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Selfies with Royals – Meghan and Harry and Archie and Me

Selfies with Royals – Meghan and Harry and Archie and Me

So I’m soon to be royal-adjacent and I’m counting on taking selfies with Royals.

Last January, I received an email saying, “We’d like to schedule a five minute private call with you about the upcoming royal birth.”

Just: lolz.

My first thought was “Is this my long-lost cousin writing from a jail in Nairobi and needing $38,000 to get out?”

But, hey – I’m game. “I’m all ears.”

The woman explained she was calling from St. Jame’s House, a London Publishing Company, that publishes fancy coffee table books highlighting big British events like the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, royal weddings, and the 100th anniversary of Rolls Royce.

They were in the process of gathering “patrons” to be featured in the upcoming book, Our Royal Baby, to be launched after the christening of as-yet-unborn Archie, the child of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And they wanted to feature, well…the best and/or coolest diaper bag for men.

As a “patron”, I’d be featured in this book as an “exciting new company on-brand with this Modern Royal Couple.”

In the words of my deceased grandfather, “If I had dentures, I’d have lost them.”

Mr. Robert Jobson, “the godfather of royal reporting” and official biographer to Prince Charles, would interview me and write the feature on my company.

In addition, I’d receive an invitation to the royal christening and an invitation to attend the book launch in London at the Ritz Hotel.

(Non sequitor: should I be capitalizing “Royal” and “Christening”? Golly gee whiz I’m such an American un-versed in R/royal etiquette.)

After picking up my jaw (or dentures) from the ground, I asked, “Well, this is astounding. How on earth did you find me? And will I be able to take selfies with Royals?”

The woman laughed and said “We have researchers constantly seeking innovative and stylish companies appealing to a royal sensibility.”

Aw, shucks. I’m blushing. I mean – I may not be selling tons of bags, but…

…apparently I’m doing something right? (Notice my desperation.)

“I mean, this is crazy. I can say the ultimate dream would be for Prince Harry to carry my bag.”

“Well, we can make that happen,” my contact said, “though there’s no guarantee he would be photographed with it. But Mr. Jobson can personally give a bag to the Prince.”

Yo – Sign. Me. Dafuq. Up.

So, skipping over lots of banal details about contracts, I became part of the Our Royal Baby team.

As weeks and months passed trading messages about new photography and editing copy, I felt like the people in the charming novel, 84 Charing Cross Road, in which an informal American book collector strikes up a written friendship with a formal British antique book seller. His Britishisms contrast hilariously with the American’s, well…American-ness.

Point being – I’m the crazy, informal American and I’m certain my new British friend, Dhruti, must look at my emails and think, “This chap is off his rocker.”

Notice I improved upon the official photo.

Moving along, over the summer, Megs and Harry held the christening of wee Archie with zero fanfare. (I guess St. James’s House hoped to invite me to London around that time. Did I harbor illusions of taking that desired selfie with Royals? Absolutely. But I suppose an “invitation” meant a literal paper document for framing.)

So St. James scheduled our book launch at the Ritz for just after Labor Day – because that’s convenient (except for un-cultured Americans. Eye roll.)

Borrowed baby bored by paparazzi.

In the spring – several photo shoots took place. I was going for a uniquely New York scene in which I’m carrying the diaper bag and holding a (borrowed) baby. (Shout out to Adam’s photographic genius and Ashley loaning me her baby.)

See the green pipe behind the borrowed baby? Legit drug drop.

Charmingly, before taking this picture (at left), I noticed a guy pause at the green pipe over my shoulder and stick something inside. Minutes later, as I was posing with little “borrowed baby”, another dude lingered down the road. I could sense we were in his way. It wasn’t hard to realize he was waiting to pick up from the green pipe behind us.

So…pretty much we did a fashion shoot in the midst of a drug deal.

(Ultimately, Dhruti passed on that pict. Clearly it wasn’t “on brand” for the royal couple. Oh, well. It was on brand for NYC.)

Dhruti and I settled on this one.

In other news, I had dubbed the bag The Frenchie” because the blue/red racing stripes reminded me of the French flag. But then I figured “Frenchie” probably was not on brand with the Royals, so it was re-dubbed “The Windsor.”

Months passed, designs and wording of the editorial page were finalized, and I spent the summer hemming and hawing over whether to attend the party at the Ritz.

Finally, I figured, “I’m most likely going to come back utterly empty-handed. But I’ve invested this much, and I have the AmEx miles for a free trip. This seems like exactly the right frivolous trip on which to cash in.”

So: I’m here. In London. Ready to be Royal-adjacent.

Not holding my breath for taking selfies with Royals, Megs and Harry.

But a daddy can dream…

5 Rules to Raise Good Eaters

I follow 5 rules to raise good eaters…or at least pretty good eaters. Oh, we have plenty of negotiating at our dinner tables, don’t be misled. The frequent negotiations, occasional whining, rare tears. But still – it’s tolerable.

But we have mostly avoided eating anxiety and unhealthy habits (not to mention table drama) by following these five rules to raise good eaters.

Mind you – we are very consistent and hyper-annoying to our kids about them. That’s the main thing…like all parenting…consistency. It’s tough being the constant nag, I know. But it pays off.

So… stick with me, dear reader: among a few others feed them this:

…and follow these 5 rules to raise a good eater (with hopefully little drama).

*Absolutely no guarantees, mind you!

1. This is dinner. Eat it or not.

Your call. But: no drama, li’l llama. If you don’t want it, you can leave the table. But you’re not sitting here and complaining and pushing food around and whining and negotiating how many more minuscule bites you have to eat. Either eat your dinner or not. (We don’t do clean plate, we require 80%, give or take.) But if you leave the table, no dessert.

2. At least 3 bites.

A new food that’s scary? You don’t have to eat it all. But if you want dessert, you must have three bites – one to feel, one to taste, one to decide. No negotiations.

3. No snacking after 4:30 pm.

If they’ve worn you down and you’re already sipping a cocktail and making dinner, and you KNOW they really are starving, then: fine – let them snack on broccoli or cucumbers or carrots. If they’re REALLY hungry (as opposed to bored) they’ll eat. And they may always gobble all the veggies they want. But no snacking after 4:30.

4. First the “anytime” foods, then “sometime” foods

Earn the good stuff. This is our parenting mantra. Like Michelle Obama said, “There are sometimes foods and there are anytime foods. But you gotta earn the sometimes foods by first eating the anytime foods.”

First apple, then more crackers; first dinner, then dessert; first twenty minutes of quiet time, then ten minutes of screen time; first daddy’s beer then I’ll chase you around the house.

But especially for food: anytime foods then sometimes foods.

5. Half the plate should be vegetables.

May the culinary gods bless my kids’ doctor for sharing this rule. I get to throw her under the bus as I shrug my shoulders and say to my kids, “Sorry. Not my rule. It was the doctor’s. Half the plate has to be vegetables.” Hell, we almost NEVER make that. But it’s a good thing to aim for. We all know we’d be better off gobbling half a plate of vegetables.

(Oh, here’s an extra tip…but I avoided having an even-numbered list…”5 rules to raise good eaters” sounds better than “6 rules…”, doesn’t it?

Have your kids help in the kitchen.

Ask them/cajole them/require them to give a hand in food prep. It’ll make them more invested in the experience of eating. Let them experiment with using knives. Heck, they gotta learn sometime. Order one of these for young kids, but even so, let them know/understand/respect sharp knives, too.

I’m a Dog Saint – But Don’t Envy Me

I’m a Dog Saint – But Don’t Envy Me

OK, folks – I don’t mean to be all righteous, but seriously: I’m a dog saint…aaaaand…don’t envy me. As evidence, this post is crude but entirely based in fact. Enjoy at your own peril.

My dog, Maddie, is walking and running (more like galumphing), since the beginning of her FCE ordeal. She temporarily lost use of the back half of her body but has made incredible strides back to, well – striding.

And she’s utterly unperturbed when her hips occasionally slip and slam on the ground. She just keeps going in her new normal.

But I desperately hope for to regain control of her bladder and bowels.

Dear doggy lord: my Maddie is walking adequately. I’ll trade further progress in the leg region for any control in her nether regions.

We’ve had to “express” her bladder, otherwise she grows a 3-inch balloon in her gut. We put our fingers behind her ribs and squeeze back and in. This triggers her back legs to shoot straight out while urine sprays out of her with the force of a super-soaker. Not difficult, merely annoying. And a lot of splashing.

But nothing’s as bad as the poop.

Before walking returned, the poor dog soiled herself. Bowels emptied onto her tail and legs and she’d try to drag her paralyzed hind-end away. Daily baths were the norm. (Difficult with a dog who couldn’t stand.) We were all miserable.

Since walking, Maddie still lacks “function” control. Sometimes (usually at about 4AM) it seems she feels something and thinks, “Oh, crap. Oh, no. Oh crap, I think I’m gonna…”

She stands, takes two steps, and then: plop. Another step, another plop. We’ve surrounded her bed with wee-wee pads, so her scat is caught before she scats.

Then she shamefully hides from us in a corner.

The commotion wakes us, but over the past few weeks, we’re resigned to it. “Oh, well. The dog lost it, again.” So we clean doggy-doo by the light of cell phones.

For a month I lined up Ellison’s rubber alphabet tiles down our hallway for Maddie to walk without slipping. Because she stuck to that path, a few times she left presents along the tiles.

One night before turning in, I went to check on the sleeping boys, and I stepped in a pile. I was barefoot.

I slipped, smearing ordure along the P, Q, and R letters, at which point the tiles separated, and my foot further smeared feces on the wood floor.

My kids' rubber tiles running through my apartment to give my dog a grip and not slip.
See the bloody paw prints on the tiles?

I semi-sighed/semi-laughed. I wretched as I cleaned.

This wasn’t the first bare foot nastiness. I’m always the one who steps in it.

Recently, I started “expressing” her bowels. (Yeah: I’m a dog saint.)

Imagine, if you will, a grown man squatting behind his dog, squeezing her haunches until her tail pops up and her anus starts to pucker.

At this point, I’m (sadly) happy for action. It means less mess in the apartment. Since it’s now sub-zero in the Northeast, and I squat mere inches away from her, I actually see steam escaping her butt.

The height of indignity is when I force my dog to fart in my face. It happens almost daily.

We hardly react to this, anymore. It’s become de rigueur for the kids.

“Did Maddie go poopy again, Daddy?”

“Yes. Don’t touch it, please. I’ll clean it after I make your toast.”

One time, a babysitter sat on the couch reading to Ellison when my younger kid delivered something. It was poop.

To this point (knock on wood) Maddie’s had no diarrhea. So clearing the crud is quick and easy and it’s easier for me to say “I’m a dog saint.” Sometimes we scrub with chemicals, sometimes we just wipe with a paper towel. We’re so resigned to it now, we just shrug and keep on keeping on.

I haven’t cleaned with bare hands. That’s probably next.

We ask every visitor if the apartment smells like dog droppings.

They all say “No, not at all.”

I hope they’re not shitting us.

I (Suddenly) Love Frozen

I’ve written a variation on this theme, before, but it’s the greatest hope I have for my kids.

“Daddy? You be ‘Anna’ and I’m going to run away from you with my cape and you say, ‘No, Elsa! Don’t go!’ Ok?”
“OK, buddy.”

Role-play ensues.

Even Colton, who’s words are limited to “pee-pee” and “nana” gets into it. When he sees anything Frozen, he shouts “Anna!”

As already discussed, our household is ruled by Frozen. (Actually, Thomas the Train still rules, but there’s a lot of Disney princessifying going on.)

Frozen thrills Ellison. He plays all the rolls: Kristoff, Sven and (especially) the sisters. I’ve gotten good at fashioning dresses out of old swaddlers (blankets, not Pampers.)

The other day I figured, “Eh, he hasn’t watched it in two weeks. Why not?” As we waited for the movie to load on my computer, Ellison jumped on the bed shouting, “Hooray! Hooray! I’m so excited to watch Frozen!”

He shouts “hooray” sans irony. I mean, who talks like that? It’s so…earnest, so…“Barney” dialogue.

After a recent snowstorm, we built “Olafs” in our backyard with some play-date friends, a boy (age 5) and his sister (age 3).

When Ellison started singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” the boy said, “I hate Frozen. It’s all about love. And I hate love.”

“Wow. That’s…specific,” I sputtered.

His little sister said, “Yeah. I don’t like it, either.”

“Oh,” Ellison said; then (matter-of-factly) added, “I like it!”

It was as if they’d said “my name begins with R” and he said “Oh. Well, my name begins with E.”

And in that moment, I felt a desperate need to stop time, grab Ellison, and say, “Buddy, you go ahead and LOVE Frozen with all your heart, just as you do, now. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”

Their mother rolled their eyes saying, “Whatever. They were both dancing around in Frozen dresses, this morning. Peer pressure. It’s no longer cool for him to like the movie. And his sister’s just following.”

“Already?” I thought. “At five years old social acceptance looms?”

I hate that.

I’ve spouted lessons for my son in this blog. But above all, I wish most for him to hold on forever to that innocence where he loves what he loves. If he’s thrilled with Frozen or football or fungi, I’ll be elated to talk about it.

How I wish he could live divorced from anyone else’s opinion. Watching his captivated face as he’s engrossed/scared/delighted watching Frozen warms my heart.

Eventually, I know he’ll follow crowds.

I know he’ll say to me, “Daddy, don’t hug me so much,”

or “Daddy, it’s not cool to sing,”

or “Daddy? Can you drop me off at the corner? I can walk the rest of the way myself.”

But I wish it wouldn’t happen soon.

Son, just hold on to whatever makes you feel joy and free and light and inspired. And if whatever inflames your passion is something that isn’t cool for the outside world, I promise you: it’s safe in our house. So act out Frozen or play football or become bizarrely obsessed with fungi.

Your passion and interests are always safe with me.

I know you’ll be influenced by others far too soon.

But be innocent for as long as possible.

That’s my deepest hope for you, buddy boy.

We’ve Entered the FROZEN Tundra

What is it with Frozen? I know people with 4 -6 year-olds went through this last year, but my 3-year-old is quickly catching up. He is obsessed with Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and that insidious song.

I mean, do any adults think the movie is amazing? How on earth did they craft something so addictive for kids?

Is it immediacy?…that we can conjure the song on phones and parents couldn’t have done that with The Little Mermaid? Would we have gone ape-shit over Aladdin if we could YouTube “Never Had a Friend” while on a ski lift or in line at the grocery store?

Obviously Disney creates magic, but I wonder if they don’t have a “Department of Nefarious Arts” in a turret of Sleeping Beauty’s castle where they plot to seduce impressionable minds with scientifically-chosen colors and committee-crafted plot points?

Ellison is learning a lot about families, behavior and body parts with his preoccupation with Frozen. Last Tuesday he asked me 16 times why Elsa stays in the room hiding from Anna. I explained twelve times (and ignored the other four), “Because Elsa has magical powers in her hands, but she doesn’t know how to control them. So she hides from Anna to keep Anna safe.”

“But Elsa loves Anna. They’re sisters.”

“That’s right, buddy. Sometimes you have to protect people you love by hiding from them.”

How on earth is that a concept he can understand? But maybe Frozen is expanding his brain capacity?

Yesterday, Ellison pulled a blue yoga mat around his chest and said, “Look! I’m Elsa. My purple cape flew away. Now I’m in the blue dress.”

He does this with blankets, towels and, once, a paper towel.

It’s hilarious how he taps into the role-play. (I bet this woman would have something to say about it.)

As we walked to school, the other day, he asked this non-sequitur: “Do Elsa and Anna have penises?”

“Um, no buddy.”

“Oh. What do they have in front of their hinies?”

I took a deep breath to quell my guffaw. “They have vaginas, buddy.” (We’ve discussed anatomy, before.)

He responded, “Olaf doesn’t have a penis.”

“Oh,” I said, newly enlightened. I refrained from saying, How do you know he isn’t just suffering from shrinkage? He’s a snowman!

Another non-sequitur: while playing trains, Ellison stood, stomped his feet and informed me, “When Elsa stomps her foot on the stairs, she makes snowflakes. She runs up stairs but she doesn’t fall. I don’t run on stairs. I could fall.”

Bless his preschool and their staircase vigilance.

And the song. Seriously? Is it really that good? Even Idina Menzel, herself, has declared the song “too damn high.” (I can’t find the citation, now, but I swear I read it.)

And the ending? “Cold never bothered me, anyway.” Isn’t that some kind of dangling grammatical deviant? It’s so clipped…like the writers jumped off the horse mid-stream.

But maybe this is the Disney psychological warfare? Adults are musically unsatisfied, the kids don’t seem to care.

And the writers and Disney are laughing at my novice criticism all the way to the bank.

Yesterday I needed to wake Ellison from a nap (he could nap for hours in the afternoon, but then he’d never sleep at night. So I wake him at 45 minutes…resulting in crabbiness.) I brought him from the brink of tears by pulling up “Let it Go” on my phone. Breathlessly, he whispered, “What’s that song, Daddy? It’s…it’s…it’s ‘Wet it D’oh.’”

Ellison couldn’t care less about my envy-tinged artistic grand-standing. And I’m still charmed by him singing.

Let it go, Gavin. Write something better and then we’ll talk.

What are your thoughts on Frozen and “Let It Go”?