Monday, September 26, 2011

One of Those Weekends

Back when I was in college, one of Those Weekends usually resulted in several days' worth of hangovers. You know, a weekend that has some chunks of time that a missing or hazy, and a weekend that usually had some interesting stories and entertaining pictures resultant. Now that I'm a reasonably responsible adult, it means something entirely different - usually a weekend with less family time than I'd prefer, when the family time isn't exactly the quality time that you'd prefer.

Before The Wife, I was in a long distance relationship. Before it soured, I learned a bunch of lessons about the distance thing, specifically about visits. Visits when you only see each other once a month or every other month are really, really hard; there's a lot of pressure to make every second memorable, and you don't have the time to make up for a misspoken word, a careless gesture, or a thoughtless moment. To some extent, my family time is like that long distance relationship.

I know it's not the same comparison. Even on my busiest days, I still get to see them a little bit - breakfast together in the morning, or stories at bedtime. Something like that. Most days, I have several hours of time in which to spend with them. Before my job started, I was around them around 20 hours per day, every day. When you've spent a couple of years being around your kids for the entire day, it feels awkward and weird and stressful to only be around them for a couple of hours.

I am aware that that is the usually situation and has been the usual situation for most of human history. That's not the point.

Today was a great example of that. The boys and Grandpa and I had a brilliant time at the park, after Mom left to teach Hebrew School. We went to the park, and The Boy made some friends and played a silly variation of Red Light Green Light that involved no actual rules but much tackling and chasing. We had a nice lunch, where I snuggled a baby back to sleep while Grandma fed the boys, and I had a wonderful 30-minute nap with my favorite napping partner. I then left for five hours to teach. I got home in time to help mend a major meltdown by The Boy, and then we went to Chinese food for dinner.

At the restaurant, our kids were Those Kids - you know, the ones you point to and question their parents' abilities to do anything. Thankfully, they fed us quickly, and we were on our way. A minor meltdown or two later, the older boys were in bed.

But, this was a weird day. Having it end like that makes the whole weekend taste funny. The tough thing is that I don't see them much tomorrow until bedtime, so I leave them feeling decidedly undecided about the weekend. Sigh.


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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Working Girl

So, we are starting to adjust to life in the non-educational working world, and man, it's different. I know that we are now living, basically, the same schedule as 90% of the free world, but it I s quite the radical change from what we are used to living.



As a teacher, your schedule is very predictable. Even the school band directors, who arguably have the busiest schedules, have a very predictable rhythm of life. You have meetings the same days, rehearsals the same days, tutoring the same days, the same busy periods every year, that sort of thing. Give me a week in the calendar year, and I can tell you how many hours per week I'll be at school and what I'll be doing.

I guess the business world is like that, also. If it is, I haven't figured it out in my first four weeks of working. (Ironic emphasis on four weeks, as compared with ten years working and seven years of college beforehand.) We can't make those predictions yet, and scheduling things like lessons and rehearsals and time playing with children is difficult.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. I'm thankful that I have the opportunity that I have, and I intend to work my fanny off at my new job. I'm just noticing that all of us - kids included - are finding it difficult to adjust. My wife is a trooper, and she handles the three children much better than I ever could, but I wish that I could be around to help her more often.

Little Bear might be the hardest hit of all. Having one less adult around, and having a brother who is a newborn, means that he gets far leas attention than he deserves and needs. Grandma does an amazing job of helping out and caring for the children, for sure; but, he's been acting out quite a bit lately because of the lack of attention.

Good daddy moment: we are figuring out how to deal with these mini-tantrums pretty decently. Tonight, on the way home from the comic book store, I strapped Little Bear into his seat. He wasn't happy about this, said, "I'm going to hit you, Daddy," and did. I briefly thought about acting angry or hurt or annoyed or just ignoring him, and I decided against all of those. All he was seeking was attention; all he wanted was some individual acknowledgment. Instead, I pretended to fall over on top of him, which made the bigger boys laugh. He "pushed" me again, and I pretended to fall over even more dramatically.

Thus, his need for attention was sated, and his behavior was redirected from hurting to playing. I'm pretty proud of myself. Little Bear is such a big, friendly, intelligent kid that we frequently forget that he's only 2 years old. Side note: it's actually a concern in education, that kids who are more physically and/or mentally mature than their colleagues are not necessarily more emotionally mature and can't handle being treated like an older child or an adult. This is fairly detrimental to development, as you'd imagine.


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Monday, September 19, 2011

Long Weekend

Friday, I came home for a brief meal and playmate with my children before leaving for Toledo, Ohio, and the Region 17 Harmony Weekend with my chorus. This is the first time in a while that I've been away from them for this long; I've spent a night away here or there, most recently last month when I drove Aunt P to Connecticut, but I haven't spent two nights away since... April, I think, and the barbershop contest.

This was the first time, however, that The Boy really understood that I was leaving and that he wouldn't see me for a while. He was not happy about it, as I outlined last week, but he dealt with it reasonably well. I did keep my promise and web chatted with him on Saturday afternoon, which was really nice for all of us. Little Bear was more interested than The Boy in talking, as he was quite proud of drawing a J on Grandma's iPad.

The trip was great - successful performance, lots of new knowledge, and some new friends. Kind of exhausting, though - as a leader, one is always "on" during situations like these. One little thoughtless remark, an offhand comment overheard by a passerby, and suddenly, the new director (particularly being a male director of a women's group) is a jerk. So, it's a couple of days of paying attention to everything I do and say.

That's not a bad thing, mind you. I truly want to be that sort of person, a positive leader that is known for being uplifting and supportive of the people around him. I don't want to be known as an arrogant, egotistical tyrant or a whiny, complaining little thing. "Forcing" myself to act like that is great practice for trying to be that person all of the time.

I got home today around 4:30, and they got home from their party soon after. One of Grandma's colleagues has a little girl turning two, and the boys went to her birthday party. Cutest thing, when I met them in the garage: three sleeping boys in the backseat of the car!

I took the older two boys upstairs, and they both briefly napped on my lap. Is there any better way to be welcomed home, than by fifteen minutes of snuggles? I think not. The Boy actually stayed asleep until nearly seven pm, which was just dandy. Little Bear and I got some nice playing time outside. He loves that chalk, which he calls "colors." "Give me colors, Daddy!"



Little Bear went to bed early because he missed his nap besides the short nap in the car and on my lap, and The Boy woke up and was remarkably pleasant company for the remainder of the evening. We put a new car seat in the car for him, which we bought by trading in the old jumparoo - when we gave it to a family a year or so ago, never expecting to need it again. When they gave it back, it had lots of pet hair on it. Considering our volatile allergies, we traded it in to Babies R Us and got a new convertible car/booster seat instead. We watched some television, and he played with Mum while I knocked a half dozen items off of my to do list (or at least moved them to the next step towards completion.

The Boy went to bed around 11:30, which was twenty minutes after Mum. That's fine. He might be a joy tomorrow, though. We shall see.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Played

So, at breakfast this morning, The Boy says, "Daddy, I want to play hide and speak with you!" That's what he calls hide and seek. He told me to go hide and he would find me. I went into the living room while he counted to ten. I hid and waited.

He took the iPad from the seat next to him, hit the Netflix app, and returned to eating his breakfast. Yes, folks, I got played quite soundly by my four year old son.

Kind of fitting, because he was pretty well cheesed off at me. He's still angry about me leaving for work, and he's even angrier because he didn't see me on Monday and Tuesday because of the Ballgame and my chorus rehearsal. When they came to pick me up after work, he sat in his seat with his eyes closed and said, "I'm hiding. You're not happy to see me, you're sad." Basically, he's mad because he hasn't seen me much this week.

It'll get even better when I leave for the weekend for my chorus weekend. Sigh.

I know this is a normal problem. Kids have had parents leave to spend all day at work for a long, long time. That's something that he's going to have to deal with.

Little Bear seems to be handling it better. He's sad when I leave for work, but not intolerably so. I know that this, too, will pass. Next blog from Toledo,
Ohio!


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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missing You

I wonder how far back The Boy's memory goes? Does he remember things - at least, as well as any toddler does - as actual events, or does he just remember flashes of emotion?

I know that I only have little flashes of being four and five years old, but that was around 32 years ago or so. Life is trying to fit a gallon of daily information into a shot glass sized brain, which means that some stuff gets lost in the translation.

I guess what I'm really wondering is, how much does he remember that awful three week period in December 2009, when I was back in New Jersey finishing up house preparations while the rest of my family was adjusting to treatment at Children's here in Pittsburgh? Over the last day or so, he's been really upset about the amount of time I've spent out of the house, and it's concerning.

Last night, he flipped out at 3:00 in the morning because he wanted to come into our bed. That concept is not unusual, but the manner of the fit was concerning and solved with snuggles until keep came. My schedule at work has changed a bit, allowing me to drive the kids to school, which helped this morning. The Wife told me that he's spent much of the last several days looking for me around the house.

Tonight, he flipped out about being away from me for more than a minute or two. It was kind of hurtful to me, because I know that I'll be away from him during work and this weekend, when I have a chorus event in Toledo. What's he going to do this weekend, when I'm away from Friday morning for work, go to Toledo from work, and head home next on Sunday afternoon?

I hate being away from them for any length of time. It's painful for me, because I've been so involved with their lives for so long. I know that normal families have one parent at least, who works 60 hours a week; why should we be any different? I know that I'm motivated to get work done because of the stakes (full time job means I can care for my family).

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gallimaufry

Little Bear's thing, right now, is to visit the potty in every single building we visit. Partially, he likes marking his territory like puppies do. Mostly, he likes seeing what different potties look like, and he's excited at the little differences in all of them. He also is fascinated by the whole flushing process. It's very cute, except for the need to visit the potty every five minutes during a meal.
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The Boy handled Little Bear's hitting spell at dinner tonight much better than we did. He ignored it, responded by falling to the ground in a silly manner, then laughing. Little Bear changed from hostile to amused to laughing. it's classic redirection, I know, but still amazing to see from a four year old. Anyone who underestimates the intelligence of children (mine in particular) is kidding themselves.
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Favorite books of the moment: "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Superman" (the Ralph Cosentino picture book) for Little Bear, and "The Giving Tree" and "Wonder Woman" for The Boy. The Boy has rediscovered Hap Palmer's "Baby Songs," while Little Bear is still not a big television watcher.
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The Baby is very much a Momma's and Grandma's boy right now. He tolerates Daddy. He is adjusting to the bottle quite well - much better than Little Bear ever did. The secret is the milk temperature and the nipple type. All three boys like the brown, shaped nipples instead of the clear ones - something about the texture and shape. Different bottle, cold temperature means difficult feeding.
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The Boy sang his dinner request tonight. It was cute. So, we made dinner into Opera Time, at least until the boys got bored with it. The By is discovering his voice and doing a pretty decent job of finding and keeping a tonal center.
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Little Bear had an amazing time at Kennywood yesterday. He was terrified on a bunch of the rides last time, but this time found them fun and engaging. He rode the "Phantom, Jr." mini roller coaster around ten times, where he threw a major fit last time because he was scared. The boys also helped me demolish an order of cheese fries, and we had to literally drag The Boy out of Kennywood, kicking and screaming.
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Little Bear is now full time in a big bed. We put the toddler bed away late last week, and he doesn't seem to miss it. Interesting thing: trying to get The Baby adjusted to a new crib in another room. First guess: lots more cosleeping. The Boy was sleeping for a while without lights, but something spooked him a week or so ago, and he's back to sleeping with lights on.


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Friday, September 9, 2011

Anger

Early this morning, The Boy woke up, got himself dressed, and came into the room to find me. It was quite cute, with him in his Blues' Clues Stece shirt and shorts. He snuggled up and fell asleep. When I got up, he followed me into the bathroom and hung out while I dressed for work. We had a nice breakfast together, talking about his day yesterday. Afterwords, we went into the living room and he snuggled up onto my lap.

"Don't go, Daddy, I don't want you to go to work. Stay here with me."

Ultimately, he was quite upset with me for going to work. To make matters better, when The Wife came down with the boys to switch cars with me while she taught, he had just fallen asleep before getting into the car. This meant that he took his grumpy out on me until he woke up.

I've been pretty lucky over the last couple of years, because I've been able to spend a lot of time around the children. Sure, it's been hard being unemployed and planning for a career change, but it's had the great side effect of being a full time Dad for a long time. The unfortunate result is that going back to work has been a difficult adjustment for all of us.

We haven't found our groove yet, for sure. I know that I'm exhausted after the work day - I'm really concentrating for long stretches of time at work, and I'm working hard to learn the skills I need. When I get home, I'm exhausted! I haven't been able to be fully participatory with the boys. It hasn't helped that I have had several nighttime activities that have kept me out of the house through bedtime.

I'm hoping that he will start to deal with it better as time passes. I know that kids since time immemorial have had one or more working parents, but this has been kind of a special case. I miss him, and his brothers and mother, quite a bit! It is a difficult adjustment, to go from all day to a couple of hours with them.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Time

Tuesdays are very difficult days for us. I leave for work around 7:05 or 7:10, and I leave for chorus rehearsal immediately after work. This means that I'm out of the house from 7:00 until a little before 11 at night. It's hard on everybody, for sure - The Wife has the kids all day by herself, and I don't get to see the kids while they're awake.

So, this morning, I wake up at my usual 6:15 and start doing my normal routine. The Boy walks into the room at around 6:30 and uses the potty. He came out, and we started to talk. That's a nice change, in and of itself; he's at that age where he can actually carry on a decent conversation about his life. I finally said, "Okay, The Boy, go in and snuggle Mum, I've got to go downstairs.

He looked at me with that particular look that sons get when dealing with their fathers: the look that says, "Are you crazy?"

He said to me, "No, Daddy, I want to go sit with you!"

He knew that I was leaving for work in a few minutes. He just wanted to come downstairs and have breakfast with me before I left. How amazing are our children, that - after all is said and done - they merely want some time, attention, and conversation with their dad?



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Monday, September 5, 2011

What a Week!

This week, I started my new job working for a local bank. It was a pretty amazing week, with a lot of information flowing through my brain. I've met a lot of great people, and I'm thrilled with my trainers and the rest of my training class. May this be the beginning of a long, profitable arrangement for all of us!

Along with the difficulty of my working full-time for the first time in a few months, The Wife had all three children by herself for the entire day all week. It was a mixed bag, with some awful days, some good days, and some regular days. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, I had the kids while The Wife taught lessons; The Baby went with Mom on Wednesday, but I had all three on Thursday. The kids absolutely ate me alive on Thursday, to the point that I actually called my wife and asked her to come home and skip a lesson. Not my best Daddy moment.

My father arrived in town on Friday night, and he brought my brother for a quick visit. Brother P was picking up a large gift he had purchased and was in town until the next morning! It was the first time I had seen him in months, which was cool. I met the two of them for a nice sit down chat that night, and we all got together for breakfast the next morning. The only interesting thing that happened on the rest of Saturday was The Boy coming down with croup. This was extraordinary only in that he had his birthday party scheduled for 36 hours later.

That night was a pretty rough night. He was unhappy about being in his night diaper and really unhappy about being in his room and by himself. Once I had finished my stuff for the night, I took him into the spare bedroom and we spent the night. It was awful. Summing up, I got peed on twice, kicked repeatedly and thoroughly, and received very little sleep. The next morning, we skipped a birthday party that he was supposed to attend, and I took my father and Little Bear to my chorus's picnic instead of the entire family.

It was really, really nice to spend some time with Little Bear by his self, instead of with the other boys. He was very sociable and very well behaved, charming the socks off of the ladies in my chorus. He even sat with C on the hay ride, after meeting her for about ten seconds beforehand. That's rare for him and awesome to see! He faded around seven, and we went home early. That night was easier than the previous one, although we did still spend the night together in the spare room. I got more sleep and less urine, but I could do without the kicking by The Boy.

Today was a marvelous day, with a nice breakfast with my father, a morning spent preparing, and a brilliant birthday party for The Boy. He had a bunch of his school friends with him, and we did some crafts around the house and ate some fruit, cookies, crackers, and such. Everyone had fun and was really well behaved, parents included! More on this later.

Long week this week - long month, to be honest. Full calendar, with lots of performances and work days and such. Should be interesting to see! Wish me luck.



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