Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Meals don't Come with Toys

In every relationship, there are spenders and savers.  One person wants to spend the money, and the other wants to spend it. In our relationship I am the spender, and Tammi is the Saver.  She likes to refer to herself as CFO.  Your kid’s dietary habits bring out the same polar opposites.  Laissez faire parents run up against strict, militaristic dieticians.  In my family, I lock up the M&M’s. I stockpile vegetables like an Armageddon-focused zealot. Or so his grandparents would have you believe. I’ve had to have this conversation.
“Can the boys have a cookie?”
 “At 9 a.m.  Grandma? Please don’t ever ask me that again… Yes, I understand it is December, and that they just ate breakfast.”
 In fact, I think we can just make a standing rule that the boys don’t get any sort of candy until I can have a beer.  That means noon when I’m on vacation and 5 p.m.  any other time.  Yes, that’s official now…beer time is cookie time.
It’s not just food where people act as if I am a bulkhead of unwavering determination to zap sugar and smiles from the planet. Apparently, I kill fun. Kill it dead-dead, not just television cliff-hanger dead. Let your kids have fun.  If my kids want to have fun, then they should just use there F-ing imaginations.  You want a toy? Here, I just emptied this box…errr race car.
I believe all vices should be put off as long as possible.  The boys didn’t want cookies until they tasted that first sweet chocolate-chip crumble.  Caffeine, toys, money, sex, drugs, and chocolate – these are all things they will indulge in at some point, probably to the point of a hangover if their Irish heritage has anything to say about it.  By delaying such dionysusian discoveries (that would be the Greek Goddess of wine and debauchery), I’m giving them time to gain an emotionally maturity that lets them know diving head first into almost anything often ends in a very sore head. 
Last year, Glenn and I visited McDonalds.  Let me be clear. I want Glenn to put off vices. For me, it’s too late. He can enjoy the apples and milk. As I was deciding what I wanted, he pointed out the display of toys available.  I let him know that those toys weren’t any good. 
“They break so easily.”
“That is easy, McDonalds doesn’t spend enough money on them.”
“Glenn, McDonalds doesn’t like children, and they want you all to be unhappy and fat….Yes, I’ll take a #3.”
The look on the manager’s face was priceless.  I get the same look when I tell them to take the toy out of a happy meal.  Or that going to the bank is not such a special event that it deserves a sucker.  Their faces all say the same thing…but if you don’t give him this sucker how will he ever be happy?  What a poor boy. 
Eventually, the kids are all getting smarter.  Whenever we walk passed Kroger’s pastry section, I tell them the chefs are terrible.  I let Glenn know the cookies are bad.  So, this week, he asked if we could get bad cookies. 
Then there is Tammi…Who has known what a vegetable is (Well we’ve been married for four years, so..) for about four years.  Who thinks I am being mean, when I point out that her family didn’t serve a vegetable at Thanksgiving.  That thinks not having chocolate in the house is a disaster on par with the great flood, and being out of bacon. Glenn calls chocolate, mommies’ chocolate.   At least she is the saver in our relationship.  We all have roles, and I have always been the Surgeon General.   

***Write’s note:  A big thank you to my sister for editing my blog, and ensuring that I don’t look like a 5th grade English student.  I wanted to call this post, The Food Nazi.  She correctly pointed out that not giving your children sugar was nowhere near the same as killing millions of people, and trying to take over the world.  Thanks again. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reasons I hate my kids...

Alright, Alright, I don’t hate them, but they are really, really annoying. 

Okay, I love them, and they are a blessing, but, Jesus Christ, why won’t they leave me alone?  Perhaps this offends some people, not the least of whom is my wife.   Let me explain.

I used to be cool.  I used to have friends and go out.  I used to stay up past 9:30 p.m. easily and sleep in past noon.  I say “used to” because that part of my life is over.  I refer to that person as “Old Craig.”  A small piece of “Old Craig” dies every day.  For lack of a better term, we will call it Old Craig’s life force. 

This life force is taken from me and given to my children.  In return, I get to live forever, through my children of course.  My eldest son, three, is the spitting image of me.  I imagine him going through all of the same challenges, emotions, friendships, and fears I have been through in my life.  In return for losing my old life, which truth be told I wasn’t very good at, I get to have a do-over.   In addition, I get to watch, from up close, the entire human experience.  From the very first cell to a billion emotions and thoughts from seemingly out of nowhere.  If you read nothing else, know that this is worth it.

Those are the big picture items.  Let me break down the day-to day-operation of raising a child from an emotional perspective.

1.        Get the kids up, dressed and feed = fatigue

2.        Roll on the floor playing, while watching CNN or ESPN = pleasant, with moments of stress

3.        Lunchtime = extreme stress

4.        Cartoon time = food poisoning type nausea

5.        Nap time = ahhh, opposite of stress

6.        2 p.m.- 4 p.m. = extreme boredom

7.        4:30 p.m. through dinner = extreme stress sprinkled with moments of joy

8.        Dinner = home stretch/extreme fatigue

9.        Bed time = pleasant sprinkled with joy

Let’s review – tired, stressed, bored, happy, stressed, bored and exhausted. 

Then, there are the cute toddler moments that go away so quickly.  Today, I told Glenn I was a baby.  I cried loudly, I flung my arms around and demanded milk.  In the most serious voice possible, Glenn told me that I wasn’t a baby, I was daddy.  I asked him, “Why can’t I be a baby?”

 He said if I was a baby no one would be around to watch him, and he would miss me.  Today was a very bad day with one shining, fleeting, burning-oh-so-brightly moment of joy.

I don’t think it is a contradiction at all to say that at times I feel  love, hate, annoyance, pride and the entire spectrum of emotions, often before bedtime.  Sometimes even at the same time.  People just don’t verbalize it, because it is their child.  My kids are not perfect, they bother me.  Just like every other two-year-old, teenager, and punk kid that isn’t mine. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The 75% Club

Tammi once told me I was a better father and husband than most, and she thought she was lucky.
Transversely, I’m also not as good as others, I pointed out.
It seems my whole life I have strived to be “better than most.”  I am a card carrying member of the 75% club.  It would seem I am not alone in this endeavor.  Wikipedia says 90 percent of people think they are above average intelligences.  For me, the math just doesn’t add up.  
Perception plays a role here.  Most people just perform to the level of their opponent.  Unfortunately, I married one of the top teams in the cleaning game.  So for me that means keeping the house clean in order to keep my wife happy.  There are a couple of items at play here.  Not the least of which, is a standard of clean she is willing to accept.  The difference between her standard of clean and mine is like night and day.  Let me put it this way.  When Tammi and I first met she lived in the same apartment complex.  She was on the third floor and I was on the first.  She would hang out with me and my friends, drinking beer on the patio.  I WOULDN”T let her in my apartment to use my restroom.  Somehow this didn’t raise any red flags for her…
When it comes to my new job, I fear I may have set the bar higher than I intended.  In an effort to show Tammi I should resign my position to only work outside of the home part time, I ended up keeping the house spotless for about two weeks.  This was clearly a mistake.  I do have one thing still going for me.  She thinks it takes much longer to do things than in reality. I can’t get into specifics, because she will probably read this. 
She also has a few hot button items, which if not done, render the house a disaster in her opinion. The first is dishes in the sink.  I could paint two rooms, do 14 loads of laundry, keep the boys alive, and mow the lawn, but if there are dishes in the sink, I have wasted my time.  It also seems to bother her, when you put dirty clothes next to the laundry basket, or leave the kids in their pajamas all day.  Now that I know that, I’m riding on easy street.  I do the dishes, put the dirty clothes away, and dress the boys.  When she comes home I let her know those three items took me three hours.
The truth is 6 months ago; I had no idea how to keep a clean house.  I didn’t actually learn until we put our house in WI on the market.  Tammi defiantly bought into the idea of staging our house.  Every day before we left we would vacuum the floors, make the beds, clear all the clutter from the counters.  You know all of the things, which I thought were just found in fairytales. 
Every so often, I will take a, “day off.”  When Tammi comes home she hits the ground going 100 mph. Once she slows down, I get her a drink, and remind how I am still better than most.  Usually on those days she is reminded that I’m not as good as others.  Oh well, just lowering the expectations a bit.  I don’t want to lose my 75% card.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Day With Dad

I have always done the grocery shopping in our family.  My wife, Tammi, has joined me a few times, and it usually involved me getting very angry, and Tammi not speaking with me.  When I go grocery shopping I take an app and note every item in my cart.  I walk up to the register usually knowing, within a dollar, how much I have spent. It generally takes me about an hour, whether I have the boys with me or not.  In my head, Tammi walks down an aisle with her hand out, knocking items into her cart. 

When we lived in Wisconsin, we lived in a small town about thirty minutes from Madison.  When I say a small town in Madison, you should understand  I mean I lived on a farm.  The exact population in Stoughton WI is very small.  Let me provide you with an example.  Taco Bell closes at 9 p.m.  I should make that more clear.  Nine months after we moved there, when they got there first Taco Bell, it closed at 9 p.m.  Entire families went to go see the new “restaurant” in town.  One more example, next to the town of Stoughton, is the VILLAGE or Oregon. (Pronounced there as ORE-E-GONE)

Since I had always done the grocery shopping in our relationship, this didn’t change after my first son, Glenn, was born.  I was still working at the time, and, so, would always end up going the same time each week, Monday or Tuesday right after the first nap. I always seemed to run into the same lady working the liquor store.  She always said the same thing when she saw me and Glenn,  “Ohh, look a day with DAD!”

 I never said anything.  Rather, I just smiled and encouraged Glenn to be nice, and say, “hello.”  Yet, nothing annoyed me more than the “Day with Dad” statement.

Today in America, if a father takes any child into the store under four years of  age , he is viewed as a super-hero.  Old ladies stop me while shopping to tell me how brave I am to walk into a store with a child – as if they never dreamed of taking their four kids to the store because their family needed to buy food.  Come on everyone, I think we need to raise our expectations of the American father.  I often joke with Tammi that all I need to do to be a good father is not hit her and don’t leave her ass hanging.  Let me be clear, this is not a Day- With-Dad.  I am his Dad.  He spends every day with me.  Whether I am working or staying home, the kid is my son. When my wife goes to work, I am not babysitting.  She does not cut me a check once a week.  I will not pretend to be emotionless when it comes to my children.  I don’t cry when a hallmark commercial comes on but that doesn’t mean I am indifferent to my kids.

….Besides the alternative is to let my wife spend 40 dollars on organic fruits and vegetables when God intended for that money to be spent on meat and potatoes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A New Age

About four months ago our babysitter came to my wife and I, and asked for a raise.  At the time, we both were very happy with her, and thought that we could afford $50 extra dollars a week.  We told ourselves that she was a single mom, and we wanted to make sure she was taken care of.  Little did we know that, this request would lead us down a road, which would lead us here.

I have worked as a full time employee since I was 15.  I started working odd jobs at the age of 13 or 14, and I am now 32.  Lets just say working is something I have become accustomed to. When I was 19 my girlfriend, at the time, got me a job working at a hotel. It was a fun job, with good stories, and interesting guest and co-workers. Being the uneducated bum that I was, I worked hard, tried to keep my nose clean, and began to take on more and more responsibility.  I have worked for the Hyatt, Marriott, Omni, Sheraton, Hilton, and currently the Embassy Hotels. 

So shortly after the babysitter asked for a raise, we began to have some very small challenges.  The dogs were being left outside all day, toys weren't being picked up, and she started arriving late.  I did the math on how much we were paying her, and the numbers were not good.  My monthly income minus taxes, healthcare, and the babysitter equaled $200.  My mind began to process the idea of staying home. For $200 a month I was not seeing my wife, getting health insurance, and working for a hotel, where I was not really being challenged.  The math just wouldn't add up in my head. I talked to my wife, and she loved the idea. SO....
Last month I let my General Manger know that I would be resigning my position as front desk manager, and was interested in working for the hotel on a part time basis.  To my surprise he was very encouraging and things began to move forward.  I now work part time for $10 an hour.  I only work when my wife T is not.  She works at a animal emergency hospital in the DFW area.  I stay home with my two sons, G 3 and J 1.  My goal is to work about 20-25 hours a week, and cover the individual health insurance we have had to purchase.

I am not sure were this blog will take us.  I hope to talk about my experiences with being a stay at home dad, house husband, Mr. Mom...etc. I'm sure the story will wonder a bit...I'll include some hotel stories, a bit about how I got here, and what some of my associates have called craigism.  Since I am new here, any advice or feedback is welcome.  Writing post at the hotel, should work out nicely, as there are long periods of nothing to do.

While I was typing, I was interrupted to check in a guest.  The family was nice, and I cut some money off their rate, gave them a nice room, and made sure they felt taken care of.  The guest asked if I had a tip jar.  I pointed to the palm of my hand, and let him know that I never left home without it.  He placed a twenty in my hand.