Since forever, Nick and I have used a “points” system to call the other out when we’ve unwittingly said or done something simply because we’ve just been together too damn long, and our… peculiarities… have rubbed off on each other. When we’re out with friends and someone refers to workers at the Disney Store as “employees” and Nick corrects them, saying, “Actually, they’re cast members,” I get at least ten points, because my Disney-speak wormed its way into his vocabulary. When I note that Mark Messier must have won more Stanley Cups than Wayne Gretzky because he was with the Rangers when they were the champs in ’94, Nick gets a solid fifty points because his love of hockey has caused me to remember weird hockey stats.
Were you just singing part of Les Mis while you made dinner?
“Shit. I think I was.”
OMG, a hundred points for me. Maybe one-fifty.
“Did you just shake your bag of popcorn to spread out the flavor more evenly?”
Holy crap, did I?
“That puts me in the lead for at least a month.”
Naturally, since marriage is at its best when it’s essentially a competitive sport, we are also keeping points when it comes to the girls. There are some things that Annie and Ella do – ways they behave or phrases they say – that are absolutely because they’re my daughters. Becoming frustrated when someone uses incorrect grammar? Totally my kid. Being physically unable to turn the television off when The Sound of Music is on? That’s my girl! Knowing at least two verses to every Christmas carol? Naturally. WHAT WERE THEY, RAISED BY WOLVES?
And then there are the things that they do that are a direct byproduct of having Nick for their dad. Like last week, when Ella was by herself in the dining room and I heard her cheerfully muttering, “I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch! Here it goes down. Down into my belly!”
How do you know all of that?
“From that thing Daddy showed me*.”
You’re actually quoting Anchor Man???
“Yes! It was really funny!”
DAMN IT, NICK, YOU GET TWENTY POINTS.
(* don’t call CPS. He only showed them the trailer for the first movie. It was super fun to avoid explaining what “quite a handful in the bedroom” means.)
Sometimes, the points are given grudgingly. When Annie, age three, returned from a potty run (while we were out. In public) and loudly proclaimed that she’d just been “dropping a deuce,” Nick earned himself a few points, but also maybe the silent treatment on the way home.
Other times, Nick has had points deducted from the Official Points Bank (which is kept in my head; it’s exceedingly accurate). Years ago, as I was changing a then-18-month-old Annie’s diaper, I removed the offending nappy and she murmured, “Fuggin’ diaper.” Making sure I’d heard her correctly, I (stupidly) asked her to repeat herself. Nope, “Fuggin’ diaper,” plain as day. (Lest you think I’m being chaste, I’m not trying to avoid writing the word “fucking” — Annie actually pronounced it as “fuggin'”.)
Oh wow. Where did you hear that?
“Daddy said it.”
BUS.TED. Fifty points from Gryffindor.
(Nick lost even further points as Annie – probably in response to my shocked reaction – decided that it was fun to yell “FUGGIN!!!” at the top of her lungs, especially when we were out and about. “FUGGIN’ LIBRARY!” “FUGGIN’ GROCERIES!” I quickly learned that if I responded in any way to her outbursts – whether to scold or admonish, distract or quickly zip her the heck outta dodge – she would get a charge out of it and would yell even more loudly and jubilantly. “FUGGIN’ CAR! FUGGIN’ CAR! FUGGIN CAR!!!!!” The only thing that would eventually quiet her down was to ignore her entirely, which meant that for a good three or four months — until she finally realized she wasn’t going to get a rise out of me, so it lost its luster — Annie dropped the F-bomb in every store we entered. FUN TIMES, THOSE. I was ahead in points for at least half a year.)
This isn’t to say that the girls haven’t picked up the occasional unsavory phrase from me. When Ella was frustrated with something a couple of weeks ago, she angrily yelled, “Oh, for God’s sake — JESUS CHRIST!!” Um, yeaaah. Oops. My bad.
Sometimes, they’ll tell me “secrets” just to see what I’ll do, like when they returned from a trip to Brueggers last weekend and Annie bounded up to tell me, “Guess what word Daddy taught us but we’re not allowed to tell you? GRAB-ASS!”
Isn’t that delightful.
“He said Grandpa Bill used to say it to him when he was a kid, so that makes it okay, right?”
Not really, but I’ve got to give him points for style.
And I will fully admit that I love how Ella has memorized comedienne Anjelah Johnson’s bit about Nordstrom and Ross employees’ responses** to the Raider cheerleader calendars. It slays me every time she – correctly, appropriately – drops, “I have three words for you – Fan. Tas. Tic!” into conversation. Okay, Nick. You win this round.
(** not the best recording of this, but worth a look if you don’t know who/what I’m talking about. Hilarious.)
But Nick’s greatest coup may have come when he least expected it. Last weekend, the movie Miracle was on cable, so he began to show it to the girls, starting from wherever the movie was at the time. I jumped in and said no, we had to start at the beginning — how else would they know about the Cold War? About the relationship between the United States and Russians in 1980? How could they miss Eruzione almost not making the team? How would they understand the significance of his saying that he played for The United States of America, whereas previously each player had always said they played for such-and-such college?
If we’re going to show them the movie about one of the greatest sports stories of all time – a HOCKEY story, at that – we must start from the beginning, damn it ! We need a Miracle family movie night! Oh, and totally ten points for me for standing up for the hockey movie.
Aside from watching a bit of A League of Their Own, this was the first sports movie the girls had seen, and while we hoped they’d enjoy it, we weren’t entirely sure. Our apprehensions were eased as they gasped aloud when the coach, Herb Brooks, made the team undergo a grueling practice after a half-assed effort in Norway, shouting “Again! Again!” until the players were vomiting from exhaustion. They shook their heads in bewildered disbelief as the Russians beat the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition game just three days before the start of the Olympics. And they were beside themselves during the Big Game, covering their faces with worry, screaming aloud for every goal, dancing around (literally) as Al Michaels called out, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” It was a good night.
Still, it was just a movie, and after going to bed that night, we didn’t talk more about it. The following day, we sat down to start one of Annie’s school projects, where the entire family was supposed to work together to “disguise” a paper turkey by turning it into something else, so it wouldn’t be eaten at Thanksgiving. We could use anything around the house – markers, glitter, dried pasta, feathers, scraps of paper – but we had to work together.
We began the discussion. Do you want to turn it into a Disney character? Maybe Phineas (of Phineas and Ferb)? How about a soccer player? A teacher? An artist?
Nope. Wrong, all of them. Annie had her own idea.
Once she’d decided, we all worked to help her disguise her turkey, cutting, glueing, drawing. In the end, he turned out pretty damn well.
And so, without further ado, I present you Annie’s Family Turkey:
Hi I love hockey. I coached the USA Olympic hockey team in 1980. We won the golden medal. We beat the Russians by one point because we had 4 and they had 3. They were mad because they never, ever lost. It was called the miracle on ice.
I’d completely forgotten that he’d worn plaid pants (ohhh, 1980, you really were somethin’ else), a tan blazer, a blue shirt, and a tie. Annie sure as heck didn’t.
When Annie presented her turkey to the class, not one of her classmates guessed who it was (which, you know… not exactly a shocker…). But she was so dang proud of our creation, she didn’t care one bit.
Neither did her dad, who won approximately 823 points for Annie’s efforts, at least half of which were given because he hadn’t even tried to influence her choice.
So Nick’s a little ahead right now in the points department, which is fine with me. This is the 2nd first-grade family art project we’ve done, which surely means there will be others, leaving me plenty of time to plot my
revenge course of action. A Family Snowman disguised as a Caramel Macchiato would be pretty incredible.
Which would be fitting, since both Ella and Annie could identify the Starbucks logo before they turned one. ADVANTAGE, MAMA.