May 21, 2012

My Daughters, Future Globetrotters

This past weekend, I helped to chaperon the 8th grade field trip to Washington DC.  We took 61 8th grade students on a three day walking and bus tour of the major sights of the city, including, but not limited to, the following:

The World War II Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial
The Vietnam War Memorial
The Korean War Memorial
The Kennedy Center
The White House
The Capital Building
The Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian Castle
The American History Museum
The Natural History Museum
The Sculpture Garden
The Holocaust Memorial
Old Town Alexandria
Arlington National Cemetery
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
The FDR Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial

Needless to say, it was a lot of walking.  I love walking!  If I lived in DC, I would not own a car.  I would own a bike and a very nice pair of walking shoes.

This trip got me thinking about my own kids.

Before we had the girls, Sara and I talked about the summers.  Being a teacher, one of the advantages is that I have summers off.  If I can convince her to become a teacher as well, then the whole family can have summers off.

Many parents who have to work through the summer put their kids in summer camps full time, or keep a babysitter.

My plan is to travel.  When the girls are old enough, I want to pack them into the car, or a pull behind trailer, and drive.  Each summer we would pick a new destination and go, stopping at historical and interesting things along the way.  It would be a vacation, but the prime goals would be to have serious bonding time with the girls and to show them some of the amazing things that exist in our country and others.

They would help me plan the itinerary, calculate gas and food costs, plan routes and find fun things along the way.  I love this idea SO much that the thought of it helps me get through some of the tougher days when I think about leaving teaching altogether.

I will admit that I feel badly about the fact that Sara would not always be able to come with us.  We will plan mini-vacations on which she can and will, but I am feeling selfish about this.

The girls adore Sara.  If she is home, I am chopped liver.  My sole purpose in the house is as ... I honestly don't know what they think I am there for.

When Sara isn't there, I'm surrogate mom.  Harper even calls me mom on occasion.

I can be sitting with them on the floor, playing a game, or reading a book, having a great time.  Then suddenly, I find myself surrounded by toys and asking the pull-behind dragon why he is so angry at the stuffed monkey, only to realize that I am completely alone and talking to myself.  The girls have heard Sara's car, or seen her at the door and I have no more importance than a discarded cast member of Toy Story.

I don't mind.

I do, a little, but that's alright.  I understand the connection that children have with their mothers versus their fathers, especially in the early stages of life.

My revenge will served cold.

VERY cold.

Like, 8-years cold.

Maybe not 8, but when I think that the girls will be ready for longer car rides we're going!  We'll start out small, finding attractions where we would only have to stay over for one night, then work our way up.  I have huge trips in mind, like The Rockies, Oregon, and Alaska.  I want to take bikes and tents (even though I hate camping) and show them amazing things that can be done without a television or computer.

I want to take them to Canada, Mexico and anywhere the car can go.  As they get older, we may even do overseas trips, but I would much rather have Sara with me for those.

I know they will hate me.  They will complain about wanting to stay inside and watch TV.  They will want to lay by a pool, or hang out with their friends.

I know they will, because my parents tried several trips like this with me and my brother and we complained about everything.

I should have kept my stupid mouth shut and gone anyway.
The monkey can come too, I guess.

May 16, 2012

My Wife, On Her Birthday

It may come as a shock to those of you who read my blog and have never seen me doubled over in tears or yelling mean things at the mirror when the house is empty, but I have self-esteem issues.  Looking back on my romantic life, the types of girls I dated lined up almost perfectly with someone with the image issues that I have.  With a few notable exceptions, they were all very needy and in many cases lonely with abandonment issues.

This was wonderful for me because while I don't think I'm needy, I do need to be needed.  I gravitated towards women that I could support and hope to "save."  I think part of it is because the chase was more fun, but it was more the idea that if she needed me, she would be less likely to leave.

Of course, this almost always was a terrible idea.  Things ended long before they ended, but because of codependency issues on both parts, we rode them out to the horrid, bitter end, screaming at each other on a Friday night, her about how I hate her friends, me not screaming much at all because secretly, I'm glad it's finally ending, saving me from the hazards of trying to break up with a lunatic with abandonment issues.

Almost 9 years ago, I moved outside of my comfort zone and stated dating someone new.  She was completely different from all of my previous girlfriends.

She didn't NEED me.

But I hoped that she wanted me.  She found me funny and charming, but she was happily established in her own life with her own friends.  She wasn't looking for a savior, or someone to replace a previous beau.  She wasn't even looking for a boyfriend.  She was smart, funny and made me feel good to be myself.  I never felt as though I had to impress her because she liked me for who I was, instead of what I could take her away from.

I did my very best to the gentleman.  I wasn't playing a role, but was calling on the little bit of gallantry that I have inside me.  On our first date, I showed up to pick her up and her parents house in a shirt and tie with a rose in a fishbowl.  I came inside and met her parents who, frankly, scared me a bit.  I wanted to make a good impression on everyone but I felt like I was suddenly in high school in a movie from the early '50's, asking permission to please take Peggy Sue out for a malted, and yes, of course I will have her back before curfew.

The date went well.

During the spring semester of our senior year, we took a class together and I thought that if she still liked me at the end of it, we would be perfect together.  It was a sociology class and because I was studying economics and because I'm a bit of a jerk, I figured I might be slightly obnoxious in the class.

That turned out to be true.  How dare I ask for sources for the data that was being quoted!

My new girlfriend didn't leave me.  She was a keeper.

After graduation, I got a teaching job outside of New York City and moved to New Jersey.  For two years, we lived 300 miles apart and still saw each other at least twice a month.  I drove out and stayed with her and her family, she drove out and stayed with me, but for the most part, we were separated.

Somehow, we weathered the distance and, I think, it made us stronger.  I finally had had enough and moved back and we moved in together.  She supported me emotionally and financially while I floundered to find a job and go to grad school.

At Christmas in 2006, I asked her to be my wife and she showed her terrible taste in men by saying yes.  In two weeks from Saturday, we will have been married for 5 years.

It has not always been perfect, as nothing ever is, but it has been amazing.  I am constantly amazed by how deeply I love her and how deeply she loves me.  Our relationship has evolved and changed over the years, as things always do, but always for the better.

We have two gorgeous children, and as I have said before, no matter what happens, I will always be in her debt for giving me the gift of my girls.  I am so thankful for everything that has done and everything that she is.

She is my rock in stormy weather, my partner, my heart, my love.  I am not worthy of such an amazing woman.  I am stronger for having her at my side and there is no one in the world with whom I would rather spend my life.  I look forward to retiring to a small farm with her where we can keep chickens and sheep, have fresh eggs in the morning and I'll read on the porch (if books still exist) while she chases the sheep with knitting needles, screaming someone about sweaters.

Today, she turns 30 and, as much as I joke about hoping to die young so I don't have to grow old, I very much look forward to spending the next 30 years together.  I want to be the old couple at a wedding who is the last to sit down during the anniversary dance.

She asked me last night about my post-30 goals and I told her that I didn't want to think about it because it only reminded me about the things I didn't do in my pre-30 years.

I did think about it last night though.

My post-30 goal is to spend the rest of my life living with and loving my wife.  I want to raise our children to be happy, good, conscientious citizens, to retire somewhere where we can watch our children and grandchildren grew up and be happy.

She is one of the most amazing people I know and I am honored to be her husband, even though I don't always show it.

Happy birthday, Sara.  I love you.  You are my life and the other half of my soul.  I am not always the best husband, but I love you with all of my heart and I will never stop striving to be a man worthy of being your husband.

May 12, 2012

My Daughters, Making Me A Liar

I, rightly or otherwise, pride myself on a  certain level of honesty.  If not the whole truth, then I try to offer at least a very thick coating of sugar.
Does this dress make me look fat?  Of course not!

Why is my child failing your class?  He has fantastic potential but needs to work a little bit more on his focus and work outside of the classroom.
Did you forget my birthday?  No! I have something planned for later!

I always told myself that I wouldn't lie to my kids when it came to difficult topics.  When they ask about where babies come from, I'm planning to tell them the truth: babies come from sexual relations between a man and a woman, or between a test tube and a syringe.  When they ask about relationships and boys, I'm planning to tell them the truth: boys are selfish and only want to hurt you, that every word they say is a lie and the only men who can be trusted are me and their grandfathers and uncles.

When they ask why they have to go to bed, or eat breakfast, or not run, I do my very best to give them the reasons.  I want them to know that there is a rationale and a reason behind the directions that we give them.
I don't ever want to be the parent who resorts to "Because I said so."

Don't interrupt mommy when she's with Aunt Merlot

This is another piece in my grand scheme to be the greatest parent ever!

I have discovered two snags in this plan.  The first one was anticipated.

Harper has reached the stage of "why?" with a slight modification.  She often asks "why not?"

Harper: Popsicle?
Awesome Dad: No, baby.  We're going to have dinner soon.
H: Why not?
AD: We're going to have dinner in a little bit and I don't want you to spoil your appetite.
H: Why not?
AD: Then you won't eat the healthy food for dinner.
H: Why not?
AD: Because you'll be full of popsicle.
H: Why not?
AD: ...That question is not grammatically appropriate.
H: Why not?
AD: Well, mostly because there was nothing in my statement that was a negative.
H: Why not?
AD: (Goes on answering these questions ad infinitum)

She does have times where she repeatedly asks why and when I follow them all the way out, I usually end up giving a mini-lecture about particle physics or the historical background of World War I.

I am giving serious thought to keep a list where I write down the topic of conversation at the start, where it ends up and then offer a prize to the person who can make the connection, 6 Degrees of Separation-style.

After 6-8 minutes of answering "Why" I usually stop the conversation by replying "You don't really care why and you don't remember what we're even talking about!  This is why I drink!  Water, that is!"
"I know she's going to ask me something today!
Time to set up my exit strategy!"

The second snag in my "always tell the truth to my kids" plan has been Sara.

We went food shopping today and, of course, Harper gravitated towards the impulse buys in the check-out lane.  She grabbed everything off the shelf, one at a time, thankfully, with a cheery smile at her mother and a "Want one!" on her lips.  Had she asked me, my response would have been "Not right now, sweetie.  We're going to go home and have dinner."  Or "No, dear.  Those are not good for little girls."

Sara however, when presented with said little girl asking for a packet of Reese's cups, replies with something akin to "EW! Those aren't candy! Those are made of rubber!  Icky!"

An understandably confused Harper put them down and picked up some sort of Skinny Cow Turtle candy.  To this, Sara said "You picked a cow poop!  Look!  It has cow poop inside!"

Some piece of candy got the answer "If we eat those, they will put us in jail."  Seriously.

I was anxiously awaiting "Those make baby Jesus cry!" as it seemed to be quickly approaching. - Don't forget to do your homework or Nixon and Louis XVI will come in the night and take your teeth!

I suppose I should be grateful that she asks these questions instead of pulling the candy rack onto the floor and making an M&M's angel.

I know as soon as Sara reads that last sentence, she's going to start thinking about how we could clear out a section of the basement and run to Sam's club to get all the M&M's they have.  I love my wife.
"You can't still my heart! It needs to sing!"
"Brynn, you are so immature!"
"Come at me, bro!"

May 5, 2012

My Daughter, Forcing Me To Break Gender Roles

Parenting is not an exact science.  If you follow this collection of (mis)adventures in parenting, you'll clearly be able to tell where I have made mistakes.  One of my ulterior motives for this blog is so that, one day when the girls are in therapy, I can link these posts to the doctor and not have to pay for hours and hours of background information.

Perhaps one of the things that the shrink will find interesting is that I'm trying my hardest not to raise "girly-girls."  I don't think there is anything wrong with a girl who wants to dress in pink and play with Barbie.  If she comes to those choices and preferences on her own, no problem.  I do, however, have an issue with parents imposing gender roles on children who are too young to know any better.  Do it to your own kids if you want, but not mine.

Then again, imposing gender roles may have stopped this from happening...

With that said, Harper LOVES having her toe nails painted.  She knows where Sara keeps the bottle of polish and will go get them when she sees that her toes are "nated!"

Those of my readers with children, or who been in the armed services, will understand the concept of collateral damage.  This is where an event occurs, either good or bad, and there are unintended consequences that reach beyond the scope of the original plan.  For example: When someone who shall not be named insists on keeping the Sharpies in a drawer that happens to be in the reach of a child, the walls, carpet, furniture and sanity in the house are all collateral damage.  For other examples, check out Stuff My Kids Ruined.

About a year ago, Harper got a hold of a bottle of nail polish and our floor became collateral damage.  It wasn't a big deal, but some of the grout on the kitchen floor is now a lovely shade of red.  Sara was more upset because she can't find another bottle of that color.

When Mr. Treesworth isn't stealing from the bird feeder, he runs a very successful foot spa!

I'm home on my own for many hours this weekend as Sara is taking the girls to a wedding and I have other things that I need to do.  I tell you this as a preface for why all the girls got their nails painted this morning.

In this particular instance, there was collateral damage.

In this particular instance, the collateral damage was my dignity.

I have to go put socks on now, not because I'm embarassed, but rather because the flashes of bright colors at my feet are quite distracting and I keep walking into walls.

I'm consoling myself on the fact that I didn't have to listen all about Sandy has been in a committed relationship with Trevor, but is still messing around with Jackson, even though she promised him she would stop after Bethany woke up from her coma and had her baby.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Martin.  I'm afraid that she may never "bang" again!"
I take it back.  This blog is to save money for MY therapy.

May 1, 2012

My Daughters, Forcing Me Into The Open Air

Recently, the weather has been amazing.  This is both a blessing and a curse.

"A CURSE?!?" You say.  "What is wrong with you??" You say.

"You sure are talking a lot for this being MY blog" I say.

I love the computer.  I love the internet.  I love my phone.  My wife doesn't quite understand my feelings on this particular topic, mostly because she was raised with a healthy appreciation of **shudder** going outside.  I feel dirty just saying it...

I've talked previously about my aversion to dirt and sticky textures.  I don't like them.  At all.  I'm not worried about the germs.  I just don't like the feeling.  Going outside often leads to getting dirt on one's hands, stains on one's clothes and color on one's complexion.
"Looking good, Justin!"
"Thanks, Powder!"

This has lead me to a fairly sedentary lifestyle that relies heavily on technology.  Part of this is also because I'm constantly afraid that I'm going to miss something.  What happens if I'm not on Facebook and someone posts a status to which I have a very clever comeback?  If I miss it, I COULD DIE!!!

I own 30 copies of this t-shirt.  None of them are true.
Until relatively recently, I have felt as follows about the seasons:

Since having children (or more precisely, having two), weather falls into one of three categories:

1) Weather nice enough to take the kids outside

I enjoy this weather!  Not so much because I like being outside as much as I recognize that there are HUGE benefits to taking the kids there.

They are much easier to manage outside.  Yes, Brynn keeps trying to walk to the bottom of the property and down the sidewalk.  Yes, Harper wants to pick poison ivy and pet dead rabbits.  Yes, Brynn wants to eat rocks.  Yes, Harper wants to ride her toys down the front steps.  Yes, they both want to hug every stranger they meet.

They are still easier to manage outside.

Also, the lighting is better for taking pictures!

Rocks, Daddy!  Rock pocket!
As I have also stated previously, taking the girls outside wears them out.  They sleep better and go to bed easier after having played outside.  Knowing that I'll be spending the summer with them as SAHD (that's Stay At Home Dad, for those of you still living in 2010.  Jeez!  Get with the times!) I have set up a schedule that involves as much outside time as I think I'll be able to stand..

Wake up
Get dressed
Take them to daycare/go for a long walk/go to the park
Play outside
Caillou (Why, God?  Why?)
Dad to the gym

We'll see how this goes.

2) Weather NOT nice enough to take the kids outside

This is mostly rain, but also includes days that are too cold/windy/hot/wet/smoggy/sunny/etc. to go outside in whatever clothes they happen to have on.

I am no good at planning weather-appropriate clothing for my children.  I know that you are supposed to dress them however you would dress yourself plus one layer, but that doesn't work for me.  I'm almost never cold so if I went by that, they would be wearing windbreakers in December.  Also, I am WAY too lazy to try to find a slightly warmer/colder jacket than whatever happens to be sitting on the chair.

3) Weather NOT nice enough to take the kids outside, but awesome to watch from the window

This may be my new favorite!  I've always loved watching snow storms, thunder storms, wind storms, hail storms, storm drains, storm troopers and pretty much everything with "storm" in the name!
People only like me when they make typographical errors.  Or are racists.

The girls love to sit on the backs of the couches, or out of the porch, and watch the storms with me.  They are slightly scared, which makes them hug me tightly.

I don't think it makes me a terrible person that I like my kids to be slightly scared so that I get hugs.

I'm looking out the window now and thinking "What a gorgeous day!  I'm so glad the weather has become beautiful!  I suppose that means I'll have to go enjoy it.  Damn..."

The moral of today's post?  Kids change every aspect of your life, whether or not you realize it.  If they don't, you may be doing something wrong.

"Of course I can talk!  Sometimes I just feel so lonely in this empty house!"



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