April 18, 2012

My Daughters, Killing My Health By Sleeping

I know that I have written many times about how my life has changed since having children.  Many of the aspects were anticipated.

I knew I was going to start changing diapers.

I knew I was going to have to be more careful with where I placed delicate/poisonous objects.

I knew I was going to have to stop cursing so much around the house.  Although, since my ulterior motive to parenting is to eventually have a crew for a pirate ship that will sail the tropical oceans of the world under the banner of Captain Dadbeard, pillaging and plundering smaller merchant vessels, this wasn't as important.

Practicing for her role in the Crow's Nest

I knew that when the girls starting walking and grabbing for objects to maintain their balance, I was going to have to start wearing underpants.

I knew my eating habits were going to change.

When you have a newborn, you eat whenever you can.  There is always something to do that involves keeping the child alive and, occasionally, you end up skipping regular meals.  You grab a sandwich at 3 am in between feeding and changing.  You change the crib sheets and do laundry with a granola bar half in, half out of your mouth.  You wonder why your clean laundry always gives you the sense of backpacking through the Rockies and itches just slightly...

All of this is anticipated.  Almost no one is surprised by it because everyone tells you that it's going to happen.

As the kids grow, you try to get them on a regular eating schedule.  In our house, it goes like this: (Note: times are ranges, not durations)

7-9: Breakfast (depending on who needs to get to work and when)
11-1: Lunch (depending on when certain little ones go down for, or wake up from, naps)
2-4: Snack (depending on activity level and lunch time)
5-7: Dinner (depending on volume of hunger screams and when we get home from work)

In general, we try keep the feedings in smaller portions and about 3-4 hours apart.  We also make sure that the meals we offer are well rounded and healthy with things like icepops and fruit snacks and juice thrown in on VERY rare occasions.

Recently, however, I've noticed that MY eating habits, during the week at least, have taken an unexpected turn.  When making breakfast or lunch for myself, I no longer consider factors like health, convenience or quantity.

I make my breakfast and lunch with only one thing in mind: volume.

I don't mean the mathematical definition of volume about how much space my meals take up.

I mean the amount of noise that is made while preparing said meals.
Not in my house, you noisy kid!
A few months ago, we finally moved Brynn out of our bedroom, but she wasn't sleeping through the night well enough to put her in Harper's room.  The compromise was to put her in a little alcove all of the living room.  This means that she is 20 feet from the kitchen.

As I have stated before, I like to keep a schedule.  I like need to be on time very early.

A small child waking up and needing attention 3 minutes before I have to walk out the door, is not conducive to my chronological well-being.  So, I make my breakfast and lunch as quietly as I possibly can.

As I have also stated before, I am a lazy man.  As a direct result of this, I go for the quiet items that are the easiest to put together.  For breakfast, I usually have whatever leftovers I don't have to microwave and, if we have it, some quiet fruit, like a banana.  Never an apple.  Those crunches are LOUD!

I don't eat cereal because the possibility of the metal spoon clinking on the glass bowl...

I don't make eggs because the cracking of the eggs...

I don't eat leftover pizza because it's stored in tin foil...

You get the picture.

Here are some things I've taken for lunch:
Leftover pizza: 6 slices (They were all in the same tin foil wrapper)
Yogurt and an apple
5 Brussels sprouts and 1.5 chicken sausages (all in the same container)
Turkey and cheese wrap, no mustard (the squirting...)

"Yar!! I gave meself scurvy trying not to wake me crew!" -Captain Dadbeard

Have I mentioned I'm insane?

I do look forward to the days when I can take a healthy well-rounded lunch to work again, after eating a healthy well-rounded breakfast.

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking "What the hell is wrong with you?  Why don't you make your lunch the day before and then it will be ready in the morning?"

That would take planning ahead, a skill which I only have when it comes to time.

My mother has frequently said that if I put half as much effort into doing work as I do to avoiding it, I could be a millionaire star-ship captain hero.

I added that last part.
I'm a space explorer!  And by "space," I mean "crisper drawer!"

April 16, 2012

My Daughters, Without Watches

I have a disorder.

It's genetic.  Since my parents both had the genes for it, it was passed along to me.  Almost everyone on my mother's side of the family has it as well.  It is a disease that has afflicted us for a very long time.  Don't worry though.  There is only a risk of contagion if you spend excessive amounts of time with us over the course of years and years.  It's not fatal, but can be quite harmful to those around us if we don't control it.

My personal symptoms include jittery hands, nervous pacing, heightened stress and anxiety and severe annoyance at others who do not share my malady.

I suffer from agriadventus.

For those of you too lazy to look up on Wikipedia that I just made that up from cobbled-together Latin, it means that I have chronic punctuality.

My mother's girlfriend refers to it as "Aion Time."

If I am not at least 5 minutes early for something, I go into mental collapse.  To meet up with friends, I will be 5-10 minutes early.  For the movies, 15-20.  For a job interview, 45-60.  You tell me to be somewhere at 6:00, I'll be there and ready to go at 5:45 at the latest.

On my more lucid days, I justify this by saying that it's just rude to be late.  If someone tells you to be somewhere at 1:00 and you show up at 1:12, you are late and rude.  In an age of cellphones, you could at least call to say "My car is trapped in traffic because a semi full of tripe overturned while trying to avoid hitting a deer and now the cows from neighboring farms are storming the highway trying to reclaim the remnants of their lost kin!"

Or even make something up!

"I couldn't decide which hat to wear!"

On my MOST lucid days, I realize that I'm being a little nuts.  Maybe more than a little.

In any event, the time-table issue has been one of the biggest challenges for me as a parent.  Toddlers couldn't give two craps what time it is.

It has also been a constant source of tension in my marriage since Sara is not on Aion Time.  Yet.  She's getting much better.

These pictures took 40 minutes to take, I'm sure...

When we were first dating, she went to Florida for Christmas break for about 3 weeks.  When she got back, knowing that I was anxiously waiting to see her because I missed and loved her so much, she made me wait 4 hours before calling me.  I was catatonic by the time she did.  She's much better now at accommodating my disability.  (And tolerating my crazy, for which I forever grateful)

My daughters, however, not so much.

Rushing out the door to go to an appointment?  "Daddy!  Poop!"

Leaving the house to do yardwork? "Daddy's boots!!"

Trying to put them to sleep so I can run to the gym?  "Another story! Sing, daddy! I'm not going to close my eyes, but just sit here on your lap in the dark poking you in the nostril and talking to myself for an hour."

I will get them trained eventually.  I hope I can do under the guise of civility and politeness, explaining that it's important to honor our commitments and always be true to our word when making appointments.  That people rely on time tables and if someone is going to mess it up, it should never be us.

Most likely, I will train them through rigorous ruthless repetition and tediously tempered timeliness, as well as other appropriately awesome alliterations.  Also, insanity.  The white rabbit has nothing on me...
As usual, this was not at all where I wanted this post to head, but now I don't have time to go back and change it.

I have a schedule to keep!

April 12, 2012

My Daughters, With Enough Material Possessions

Everyone knows someone in their lives who, when asked what they want for their birthday or Christmas or Hannukah or housewarming or whatever, will reply that they don't want anything.  Usually, these people are being polite and do want something but are either too humble to ask, or it's too expensive to ask someone to buy for them.

Or they want something weird and don't want you to know that they want it...

"No one ever gets me that matching bra and panty set I want...

There is, however, one group of people who, when they say "please don't get anything" are 100% serious: Parents.

This year, when my younger daughter turned 1, we threw her a party.  We were inundated with requests for gift suggestions.  I have no idea how my wife responded to these queries, but I answered them all the same way.  "Your presence is gift enough.  Please don't bring presents."  When it came time to open presents, I hovered in the corner of the room and did not allow any packaging to be opened beyond gift wrap.  While this may seem heartless, I assure you, there is method to the madness.

Here is a list of reasons why you should listen when parents say "please don't buy things for my children."

1) You Don't Know What Toys They Hate
A quick Google search will reveal the universal hatred that exists among parents of small children for the woman who voices all of the toys from V-Tech.  Her pre-school teacher intonations make kids giggle and make parents want to go on a killing spree that would make Manson cringe and say "Jesus! You need to relax!"  We used to have a ball from said company that, if not shut off properly, would randomly scream for someone to play with it.  Way too often, we have been woken by the spherical plastic abomination yelling "ROLL ME!!" at 3 am.  Said toy now resides in the attic.  In a vat of holy water.  Surrounded by a ring of salt and candles that must be kept lit at all times.  Surprisingly, the upkeep of this setup is less stressful and annoying than the toy.
When you squeeze them, they say "Red Rum!" in harmonious unison!

There are certain toys that are awful and you just don't know what they are until you've had them in your house.  Also, not all parents want to pigeonhole their daughters into princess stuff, or their sons into cars and Bob the Builder.  On top of this, some parents may have rules about toys that make noise, or don't foster imagination, which leads right into...

2) They Would Rather Promote Creativity
Some parents don't let their children watch TV.  Some parents have texture issues and don't want paints or Playdough in the house.  Some parents don't want toys unless they foster imagination and creativity.  An example of this would be something like Lego bricks.  A child can create anything they have in their minds and there are sets that don't have predetermined end-products so the child isn't sent in any particular direction. These help stimulate various centers of the brain that allow children to explore their imaginations in ways that other toys simply stifle.  The creativity toys don't even have to be as open ended as Lego.  It could be play kitchens or workbenches where the kid pretends to do whatever they want.

If you do a Google image search for "girls toys" it takes until page 6 until you see something that isn't pastel.  That toy is a plush cake.  For "boys toys" you will find mostly cars and construction machines (if you ignore all of the homoerotic links.)
"But I asked for Sleeping Beauty on DVD!"

3) They Think That Outfit Is Ugly
It is a commonly documented fact that people have very different tastes in fashion.  What you think is an adorable outfit, may be perceived as though you are hoping the child will be beaten up at day care.  There is always that aunt at the holidays who gives you a knitted sweater with the image of a muskrat serenading a moose on the front.  You get this gift and have to smile and thank her profusely for her generous gift and keen fashion sense.

Don't be that aunt.  Parents know how they want to dress their kids.
This was on the runways in New York last fall...

4) They Are Trying To Teach Their Kid To Appreciate Gifts As Special
Our society has become one of instant gratification.  It could be that the parents of the child for whom you are buying presents want to instill a sense of appreciation of gifts and an understanding that gift receiving is special and should not be taken for granted.
"These are all the dolls you brought? Come Gladys, Phyllis, Gertrude!
We shall depart this place as it is displeasing to me!"
A child who receives gifts regularly may not appreciate them as much since they know another one will be arriving shortly.

Perhaps that's why I squander my paychecks...

Lastly, but perhaps the most important:

5)  Their House Is Full
Much like the well-intentioned grandparent at a family dinner, what you are offering simply does not have a physical space in which to place it.  New parents are given literally thousands of items from books to clothes to toys to As-Seen-On-TV organizer crap.  Some of it is new and returnable if you don't open the packaging for them.  Much of it is hand-me-down stuff that holds sentimental value for SOMEONE and is very difficult to leave by the side of the road.

No.  Seriously.  Help me!
It's very hard to breathe through 3 feet of Beanie Babies and foam letters!
When new parents say "please don't get them anything" what they may be saying is "GOOD GOD!! I have so many children's things in my house that I think a Toys 'R Us may have exploded there!"


Most people are polite enough to thank you kindly for your gifts.  Therefore, it is up to you to ask yourself a questions while wandering the isles of Target before a party:
"Which would be better for this child: a $20 outfit/toy, or a $20 donation to a college fund?"
Forget higher education!  I'm going to Chuck E. Cheese!!

At some point, this post may be viewed on 8 Bit Dad.

Edit: The thought just occurred to me that convincing you that you need to buy a gift for a small child is all a conspiracy to boost donations to Goodwill...

April 5, 2012

My Daughters, With A Dad

Dear Television and Movie Producers,

In the latest episode of 8 Bit Dad, the refined gentlemen were discussing how fathers are portrayed in the media.  With a few notable exceptions (Cliff Huxtable for one), these guys fall into two categories:

1) Men who try very hard to be good dads, but are a bit stupid and bumbling.  They find themselves in absurd situations, like having to change a diaper in a public place!  No one ever does that!  I don't know about anyone else, but my kids only ever poop at home.

The typical image that comes to mind, is a man looking unshaven, rumpled and frazzled, covered in wipes and dirty baby clothes, frantically waiting for the mother to return home.  Inevitably, there is a crisis of timing that ends with the mother swooping in to save the day and give him a kiss on the top of the head for trying so hard and doing the best he can with the limited mental and parental resources that are afforded to those with a penis.

2) Men who were very cool before having kids and maybe were pressured into fatherhood by the women they love.  They had a great life set out for them with great plans to do great things and now life has been turned upside down because they can't even go golfing without having to take one of the kids.

The recent Huggies debacle also showed a room full of dads and stated that they were the harshest critics of the dryness of a diaper because they would hate to have to interrupt their football game to take care of their child.  This situation comes to a head in a screaming fight about how the man desperately misses his old life and how, while he loves his kids more than anything, he wishes he could give them up for a short period of time.  In this case, the mother swoops in to save the day by reducing his already minimal parental obligations and allows him more time to himself.

Now, I'm sure everyone knows at least one dad in each of these categories.  Stereotypes exist because there is at least a kernel of truth to them.  There is, however, a growing number of stay-at-home-dads and a larger portion of men are identifying as the primary caregiver for their children.

I will be the first to admit that my wife is a much better mother than I am a father.  She is warmer, kinder, more patient, more creative and more willing to be silly.  During the school year, she is the primary caregiver to our girls.  This is a function of her personality as well as a function of time.

Over the summer, however, I get to play the role of stay-at-home-dad.  I still send them to day care two days a week because I want them to keep up with their social development (and I need some "me time") but the other days, they stay with me.  The summer is a much easier time to have kids home because we can go for walks, go to the playground, play in the yard, nap with the windows open, etc.

This will be the third summer for me in this role.  The first summer, I started with delusions of play dates several times a week.

Monday: Playdate at XXXX's house
Tuesday: Have XXXX over for a playdate
Wednesday: Daycare
Thursday: Playdate at the Park with XXXX
Friday: Daycare

This did not happen.  We had two playdates throughout the entire summer.  It was mostly walks and doing stuff around the house.

Last summer, I had both girls.  Brynn was still small enough that I kept her home and sent Harper to daycare two days a week.  I was able to hang out with B and get stuff done around the house, including almost completing a retaining wall in the back yard.

This summer will be interesting since both girls are big enough that they need to be watched almost constantly.  I relish the time that we spend together and my lovely wife rarely has to swoop down and rescue me.  I love the job of stay-at-home-dad and I think I do an alright job with it.  In two summers, there have been no hospital trips, no lasting (physical) damage and no food poisoning.  I don't open cans of food and leave them on the floor for when they get hungry (usually).  We have meals together and Harper helps me cook.

The image of bumbling or resentful father is not a new one, but I think it's one that needs to be changed.  In recent months, I have met several fathers who happily take up the mantle of "dad" rather than "guy who lives in our house."  We are proud to be fathers and very proud of our children.  We are happy to be there to watch them grow and learn and become people.

Being a father is a challenge.  It's the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  But the idea that I would willingly, even eagerly, give it up so I could go play poker whenever I want, is insulting.

A non-deadbeat dad

P.S.: You can clearly see how adorable my children are.  If you want to put them in commercials in exchange for college money, I would be willing to discuss that with you.

Author's Note: This post may also be found at 8 Bit Dad.



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