Saturday, May 22, 2010

OK...One more

So I have to write one more, mostly because I get to brag that I really am the most incompetent parent EVAR!! That, and its 12:15am, I am too tired to work effectively. So why don’t I go to bed you ask?

Early on in the week I called this single parenting experiment a success because there had been no deaths or debilitating injuries.

In business school, one lesson taught in the leadership curriculum dealt with setting goals, monitoring progress, and adjusting goals in order to maintain morale. Morale at Clyde-Curtis Inc. is in serious jeopardy…

It all started about 24 hours ago. I finished picking up the house while the boys were winding down for the day. Thor and Asher’s rooms were clean, the boys ready to go down. This is where I made a VERY IMPORTANT discovery for dads everywhere (pay attention).

When mom goes out of town DO NOT SING BEDTIME SONGS ABOUT MOM LEAVING TO YOUR 5 YEAR-OLD! I have been singing this lullaby almost every night to Asher since he was about a year old. It is one of his favorite songs:

Go to sleep little babe,
Go to sleep little babe
Your momma's gone away and your daddy's gonna stay
Didn't leave nobody but the baby
Go to sleep little babe,
Go to sleep little babe
Everybody's gone in the cotton and the corn
Didn't leave nobody but the baby
Don't you weep pretty babe
Don't you weep pretty babe
She's long gone with her red shoes on
Gonna need another loving babe
Go to sleep little babe
Go to sleep little babe
You and me and the devil makes three
Don't need no other lovin' babe
Go to sleep little babe
Go to sleep little babe
Come lay bones on the alabaster stones
And be my everlovin baby

Asher was crying hysterically after the third line.

Kids finally asleep, I went to work for the night. I was just wrapping up work at about 12:30am, getting some analysis done for a 7:30am meeting. I wandered down to the bedroom end of the house fully expecting to find Thor waiting for me with some stellar ninja skills. Every night prior this (that Emily has been gone for) when I go to bed, Thor has been waiting for me, usually sitting there, staring at me with a very menacing look.

Thor is a complicated adversary. Just when I thought I had him figured out, he changed his behavior and took advantage of my complacency. I went to that end of the house and saw no Thor. I heard no noises. I went in to check on Thor, and he was not there. That’s a scary feeling.

I sprint down to Asher’s room hoping that Thor is there, and this is what I see:

Asher was in the same place I had left him when he fell asleep, this is all the work of one disgruntled 3 year-old (now cleverly disguised as an adorable sleeping child right next to his older brother), remember I had just picked up the room a few hours earlier. I think Emily may be reading “Art of War” to Thor at nights.

Now, I have been fighting a cold for several days, and Asher came down with the same symptoms yesterday. I went to work to get documents and then headed home to provide excellent parental support for Asher. I cancelled all the babysitting, and decided I could go it alone. Afterall, I am a multi-tasker, I can get work done and tend to 2 children.

I am now approximately 8 hours behind on my work.

At one point in the afternoon, after I realized I was not going to get any work done, I decided to get some other projects finished. Off to Home Depot for wood to fix the fence. While loading the wood into the van there was a lot of sawdust. Asher got some in his eye and starting crying. He rubbed his eye a few times, then really started crying. 3 hours later here is a picture of “Pirate Asher” (as he likes to be called).

Doesn't that face just say, "Mom, where the hell are you? This guy you left in charge is a total HACK!"

All things being equal if you have to make a miserable mistake while in charge of your own children, a scratched cornea is one of the better injuries to have. The fix takes about 30 seconds, and the test to see how bad the scratch is involves a black light (Asher thinks there is nothing crazier than a black light). Total recovery time is 12-24 hours, after that the patient is back to normal (eyes heal fast).

Fast forward to..well…now. I finished work at 11:30. I head for bed and find Thor in Asher’s room trying to wake up the pirate. “WAKE UP ASHER!! WAKE UP!!”

Asher has a numbed eyeball, and the doctor told me to give him ibuprofen and Benadryl in order to knock him out. It worked, Pirate Asher was completely oblivious to his brother jumping up and down on Pirate Asher’s bed.

I scoop up Thor and try to get him to go to sleep, he just started jumping on me, “WAKE UP DAD!!! WAKE UP!!” (I was never asleep).

And so now it is 12:30am, and I am completely defeated. Thor is watching Toy Story because he knows he has won, and I am trying to regroup. At least my one-eyed child is still asleep.

Time to adjust the goals in order to maintain morale. Here we are 2/3 of the way through and we have had no deaths, this single parenting experiment is a SUCCESS!

Go team dad…

P.S. The pirate is up.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Roman and Venetian Holidays

Ok, I started this post 3 months ago...I'd love for it to be witty, reflective and meaningful, but then, it'll never get posted.

So, Rome was really fun, and we didn't see half of what I had hoped. Here are some things I learned:
1) Every church has a different flavor and feel. And, I was thrilled to find that just about every church had some woman represented somewhere in it. Awesome.
2) I also learned what Italians mean by Americans love of oversaucing pastas and I'm going to try and do better when I get home, though I fear oversaucing is done more because of a lack of quality ingredients than being greedy.
3) I also found I had no heartburn in Rome, which I initially thought was a testament to the Italians' fine cooking, especially when I was plagued with it on coming to Austria (incidentally, austrians don't use baking soda in their baking; I didn't bring any of my own because I assumed that baking soda was western european product).Tessa diagnosed my problem. Carbonation. Austrians have this lovely lemon verbana soda that I was enjoying at dinner. Now, I see I do best with no carbonation at all. A sad lesson to learn, but a helpful one.
4) One must consult those who have spent some time in Rome to truly know what to see and what to skip. I would have been lost without Jen and Janessa's excellent and trusted advice.

Here's a view from our apartment in Rome...lovely!

Here are my inestimable travelling companions. I miss them so much; they're much more reasonable than the current group I live with (well, I guess Nate is pretty reasonable, but those other two/three?), and they like to do the same things I do.

Roman ruins because, well, isn't that why one goes to Rome?

St. Peter's Basillica. Just enormous...I could have spent days there and at the Vatican Museums. Yet, here I have a few complaints. Romans don't dig signage, so we were never quite sure which line to stand in or what we were looking at. And, we noticed that Romans are completely arbitrary in their enforcement of rules. Look like you know what you're doing, walk with purpose, and most of the time, you can get away with not following a rule (like walking in the right area). Look timid and unsure, and they'll yell at you.

Courtyard at the Etruscan Museum. I think Nate and I should build one of these in our yard.

This is a Santa Maria church, I can't remember which one, but if you go into my Flickr folder you'll see. It's one of the older churches in Rome, and what's that on the top of the Church? A mosaic of women adorning the Madonna and Child. I got all excited, thinking they were famous Church leaders. We found out they're actually the Ten Virgins, but still, lovely to see female representation on the outside of a church.

A lovely mosaic.
If you're not bored yet, there are more pictures of my trip here:
Now, Austria was an equally wonderful trip. I loved Austrian food--meats, cheeses, and breads with delicious fruit and herb flavored sodas, but I wasn't nearly as diligent taking pictures.

But, while Rome was seeing monuments and art, Austria was a time to relax with Nate's lovely aunt, Gail. We talked and lounged at her beautiful home in a monastary and got a chance to meet some of her dear friends.
I thought I'd be chomping at the bit to get home the whole time I was in Europe, but I wasn't. In fact, I was a little sad to come home. To think, I almost didn't take this trip because I was worried about missing my family and well, frankly, I was also concerned that the house and the boys might have spontaneously combusted in my absence. But, they did well (thanks to grandparents and friends), and the break did me a whole world of good.
Thank you, Maren and Nate for a birthday/Christmas/Mother's Day present I won't soon forget!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The last post

This is going to have to be the last of my updates. I enjoy writing them, and reflecting on the days events, but work has reached a point of critical capacity. Every conscious moment from here on out is dedicated to making sure my job is still there tomorrow. I cannot indulge further in humorous introspection, and family commentary.

Last night I went to bed at 1:23am. I had been working all night at the end of the house away from the bedrooms. I spend enough time in this arrangement that I know I can hear crying children. As I rounded the corner from the kitchen to the bedroom area, I saw Thor sitting, Samurai style, in the hall, completely silent, just staring at me with his angry David face. I have no idea how long he had been sitting there, but I am really starting to worry that he is plotting to murder me.

The last 5 days have been an eye-opening and enlightening experience. I wanted to share a few of the many Zenny moments of enlightenment with ya’ll.

1. Single parents are the sh*t. I don’t think we realize how geared our society is towards two-parent families. As I have walked a few feet in the single parents shoes I have seen just how many little things screw over the single parent. For example, I need a hair cut. I need more than a hair cut. I need someone to fire up a weed whacker and go to town on my back and neck. How does a single parent with psycho children get a hair cut?

2. Movies are great learning tools for parents. Watch what your kids do when they watch movies. I was showing Asher and Thor selected scenes from Jurassic Park. I debated about showing them the kitchen scene where the veloceraptors are introduced. Of course I decided to show them the scene thinking they would be frightened out of their socks. Instead, at the end of the scene, I stopped the movie, and Asher immediately said, “Dad, can we get a pet dinosaur?” Thor chimed in with a “LESOSERPAPTOR! LESOSERPAPTOR!” what ensued was a game of tag/hide-n-seek in which dad was the helpless kid, and Thor and Asher were the fun-loving “lesoserpaptors”.

3. Your offspring’s only purpose in life is to ruin everything you love. I love video games. I would go so far as to term myself something more than a gamer, maybe even a game connoisseur. I closely follow the development of new games. I view a finely crafted game as one of the greatest artistic collaborations ever created by humans. In what other medium do we combine painting, writing, music, technology, and acting with the goal of a piece of art in which the observer can interact, manipulate, explore and experience for hours, days or even weeks?

Obviously, I am not talking about the Halos, Maddens, Super Mario Karts, or other factory games that are churned out in third-world sweatshops. I am talking about the games that start as visions and are given life by a group of collective genius that have both the knowledge and creativity to spawn entire new worlds for us to experience.

For example, here is a screenshot from Darkfall, a competitive game set in a perpetual virtual world. Darkfall was created by a small group of Greek designers, and was published on a shoestring budget. The game is beautiful and engrossing. It is the kind of game that can suck people in and not let them go for years. Can there be any argument that this is anything but great art?

In contrast, here is a screenshot from Asher’s favorite game that he forces me to watch and sometimes even play with him. Every time I see this game, I die a little bit.

Mom, Dad – I am sorry for making you listen and give feedback on that wonderful band, New Kids on the Block. I am sorry for playing the Bengals, “Eternal Flame” over and over again, and singing along with it. I am sorry for trying to kill one of your great loves, music. If it is any consolation, the classical, jazz, folk, and world music genres combined in my ITunes are far larger than the rock genre.

4. If you are either a single parent, or a stay-at-home parent, whatever you do, DO NOT START FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF. The life of a care-giver sucks. No one is going to contest that fact. You can put all the lipstick on that job you want, but it still sucks. There is no positive reinforcement, no intellectual stimulation, and never a moment for yourself, and almost everyone has some inkling of just how bad it is.

But if you start feeling sorry for yourself, the delicate illusion of cupcakes and petunias that our society pretends is the care-giver life, your whole world will come crashing down.

This evening, I was laying on the floor trying to keep myself happy. I mean, I have it good, not just good, great. My primary care-giver task is only 10 days long, and I have an army of people (who are more concerned for the well-being of Asher and Thor than for myself) ready to swoop in at a moment’s notice. I have a home, money, comfort, food, my care-giver circumstances are the best of the best. And yet, there I was laying on the floor close to tears because I knew that between now and next Tuesday I was not going to get more than 10 minutes to take care of myself.

I sat there on that precipice looking down into an incredibly soothing black abyss of depression and self-pity. I had all the excuses, all the problems, all of the reasons, all I had to do was take that step, make that call, and embrace the defeat.

What miracles do single parents and stay-at-home parents accomplish every day, simply by not giving up?

Thank you Mom and Dad. Thank you Mary. But most of all thank you Emily. You could have done anything with your life. I have no idea why you picked this, and even less of an understanding as to why you stick with it.

Day Three: Horror Movie in the Making

Today was...interesting.
I got to bed at 12:00am (work again, no games). Both boys stayed down all night, or at least until I went to bed.

The only way I can describe the experience I had last night was like some strange cross between Clockwork Orange and the Shining. At 3:00am I startled awake, sure that I had heard something. I am a notoriously paranoid sleeper. Emily is always very careful to wake me, because I have lept out of bed at her, convinced she is trying to do something sneaky. One time, I even punched a room mate in the face who was trying to wake me up. I don't know why I do this, just weird me.

Add to this oddity that I have sleep apnea. This means I sleep with a clockwork orange-like mask at night that forces air into my nose and mouth so I don't suffocate myself (I know, TMA, but its necessary to set the stage).

So here I am, suddenly awake at 3am with my freaky star wars deathmask on. I know something is wrong, but I don't want to make any sudden movements because whatever danger is in the house thinks I am asleep, therefore I have the element of surprise until I move (yes, this is really how my mind works when I wake up unexpectedly).

Carefully feeling around, I find a warm body in bed with me. I am relieved, surely Asher or Luke simply wandered into our room, and woke me as they were getting into bed. I lift my head to confirm, and there is Asher lying next to me, wide awake, just looking at me. FREAKY!!! But at least he had left Emily's pajamas in his room.

So I scoot over a bit to give him room, and find another warm body, I look over and there is Thor lying on my other side, wide awake, just looking at me (now you see where the Shining comes in here). I felt an appropriate solution to this very awkward situation was to put both boys back in their room, get out the shotgun and lock my bedroom door, which I did.

As I lay there, unable to sleep, pondering the oddity of what had happened, I realized that both boys were awake before I woke up. Neither moved or said anything to me when I started moving around. Even now, just thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies.

5:30.00am: "Hi dad, its light out. Do I have to go to school today?"
5:30.05am: "Dad, can I go play Hot Wheels?"
5:50.00am: "Dad, I need help, can you come play Hot Wheels with me?"
6:03.00am: "MOMMY!! Where are you Mommy?!"

Apparently we were all pretending like the freakshow of 3:00am never happend.

I am not sure what those two are strategizing, but I am fairly certain that I am not part of their 5-year plan. I would like to go to sleep tonight, but I am frightened of what they are going to do.

Going to work never felt so good, so safe.

Work is really blowing up bad. My boss wasn't kidding about going to LA this week. I am canceling the vacation days I was planning on taking wens - fri. We simply have more work, and too tight of deadlines for me to risk it. Even now it is 1:00am, I just finished the report thats due tomorrow, and have several more projects waiting that are due by the end of the week or early next week.

So if you are one of those gracious people who told me you would be willing to help, now would be a good time to not answer your phone. Seriously, I am going to have to pay someone to watch my kids later this week. If anyone wants to make some money, and doesn't have a criminal record that disallows them from being alone with children (Mark, this means you) give me a call, I will make it worth your while.

At least the Suns are having a rougher week than I am.

Daily Stats:
Bedtime: 8:00pm (I think I have this part down now)
Breakfast: 2 cold hot dogs for asher, and a mango. Thor - 1.5 banana muffins (he almost choked out on the other 0.5. I had to dig it out of his throat so he could resume breathing) After this close call Thor looked me with a puzzled expression for a few moments, as if something was seriously amiss, and then said, "thank you mommy" and wandered off to find something equally or more dangerous to put in his mouth. I guess, dads are not supposed to do the important things, like save you from choking on your breakfast.
Dinner: Mother-in-law provided another wonderful meal which everyone loved except Thor. Thor later on ate a bagel, cheese, and other assorted scavangings 5 minutes before I put him to bed (I think he is going to make a break for it tonight).

Quote of the day: "Asher, can I come to school with you on Wednesday?"
Asher's response: "Maybe. If you can be good from now until then we will see."

Most important number 12 - the number of times I told people what an amazing mother-in-law I have. She really is the best one I have ever had.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today was much better than the first day. I was up until 1am working on various projects (I kept telling myself I would have time to play games, but it never happened). Asher was up at 6:00am to play games. Both boys even slept through the night.

Of course, Asher has found some of Emily’s pajamas, and is sleeping with them….Disturbing….But hey, if it gets him through, who am I to judge.

Thor is another matter. He wakes up each morning and screams for mom until I come in. He then looks at me with the agriest David face he can muster and points a stern finger at me, “YOU NO MOMMY! YOU GO AWAY DAD!!” He then shrieks at the top of his lungs until I leave the room. He then resumes calling for Emily by various names until he craps himself, at which point he will let me come in and change his diaper.

As a side note, what is the deal with our parents getting after us about listening to music too loud? Thor screeching in my face is about twice the decibels of a Metallica concert. Its not like they didn’t know that was in our future. They probably just don’t like Metallica (heathans).

Church went well until Asher sprung from his seat announced in the middle of sacrament that he had to go to the bathroom and headed for the exit. I let him go figuring he is at an age where he can start doing that by himself. 5 minutes later I am getting a little concerned.

I head to the mens room and find the stall occupied by an adult male who probably now thinks I am creepy Minnesota politician gay. In the hall I am getting a little nervous until I hear Asher’s voice, “Yeah, my mom is gone.”

Finding the mens room occupied, Asher had helped himself to the women’s rest room, and made some friend in there. He was chatting it up with them while doing his business (Thanks Jamie).

After church we headed home and here I thought I had achieved a small victory. I memorialized the moment with this photo.

I was teaching Asher how to cook his own tortillas with the end goal that he can make his own bean burritos by the time Emily gets home. Asher was doing stellar work. I snapped this photo for the blog, and for Asher’s own edification. Moments later, mayhem erupted and a life almost ended. Can you guess why?

In photography classes they teach that the background of a photo is just as important, if not more important, than the subject, notice the background composition here.

That is Thor's little hand grabing a very large and very sharp knife. He proceeded to play Star Wars with the knife. He was delighted at how realistically Asher and I were participating in his Star Wars make-believe.

I did not let the boys nap today, we went to my Mother-in-laws for dinner and Thor fell asleep on the 4 minute drive. I woke him up when we arrive and carefully set him on the ground. He started walking like a drunk. I figured it was good practice for college, and a great chance for a funny family video.

I was fiddling with my phone, trying to get the video function to work, Thor was walking away from me on very unsteady feet. He then walks directly into the garage wall (Metallica concert ensues). It would have been an AFV 10k video if I was quicker on the draw.

2 days down, no deaths or permanent disfigurements, I think this is cause for celebration.

Daily Stats:
Bedtime: 8:00-9:00pm (keeping my fingers crossed)
Breakfast: I really don’t know if we did. I ran out of cheerios this morning, so things were dicey until lunch.
Lunch: bean burritos, strawberries and a knife fight.
Dinner: Provided by mother-in-law, it tasted great because I didn't have to make it (it was great anyway).
Number of phone calls from concerned relatives and friend: 8 (really guys, its probably going to be Wednesday before I am ready to resort to torture experimentation.
Number of time Thor asked for mom: 33
Quote of the day, “Dad, you are not as good at mom as mom is.” –Asher.
Right back at ya kid.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Single Life - Day 1: Budding Artist and Exhibitionist

As many of you know, Emily packed her bags on Friday and left us. Its not like we didn't expect it, She really deserves better than what we have to offer, but all the same, we are struggling with the transition.

We dropped her off at the airport so she could go see Rome and Austria with my sister and cousin. Thats right, a single dad for the next 10 days. I am going to chronicle my experience here, because anyone who knows me well, knows that this is going to be one clusterf**k of a week.

And for anyone who doubts the above, you should know that my mother and mother-in-law, both of whom I love dearly, and who love me (most of the time), have called, stopped by, offered to take the kids, invited me over for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and generally been available every step of the way. I am very appreciative of their care and support, but I am growing slightly suspicious of their opinions of my parenting skilz.

This week is the culmination of a whole series of solo vacations Emily has taken this year. Between Exponent, Sunstone, and just plain ol vacations, she will have been gone for 16 of the past 75 days. I don’t mind. I am very happy that she is able to diversify her life, and excel at the things she wants to do. It would be pretty selfish of me to try and keep such a hot commodity all to myself.

That being said, every single time Emily leaves, I end up with some sort of massive time demand related to my work. I am an economics consultant, people hire the company I work for to solve problems and answer questions that no one else can answer. Typically we are a last resort, after people sue each other, and they need an expert to explain who is in the right and why, or how much damage was caused by one parties actions. Sprinkle in a fair amount of business valuation, and private equity investment analysis, and you have my life.

The job is great, the boss is great, but the predictability of work is horrible. I can go from having nothing to do, to working 18 hour days for a month literally with one phone call.

The correlation between work flair-ups and Emily’s absence is so strong, that I suggested to my boss that he pay for Emily to be permanently on vacation so that the office will always be busy.

With all of this, let me begin documenting my decent into my own personal hell – life as a single parent:

Day 1:
8:20 - We drop Emily off at the airport. Hugs and kisses, everything is cupcakes and roses.
8:23 – Luke is screaming bloody murder at the realization that his mother is getting on an airplane without him.
8:25 – Asher is screaming bloody murder because he is not getting on an airplane (with or without mom, preferably without).
8:27 – For a few brief moments I seriously consider running the minivan off the freeway and into the Salt River. Suicide/homicide voids my life insurance policy on the boys and myself – and knowing my luck I would kill them, but not myself, leading to even greater misery than that of a single parent.

I drop off the boys at my mother’s house, and head to work. Today is a major deposition for my boss, and he has been preparing all week. I need to be ready to answer any questions, or solve any problems that come up during the deposition as quickly as possible.

Deposition goes well, and at approximately 6:00pm I get a text from my boss, “We will likely need to be in LA next Wens…there is tons of work to do.” Yep, send Emily on vacation, the key to small business success. Even if I am lucky enough to be the guy who holds down the fort next week (ie not in LA), I am going to have to tend to all the other work we have going on. I was planning on taking off Wednesday to Friday to watch the boys.

Skip to evening. The boys are doing surprisingly well for their first night. Both are bathed, brushed and in bed by 8:00pm. By 8:30 both appear to be out for the night. At 10:30 they come into the movie room together complaining that, “there is no water in their rooms for them to drink.”

It was obvious that they were conspiring against me. They realized that I was a man down, and if they worked together they might actually be able to free themselves of the fascist tyrants who claim to love them, and wipe their asses for them.

I put them both to bed with water and a stern warning, then go back to the movie room. At 11:45 I am tuckered, and head to bed. When I get to my room, I hear some little boy noise coming from Asher’s room. I head in to find Asher sound asleep, and Thor, reading a book with his back to me.

I scoop Thor up, more than a little upset, and am shocked to see his face covered in red. In the dark light it looks like blood, but after a few nervous moments, I realize it is hot pink highlighter. I laugh, then I look up at the wall…I stop laughing. I turn around, I am getting angry, I go out in the hall, I am furious.

Pretty pink railroad tracks all over the walls,

and a jungle scene (or possibly a cowboy) on the chalkboard.

Thor knew his gig was up, when I put him in his crib, he didn’t complain a bit, time 11:59.

5:30.00 – “Dad, its light out, do I have to go to school today?”
5:30.05 – “Dad, get up, its light out.” (repeated until 5:35.00)

Asher is going strong at 5:30 am, Thor is up by 7:30, both are trying to back to sleep by 10:30.

The day is uneventful until late afternoon, when the lack of sleep and hard work is getting to me. I take the boys to the library to drop off Emily’s Europe travel DVDs. I pull up to the curb, and think to myself, “I can’t take everyone in, because we just went swimming, and Thor doesn’t have any pants on.”

“Asher, can you take these shows to the box?”
“Yeah dad.”

Too late, I realize it was Asher who wasn’t wearing any pants. I snapped this photo as he was getting back in the car.

I tried to get him to come back, but he wasn’t listening once he got out of the vehicle, and don’t you worry, at least 10 people were coming and going from the library while he meandered about depositing the DVDs in his tighty whiteys.

Day 1 stats:
Bedtime – 8:00pm to midnight
Breakfast – Cold hotdog and dry fruity cheerios
Lunch – PBJ for Asher, no idea if Thor ever ate anything
Dinner – Fruity Cheerios, bean burritos, and sour worms
Number of time Thor yelled my name while I wrote this: 22 (seriously)
Number of fights that broke out while I wrote this: 1

And the entirely qualitative measure, a photo of the kitchen after 24 hours of no mom.

Trainwreck incoming in 5…4…3…2…