Tag Archives: family
Last summer I got a chance to cross off an item from the old proverbial bucket list. I tried my hand at stand-up comedy and pretty much had a blast. I’m not sure why I never shared the video but I’ve been looking into giving it another try and thought it might be worth posting. Apologies for the video quality, if I do it again I will try to get a better recording.
Last night I was up until the early hours of the morning trapped in an anticipation fueled cycle of checking the weather app on my phone and stepping out onto the back porch to monitor the various forms of winter precipitation as they fell from the sky.
Even now in my thirties I can’t help but get excited about the prospect of a snow day. I guess it should be prefaced that I am a born and raised Georgian and in Georgia, snow is magic. When I was a kid, snow in Atlanta was like the universe just giving you an extra day.
A free day. A magic 24 hour period inserted between, “Oh crap, I haven’t even started that book report yet” and “Please turn in your book reports.” It meant your parents stayed home from work and played outside with you, it meant supplementing your not so winter wardrobe with bread bags on your feet and 3 pairs of socks because you had to wear tennis shoes in the snow, it meant hot chocolate and wet gloves hanging by the fire. Snow days in Georgia are made of happy even when your mom makes you wear a pair of tube socks for gloves with sandwich baggies on top because why would you need to own ski gloves down south? Snow days meant rummaging through the basement looking for anything that could be turned into a sled and playing until your hands were numb, your cheeks were red and you collapsed into the house one big freezing, soaking, pile of exhausted joy at the end of the day.
We’ve Lost that Lovin Feelin
Remember that time that our kids went to school? I think it was called 2013 and it was neat. I admit I went a bit overboard on the whole waxing poetic about the wonder of snow up there because the truth is, when a snow day overstays its welcome, the harsh reality sets in. This is the part when you see what you are really made of, when the loving family dynamic gets put to the ultimate test. Cabin Fever.
It starts out innocent enough; a board game, an extra snack, a glass of wine or beer a bit earlier in the day than usual, a sarcastic remark to your spouse, a snap at your kid for making a mess. We don’t catch any of the warning signs because we don’t know how long we will be here. Somewhere along the way the sanity rope feels like it is starting to fray a bit and the local weather man showing the snow in his area becomes some bizarre backdrop back drop to your family’s de-evolution.
In what feels like an instant you are turning a blind eye to your kid eating a bowl of “skittles cereal” and you are dreaming about that Amazon droid helicopter thing delivering a case of booze to your frozen snowy doorstep. You become a bit numb to what your kids are up to as long as they keep it down and don’t get blood on anything as you settle into your own little wi-fi fueled haze. Cycling through social media, weather apps, and random google searches, you are suddenly curious if the U.S. just invented slopestyle to pad our Olympic stats. Eventually you start to wonder how long you have been sitting there. When did I take a shower last? Why are my children’s collective worldly possessions all in the living room? Did I just eat this entire can of Pringles? How long have I been wearing these pajama pants? Is it still snowing? No school again? What day is it? What year is it? Netflix is the only one in this house that truly understands me. How many lunches have we had today? Is there anything left my kids haven’t fought about?
Sound familiar? You start organizing games like the nap game and the prize is whichever kid falls asleep first doesn’t get a spanking. You gather the family around the table to work on a 1000 piece argument. You start wondering if you should send the internet a Valentine’s day card. You try to make the best of it by thinking of all of the great family memories the snow storm has provided but get interrupted because now that your kids have not played with every single toy that they have, they have resorted to taking breaks from fighting and crying to climb on stuff and jump off of furniture and you are pretty sure you need to find an ACE bandage so you can tie them up with it and MAKE IT STOP.
Being cooped up for days on end can push us right to that edge but somehow we hold on. Sibling rivalry wears itself out and sleep gives us the short respite we so desperately need. The thaw is coming and we just have to hang on and one day we will look back and only see the happy. When you are in the moment though, cabin fever is completely weak.
My wife and I recently celebrated 12 years of marriage. I know to some that is a long time and to others we are still relatively new at this. Here is the thing though, I think 12 calendar years is probably equivalent to at least 20-25 IKEA years. What I mean is that this 12 year accomplishment deserves your applause because during that time we probably made at least 20 trips to IKEA. IKEA is like the Swedish Wal-Mart where healthy loving relationships go to die.
I guess one of the good things about IKEA is that the golf pencil and little paper tape measure are free, especially since the marriage counseling is going to be so expensive. I mean, if they would let you take a plate of those delicious horse meat meatballs into the showroom I would go there by myself on a Saturday just to watch couples melt down in public. I am pretty sure that any husband can agree that the 4 words that can strike fear into even the bravest of souls when spoken in an IKEA are “what do you think?’ WHAT DO I THINK?? EJECT, EJECT, SAVE YOURSELVES I’M DEAD ALREADY. What I think is that after 20 seconds in that place we are all drunk on sleek design and functionality and that intoxication will soon wear off when we realize no number of multi-tool organizational shelving units will make the inside of our house look like the showroom there. Of course that isn’t what I said. What I said was, I think it is great, I think everything in here is great. I think if we get this dining room desk /storage unit with hidden drawers and special built-in lights that take light bulbs that cannot be purchased anywhere else on the planet it will probably solve most of our problems. Que meltdown.
Those Swedes think of everything though, because it is hard to look all pissed when you are storming off pushing a cart with 4 swivel wheels and you have to Tokyo drift around the corner to avoid knocking over a display of 4000 glass tea light holders. The also know that any little argument can easily fade away when you turn the corner and both marvel at the 200 square foot living space. Suddenly you want to trade your big house in the suburbs for a broom closet because how cool is all of this stuff?
I need to be honest though, while it is possible that IKEA can present some unique relationship challenges, they do have some cool stuff; no Viking helmets but cool stuff none the less. We have some of their cool stuff in our house and most of the time the joy of new furniture is enough to quell the in store disputes and bring everyone back to a happy place before the put together meltdown occurs.
I think we all know about the put together meltdown. I am a pretty handy guy I fix stuff and know my way around a tool box but that really doesn’t matter when it comes to Swedish engineering. There is no piece of IKEA furniture in our house that wasn’t halfway assembled then taken apart and reassembled because I had something upside down or backwards or inside out. You would think that the only problem with that would be the increased amount of time to complete the build and the addition of a few 4 letter words to your kid’s vocabulary but the real problem is this:
Furniture from IKEA is not designed to be taken apart and put back together. With the re-screwing or allen wrenching or whatever you call it of each bolt with that multi-tool the structural integrity is compromised. So basically after a 6 pack of beer, 2 cut knuckles, a kid wondering what that word meant and a bucket of tears (mine not there’s) you wind up with a bedside table that is capable of holding an alarm clock and a pencil and anything heavier than that causes the legs to wobble.
They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I think that this can be applied to relationships for sure. Arguing in IKEA can be pretty weak but getting home and lounging on your new futon/file cabinet/spice rack is totally sweet.
I have often joked that if Hollywood made a movie about my life, the actor that would play me would be whoever is best at walking around the house turning off lights and forgetting to put a new trash bag in the can. It’s funny how paying an electric bill can turn you into your own father. I used to always wonder what the big deal was during the summer when he would yell at us to SHUT THE DOOR! Now any time a door is open for more than 4 seconds it just looks like a $10 bill waving goodbye. So I get it dad. It took me a while but I totally get it.
I also get that sometimes you need to let your kid help with a home repair project even if all you let them do is hold the flashlight and sigh when the space in the cabinet under the sink goes dim right as you get a grip on the part of the disposal you were working on just to see your kid shining the flashlight into their mouth to see if it will come out of their ears and nose. Sometimes being a dad means you have to take your daughter into a public bathroom and answer questions about the urinal or suck it up and smile while you fork over $18 for a bag of popcorn at the circus. Other times being a dad means you have to tell them no when they want to put lip stick on the dog or bring the fish with us to the grocery store, “can’t we just put them in a bag like when we brought them home from the pet store?”
For me, being a dad of daughters means that sometimes I have to ease out of my comfort zone and play “bad cop” even when they act like not letting them push the button on something just ruined their entire life. It also means helping find missing shoes and honing my negotiation skills trying to talk my little one into putting down the magic marker. It can be about explaining why you can’t just put down a Popsicle on the table because climbing onto the kitchen counter requires both hands and it can be about threatening to turn the car around and drive home when you are 4 hours into a drive to Disney World and back seat sibling rivalry has reached an apex.
Being a dad can be about cleaning up messes and saying no and checking prices of diapers on Amazon instead of perusing watercraft on boattrader.com. Fatherhood can include all kinds of stuff that I could deem “weak” but guess what? Those kind of problems are like hardly having enough room on your bedroom floor to set up the GI Joe Aircraft carrier. They pale in comparison and are blown away by the awesomeness of fatherhood. The sweet always outweighs the weak. The good guys always win.
You see, being a dad means getting to carry 40 lbs of unadulterated happiness on your shoulders while you feel her ice cream cone drip on your head. It means seeing the magic that only lives inside of a Christmas morning smile. It means getting to be a hero, prince charming, and the guy that can make everything good again.
I’ve been a dad for 7 years and although I didn’t know it when I was a kid hoping to be a baseball player or an archaeologist (I spelled that on the first try by the way), this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. Being a dad means seeing tears dry when you kiss a boo-boo and standing alone in the street yelling “you’re doing it! you’re doing it all by yourself! keep peddling!” It means putting up a tent in the living room or making a pallet of blankets and watching an ordinary Friday turn into the greatest day ever.
I remember when I was a kid that no matter how bad I messed something up or how hard a task seemed, when dad came to help I knew it was going to work out. Now I get to be that guy. The one that in two little pairs of blue eyes, can do no wrong. I know it may only be in the opinions of my kids but I’ve got to tell you, it feels pretty awesome to be awesome. It can be a lot of work and the return on investment may not always translate on a spreadsheet but when the fruit of your labor is rewarded with smiles and cheers and “I love you daddy’s” there isn’t much this planet has to give that is any better.
I don’t do it right all of the time and agree that being a parent can be the hardest thing in the world sometimes but if I had any advice to share with other dad’s out there it would be to not rush past the pay off. Realize that what you do not only matters but it shapes those little people who call you daddy and has a pretty huge impact on the kind of people that they will become. Don’t let fatherhood feel like nothing but a job. Enjoy the pay-off of your labor. Smile with them, laugh with them, put a flashlight into your own mouth and see if it will shine out of your ears and nose. Recognize in the moment that this is what it is about and don’t rush onto the next. Take the time to make a snuggle sandwich and feel how they have the amazing ability to be the ones that make everything all right with you the same way you do for them. Those moments can heal you just like your kisses on scraped knees. Remember them, enjoy them, there is nothing sweeter.
Sure, go ahead and be the bad guy when you need to but remember, you’re not really going to turn the car around and drive all the way home so let those times be the ones you dwell in the least and then remember to slow down and enjoy the part where someone laughs at all of your jokes and somehow even an average guy like you is capable of magic.
Happy Father’s Day.
I Laughed So Hard, I Peed My Pants
The rustling of the nylon against her 50 lb lanky frame as she darted through the play tunnel was the only accompaniment to the raucous giggle fest taking place. I walked up the stairs after getting home from work and heard the laughter break just long enough for the words, “Daddy, look at Lucy’s trick!” Lucy is our 8 month old Weimaraner and she has lots of energy. My daughters had gotten out an old nylon baby tunnel and Lucy decided running through it as fast as she could was the greatest thing ever. My toddler agreed and just like that it was giggle-palooza.
Remember that? Remember what it feels like to laugh so hard at something that you think you may never catch your breath? Remember what it is like to have the laughter go silent as your face contorts almost in a plea to make it stop before the control of your bladder is the next thing to go? Seems like it used to happen a lot more often doesn’t it?
No one likes pee pants but there is something kind of awesome about a moment that entertains you to the extent that you can no longer control bodily functions. My toddler (standing on the toy box so she wasn’t in the raceway) stood there and laughed so hard she could barely breath. Lucy, apparently relishing her new role as giggle fuel, continued to dart through the tunnel to the toddler’s delight.
I stood on the stairs and watched thinking about how the laughter of a child can be contagious. Just before I began to wax-poetic about the unabated joy that can be found in the most simple parts of family life, the laughter stopped. Lucy stopped. The toddler looked at me and said, “sorry daddy, I had an accident.” As soon as the words left her mouth, the dog took off again and the giggles exploded as if the puddle on the toy box wasn’t even there.
She has been potty trained for a while now but I knew right away this had nothing to do with being potty trained. She had simply laughed so hard she peed her pants. While not the most fun to clean up, you have to tip your hat to the concept of laughing so hard you wet yourself. When you are a kid there isn’t very much that you are in charge of, you aren’t used to having a tight grasp on things. It’s probably easier to lose control because you aren’t that used to having control. As we get older our grip begins to strengthen as we hold onto things we are responsible for and trick ourselves into thinking that we control things when all we really control is our reactions to them.
What if you could have a moment that you didn’t just loosen your grip but you opened your hand completely, trusting that there would still be something to hold onto when you were done but for just that instant you laughed. You laughed long and hard and maybe you don’t wet your pants but you get right to that point. That point where everything just kind of disappears and the only thing that you are cognizant of is the thing cracking you up. You know what else is cool about that? Laughter is free. I don’t know about you but for me it has been a while and I miss laughing like that. Cracking up is totally sweet.
The Best Things in Life do Not Care About Money As Long As They Get Most of It
Remember that time I disabled the parental control’s on my daughter’s Kindle to download some movies for a long car ride but forgot to turn them back on and 2 months later found out I owned every single episode ever of iCarly? I remember it like it happened yesterday because that is when it happened. That’s right, every single episode bought one at a time (instead of the discounted price for purchasing the entire season) over a couple of months. I guess this goes into the family budget column of “unexpected expenses” but I really thought that meant stuff like tire repair or an wrist cast. I’m sure those will come but for now, our “unexpected expenses” are brought to us by Nickelodeon. I get it though, I know it was my fault for not turning the parental controls back on but in all reality it is probably my fault because my 6 year old has a Kindle Fire.
Regardless of if it is something you have time to prepare for like shoes for school or something unexpected like a broken window and a flesh wound in need of stitches, kids are expensive. Money arrives and departs my bank account so quickly it doesn’t even have time to sign the guestbook. People joke that if money talked, theirs would only say goodbye but I think mine would give me a long sigh, an exasperated look, and exclaim “seriously?” Then I would suck it up and pay $18 for popcorn at the circus or a Disney World souvenir that will have the newness worn off on the drive home and be designated to some junk toy bin that probably holds $200 worth of plastic chachkies.
I wan’t my kids to experience things to the fullest as much as anyone else but now that I am older, I get why so many dads in movies and cartoons I watched as a kid came with a scowl. I think the process goes something like this:
Kid: Look they have a petting Zoo!
Dad Brain: Awesome…..wait, twelve dollars?
Kid: Yay! Snow Cones!
Dad Brain: Gotta love snow cones…… but ten dollars?
Kid: I got invited to a birthday party!
Dad Brain: twenty dollars
Kid: Thanks for bringing us to the movies dad!
Dad Brain: fifty dollars
Kid: I think I broke my ankle, its really swollen.
Dad Brain: Rub some dirt on it.
Kid: Uh Oh
Dad Brain: Eleventy bajillion dollars.
As you can see, it is a steady digression and finding the balance between basking in the smiles of your offspring and calculating what it cost to get them can be a challenge. I guess it is important to make it work though and realize that there are ways to make things less expensive and it is insensitive to nick name your kids “could have been a jet ski” and “instead of a lake house.” This week I got a broken window and iCarly. When they are teenagers I will probably look back at how this was small potatoes. Still though, over $300 of unexpected expenses in a 10 day span is enough to put me at risk of sporting a scowl. I mean, just think of how many fireworks you can buy with $300. Perhaps the most telling piece of information in this blog post is the fact that I was just thinking about how many fireworks you can buy with $300 and not how much interest it could earn over the next 10 years if tucked safely into an IRA. Enough about that, never mind the man behind the curtain the great and powerful dad has spoken. Kids are one of the best things in life but they are far from free and spending over $100 on iCarly episodes is totally weak.
I started the 4th grade in 1987 in Ms. Griffith’s class. I finished the 4th grade in 1988 in Mrs. Chun’s class. Her husband proposed to her in front of our whole class with a singing telegram. Our class sang at the wedding, I caught the garter. We did a class play of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, I was Edmund. I remember how she would sing with us each morning and how she put her hand on my shoulder with empathy when we got back from Christmas break and I told her that I didn’t get the GI Joe Aircraft carrier. Even though she was my teacher, I think I maybe had a little bit of a crush on her, she was kind and pretty and always seemed interested in what all of us had to tell her. Her’s is the class I see in the forgotten corners of my mind when I think back to elementary school.
The middle school years can be tough on everyone and the feeling to fit in is almost palpable. I will never forget saving my money from mowing lawns and heading out to the mall, going into a cool clothes store called Chess King and buying Skidz. It was the coolest outfit I had ever owned and for once I was going to have the name brand clothes just like the cool kids. I remember wearing them on a Monday morning and feeling like the king of 7th grade. I think they went out of style the Wednesday of that same week but I didn’t get the memo and wore them again and endured some ridicule. That was the last time I wore them, middle school was hard. I will also never forget Ms. Hall, she was my English teacher and she taught me lots of things, the most important was that teachers don’t have to be the enemy. Ms. Hall was funny and cool and I remember that older kids from the high school would come by sometimes to visit her. She would joke with us and laugh with us and made me feel like her classroom was a safe place where the middle school pressure to be something you are still too young to be can be overwhelming. When I made it to high school I went back and visited her, I felt like the coolest kid ever.
In high school I seemed to find my way a bit but I still had plenty to learn. Mr. McCloud taught me that being sociable was a good thing but it was also ok to apply myself and that I was smarter than the effort I put forth. Mrs. Moody & Mrs. Evans taught me how to be a part of something that was bigger than me and put a class clown up on a stage and let me spread my wings in a more productive setting than the back of Mr. McCloud’s Algebra class. Mrs. Rivers taught me that the movie “Gone With the Wind” left out quite a bit of the book and that sometimes taking shortcuts aren’t the best idea. She also taught me it isn’t much fun getting an F on a test.
In college I had a philosophy professor (I don’t even remember his name) that not only taught me about existentialism but also that joining in on the conversation, attending classes, and taking an interest could make college a good experience for what happened inside of the classroom as well as what happened outside.
In 2003 I remember helping my wife hang paper on a bulletin board and getting her first classroom set up just right. It was what she wanted to be ever since she was a little girl. Most of us lose on making it to what we wanted to be when we grow up. For most of us it turns out to be “this is what I do” not “this is what I am.” Not for her though, a teacher is what she is.
I am sure that there were parents that summer that got their kid’s class list and weren’t thrilled that they got Mrs. Holland because it was her first year and you just never know about first year teachers. Fast forward a few years and it is common knowledge that if you have a third grader getting ready to start the year, you hope that they get to be in Mrs. Holland’s class. Kids from the high school come back to visit her and by the time they are freshman it has been over 5 years since 3rd grade. She makes a difference in those kid’s lives. The kind of difference that they still remember when they grow into full size people. She has this unbelievable gift that sets kids at ease and somehow they instantly know that they can trust her. She pushes them to be better and to grow and in her classroom is often where the bloom of a person begins. She doesn’t do teaching, she is a teacher.
Next year their won’t be any kids or parents excited because they got Mrs. Holland. After 10 years in the classroom it is time for a little break. She is going to stay home and cherish being a mom while our girls are still young. I am sad for this batch of rising second graders that they won’t get to experience a third grade year with her but I am more excited that we get to have her all to ourselves for a while. You see, she isn’t just a teacher. She is also a mom and that is another thing that she doesn’t just do, it is something that she is.
I couldn’t be more proud of the impact that she has made in her first 10 years of teaching and I know that there will be times that she will really miss it. She has been “playing school” for as long as she can remember and today she exclaimed with a tear in her eye that it was her last day to play. I know that she will be back in a classroom one day and I can’t wait for this next little chapter of our lives where we can grow as a family. She is so excited to be taking this break because even though every school year brings a fresh batch of 3rd graders, your own kids are only young once.
No matter how old we get we can all remember at least one teacher. The one that explained it different or the one that held our hand when we needed it or made us laugh and feel like we belonged. None of us would be were we are today if it weren’t for the impact of teachers and I just happened to be lucky enough to marry one. Teachers of the year come and go with each new calendar year but for dozens and dozens of kids, Mrs. Holland wasn’t a teacher of the year, she was the teacher of their life.
Here’s to the next chapter Mrs. Holland, cheers!
Big Girl Panties
I say the phrase “big girl panties” far more than I am comfortable with but my modicum of machismo is a small sacrifice in this rite of passage known as potty training. We’ve traded in Minnie Mouse pull ups for Hello Kitty underwear and so far so good.
I shudder at the risk of writing some mundane blog post that reads like so many all too graphic status updates we have endured on Facebook about the trials and tribulations of dumping the diaper. I refuse to chronicle the occasional set-back and focus on the fact that we are no longer forking over hard-earned cash for it to get peed on.
I think that we, as parents, are usually so happy to be passed the diaper changing stage that it doesn’t dawn on us for a while that it really is the conclusion of the baby stage. There is no stopping them from growing up so we may as well appreciate that their maturation can provide a bit of a break for us as well. As a dad of daughters I could live without the daily 3 minute decision process of is she in more of a My Little Pony mood or a Tinker Bell mood to gird her fanny with but getting your kid potty trained is totally sweet.
I need to go
Here is the deal, 74% of the time you hear a child utter the phrase, ‘I need to go to the bathroom” what it really means is, “I want to see the bathroom.” I won’t discredit my sentiments from above that your child being potty trained is a good thing but ugh, can we go one place in public without visiting the loo? Since that is obviously not an option could we please limit our public wanderings to places that have a family restroom? I don’t mind navigating the potential minefield of taking my daughter into the men’s room but I think we can all agree that the family restroom is pretty clutch.
We have been to the restroom in every store, restaurant,
post office (haha, it isn’t 1987, we don’t go to the post office), park, doctor’s office, and gas station in at least a 8 mile radius of our home. I don’t shy away from taking my girls to the restroom out in public but it ain’t all roses and sunshine people. Here is just a sampling of some of the thoughts that have gone through my head while fake potty dancing our way to use the water closet:
- Please don’t ask about the urinals, please don’t ask about the urinals.
- Oh good, an automatic paper towel dispenser, guess we are coming back here 14 times in the next hour.
- Good thing we don’t need a special license plate to use the handicapped stall.
- LOOK AWAY!!!
- Sure, I will hold you above the sink so you can get soap and wash your hands and splash water because it is important to form a healthy habit even though we both know you just sat there with your hands clasped while I did all of the dirty work.
- Honey, unless you are ready for her to start watching rated R movies, it looks like its your turn and let’s hope the lady’s room is more G rated.
- It’s a good thing this kid can’t read (this is mostly on a road trip emergency stop at a highway gas station)
- I think I put that paper seat cover thing on backwards.
- NOPE, too many dudes in here = too many potential questions.
- I already know that this is a false alarm but this is not the type of thing you risk.
So, we visit them all and hope for the best. At some point they will surely realize that none of them are really that special but I think I know what their angle is. It is the nemesis of parent’s taking their kid’s to the bathroom and the crown jewel of children’s restroom adventures. The water fountain. Man I hate public water fountains. Just as you finish the whole restroom experience and think you are free, you exit the door and your child’s eyes light up with the desire for cool, bacteria laced, free, public refreshment. Not only does that water fountain present one last obstacle / opportunity for you to be a meanie head, they remember that water fountain and you can bet your life the next time you visit the location, they will want to visit. No one wants their child to be in diapers forever but that doesn’t mean that taking your kid into a public restroom isn’t completely weak.