Monday, April 22, 2013

A Stay at Home Secret

I have to apologize.  I am writing this on the fly, so I am certain that the grammar and spelling will be a mess.  I just couldn't wait to share my secret.

I’m going to let you know something.  Stay at home parents won’t share this with you.  My wife has a grand idea of what happens that is both not true and still annoys her.  I get grumpy when I don’t do it.  And yes, sometimes even I deny the existence.

Like the magician who shares secrets to tricks, I may lose my stay at home dad card over this, but consequences be dammed.

I take naps almost every day!

Everything you have imagined about staying home is true.  It’s no wonder I don’t consider staying home with the kids to be a job. If you need to reach me between one and two, your call will be blocked.  I often just turn the phone off during nap time.

Now, I can’t say with any certainty that other parents, who stay home, also take naps.  They may very well be telling you the truth if they deny it.  I suspect they are not.  It all comes down to the age of your children, and what their nap schedule is. 

When you have a baby, people will always tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps.  I don’t know why you would think this advice changes as they grow into toddler-hood.  Glenn no longer takes naps, but Jackson sleeps from one to, sometimes, as late as three.  That’s up to two hours of sweet uninterrupted slumber, while Glenn watches cartoons.

Maybe uninterrupted isn't the right word there.  Actually all of those adjectives are wrong.  The problem is a matter of definition.  How you define nap, goes a long way towards understanding.  There is a large chasm between what Jackson does in his bedroom, and what I do on the couch, and only one of them fits your definition of the word nap.

When I was in my twenties I would take naps.  I would get up around 11, eat some breakfast, watch CNN, take a nap for two hours around 3, get up around five, and be ready to go out for the evening.  Those were REAL naps. 

Now not so much…

In fact I don’t even refer to them as naps to my wife.  It tends to make her angry.  I refer to it as my lunch break.  After all, my lunch is taken in secret when my kids are distracted, lest I have to share.  Two hours is definitely not the norm.  More often, I have 45 minutes to close my eyes, while Yo Gabba Gabba plays in the background.  45 minutes is a very reasonable lunch break. 

Let me set the stage so I can be perfectly clear. 

We eat lunch at 1130.  (A far cry from my 20’s when I was just getting up, and called it breakfast) Jackson gets to watch one cartoon.  Usually during which, I am frantically trying to finish my chores, so that I may close my eyes afterwards.  I am often not successful.  I’ll read Jackson a story, spend some time with him, take Glenn to the bathroom, and then I am done.  This wraps up just a little after noon.  If I am done with my chores, I can sit down.  As I said, this is often not the case, and I’ll spend 15 minutes picking up toys, or whatever other crap I need to do.  Around 12:30 I’ll explain to Glenn how long I want to sleep.  He can’t tell time, but he can count cartoons.  So if I need to get up at 1:30, he will wake me up after two cartoons. 

It takes some time to wind down. Perhaps I should stop drinking so much coffee.  I am often interrupted by Glenn needing to go to the bathroom, or whatever other crap he needs.  After one cartoon, he’ll want to play with another toy.  I’m not sure why he wakes me up to let me know, but I wish he wouldn't.  Usually by the time the second cartoon starts, I finally really fall asleep.  Then 15 minutes later, it’s over…Time to start the second part of the day.

Like I said, maybe nap isn't the right word.  I still like to use it.  Do you know why?  Because, it pisses off you working stiffs.  What you imagine and the reality are so vastly different, that I just tell you what you want to hear.  It makes you feel good about yourself to imagine ME as the bum.

Unless your my wife…Than I haven’t stopped working all day.  Except to eat, “lunch.” 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Should I be a Deity?

I am a GOD among women…mostly women… OK, parents.

Well, that’s probably over stating it a bit.  Regardless, I have got some mad parenting skills, and I am not ashamed to admit it.  They just took a bit longer to kick in than I expected. 

I have been watching three additional kids on top of my own.  I’m not certain how their parents will feel about me blogging about them, so forgive me for treading lightly. 

There is the Girl (5), the Boy (3), and the baby (3 months).  When you include my children into the conversation (2 and 4) then I have almost every age group 0 to 5 covered.  If I watched my nephew (1) than I would complete the, what’s the word for a group of six? Oh yeah sextet.  I didn't know that…had to Google it.

I might have overstated my confidence when their mother came over to interview Tammi and me.  She asked if I thought having all five kids would be a challenge.  I’m not sure exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of, “Kids, schmids….I got this.”

The truth of the situation is a bit different.  The first day they all came over, I was a little overwhelmed.  I couldn't get the baby to go to sleep.  Well, that’s not true.  I couldn't get the baby to go to sleep, unless I was holding him. 

They came over in the morning, and it wasn't even until late in the afternoon that I got my head out of my ass.  Uhh HELLO Craig…it’s called a baby swing, and it is in your closet.  By the time they left for the day, my arm felt like jelly.  I awoke the next morning and felt as if I had been in a fight.  Every part of me was sore. 

The next time they all came over I was a bit more prepared.  Their mother handed me the baby, and within moments the kids was swaddled and asleep in his swing.  Still couldn't get him into the crib, but if felt like progress. 

Now?  Now I’m back into shape and ready for the pros again.  Baby went to sleep in his crib.  While he slept everyone else played and eventually I even got lunch done before the baby woke up. Then it was diapers, cartoons, and nap time for everyone under 3.   The two oldest are in front of cartoons, enjoying their quite time.  Jackson and the boy have been asleep for the last hour, and the baby is sitting at my feet, in the bouncy seat, half sleeping and half smiling.  Side note: if you’re having a baby get a bouncy seat, they are from heaven. 

I haven’t even mentioned that I have done the dishes, laundry, and my house is not a disaster zone yet.

So yeah, even though it is likely to all come crumbling down around me any moment…for now I feel like a pro.  Although I guess a disaster would have made a better blog.  I don’t often get to talk of success. 

There was one thing that threw me for a loop.  I’m not used to being in charge of someone else’s kids.  The pressure not to break them is intense.  The girl had asked me for something, and I gave a response that I would have given to my own.  “Well, get up and come and get juice then.  I am not your slave.”

“Craig, what is a slave?”


I would like to amend my previous statements of greatness.  I have no idea what I’m doing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Breakfast Bar Incident

I tried something new today with Jackson.  I told him that if he got on the computer again, than I would throw away one of his breakfast bars, which he may love more than me.  Of course as I came back around the corner, he was up on the computer doing his best to break it permanently. 

So I went to the pantry took out a breakfast bar, showed him, opened it, and broke it up in the garbage. (I had to break it up, otherwise he would go dumpster diving) On the scale of meltdowns he hit about a 9.  I sent him to the other room until he was able to calm down. 

Honestly I didn't like how it felt.  I felt as if I was rubbing a dogs nose in a urine spot, and I don’t think I’ll do it again.  Then Glenn confirmed that it was probably to much as he went to console his brother.

“It’s OK Jackson, I’m right here…take a deep breath.”  Once he felt as if his brother was OK  he walked straight over to me.

“Dad, you need to be nice to Jackson.  He is little and you need to be more patient with him.” There is nothing better than getting parenting advice from a 4 year old.  I thanked him for his feedback and told him that I felt I did the right thing.

“No Dad, you used bad words, and that isn't nice.  Don’t be mean to Jackson.” Jesus the kid doesn't let up does he?

“OK Glenn…I get it, I’ll tell him I’m sorry.  Also watch your tone when you provide such criticism, but thanks for sharing anyway.”  I love that Glenn feels comfortable enough to critique my performance, just not when I am angry.

Oh well back to the timeouts then…

I have written about Action Jackson and Jackson the Destroyer in the past.  Needless to say this kid challenges me, in ways that Glenn never did.  He has taken some steps forward and a few more back since he officially joined the ranks of the terrible twos. 

On the one hand he has gotten big enough to start time outs.  One minute for every year old he is.  Since those began, I have seen a marked decrease in some of his more annoying habits.  The cable box, the dog bowl, and the kitchen cabinets are all limits that he now understands.

Unfortunately he has become 100 % more mobile.  Shortly after his birthday, he mastered the art of the stool.  He knows where they are, what they are for, and items that can be used in place of a stool.  Think of him teetering on a toy for an extra foot of height.  As such, there is nowhere…NO WHERE…that is no safe from the grabby hands of Jackson the Destroyer.  

So we do a lot of timeouts.  When Glenn was getting timeouts more frequently I always said that after the third timeout he got a spanking.  With Jackson that isn't even possible.  The kid usually clears three timeouts before I can even get his diaper changed in the morning.

If he gets out of timeout, than it starts over.  The kid has Tammi’s family stubbornness, so he often will immediately go back to whatever he got the timeout in the first place, as soon as he is released.

It is not uncommon for me to have ten minutes to myself, two minutes at a time.  So with that in mind here are the best ways for you to occupy yourself, while your demon spawn of a toddler spends the morning in timeout.

#5 Dishes- It’s not sexy or exciting, but it’s also not often that you are able to empty the dishwasher without Mr. McGrabby pants climbing in.  This is a good opportunity to get shit done, without taking away from play time.

#4 Take deep breaths- lots of them.  Find your happy place and go there quickly.

#3 Sweep- Again not sexy, but when was the last time you were able to clean the floor, without a toddler holding the dustpan or walking through the pile.

#2 Nothing- Maybe this should be number one, but my priorities are different.  Regardless, there is nothing better than doing absolutely nothing.  That is nothing better except….

#1 Eat- Without being bothered, it is pure bliss.  No sharing, no tiny hands reaching up at you, pecking away at your well-deserved respite.  Pure chaos may be reigning down in the other room, but you’re at peace in the kitchen eating your pretzels.

Crap…Jackson is pulling out all of the DVD’s from the self.(AGAIN)  Let me go check with Glenn to see what he would like me to do.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


We get what seems like a never-ending supply of packages delivered to our house.  I’m not certain a week goes by without FedEx making a visit.  There is Tammi’s medicine, the dog’s food, packages from Grandma, and anything my wife buys on line. 

Yesterday,  the FedEx guy drops off a box of dog food and, per standard operating procedure, rings the doorbell and sprints back to the truck.  OK, maybe sprint is a bit of an exaggeration.

It still annoys me. 

Then, just a few moments later, the doorbell rings again.

 I look up to see the FedEx guy dropping a second box, and, once again, sprinting back to his truck.

Why does he even ring the doorbell in the first place?

Seriously, they drop off a package, ring the doorbell, and walk away.  This just pisses me off for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which, is its just rude! [Editor’s note: I’m assuming you are standing on your lawn shaking your fist?]

Either just drop off the package and walk away, or ring the doorbell and give me a moment to answer the door.  Don’t go sprinting back to your truck.  The purpose of the doorbell is to let me know you would like to speak to me.  If you don’t want to actually speak with me, then don’t ring the doorbell.

This really doesn't even have anything to do about nap time.  FedEx mostly visits us after nap time, although they have on occasion interrupted our slumber. 

Truthfully, I don’t want anyone using the doorbell…ever.

It seems, I have a never ending stream of individuals who try to sell me crap by going door to door.  I don’t know why it annoys me so much, but had I wanted to speak with you, than I would have used this new invention called the phone and called you.  A week ago someone was driving a semi by, and was walking down the street, trying to sell stolen furniture.  They didn't say it was stolen, but it didn't matter.  If I wanted furniture, I would have gone to a furniture store, vs. the alternative of waiting for someone to randomly stop by my house during the middle of the afternoon.

Moving on...Between the boy’s Grandmother and GG (Great Grandmother) they receive a care package from the frozen north (WI) once every couple of months.  So when packages do arrive, they lose their minds a little bit.

“Dad! There is a package here! Do you think it’s for me and Jackson?”

“Sorry Glenn, it looks like it is for your mom.”

“Can we open it?”

“No.  It’s is a crime to open another person’s mail.  We will have to wait until your mother comes home.”

“UHHHH!” uncontrollable crying as he falls to the floor. “I never ever get a package.”

“Glenn….you literally got a package from your GG yesterday!”

The next day he will revisit the situation again.  “Dad do you remember yesterday when mom got a package?  I really want to get a package, because I never get one…”

There is a natural progression in life, and I am in a transition phase.  First, I was a smart ass teenager, then I was in my twenty’s, and I was cool and had friends.  Now, I’m in my thirty’s and I get annoyed by strangers just doing their jobs. Soon I will be a crusty grouchy old man yelling at kids for walking in my lawn.

For now, I don’t mind if they run across the lawn, just don’t ring the doorbell. 

[Editor’s note: See]

Monday, April 8, 2013

Stay at Home Dad

If you visit the parenting section of Reddit the term is SAHD, or even SAHP for you more progressive types. 

I’m sorry but we just need a new title.  

At the nonprofit, I am Executive Director Craig Fortner.  Now that’s a title.  When you call us stay at home dads/parents, you imply that is the only hat we are wearing.  Everybody has many hats that they wear in their lives. It’s just at work and at school your hats come with fancier titles.  Hell it doesn't matter if your title includes the word assistant or even clerk.  At least you have the knowledge that there are better titles with in your reach.

All I get is stay at home dad….SAHD.  It even looks like the word SAD.  I think I’ll get some business cards with that.  Craig Fortner SAHD L.  This way when people ask what I do, I’ll just hand them my business card.  I assume they will be uncomfortable, and not ask any additional questions.

I’m not going to lie to you.  I’m writing this the day night before I post it.  (My apologies for the typos and over use of the comma)

Why? Why does this blog post have such a quick turn around?

Because I’m wearing too many GD hats!

Let’s just pish posh away the whole notion that staying at home is in anyway an actual job. Something I wrote about first here, then here and have decided already.  Sure I’m raising a HUMAN BEING, but whatever, no title means no fancy hat. 

So I started to blog.  You know people make money from blogging.  I don’t…but people do.  It’s like being an artist, lots of people make money in art, but many more don’t.  It‘s not a real job, but it is a job.  So it gets a hat.

Then there is the nonprofit.  It is turning into a very fancy hat.  I've started to toss this new hat around, and found it adds credibility to my statements.  "Of course I'm responsible enough to watch your children...I run a nonprofit."

Speaking of, eventually I'll have time to blog about the “Daddy Daycare” opened at my house a few weeks ago. It is going very well but dramatically decreases my writing time…as in entirely.  Even though it’s the exact same thing I do with my kids, I get paid to do it, so it is more of a hat than my primary job.

Least we forget about my actual job, I have one of those as well.  I still work at the hotel.  I joke with my boss when she schedules me 32 hours.  There is no way for her to get it, but that much work at the hotel, just wears me out. 

I don’t say all this to have everyone look at all I do.  Despite the many hats I wear, I don’t really do any more or less than you.  I work, just like everyone else who has a job OR doesn't.  In every single category I listed, there are many people who do that task better than I do.  There is a whole world of super parents, who do a lot more than I.

I am not those people.  I am running out of time in the day, and beginning to wonder when I’ll be given a few extra hours.  I’m sure this is something that everyone can relate to.  My problem with titles is it tends to pigeon hole us into roles.  I feel like I either need to build myself up or bring you down, in order to justify what being a stay at home parent means to me.  As if working parents Tammi doesn't feel like she is wearing too many hats.  She doesn't have enough to worry about and manage from day to day.  Her lazy house husband is stressed because he doesn't have tomorrow’s blog written. 


I just want a better title. 

How about…..BP….Busy Person?

I’d also accept GSD…Getting Shit Done.  How about you, what would your title be?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

An Exercise in Caution

***Legal Disclaimer. I LOVE my wife.  When I first wrote this, I was a bit hesitant to post it right away.  The fellow Dad bloggers I shared it with urged me to delete it and never share with anyone.  You see, my wife came off as, well, in their words, “a shrew.”  This was not my goal.  So after some serious edits, let’s see if I can remain happily married tonight. 

My wife is a bit high strung.  She is wound a little tight.  These are not my words, mind you; they come from the mouths of her internship mentor (a man who taught her and she adores).  To her, I would say that she is just highly motivated, but high strung probably works just as well.   

Everything in this life has a ying and a yang.  High strung is both a positive and a negative.  Tammi hears the word and instantly takes offense.  I hear the word, and I see all of the things my wife does for her family.  Yes, I see the negative side of the word as well.  Rest assured, I see it up close and personal.  

If I had wanted a wife who was laid back, I would have sought one.  I also would probably still be working a full time job, we would have money on the credit cards, and my house would be a den of filth.  I don’t clean the house, because I recognize the benefits of a clean house.  I do so, because I know that my wife has high standards, and more than anything, I want her to be happy.  I wouldn't change who she is, or the adjectives that she is described by, but it does come with some drawbacks. 

Her job is stressful, as all jobs are stressful, and when she comes home from work, it tends to take her some time to return to the woman I love.  This results in some comical questions...I mean, serious performance based discussions as she settles in from work.

<Funny story edited out for my own safety….Actually two stories.  I don’t know why I thought making fun of your wife in a public forum was ever going to pass for good writing.  Let me summarize them, sometimes my wife annoys me.>

Marriage is hard.  When you are younger, Disney tells you that you’re going to find your one true love and live happily ever after.  Bullshit.  We are raised with these ideas that not only will our spouse always support us, they will also never think ill of us either.  How can marriage, even a happy one, possibly live up to these expectations?

Here is the thing, as stated above, I love my wife very, very, very much, but sometimes she just pisses me off.  Yet, I don’t need my wife to be perfect.  I need her to push me, make me uncomfortable, and to help me learn to grow with her. 

How can I blog about my life if I can’t tell you when my wife pisses me off?

Why do we try to put forth these pictures of perfection, when everyone knows that we are full of crap?  As a society we discuss, in detail, how to best raise our kids, but we fail to mention helpful tips for our marriage.  This doesn't seem productive.  When I tell you I have no idea what I’m doing with my children, it’s funny.  Yet, when I tell you I have no idea what I’m doing with my marriage, it’s uncomfortable?

Tammi and I try to argue well.  We want our kids to see us get upset with each other, so they can have the tools later in life.  We (try) not to yell, curse, and personally attack.  For the most part we are successful.  By far the most effective tool we have found so far is to allow ourselves do overs.  When we realize we are upset and arguing poorly, we just start over.  Take a deep breath, and make sure the other knows you love them.  Isn't this how we teach our toddlers to deal with their emotions?

You know what?  I’m glad we have had this talk.  I’m not perfect, my kids aren't perfect, and neither is my wife.  I wouldn't have it any other way, and, quite frankly, you’re an idiot if you thought any of us were. I look forward to future discussions on the matter.  

I just hope they don’t take three sets of edits and a pissed off wife next time. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

3 Months in...

It’s hard to believe that the nonprofit is already three months old.  It seems like just yesterday, I was drafting the post which started this whole thing. (
No matter what we get done, there is still a mountain of work to continue.  My sister and I have been meeting on Sundays for two or three hours and mapping out the following week's to do list.  Sure things get marked off but many more items get added on.  I knew this would be a lot of work, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
So let’s start with the good news.  In these three short months S4MS has raised over Thirteen Hundred Dollars!!!  This is amazing to me.  It humbles, intimidates, and motivates me. 
We have also begun planning our first charity event.  We will be hosting a poker tournament tentatively scheduled for Sunday May 26th, the day before Memorial Day.  We already have some great prizes lined up including hotel nights, tickets, a Visa gift card, and plan on having many more.  The goal is for no one to go home empty handed.  More information will be coming on this in the next weeks, but needless to say I am very excited.  Spots will fill up fast, so make sure you sign up in advance once the event is posted.
We have contracted a CPA, and he is continuing the process of notifying the IRS of our existence.  I was struggling to find an accountant and happened upon him by chance.  I was contacting MS support groups, so that I could go and speak.  He runs a support group, and was giving me his email address.  It was something, something, something @ I have MS and do nonprofit CPA work.  Well not really but that is what I heard.  We have had a lot of doors closed to us, in this process.  It feels so good when you see a window open. 
We have 61 ‘likes’ on Facebook.  This is good, but I know that we can do better.  ( Please share the page and let others know about our story.  I think we can double this number by the next post.
So I do have some bad news, but everyone who has experience has told me not to be concerned.  Our survey is used for two reasons.  It helps add perspective to what living with MS is like.  Since every case is different, so our comprehensive support plans will be as well.  The survey is also used to identify individuals in the DFW area that we can assist.  So far we have had 19 surveys completed.  Queue the price is right, you just lost music. 
As a result we have not yet identified the first families we will assist.  I’m not going to sweat it.  I have enough to do. 
I know that the families who need assistance are out there.  I continue to immerse myself in the MS community, and know that I will soon have more candidates than I can assist.  This month I will be speaking at various support groups, begin to more aggressively expand our corporate relationships, and strengthen our relationship with the social workers at UT Southwestern. They are one of the top MS hospitals in the country.  Dallas is very lucky to have them.  Well, people with MS in Dallas are lucky to have them. 
Thank you, everyone I have spoken to has been very supportive.  From the complete strangers who have opened up about their struggles with MS, those of you who have donated or shared our information, and all the kind words of encouragement. 

If anyone has specific comments or questions, you may email me directly at

***You may have noticed this post is out a little late today.  I mentioned in a post last week, that I had found someone who was willing to let me watch their children.  So today, instead of enjoying my many cups of coffee, I wrestled with a 3 month old, a 2 year old, a 3 year old, a 4 year old, and a 5 year old.  Much more on this later, but ya wasn't so bad.