Meanwhile, back at the ranch

The children seemed largely unbothered by Otto’s absence this weekend, but they were on him the second he walked in the door, yesterday, to fill him in on everything he’d missed. There was soccer! And Sonic! And some things they’d watched on TV! And look at this thing I built! And how loose my tooth is! And we tried to go swimming but it was COLD! Monkey hung from Otto’s middle while he chattered on, while Chickadee hung back, far too cool to climb on him, of course, but adding bits to the conversation with authority.

Also, Otto brought home free baseball hats for everyone. And that’s pretty darn exciting. (Yes. My children have long been fans of… Coker Tire. Also, chewing tobacco!)

Otto returned a few hours earlier than we’d expected him, and although (thankfully) my boyfriend had left and I’d let the kids out of their cages before he walked in, I hadn’t yet made it to the grocery store or actually done anything else remotely housekeepingish. Fortunately for me, several nights of sleeping in a budget hotel with another man predisposed Otto to be happy to be back even though I am a rather substandard wife.

Apparently part of the weekend’s festivities included driving around with the windows down and realizing that he really needed a haircut (or so his mop of hair suggested), so once we extricated him from the children’s ministrations we headed out to the porch for a trim. The kids stayed inside, playing, so we had half an hour for him to fill me in on his trip and say things like, “So, you know, if we ever wanted to rebuild a Jeep, I know exactly where we can get one!”

(For those keeping score at home, there are currently FOUR vehicles here at the house. Two which run, one that sometimes runs, and one that would run JUST FINE if you had a small leprechaun who could just perch on top of the radiator and pour fluid in continually during any trip you might want to take.)

“You are very brave, saying things like that to me when I have a pair of sharp scissors so close to your head,” I remarked.

Otto waved his hand in the air. “Hey, I figure if you haven’t stabbed me with anything after all this time, I’m probably safe,” he answered.

That seemed like an open invitation to shave my initials into the back of his head, but I restrained myself.

I finished cutting his hair and tried to brush the little bits of hair off of him, but it had gotten pretty hot out and hair, as it turns out, sticks to sweaty skin. We walked down to the pool—me to stick my feet in, him to splash some water up onto his neck—and decided it really wasn’t THAT cold. We decided to corral the kids into a swim.

“Noooooooo!” complained the children who were busy watching television and playing Webkinz, “the water’s TOO COLD!” We assured them that it was MUCH WARMER than the previous day, honest. And that was true, sort of, because the outside temperature was much hotter, and so perhaps the water was, too? Who knows.

Otto jumped off the diving board, surfaced, and declared the water to be “a bit brisk” after he finished shrieking like a little girl. I walked in slowly because I like to torture myself, but once I reached the edge of the shallow end I took the plunge.

Yes, “brisk.” Having icicles jabbed into all of your pores simultaneously IS a bit brisk.

We then commenced trying to lure the children into the deep end. It took a little while, but eventually we four were all paddling around, teeth chattering, Monkey doing his Barnacle Boy routine. (I think he got the name from SpongeBob, but THIS Barnacle Boy’s only superpower is the ability to cling to any adult in the pool with such ferocity that you can only escape his clutches by pretending to drown. It’s charming.)

After about fifteen minutes Chickadee hopped out, lips tinged blue, saying she was too cold to continue. After another minute I got out and joined her because she seemed lonely hanging out poolside all alone. Eventually Monkey followed and then, finally, Otto. We sat there dripping in the sun, talking about the gecko we’d seen the previous day scaling our deck chairs. Monkey offered a bounty for the capture of a gecko, and I gave my standard speech about leaving them alone and how would he like it if someone caught HIM.

This led into the offer of money for all sorts of things. I’ll give you a nickel for a beetle, etc. Chickadee was coming up with all sorts of silly things, and finally Otto turned to her and said, “I’ll give you two dollars to go back into the water.”

Her eyes lit up. “Really?”


She’d whined so about being cold, I think he figured she’d back out. “Okay!” she said, hopping up and putting her goggles back over her face. She headed to the stairs. “Can I do it slow?” she asked.

“Nope, you have to go jump off the board,” he answered. She hesitated. “Do you think she’ll do it?” he asked me, in a low voice.

“I like money!” she called over her shoulder as she made her way over to the board.

“She likes money,” I agreed.

Chickadee jumped off the board and into the water. She swam down to the other end of the pool and hopped out, then did it again. Only after the second jump did she come back to sit down with us, pointing her finger at Otto. “You owe me two bucks, mister.”

I’m not entirely sure what sort of precedent this sets. I mean, I’ve done nothing but whine about how much money it costs to run a pool (the water! the electricity! the chemicals!) and now we’re PAYING THE CHILDREN TO SWIM? Something has gone awry, here.

“What will you give ME two bucks to do?” asked Monkey.

“I will give you two bucks to pull your tooth out,” I responded immediately, because for about a week now Monkey has had a tooth suspended by an invisible thread in his mouth, and when he’s not busy bouncing off the walls he can generally be found turning that tooth ALL THE WAY AROUND and whining that it hurts, but refusing to remove it.

“Really?” he asked.

“Really,” I said. “But you have to do it RIGHT NOW.”

Monkey fiddled with his tooth a bit, cringed and whined that it hurt, and then said he didn’t want $2 anyway. At least, I think that’s what he said. It was sort of hard to understand him with his tooth sticking out of his mouth at a 90 degree angle. Yuck.

We went inside and pondered dinner (given that I’d never made it to the store). We ended up having what we call Stefania pasta, which—if you’ve never made it, you must IMMEDIATELY—is easy but also incredibly yummy. (I think it may have something to do with the STICK OF BUTTER involved, but I could be wrong.)

Before bed Monkey was whining about his tooth again, so I asked him if he would PLEASE just let me pull it out.

“Well, okay. But stop if I yell!” he cautioned. I grabbed ahold and pulled a bit until he yelped. Nothing. Hmmm. I told him I was going to try twisting, this time, and as I felt the tooth let go, he yelped again. And then I dropped his tooth.

I dropped his tooth onto the floor, which is covered with a neutral berber carpet that looks an awful lot like… an eternal field of baby teeth.

There was much excitement, then, as we all dropped to our knees to search, and Monkey called for Otto, and I had just sent one of the kids for a flashlight when I found it. Phew. Then of course Otto needed to take some pictures, while Monkey told him, “This is really exciting for you, because this is the first time you’ve had a stepkid lose a tooth!” and Otto agreed that this was true. I left Monkey holding his tooth while I went to fetch an envelope, and Chickadee was busy taking dictation for a note to the tooth fairy (“I write faster than he does!”) and Otto was trying to get Monkey to hold still for a photo.

When I came back, Monkey dropped the tooth. Onto the same carpet. We all dropped to our knees again, and when I finally called for someone to get a flashlight Chickadee said, “As soon as he goes to get it you’re gonna find it.” And while I was chuckling over that, I put my hand right down on top of the tooth. Spooky.

Otto finished taking pictures and we put the tooth and the note in the envelope and the kids went to bed.

We grown-ups passed the evening uneventfully, and we were laying in bed talking in that delicious, half-asleep, I’m-so-tired-but-I-have-just-one-more-thing-to-tell-you sort of way, when I realized that the tooth fairy, um, hadn’t been alerted.

Furthermore, the tooth fairy was short on coinage. Dammit.

Otto saved the day by calmly getting up, heading into his closet, and coming back with two half dollars. That—as it turned out—was the easy part. Some ninja moves (including dropping down to the floor by the side of the bed upon a snort and sitting up) were required to get the envelope out from underneath Monkey’s melon head. A return note was penned and the money included and then the envelope was returned to safety.

“You know,” I whispered, once we were back in bed again and nearly asleep. “It’s sort of too bad that you won’t have your own kids. You’re a pretty good daddy.”

“Monkey and Chickadee are as much my kids as any child could be,” he replied without hesitation.

I knew there was a reason I haven’t stabbed him.


  1. Heather Cook

    I love these stories… makes me smile even more than my morning coffee!

  2. Juliness

    Good call on the not stabbing Otto. Because, all things considered, he’s pretty great!

    Thank you for the story – funny and heartwarming all at once.

  3. chris

    If I come over and jump in your pool will you give me $2 also?

    Otto is a keeper. Don’t stab him just yet ;-)

  4. Leandra

    When it comes time to pull Bubba’s teeth, can I send him to your house? It makes me feel like I’m going to pass out just thinking about it. {{Shudder}}

  5. Meg


  6. Kimberly

    1. Diva Girl would have totally joined Chickie in jumping. She likes money too.

    2. I think The Tooth Ninja is a far more accurate name for that particular piece of childhood fantasy. Especially when dealing with an envelope. AN ENVELOPE???? Are you made, woman? Put it in a film cannister;I’m assuming you’re got a bunch hanging around, and it’s ever so much less crinkly–a consideration when stealth is an issue.

    3. Field of baby teeth….ewwww. But hey, maybe that’s with the flying fetishist does with all those teeth she collects: she’s got a carpet factory in fairyland!

    4. Otto rocks. I may have a slight crush on him.

  7. AmyM

    Awwww! What a good Otto you’ve got there. Not only is he a good dad, but he’s got some pretty sweet Ninja/Tooth Fairy moves, too.

    My husband is a step-dad to our oldest, but you’d never know it.

    My oldest also has been missing 3 of his front teeth for OVER A YEAR! The dentist pulled them last June and the new teeth have yet to come through. I’m beginning to get concerned…

  8. Barb Cooper

    I’d have a crush on Otto, too, if my own husband wasn’t such an incredible dad AND a computer GEEK. This weekend, after a tortuous Girl Scout camping experience, I inadvertently deleted all of the pictures off of my flash card and computer at the same time. (I can multi-task like that.) I had a nervous break down and my husband (I love him! I love him!) found some free (!) software that lets you recover deleted files off of a flash card. I’m keeping him FOREVER, or at least until he asks me to leave.

  9. All Adither

    I’m still reeling from the idea of THE KIDS PLAYING while I’m doing something else. If I can just hang on a little longer…

    (Mine are 4 and 2)

  10. Nancy

    When my daughter’s tooth was that loose I made her pose a la Nanny McPhee.

    I totally agree that the tooth fairy should be called the tooth ninja – THAT’S what he should have been going for in that last Santa Clause movie. At least you remembered before you fell asleep! Otherwise you’d be doing a Three Kid Circus sheet-tossing move.

  11. janet

    Mir, Monkey and Chickadee: you are very lucky.

    And Otto? So are you.

  12. LyndaL

    If you’ll pay for my flights over from Edinburgh, I’ll jump in your pool for nothing.

  13. meghann

    So. . .that car leprechaun. . .can you get those at Auto Zone or what?

  14. prophet

    I grew up with a stepfather. One day I was nearly flattened by the realization that somehow – somewhere – he’d kind of turned into my REAL father when I wasn’t looking. (and my ‘real’ father is still alive). Now I have two. It’s a strange alchemy out of bad circumstances.

  15. Heather S.

    Otto is certainly a keeper and sounds just like my hubby who introduces all our kids’ as his… oldest has called him Dad since she was little and her sperm donor gets mad when she is telling a story about home and calls my hubby Dad. She tells him you are my father but he is my Dad.

  16. Radiationman

    Wait, so you and Otto are the tooth fairy?

    How did you guys know all those years ago where I lived? I didn’t even think you knew me?

  17. Cele

    hmmm MY MOM always said the toothfairy’s name was Shamorgan, I have to go tell her it’s really Otto. I’m sure she’ll be shocked.

  18. Beth

    My daddy is my step-dad. He raised me, and the fact that the sperm that made me came from someone else can’t change that. To be a “father” is biological. To be a “dad” is love.

  19. Flea

    I’m envisioning a carpet of baby teeth. It looks a lot like white Legos to my bare feet.

    My kids did the whole “you’ve missed this and this and this!” with a beanie baby named Parrot (inventive children). He’d been missing for a month and they found him in the car on a trip. Immediately I hear, “Parrot! Oliver turned seven! Nathaniel lost a tooth! Parrot, you should have seen the …” for half an hour. I miss those years. *sigh*

  20. ImpostorMom

    That is a sweet story. Otto is most certainly a keeper.

  21. Kate

    Magical trick for pulling out teeth:

    Take a piece of dental floss, and wrap it around loose tooth, making an “x” in front with the two ends. For this to work, the floss must be between the gum and the tooth, not just around the tooth. Pull the two ends away from each other, and the tooth is out. Or, just whack ’em in the mouth with a shovel.

  22. Manic Mommy

    Yep crushing Otto, too. I worry you think I’m a stalker. But my own’s pretty good so I’ll just admire from afar.

    ps – what do you do with the teeth? Weird to throw them away, weirder to keep them. Hmmm.

  23. Delton

    Man, that Otto is quick! Has he taken improv classes or something? That line must have earned him quite a few points!

  24. Amy-Go

    I would totally jump in your pool for free. And I hope you thanked Otto good and proper for that last answer! ;)

  25. Patricia

    Like so many others, my Daddy is biologically my ‘step-dad’ — but he adopted me, so even legally he’s my dad. When I was in process of adoption (which trust me in 1979 puts you on the fast track of being WEIRD when you go to school one day with a whole new lastname) — anyway my point is here somewhere…

    My mother told me the truest thing ever:

    “Any man can be a father. It takes a real man to be a dad.”

    (I think your ex just had a heart attack. Opps.)

  26. bigbadex

    no doubt the kids know who their daddy is….and it isn’t otto.
    I do appreciate that he is kind to my children, though…mir could have very easily remarried some total jerk….
    I do the best I can in spite of the fact that the kids are 1100 miles away not of my choosing….very tough going from seeing my children every other day to 2-3 days per month….hopefully mir will correct whatever impression a lot you seem to have that otto could possibly replace me as the children’s daddy.
    I’ve been looking for work down there for more than a year now to no avail….it totally sucks having your children taken so far away from you and it gives me heartache every single day.


  27. Angel

    My dad paid us kids to jump in the pool in January. We were in FL, but DANG it was COLD!

    Ah the things you can bribe kids to do ;)

    My daughter drew the line at swallowing a Bertie Botts vomit flavored Bean. She tried–OH how she tried–but she had to spit it out.

  28. Mimipz5wjj

    Oh how sweet of Otto!

    And Chickadee should have held out for more $$$!

  29. Not The Mama

    So sweet. And I remember being roughly Chickadee’s age swimming until my lips were blue and my parents paid me to get OUT of the pool.

  30. Megan

    Our tooth fairy had the brilliant idea of leaving small gifts rather than money – cool eh? Except… the tooth fairy never got organized enough to remember to stock up on small gifts while at the Tooth Fairy Emporium and Gas-N-Go so our Children got lots of notes in teeny-tiny curly handwriting that said things like “there was a rugby final this week so…”

  31. Kimberly

    Bigbadex…I’m sure Otto is fully aware that you have peed higher up on the children than he has, and that you are therefore the alphadad. Please, get a grip. And a life that does not include stalking your exwife’s blog. It’s more than creepy, it’s tacky.

  32. StephLove

    I’m still reeling from the idea of THE KIDS PLAYING while I’m doing something else. If I can just hang on a little longer…

    (Mine are 4 and 2)>>

    My oldest is 6 and he can play independently for pretty long stretches of time, but not on any predictable basis. Partner was going grocery shopping with the little one this weekend and he wanted to stay home with me. I explained I’d be cleaning and he could only stay if he didn’t hang on me and say “What should I do?” every five minutes. “What if I don’t hang on you and only say it every six minutes?” he offered. The kid’s a born negotiator.

  33. StephLove

    I haven’t been reading Mir’s blog too long so I don’t know much the backstory about her ex, (and even if I had, I’d only know her side) but I’m inclined to cut him a little bit of a break. I know if I had an ex who had custody of our kids was writing a blog about them, I’d be reading it. I’d want to know what was going on in their lives on a daily basis.

    I’m sure it can’t be easy on him either, having the kids move away. If he’s a good dad (and I have no idea if he is or not) even a great stepfather will never replace him. If he’s not, well that’s another story.

  34. MsShad

    Good grief, I don’t think the father of the kids is stalking her blog! Mir writes about HIS children, for heck sakes, and she knows he reads it! I love Otto, but I’ve also been wondering about how her ex has been handling the step dad love. I read it as Mir being in love with her new husband and being thrilled about the step family gelling into a family unit, and writing about it is how she rolls.

    I don’t get the impression that she rubs it in, either. It’s just how she writes, and within the boundaries she’s set for herself. I had a step family too at one time, so I no the jealousy between parents, etc.

    I’m glad to hear from the ex, and I don’t think he’s a big bad ex either.

  35. MsShad

    I meant … I know the jealousy that happens between parents.

    Stephanie just said it better than I did.

  36. kathy

    Hey, BigBadEx; I love Otto (from Mexico, so totally, no worries Mir) and while I don’t *know* you (as much as a person can know a person in this box) it must be amazingly difficult to have your children not immediately available to you. It is obvious the kids have a Dad; you. And I don’t think it the least bit creepy that you read your ex’s blog.

  37. DW

    I just had to say that when you posted that recipe for the pasta I promptly went to the site and printed off the page. Which I then folded and stuffed into my purse.
    I finally made it last night, and WOW! Its darn good! So simple but so oh soooo good.


  38. melly

    stumbled across your site just today.
    I so enjoy your way with words.
    I look forward to many more entertaining posts.
    Thanks for sharing yourself with us.

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