January 29, 2012

What's Better Than Having a Best Friend?
Having One With the Same Name

Best Friend Ella (left) and our Ella (right)
When I was young, my best friend's name was Brian. We were known around popular circles as "The Brians." We were also a bit cautious of the popular circles, because they were typically in something cool-sounding like "detention" and we were typically in something slightly less cool-sounding like "Math Club." And trust me, Math Club wasn't quite the babe-magnet extracurricular that it is in schools today.

Brian and I did everything together—school projects, backyard whiffleball, riding the bench in soccer with all the other delightful kids who were also very talented at riding the bench in soccer. We dressed as Mario and Luigi for Halloween. We planned to be TV news co-anchors when we grew up, practicing in his parents' basement and recording ourselves with their 1988 video recorder that was roughly the size of Shaquille O'Neil. There are videos to prove this. I assume these videos will only come to light if I run for president or reveal that Brian had a humongous crush on Kelly Monk. So I won't do either.

I bring this up because my eldest daughter Ella has a bestie, and her name is also Ella. "The Ellas" were destined to be best friends since the day they met at our sitter's house. Both were months old. Both were immobile. Both were wearing onesies that said, "If you think I'm cute you should see my dad."

Their friendship has grown over time, like a beautiful garden or a senior trip beeramid.  What was once a relationship of sitting on the couch, using each other's heads as teething rings has blossomed into two kids who hold hands and skip all the way to their classroom door without noticing that I am stuck in the car, caught in the tangled web of the toddler car seat's 5-point seatbelt harness system.

Two dancing friends.
Best Friend Ella's Mom and I share carpooling duties, but (selfishly) I look forward to the days I drive. There isn't much that's more entertaining than listening to 4-year-old besties discuss the challenges of their times and the issues that are near and dear to their hearts.

Our Ella: "Did you see what shirt I'm wearing today?"
Best Friend Ella: "No I didn't. Does it have pink in it?"
Our Ella: "Yes. And so do my socks!"
Best Friend Ella: "So do mine! I'm freaking out about it!"
Our Ella: "I'm freaking out about it too!"

One afternoon, when we were sitting in the dinning room peeling Play D'oh from the underside of the table,1 Ella asked me if she could write a note to her friend and if I could help her spell out some words.

Of course I'd help her spell anything so long as it wasn't a love letter to a boy, in which I'd alter the spelling of the word "love" from "L.O.V.E." to something a little less inviting such as "Y.O.U. T.O.U.C.H. M.Y. D.A.U.G.H.T.E.R. A.N.D. I. W.I.L.L. K.I.L.L Y.O.U." She's lucky I'm a writer and spelling is my strong suit.

"Daddy," she said. "Can you show me how to spell 'Dear Ella, Best Friends Forever, Love Ella.'"

It was at that exact moment I realized that Play D'oh was also embedded in the carpet underneath the table.2 But I ignored it and smiled anyway, happy that my daughter had a best friend whom she cared about so much that she wanted to put it in writing. She's lucky—and I'm lucky to watch their friendship grow from the front seat on my carpool days.

I know it's not a luxury every father gets, so I treasure it like I treasure my memories of filming the news with Brian. And I hope that The Ellas treasure these memories as they grow up, no matter where their lives lead them. I also hope that my other daughters3 are lucky enough to experience the type of friendship that causes them to want to put it in writing.

I really, really hope so.

Wait a minute. I was the one who had a crush on Kelly Monk. Back then, when I told Brian, I was probably freaking out about it.

1 Which no one takes responsibility for, so I can only assume that the table is sweating Play D'oh.  
2 Which, according to my wife, is a castrate-able offense.
3 Who suspiciously have Play D'oh under their fingernails.

January 13, 2012

The Curious Case of the Missing Keys
(CSI: Klems Edition)

I never lose anything, other than loads of money in annual fantasy sports leagues, so when the girls and I were packing up to bring a picnic-style lunch to my wife's office and I couldn't find my keys, I reacted like this.

Let me explain: The day before, I noticed each one of my kids uncharacteristically picking up and playing with my keys. I had to pull out the old deep Dad voice and scold each one:

"Ella, you know better than to play with my keys!"

"Anna, didn’t you just hear me yell at Ella for playing with my keys?!"

"Mia, don't even think about playing with my keys. And quit biting my shoe."

And just like that, my keys were lost.

After I realized that yelling was not helping the cause (mainly because the girls were ignoring me while pretending to be unicorns), I decided to take a more pragmatic approach: If the girls lost my keys, they were going to help me find them. And they weren't going to charge their typical rate of 7 marshmallows per hour. This was pro bono work, after all, finding my keys is for the good of the public—otherwise my wife would have to drive everywhere, which would be awful considering she suffers from a terrible case of listening to New Kids On The Block CDs at an unbearable volume (anything above "no volume").

So we got out our sleuthing equipment—magnifying glasses, flashlights, David Caruso sunglasses—and formed the first ever CSI: Klems team. Our mission: To search every nook, cranny and drawer of bibs until we rescued my keys. It was a tall task, but I felt my not-so-tall team was up for the challenge.

After careful examination of the crime scene, where my wallet and smartphone slept peacefully and unharmed, CSI: Klems determined that this must be an inside job. Detective Anna's theory that maybe the keys just "got up and walked off" was ruled out, due to lack of evidence and the fact that I only buy keys that are lazy and unwilling to walk anywhere. This attempt to throw us off the case made her a prime suspect.

Detective Ella surveyed the dining room, opening her 48-piece puzzle to see if the keys ended up in the box. She also put the puzzle together "in case it revealed clues as to where the keys were." Unfortunately the only information revealed was that the 48-piece puzzle was now a 47-piece puzzle, which meant CSI: Klems' second assignment was to find puzzle piece No. 48. But her lack of enthusiasm to get to the bottom of the Curious Case of the Missing Keys lead me to believe she didn't want us to find out what happened, making her a prime suspect No. 2.

Detective Mia just sat on the floor, looking suspicious. I would later realize this was due to a Code Red. She was immediately cleared of all charges.

We searched everywhere—the couch, the chairs, the beds, the drawers, the cabinet where we keep the Doritos, the cabinet where we keep the back-up bag of Doritos, the hidden compartment on the high chair where the girls like to hide things, the bathroom, the treasure chests, the bookshelves, the Lalaloopsy dolls, the Code Red diaper. We searched until our searchers were searched out. Then we napped.

My wife finally arrived home from work and asked if we had found the keys. We shook our heads no, admitted defeat and handed in our badges. She took a peek at where the keys were last seen and then, without grabbing any sleuthing tools, walked into the other room. Seconds later I heard a jingle.

"Found them."

This had to be a joke. We searched for 8 hours with no luck, not even a clue, and she just waltzes through the door and, in the second place she looks, finds my keys?

"Where were they???"

"They were sitting here in this clothes basket by the steps."

"How did you know they were there?"

"Well I didn't know. You said that you had them on the computer stand and I remembered that this basket of clean clothes—which YOU forgot to bring upstairs last night—was sitting there all day yesterday. I moved it this morning to get it out of the walkway. Based on these factors, I deduced that your keys likely had fallen into the basket."

Case closed.

Sometimes what seems like a catastrophe can not only turn into a fun game, but can also bring you closer together as a family. It can also prove precisely whom the real captain of your CSI: team is. And there's no doubt the leader of CSI: Klems is the one most of the team calls Mom.

Unfortunately that means this is our theme song: