix did it a day or two after. I think they’re trying to say “grapes” sometimes. They’ve been able to say “no” for a little while, but they’re using it properly for sure now, especially Fawkes.

Me: Fawkes, come over here so I can change your diaper.

Fawkes (Pressing up against the sliding glass door or wandering off to the dining room): Now. (That’s kind of how he pronounces “no.”)

They’re just picking up on so many sounds lately. They’ve also been paying more attention to the Baby Einstein sign language video and doing signs along with it sometimes. I think it’s all a sign of a leap in intellectual development.

Fawkes started randomly spinning around last week. I’m sure it’s because I spin them around sometimes. Fawkes was actually turning in circles with his arms up; Phoenix would throw his arms up and just walk off.

So it sounds like Fawkes is doing a lot more than Phoenix first (and he is older, if only by three minutes), but Phoenix tends to do more physical stuff. He tends to be better at climbing into things and he’s very helpful with Griffin, often giving him blankets or toys or trying to stick a paci in his mouth when he’s crying.

Even though Phoenix is generally more nurturing with Griffin, he is also a bit more touchy, particularly about being touched. He’ll get annoyed sometimes if one of his brothers’ hands or legs is touching him, and Torrie says he’s more like Sebastian is with the twins, where he definitely needs his space sometimes or suspects that someone is coming to mess with something of his, towards Gabriel.

One thing that’s a little funny with Fawkes and Phoenix is their food. The past few days there have been things on their breakfast of lunch plates that one will finish that the other won’t, and vice versa with something else on the other’s plate. For example, Fawkes didn’t want to finish a muffin yesterday, and Phoenix didn’t want all of his grapes. I swapped them up, which they were happy to do, and they finished each other’s food.

One of the coolest things they’ve started doing is naming books. One of their favorites is EEK! Halloween! by Sandra Boynton. A few weeks ago they started doing the “EEK!” part in the book, so that’s what they call it.

There’s also a part that goes “They all hide their eyes, they don’t dare to peek.” At that point they’ll cover their faces, and right after that the book continues: “Then someone shouts ‘BOO!’ And the Chickens go ‘EEK!'” They’ll sometimes shriek at that part.

Now that I’ve recapped what’s happening with all the kids, let’s revisit the summer.

Summer 2019

Where to start? A random list, I suppose.

Adam and Raechel came to visit a few weekends ago. It happened to overlap with another visit exactly a year before, though we didn’t realize it at the time. We went to the beach when they were here, which happened to be Griffin’s first actual beach trip.

A good portion of Milly’s neighborhood friends have moved. First to go was Miles, whose parents decided to travel around for a year or so. Miles skipped a grade anyway, so they figured they had some cushion.

Next to go were the Swains. They’re still in town though.

However, some new friends, the Hodges, moved in just a few houses down. I sort of knew them already; we have a number of mutual acquaintances and we all lived in the same apartment complex for a little while.

Oh, somewhere along the way Milly picked up some lice. Then Tristen found one on me and one or two on one of the twins. I know shaving your head doesn’t get rid of them, but I had some longish and thick hair at the time, so, even though I’d been thinking just a few days prior of growing it out a bit, I took a trimmer to my head. Milly didn’t like it, and it took Tristen some getting used to, but I got some positive reactions on Facebook.

Anyway, the infection wasn’t too bad here, although it did spread a little to Torrie’s house. Fortunately for us none were found on anyone else. We nipped it pretty good I think.

Milly stayed very busy. She had two week-long performing arts camps, an art camp in Richlands, and then she stayed a week with the Lambeths. Gray suggested Milly marry her brother, Daniel, so they could be sisters. Milly wasn’t sold on the idea though. They also went to Wet & Wild, which I think was probably her first water park visit. I think it was the first water park I ever went to too, which is kind of cool.

Before she left, since she had been in Richlands the week before and I was going to essentially go two weeks without seeing her, Milly and I hung out at Mayfaire. We got some ice cream at Coldstone, her choice, then we walked around Barnes & Noble and Michael’s just to pass some time. She lost a tooth (I didn’t realize she didn’t have all her adult teeth yet) and we talked about songs with confusing lyrics. She came up with some pretty good ones for Smells Like Teen Spirit.

My left arm is now pretty well covered in tattoos. There’s still coloring left to do for a large portion of it, but all my kids are represented. (That, Tristen, is why we can’t have another child- there’s not enough room left on my arm.)

Speaking of the kids, I have to say that Milly has really shown a lot more interest in her brothers over the last few weeks. I think it helps that they’re a lot more interactive than they used to be, although she’s very affectionate with Griffin, and he doesn’t do much more than smile and drool at her. Maybe she’s just come around to being a big sister more.

On August 16th we thawed out the last of the breast milk reserves. There was still a little at Tristen’s parents’ house (although that’s now gone too). She had also donated a good bit of it to a lady in need of some for her child. We’ve been mixing the natural stuff with formula for a bit, but production hasn’t been able to keep up. (That’s due in part because of late night feeds where Tristen would just use one boob, so the other was like, “Fine, I’m outta here.”) Which is fine. Obviously the longer the better, but the baby’s had a good four months and some change of it.

Tristen decided to quit straightening her hair and try to embrace the natural curl.

My parents have officially moved. They bought the house next to theirs quite some time ago in order to redo the property lines. They planned to resell that house, then they thought about renting it out, then they thought about moving into it, which is what the ended up doing. They did a huge renovation and it looks amazing. It was getting close to done when we were all up there for the Fourth of July, but I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Tristen and I have gone out a few times. Just last weekend we had a date night. We tried to get other people involved, but our regulars were all busy so it was just the two of us. We had a really good time though.

The plan was to grab a nice dinner downtown then finally go see Spider-Man: Far From Home. It took us forever to find a spot to park though, and once we did we couldn’t find a fancy place to eat that didn’t have a huge wait, so we went to Slice of Life, got some salad and pizza, then had a couple drinks at a couple different bars.

I told Tristen to not worry about the time- if we made the movie, great, if not, oh well. She said she’d be fine with me going myself the next night (the only showing was at 9:40), but the twins had a rough night that night and I was exhausted.

But we had a really good time just hanging out together, and that was what mattered most.

Tristen got us a gym membership through her work. They have a daycare, so the thinking was it would be a place I could take the boys sometimes while they’re awake and active and keeping me from working. It would be a change for them to hopefully keep them entertained and occupied, plus I’d get to work out.

I’ve been twice so far. There’s a strict limit on how many kids they can watch, and they only watch certain ages at certain times. I haven’t been able to go very early because they’re always full then, and once the twins turn two I won’t be able to go at all unless someone is watching Fin Fin, and then it’ll have to be later in the afternoon. It also hasn’t meshed well with nap times and eating times so far. It’s a nice gym though and they’ve got a lot of programs you can sign up for. (If, let’s say, you’re not struggling to keep up with work because you’re juggling dad duties with running a business duties.)


Speaking of work, I’ve got my sister Erin doing a bit for me, which has been very useful. I’m looking to expand her role when I can.

I’ve also been staying very busy. I’ve got several websites I’ve been working on and I’m taking a deep dive into Facebook advertising. Part of what I want Erin to do it handle leads and sales for that for me. I just need to get to a point where I’ve got enough room to breathe so I can go over it all with her. I’m pretty excited about it though.

Really the toughest thing with keeping all these babies at home with me is not doing the work, but being available to clients and making time to do any sales that could really lead to growth.

As it is, I work relatively uninterrupted once Tristen gets home (aside from helping with baths and bedtime). Sometimes I take a nap around 9 or 10 and wake up around 1 then work for a few hours, sometimes I just power through until 2 or so. It’s really not the healthiest sleep schedule, and I miss going to bed when my wife does, but it works for now.

The goal is to get to the point that we can hire someone to help out on a regular schedule or for me to just make enough money that Tristen can quit her job (if she wants to).

That’s it for now. Over 2300 words, so that should be more than enough. As I always say, I’ll try to be more regular. It’s just been tough given my workload.