Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grandpa On Board

This weekend, my father came into town for the first time since before Thanksgiving. We went away during the Christmas break, and he spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand, so it was tricky to find a weekend that would actually work. This weekend is pretty much going to be it until the spring, as our respective schedules rapidly fill up.

Okay, let’s be honest. His schedule is starting to fill up. Mine is, for the most part, free and open. One of the side "benefits" of my life, at this point, is an entire lack of interesting appointments. I'm not upset about this in the remotest; I think I'm past my need to have every instant of every day filled by activities and quartets and lessons and practicing and whatnot. A little bit of boredom, while I work my way up the corporate ladder and while my children grow out of infancy and into school days, is a good thing.

Our visit was quite ordinary. He arrived Saturday afternoon, and we went out to dinner together. We then came home and played around the house, and he read stories and sang songs for the boys during bedtime. It is, after all, a special treat to have Grandpa NJ come to visit. After that, I went with both Grandpas to Dunkin Donuts, where we enjoyed a cup of coffee, a nice conversation, and some treats. The next morning, we went out to breakfast, although Grandpa joined us later because he got lost heading to the restaurant. He watched the two older boys while the other grandpa watched the baby while I taught a lesson, then we played outside for a little while. When The Wife got home, we enjoyed a nice lunch together, then rested for a while. We went bowling as a family, which was a lot of fun.

The neat thing about this bowling alley is that each person can be customizable in terms of bumpers or no bumpers, so The Wife and I went bumperless while Grandpa and The Boys (sounds like a band) had bumpers. Grandpa won the first game with a 102 (compared with The Boy's 100), and he had the highest average score. The Wife whipped me good in the first game, and I won the second game with the highest score on the day, 118. The kids had a fun time, particularly since the bumpers made it less frustrating. They even have this neat ramp that they can roll the ball down, so it actually reaches the pins without stopped. Although, The Boy did stop using the ramp about halfway through the first game and was able to knock pins down with his ball!

After the bowling, we went to Bob Evans for dinner, which was a calculated risk considering that we didn't pull into the restaurant parking lot until about 7:15. That carried the very real probability of one or more children turning into screaming pumpkins, which did - in fact - happen with the two bigger boys. The Baby was quite content during dinner, smiling at Mom, smiling at me, smiling at his brother, smiling at the bananas... We loaded the kids in the car for the trip home, threw them in the bath, and again had Grandpa assist with the bedtime duties. Afterwards, he, The Wife, and I sat around and chatted for an hour or so.

This morning, he and I went to breakfast and had a nice chat. We probably won't see him again until May, which is a shame, but it's his busy schedule that's keeping him away from us, so I don't feel too guilty about it.

The best part of the weekend? The greeting that my kids gave to my dad. When he came in the house for the first time, they ran up to him and gave him huge hugs and kisses, and there was no need for any kind of an adjustment period. Thank you, FaceTime, for providing us with the means to keep my father involved in their lives from 360 miles away! It was also nice that Little Bear requested songs from him, and that The Boy wanted him to read stories. When we went to bed last night, The Boy told me that the favorite part of the evening was getting to roll the bowling balls and knock the pins over.

It was a nice, boring, uneventful weekend. I kind of like typing that, over and over and over again. Boring is good. It's not cancer.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Words With Friends

Last night, we had some new friends over for dinner. They are new in town, having just moved from eastern PA, and their son just started preschool in The Boy’s class. The Boy is about three-ish weeks older than he is, so the two of them are the youngest in the class. This little guy is a super hero fan just like The Boy is, and he idolizes Batman just like The Boy does. So, The Boy finally had someone his own age with whom to play super heroes.

The most entertaining part of the evening, for me, was watching the boys (The Boy, his friend, and Little Bear) run off and start playing together upstairs. They were playing a loud version of hide and seek for a good chunk of the evening. None of them are very good at hiding; after about three seconds, they start calling out, “I’m over here! Look behind the curtain!” I did have to intervene once, but that was because Little Bear decided to test the water resistance of his rain boots in the bath tub.

As a parent, running water is generally a cue to hustle.

I do admit, it was weird actually sitting with the grownups and talking. That’s not something I normally do, just sit and talk with parents, without children being involved and present. It’s kind of weird, just sitting there and talking, and keeping an ear or an eye on the kids running around the house. I’ve never really been that kind of a parent before. It’s not that I don’t have friends with whom I chat; it’s just that I’m not used to them having children my age.

My barbershop friends, for instance, tend to have grandchildren that are my kids’ ages or older. Different set of conversations entirely.

Please don’t misunderstand: I still found myself under a pile of children at several different points of the evening. But, I did still enjoy watching my kids play with another child, playing random and silly games with rules that flex and break and change. “Calvinball,” indeed.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Last night, I was told that Little Bear sneezed and said, “Owww! My ear hurts!” He had a rough time getting to sleep last night, and he woke up in a little bit of pain. Ear infection? That’s what I’m thinking. Chances are that a doctor’s visit is in his immediate future. We’ll see.

All things considered, we’ve been pretty darn lucky when it’s come to our kids’ health. They’ve really not been sick very much, aside from that whole cancer thing. They get the usual colds and runny noses that little people always seem to have, but it is rare and unusual for them to be laid up for longer than an evening of snuggle and movies with Grandma. Sign of the rest of our week, maybe: after naptime yesterday, they chose to sit around and watch “Little Bear” on television rather than ride bicycle and tricycle. That’s not usual for them. They like their tv, sure, but they REALLY like their bike and trike and scooter time.

The Wife was disappointed. She put the training wheels on the little bike for The Boy.

The Boy ninja’d his way into bed with us again last night. As in, we both woke up to find him snuggled next to us. This is a relatively common thing with him; he’s quite canny about sneaking into our room at night. This made this morning a little more challenging; Little Bear woke up with some ear pain, and The Baby woke up screaming, and The Boy woke up quickly afterwards. He was the least grumpy of the three.

Apparently, last night was a bit easier on Grandma and the babysitter while The Wife and I were at our rehearsals. The trick is to be consistent about bouncing Little Bear back to bed when he gets up and opens the door. If he thinks that you’ll let him out to play, then he’ll find a way to get it done. Otherwise, he’ll putter around his room a little bit, then eventually climb back into bed, complain a bit, and go to sleep. The Boy is still trickier, but he seems to be adapting to a routine that ends with him listening to some music as he falls asleep. Still needs his Daddy time, which I do appreciate more than I know.

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“Daddy, what do YOU do in the morning?” is soon followed by, “Daddy, say, ‘The Boy, what do YOU do in the morning?’ Well, first I yawn, then I stretch, then I come in to you, and you give me hugs and kisses. Then I wake up again, go potty, go to my room, get dressed, go downstairs, eat breakfast, go upstairs, and brush my teeth. Then I watch Little Bear [ed: the TV show, not his little brother], get into the car, and someone takes me to school!” “Daddy, thank you for our little talk.”

It’s intensely interesting to watch him go through his stages of intellectual development. His current stage is putting his day’s events into a reliable, regular routine. He is interested in listing the events of each person’s morning and evening routines.

He has also resumed carrying his Justice League around with him – the action figures of Batman, Robin, Superman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Aquaman, and Plastic Man. He talks to them, and he makes them talk back to him. They sleep on the shelf right about the head of his bed, and they come with him when he visits us in the middle of the night. If you’ve never woken up with Aquaman underneath the small of your back, it’s an uncomfortable feeling.

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped home for dinner in between work and chorus rehearsal. Everyone was napping, which let me catch a quick 40 winks. Once all of us were awake, we played downstairs. The afternoon culminated in The Boy “playing” a set of cups as a drum beat, The Wife playing a harmonica, and Little Bear and I dancing together to the music. There’s something that is so joyful and fun about watching a 2-year old enjoy his music; his entire body dances excitedly, bouncing up and down and waving his hands and nodding his head and shouting and singing. It’s infectious.

The Baby watched quite intensely, trying to figure out exactly what we were doing. I’m fairly sure he didn’t get it, but he liked doing a little bit of gentle bouncing with me while I danced with Little Bear.

One of my biggest ambitions as a parent is to always take advantage of every opportunity to dance with my children. I also want to play superheroes as often as possible, even if it means that I’m “Joker-Daddy” and the bad guy who tries to tickle the superheroes into submission. I’d also like to be intelligent enough to shut up and listen when my children want to speak with me. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Swimming and Fire Alarms

This was supposed to go up last week.

Little Bear had his first swimming lesson on Tuesday morning. After the lesson, the teacher offered to allow us to split his lesson into two days of 15 minutes each, rather than one day of 30 minutes. That’s very generous of her, and something she didn’t have to do. I probably would have accepted one day of 20 minutes and just eaten the last ten minutes, but I’ll take whatever is offered. The Boy loves his swimming lessons, and Little Bear will, as well. He had a really good time. He just faded in attention span after 15 minutes or so.

But, he is very, very young. At his age, he doesn’t have the strength or coordination to do actual swimming stuff. At this point, the lessons are more about teaching him water comfort, maybe a little bit of dog paddle. He’s a smart kid, so he’ll figure it out quickly, but his age is a factor here. I’d be pretty well satisfied if both kids were comfortable enough in the water to want to play at the Wet Willie’s slides at Sandcastle next summer.

The Boy had an eventful evening last night. As per usual, we went to the comic book store, and then we went to Starbucks for chocolate milk on our way to get pizza for dinner. (Daddy believes in good nutrition, except when he doesn’t.) We were in Starbucks, the boys got their chocolate milk, I paid for it, and took my coffee over to the table to put in some milk. The Boy wandered off to the door outside, and he saw the fire alarm.

“No, The Boy, DON’T!” I yelled, but it was too late. He pulled the fire alarm down, and the alarm started going off immediately. I profusely apologized to the staff and hustled the children out of the store and next door to the pizza place. They’re in the same building, so a loud bell was ringing over there, too. That’s about when The Boy started to figure out that something was really, really wrong, despite me yelling at him since the incident. The fire truck came up to the store, checked it out, and closed the store down.

To make matters worse, none of the store employees had the key to get into the fire alarm box and turn it off, including the store manager. We ate our pizza and listened to the buzzer. We finished quickly, and Little Bear wanted to go potty (surprise, surprise). The worker from Starbucks came in at that point, asking the pizza shop owner if he had a key for the fire alarms. I apologized again.

On the way to the potty, The Boy said something along the lines, “I didn’t know this would happen, Daddy. I’m sorry.” I think he might actually have understood that messing with the fire alarm had a pretty big impact on the people around him. That’s progress towards goal. I think, regardless of your religious affiliation, we all try to raise our children to think of the needs of the people around him. This is a step in the right direction, albeit one that he shouldn’t have needed to take.

On a not-really-related note, he has spent the last two nights entirely in his bed. Is this the start of a trend? In some ways, I hope so; in others, I hope not.

The Baby has started to show a definite tendency towards preferring certain people at certain times. He notices, for sure, that there’s a difference between Mum, Daddy, Grandma, and his brothers. He still prefers Mum, but there are a few times when he wants Daddy. It’s very, very cute. He’s a handsome little man.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Over the last couple of days, The Boy has been exploring the limits of words describing big concepts, like love and family. His comments to me and to my wife, at separate times, were, “I don’t love Mom. Mom loves Little Bear. I love Daddy. Daddy has me!”

From a ritualistic standpoint, he’s right. Little Bear’s bedtime and naptime rituals (stories, songs, conversation) are with Mom. The Boy’s bedtime and naptime rituals (potty and teeth, a puzzle or two, some stories, snuggling) are with me. It is rare that someone else handles those particular rituals for us, and it’s always an awkward thing. Little Bear and I get along wonderfully; he knows how much I love him, and we have a great time over breakfast every morning and playing games at night after work. But, he chooses Mom over me for bedtime. The Boy chooses me over Mom. It’s just how it is.

From another standpoint, it was a real, hurtful comment for The Wife to hear. I don’t think that he means that he really doesn’t love her; even though she’s the disciplinarian of the family, he loves her and loves playing with her. He also said that he doesn’t love Little Bear or The Baby, and that’s clearly not the case. Little Bear is his best friend and first choice of playmate, and the two of them handle school better when they are together.

I think he’s trying to put a rank on everybody. He’s trying to arrange, in his head, some kind of order to the world and to his relationships. I can understand that. He’s probably going to have the same analytical, ordered mind that his engineering ancestry had, and that means that everything needs to have its place and order in the world. It certainly fits with his general bossiness, although I’m not sure if the bossiness isn’t directly related to his position as oldest child. They’re all bossy (and yes, oldest brother, I’m looking right at you when I type this).

However, having this general concept suddenly occur to him does have some advantages. Last night, I needed to run to Whole Foods to get some supplement stuff, and The Boy came with me willingly and enthusiastically. This is not normal behavior for him; usually, he’s kicking and screaming and fussing until we arrive somewhere, and then he’s fine, until we leave, when he throws another fit. Instead, he was wonderful and pleasant company all the way through, although I’m not certain that the rest of Whole Foods appreciated the impromptu version of tag that we played until we found the donut case.

(Side note #1: he’s not a big fan of toffee. I warned him that it wasn’t exactly chocolate, but I let him pick it regardless.)

On an entirely unrelated subject, The Baby has started pushing himself around a little bit. Yesterday, on the hardwood floor part of the living room, he pushed himself backwards about a foot or so. Looks like the countdown to crawling has begun!

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