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Ah, Tuscany: a romantic Italian getaway to escape the dredges of normal life and enjoy the rolling hills, the small villas, and the homegrown Chianti wine (which is truly cheaper- some of it- than water). This was my first Pam-scheduled test of reintegration back into the now unfamiliar world of father, husband, and general socialization. And a family adventure it was. Once the kids figured out where the discipline-line was with “Daddy”, they were actually very well-behaved. But I think they kept me on my toes way more than I kept them on theirs (traveling toll included).

Under the Tuscan Sun

To help usher in the era of romance, our first day of Tuscany entailed exploring the Renaissance town of Siena. This killed two birds with one stone: not only did it set the enchanting mood for the night to come, but traversing the city also tired out the kids (yes, they walked all of it with us) to ensure uninterrupted bliss later on.

After a dinner on the villa of seafood pasta and wild boar, all washed down with a pitcher of the house wine, we walked back to our little brick and marble hideaway. Now, there’s no bathtubs in this little slice of heaven… just showers. The kids were pretty dirty, so a shower it would be. Pam took Marissa to shower in one bathroom, and I took Brenden to shower in the other bathroom. And toward the end of the whole process of cleaning up Brenden in the shower, I hear “jibber jabber jibber jabber POOP“. Poop, of course, is in all caps because that’s the word that flagged my utmost attention.

You see, Brenden is terrified of taking a dump in the toilet. Pam’s been working on him.

[flv:/video/Pee.flv 200 300]

While I was gone, she’s gotten him pretty well trained to drain the lizard in the toilet (standing up even… how’d you teach that one to him, Pam?). But when it comes to the dreaded #2, the toilet might as well be a giant Venus Fly Trap. So to combat the situation while I was deployed, Pam made him run around the house sans panties. Naked. The boy refused to let the mudslide flow with no underwear or diaper to immediately catch the produce. So his solution? He’d find a pair of underwear to put on, find a quiet corner, and drop his deuce and a half in seclusion.

With all this running through my head in the shower, I immediately yank him out, dry him up and start yelling for Pam. It’s around 8pm (the restaurant didn’t even open til 7). I wrestle him onto the toilet and he flips. Enter the bribes: only the serpent in the Garden of Eden could best me with convincing Brenden to take his place upon the porcelain alter. I almost promised the kid the world… his world: candy, presents, toys, anything… anything to just get the kid to drop his cargo over it’s intended destination. That, at least, held his interest to sit on the thing.

Enter Pam about this time; she’d just put Marissa to bed and brought our bottle of Chianti in (with two glasses) to dig in for the brewing battle. So here I am, towel around my waist sitting on the bathroom floor. Brenden, naked, perched atop the john. And Pam sitting in her PJs atop the bathroom sink. Another hour rolls by and I’m still waiting for the kid to declare brown-out conditions.

I think: if I massage his gut, maybe I can coax the ol’ brown bear out of its cave. So I start massaging the kid’s gut while he’s uncomfortably mounted upon his throne. I try to give him words of encouragement: “push it out, Buddy… push it out.” Another hour goes by and it’s all for naught. Maybe he just needs an expert demonstrator.

I muster up what I can and pull the kid out of his nest (much to his relief in fact)… “watch the Pro” I tell him. I assume the position of honor, and not even a minute goes by into my ritual and the kid grabs my chest and collar bone and starts wiggling his hands. What the hell is he doing? He looks me square in the eyes as he’s doing this, and tells me “Push…. It… Out… Daddy”. I’ve been played for a fool.

A few more vain attempts with Brenden and 10pm rolls around. I’m exhausted of ideas. I try to tell the kid to “make stinkies on the potty” and all I’m getting in return is “no, no, no!… I don’t!” I promised him every Engine from Thomas the Train I can think of, every candy he likes (even ice cream), and the kid still refuses to lay his loaf. And, oh by the way, the bottle of wine is finished. I’m running on steam for ideas.

Finally I give up. As I’m changing Brenden into PJs for bed, Pam congratulates me on a valiant attempt. The PJs trigger the boy to become emphatic about sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s bed (yes, this is also an ongoing battle). All of the sudden, I receive my Hail Mary: “Hey buddy, if you make stinkies on the potty, then you can sleep in Mommy’s and Daddy’s bed…” I get the standard “no… no, I don’t” in reply. “Ok, no stinkies in the potty, no Mommy/Daddy bed. It’s Brenden’s bed for you.” The stand-off continues for another 15 minutes. I can’t take it anymore. I throw him in his pull-up diaper (because Mr. Hanky is much easier to clean up this way) and his PJs and am about to turn the light off. And then: “I need to poop.”

The past 3 hours of my Tuscan Romance have consisted of Willy Wonka crying “wolf” in his chocolate factory. So my skepticism is high at this point. The kid pulls down his drawers and I set him back up in position for Custer’s last stand. Now, I know when I need to put down the periscope, it helps when I have some privacy. So I stand just outside of eyeshot around the corner to let the kid meditate for a little bit. Push It OutWithin 30 seconds, I hear a kerplunk like a dumbbell being dropped into a lake… shortly followed by a second one. Despite what the trailing stench may lead you to believe, it was the sound (and smell) of total victory.

I was elated… until I realized the boy was sleeping smack-dab between Pam and I in bed that night (as I’d promised him). To add insult to injury, I probably got about 2 hours of sleep that night after being kicked in the face and rolled over multiple times.

– Reintegration into my family: Win.
– Getting the kid to feed the goldfish after all this time: Win.
– Romance in Tuscany: Fail.

There’s always next time I guess. At least we up’d our wine collection by 100 bottles.

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