Sienna Puts Me In A Compromising Position

I sat with my back to the door, arms and knees to my chest, hands covered in kitty litter dust. Toe throbbing. Knee burning. Face red. Minky’s soft, hungry meow coming through the door. Next to me sat my near 2 and a half-year-old Sienna smiling proudly, impishly. And why not? She did something that a student of media had to appreciate. She succeeded in creating a living sitcom. For you see, the door we sat against led to the inside of our apartment. We sat in the hall facing the elevator. And I was dressed in nothing but my frog-printed boxers.

Five seconds. That’s all it took for Sienna to create this hackneyed yet utterly embarrassing situation. I’d just finished cleaning the cat litter and stepped outside in my boxers like I’ve done hundreds of times before because the garbage chute stands 3 feet away from our apartment door. I threw away the garbage and suddenly heard a soft creaking. For a split second my heart stopped and then I reacted. I twisted around, slipped, bent my left big toe sharply backwards while falling, skinned my knee on the rug and reached the door just as Sienna closed it and locked us out. At first one thing zoomed through my mind:



But then I sat there half naked with my toe throbbing and me knee burning and my daughter smiling not realizing what she’d done and I thought of all the sitcoms where a character’s towel gets caught in the door and they get locked out of their house or apartment, naked, flailing, and all I could do was add to the canned laughter.

I also realized how glad I was that I decided to change the cat litter later than usual because we only had 30-40 minutes until Elaine came home as opposed to the hours we’d normally have to wait. Plus I felt thankful that BOTH of us were outside instead of Sienna locking me out and her in. Ugh. Could you imagine?

What to do? I suggested Sienna run up and down the hall while we waited for Elaine and/or I thought of a way out of our predicament. Thrilled, Sienna obliged except she looked back at me with a sunny grin rather look ahead and thus she smashed into a hall corner leading to tears, wails and cries to go back “outside.” I couldn’t stop laughing, not at her pain but at how ridiculous everything was, at how it kept escalating into further ludicrousness. I didn’t want to hold Sienna with my hands because they were covered in kitty litter dust so I held in my forearms and calmed her by telling her to listen to Minky’s meows through the door. I always feed the cats after changing their litter so poor Minky wanted his food as his meows were so pathetic and sad and funny because of the inches of door separating us. Meanwhile my toe began to turn black and blue. I couldn’t bend it downward without causing sharp pain. Here’s a pic I took later:



Believe me, the toe looked worse the next day. Now it’s taped and immobilized. But back to the hallway.

Sienna stopped crying after five or ten minutes. I thought of my options:

1) Sit and wait for Elaine

2) Knock on a neighbor’s door to ask if I could use their phone to call my parents so they could use their key to let us in (plus I could wash my hands)

3) Knock on Fae’s door (Fae serves on the building’s board and I thought she could somehow secure a key. I knew our super was on vacation so I didn’t see the point on taking the elevator down to the lobby while in my boxers to knock on his door…and there was no guarantee Sienna’d stay still. She could take off leading to a seriously embarrassing chase through the lobby and ground floor. Problem was I didn’t quite want Fae to see me half naked and looking like an idiot)

I wanted to just wait for Elaine, but then decided to go with 3. I asked Sienna to knock on Fae’s door and miraculously she did so…a few times. No answer. I think I was too ashamed to do it myself even though I was laughing at myself. Somehow my realization that I was living a funny cliché combined with the knowledge that Elaine would be home soon helped stave off an anxiety attack. But still I’d rather not let anyone see me in boxers.

So we sat watching the elevator go up and down hoping it’d land on 4, the doors would open and my wife would do a double take. And then it happened. The doors opened and there was the double take…except it was 2 young women who live down the hall. Oh boy. I covered myself as best as I could. And at that point I didn’t care if Fae saw me in my underwear. We had to get back inside.

“Hi!” I said. They averted their eyes and almost ran to their apartment. “Umm…can you do me a favor and knock and that last apartment door and see if Fae’s home? This little one here locked us out.”

“Ok,” said one of them. They knocked, Fae opened her door and saw me sitting on the floor half-naked with Sienna standing next to me.

“Hey Fae!” I waved. She was dressed for bed. “Umm, Sienna locked us out and John’s on vacation. Is there any way you can get a key to our apartment?”

“I heard knocking,” Fae said laughing, “But I figured Sienna was just playing. Give me a sec. John’s back home. I’ll go downstairs and get the key.”

She ducked back inside as the 2 young women waved goodbye. Within a minute she came back out in jeans. I related the story to Fae and she belly-laughed.

“Don’t you unlock the doorknob when you step out?”

“Nope. Only when I do the laundry, but you can bet I’ll be doing it from now on.”

“Ok,” Fae said. She smiled. “Sienna, you want to come with me in the elevator?” Sienna did. She took Fae’s hand and I shook my head at our predicament as I watched the elevator door close.

Great. Now John gets to see me in my boxers. Except he didn’t because apparently he had no extra key for our apartment. Everyone else yes, but us no! What next?

Fae invited us to wait for Elaine in her apartment. I graciously excepted, keeping my arms crossed on my chest the whole time (still a behavioral remnant from my years of suffering gynecomastia). I washed my hands. Sienna started at the TV. Then Fae brought out a box shaped like a treasure chest on which Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s faces were imprinted.

“I’ve been meaning to give this to Sienna. Princess dresses!” Fae exclaimed.

Sienna jumped up and down as Fae ripped open the box.


Sienna grabbed a pink skirt.

“Put ON!” she demanded. “Put ON!”

Fae helped Sienna into the skirt as the elevator doors dinged and Elaine stepped out.

“HI!” I called out and there was the double take. The real one. The one that read what the hell’s going on?

I relayed the whole adventure as Elaine cracked up, Fae laughed and Sienna swished about in her new princess dress. Then finally we thanked Fae and Elaine opened our apartment door. I limped inside and sat down. Sienna being Sienna ran about the apartment as Elaine checked out my toe. Years ago I ruptured the tendon in my right big toe after I slipped in the shower the same day we had to drive to Vermont. Now that was a painful trip (Elaine doesn’t drive). Elaine was worried that I’d ruptured my other tendon and she wanted me off my feet because next week we’re heading to Utah and Bryce Canyon meaning a bit of hiking. After examining me, she decided it was a sprain and she wrapped ice around my toe and sent me to bed. I took a pic of Sienna dressed as mixed princesses before I left.


Sienna as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with ubiquitous security scarf

She fed the poor hungry cats and got Sienna ready for bed. Then she brought Sienna in to say goodnight and to make sure my foot was properly elevated.

Sienna watched quietly as Elaine adjusted the pillow beneath my foot and fixed my blanket. And then she did one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen. She did something that made my heart nearly explode with pride and nearly set Elaine’s eyes to tearing.

Sienna gave me her precious scarf.

“Daddy’s scarf,” she said, her voice sweet like cotton candy.

Then she took her cherished white blanket and covered me with it, carefully adjusting it just as Elaine had fixed our normal blanket.

“Daddy’s blanket, she said. Daddy has a boo-boo.”

“Thank you, Sienna,” I said, a smile on my face, amazement, joy, pride flowing through me. Elaine stood near crying.

Then she said kissed and hugged me goodnight and I said it was ok to take her blanket and scarf which she grabbed hungrily.

But it was worth it. All of the embarrassment. The three women seeing me half naked. The sprained toe. The rug burns on my knees. The sitcom brought to life. Everything was worth it to witness my daughter give me her most treasured items because Daddy was hurting. My love for her grew exponentially if that’s even possible.

I’m so proud of her. So proud.

And lesson learned. Never again will I leave the apartment to throw something in recycling or the garbage chute without unlocking the doorknob.

I can’t wait to see what sitcom plot we act out next. Hopefully I stay fully clothed for it.



Sienna And The Frightening Fly

Twas the first day of May and Elaine and my mother sat casually feeding Sienna eggplant rollatini in a pizzeria down the block form our apartment when out of nowhere the scariest creature on the planet zoomed by Sienna’s head. No I’m not talking about a rat or a killer bee or a king cobra. No great white shark decided to make a side trip from the ocean to have a slice of pizza. I’m not even talking about that insidious varmint known as Elmo. I’m referring to an ordinary housefly.

It’s amazing what strikes fear into the hearts of toddlers. According to eyewitnesses (Elaine and my mom), Sienna screeched and jumped into Elaine’s lap, clinging to her neck as if it were the last life preserver on the sinking Titanic, and buried her face on her mommy’s shoulder when the fly first buzzed her head.

“It’s just a fly, honey,” Mommy allegedly said. “It’s gone. Nothing to worry about. No more fly.”

Reports say it took some time for Sienna to calm down and release her mommy from that death grip.

“No fly,” said Sienna. “No fly.”

“That’s right,” echoed Elaine. “No fly.”

Then that monstrous beast streaked across the room and Sienna was back in Mommy’s lap, tears streaming, knuckles turning so white as she gripped Elaine that Mommy began to turn blue. Time and again a terrified Sienna would calm down and then hurl herself at Elaine when that fly flew overhead. Even when they reached the safety of the apartment Sienna would occasionally ask to be held while shaking her little head and assuring herself: “No fly. No fly.” This was something I witnessed when I got home and Elaine made me aware of the evening’s events making sure to always spell F-L-Y so as not to upset out daughter. I watched as Sienna peeked her head around the corner, looked at my wife for comfort, asked to be picked up and said, “No fly. No fly.”

When night-night came, Sienna seemed okay. It was Elaine’s night to put her down and our daughter laughed and played under fluorescent blue stars until my wife told her to climb into bed. She fell asleep, but apparently that devilish fly haunted Sienna’s dreams. As we sat on the couch listening over the baby monitor we heard our daughter whimper and then cry out as if a serial killer were after her in her sleep: “Help! Stop! Mommy! Daddy!”

Elaine went in first. She picked a drowsy Sienna up, held her to her chest, sat down in the rocking chair and rocked. But the little girl screamed and squirmed, screamed and squirmed. I went into the darkened bedroom and asked my little girl if she’d like to lie down on the floor with Mommy and Daddy.


I don’t know if she was awake or asleep when she answered, but it doesn’t matter. The three of us lay on the floor, Sienna between Elaine and myself. She sucked her thumb. She held her blanket. She fidgeted and fussed. Elaine and I ran our fingers through her hair and stole glances at each other. Finally I decided this was a night Sienna needed us, her parents, even more than ever. She needed to feel safe. We brought Sienna to our bedroom, placed her head on a pillow, shut off the light and got into bed. It was barely 11 pm so I had to take half a melatonin otherwise I would have lay there staring into the blackness.

I asked Sienna if she’d like me to sing “Rainbow Connection” which happens to be her current favorite song (I’m so proud!). She said yes and I dutifully complied, the words flowing over her in the darkness, lulling her to sleep. Little snores escaped her tiny nose. In her sleep she slipped across the pillow and landed with her face in my back. And I loved it. I loved being there for my daughter even if it meant having barely enough room to keep myself on the bed. I lay there feeling warm and important. I lay there feeling like vital father.

It wasn’t an easy night. Fitful sleep for all of us. Sienna periodically moaning, asking for help as that ghastly fly plagued her dreams, Elaine and I waking up at each whimper. According to Elaine, when she got up for work at 5 am, she had to leave a mewling and suffering little girl filling her with heartbreak. By the time Sienna and I awoke around 8 am, all was well with the world, both the actual fly and its nighttime apparition gone from our toddler’s mind. Elaine’s mom came over and she and Sienna had a grand time going for a walk and picking dandelions as Daddy tried to do some work – actually write a blog for the first time in forever as Elsa and Anna say in Frozen which we’ve now watched at least 10 times.

Sienna’s napping now and it’s peaceful. No bad dreams. No flies. The previous night is over but it left me with so many lessons and feelings.

One lesson is obvious: it’s way too early to introduce Sienna to Brundlefly.

The other lesson is that caring for my terrified little girl gave me sense of joy and love I haven’t felt in at least a month due to a depression relapse.

Who knew an ordinary fly could do so much?

What simple things have frightened your little ones so? How did comforting them make you feel?

Sharing Your Childhood Likes With Your Kid

I’ve been having a rough time blogging of late so I wanted to write something personal yet fun because despite all the turmoil I’ve gone through recently, I’m seriously enjoying Sienna’s current verbosity, her ability to mimic and the accompanying glee that comes with it.

I’ve already taught her plenty of animal sounds so if you see her and ask what a crow says, she’ll answer you with a smile and a loud, “CAAAAAAAW!” But what I’ve found even more enjoyable (and clearly more hilarious) is teaching her pop culture words and phrases from my childhood. In a way, I feel it further connects as Daddy and Sienna. Sure it might be utterly ridiculous and have no redeeming social value, but it absolutely feels special because I’m teaching her a part of myself and we both love it.

It all started when Sienna was just a few months old. She made these noises that reminded me of Gizmo from Gremlins so of course I immediately went out and got her very own Mogwai (not a real one, people…they don’t actually exist!):

Sienna and Gizmo copy

Now she asks for Gizmo when she goes to bed and I couldn’t be happier. She’ll also cheerfully squeak, “Bright light! Bright light!” when you ask her what Gizmo says. So cute!

I also find it cute that she loves the theme music to Alf. I’m not sure why she does, but I made sure to put it on her YouTube list (we don’t let her watch much television and instead created a playlist filled with classic Sesame Street and Muppet skits and songs as well as “Let It Go” and a bunch of other things which we let her view on occasion). She recognizes the first note from the theme and goes, “Alf!” and I grin like a fool.

Just like Daddy, she says, “D’oh!” when she drop something echoing this famous character:


If you ask her what this guy says, she yells, “Cobraaaaaaa!”


If asked what Peter Venkman says, she’ll repeat the famous Ghostbusters line, “He slimed me!” though it sounds more like, “‘limed me!” She’ll shout, “Yo Joe!” if you ask her what Roadblock says. She’s working on, “I’ll be back!” (complete with accent) when asked what Schwarzenneger says. She giggles and goes, “How you DOIN’!” if I ask her what Joey says (wrong emphasis, but still impressive, and though it might not be from my childhood, it’s still pretty funny. And once she gets those down I plan to teach her John McClane’s awesome “Yippee ki yay!” (sans the MF, of course).

She even starred in her own version of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which you can see here:

Teaching Sienna this stuff is not for the benefit of others, though sometimes I can’t resist watching people crack up when she throws out an 80s reference. Teaching her these things along with numbers, letters, colors, songs, manners, names of things, etc., is a way for me to bond with my daughter and pass on some of my own loves. I also adopt her own as I taught her to say, “Drums! Drums!” when she sees the Muppets’ Animal because she gets excited whenever he comes on screen. Her other favorite is Beaker (who happens to be my chosen Muppet), but she picked up on his, “Mee mee mee!” without me having to do anything.

I tell you, there is nothing cuter than seeing a 2-year-old girl refer to Batman as “Na-na!” thanks to the 60s theme song unless it’s hearing her say, “Braaaiins!” when asked what a zombie says. I promise to make sure she knows that not only do the zombies on the bus not say, “Brains! Brains! Brains!” by the time she goes to school, but that she understands there are no zombies on the bus. One day she’ll be ready for zombies and Gremlins and Ghostbusters and G.I. Joe and hopefully we’ll sit, snuggled up, bowl of popcorn in our laps, and watch some of Daddy’s favorite things, but for now the objects will remain abstractions, the words and phrases echoes, just things for the two of us to laugh about and share. Oh, and Sienna, if you’re reading this, we need to keep working on your Chewbacca imitation.

So what am I missing? What other 80s references should Sienna spout? Something from The Breakfast Club since it’s celebrating its 30th anniversary (ugh!), right? Send me your suggestions!

Preventing A Depression Spiral By Taking My Daughter To The Movies

I hate and fear my birthday. Yes it’s just a day like any other, but it’s one that so clearly marks the passage of time, one that depression sufferers such as myself tend to use to focus more than ever on the “failures” of the past and of time “running out” than on the now. Normally I feel sad on my birthday, distraught that I don’t have the money, the elite job title, the house, and I obsess over my life’s crossroads. What if I accepted the cool girl’s party invitation in junior high school instead of chickening out? What if I’d taken that film publicity job I’d been offered following my junior year internship instead of imagining my parents’ wrath at not completing college (I learned years later that the secretary during my time there became a vice president)? A few blogs ago I wrote about how I especially dreaded my birthday this year because it would be my 40th and how since Elaine would be at work late into the night, I felt intensely apprehensive that I’d spiral into such narcissistic despair that I wouldn’t be able to be there for Sienna, but I never wrote about the day itself and how I met that challenge.

On the morning of my 40th birthday I decided to take my 22-month-old daughter, Sienna, to the movies. I wasn’t sure if 22 months was too young for a child to go to movie theater, but I didn’t care because I knew if I didn’t get out of the apartment, I’d dwell until misery swallowed me. There was, of course, only one movie for us to see (cue Miss Idina Menzel):


Elaine’s not a big Disney fan, so I saw Frozen alone when it first opened, but since that day Sienna and I have probably watched the ”Let It Go” clip on YouTube about a quadrillion times, so I thought seeing it on the big screen would blow her mind; plus it was the sing-a-long version so I knew if my daughter yelled at the screen or ran around I’d at least be surrounded by similarly frazzled parents with their rambunctious children. In hindsight this was also a massive undertaking since I’m anxious any time I take Sienna outside, always imagining people talking about and judging me for being a stay-at-home dad, but on my birthday, a clear, crisp February morning, I bundled her up, strapped her into her car seat and told her it was adventure time.

As we entered the multiplex Sienna looked around and took in everything, particularly the luminosity of the theater lobby, big white bulbs overhead, red blinking lights announcing theater times. “Lights!” she repeated on a loop. “Lights!”

LEGO Movie?” a fiftyish man with a bushy red mustache asked when we reached the counter.

“Nope. Frozen,” I said. “Taking my daughter to her first movie.”

“Good choice.” He smiled and gestured towards Sienna who wore her most serious expression. “And in that case we have something special in store for this little cutie. Just head over to the concession stand and let me know she’s a first-timer.”

I did so and after many congratulations, we received a free children’s popcorn. We walked down the hallway and passed a huge cardboard advertisement for Muppets Most Wanted and Sienna quickly ran up and touched Animal’s face. She LOVES Animal, especially his solo during the Muppets’ rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I had to sneak in a quick shot.


The theater was packed and by “packed” I mean crammed with empty seats. Seems 10:25 AM on a Monday is a perfect time to take your kids to the movies, especially if a film’s been out seemingly forever. I chose an aisle seat behind a wheelchair area giving us plenty of legroom in case Sienna needed to run around. I had no idea what to expect from her. Would the movie’s volume scare her? Would she sit for more than 10 minutes? As I said: adventure time.

I placed her in a seat and made sure I could access everything: popcorn, water, Cheerios, diaper bag, Elmo doll (wish she’d lose that thing! Not an Elmo fan!). Then I had to snap a pic because she looked so darn small and cute and befuddled!


The lights dimmed and we sat through ads and previews (“GREEN!” Sienna yelled happily whenever a preview card appeared) and then it was magic time.

First a clever, Oscar-nominated Mickey Mouse short in which Mickey, Minnie and the gang break through the screen and into a CGI, 3D world. “MICKEY MOUSE! MICKEY MOUSE!” Sienna announced, pointing at the screen. I told her it was indeed Mickey and ran my fingers through her hair. Then it was time for the main feature.

I don’t know how she did it, but Sienna sat through nearly the entire movie as if she were a film critic (or maybe she’s just like her mom who gets distracted and sucked in by any type of moving image, including commercials—she could be talking to you while walking into a room, but upon noticing the flickering TV, she’s an instant zombie and you actually have to snap your fingers to get her attention. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating…you don’t always have to snap your fingers). Getting back to Sienna, she stood up once and nearly fell through the space between the seat back and cushion, but then she resettled on my lap. She got a little antsy near the end of the film and ran around for maybe 15 minutes, but most of the time she looked like this:


We sang along to “Want To Build A Snowman?” and she pointed out all sorts of things like “SNOW!” and “HORSE!” and “WOLF!” to which she gave an accompanying, ”A-wooooooo! Wooooo-woooo–wooo!”

And when those opening, almost hypnotic notes of “Let It Go” began she jumped up and squealed, singing along as best as she could and mimicking Queen Elsa’s movements, arms thrust in the air in triumph. I sat there not thinking about my birthday, turning 40 or the past or future, but concentrating only on my daughter, on our special time together.

When the film ended we stayed through the second rendition of “Let It Go” and headed back into the lobby. I thanked everyone for being so kind and then decided I needed to get Sienna a plush Olaf to mark the occasion of her first movie. We drove to 4 stores, but no one had anything Frozen-related leaving me highly disappointed, but Sienna none the wiser. I think I wanted that Olaf doll more for me than for her. I think I wanted it to salute my taking action against my anxiety and depression on a day where they’re often incapacitating. At least I have the pictures and memories.

While seeing the movie with my daughter was incredible, I’d like to say that I was able to completely avoid my usual birthday doldrums, but I can’t. By the time my mother took Sienna and I out to dinner, I felt deflated and downcast. When Elaine came home after I’d put Sienna down for the night, my chest was tight and I felt sad and alone and near tears. She asked me if I’d seen all the hundred+ birthday wishes from people on Facebook, but I hadn’t checked because I knew I’d concentrate more on who DIDN’T wish me a happy birthday than on who DID; just another evil aspect of depression.

But then I recounted the morning: the empty theater; Sienna checking out the ad for the new Muppet flick; our daughter getting that first taste of movie popcorn and, like a pro, grabbing fistfuls without taking her eyes of the screen; Sienna standing on my lap, our arms raised, our voices nearly drowning out Queen Elsa’s. I broke into a grin thinking of how proud I was of Sienna and how happy I am to be a dad and how although I couldn’t completely shut out my demons, I stunted them by taking my daughter to her first movie, and how for a good portion of my 40th birthday I was able to just let it go.

Star Light, Star Bright, I Wish This Moment Not To End Tonight


Sienna and Daddy sit in star-filled wonder

There are those instants as a parent that you don’t want to end, moments that fill you with such joy that you want to freeze time forever. Tonight I had one of those experiences.

Elaine usually puts Sienna to bed, but she’s been out of commission for the last few days due to a bad back. I’ll be honest and selfish here. I haven’t been happy about it because when my wife takes our daughter into her room for night-night, I feel a bit free. No more watching a near-two-year-old toddler every second making sure she’s not demolishing everything in sight or putting herself in harm’s way; no more inventing new, monotonous games like, “Legs Open! Legs Closed!” (that sounds a lot worse than it is); no more being a slave to a hungry, thirsty, moody, pooping, peeing, destructive, demanding, yet lovable little tyke. Sometimes when Elaine tells Sienna to give Daddy a kiss and closes her bedroom door, I take a deep breath and congratulate myself on not losing my cool at any point during the day. Because you have to. As a stay-at-home parent, sometimes you have to give yourself credit for not jumping out a window.

But then there are those special instances, ones that remind you of the exhilaration of parenting allowing all the day’s stress and your personal battles with depression and anxiety to melt away. The time when your daughter pats the floor and says in a cute, little voice, “Daddy down? Daddy down?” And so you get out of the rocking chair and spread out on the fuzzy carpet as your child adjusts your arms until she’s safely in the crook of your shoulder. Then together you gaze up at the ceiling, at the blue, battery-powered night sky. You count the stars and stare at the moon. Together you listen to the white noise machine, the soft ebb and flow of the surf, the magical singing of humpback whales, the same beautiful melody that weird alien ship demanded in Star Trek IV lest it destroy Earth.

“Those are whales,” you say. “They’re singing to each other.”

“Whale,” she repeats. “Whale whale whale whale!”

Then she returns to babbling in her own language before turning over, her nose right next to yours, a smile on her face.

“Stars. Mommy in morning.”

“That’s right, sweetie,” you say. “You’ll see mommy in the morning. Let’s count the stars again.”

She turns back over and snuggles back into the crook of your shoulder.

“One two three four five six seven eight nine TEN!” she says gaily.

And you smile down there on the floor under a fluorescent blue night sky.


Your daughter’s not yet two, but she’s growing up so fast. So fast.

Before you gather her in your arms, give her a big kiss goodnight and lay her gently in her crib making sure she feels secure by surrounding her with stuffed monkeys and bears, a smurf, a lion, you look at the projected stars and make a wish. You wish for the moment never to end.

Even though you know it must.