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.