Thursday, December 24, 2015

Darby and the Elf

Never was it more impact-fully said to me that I march to the beat of my own drummer as when my brother said it to me. That idea was the premise of his toast at my wedding reception. I have heard it several times in my life, sometimes as a compliment, sometimes not so much, but never did it hit home the way it did on my wedding night.  I would like to offer the same compliment to my youngest daughter, Darby.  Sweetheart, you march to the beat of your own drummer.

My children have been asking for a toy called the "Elf on a Shelf".  It had been a few years of asking but frankly, I hadn't got around to purchasing one.  This year, walking past an end cap in a store I made the leap.

For those without children or have been fortunate enough not to have their children introduced to this little tattle-tale, the Elf on the Shelf is a the equivilant of a hall monitor in your house.  The kids are led to believe that every night this little creature flys to the North Pole and reports to the man in red how they little darlings have performed during the day.  The kids then awake to find the elf in a new location the next morning.  The rules include the fact that it doesn't come to life until it's named and that touching the elf robs it of it's magic.

So my eldest and middle clamored to get the Elf on a Shelf and were thrilled when one moved into our home.  They named her Jingles and delighted each morning ehen it was in it's new funny location.  They began to see the error in their ways after a night of fighting with each other, but didn't let on that letting the hall monitor into the house was a mistake.

Darby had a different reaction from the outset.  She saw through the marketing of the little imp.

"Darby, you can't touch her,"  I warned, "or she will lose her magic."

"That doesn't make any sense" she replied.

She was right, sure, but I had spent my thirty dollars, I wanted results.  "You don't want Jingles to fly to the North Pole and tell on you, do you?"

"She can't, she's just a toy, daddy.  She isn't magic at all." she said without an ounce of smugness.

The battle went on for another minute or two but I finally relented.  She won, and realistically I was proud of her for it.  I don't think I would have fallen for the Elf on a Shelf when I was a kid.  I'm glad the elder two went with it, but it doesn't bother me at all that Darby didn't.

So the lesson is this, girls.  There will be times when people are going to tell you things that simply aren't true.  Your mother would tell you that I am the biggest culprit in this.  But here's the catch: sometimes they will tell you these things to make life a little more interesting.  You might be tempted to call them lies, I prefer 'being creative'.  If you get the chance to buy in, it's worth it, if you get the chance to create the story yourself...even better.  Merry Christmas, girls.  I hope Santa brings you everything you want!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

You Say It's Your Birthday

For whatever reason, perhaps it's the ever expanding bald spot, I don't particularly look forward to birthdays.  This year was no different.  My wife was out of town helping look after her grandmother after a surgery and I had a lot going on at work.  I had decided to go into work early that day as I thought I might be able to get out a little early to have dinner at my mom's house and spend some time with the girls.  The best laid plans of mice and men...

With my wife leaving town for the week we thought it best my mom have my wife's maxi-van.  This simple switch left a comet trail of ramifications.  I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but we will speculate to say that the gods were conspiring against me, to make sure that I had the van and would trade out the van for my car later in the day.  Simple enough, right?  So I left my house with the sun not yet making its first appearance and it was cold enough that a man could have lost his bearings.  I scraped windows assuring myself that it was worth it.  "Scrit, scrit, scrit", the ice scraper bounced along the frost.  A lesser man would have started the car and let the heater defrost the windows while he enjoyed a cup of coffee warm inside.  The thought had crossed my mind, but my day was a full one and getting to work a couple of hours early would make all the difference.  I hauled myself inside and made the slow icy trek to work.  It took a little longer than usual but I had still given myself an extra hour and a half to get assignments knocked out and would be on my way surprising the girls in no time.  The best laid plans of mice and men...

My wife used to work for the same company as I did so clearly a key to the office would be...sonofabitch!  I lugged myself back in to the van to make the trek back to my mother's house to retrieve my key.  Traffic, as it turns out, was slow in both directions, go figure.  I arrived at her door, woke her up, recounted my story, set a new time for dinner and made the slog back to work.  After a stop for gas I arrived at the office to find the front door unlocked.  My co-worker Lindsay had an equally busy day and decided to come in early, about an hour early as it turns out.  I was now officially twenty minutes early.  Not a ton of time but hey, it's my birthday, maybe the gods would take it easy.  Best laid plans of mice and men...

In the spirit of expediency it will suffice to say that the rest of the day did not go as hoped.  I ended up leaving work later than usual, got caught in more traffic than usual which left plenty of time to have it explained the effects that my tardiness would have on dinner and it's moisture content.  I also had retrieve my daughters from my house where it was explained that my dog had eaten my birthday cake during nap time.  That is actually the second birthday cake ol' Otto has eaten over the years.  Par for the course on this day.  I loaded the girls into the van and headed to my mom's house. 

A funny thing happened over dinner.  I laughed.  The girls gave gifts, all of the handmade or dollar store variety, they beamed with pride.  The unfortunate parts of my day melted away.  Sure there were still worries, my wife decided to extend her stay as Grandma Bert saw a few complications (she is headed for recovery) and my plate at work was still full the next day. 

The lesson, my girlies, is this: what happens at home is what matters.  It is what will make you happy and what will make you sad.  You may think that school, or work, or sports, or whatever is in life's minutia is what defines you but it is actually what happens behind your front door.   To an outsider looking in my birthday may have looked like a flop, and for several hours, it was.  But when placed on the scales, the joyous parts carried a lot more weight than the tail feather ruffling parts.  Thank you girls and get well soon, Bert!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tryptophan, Chardonnay Turkey and a Soapbox

I was shoveling with my middle one this morning and reflecting a little bit on what I was grateful for.  There were the usual things, my family, my friends and the like, but I also found myself being grateful that we were in a warm home with the prospect of a Thanksgiving feast and not cold, not homeless.  My mind turned to less pleasant things.  The situation in France, the plight of the Syrian migrants and their children, about how many dads out there are watching their kids struggle with far more than navigating a driveway with a shovel.  My normal format for these postings is to look back on a story about my kids and hopefully offer them a little nugget to grab onto later.  Today, as I was thinking about all of the things to be happy about something dawned on me, far too often I am thankful for things that don't happen to me or thankful that I am not walking in someone else's shoes. 

So girls, I'll put this right up front, being thankful for the things that don't happen rather than the things that do isn't the best way to go about it.  Of course you're thankful that you haven't been visited by illness or that you don't live in a place that leaving your home and praying for the good will of others is your last, best option.   To me there are plenty of problems with that thinking, first of all, it creates distance between "you" and "them".  Feeling sorry for someone else makes them an "other".  It's easy to sympathize with someone, but it's much tougher to empathize.  Walking a mile on someone else's shoes puts you in a place where feeling bad for them isn't nearly good enough.  I find that it's also short trip from being glad that you aren't in someone else's shoes to wishing that you were in a different set as well.   What you have compares to some people seems grand, but that same comparison can take you from a "have" to a "have not" in a hurry depending on whose fence you're looking over. 

That all said girls, I'm as guilty as the next guy.  There are things I want for, there are places I wish I was and at the same time, I see people on T.V. and in my life that leave me ecstatic that I am where I am.  It's a hard lesson, and one I imagine I will spend the rest of my life learning. 

Now, if you will afford me a moment to step off my soapbox, We will return soon with booger jokes and funny stories.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Hug the ones closest to you and give a thought to those who no longer are.  Now if you will excuse me, I'm going to sit down with my family, check out Adrienne's Chardonnay turkey and see if the tryptophan myth has legs. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

To Be or Not To Be...It's Not Your Decision

The acting bug runs deep in the Jacobson family.  I myself once portrayed the illustrious Grasshopper #2 in "Once Upon a Clothesline" and theatre goes would have seen an impactful delivery boy in "Come Back Little Sheba", so to say I know a little about acting would be accurate.   I do in fact know very little about acting.  I can't speak for my wife, but I can say honestly, the idea of standing in front of people, projecting lines and emoting, sounds like about as much fun as intestinal flu.    So when Avery came home and said she would be trying out for the school play, my emotions were mixed, part of me thought "wow, what a brave little girl".  I was proud of my shy princess willing to put herself out there.  I was overjoyed to know that the crippling shyness I grew up with has at minimum skipped a generation.  The other half of me thought "ugh, why?". 

When I was growing up, my dad directed plays for local theatre and made sure that there was always a place for his kids in his productions, hence my less-than-starring roles in "Clothesline" and "Sheba".  I was on   I could understand the desire to write a play, but not any instinct to star in one. 
stage just long enough to know that I didn't like it and that I came off about as natural as John Boehner's Tan.

Avery, however, seems to enjoy public speaking and was really excited when the play was announced.  She memorized her little monologue and went off to school ready to perform.  She was trying out for "Twinkle" in the school production "Reach for the Stars".  It hasn't made the silver screen yet, so many readers may not yet know about this highbrow gem. 

Long story short, she didn't get the part.  In an unfortunate turn of events, the part went to one of her best friends.  What she failed to disclose to us as she was sobbing into her pillow, is that she did get one of the better parts, she just didn't get the one she wanted.  We consoled her with a family night of a movie and popcorn but I was left with mixed emotions. 

So the take away, girls, as indefinite is it sounds is this: it's great to try to achieve everything you want, but sometimes you need to revel in what you achieve.   There is victory in the effort.  This past summer I ran my first marathon.  I trained, I pushed myself, I endured and in the end I came in substantially behind time I had set as a goal.  During the last few miles I was very down and was beating myself up pretty good.  My sister was kind enough to run the last mile with me and was very supportive but truth be told, I was fairly upset.  "Six months of training in the shitter" I thought to myself as I continually looked down at my GPS watch.  I finished, sat on a curb, beat up physically and pretty worn emotionally.  My family was there, full of smiles and congratulations.  I sat there for a few minutes, more because my legs didn't work than any introspection, and finally gave myself the proverbial pat on the back.  A few years prior, I was far more likely to be found in a donut shop than a marathon, and I had worked hard.  The "try" meant a lot, not everything, but a lot.  Same to you, Avery.  You practiced, you rehearsed, and you won in some way.  If the next play rolls around and you think you didn't try hard enough last time, than try harder, but give yourself the credit for the effort.  Break a leg, sweetheart, turns out I felt like I did during the marathon. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Not one, not two, but three girls sick in the house.  That wouldn't be that weird, but it's three girls down with three different illnesses.   Avery is in the grips of RSV.  I don't know exactly what it stands for but in loose medical terms, it's Really Shitty Virus.  Macy has come across a viral chest infection which may have been on its way to RSV had it not been nabbed early and Darby has a UTI.  I will not make up an acronym for that due to location of its onset. 

The wife and I have been up since 1:30 in the morning and the prospect of sleep seems an ever moving horizon.  Adrienne has already taken a barf bath more than once today and I have done something I rarely do...consider myself fortunate to leave the family and go off to work this morning. 

There are a couple of silver linings, specifically two of them as a matter of fact.   My girls sat and watched both Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back today while couch ridden.   Luke and Leia and Han and Chewie were the chicken soup that I was unable to provide today.  It's a deviation from the point of this post but it is very gratifying to see the girls grab onto something I loved as a kid.  I would love to bask in the warm glow of my kids and light sabers but this post is more about their illnesses than the Force. 

There is Ibuprofen and antibiotics and something called a 'nebulizer' (which incidentally sounds right out of Star Wars to me) and noodle soup and blankets and barf buckets and Kleenex.  There's coughing and crying and mucus and stink.  There is not a surface in this house that will not require sanitizing and perhaps a de-boogering (sp).  On top of all of that there is the complete inability to hold a tangent thought as sleep deprivation has rendered me a typing chimp. 

So in that my poor sick girls, here is the food for thought, keep it down if you can.  There has never been a time in your life where your puke, your boogers, your poop, your whatever is something that mommy and daddy will walk away from.  There is no sleep you can cost us and no germs you can be covered with that will keep mommy and daddy from holding you.  You can have mommy's lap or my side of the bed, whatever it takes to make you feel better.  That is saying something coming from us.  Mommy loves her sleep and daddy, well, he gets grossed out really easily.  So feel better girlies, but feel free to crawl into our bed if you need to.  Mommy doesn't need any beauty sleep anyhow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Coach C or not Coach C...That is the Question - Part 2, The Tigers Edition

Earlier in the year I wrote about whether or not I would coach Darby's soccer team.  I talked about my heart maybe not being in it and the need to work a few more hours a week to help ends meet.  Truth be told, I had a season a few months prior that, because of a variety of reasons, had me questioning whether I could get myself engaged and not just go through the motions.  I decided, or more specifically Darby decided for me, that I would be coaching her team this year so I put on my whistle and hoped for the best. 

Enter the Tigers.  Saturday marked the end of the season for Darby's team and it wound up being one of the most rewarding coaching experiences I've had in any sport.  The Tigers were a great team.  But that statement comes with a caveat.  A "great" team in U5 soccer is not one that scores a phenomenal amount of goals or plays tenacious d. A great U5 team is one that listens a good portion of the time and seems to absorb a small percentage of what is being thrown their way.  A great U5 soccer team become friends as the season goes on and has a group of kids who want to play together on and off the field. 

Every season you have at least one "problem child".  A kid who won't listen,  or a kid who solves their disputes with their hands rather than their words or who cry over almost spilled milk.  Every season there are at least a parent or two that see U5 soccer as a springboard to the Olympics or to a college scholarship and treat it with that amount of seriousness.    Every season, that is, until this season.  Sure there were a couple of kids who didn't keep their eye on the prize while on the field.  Honestly, Darby was one of those kids this season.  She was as likely to be looking for flowers on the field as she was to be looking for the ball.  I recognize something in that kid.  Maybe it's the 8 year old version of myself who picked innumerable dandelions in right field.  The goal of U5 soccer isn't to create great soccer players, it is to show kids what a team environment looks like and hopefully create an experience that has them wanting to try again next season.  The goal of coach, as silly as it may sound, is to help kids who are quiet come out of their little shells a bit and the kids that appear to lack a shell at all, help them learn to reel it in a little when the situation dictates.  If that is the goal, I think this year's team achieved it. 

The point of the story, girls, is this: don't miss out on things you may love because of your own preconceived notions.  I was ready to hang up my whistle for good because of a group of parents a few seasons ago.  Had Darby not talked me out of it, my last experience with coaching would be a season where I wasn't fully committed and where I was ready for the season to be over.  Instead, I wound up coaching a great group of kids and dealt with a great group of parents.  It was a revitalizing experience that I would have missed out on had I listened to the voices in my head instead of the voices at my dining room table.  So thanks Darby, thanks to the 2015 Tigers, thanks to a great group of parents and as always...Gooooo Tigers!