Upward and Outward

I’d almost forgotten how fun it was to have kids around the house. Granted, there were never this many, but they’ve hit an age where they’ve gone from being diaper-filling, constantly-crying little helpless monsters to actual people, with their own personalities. It’s just amazing to watch it happen.

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Take Apollo, for example. He’s definitely his mother’s son. The kid’s brilliant, just like his sister was at his age. I have to let Lakeisha help him with his homework, because if Apollo has a question about something, chances are I’m not going to know the answer. He’s going to really be a handful when he gets older… nothing’s as challenging to deal with as a kid who’s smarter than his dad.

He gets along great with his twin nieces, Lara and Tara.  They’re a great couple of kids, and thank God neither of them is anything like their father beyond their hair color.

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They’re both very close to each other, in a way I suppose only twins can be. But they’re definitely each her own person. Lara, for example (on the left in the above photo), is the softer-hearted of the two. She’s just a good kid to her core, always looking for ways to help out her parents, and Lakeisha and I, around the house, and unnaturally kind to her more rambunctious sister. There’s just not a mean bone in her little body.

Tara, on the other hand, is the more outgoing of the two, and much more likely to land in trouble. She’s what you might call precocious. Tara always has something to say, and is always looking for ways to push her own limits. And her confidence is just amazing. I’m pretty sure “can’t” isn’t the girl’s vocabulary. Where Lara is the type to hang around the house with a good coloring book, Tara wants to be out in the world finding new things to do and new people to meet. She’s a little firecracker, that one.

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With all the growing up that’s been happening around here, I’m afraid there’s been some growth in other directions as well. Take yours truly, for example. It was a sad, sad day when I realized that the work it would take to keep my beloved six-pack intact would most likely send me to an early grave, so I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that I’m getting older, and need to slow things down a notch or two. Abs, you were good to me while you lasted. You will be missed.

And speaking of stretched bellies… turns out the weight Artemis has been putting on lately isn’t just from a lack of exercise. This is great news… you know, because there weren’t enough kids running around the house already.

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I suppose I should be thankful that, at least this time, we know who did it. The downside, of course, is that we hardly ever see him any more, and when we do, he looks like he hasn’t slept for a week. That boy really needs to learn a little responsibility before it’s too late.

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Sick and Tired

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately. A little tired and run down, which I’m sure is to be expected when you’re taking care of twins. It’s a lot of work, particularly when you’re juggling it with a high-stress programming job. I’ve just kept pushing through it the best I can, while Sebastian and Lakeisha pick up the slack when I just can’t seem to keep going.

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Note that I didn’t mention Joe there. I mean, he still helps, but he’s not quite the pillar of support he was right after the twins were born. I’m sure he’s been trying, but there are times when I get home from work and nobody’s seen him for hours, and he stumbles into bed late smelling like stale beer and cigarettes.

I know the stress of the kids is getting to him. He misses his commitment-free life, and his friends, and his nights out, but as time goes by he also seems to be forgetting that I really need his help around here. It’s been the cause of more than one argument between us. They’ve gotten pretty predictable. I tell Joe I could use more help with the twins, he says he is helping and gets angry, I try to calm him down, and he storms out the door not to be seen until sometime after midnight.

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I’d feel guilty about our little spats, but I just can’t. I need him here. He must know that. About the only thing that makes him stick around these days is planning for the wedding, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t having some serious doubts about it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joe. He’s a great father — when he’s here — and I know he loves me, too. But judging from where his priorities are lately, I have to wonder if he’s marrying me because he wants to make a commitment to me, and to be a good husband and father, or just because he wants an excuse to throw a big party.

I’m just so tired. Tired of the fighting, tired of feeling sick…  if it wasn’t for the twins, I think I’d go to sleep for a month.

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Luckily I’ve got Brendan back in my life. When everything seems hopeless, at least he’s someone I can call and complain to, and he always manages to lighten things up. It’s a terrible thing to say, but I almost wish he’d been the twins’ father instead of Joe.

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Joe Is in the Hizouse

Hey, Internet peeps.

According to Artemis, there’s sort of a tradition in this house. Once you move in, you have to start posting on this site. Arty said a good way to start would be to tell you a little about myself, so here goes.

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I’m Joe. I’ve known Arty for a few years now, and I’m sure you already know that I’m her twins’ baby daddy. That was a full-on Maury Povich situation, huh? Crazy. I mean, it’s bad enough when you don’t know who the father is, but when the other potential daddy might be your own brother, that’s just nuts. Things are cool between Brendan and me, though. I mean, he was pretty trashed at the time. I can’t say I haven’t done some crazy things after a few beers. And Arty and I weren’t really a couple or anything at the time, so whatevs.

So, twins. I thought it was the coolest thing ever when they were born. I mean, I must have some pretty strong swimmers. Not only did they beat Brendan’s to the finish line, but they did it twice. Gold and silver go to Joe.

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I love those girls. But twins are a lot of work, especially when there was already another baby in the house (my in-laws’ new kid, Apollo). I mean, Arty’s amazing, and the kids are… well, they’re mine, so that’s something right there. But it’s putting a serious crimp in the partying, know what I mean?

Changing diapers, rocking them to sleep, feeding them… kids are a lot of work. Sebastian and Lakeisha are a lot of help, but they’ve got their hands full with their own little anklebiter and that place they own downtown, Dreams.

I think we could all use a chance to blow off some steam. Hopefully the wedding will be that chance. It’s still a ways off, but I can’t wait. It’s going to be the party of the century. Well, I hope so, anyway. I really need a chance to stretch my legs, chug a few brews, and see my friends. If I have to turn down one more invite to a night out, I’m going to start losing my cool.

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“Hello? Yeah, hey dude, how’s it goin’? Oh, man, that sounds like a blast. But I can’t. I have kids, remember? OK, see ya.”

It sucks.

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An Embarrassment of Riches

I’d like to be introduce you to the my lovely firstborn daughter, Lara.

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I’d also like to introduce you to newest member of the Archer family, my second-born daughter, Tara.

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Yes, that’s right. Twins. Now we’ve really got our hands full around here, with not one, not two, but three babies to manage, between mine and mom’s. It’s looking like a day care center in here these days.

They are just gorgeous, both of them. Energetic, healthy, and so, so beautiful. I could gaze into those big brown eyes for days. They get those from me, by way of their maternal Grandma.

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You’ll note that Tara is shown in Joe’s arms in that photo up there. That’s because he’s the father. It was something of a relief to find that out, and I’m about to tell you why.

I’ve mentioned before how impressed I was with the interest Joe displayed while I was pregnant. He was here almost all the time, and was constantly supportive and helpful. That’s continued to an even greater degree now that the twins are here. In fact, he’s been here so much that one of the bedrooms is now unofficially his, and he probably sleeps there more often than he does at his parents’ house, where he was living up until a few months ago.

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OK, to be completely honest, he doesn’t always sleep there. Seeing Joe’s attitude toward me and the babies, even before they were born and, more impressively, before he knew he was the father, has me seeing him in a whole new light. My respect for Joe has increased with every day he’s spent here at the ranch, and as my respect has gone up, so has my affection for him. To put it simply, I’ve fallen in love.

I think it was as big a surprise for me as it was for him.

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After I made my feelings known, he confessed to me that the pregnancy wasn’t the only reason he’d been coming by the house so often. Apparently, he thinks I’m pretty hot stuff too. So much so that, last night, he proposed to me on one knee on the living room floor.

Joe said he wanted to do something intricate and romantic, but that’s a bit hard to pull off with newborn twins to take care of, especially with the grandparents working long shifts at Dreams. I can’t say I was disappointed, though. And, honestly, Joe’s idea of intricate and romantic probably involves skydivers and strippers. We’re all better off this way.

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I said yes. If you’d told me this would happen a few months ago, I would have said you were crazy. Improbable as it may be, though, right now I’m sure I’m the happiest mom in Oasis Springs.

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On Fatherhood

So much has happened the last few months that it’s hard for me to figure out where to start.

The biggest news, of course, would be the birth of my brother, Apollo. I think Dad was really hoping for a boy. I know he loves me with all his heart, but he’s a guy, Guy things are what he knows. Which Barbie is the right one to buy this year? He’s got no clue. How to throw a spiral with a football? That, he knows.

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It won’t be long until the decibel levels go up even higher here at Rancho Arquero, since I’m due any time now. Joe is around almost constantly these days, and always seems a little on edge. I think he’s imaging every second that he’s here that the contractions will start any moment, and it’s been driving me nuts. I shouldn’t complain, though, because he’s made it very clear that he wants to help out after the baby’s born, too, whether it’s his or not.

The first time he told me that, I can’t even begin to explain how touched I was. I used to think Joe lived weekend to weekend, without any priorities higher than getting a beer as soon as possible after getting off work on Friday. This is a side I never thought he had, and my respect for him has skyrocketed these last few months. Joe’s a good man. A very good man. Should this baby turn out to be his, I have no doubt now that he’ll be an excellent father.

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Then there’s Brendan. He started returning my calls again a couple months ago. It was rough between us at first, but the relationship’s been getting better and better since then. He’s got a new beau, and seems very happy. And, like Joe, he drops by frequently to check on how things are going with the baby. He told me that one of the reasons he’d decided to forgive me was that, in case it’s his baby, he didn’t want it coming into the world with his parents not speaking to each other. He seems to really want what’s best for the child, which couldn’t please me more. It looks like, whichever way this goes, my baby is going to have an amazing father.

Yeah, I’ve given up on the part of my plan where I was going to do this myself. I realize now how unfair it was to think that the baby didn’t need a father just because I didn’t think I needed a husband. Somehow, the closer it comes time to bring this child into the world, the more I realize it about that child, not me. He deserves a father, especially when I know it’ll be a great one.

Incidentally, the last couple photos are from Dad’s birthday party last week. I think the silver fox look suits him. And when his first grandchild comes, he’ll look the part. Now if I can just get him to wear shirts more often.

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Eating for Four?

Those of you with children know how it is. When your wife’s pregnant, she changes. It’s not just the belly and the boobs, either. She changes from the dear, sweet companion who has loved and nurtured you to a raving, famished beast who will eat everything in sight and then cry for no apparent reason. She’ll make you look at the baby clothes she found online and God help you if you don’t act like they’re just the cutest damned things you ever saw. She will make your life a hormonal hell.

Well, I’ve got two of those to deal with.

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Lakeisha’s baby bump I was half-expecting. Call it a mid-life crisis, but we felt like this might be our last chance, so we should take it while we could. If I’d have known what was going to happen with Artemis, though… well, maybe we could have just settled for a grandchild instead.

Joe’s been pretty decent about the whole thing. He seems to be taking on some responsibility — he comes by regularly to visit Artemis and see how she’s doing. Though… well, I’m not really one to judge, considering Lakeisha was pretty far along when I married her, but I do wish Artemis’ baby had a proper father. I told Joe as much one day when I came downstairs to find him sweating all over the living room sofa while Artemis was taking a post-workout shower. Our little chat seemed to upset Joe, because he went completely silent. Good. It should upset him. My daughter deserves better than some slacker who refuses to marry her after knocking her up.

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I guess Joe must have mentioned it to Artemis on his way to the shower, because Artemis came at me, fuming. I didn’t understand the situation, she yelled at me. I shouldn’t take things out on Joe, she said. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her so angry. Apparently I hit a great big raw nerve.

Funny what those pregnancy hormones will do to women. Between Artemis and Lakeisha and their random mood swings, I swear my hair is starting to turn gray.

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FML

As if all the drama with Brendan and Joe weren’t enough, now it’s official. I have made the biggest mistake of my entire life.

Brendan is still not speaking to me. I’ve tried calling him and inviting him over so we can talk, but he’s not answering his phone… at least not when I call.

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I miss Brendan. I miss the fun we had together, and the way we could talk about anything without either of us ever getting embarrassed by it. I miss his goofy little smile, and our basement workouts. More than anything, I miss having a best friend.

And then there’s Joe. He calls a lot.It seems he always wants to talk, or go out on the town, or brag about how he did in his latest computer game tournament. He’s just so immature. He’s not a horrible person, mind you, but there’s just so much Joe I can take before I need to hang around an adult for a while.

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All of this brings me to the crux of my dilemma: Brendan wants nothing to do with me. I want nothing to do with Joe.

One of them is the father of my child-to-be. I don’t have the slightest clue which one.

Yeah, I’m pregnant. Suddenly my big brilliant plan seems like the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

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Tempus Fugit

Where does the time go? One day you’re a kid fresh out of high school, falling in love for the first time, and the next thing you know, you’ve raised a child to adulthood. Time marches on no matter how loud you yell at it to stop, or at least slow down a little.

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I know Sebastian’s feeling it. He’s been working so hard over at Dreams, and some nights when he comes home he’s just exhausted. He says its his age getting to him, and you know, I do believe that’s a part of it. Neither one of us is getting any younger, and while we once might have been able to do things like build entire homes with our bare hands, it’s getting harder to put out that level of effort for as long as we used to.

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Not long ago, Sebastian and I spent the better part of an evening reminiscing about the old days, and how exciting it was to be starting out on Rancho Arquero with nothing but the clothes on our backs, our love for each other, and dreams bigger than the desert sky. We talked about how much we loved chasing those dreams, building our home together, and raising our beautiful daughter.

While we can never go back to those days, we agreed on one thing: we’re not ready to stop yet. While we’ve still got some youth left in us, we’re just going to keep dreaming, keep creating, and keep reaching for the things that make our lives worth living… things that will last until long after the last shred of our youth is gone.

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I’m pregnant.

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A Tale of Two Brothers

A few nights ago, I was hanging out down at Dreams with Mom and Dad when Brendan and Joe dropped by. They were out on the town together and, well, Dreams is about the hottest place in Oasis Springs right now.

We all had a few drinks together, and it was a great time. I always have fun with Brendan, but I got to see a side of Joe I’d never experienced before. Sure, he was his usual rowdy, obnoxious fratboy self, but at some point we got to talking about family. It turns out our views on the subject aren’t so far apart. It was… well, it was weird. I always saw Joe as nothing more than a belching, crotch-scratching overgrown 12-year-old, but when he started talking about his dreams of settling down and raising his own family, I was oddly touched, and somehow he looked… different to me.

He left a bit early to go meet up with some friends at a local nightclub, leaving me with Brendan. We ended up having a few too many drinks, so Brendan offered to walk me home. It took a while, because we were both so drunk we were stumbling into each other the whole way back to the ranch. It’s amazing we even found the place. Then, the strangest thing happened.

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I’m sure it was the drinks talking. It must have been. While I’ll admit I’ve always found Brendan to be quite the attractive hunk of man, I expected him to slap me after I planted that kiss on him. But he didn’t.

Sure, there was a long, tense moment afterward, accompanied by foot shuffling and awkward silence, but somehow we made it up the stairs to the front door. Then it got even weirder.

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When the deed had been done, I leaned over to kiss Brendan again, and he pulled away.

“No,” Brendan hissed, angry. “Never again!”

I was stunned. “But, Brendan, I thought maybe…”

“No,” he repeated. “You don’t get it, do you? We were drunk. Things happened. Things I regret, and you should, too. I don’t know if we can be friends any more.”

He stood up, got dressed, and stormed out. I felt devastated. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have taken advantage of Brendan’s drunken state to do…  things I know he’d never have done sober?

I’ve never felt so low in all my life. I needed someone to talk to. Dad? No, how could I tell Dad I’d just had sex with a man and felt guilty about it? Mom? No, not an option, either.

I called Joe. He came right over.

He was obviously exhausted from his night out, and got more and more visibly tired as I rambled for hours about how guilty I felt, and how I felt terrible about what I’d done to Brendan, and what a horrible person I am. He was surprisingly understanding and sympathetic, and by the time the sun was rising over the desert horizon, I was feeling much better.

I kissed Joe on the cheek, and he turned to head home… tripping over his own feet on his way to the door.

“Oh, I am so sorry,” I said. “You’re exhausted. You should stay here on the couch and head home after you’ve had some sleep.”

He was obviously relieved. “Thanks, Artemis. I think I will.”

I saw something in his eyes at that moment I’d never seen in Joe before. A vulnerability… a sweetness under all his fratboy bravado. A little glimmer of humanity and tenderness, and it warmed my heart.

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My God. What have I done?

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Sharing the Dream

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m finding closeness does, too.

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Lakeisha and I are spending a lot of time together. Now the we’re both working at Dreams, we’re under the same roof nearly all the time. While I know for some couples that can be a little too much “us time,” it seems to work very well for the Archers. It may help that my bar’s on the first floor and her restaurant’s on the second, so we’re not on top of each other all the time, though I can’t say I’d mind it if we were (wink wink, nudge nudge).

We’ve never lacked in things to talk about together, but now there’s just so much more. We plan menus, talk about things we can do to make the place look better, or just gossip about all the strange people we ran into any any particular day. Lakeisha’s even been training me to stand in for her in the kitchen when she decides to take a day off.

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This is Lakeisha talking me through how to put together her knock-your-socks-off Monte Cristo sandwiches in our kitchen at home. If you’re ever in Oasis Springs, you should stop by Dreams and try one. They may have something like 95,000 calories, but they’re worth it.

Speaking of calories, doesn’t Lakeisha look great? She’s been working pretty hard on that bod of hers, and it’s really been paying off. I know that shot up there is of her back, but I’ve always considered her back one of her best angles. Rawr.

I think she’s inspired Artemis as well. We may need to expand the basement gym — it seems that between Lakeisha, Artemis, and me, there’s never a free machine. It gets even worse when Artemis brings friends like Brendan or Joe over. If this sort of demand keeps up, I’m going to have to start charging membership fees.

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That’s Brendan there, sweating all over my weight machine. Nice kid. I think he and Artemis may be an item. Every time he’s over they head off to some remote part of the house out of earshot of Lakeisha and me. Either they’re a couple, or they’re plotting the destruction of the universe together.

Brendan’s brother Joe is a decent enough kid, too, if maybe a bit immature. At least I don’t have to worry about what Artemis is doing when he’s around. The way Artemis talks about him when he’s not here, I’m surprised she ever lets him pass through the front door.

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