When You Wish Upon a Star

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ImageIt’s Spring and that means one thing around my house – baseball! With two boys playing ball, one in “Select” league, it also means that I’m lucky if I’m home two nights during the work week. It also means that CareerMom, who works out of the house, is stuck doing the bulk of the schlepping back and forth. She called me yesterday and–you know how this works–asked if I planned on going to my son’s game last night. I could tell by the sound of her voice that there was an undercurrent of hope that I would not.

What happened was that we had an early game last night, which meant getting there really early (coach wants them there 45 mins early), which meant my wife had to either pick my daughter from DayCare early and be late to the game, OR drop off my son at his game,  and then drive ALLLL the way back to get my daughter.

I made it easy on my wife and skipped the game and picked up my daughter and went home. Throughout the evening, my wife kept me updated via text messages, so I got all the benefits of being there, with little of the nervousness.

But a great thing came out of that–I got to spend quality time with Baby Girl. She’s four now and she’s a talkative spirit. After she fell asleep on the couch and then woke up again around 7:45, we spent 45 wonderful minutes on the back porch, under a blanket, watching the stars and airplanes, and making wishes. With three kids (did I mention my friend has five?) that kind of quality time doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you have to squeeze every moment out of it.

When we found out we were having our third child, one of my fears was this very issue of spending quality time with that many different children, plus keeping a marriage healthy, plus keeping my career going. I wish I could say that I was wrong and it’s easy to do, but it’s not. Then again, maybe it depends on your definitions of sucess. All I know is that last night was a success. The first thing she said to me this morning was, “Daddy, do you remember making wishes on the wishing star last night?

I sure do Baby Girl. I sure do.



Thanks for the memories

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A bit more than eight years ago, CareerMom and I bought this crib. We went to Toys-R-Us, Babies-R-Us and every other R-Us derivative you can imagine. I think we ended up about 15 miles north of our house in some suburb of the suburbs, in a no-name strip mall containing a high-end baby store.

And thus the Bonavita “Carla” crib came into our home.

Two weeks ago, I dismantled it. Eight years and three kids later it’s finally done. And other than some dried, crusty milk between the vertical slats, it’s in pristine condition. None of my kids “teethed” on the rails. It’s bittersweet letting it go, but it was time Baby-Girl got her own big-girl bed.

Government safety laws prohibit the donation of cribs manufactured prior to 2010 due to some issue with drop-sides on pre-2010 cribs and even though ours doesn’t have a drop-side, we still can’t donate it. Which is a shame. You spend $1200 on a crib, you want to see it not end up in a dumpster somewhere. But I think we have a taker for it (for free). Hope it goes to another good home.

Gen X – The Guilt Generation?

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ImageIt seems that every generation gets a label these days. Kids in the early 20s now are called “Gen Y’ers” and they are the social media age. Apparently, they don’t have the same sense of entitlement that we Gen X’ers supposedly have, though I’m really not sure where that “entitlement” label came from. Gen Y’ers are also supposed to be more driven, crave positive feedback and generally don’t feel the need to slave 50 hours a week at a meaningless job (bully for them!). Interestingly, they also seem less familial-inclined, which is a stark departure from my generation.

But even though my world revolves around my family, I struggle with the line between parent and play-buddy. On the one hand, I look back on my own childhood–one where I was generally an only child and if there was playing to be done, it was usually done alone. My parents just weren’t involved.  On the other hand, I don’t want the same for my own children, so I DO try to do things with them frequently and when you add in Career-Mom’s near-constant need to get out of the house and do something, it seems like we’re always on the go.

I struggle with this balance. For example today…we played outside with the kids for about an hour, then we took them down to the science museum. When we got home, they wanted me to ride bikes with them. Really? After everything we JUST did…?

So back to my quandry…I want to be with my kids and I don’t want them to look back on THEIR childhood–like I do mine–and feel like all their dad ever did was work around the house, but at the same time, I HAD my childhood already. Can I just enjoy my adulthood a bit? And can’t that mean that I don’t have to play with my kids and when I don’t, can I do it without guilt?

I’ll let you know how that works out. So far, I’m riddled with guilt.

Raised On Demand

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There is a part of me that is both horrified, and gratified, by the knowledge that television is a big part of my kids’ lives. I honestly don’t know what my kids would do at the end of a long day without it…or what I would do without it. Image

There are days, that one or more of my children will come home from school or daycare, and pretty much watch TV from the moment we come in, through dinner, and until we put them to bed. Now granted, often that’s really only like, two hours, but still…right?

And as much as it makes me want to gag admitting this, there are many a day when I’m more than happy to relegate my parental obligations to our 46” family friend. He’s a good friend.

But I don’t know…Lord, I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid and I’m pretty OK. I get as much exercise as my schedule will allow. I don’t eschew my job, family or other responsibilities in favor of watching “my show.” So I don’t know…I guess as long as your kids aren’t lard-arses and when you do pull them away from the tube to interact with other people, they aren’t complete Asbergers, then it’s OK?

Hooked on Phonics, Worked for me!

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reading Those of you without children may want to pass this post up. It’s likely to bore the pants off you (which is cool as long as you’re A) female and B) willing to send pictures).  Plus, simply by clicking here, you boosted my stats which is all any of us really care about.

Oh, did I let the cat out of the bag? Phewww, sorry! (kidding)

Anyway, MLI is coming up on five years old and is therefore, in pre-K. In addition to the twice-weekly Spanish classes (spanish at 5 years old?), they are also learning how to read. Each night he comes home with this little sheet of words that he is working on and last week, he even came home with a rhyme that he read–something to the effect of, “Nan pats the cat. The Cat can pat Nan.” etc. It didn’t get much more difficult.

Thing is, they are learning to read by learning the sight of words. So, they learn that “STOP” reads “Stop.” They are not learning to sound the word out, “Sssss…ta…ta…ah…pa…pa…SssTaPa…STOP!”

We had a small debate over at CareerMom’s parent’s house the other night as to the appropriateness of this method of teaching. CareerMom’s mother is a teacher, and sitting around the table were several highly educated people, who each thought he or she knew better than the other which way of teaching a child to read was better.

It was my MIL who postulated that the child isn’t really learning to read this way; while one of her daughters (who went to a very expensive private university, then transferred out west to get a Masters in Music and who is now doing a Jr. level job at a pharma company), claimed, “Well, once you’re older, aren’t you reading by recognizing the words anyway?”

A good point to be sure, but I’m of the opinion that a child should learn to add manually before using a calculator. However, being the “outlaw” at the table, and one who understands the value of a free, home-cooked meal, I kept my mouth shut.

Last night while trying to come up with a low-key way to kill the last 30 minutes before the kid’s bedtime, I sat down with MLI and asked him to read me “Go Dog Go.” Doesn’t everyone know this book?

Well, he knew the first couple of pages…by heart. Once we got past his “sight words” vocabulary, it was a frustrating thing for him to sound the words out. This cemented my belief that learning to read by sight words is a waste of time! I mean, if a kid has a photographic memory, then fine. Eventually, the kid can read Webster’s and be good to go, but for the rest of us, we really need to learn how to figure things out on our own.

Unfortunately, patience does not run on my side of the family (Bio-mom excluded), and MLI quickly became frustrated with my attempts at helping him. And to my credit, I think I was very patient! (Yaah me!).  All in all, I’m not too worried about him reading or not reading right now. In Kindergarten, I was in the “Remedial Reading Group” until I figured it out and then I was into it like gangbusters. I still spend a substantial amount of money each year on books and I have no doubt that my kids will follow suit.

But, for you parents out there with school-age kids; what did you/do you have to do to help your kids read? And how did they learn? Did the “sight word” method work for you?

I wanna make, a memory…

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Every now and then, you do something that’s not only good for familial relationships, but which is also cathartic. It’s cathartic like the way watching Augustus Gloop glutton his way up the chocolate tube makes you feel better about the time you spend in the gym. It’s cathartic in how watching a nose picker in the car beside you come up with a nugget only to find that he/she is out of hankies, makes you feel better about yourself.

That’s what the yearly familial trek to the punkin patch is for me.

We didn’t really have family traditions around the holidays growing up. Oh we had a “fairly close to Christmas eve” family get-together, but to my knowledge, we didn’t go get pumpkins; we didn’t go cut a Christmas tree; and we certainly didn’t decorate for Halloween.

I like traditions. To me, they are the best kinds of memories (not that I really have much of a basis for this belief). So, I try to decorate a bit for the holidays, and I take the family out to a local tree farm and I hack down a tree with an old fashioned handsaw, and each year we go to “Berry Patch Farms” here in the burbs and we pick out pumpkins–overpriced pumpkins to be exact.

Sunday morning (yes, we skipped church…get over it!) MLE woke up at 6 a.m. I heard him because I was sleeping on the couch after having woken up at 1 a.m. with back and leg spasms and having gone downstairs so as to not wake up CareerMom. After the usual Saturday morning routine, we all piled into the car and arrived onsite at the punkin patch when it opened at 10 a.m.

They have a nice setup there. There are a few choice farm animals for the kids to fawn over. They have face painting and a little swing play area. Then, you take a hayride over to the punkin patch where you trek across 50 yards of leftover punkins–still on the vine in many cases– to a main area where the majority of the big ones are gathered.

And then, the pictures commence!

Pumpkin patch 4 pumpkins patch 1 Pumpkin patch 3 Pumpkin patch 2

Along with a dozen or so other parents, for nigh on 30 minutes we cajoled, we bribed, we even occasionally threatened our children to do something cute (or else!) just so we could get that one picture…that one memory to stick away in a book somewhere, or maybe to e-mail to all our friends.

But we got a few and then we let the boys pick out a couple of pumpkins to take home. We all loaded back onto the hayride and it was then that I noticed we were the only ones actually buying pumpkins. It seems everyone else just came for the pics, and that made me kinda sad.

Isn’t part of the fun, taking a pumpkin home with you? Does the kid care that you brought them to the punkin patch and just took pictures of them and let them feed the goat some leaves you stripped from a nearby tree? Is that a good memory? I dunno.

The carthartic part, for me, was watching all of the other parents with their kids. And so many of them seem to be going through the same things we are with ours–the defiance, the pulling away when you want them to do something, the annoying whines–it was all there on display. It made me realize that we’re not the only ones sighing on a regular basis, or praying for just one quiet meal at the dinner table. It was a good moment. Kind of like when you blog about something and a bunch of other people respond in kind.

So we did it and I have the pictures to prove it, good or otherwise. Now, if the weather would just cooperate and drop about 15 degrees, it’d be pretty darn perfect!

Crap…it’s almost the weekend

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payday Start rationing bread! Wait, only one glass of milk! Save money…CONSERVE, CONSERVE, CONSERVE!

What? No, I don’t live in Texas and I’m not hoarding supplies for the pending hurricane! Nope, I’m conserving because we have THREE WEEKENDS IN THIS PAYDAY!

(insert Sam Kennison-like scream here!)

If you’re like me, you’ve already spent the bulk of your paycheck by 8 p.m. of the day you get it and each weekend, when you have kids, is like opening the drain in the bathtub and waving your money goodbye as it leaks away, mostly by dragging the kids around trying to keep them happy.

So when there are three weekends in a pay period, I start getting worried. Worried because, as the temperatures continue to soar, along with the humidity, there’s only so much sitting in the house, or walking around the mall (without actually buying anything) that I can take.

There should be a law against three-weekend pay periods, or at least a moratorium on gas prices on the weekend so that those with kids can drive outside their usual sphere of influence in search of activity diversity.

Oh, but there IS college football and that should be good a few hours at least!