Monday, December 31, 2012

Action Jackson -Part 1

When Glenn was born, my very first thought was, “Holy shit, that’s what I looked like on my first day.”

To say Glenn looks like me is a bit of an understatement.  I showed him a picture of me when I was his age, and he said, “Hey, that’s me!” He has my haircut, my eyes, nose, and my sense of humor.

When Jackson was born, my very first thought was, “Holy shit, that’s what Tammi’s dad looked like on his first day.”

Unfortunately, that includes his temperament.  Tammi’s dad is a bit of a (how do I say this without getting beat up) he’s a bit gruff…yeah.  Sometimes when Jackson gets frustrated, I laugh to myself, and tell little Mike it will be OK. 

If I could speak bluntly, the truth is when I first met Jackson, or big Mike for that matter, I didn't really care for him all that much.  I know parents aren't supposed to say things like that, and, it makes me uncomfortable, but it is true.  I always tell Tammi it is easier for her to bond with a newborn, because she has known them for nine months longer than me.  

Besides, I’m not saying I didn't love him.  I looked forward to learning what big Mike was like as a toddler.  I didn't bond with Glenn instantaneously either but with him everything was so new.  It made the bonding process easier.  Plus, you know, it was like looking into a weird time machine. Without the novelty and the ego soothing, the difficulty of the process became more noticeable.

Think of it from the father’s perspective.  We spend nine months caring for your wife (hopefully), making sure all her needs are met and that she isn’t plotting to cut you up and store you in the basement. Then, on one random day, you’re handed this crying, screaming, non-sleeping, poop machine.   I don’t know how many machines you’ve met, but they don’t provide the most positive reinforcement.  The closest they get to positive feedback is a smile.  Then, you discover it’s not joy they are expressing but the fact that it is time to change their diaper.

I hate the first six months, and I’m not ashamed to say it.  After six months they get a little easier and begin sleeping better.  More importantly they acknowledge they know who you are and think you’re pretty cool.  Once they get to a year old, they really start to resemble little people. Even then,  it’s not easy but they, at least, have their moments. 

Plus, I said I didn’t like him at first, after a year, if you haven’t bonded with your kids, then you should probably get yourself checked out. 

I’ve cherished getting to know Little Mike, and I can’t wait to see grown Jackson. I think it’s fair to say that every day my love for him has grown. And that’s what really matters

Thursday, December 27, 2012

You Can't cancel Christmas

It’s two days before Christmas, and, like many homes, things are very busy around here.  My in-laws are in town (there’s a whole other blog); I’ll spend most of tonight wrapping (my poor back), and if I have to find one more spot to hide the damn elf on a shelf, I might…well let’s just say it won’t be good for the elf.  I love Christmas, but as you may know happy meals don’t come with toys (

Loving Christmas and hating toys makes for a convoluted and difficult internal struggle.  Every time the boys open a thing of blocks, I see myself picking them up endlessly – either crawling on my hands and knees or bending over and over and over and over. Or when they open a toy they really like, and I can clearly see that it will be broken in a week.  Over/under on number of meltdowns is 3.5.  Take the over folks, it’s easy money. 

 My mother-in-law said to me yesterday that she is getting payback.  So, when he opens a noise maker, I think to myself, “But I didn't do anything to you! Don’t you know your daughter doesn’t suffer from this.”
But Craig, think of the children.  Don’t you want them to be happy?  Kids can’t possibly flourish unless they are showered with toys to constantly keep them happy.

What makes you think I want my kids to be happy?  That’s a pretty poor assumption on your part.  Well, okay, I want them to be happy, but I see no reason to push for constantly happy. I’m not.  Furthermore, when did a thing ever make someone happy? 

Here’s the problem.

You can’t cancel Christmas. 

The Grinch tried once, but he was no match.  No matter how much crap the boys open Tuesday, it pales in comparison to the message of Christmas.  If you are a Christian and likely even if you aren’t, this is a day about a man who changed the world.

But Christmas isn't about the man. It’s about the baby.  Yeah, yeah it’s also about the winter solstice and stealing pagan holidays to make your religion more likable…stop distracting me…you’re missing my point. This man, who had more of an impact of the world then arguably any other person, was a baby, just like you.  He was as helpless as those poor kids in Connecticut, and he was as hard on his parents as your kid’s are on you. 

That doesn't mean I have to like the toys though.

Prior to the New Year, a large bin of old toys will be collected and taken to Goodwill just in time for one more charitable tax write off.  Listen Glenn, you can’t have more toys than space in the toy box.  Pick the ones you’re done with and give them to someone else.  It is never too early to start impressing Santa for next year.
More importantly, what do I get the boys for Christmas you ask?  Well, I have a real knack for gift giving, governed by a simple theory.  Don’t spend money.  Let’s take a look back at Glenn’s previous gifts.

First year – A small tin found among the Christmas crap.  I filled it with tissue paper and a spoon.  Boom, there you have it – a drum. Total cost…zero

Second year– A large stack of paper from the computer that I stapled together, and then combined it with crayons he had forgotten about.  Boom, there you have it – a coloring book.  Total cost…zero

This year – Now keep in mind these are gifts he asked for specifically. One, kids’ safety scissors, which he uses at school and we already had but he has never used.  Two, a tie and not just any tie. He made sure to tell me that he wanted a “Daddy” tie.  Not a problem son I can do that. 

“Not one of the bad daddy ties either, make sure it’s a nice one.  OK, Daddy?”

Not a problem son.  Total cost… zero, well to me anyway.  Tracey had to buy the scissors at some point.

I think I can keep the gifts under five dollars until he is at least ten, but it’s going to take work.  Work that I have no choice but to persevere in.  You can fight the over whelming consumerism, but…

You can’t cancel Christmas.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We are All Going to Die

My favorite mass is Ash Wednesday.  There are many lessons to learn from this mass, but the overriding, and my favorite, message is you’re going to die.  Furthermore, so is everybody else.  I have taken both the boys, and it has always upset Tammi.   She understands that they are going to die one day, but doesn't think it should be thrown in her face, or more literally marked on her face.

And then there is Connecticut.

Talk about throwing it in your face.  Here I was having a nice day, and boom all over the news is evidence of the randomness of this life.  Glenn and I were at the kitchen table, painting Christmas cards for his mom, while I listened in the background to the horrible news of the day. 

By far the hardest part for me, and many others, is just how you shoot a 5 year old.  I mean I understand how guns and violence works, but I do not understand, how someone could actually do that.  It truly breaks your heart to think of those kids, only a year younger than Glenn, and the grief their parents and family must feel.

A lot of people are thinking about the causes, and prevention of another tragedy.  I’m not really doing that.  Although, I do believe that stricter gun control laws are not the answer.  I am for stronger gun control, I just don’t know that it fixes this problem.  Sadly I think that next month, hell maybe even next week, it will have left the news cycle, and it will be out of sight out of mind, for those not directly affected.

What I do think about, is how I would cope.  Does the age of the kids matter?  Is losing a 5 year old worse than losing an 18 year old?  I think either way you’re going to feel like time was taken from you.  I would be happier to have had 18 years rather than 5, but it’s not a choice we get to make.  Having not been through this, I would console someone to feel blessed with the time they were given.  Yet, that seems like something that’s easy to say.  Tammi would be a goner.  I think that I have a 40% chance of not losing my mind, but if I did it wouldn't be pretty folks.  The over/under for divorced, jobless, and alcoholic is 2.5 years.  I just hope those people who lose children aren’t restricted by the perception, and seek the mental health they need.  

(There is a whole other issue about this situation)

Here is another question…Are people who have children affected more by this tragedy, than those without children?  I’m very tempted to say yes, but that seems rude and dismissive.  I can tell you that I think I have been affected more, than if I didn’t have kids.  It is easy to see that the closer you are to a situation, or a better way to put it, the more you have in common with a situation, the more you are affected.  Now that I write that, I don’t think that affected is the right word either.  Maybe, sympathize? 

If you continue this logic, than you would say that people who have lost children, are more affected by this than people who have not lost their children.  Ultimately, this isn't a contest, so the question is a little stupid.  We are all sad, and we all feel that sadness differently.  It doesn't make it worse or better. 

People keep saying to go home and hug your children…It misses the point.  Go hug your children, your wife, call your parents, your grandparents, contact old friends on Facebook, go take your nieces and nephews a homemade gift, reach out to cousins you haven’t seen in ages, and have your buddies over for a beer.  Not just this week, but every week.  Because we’re all going to die, and all we have is the time we have.  

Monday, December 17, 2012


Tammi sent me the following texts over the course of one night while I worked my part time job.

5:30 pm:  “Glenn just peed on Jackson in the bathtub.  How is your day going?”

5:40 pm:  “And now Jackson has pooped in the tub.  This is a disaster.”

Now, I did what anyone would do. 

I called to make sure she wasn't shaking the children, and, then, I had a good laugh at her expense. 

Once I got home, I got the full story. 

Glenn peed on his brother, but he did apologize.  This wasn't R. Kelly, but he did offer to clean him with his hand towel afterwards. So thoughtful, that one. 

Then, Jackson started what turned into a terrible gastrointestinal week by letting it fly right there. Glenn, of course, freaked out and nearly climbed straight out of the tub. Tammi then took two dripping, screaming, and dirty children into our shower.  Neither of them enjoys taking a shower, and I can only assume that by the end all three were standing in the shower sobbing uncontrollably.  To make matters worse, Jackson had clogged the bathtub, and (stay with me people) Tammi could tell what he had eaten for lunch.

Few things in this world test your parenting mettle more than feces…FACT

When I got home, I nodded approval of her large glass of wine and gave her a hug. I then started to clean the tub.  Glenn asked me how I was going to do it, and, for the first time, I said something that sounded like my mother. Sort of. 

“Well Glenn, Daddies are just better at cleaning some things up than Mommies.” 

One more bit of back story till I can get to my point, which is not (actually) to make you sick.  I had lost my wedding ring that week. A coworker suggested that Tammi had the ring. Still, I spent the three days trying to hide my left hand from her and fidgeting with a ring that wasn't there.  When I came out of the bathroom, I had decided now was the time to break the news that I had lost the symbol of our love and commitment. Again.

“Tammi, you should know I've lost my wedding ring. Now, seeing as how I just cleaned feces out of a tub, may I have a pass on receiving any shit from you?” 

Sure, she said. And then she stood up, walked to the bookshelf and handed me my ring. Arrrgh.

So, what is my point?  Listen, being a stay at home parent is hard.  Being a PARENT is hard.  Just because Tammi has a full time job doesn't make her time with the kids any easier.

When we are home together, the kids will default to me. I make lunch, do diapers, time outs and bath time.  For me in particular, and I think stay at home parents in general, it is easy to dismiss the challenges our spouses have with children.
We see them struggle with the kids, and we think to ourselves  “Saw that coming… doesn't she know that when he taps his foot three times it means he wants to do it himself?’  The main difference is that they rarely see us struggle with the children.  We have hours and hours upon which to test our methods, read nonverbal cues, and to learn when to just give the damn kid the blue plate.  But we do have struggles…many of them… and often… and a lot of times we don’t have the correct parenting response. 

Tammi will tell you it is harder on the working parent.  Their growth pattern changes almost daily, and a small change in their routine can cause a lot of undue stress for all parties.  Tammi finally did get me a successful day to sleep in. But her day started with Grant screaming, “Noooooo, Daddy!” for the first 15 minutes.  It’s not that he has a preference for me. Well okay, he does (so do a lot of people). He just wants his routine to stay the same.  The more consistent things are, like who gets him up, the better he is able to start to make sense of this crazy world. 

For me this is a classic parenting trap.  It is so tempting to let yourself fall victim to this trap.  Who is the harder working parent is no less volatile than which kid do you love more, or who is the better parent?  None of the answers to those questions matter.  Life is hard, dying is easy, don’t sell out your partner and dismiss what they bring to the table. 

Tammi did want me to make very clear that she had not left the feces for me to clean up.  When I got home the boys were in their pajamas, and Tammi was half way through a post bathtub apocalyptic glass of wine.  I could see how stressed she was in her face. That feeling I could understand so I did what I could to help out.  I’m not a super hero, just a parent.

*As always, I hope that you enjoy the reading, as much as I’ve enjoyed the writing.  Don’t be afraid to post comments or share with your friends. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Who Wants Cookies?

Since returning to Texas, I have been making a much more concerted effort to take the boys to church.

It’s something that is important to me and I enjoy it.  And, since it is so much easier to make it up and out the door when you have someone to go with you, my sister often joins me for the 8:00 a.m. mass. It can still be a bit stressful though, because it’s Erin, her newborn, and my boys (ages three and one).  And it is made somewhat awkward because my sister and I are only four years apart, and people often assume we are married.  We are Catholic and when we go to church they look at us like rock stars. 

“What a perfect Catholic family. They are so brave, what with the three kids all a year apart,” is what I hear their eyes telling me.

Last week, we left Caleb and Jackson at home, and, wow, I cannot tell you how much easier the morning unfolded.  It’s not that Jackson is bad in church, just more needy.  Caleb doesn’t spend the mass screaming, but he is, after all, just over eight months old. Glenn, now Glenn, is perfect (almost) every time.  He pays attention, folds his hands, and even on occasion will shush Erin and myself. 

It makes me very proud, and, more than that, it makes me feel like we have struck a good discipline balance.  For the most part, we don’t spank the kids.  I honestly try to treat them like I manage hotel employees by setting clear expectations — and following through on consequences — when they fail to meet those expectations.  We allow the boys to make their own choices and give them the confidence to be able to do so.  Then, we heap on a heavy dose of praise when they make good choices. 

Obviously, a lot more goes into raising well-behaved children.  It’s not enough to print up a 22-item expectations list like I do at the hotel.  Instead, I just repeat myself one hundred times a day.  I try to provide warnings and let them know what will happen if they continue to make poor choices.  For safety things though, it is an immediate removal from the area of danger and a timeout if they do it again. 

Timeouts last for a minute for every birthday. When done, Glenn will explain why he got a timeout, and I’ll explain my point of view.  Then, he has to apologize and then we hug.  If he gets three timeouts, the next one results in a spanking and a timeout.  There have been very few days when he has made it to four.

Some of that is on me. 

Being the disciplinarian takes effort, and sometimes you let them push you back.  This isn’t that different from the hotel.  If you walk in hung over, then your employees know they can get away with more.  This week I am trying to work on some of the back talk, and it can be very stressful.  I am trying to get Glenn to school on time, and Glenn just yelled, 'no!!!’ at me and fell to the ground.  Great, now we have to do a timeout, then try to get his shoes on, then try to get to school on time, which is what he wanted to do in the first place.

I have noticed that as the stay-at-home parent, my threshold for bad behavior is larger than Tammi’s.  When they start to F around, Tammi is having none of it and will give a timeout much faster than I will. On the other hand, she lets them climb and jump on furniture, and she is much less strict at the dinner table. I will let the boys fight a little more and I don’t really mind when Glenn bosses Jackson around.  I think we strike a nice balance, and we both try very hard to be consistent, if not between each other, than at least with ourselves.

When not arguing over whether to wear shoes in public or not, I try to let Glenn make as many choices as he wants.  I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have every aspect of your life managed by someone else.  (Kind of like living with Ta.... never mind) So, if he needs a long sleeve shirt, I take two long sleeved shirts out and let him choose which one he likes.  When I cook lunch, I ask him if he wants peas or carrots and apples or bananas.

The praise is the easy part.  Kids, by nature, adore their parents.  They live and die by their attention, both positive and negative.  If Glenn is kicking or playing too rough, I don’t yell at him.  I ask him to stop, and, when he doesn't, I walk away.  I don’t want to hang out with someone who knocks my glasses off my face.  When he does something nice, I’ll really lay it on thick. 

“Oh my, thank you Glenn, I bet your brother really appreciated you giving him that toy he wanted.”  On, and on, and on.  Even when not disciplining them, we try to speak to them positively and with respect. Since my wife is a hippy she believes that how you speak to your children, is how they will hear their inner voice.

And what parenting arsenal would not be complete without bribery?  As a parent I have taken the lessons learned from potty training and implemented them to every other aspect.  You want a cookie? Well guess what, kid, cookies aren't free. 

In the end, parents have to decide what works best for them.  There are times the kids make me so angry, I want to smack them.  Jackson, in particular, has a very good knack for getting under my skin.  All parents feel this way.  It is hard work, and sometimes you just want to give up, like I've done with Jackson and mass. I’ll try again in 6 months, after he has gotten a few more timeouts and hugs under his belt.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Me Time

There is no place that is sacred in my house.  My family has taken everything away.  The living room and dining room has always been Tammi’s.  The playroom/dog room, is well, not mine.  I’m allowed to provide input in the study, and have never cared about the spare bedroom.  

Hell even Glenn seems to have more say about my own bedroom than me. ( Every day I clean the house so that other people can enjoy their rooms.  It’s like I’m crop sharing in my own house; working for the right to sleep in my bed.

The kitchen is mine, but no one knows or cares.  It is funny to me, that if a family member wants to get us something for the kitchen, they always ask Tammi.  Who has no idea what we need or where it would go if we got it.  She always tells them the same thing, ‘Ask Craig, it’s his kitchen.’  No one gets it though.  Plus it’s not like the kitchen is a place of sanctuary.    Usually if I’m in the kitchen I am either cleaning, or cooking for two hungry and irritable boys under foot. 

The new house has two bathrooms.  One of them even got titled, Daddy’s Bathroom.  Finally a place where I could be by myself, collect my thoughts, and you know get some business done.   I was so naive.  I wish sometimes I could go back in time and at least give myself a heads up.

“Craig, it’s me.  You are being a dumbass.  You really think it’s gonna work out that way.  Come on man, lower those expectations and give up.”

I haven’t been to the bathroom by myself in over 6 months.  Hell sometimes I expect Tammi to walk in and start playing with the toilet paper too.  If I want to have a moment to myself I have to close the door, and listen to Jackson scream.  Not exactly the quiet time I was hoping for.  Glenn just opens the door anyway.

"Daddy I want some juice."

"Well we all want things Grant.  Like you know, I want to be left alone."

So the other day my friend is over, and we are hanging out drinking beer on the patio.  I get up to go to the bathroom, and I leave the bathroom door open.  It is now second nature to assume I will not have peace.  As he walks in for a refill, I quickly swing the door closed…

Maybe if I throw out all the crap in the attic, I could carve out a new spot for myself.

*This unedited version, is brought to you by me.  Since I didn't get it to my sister in time, you can see how much I love the comma, and run on sentences. Did you see the semi-colon Ellena?

Monday, December 3, 2012


Ummm, I just want to make sure we are all on the same page here — I’m a huuuge Notre Dame fan.
I was born in Indiana, and I’m pretty sure state law dictates your college football team of choice.  Wisconsin has a similar law about their professional football team. 

Now, I’m really gonna blow your mind here — I state for the record that Notre Dame is going to the national championship game. I’m booked Jan. 7th. Don’t call. Or visit.

The same team I have cheered for since my adolescences is finally going to do what I have said it is going to do for the past 15 friggin’ years.  I was eight when they last won, and I was 18 when they were last in the conversation.  I talked so much shit that year — right up until they lost to Boston College.

A friend of mine told me Notre Dame would keep winning as long as I didn’t wake up.  I texted him during the Pittsburgh game that it was too early to get up.  Because at the start of the year the only way Notre Dame was getting into the national championship was if I was dreaming.

They haven’t ever been really bad, just irrelevant.  To golden domers, if you lose one game than the season is over. Sure, you can beat Michigan or USC to salvage a season, but if you don’t get invited to the NC, then ya really didn't do it right.  They have not been “doing it right” for a very long time.  OK, in fairness to others who aren't ND fans, they have been very bad at times. Possibly.**

Now that Genn is into football, I have to explain the difference between Saturday and Sunday football.  Listen, if you want me to raise two Packers fans just because that’s where they are from then I can do THAT.  But if you expect me to say there is any football program anywhere better than Notre Dame, then you have lost your effing mind.

I finally laid it out to him this year.

“Listen Glenn, if you wanna be a Badgers fan, then I can’t stop you.  You were born in Madison. However, I must warn you that the BEST the Badgers are ever gonna do is make the Rose Bowl.  Now, my Saturday team, son, they play for national championships on their good years.”

January 7th I will not be easy to find.  If I had it my way, I would be in a cave watching the game.  I’ll probably end up just going to a bar.  All I can say is what I’ve been saying for years. It’s the same thing Grant said to his grandma at the airport.


*Ha Ha you read a whole post about the greatness of Notre Dame

**I take it back. They've never been bad.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Road Rage

I used to have road rage, but, now that I’m older, I have mostly worked through it. Although moving from the casual driving habits (i.e. a complete lack of traffic) of Wisconsin to Texas (with its terrible traffic, D-Bags, and construction) has definitely brought some of that anger back.  At least now the speeding has stopped.  I mean, how many tickets does it take to make a 20-year-old driver stop speeding you ask?  TOO MANY! 

When I picked Glenn up from school the other day, someone decided to ride my bumper.  Not on the highway mind you, but down a street with a speed limit of 40 mph and multiple lights.  I was driving somewhere between 40 and 45 mph with another car not too far in front of me.  When the street widened to three lanes, I moved to the left, cause ya know, that’s the way home.  The “gentlemen” behind me, swerved over as I changed lanes, as if he was going to be able to get around.  I gave him a gentle pumping of the breaks to let him know I was aware of his presence.  Not long after, a turn-only lane opened up for about fifty feet.  He (I’m now done calling him a gentlemen) used this opportunity to swerve past me.  Then, because we weren't on a highway, we both stopped next to each other at a RED LIGHT.
What an asshole!

Since I live in Texas, November is a great time to drive around with your windows down.  So he screams over to curse and call ME a bad driver.  I, of course, shared my opinion of him and then ignored the rest. 
To which, Glenn leans out his window and shouts…

“Hey, this isn't a RACETRACK!!”

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Day Off

So today was my day to sleep in.

Tammi and I each get one day a week to sleep in, and I had missed mine last week, so I highly anticipated sleeping in until 9 a.m.


Of course, I still needed to let the dogs in at six a.m. but, yeah, other than that, I’m totally going to sleep until all the way to NINE-freaking-A.M.

The dogs, gentle souls that they are, waited until 6:30 a.m. to sound my first alarm. Bonus — they failed to wake up Jackson in the process.  I dozed on the couch for 20 minutes, because I kept expecting the kids to wake up.  Then, around 6:45 a.m., I went back to bed, sneaking in another 30 minutes of sleep.

Thirty whole minutes. Wait, how did my 9 a.m. transform into 7:15 AM.?

Well, at that point, Tammi rolled over and said she hadn't slept well and begged for me to get the boys.  To be fair, my wife lives with MS. When she says she hasn't slept well, it means get your lazy ass out of bed because she physically needs more sleep.

Not to whine, but it was MY day to sleep in

When you work from home, sleeping in is what you working people call “days off.” My definition of a holding a “J.O.B.” includes two things — First, you have to punch a clock. Two, you have to receive a paycheck. I went into more detail the last time I missed a day to sleep in.  And I still think that is true.  So, I do not have a job no matter how much work I do.

Recently, I have begun to see a bigger problem though.  If I don’t have a job, then I can’t really claim days off, can I? Logically, that makes sense to me. What I can’t get my head around is that for the foreseeable future, I don’t get a day off.

When you have a job, your day off is what you work toward.  Yeah, yeah, we all want a job we can enjoy. I did. Hell, I still have a part-time job I enjoy. But no matter how much you enjoy your job, it is still not playing with your kids (or whatever you non-kid having people do on your days off. Oh yeah, drinking.)

Tracey has a job, and she works on her days off.  This week, I came home from my part-time JOB, and there was shit in the tub. That’s not a metaphor. That’s real life parenting WORK.  (That’s story deserves its own blog) It’s not as if, because I don’t have a job, Tracey spends her days off with her feet up. 

I consider my days off to be Friday and Sunday.  On both of those days, I think it’s fair to say I work half as hard.  Half might even be a bit of an overstatement.  I basically try to do just enough to make Tammi happy without actually doing anything.  Yet, I still get the boys to school, do the dishes, pick up the clutter and generally manage the day.

So what defines a day off?  I’m not entirely sure.  I don’t think it’s the measure of how much work you do.  I also don’t think it is the opposite of work, i.e. a day you don’t punch the clock or earn a paycheck. If that were the case, you could say every day is a day off for me. That’s certainly not the case.  I think you could make an argument that your day off is defined by two things — doing something you enjoy and changing your routine.

So, with that in mind, I say working folk have defined days off.  For me in particular, and stay-at-home parents in general, I think we have days off.  They are just less easy to define.  My days off are broken up throughout the week.  So rather than having two days off, I take periods of time off throughout the week.  That lack of definition does make them less rewarding, but not less real.

On Tuesdays, I get to sleep in (maybe). On Friday night, I have the guys over. On Sunday afternoon, I watch football. Tuesday and Wednesday Tammi is home to help with chores and change the routine. 
So, I don’t have a job, but I do have days off? 

This is going to require more thought. 

*I took last week off for Thanksgiving.  I hope everyone had as good of a time with their family, as I did with mine.  I have a lot to be thankful for…I don’t think just one day is enough.

** As always thanks for reading.  I hope you are enjoying reading as much as I have enjoyed writing.  Don’t be afraid to share with your friends, or leave a comment.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Cost of Clean

For stay-at-home parents, it is always a challenge to explain to the working-out-of-the-home spouses what gets done during the day.

For myself, I try to use a checklist.  This way, Tammi can easily see what has (and has not) been done while she’s been fixing dog stomachs and killing cats (that’s what I imagine she does).  It’s not really a honey-do-list. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of that because I write the list as the chore is completed. 

As I was vacuuming the floor today, something I do at least three times a week, I started to wonder how much time I will spend vacuuming this year?  As an even scarier thought, how much time will I spend vacuuming this same space during the next ten years?

I reviewed my top four chores, all to-dos that must get done either daily or more than once a week:

  • Flooring — vacuuming and washing carpets and steaming the laminate flooring)
  • Laundry — both actual work time and time it takes to get one load washed, dried and folded
  •  Dishes — never ending
  • And picking up toys — seriously, stop buying the kids toys
 I’m not going to break down the entire calculation, but it is not rocket science.  And I’m certain I have made some errors.  Instead, I’ll just tell you how much time I spend on each of the chores on any given week and then give you the final numbers.

  • Flooring — 30 minutes three times a week vacuuming and about an hour a week steaming all the laminate flooring (we have three very hairy dogs)
  • Dishes — 30 minutes a day every damn day
  • Laundry — roughly 105 minutes of washing and drying time, plus about 45 minutes of loading, transferring, folding and putting away since the family goes through an average of eight loads a week
  • Toys — about 20 minutes three times a week
So, in time, what is the cost per year of a clean house?
Hours per Year
Days per Year
Laundry work time
Laundry actual time

Grand Total

Or to put it another way, if I start cleaning Jan. 1st just after kissing my wife Happy New Year then I could work continuously — without breaks for sleeping, eating or beer drinking — until Feb. 25th at 7 p.m., just after the boys go to bed.  Ahh, I’d have to work through my birthday.

Over the next ten years, while living in this house, I will spend 554.26 days cleaning. And that’s just the top four chores — it doesn't include pool maintenance, lawn care, house repair, dusting, windows, grocery shopping, other errands, etc.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Things to do in the Bedroom

I lost control of my bedroom a long time ago.  I had always had a TV in my bedroom.  The TV to me is like counting a thousand sheep.  Turn it on, and I’ll instantly fall asleep.  When Tammi asks me what movie I want to watch, my response is always the same.

Who cares, I’ll be asleep in 20 minutes anyway.

Only when I got married, I was told in no uncertain terms, that there would not be a TV in the bedroom.  As Tammi explained, ‘The bedroom is only meant for two things, and one of them is not watching TV.’

Oh how times have changed…

About three months ago, Glenn began what I’m calling, “Operation Infiltrate Daddy’s Bed.”  He has used every tactic in the book, and he is a very stealthy operative. 

“Mommy, I’m lonely.  Mommy, I’m scared.  Mommy, I've peed my bed.”

Seriously Glenn, did you just piss your pants, so you would be allowed in, as you call it, “mommy-daddy’s bed?”  Maybe not, but kids are smart.  I wouldn't put it past him. 

So, I took up defensive perimeter and began to strike back when I had the opportunity.  I rallied the troops, I hooted and hollered.  This is not one of the two things meant for our bedroom.  Furthermore, I just don’t sleep as well.  It isn't about the boy. It’s about ME…right???  No.  After about a week of gaining ground and getting him back into his own bed he pulled out the A-bomb.

“Mommy, can I cuddle with you?”

I was done for. 

There was no way Tammi would, or could, resist her son, snuggling up to her and rubbing her arm as she started to fall back asleep.  Meanwhile, my portion of our king-size bed became smaller and smaller.  The only rule he had was that he had to go to sleep in his own bed.  So after he would sleep for a couple of hours, he would wake up and climb into our bed.  I've tried positive reinforcement, and we have seen some good results.  Whenever he slept the whole night in his bed, I would tell him what a big boy he was when he woke up. 

Still, determined not to give up, I turned Jackson against Glenn. 

As I explained to Tammi, when Grant wakes up in the middle of the night, it disrupts Jackson’s sleep.  He is now used to his brother being in the room with him. When he wakes up, Jackson will go back to sleep, if Glenn is in the room. Otherwise, it takes about 30 minutes to get him back down.  Thirty minutes at 1 or 2 not okay.  That maneuver allowed me to recapture some vital, tactical ground.

I explained to Glenn that the only reason he was allowed to get into mommy-daddy’s bed was if he was scared.  This bought me a couple of weeks, and I was even able to get him to go back to his own bed a couple of times.  At one point, I even went so far as to spray his entire room with a special monster repellent (also known as Fabreeze). I mean His. Entire. Room.  He made me open every drawer and spray inside.  But, at least, I had won the battle for the night, and he went back to bed.

But now the little bastard (that’s right I just called my own son a bastard) has learned to lie. 

“Glenn, why are you out of your bed?”

“Because... I’m scared…yeah, scared that’s it.”

I do get it though.  Last night, as I went into my bedroom, Glenn woke up enough to tell me that he loved me.  Or this morning when we were talking, he explained there was a pig in our room last night. 

“Yeah daddy there was a little pig in your room, it went ‘Snore…Snore” all night.

“Was the pig on mommy’s side or daddy’s side of the bed?”

“Both, it was very loud.”

So, for now, the war rages on. 

It is a war I feel I cannot win, but, like the British, I will fight on.  Perhaps, when Jackson gets out of his crib, I will have to concede, but that day is not today.  I only know this — the bedroom is only for two things, and one of them is cuddling with a toddler.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

F@*% You Day Light Savings

Back in the day, I loved day light savings time.  Seriously, what could be better than getting an extra hour of sleep?  Even if you worked the next day, you could still go out the night before.  And closing down the bar meant an extra hour of drinking time.  Who cared what time you went to sleep?

Now, not so much…

The least of those reasons is because this year it made me look stupid.  I woke Tammi up an extra hour early, because I couldn't tell time.  (My bad baby)  Second, I’m not smart enough to explain day light savings time to an adult, let alone a three year old.  Sure, I could Google it, but I’m not going to remember the answer next year.  F- you day light savings

More importantly, day light savings time F-s with the kid’s schedule.  No one told my boys that they get an extra hour of sleep.  Kids love consistency.  No, even stronger than that — they crave it.  So before day light savings switched up, they were getting up at 6:30 a.m. and going to bed at 7 p.m.  So, when the entire country slept in an extra hour, those of us with kids actually LOST an hour of sleep.  Both boys woke up at 5:30 a.m. (previously known as 6:30 a.m.) just like clockwork.  F- you day light savings

Just that small little change, messed up their entire day.  They usually eat at 11:30 a.m., and at 11 a.m. I thought, “I should start getting lunch ready.” 

Only their bodies told them it was already noon. 

When little kids get hungry, they don’t walk up and say, “Hey, why are we eating so late? I’m kind of hungry.  Will you get me some food?” 

No, instead, they pick some small thing to lose their minds over and scream until you are able to restore the ever-important sugar balance.  So, when I stood up at 11 to start making lunch, they both started to lose their minds.  F- you day light savings.

Furthermore, they had been going to bed between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. every night.  Only 6:30 was now actually 5:30 p.m.  So neither boy wanted to eat dinner when I tried to feed them at 5 o’clock, and they certainly didn’t want to go to sleep at 7 p.m.  Now, instead of watching football at 7:30 when the Sunday night game came on, I was watching Dora the explorer.  F- you day light savings…

As a side note, the phrase “back in the day” used to refer to my high school years. Now, it means the time before I had kids.  God, before I know it, it will mean back when I was in my thirties.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Looking Back to Move Forward

I think a lot about the pressures my dad must have felt when we were little kids.  Think about the pressures that men from his generation faced.  He had one job and that was to provide for his family.  But, even more devastating is not what he was required to do but what he was forbidden from doing.   Ridiculous emotional restrictions are placed on men due to gender stereotypes.

Despite the fact that I do not remember it, I know that my dad wrestled on the floor with me when I was a toddler.  And, while my family never won the touchy-feely family-of-the-year award, I know this meant he loved me. But I don’t remember it. And since that wrestling stopped decades ago, today we don’t have a wrestle-on-the-floor relationship.

I don’t want to call him as much because I don’t remember wrestling with him as a toddler.  I don’t remember anything from being a toddler, and, yet, I want to hold this against him.  Grant is the spitting image of me. So how could anyone not want to wrestle with this kid? And how could he stop wrestling with me, If the question doesn't stretch the question too much? And what if he had the freedom to cry and love and be emotional instead of forcing all that affection into wrestling?  I make a concentrated effort to be physically affectionate with the boys, but still do not to share my emotions concerning other areas of my life.

If I had to guess, I would say Grant has seen his mother cry no fewer than 10 times.  He has seen his father cry maybe once but probably never.  If ever he was awake at 10 pm on a Tuesday, than he would see his mother cry at every episode of Parenthood.  If he paid very close attention — more attention than a three-year-old can muster — than he would see his father choke up and get “emotional.”

Tracey will tell you, hell she told me, that she is not a crier.  I really want to believe her.  Alas, I know different. That is probably because I only knew non-mom Tracey for about eight months after we were married.  After all, when I proposed to Tracey, I said “Hey, let’s make babies.”  She pointed out that we should get married first. Details. Details

I absolutely believe I was put on this planet to be a stay-at-home dad.  Yet, I struggle to find the emotional capacity to do so.  When I tell people what I do I receive two very specific responses, both driven by gender.  Men tell me I am living the dream, how nice it must be to have a women take care of me, and how jealous they are.  Women tell me I am living the dream, how nice it must be to get rid of the guilt of working, and how jealous they are of me. 

My wife doesn't take care of me, and I never felt any guilt from working. My job as the father is to show them how to be men and that includes letting them know its okay to have and share emotions.  If I were so lucky to have a little girl, it would be to show her how to be a woman.  Does that include teaching her to control her emotions?  That doesn't change because I don’t have a full time job.

I appreciate that I am able to cry at Parenthood. It’s a freedom my dad didn't have. Hopefully, my boys will be able to move even further away from restrictive and unrealistic expectations of manhood. I had no idea how much love I had to give until I had the boys. Before the boys, Tracey would joke that I had only three emotions, hungry, sleepy, and horny.  Having the boys has helped me to love and appreciate Tracey even more. And I have to wonder if gender expectations seem suffocating to me, as a male, how much more damaging must they be for women, who experience an even heavier policing from society?  What do people say to her, when she says she has a house husband?  (Her term not mine)

The truth is I feel sorry for my dad.  I don’t think it’s fair I felt constrained from hugging him as I got older.  I think if you look at his grand-kids it is clear he did a fantastic job.  The problems we have with our parents are nothing more than our own personal insecurities.  Even if your dad wasn't even physically there, I can assure you that he loved you as a toddler, and he loves you as an adult. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tattle Tail

So Grant got up in the middle of the night last night. 

Typically, when this happens, we will allow him to sleep in our bed.  Last night , Tracey and I were still up, as I had just gotten home from work.  Grant came out of his room to let us know that we were being too loud.  Tracey was just about to go to sleep anyway, so I put the two of them to sleep in our bed. I stayed up much later than I should have but eventually laid down as well. 

In the morning, Grant woke up, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Daddy its morning time, let’s get up.”

“What time is it? Ugh, Grant, it is ten till 7 a.m. Lay down for ten more minutes, and we can get up.”

He turned to Tracey. "Mommy." Thank God, I thought, he is going to wake his mother up for once. “Daddy, won’t wake up.”

Great, my son just ratted me out to his mother.  Like the puppet I am, I got up, and admitted defeat. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Do you Job

Person A:  Doesn’t trust the religious right, doesn’t believe you have the right to buy firearms, and thinks it’s wrong the government kills criminals.
Person B: Believes in a strong military presence, lowering taxes as a method to stimulate the economy, and doesn’t trust the government to run the DMV effectively, let alone things that are important.

While I try to avoid politics, we are less than two weeks away from choosing our next president.  So, if we don’t talk about it now, then when? 
I love watching politics.  I think it’s interesting and important.  Typically, my television has two channels; — football and CNN.  During the second debate, my wife was driven from the room after I told her to keep her comments to herself and listen.  She only returned while I was watching the post game, although I believe in politics its called spin.  Once again, she voiced shock and surprise to be married to a person who watches hours of recorded political coverage.

This is not a political blog format, so my goal is not to tell you who to vote for or even to tell you who I am going to vote for.  Here is the point — there is too much hate in politics today. It’s on both sides. And it is unnecessary. For the Republicans it happened sometime during the Clinton Administration, and for the Democrats it was clearly Bush/Gore. 
I believe every generation believes their present day is the last to come, whether it is an actual apocalypse scenario or just the sentiment that things have never been so bad before ever.  Personally, I have never understood that idea.  For the last three election cycles, the country has been fairly evenly divided 50-50.  Now, some people look at that as a reason to dig in their heels but not me. If 50% consider themselves conservative and 50% consider themselves liberal then that means that 25% of each side is fairly close together. 

We see it every election cycle.  What does a good candidate do? They flirt with the extreme side of their party during the primaries and then get as close to middle during the general election.  Listen, G. Bush was not an idiot.  He graduated from college and twice became the leader of the free world.  Furthermore Obama is not a lying socialist.  If he were, he would not be so close to re-election.  The world is not ending people, so take a deep breath.  The simplest answer is often the correct one.  In this case, two people who care about our country did what they thought was best.  Let’s stop the name calling.
There are two points that many Americans seem to forget.

Number one — voting is a responsibility, not a right.  Get off your lazy ass and do your job.  Whatever your piss -poor excuse is it’s not good enough.  When you stop using your rights, then you lose them. 
Number 2 — I have never seen an active tank roll down Main Street.  There are very few countries that can say that, and yet, every four years we change power without a single gunshot being fired.  This is truly amazing and should not be over looked.

So am I person A or B? The answer…Both.  Here is what you need to do over the next week and a half. Pay attention, make your own decisions, remove the hate, and realize other people may disagree with what you have to say.  Do your job, and go vote. 

Oh and stop blasting your political opinion on Facebook….no one really cares what you think.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bad Guys

This summer, I was working out by the pool and had taken the boys into the back yard with me.  The pool is fenced off, and the gate to the front yard locks from the front.  So, I felt comfortable working, without having to worry too much about the boys. 

When I stopped to take a break, I walked around to make sure they were not getting into too much trouble.  Only Jackson was there, and he was asking to go inside.  I went inside, and had a brief moment of panic when I didn’t hear Glenn.  I checked all of the rooms but did not see him.  As I walked past the front door, I saw him out of the corner of my eye.  He was sitting on a chair on the front porch.  This is how I learned Glenn could now officially open every door in the house.  I went outside to yell at him, and asked him what he was doing.
He was very calm, and let me know that he was just watching those guys over there mow the lawn.  I told him very seriously that he was never allowed to go into the front yard without a parent, but he did not understand why.

“There are bad guys in the world, and they might try to take you or hurt you.”
“I’m very strong,” he said, not really getting it.  So, I dumbed it down a bit.

“Maybe the bad guys will just walk up to you and push you over. You need me with you so I can protect you.”
That did it.  He promised he would only come outside if I were with him.  And I promised to myself  I would start locking the front door.

The next day we were getting into the car, and he saw another lawn crew, made up of mostly Hispanic men, mowing a lawn.  He pointed them out, and said, “Look Dad, bad guys!”
 Great, now my three year old is a racist….

Monday, October 22, 2012

Through the Lenses of a Blog

A couple of weeks ago, I missed a blog entry. Sure, I posted a oh-so delicious chicken pot pie recipe, but I think, we can all agree, that’s not going to cut it.

I was pretty disappointed in myself when I didn’t have my shit together enough to write a one-page blog entry.  It may not seem like much, but that’s how it always starts for me.  First, I miss one, than I miss another, and, pretty soon, I am depriving you of what I can ONLY assume gets you through your week.  
When I was starting the blog, the number one piece of advice I received from the Internet was to set deadlines.  So, for those of you who don’t know (which would be most of you), here is the process.  I write the blog entry sometime between Sunday and Wednesday and send it to my sister to edit. This is because I have the writing/spelling skills of a 5th grader.  She usually gets it back to me by the weekend, and I post the blog on Mondays.  Usually a slow “news” day, and, if you’re going to be slaking at work, Monday is the day.   So, when you read this, I will have written it last week. Thus, I posted a blog on the Colts Vs. Packers the day after they CRUSHED the Houston Texans.  Thank you Rodgers for a much need fantasy day against my sister. [Editors note: you suck]

The week I missed the blog was a very stressful week.  I had a lot of family drama on my plate, and I certainly wasn’t ready to blog about it.  So each time I sat in front of the keyboard, I knew I was writing about something that I wasn’t focused on really.  I was surprised how something that had come very naturally the first few months had so quickly become a struggle
Not long after I started this blog, I noticed a change in how I view day-to-day events and conversations. Everything is filtered through the lens of the blog. For instance, I was sitting on the porch with my buddy and he says, “Yeah I like sleeping with her, but she is so annoying.” 

My first thought was, I am drinking with Quagmire, and the second thought was that comment must  go into the blog. 
Also, a few people have begun quoting my own words back to me.  Tammi is very fond of this.  My grandmother caught me smoking (well, she caught me chain smoking — reference the family drama above.) And she happily pointed out that I said I was going to quit. I never said it to her, per se. She read it on my blog. Hee. My grandma likes my blog.

I have all of these half blog entries floating around in my head, and I’m waiting for the other half, if you will.  Currently, I have four or five ideas in my head that haven’t yet made it onto paper yet.  There is one on how as parents we always judge each other to make ourselves feel better, my top three priorities as a parent, how men are treated differently as parents, one questioning whether I am a soccer mom, how as parents there is a perception that you can’t make mistakes, and a few that just make fun of my wife. Anyone have something else they think would be good let me know.
Then, to make it worse my sister mentions that most blogs post more than once a week. UGGH… You people are such a burden.  Well I accept your challenges.  I have decided to try and break it up a little more, and re-challenge myself.  So, I am going to make sure I don’t miss another Monday post, but I am also going to add a Shorter Thursday post about whatever cute or annoying thing my kids have done that week.  The good news is I am still enjoying myself.  I hope that ya’ll are as well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Colts Vs. Packers

Since a very small age, both of my boys have worn Packers gear during football Sundays.  When I joined Tammi’s family, the very first Christmas I received Packers and Badgers gear for gifts.  The Packers are a big deal in WI.  It is my belief, that this is a result of the ground being covered with snow for nine months out of the year.  There is, literally, nothing else to do during fall and winter.  So it has always been understood that, regardless of where we live, the boys Will be Packers fans.  As Tammi says, it is their birthright. I’m all for it. I am a big believer in you root for the team where you hail from.  Sadly, this means that if/when we have a 3rd kid, I am going to be forced to raise a Cowboys fan.
For myself, I was born in Indiana and raised a Colts fan.  It was a lot harder growing up as a Colt fan in Cowboys country.  I had the misfortune of becoming interested in football after Johnny U but before Manning.  So, winning seasons were not something I was used to experiencing.  Until the age of 19, the best QB they had was Harbaugh.  I took more shit than I gave and watched more Notre Dame games as a result. 
Like many people in this country, I am a huge Fan.  In my case, it really is short for fanatic.  Tammi really, really, wants to be a football fan.  The truth is she is more of a casual observer, using Packers games as a napping tool more than anything else.  When they win, she says Rodgers is a great QB. And when they lose she either says the offensive line is bad or the receivers need to catch the balls thrown their way.  At work she tries to sound smart, by repeating the facts she hears me say while on the phone.  For her, part she usually sounds very intelligent.
For the first time, Glenn has begun to take an interest in football.  At first, I was very excited and had visions of me and my boys reading the Sunday paper, watching the pre-game, and bonding over our national past time.  He is very close but he has a long way to go.  He knows what his team colors so when we saw someone in the grocery store wearing a Packer’s jersey, he shouted, “Dad, they are on my team.”  But he also gets very upset when I tell him his team isn’t playing on Tuesday.  He will see a long throw and say that it was a good catch.  Yet, he saw the Oakland A’s, and thought they were on his team as well….Same colors.  He also will routinely tell me that mommy and Jackson are on his team, but not daddy.  When I let him know that his Aunt Ellena is on my team, he pouted and said, “uhh I wanted Ellena to be on my team!!”
This past Sunday there was a big family feud taking place — my Colts vs. their Packers. So when the two teams played this weekend, Glenn was very quick to let me know that his team was the best, and they were going to win.  I made a poor parenting decision when Glenn and I decided to bet one timeout on the game.  When the Packers were up by three scores, he called to let me know that his team was winning.  Then, something amazing happened, and the Colts took the lead with about four minutes to go.  Excited about the Colts winning — and forgetting I was talking to a 3 year old — I ran up and essentially did a happy dance in front of my son.  Yet another poor decision. I seem to make a lot of those. He burst into tears and began sobbing, well, like a three year old.  He shouted at me, “But I wanted my team to win!” 
Now in my defense (something the Packers should look into getting) he also reacts this way when we don’t get to go to the park, or one of the dogs chews up one of his toys. I tried to calm him down by letting him know the game wasn’t over, and his team was very good.  When the Packers missed the game-tying field goal, I explained that it’s about enjoying the game and not letting it become too important.  It is after all just a game.  Inside I screamed, jumped up and down, and celebrated the victory.  The next day Glenn used his sad voice to let me know that daddy’s team had won, but that it would be ok.
And, no, I did not give him his time out.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

For those of you looking for a funny story or a life lesson, you’re going to be disappointed.  This really is just a simple recipe for Chicken Pot Pie.  I suspect if you consider yourself a chef, than you will not think this much of a chicken pot pie, but I love it.  It is one of my favorite fall meals, and taste just like the frozen version you would buy in the store. 

There is one disclaimer.  It has a lot of salt.  The frozen version does as well, so it’s just a matter of what you are used to.  Start out with a little, and you can always add more.

-1lb of chicken
-1 can of cream of chicken
-1 small bag of frozen mixed vegetables
-2 frozen pie crust
-1/4 cup of milk
-1 tablespoon of salt and pepper to taste

 Place one of the pie crusts in a circular oven safe bowl.  Bake according to instructions on pie crust, about 20 minutes.  Cut up and cook chicken. Add cream of chicken, vegetables, milk, salt, and pepper.  Pour into bowl, and top with second pie crust.  Let the pie crust defrost a bit, to make it easier.  Cut a few slits in crust, to allow ventilation. Cook at 350 four about an hour to an hour and a half. It is done with the crust turns golden brown, and a knife comes out clean.

What I really like is how simple this meal is, and it is delicious on a cool fall evening.  If you try it let me know how it goes.