Thursday, October 30, 2014

House Work

So, the best way to motivate the boys to do yard work: have them young enough to enjoy making a huge leaf pile and jumping in it, but old enough to wield a rake with purpose.

A couple of times over the past few weeks, they've set to work in the back yard. The first time, they brought up the one decent rake we have and the metal rake - which is good for breaking up ground but terrible for actually raking leaves, not to mention dangerous. So, we made a trek to K-Mart (which is next to the Eat 'N' Park that we frequent) and picked up another normal-sized rake and a little-sized rake, which was The Baby's.

In our back yard, we have a HUGE oak tree - like, way bigger than our house huge. So, when it sheds, it fills our little, tiny back yard with leaves in a pool about three inches deep. I love letting the kids crash around in the leaves for a couple of reasons: 1) it's really cute, and 2) it smooshes them so they take fewer bags. If they want to rake their own leaf pile? Even better.

The tree is about 75% empty now, which means only one more full yard of leaves before the end of the season. Sigh.


Last night, I had quartet rehearsal, and The Wife had a PTA meeting at school. The neat thing they do: they have play-time with the kids, and they hire / use older kids (middle and high school kids) to supervise the general playing. The boys had a great time, because they don't see a lot of their school friends outside of class. I think that's going to be a long-term thing. The nice thing about The Wife's current employment: it allows her the luxury of being in the school regularly and being an active member of any parents' groups she chooses.

I have a handful of friends who have no children or whose children are grown , and I enjoy living vicariously through them. I vaguely remember what it felt like to sleep late, and to go to an actual gym with actual machines than the (quite nice, really) home gym, and to play video games and watch sports on the television. When we moved into our house in Scotch Plains, it was before children; and it wasn't an issue to spend 8 hours at work and 8 hours working around the house. So, even though I'm not the most talented handyman, we always had a clean, straightened, organized house, even as I had my video games and tv shows.

Now? Pshaw. I still watch tv - I watch one show per day, in the morning when I exercise - and the house is occasionally, and briefly, organized before the kids get home. I occasionally get to watch a few minutes of a game, here or there, and once a month or so I can play video games on the Playstation. But, you know what?

I'm not raising a Playstation. I'm not raising a yard. I'm not raising a dust-free, dirt-free home. I'm raising three beautiful, brilliant, mischievous little boys. Most of the time, re-painting the kitchen can wait - I have to read bedtime stories. Most of the time, pruning the bushes and cleaning up the hills in front or in back of the house can wait - I have to take little boys on a bike ride to the playground. Playing my Final Fantasy 13 #2 (to which I have a total of 25 minutes logged)? That'll wait, because I can play Lego Batman WITH The Boy instead of making him watch.

The yardwork and housework will get done, eventually, albeit not as often as I'd prefer. But, it'll get done. I'm banking that the boys would rather have memories of their father reading them books and running in the park with them. I know that I should show them the value of working around the house, and how to paint and to fix the things that I know how to fix, but that just doesn't seem as important.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Every morning, my little boy routine has been the same: "Good morning, sweetheart! (hug) How are you? Did you have a nice rest? Did you have nice dreams? What do you dream about?"

The Baby's answer has been the same for the past year or so: "Elephants and Batman." He refuses to elaborate. It might be Batman riding elephants, or Batman fighting elephants, or him riding on elephants with Batman in the Batmobile.

The Boy has been getting steadily more creative as time goes on. This morning, he was lost in a forest, by himself, with no family, and he ran into Doctor Doom. He ran away, was chased by Dr. Doom, and along came the Rescuebots to save him. They fought Dr. Doom together, drove him away, then went to the fire station to relax. (The Rescuebots, if you haven't met them yet, are small child-friendly Transformers that are a fire truck, police car, helicopter, and bulldozer. They don't fight Decepticons - they fight fires and earthquakes and malfunctioning power plants and rescue animals and stuff like that. The boys love them.)

Little Bear is the only one of the three boys that regularly seems to have scary dreams, which usually revolve around him being left alone, or being unable to find us. Monsters sometimes come out, but mostly it's being left alone. His normal dreams, at least the ones he tells me about, usually consist of him teaming up with Superman or Batman or the Justice League to fight against whichever bad guy is on his mind.


Last night, Little Bear spent the entire night in his room, without sucking his fingers, for the first time. I'm glad of that, because, as the boys are growing, it's difficult to fit everybody in the bed. We can still do it - they're still little, particularly The Baby, and Little Bear folds into easily portable shapes - but it's not as comfortable as it was two years ago.

The Boy, in particular, has hit another growth spurt over the last month. I noticed it a while ago - when we went out to breakfast and he ate a second breakfast an hour after we got home, followed by lunch two hours later. Sigh.

Costco is going to be our good, good friend later in our children's lives.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014


So, I confirmed it with The Wife: she told Little Bear that she was going to put the yucky stuff on his fingers if he didn't stop; when he ignored her, she put the yucky stuff on his fingernails and, cold turkey, he stopped sucking on his fingers. Neither one of us even saw him try to put them in his mouth, but - considering he wouldn't put his fingers in his mouth even at 3am on Saturday night, would stay awake & cry & thrash - I'm guessing he did, at least once.

The trick in avoiding long-term issues, we think, is in our reaction to his struggles. The finger-sucking was a real source of comfort for him; whenever he was stressed or emotional (and he's the sensitive kid in the family), he would go to work on those fingers. Now that he doesn't have that, he needs to develop new comfort mechanisms and strategies. We are giving him extra snuggles and extra hugs at night, and he has spent Sunday night and Monday night (as well as the infamous Saturday) in bed with us. If we are patient and kind, and we treat his stress with extra comfort and understanding, hopefully he'll develop those coping mechanisms that will be more productive than sucking on his fingers.

Hard to say, of course. We're certain he's going to need enough psychological help when he's older - Lord knows that The Wife and I have dealt with depression issues on and off throughout the course of our lives. He's exceptionally, brilliantly intelligent and quite emotionally sensitive; that's not a great combination for mental health. Contrast with The Boy, who is brilliant but has the emotional sensitivity of a stump. He's so self-directed and self-assured that the concept of depression, at this point, is a non-issue.


The Baby, despite two accidents over the course of the weekend (Friday night and Saturday morning, when I was watching him, naturally), has turned the final corner when it's come to potty training. He's now 100% pee-trained, and about 95% poo trained. As long as we keep to the standard routines - requiring potty visits whenever leaving the house or arriving anywhere, potty visits before and after meals, and that sort of thing - he's really good. I haven't heard about any accidents at school yet.

Of course, we've been asked a few times - you have three boys, what about trying for a girl? Honestly, the potty training thing is the biggest reason we're likely done with having children. We're ready to be parents that don't have to carry a diaper bag everywhere we go. Pregnancy, labor, giving birth, baby issues, juggling a larger family, trying to prevent #3 from treating #4 like #3 treated #4 in my family: those are issues that we're prepared to handle. Potty training for a fourth time? No, thanks. The Boy and The Baby fought us so hard and so stubbornly that we're burnt out.


Parent-teacher conferences were last week. It was nice timing, because my father was in town for a weekend visit. Little Bear's teacher said the usual things - smart, a good reader, helpful (with the one bullying exception from last month), and sensitive. She also noted that, after watching Little Bear, she understood why we held The Boy back a year from kindergarten: LB is very much a little boy, with all of the squirminess that that implies. He's perfectly appropriate for the class, and he'll start to calm down as he matures, but she noticed the difference between the 6-year old boy last year and the young 5-year old this year. Gifted testing is in another couple / few months; we're sure he's intelligent enough, but the question of "will he sit still for the 90 minutes of testing" is a very valid one.

The Boy received the sterling conference for which we hoped. He is smart, motivated, kind, a leader in the class, and helpful to everybody. At this point, he doesn't have "enemies" in class or anyone who's trying to pick on him - even the kid on the bus who was an issue isn't an issue any more. Not much else to say other than that; all of his teachers love him.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, October 27, 2014

Show Weekend and No More Ringers

This past Saturday, we had my chorus's annual show, which went swimmingly. I'm satisfied with how the chorus sang, with how my quartet sang, and impressed with how The Wife's quartet sang. The show ran smoothly, even with the personality conflicts that inevitably arise under the stress of performance. We were breaking in a new venue, which was great despite its extreme distance from our house - about 90 minutes, plus traffic. Still, easy parking, a perfect size auditorium, great lighting & sound systems....

The boys spent the day with Grandma and Grandpa, which went reasonably well, all things considered. We had to cut our dinner short - the afterglow was a sit-down dinner - which was disappointing, because there were a half dozen people that I really wanted to see and a half dozen songs that I wanted to perform. However, considering that G&G were doing such an amazing thing for us by taking the kids from, basically, 10 to 10 on a Saturday..... no complaints, for sure.

The biggest issue was that night. We've been trying to figure out how to break Little Bear of his habit of sucking on his fingers. It's really not a good thing in school age kids: touching the desk and then putting your fingers in your mouth is a great way to make sure you stay sick for a couple of months, which he more-or-less has. This would be less of an issue if the cold didn't travel between the kids and parents with such fervor. So, we've finally resorted to the "painting the finger nails with yucky tasting stuff" stage of things, which seems to be working. Saturday was the first night where he was not able (because of the taste) to suck on his fingers.

To say that it went poorly was an extreme understatement.

So, here I am, having spent the entire day under the stress of management and of performance (which I handled marvelously, if I do say so, myself), had a nice, relaxing dinner, took my medication (which knocks me the heck out because of the various drying agents), and then Little Bear started fussing, rolling, kicking, flailing, and crying. The WIfe fled to the baby's room and spent the night with him. I was awake until a shade before 4 with Little Bear - with him staying still just long enough to drowse before getting kicked / head butted / hit awake, and he was absolutely inconsolable. Compounding things was the extreme amount of caffeine I had consumed earlier in the day, for which I was feeling a caffeine hangover already.

So, we fell asleep for good, finally, around 4. The Wife and the other boys were awake at 6:30, which meant that I was awake at 6:30. The Boy went to early Sunday School with The Wife, and Little Bear stayed asleep until around 10:30AM. I stomped on something at some point - either a nail or a stick or a thumbtack or whatever, because there's a small hole in my heel that makes walking difficult.

The Baby and I hung out around the house and watched tv in the morning, and The Wife let me nap a bit in the afternoon. I spent the rest of the day in front of the football games, which was the first Sunday I did that this year. We did a little bit of housework, including leaves in the backyard with the three boys raking a big pile and stomping around in it. (Ironically, this makes the bagging of the leaves easier, because it mushes them and requires fewer bags.)

It's been more than a month since I've written, for which I apologize. I'm going to try to do better.