Why Life Remains Worth Living

Some of you know that I am doing some basement repair. I’m very happy it’s not basement construction, you see, because that would fall under the purview of various county permitting and taxing authorities. Just a little basement repair. Unfortunately, I’m a bit slow at it, despite considerable help from my friend Lyndal.

It has been an educational experience, for me and for Caleb. Lyndal bought him a tool belt and kid-sized tools. Caleb likes this very much. He loads it up with tools and walks around the basement, whacking boards with his hammer (“No no, not the drywall Caleb!”) and measuring things with his tape measure. Recently I turned to see him bent over a board, assessing it with his little plastic t-square. To complete the picture, understand that his pants were dragged down considerably by his tool belt.

That’s right. My son has a crack problem.

Not only has he adopted the dress, Caleb has acquired the lingo. The other day he watched intently as I cut a piece of Sheetrock. I let him stand in front of me and help hold the box cutter as I stooped to run it along the broken edge. Then I guided his hand as we sanded the rough edge. Once the edge was smooth, I said, “Alright, man, good job. You know what happens now, don’t you?”

He replied, “Glue and screw, my friend!”

So Caleb is down with the vernacular of a hip modern home repair dude like his father. Sometimes he is too down with it. Witness the following excerpt from last night’s family trip to the grocery store:

Me: “Honey, can you help me remember that we need to get some up dog?”

Wife: “Hmm.”


Me: “Hey Caleb, will you help me remember to buy up dog at the grocery store?”

Caleb: “Yes.”

More silent brooding on my part.

Wife: “You know he isn’t falling for that.”

Me: “I know. He’s too hip. But he’ll still pull my finger.”

Wife: “Ugh.”

Eli, too, has some new lingo. He learned it from his brother: “broom, broom.” It is a little boy’s car sound. I frequently hear them playing together now.

“Broom, broom, bbbbbbrrrrooooom.”

“Brooom. Stttppd.”

“No, Eli, don’t slobber me.”


“Broom, broom, bbbbrrrrooooom.”

“Broom. Stttppd. Brrrooom.”

“No, Eli, that’s my Mercedes. Here’s your cement mixer.”

“Gahh. Mmm.”

“No, Eli, don’t eat my Mercedes. Give it.”



Eli is extremely proud of his new sound. If you aren’t careful, he’ll lay it on you when you are holding him close to your face. This invariably leads to a cry of disgust and desperate groping for a tissue. Eli has saliva issues.

But they are fun. Some people have more fulfilling careers or vacations or whatever. We have our children. It’s a good trade-off. People who tell you there is no trade-off are idiots, or just not very good parents. So my children are wonderful, but let’s be honest, parenting is an extreme imposition. That doesn’t mean it is bad, but it is what it is.

My mother insists that she used to hide in the bathroom from my brothers and I, in order to enjoy a candy bar in peace. Somehow we could sense the presence of chocolate in the house, and would gather outside the locked door, banging on it and demanding entry. I suppose this must have been something like having the Huns at the city gates. My mother is now insane. I have this to look forward to, I suppose. Still, being a parent is worth it.

Last night we were running late getting the children to bed. The precious moments of privacy before sleep were dwindling. I impatiently instructed Caleb to pick out a short bedtime book. He walked over to the little wooden bookshelf in his bedroom, and returned with a multi-part epic about Franklin, and his trials and tribulations as a young turtle.

“No, Caleb, I said a short book. Take that back and pick again.”

“Okay.” He toddled back to the shelf. Presently he returned.

“Good lord, child, I said a short book.”

“What did he pick?” Asked my wife, who had her back to us as she changed Eli.

“The Bible.” There was a brief pause. “I hear you snickering over there.”

Note to self: be sure to put ice cold hands on wife’s back just as she drifts off to sleep tonight.


  1. Jessica

    Ha, I love these Caleb and Eli stories. Caleb is going to quite the ‘babe-magnet’ when he gets older, if he stays as sweet as he is. Although I somehow doubt that a twenty year old with a ‘crack problem’ will be that appealing.

    Keep up the good work, Mr. Woodlief. I appreciate the little hilarities you share.

  2. Stacey

    Funny, we’re doing home repair also, except for us, we’re going through the whole house. We have (uh… had) paneling on the walls and there was this time when I was pregnant and shoved a knee high and very heavy safe down the stairs. I smashed it through the wall at the bottom of the stairs making a hole in the paneling (I really thought it was going to slide down the stairs, not go @ss over teakettle the way it did). David has found the hole in the paneling and with his little hammer last night removed that section of paneling from the wall. I’m awaiting when Husband drags in the sheetrock for the bathroom walls. Will our son be up to par?

  3. Anonymous

    “Some people have more fulfilling vacations or careers or whatever, but…”

    […we’re better than them because…]

    “we have our children.”

    Dude, some people just aren’t into having children. It isn’t necessary to be quite so condescending to those of us who are not fulfilled by snotty noses and shitty diapers, and who would simply rather live our days as we choose, without the demands of some little nonverbal human who needs everything done for them. You like it, good, but those of us who don’t aren’t somehow less because of it, mmkay?

  4. Tony

    Dear Gutless Flamer,

    Only someone shockingly insecure could infer that I am asserting superiority. Since you’ve invited my opinion on the matter, let me say that from where I stand, you’ve made a good choice not to reproduce. On behalf of the rest of humanity, I thank you.

    One more thing: if you are having some life choice issues, try to work it out on your own webpage, mmkay?

  5. Llana

    Well, hello, nameless too-verbal human. I bet your mother is insane, too. I also bet she wishes you had stayed non-verbal.

  6. MarcV

    Sounds like nameless has a fear problem. I hope he can work through his fear and find love waiting for him, because once those babies with “snotty noses and sh*tty diapers” are cleaned up (and eventually you find you love to clean them up too), they will give you love lessons that last a lifetime.

  7. Gary

    Dear No-name,

    While I will not presume to know how your life has shaped your views the vehemence with which you attacked Tony’s statement does seem indicative of some strong anti-child/parenthood issues. Though I do not agree with your assessment I can understand how you could misconstrue the between-the-lines meaning that you added to his post. The comparison between career success and family fulfillment might seem to be worded to favor family though the grammar, technically, compares them equally. However, even if this were so, shouldn’t those of us who prize our children be allowed to emphasize the value we place on them in a society that brands us failures if we do not scramble, scratch and stab our way to six figure jobs, colossal homes and expensive sports cars rather than live on one income and spend overtime hours playing with our sons and daughters.

    I know that claiming any sort of superiority in today’s America will immediately get me labeled some sort of “ist” (racist, sexist, etc.), but did it ever occur to you to wonder if being satisfied with less material gain so that one can devote more time and effort to one’s family, especially the children we train to rule tomorrow’s world, just might be a better way to live?

  8. Anonymous

    Somehow a failure if you don’t claw your way to a six-figure job and a sportscar in the garage?

    You should hear the crap I get because I haven’t had a child and am almost thirty. It is so old to hear what a gartifying thing it WILL be (because “will” assumes I’ll change my mind), or how SELFISH it is to want my life not to change like that, or whatever. Somehow because I was born with a womb and ovaries and decided that they should, well, not do what they’re in there to do, not only am I a failure, but I’m pretty much destined to live an empty, loveless life, and somewhere in there I managed to betray all women and humankind to boot.

    So many of us who choose not to reproduce get way worse shit than you could EVER get about not having a six-figure job. When was the last time a TOTAL STRANGER walked up to you and asked “So when are you going to get a big fat raise so you’ll finally be making $100,000 a year?” — probably never. When was the last time a total stranger walked up to ME and my husband and said “So when are you going to start a family?” — five days ago.

    We started a family five years ago when we got married and our family is just fine the way it is. It irritates me to no end to have other people’s priorities and expectations loaded onto me, and then to be judged as selfish and hollow because I reject those priorities and expectations for myself.

  9. Greg

    Yeah, what the heck is “up dog”??

    BTW, Nameless, this is Tony’s blog. If he chooses to express his desire to raise a family, that’s his right. This doesn’t negate your opinion or choices, but it does mean you should find a different way to express them. Either that or get your own blog.

  10. Llana

    Nobody “loaded” anything on to you. You should talk to someone about those delusions of persecution you have. And since you keep coming back here even though it is so unpleasant for you, I must tell you that it will, indeed, be “gartifing” when you have children.

  11. Andrea Harris

    Gee, nameless, thanks for giving us childless people a bad name. Now everyone will think I don’t have a kid because I’m neurotic. Well, actually, that is why I don’t have a kid — can you imagine the way he or she would turn out? [/FACETIOUS] Also, I’m not married, have no plans to — and live by myself. Home girl don’t play that single mama and/or cohabiting-with-but-not-married-to-sperm-donor thing.

    Still: it seems as if you, Mrs. Noname, have “issues,” and see your relatives everywhere you turn. I’d suggest a) either moving far away, or b) therapy to deal with those tendencies you have towards projection.

  12. Tony

    Easy, I think No-Name should get a little credit for trying to explain herself, knowing the abuse she was going to get here.

    You’re right — it’s nobody’s business whether or not you have children, and yes, a husband and wife are the core of the family.

    It’s bad to get pressured into having children for the wrong reasons. A little unsolicited advice — don’t let pushy people pressure you, through their boorishness, into the opposite decision. Have children if you feel called to have them. If you don’t feel so called, then it’s best you not have any.

    There. Can we all just get along now?

  13. Gary

    Dear No-name,

    I was inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt the first time around, assuming that you had misunderstood the meaning behind Tony’s words. I thought to point out the possible misunderstanding and suggest an alternate point of view to your own about the value of children in a family. I’ve since re-read your original comment and read your second one, which has caused me to revise my opinion of you.

    While Tony has made an equal comparison between workplace rewards and fulfillment at home on his own blog (a fact that startled my wife greatly when she read his post), you have come to his site and, in a very confrontational condescending manner, made it clear that you find children distasteful at best. I find it somewhat ironic that you berate him for supposedly committing an act that you have perpetrated with surpassing aggression…and you had to search him out to do it!

    I would not wish to suggest that you could not express your own opinion, especially in a place like this where you have been passively invited to do so, but before you attack Tony for his supposed condescending attitude you might look to your own snide delivery of your views in a place where you are essentially a guest. We who are fulfilled by our children are no more “lesser people” for it than those who are not inclined to raise a family, though your original comment is worded to clearly suggest otherwise.

  14. Deoxy

    Yeah, what Gary said.

    While I agree that people coming up to you and asking stuff like that can certainly get annoying, going off on somebody who chose to have children is just as bad (worse actually, since you did it maliciously).

    If you don’t want to have children, FINE – DON’T. We DON’T CARE. Personally, I don’t think any less of you. When you berate people for having children themselves, I DO think less of you.

  15. Anonymous

    I can’t remember my psychology. What’s the term again for people who think everything anybody says or does about anyone or anything refers back to them. Oh yeah, I remember seriously disturbed.

    A person writing a humorous account of his life with his wife and his two young sons is perceived by a perfect stranger as somehow being an indictment of her childlessness. It’s no less silly than my thinking the account was an indictment of me because I don’t have a purple bubble bath dispenser.

    He isn’t talking about you no-name. You don’t even exist in his world. Thank God, or as Stephen Green says, whomever, that you don’t have children. There are far too many neglected children in the world today.

    Tony is right. Children are worth more than all the riches in the universe. If you don’t have any, you just can’t imagine it anymore than a blind person can imagine the color of the sky. And if you can stand it, grandchildren up the quotient even higher.

  16. ibrahim

    dear sir/m
    please kindly send me an invitation letter to me to because i dont had hope in my life again
    if you can help to come to you and take me like your son,because i dont had mother and father again
    but i finish my school cert after i finish my school cert i started to learn fashion designer
    tailoring but i have five years experience in that work please help me out
    from nigeria-23401

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