Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Kids May Be Ungrateful Turds...and Happy New Year!

We have tried for years to be able to take our little crew to the land of Disney but for one reason or another we always came up a little short.  Be it money or time or whatever else comes up it just hasn’t happened.  Our concern has become that if we don’t do it soon, some of the magic might be lost for our eldest, Avery.  We decided, that for Christmas this year, we would bite the bullet and give the girls their long-anticipated trip to the ‘House of Mouse’.

The trip won’t be until February, but we decided to give the girls the gift at Christmas so that the family could enjoy their receiving it and we could make a big to-do about it.  The problem became the actual giving of the gift.  We happened to have friends in Disney World in early December, so we had three of the stereotypical mouse ear hats made up with their names on the back of each one.  We figured we would give them the hats and let them figure it out for themselves.  Best laid plans of Mickey Mice and men.

I came up with what I thought was a genius idea.  We would elaborately decorate a large box with the hats inside but tell the girls that it was a gift for their grandfather, Poppy.  Earlier in the Fall Poppy had given the girls his Nintendo Wii as theirs had crapped the proverbial bed. We told the girls that the box had a Wii in it and we would be giving it to Poppy after the last present had been given.  The box was wrapped in loud purple wrapping paper and tons of bows.  The girls loved the idea of giving Poppy a purple girlie box.

The trap was set and the game was afoot.  We began opening gifts, but the Disney gift was constantly scratching at the back of my head.  Short of and engagement ring this was the biggest, priciest gift I had ever given.  To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  Perhaps not engagement ring giving nervous but nervous nonetheless. 

We finally got through the glut of gifts that had spilled out from under the tree onto the living room floor.  We promise each other every year that the pile would be smaller.  We had failed again.  No matter, the gifts were open and the girls were excited.

They ran into the next room to retrieve their prize.  The y set it on their grandfathers lap and helped him tear into it.  Adrienne filmed and I watched her fight back tears. 

They all tore tissue paper out of the box and revealed the hats.  One by one they pulled them out of the box and put them on the appropriate heads. 

Macy seemed to get it a little, but was pretty reserved.

Darby took one more cursory look in the box and was satisfied with the hat itself.  She grabbed a tub of Pla-Doh and made her way into the kitchen. 

Avery looked confused.  She lifted the last of the tissue paper from the box.  She then mouthed to my wife and me, “Where’s the Wii?”.  She was genuinely concerned about her Poppy not getting the gift they had been told about. 

Despite questions and prodding from the adults in the room, they never got all that excited.  We never got the payoff we were looking for.  Ugh.

Later, after discussing in detail what was planned, they seemed to get it and get excited, but to be honest, it was too little too late.  Both Adrienne and I spent the rest of the day feeling a touch hollow. 

As the next day moved along, it became obvious that the excitement of the trip was beginning to settle in.  It was nice that they seemed to get excited but deep down, I wanted that moment of excitement when they realized what they had received initially. 

The lesson here ladies?  This one is about me and perhaps your mother.  While I admit that maybe you need to remember to be sufficiently grateful for what comes your way, the true lesson is for me.  I truly try to live by the “better to give than to receive” idea.  In that, it’s not at all fair for me to be upset when you don’t give the reaction I was looking for.  That’s not the idea of gift giving, it’s a perk.  At the same time, when the trip is over and the fun has been had, ‘thank yous’ will be in order. 

The goal of gift giving shouldn’t be to appear generous or magnanimous.  It should be to simply try to give something to someone who may like or need it.  The moment you consider their gratitude, you go from a charitable act to a quid-pro-quo one.  I suppose the point of it all, the gift giving and such is to make someone else feel good and that should be reward enough.  Tough to do, actually, I only bat about .300 on it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tales of a Smart-Assed Dumb Ass

Like any father I worry about my kids as they grow older.  With my eldest, we had concerns with math and shyness, with my middle it was her ability to keep hands to herself and not solving her problems with fisticuffs.  Lately it’s my youngest, Darby.  Overall, she is a happy-go-lucky first grader who can find the fun in just about anything.  She’s cute as a bug and as smart a kid as you will meet.  Not that it’s a concept that I put stock in, but if there is such a thing, she is an old soul.  There is something behind her eyes that tells me that things need to make sense long before she is buying in blindly.  She is a great kid.

That being said, I worry.  I worry because she often stands in line for school by herself.  I worry because she seems just as happy playing solo.  I worry because she has one really close friend and hates the idea of deviating from her at all.  Mostly I worry because she reminds me of me. 

This may come as a shock but I haven’t always been this put together (joke intended).  In my younger years, I went from shy to chubby to zit faced to awkward to college.  I spent my grade school years with a few close friends.  Being in Catholic school makes it difficult to determine if it was class size that limited my friend base or my penchant for Toughskin jeans.  Either way, I was a little fish in a little pond.  In middle school, I remained little in popularity alone.  The pond grew as did my waistline.  Most of the friends that I had from grade school went to a cross town middle school and I was more alone than ever.  What I found was that kids from public school already knew each other, cliques were already formed.  I spent those three years concentrating on baseball in the summer and avoiding bullies and avoiding girls the rest of the year.  High school carried many of the same problems but my weight went down.  I suspect that my weight loss would have helped my situation if acne hadn’t decided to rear its greasy head. 

Truth be told, my senior year was okay, I changed schools and benefited from ‘new-kid syndrome’.  This is a syndrome where you can either be a total outcast or a total mystery.  Fortunately for me, I fell into the latter.  In the end, the scoreboard read, one good year, eleven somewhat miserable ones.  This is not intended to be a ‘woe is me’ type of story, but it is necessary to get the back story so you can see where I am coming from as it relates to my little one. 

Long story short, I spent grade school and middle school wishing I wasn’t there and high school making that a reality.  I skipped class and took classes at the local community college.  A hearty mix of dumb-ass and smart-ass. 

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried about it so much.  I still don’t have a huge group of friends, but the ones I have I would do anything for, and for the most part, I think they would reciprocate.  I don’t get caught up in gossip.  I’m able to draw very clear boundaries and limits with people.  All in all, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t.  I hated it like intestinal flu, but it made me stronger.

Which brings me to Darby.   I get it, sweetheart, I truly do.  I understand why you stand in line by yourself or only want to play with your one great friend.  Hell, I don’t fault you for any of it.  I’d be a hypocrite if I did. 

Here’s the thing girls.  You may not need a huge group of friends, but you may want one from time to time.  The thing with that is to make friends you have to put yourself out there a little.  It’s not always fun.  It can feel like you’re faking it.  You might have to talk to people in line at school, you may have to join clubs or teams, you might have to ~gasp~ play with more than one person at recess.  You never know which ones will stick either.  Most of my best friends in the world come from job waiting tables over a decade ago. Those guys can be goofy, absentminded, hyper competitive and make jokes at my expense and frankly, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  Just don’t tell them that. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Holiday Stress vs. Chardonnay Turkey

I can smell my wife’s Chardonnay Turkey cooking.  I don’t know for sure if that is why I am up at 5:00 on Thanksgiving, but here I am.  2017 has been a hell of a year thus far.  I’ve been reflecting on it, unintentionally, around 4:00 in the morning the last few weeks.  Thanks, overactive-brain. 

Changing careers offers its own brand of stress.  It’s exciting but daunting, probably like dating a sasquatch.  I’ve read that changing jobs ranks as high as a death in the family or divorce for stress triggers.  So clearly, my wife changing jobs simultaneously should offset any stress I am feeling.  Two wrongs making a right and such. 

This school year hasn’t been as smooth as I’d like on a couple of my girls.  The weight of getting ready to go to middle school is starting to show on my eldest and my youngest has made her best friend such a priority that she is letting the rest of her friendships die on the vine.  Turns out, it’s pretty tough to convince a six-year-old that they shouldn’t hang out with their best friend as every single recess.  It falls on willfully deaf ears. 

There are home stressors, and money stressors and parenting stressors, and time stressors and “getting fatter despite a crap load of running” stressors.  It has been asked of me by people I otherwise trust “How can you be so stressed with those three little faces in your life?”.  That’s easy, I was never this stressed before they came into my life.  They are the source, the conduit and the fuel for most of my stress.  Not them exactly, but their happiness and their future.  No one mentioned that little fact when they were pressing for grandkids. 

But here I am, 5:30 on Thanksgiving morning waiting for the coffee to brew and weighing out what to write about.  Here it is: I’m stressed, for the most part because of all the things I should be thankful for.  Changing careers is stressful, sure, but the new career will offer me much more by way of personal freedom, time and money.  Similarly, my wife is pursuing a dream of hers and it’s stressful because I want it to work for her.  Sure, the kids cause a unique brand of stress but it is my desire to see them happy and healthy that creates it. 

So, here it is ladies.  I’ll keep it short and sweet because mommy is going to want some help in the kitchen before too long.  Yes, daddy wakes up too early because of the ever-present voice of doubt in his head and hair is falling out faster than it can grow back in.  It’s okay.  It truly is.  It’s simply not possible to love someone as much as I love you without paying the price around the waist line or the hair line. 

On a side note, or maybe the point of the story, is my friend Mai.  A year ago today, her son was in a terrible car crash.  The stress I feel towards my kid’s future doesn’t scratch the surface of what Mai and her family must feel when thinking of Nash’s journey forward.  There are so many parents that deal with so much more than I do.  Hell, I’m quite sure that I caused my parent’s hair to change color a lot more rapidly than my daughters do mine.  At the end of the day, the story is the same for all of us.  We just want what is possible for our little ones.  So happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Enjoy your turkey, your family and your nap. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Maybe The Holidays Will Give Us Some Free Time....

Life has been incredibly busy, good, but busy.  Adrienne finally got her new office open and I am in the throes of a career change.  Fortunately for all of those on Larkbunting Drive, things seem to be lightening up a bit.  Frankly, as much as I love writing on this platform, time always seems to get in the way.  Imagine a writer saying that time, not material, is the issue.  Writing tends to involve an idealist, a desk and a blank stare for hours on end.  I have ideas but lack the hours.  It’s a lovely curse.

Anyway, things are lightening up.  Soccer has wound to a close and it was truly a fun season.  I have watched my eldest budding into a soccer star, Avery, go from daisy picker to soccer stand out in just a couple of years.  Macy, my middle kid, made a more competitive team and spent her year trying to get a foot hold on increased expectations.  She has gone from being able to “out physical” other kids to having to use her grey matter during the game.  So far, it’s been a bit of a conundrum for her.  Darby, my youngest and least accomplished soccer player seemed to grasp she was actually on a soccer field this year.  A true departure from previous seasons.  This season saw practice or games six days a week, unless there was a tournament, of course, which made for seven days a week.  But things are lightening up. 

My wife, Adrienne, has bitten off more than most could chew.  She is opening a real estate office in Loveland as well as starting her own team simultaneously.  It’s the career equivalent of soccer seven days a week.  She goes to work before the girls go to school and gets home long after it gets dark.  It has taken a toll on her, on the kids, and a husband who is ill prepared for being the “go-to parent” for any extended period of time.  She has finally got the office opened.  It is far from complete, but at least she has the keys to the building.  Her team is up and running as well.  She is living one of her dreams, providing much to her family and it looks like all of it is taking shape.  Things are lightening up.

Myself, I am changing careers.  I decided to take six months’ worth of classes in three months. A decision that displays a healthy mix of arrogance and stupidity.  It was incredibly difficult but I believe it was what was best for my family.  Becoming a real estate appraiser isn’t the most glamorous thing in the world, but it provides the flexibility I want and provides a little more by way of upside than my former gig.  The classes were stressful and the finals were awful, but they are over now.  Things are lightening up. 

Over the coming months the girls will have choir, piano lessons, soccer camps, mommy will continue to expand her office and her team practically guaranteeing long hours.  I will start my hands-on appraisal training and who know what that will entail.  We can’t forget that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, as is Christmas and what should be plenty of friends and family.  Things are lightening up, or at least I have to keep telling myself that. 

Truth be told, girls, things aren’t really lightening up.  Not really, but they are changing.  Here’s the important part; things are changing for the better.  You ladies are busy because you are doing things that are helping you grow, both physically and mentally.  Mommy is busy as all get-out but her ‘busy’ is laced with personal growth and satisfaction as well as doing great things for her family.  I am busy and about to get a lot busier.  I have a feeling, however, that this ‘busy’ will help free daddy up in the future for our continued adventures.  Being busy isn’t a bad thing, girls, but it does mean that we need your help.  Feed the pets, do your homework without being asked and for God’s sake, pick up your dirty undies.  No dad should have to do that.