Birthdays And Bikes

Saturday, after an eight hour shift with the PD which included my getting to take a drive out of district on “Official Police Business” and finally getting to hand my ID to someone, (Nobody flashes the badge like they do on TV. Its all about the ID.) I headed home for a massive undertaking which is not suitable for anyone who isn’t a parent.

I assembled a bicycle.

The Narrator’s 5th birthday was yesterday, and he had asked for only two things. A bike, and a $1.99 plastic toy we had seen in the pharmacy that launched little jets off of a pad with a rubber band. He’s an easy kid to please.

Bikes are actually fairly simple to put together. I mean, it doesn’t take a degree in engineering to figure out where on the frame the seat is supposed to get attached. And the wheels? Well, one of them was already connected. The other was a pretty good guess as to where it was supposed to wind up.
Everything was a breeze. Up until the brakes. This is why the job NEEDS to be done by a parent, because it it wasn’t for the love of your child and the need for them to have safe and functioning brakes, you might be tempted as I was to say “Oh F* This” – cut the cables, and pitch the entire project into the gaping maw of the nearest active volcano.

Maybe it is just me, but the act of adjusting brakes on a bike was a nightmarish hell. My wife rather causally offered up the suggestion that I read the instructions, but they read something much akin to the technical manual for an F-22 Raptor, and at one point literally indicated that I needed three hands.

“While squeezing the brake shoes against the rim, loosen the cable adjusting nut and pull the slack out of the brake cable, then hand-tighten the nut while keeping the cable pulled tight.”

Following the instructions was not helpful, so I resorted to adjusting this, tightening that, pulling this, and squeezing that, one by one. Occasionally, I’d pull the brake handle, and one caliper half would move and the other not. Or, worse, both calipers would tighten but not release. Then, neither of them would move.

Eventually, after many, many days and nights worth of pouring over and trying to interpret the Rosetta Stone that was the instruction manual, fiddling with it on my own, and inventing swear words that needed to be uttered under my breath lest I wake the children- the project was completed. I had beaten it.

I had taken on, and successfully completed one of the world’s most major “Dad” projects.

The boy’s birthday was yesterday, and it dawned cold and drizzly. Much to his irritation, he couldn’t haul his new bike outside and ride it seven minutes after waking up, nor were we keen on letting him figure out how to ride it in the living room. Eventually, it did get warm enough to take him outside, and we taught him how to ride his brand new first-time-ever big-boy bike.
He took to it like a duck to water, and it took a hilariously small windows of time between “How do I……” and his first “I’ll race you!”

It was no small amount of pride that I felt as I watched my now five year old son begin to cruise up the road on his bike at speeds that made it difficult for me to keep up with him as I jogged along behind in the event of the inevitable disaster.
His first ditch was a result of the over-confidence and cockiness that all males feel the moment we sense a competency at something new. At a reasonable speed, he decided to look over his shoulder at something, and took the handlebars with his head as he turned. Obeying the laws of physics, the bike jack-knifed and went down. I was right behind him when it happened, and I was able to grab him under his armpits, haul him off of the doomed ride, and somehow or other manage to stay on my feet as well. To his credit, he hopped back on the bike and did one more run up the road before deciding that he’d had enough for the day.

Oh- and those brakes I spent 8 months on trying to figure out? They’re the front brakes. You know, the ones that you teach kids never to use right out of the gate? Yeah. He never touched the handle on them.

The rest of his birthday went very well. He had a great day, although his mother and I were tortured by the fact that our little boy is five years old. I can still remember the chest-tightening fear I felt the day we brought him home from the hospital, and were completely on our own for the first time with a tiny human being. That was one of the longest nights of my entire life. A creature whose life-span thus far could be measured in hours and not have the number sound ridiculous was now ours to raise and nurture. And we sat in our tiny little apartment with him as he alternated between crying, feeding, and sleeping- completely in shock at the responsibility that was now ours.
That all still feels like it was yesterday. I can still feel every bump and pot-hole in the road as I drove my Chevy blazer home from the hospital at speeds generally reserved for Driver’s Education students and scanning the road for hazards with an exhausting level of diligence. Yesterday. I swear it was yesterday.

No. It was five years ago. Somehow, in the blink of an eye that pink and squalling creature we had been entrusted with had managed to grow into something magnificent and take his first his bike accident like a trooper, then get right back on it.

Everybody told us “Enjoy the time while you have it, it goes fast.” I’d figured it was all a parenting cliche, that people felt like they had to say it for one reason or another. I was wrong. The time does go by very quickly, and something tells me now that it has some momentum, If I thought the last five years went by fast….I ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Mental Exhaustion From Receration

Less than 24 hours after my last post about how much I enjoy going fishing with The Narrator and how it has lessened my desire to do it alone, I went and did exactly that.

I dropped him off at pre-school yesterday then went to see a client. The service call lasted significantly less than I anticipated, but long enough that going home before I would have to come back and pick him up from school was not an option. I was stuck for a while. So I drove around, and managed to find a beautiful lake. And I just happened to still have our fishing gear in the car. So, in spite of the unseasonably cold temperatures, and the precipitation that flipped back and forth between a misting rain and light, fluffy snow, I decided to kill an hour on the bank of the lake.

As I fished, I began to muse, as usual, and came up with a theory. As relaxing as hunting and fishing are, they are mentally exhausting. Especially if, like me- you are only marginally good at them. Take fishing for example. In choppy water, if you’re using live bait, the bobber will continuously dip and wiggle as though you’ve got something on the line. It’s been bad enough in the past that I’ve tried to set a hook on something that isn’t there. All I would manage to do is add further torment to the poor worm whose day was already ruined by the addition of a metal rod through its innards, and the sudden and continuous lack of air as it hung out under water trying to convince what was certainly the world’s largest fish that he was delicious.

Not only that, but if there’s nobody to talk to, or nothing else to do, the more you watch that stupid brightly colored ball dance across the top of the water, your eyes will start to play tricks on you.

“Holy crap, its moving. It’s being dragged. I must have hooked Nessie. Or a Shark. Someone call Jeremy Wade, this is a real….no. Wait. Never mind. Damn.”

Every time you start to reel the line in and your hook drags ever so slightly across a rock or stick on the bottom, you immediately go to combat mode, a part of your mind rejecting the fact that you’re snagged, and just for a split second, entertains the idea that you’ve just hooked onto something that will have your grinning face splattered across the internet with some living dinosaur. When reality crushes back to you, all you’re left with is a stuck line that will more than likely have to be cut, and irritation at having to string new tackle. Not to mention the disappointment that comes from knowing you won’t be getting calls for interviews on the Today Show for the catch of a lifetime.

But worse than fishing is hunting. Ever sit under a tree just before sunup in temperatures that make your home’s furnace work a marathon shift to keep the inside of your house at a survivable level? No? Try it some time.

Sometime around the first hour or so, or right at sunup, whichever comes first- depending how early you go out- you will begin to hear things. Something to your left just beyond those pine trees just cracked. It was a big crack too, It has got to be the King of the Forest. Wait! Behind me! A rustle in the dry leaves! I know for sure this has to be the mythical beast, the 75-point buck that legends talk of, the majestic beast that is the only creature capable of walking with such restless abandon through the woods because what other animal would DARE disturb him? And HES RIGHT BEHIND ME!

Turns out its a squirrel, doing something with his nuts.

Still, you just managed to waste perfectly good energy and adrenaline on a rodent.

This is what I mean. As enjoyable as these activities are, when you’re bad at them, such as I am, by the time you get home, you’re exhausted from having gone on a roller-coaster ride of emotion every time you heard a twig snap or saw your bobber dip under a slight ripple on the water.

I swear this is all true, and not just an excuse I am making up to justify to my coming home from recreational activities and taking a nap on the couch.

 

Fishing.

One of the reasons that I adore the warm weather is that it ushers in fishing season. Technically you can ice-fish, but I don’t count that as a thing. Given that many animals hibernate, migrate, or do as little as possible in the cold weather, it seems a bit counter-intuitive to volunteer to sit in the middle of a frozen lake for any reason at all, much less fish. I haven’t decided if the people who partake in such activities are bigger men than I, or if they’re simply borderline insane.

Anyway.

Warm weather comes, its time to fish. Last year the season was wasted, I didn’t cast a single line all year. Spring and most of the summer time was consumed by my training, and the spare time I had was taken up with playing catch-up at home between school and training shifts. All too soon the cold weather came and the season was done.

This year, come hell of high water, I was going fishing. And I have a partner now too. The Narrator has expressed an interest in fishing, and I’ve taken him out a few times already. The water is technically a bit too cold for what we’re trying to do, but we go anyway, and have a blast. He gets so excited about going that I have to draw a little blue fish on the calendar so he knows when the next outing will be, then he counts down the days.

We haven’t caught a thing at all yet, but we both like going. We’ll buy our worms and a snack, then drive to wherever it is we are going. Most of the time he gets bored watching the bobber with the live bait, so he switches to a top water plug and just drags that across the surface of the lake. It works out well because he gets to DO something, he loves it, and I’m not losing lures to the rocky bottom of the lake if he reels too slowly. We are working on his casting, he’s a little herky-jerky on that, but he’s only managed to spear himself once so far, so I count that as a success.

There’s a little pond off the side of the road near our house which I suspect doesn’t have a living thing in it except for a few tadpoles and newts, but we went and fished in it the other day when it was too cold and windy to go to the big lake. When the weather is 50 degrees out, a slight wind off of the lake manages to make your fingers freeze in minutes. Even though there was nothing in the water big enough to ear the worms we were offering, we had fun, and that’s what matters.

Back when I was a kid, there was a flood control dam a few miles down the road from where we lived. It was listed as a recreational area, so the state would stock it with fish every now and then. That is were I learned how to fish. My father took my brother and I out to a small spit of land that stuck out into the lake just where the feeding river dumped into it. My luck there was never very good, but it was fun to learn what each lure did, how to use live bait, and just do NOTHING for a short while. I wish that lake was still there so I could take my son to the same place I went to, but it was emptied after Tropical Storm Irene flooded it to capacity a few years back. Now it is just a hollow bowl with weeds and a muddy finger of river snaking through it.

Regardless, there are other places to go, so we do. I suspect as the weather gets warmer our luck will get better, and then he’ll have some real fun.

As for me, I used to love fishing all on my own. I would get up early in the morning and go find some water to sit by. I spent several mornings watching the sun come up on the Mohawk river when we lived near Albany. I never caught a thing there, but the quiet time was the best. Occasionally I would fish with friends. I had a guy I worked with who was an avid fisherman, and we would meet up from time to time and go. My brother-in-law and I spent many mornings out in lakes near his family’s home, and some of the best luck I ever had was in a canoe with an old college buddy at the crack of dawn.

But in the end, I always loved going out alone. Catching, not catching, it didn’t matter.

Something’s changed though. Now, I look down at The Narrator as he flails his too-short-for-him “Cars” themed fishing pole around in an effort to get my jitterbug far enough out into the water to make reeling it in worthwhile, and I listen to him tell me that “Fishing is the best way to pass the time” – and all of a sudden, I don’t think I want to fish alone anymore.

 

 

On Coffee

I’ve been an enthusiastic coffee drinker since sometime late in my high school career. In college I almost staged a rebellion when I found out we were not allowed to have any cooking appliances in our rooms, which included the coffee pot. I was mollified slightly when I found out that I would be living in a building that contained a dining hall, so even though I couldn’t grab a cup immediately after getting out of bed, I could still indulge before having to go outside.

Based on what I’ve seen, some coffee drinkers have become a lot like beer drinkers. Particular to the point of being snobbish at times.
“Oh, I wouldn’t ever drink a Sumatran roast, and if it isn’t half-caf, it just isn’t coffee.” I’ve seen people refuse to hit a Dunkin or a McDonalds for coffee because “That stuff is nasty.”

Me? I am the single least picky coffee drinker you will ever have known. I have and still do- willingly partake in coffeehouse art drinks as readily as high-octane truck stop swill. I don’t care if it has half-and-half, whole milk, 2% or even no milk. High sugar, low sugar, no sugar.

I’ve brewed it in a canteen cup over a propane camp stove in the Adirondacks

I’ve ground my own beans (which is fun, although if I’m honest, I didn’t notice much of a difference)

I remember some of the old days when I was historical reenacting, every campfire would have a pot going on it, and nobody was shy about sharing. Stop by to say hello to someone, and you’re drinking piping hot black coffee that had been brewing all morning out of a tin cup that was turned hot enough by the liquid to almost become molten itself.

I’ve had the fancy flavored stuff from swank coffee shops, created with ingredients and procedures that my uncultured tongue could hardly pronounce. Picture if you will, a Neanderthal standing in front of a genuine hipster barista, grunting and pointing to something on the giant chalk board behind the counter, and you’ll get the idea of what I look like in a coffee shop.

 

Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Tim Hortons, Flying J, and gas stations far too numerous to tabulate, much less name. I’ve partaken in them all. I’ve had great coffee, I’ve had lousy coffee, I’ve had flat-out BAD coffee. Strong, weak, light, sweet, black, two steps from being pure mud. I’ve brewed it myself from river water, tap water, brita-filtered water….

50% Certified coffee? What is the rest of it? Pebbles and frog poop? Oh well. Drink anyway.

 

You get the idea.

My point is that I’m a coffee drinker. It has become nearly as necessary for me as breathing. I look upon its wonder as a tool for survival. My enjoyment comes from having a cup of it in my hands, its origins or even quality are not important to me. A hot cup of coffee on a cold morning is one of the best things in the world. A hot cup of coffee on a warm morning while awake and outside before anyone else gets up, IS the best thing in the world.

Many of my hobbies and professions practically REQUIRE you to be a coffee drinker.

-5am fire alarms for a structure fire in January. Temperatures so cold that the hose lines need to be left cracked open so the water in them doesn’t freeze….someone always brings coffee.

-Ambulance shifts in the dead of night, carrying an elderly patient from their home across a front lawn covered in knee deep snow, there’s always a coffee run before we go back in service.

-Night shifts on the police department. Mid week. Season notwithstanding. Hanging out in the front seat of a patrol car on a radar post…you’d better have a cup of coffee in your hands.

-Not to mention the tech work, where if I don’t have coffee in me before dealing with clients, I’d lose my mind.

So while I don’t judge anyone for being picky with the coffee they drink, I don’t understand it. Though I wonder if their enjoyment of the coffee has too much to do with the actual drink itself, rather than the experience of HAVING the drink.

For me, coffee has been as much a social lubricant as beer. It has been a driving factor keeping me through all nighters in college, late nights on the fire line or patrol, and key to the survivability of the day following a sleepless night with one or both of the boys. merely HAVING a sip of the stuff is enough for me to enjoy it, regardless of what it tastes like, or where it came from.

Some of us enjoy our coffee, and that’s perfectly fine. Me? I enjoy HAVING my coffee.

All images shamelessly taken from my own instagram account. If the nature of this post hasn’t given you an idea of just how much I love the stuff, follow me there at-  coffee4daddy

The Looming Spectre of Kindergarten

Not all that long ago, The Narrator openly and verbally rebelled against the idea of going to school. We would mention pre-school and he would have a conniption. This worried us a little bit, since he had grown up virtually by himself. Sure, there were playgroups, and story time at the library, but most of his days were spent with mommy. We were terrified that he was becoming maladjusted and antisocial. He took the “Don’t talk to strangers” thing so seriously, that added to the list of people he shouldn’t talk to were family and friends as well.

The kid would take 20 minutes to warm up to his own grandparents some times. About the instant we worried that we were in trouble with him- he flicked a switch.

“Mommy, I think I’m ready for school.”

Just like that. Four years old and ready to make his way. This was late in the summer of last year, and my wife went ballistic trying to find a pre-k or preschool that would take him. We finally found one, which turns out is an amazing institution which reversed his shyness and built upon him a set of social skills that I am not worried about when his time comes to enter Kindergarten. He’s no longer terrified of people. He’s become social and outgoing, not to the point where I’m worried about him chasing after an unmarked van for promised candy, but enough that I don’t see him hiding under a blanket under a teacher’s desk later on.

He starts Kindergarten this fall.

My little man will be five years old in just 19 days, and in a few months, he heads off to begin his full-time career in school. We all know how it can be an emotional time for parents, but yesterday it hit me already. And I mean it HIT ME.

I didn’t weep or anything, but I felt myself getting a bit morose, especially since I was sitting at my work desk doing very little of any value. I couldn’t help but think that I’ve been missing so much. My myriad of jobs has me out more than in, and when I am home, keeping my eyes open is a struggle, or I’m tacking down domestic errands. I honestly and truly feel like his growing up has snuck up on me, and while I stare my rapidly growing little boy in the face, I can hardly remember what it was like when he NEEDED me.

I know, based on certain cultural and gender stereotypes, I’m supposed to be stoic and quiet about his entry into school this fall, but I’m not going to bother with that. I’m probably not going to bawl on the front porch when the school bus picks him up, but can bet your ass I’ll be waiting like a puppy at the window in the afternoon when he comes home.

One of the most rewarding things about being a parent is watching your kids develop to the point where they can think and act for themselves. But that very same blessing is also a trial. Especially when you’re not there all the time to watch it, and especially when you realize that they’re developing and evolving beyond the need for you to be there at their elbow every second of every day.

I woke up this morning and started getting ready for work. As I came out of the shower, I heard tiny voices. Peeking into the living room, I see The Narrator wide awake and playing with his toys, nice and quietly to avoid waking anyone up. He greeted me cheerily, which made it so much harder to walk out the door 20 minutes later for work, having been around him long enough to get him a drink and kiss him goodbye. The boy is starting to make headway into becoming his own person, and every time I pull out of the driveway, I hope to God that I’ve spent the time I’ve had with him wisely enough that when he starts to spend all day at school with brand new people, any influence I have had on him will be positive.

Abuse, Torture, and Excuse.

With agility testing for various agencies on the table in the near future, I decided to go for a run yesterday.

It had been six months since I’ve ran a single solitary step. Once winter hit, the most strenuous physical activity I completed was whining about shoveling snow.

…Yes, I expended more energy complaining than I actually did shoveling.

The weather seems to want to be getting warmer, and I decided it was time to shake the rust and dorito dust from my bones. Besides, when The Narrator saw me without a shirt and referred to my ‘boobies’ – That is about as good a time as any to take the slack out of the workout routine. I’m not chubby, misshapen, or lumpy, but I’ve gotten soft this winter, and spending 4 days a week in a computer chair hasn’t helped any.

So out I went. The weather called for fifty degrees, the sun was shining, and I was meeting one of my buddies who had the same idea I did about trying to shed the winter gut. My expectations were not spectacular. “I’m not even going to time myself” I said, which turned out to be a flat lie.

When I entered the academy at 29 years old, my passing standard was 11:58 on a 1.5 mile run. Only once in practice tests did I fail to meet that, but I was suffering from bronchitis, and we were running the test outside in the winter, so my lung capacity was about the same as that of a field mouse. Largely, I had no trouble passing the test. Then I turned 30 halfway through the academy and was told that my standards had gone DOWN since I was in a new age bracket. Now all I needed was a 12:24.

Rather than seize the opportunity to slack off a bit, I decided I would make it my goal to hold and beat the standards of the younger crowd. And I did too. I ended up qualifying with an 11:10 on a day when the temperatures were soaring into the mid nineties. Triumph tasted good.

Also tasting good have been the school lunches, snacks, and whatnot that I have since consumed. I knew yesterday wasn’t going to be any record-breaker, but I wanted to know where I stood compared to old, awesome me.

Six months of punishing my body for no good reason had the expected effects.
By the first 21 feet of the run, I was gasping and wheezing like a lifetime-smoker trying to outrun a bear. Thirty feet later, the knee boo-boo that I sustained the day I dropped The Narrator on the ice reminded me it was still there.

About halfway through the run at what I thought was a reasonable pace, I began to feel honest-to-God pain. I can’t tell you where in my anatomy it started, but by the time it had ceased to spread, well…there was nowhere else for it to spread to. From the top of my pointy little head, down to the soles of my somehow-still-moving feet, I hurt. I crossed the line still running and checked my phone’s timer.

12:42

Abysmal. Over two minutes slower than my best ever time on the 1.5. Winter had not been kind to me, nor had I been kind to me either.

Now come the excuses.

-First of all, I’m still not completely over the plague that we got in the house not long ago. The cough still lingers a bit.
-Second, the thermometer said Forty-one degrees when I set out, but those things are notorious for their failure to remind you about wind chills. When I got home and the “Feels Like” Temperature was a lot less….It was no wonder my lungs felt like those frozen water balloons with food coloring in them that you see on Pinterest. -Third, the trail was originally designed as a bike trail. It is littered with hills, curves, banks, and bends.

I’m convinced that with a proper track, warmer weather, and a bit more time to get over the cough and practice a little, my time might be back down to where I’m not ashamed of it anymore.

But the punishment for my laxity was not limited to the discomfort of yesterday’s post-run pain. Oh no. For you see, TODAY I am in a bit of trouble. My legs have taken on a soreness that I don’t think I’ve felt since day #2 of the academy, and my chest is also tight, presumably because I overused the muscles while gasping for oxygen for nearly 13 minutes straight.

Look kids. Exercise is important. You can’t go outside, or even stay inside anymore without someone telling you indirectly that you’re not good enough. TV commercials are loaded with content about health, signs, posters, and entire radio programs are dedicated to making you and me better. But none of these ‘helpful’ bits of programming or advertizing tell the truth. None of them mention just how terrible running is. Running is the worst, and HAVING to do it is bad enough. I can’t imagine doing it and calling it fun. Look at the faces of every jogger you see on the road. Every one of them looks as though they’re being tortured, and they are. I’ve been there.

The good news is that I might NOT have to run for a while. One of the positions I’m aiming for actually might take my test scores from the academy as acceptable for my entrance into consideration for the job. If I never post again, its because they told me I have to take the test again, and I’ve died while trying to train for something so terrible as running.

Technology Doesn’t Hate You…

When I was an education major in college, I was packed off to a school to do some field training, or “Student Teaching.” I worked alongside two teachers in the school who taught in my field.

I learned something not long after I got settled in and started to pay attention.

Teachers spend a TON of time complaining about…everything. Lunch time in the faculty lounge was no different than the gaggle of junior high girls at their lockers after 4th period who met for such philosophical discussions as to which student teacher was cuter (There were two of us. I lost out to the math guy.) Or how boring the class they’re going to next is. It was the same thing, although perhaps not quite in content.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if the teachers ever compared me and the math guy….huh.

Anyway.

I used to sit silently during my 40 minute lunch period and just listen. The usual targets were other teachers, whom I expect reciprocated their complaints during THEIR lunch periods, administration, regulations, testing, and yes…even their students. I gained valuable incite to the inner workings of the educator’s mind. Most of them loved their jobs, but they loved to complain about it even more.

I left the field of education just as the classroom evolved to become more technologically centered. This gave people of my generation a hard-on. New toys in the classroom man! Woo! The older crowd glared menacingly over their glasses. These were the same people that resisted the move from chalkboards to whiteboards, and from the backs of coal shovels for homework to spiral-bound notebooks. Technology represented everything that was wrong with education. I remember one guy I used to have to walk slowly through the simplest of technology procedures used to keep two sets of grade books. The electronic one that he was mandated to send to the office every semester, and his paper copy- because he “didn’t trust the computer.”

Some of the teachers I dealt with probably wept openly when public schools abolished corporal punishment, so the very idea that they would have computers in their room was outrageous. With the education world being dominated by people of liberal political leanings, their attitude towards schooling itself was as terrifyingly conservative as you can imagine.

But the change was not to be stopped. Time marches inexorably forward, and the were handed laptops, projectors, smart boards, and more. Again, you could hear the cheers and shouts of ecstasy from the rookies, but the sounds of protest from the older crowd quieted to a dull murmur, and for a while, it looked like everyone was going to get along. Administrators smiled and patted each other on the back. “See? I told you!” “I knew they’d love it once they got used to it!”

And everyone sees how wrinkle-free the technology went into the classroom.

……..Except for the tech guys.

On paper all of the teachers in the school I work in now are flawlessly and happily using their technology, and all is right with the world.

The reality of it is, that their resistance has gone underground. A clandestine network of hatred geared towards the technological advancements that their younger colleagues and administrators so happily embrace.
One of my teachers, a veteran of about 300 years on the education system, had at one point not one, not two, but THREE laptops broken and sitting on a shelf in our office. Physical damage is also common. I can’t tell you how many times I go to fix a machine for one of the veterans and find keys missing, screens cracked, hinges demolished, or cords that look like they’d been chewed on- and the excuse is always the same. “I found it like that one day.”

The worse though….is the complaining.

“Technology hates me” is a favorite claim of one of my regular ‘customers’ in the school. Ninety percent of the problems she calls me for are either minor or completely imaginary. There are also the ones who take no time at all to bother learning how to use their equipment, and their misuse eventually leads to failure, and I’m called in a rage because “This piece of crap won’t let me do my job.”

FORGET trying to actually teach them anything either. I was once scheduled on a conference day to give several demonstrations on the functionality of smart boards as well as briefly outline how they could be integrated into the classroom lessons. A half a dozen classes were scheduled for the day. I had three slots where nobody showed up at all, and the ones where I did have participants- all they did was bullshit with each other the whole time, in a display of inattention and disrespect that would have gotten a student thrown out of their instructional period.

But, these lessons gave them more ammunition. When something went wrong “Oh, he never taught us that.”

At one point I was even called in and chastised by the administration at my old job because I was “Course and disrespectful” in a group email that I had sent to the faculty. We had instituted a new program where teachers could post lesson plans, test results, calendars, everything- on a personalized school affiliated web site. Parents could request an account that would be tied with their child’s schedule and have access to the class information. Upon the announcement, parents signed up in DROVES because they wanted to know what was going on in their kids’ classes. I assigned dozens if not hundreds of parent accounts in the first few weeks of the program. Then, the gleeful requests from parents changed to angry complaints that there was no information on the site from any of the teachers. I sent a probing message to the faculty basically asking “what the fuck?” (slightly kinder words, but this was literally the gist) I told them that we had innumerable parents complaining that there was no information for them to view on this brand new, shiny, and exciting system, and I asked if they could make an effort to at least put something up to mollify the masses. Well, because I backed them into a corner, they complained to the superintendent, and I was called onto the carpet for being rude to the teachers.

I’m convinced that instance was less a problem with ME than it was the fact that the stalwarts were being pushed into having to use the technology that was being made available.  I know for a fact that there is STILL an underground guerrilla war being waged in schools by teachers against the “Rise of the Machines.” I’ll fix problems by day for them, only to have secret ninja agents of destruction whisper out of the shadows at night and undo the repairs, cause more problems, or take whatever action necessary to undermine the damned computers.

This is not to say that all of the ‘old hands’ are guilty of undermining the technological advancements of education. In fact, we have one woman at the school I work at now who has devoted a significant amount of time to not only learning, but mastering the technology she is given to work with. She has been teaching since the days where they had to shoo the stegosaurus out of the cave before they could begin the morning math lessons.  I’m reasonably convinced though, that this poor woman is not well received by her aged colleagues, who see her as a traitor to their noble cause of bringing back the ‘old ways.’

As for me? The war wages on. The broken laptops, the mundane fixes, the imaginary problems, the viruses resulting from easily (and perhaps intentionally) falling for those “Click here” scams….. I am a war profiteer. The bloodless conflict that wages between the veterans of the good old days and the machinery that is going to take over the world is my oyster. As annoying as “My computer hates me” is…every time I hear it, that’s bread on the table.

Fight on.

Sleep, Where Hast Thou Gone?

As cyclic a change as the seasons or even the days of the week, so is the sleeping and rest routine in our house. I imagine the situation mirrors the millions of other families out there with children under the age of 10.

For a few nights in a row, my schedule relents, the baby sleeps, and The Narrator won’t have any nightmares. We awake refreshed and ready to start the day.
Then, a shift in the paradigm. The planets lose the required alignment for rest and respite. The tides change and the winds of discord blow through the hallways of our domicile.

Someone will get sick. I work a double. The baby has another tooth shearing through the flesh that are his gums. Ambulance call. Fire call. Early morning rises for work, appointments, a nightmare, someone else gets sick, everyone else gets sick, another double….

All with such head spinning and gut-wrenching rapidity that before very long you realize that your total hours of sleep over the last three days are still hovering in the high single digits. Night time becomes a blur of restlessness, half-sleep, and care giving. Days morph into lurching movements, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and a constant flow of coffee, tea, and cough drops. The television drones nearly constantly in an effort to distract the children long enough for you to sneak a shower. Hours at work become a smudged line of meaningless numbers on a clock which you stare at relentlessly wondering when, Oh God When, are you allowed to go home? Your hope of return is dashed as the cold water of reality strikes your face as you realize that when you get home, the cycle of hellatious nights and impossible days will only continue.

Then.

It stops.

The coughing goes quiet. The tooth cut through. The nightmare doesn’t come. The pagers stay quiet, and the schedule slackens. For the first time since what seems like the dawn of time, the coffee pot lay silent, resting. The baby monitor fails to elicit squeals of agony or irritation from the bundle of joy. The oldest child has brushed his teeth without the threat of global conflict and fell asleep halfway through story time.

You slump on the couch knowing that your beautiful bed is just a few rooms away. The pillows invite you with songs of temptation reminiscent of the mythical sirens, the blankets promising a comfort you haven’t felt since you yourself were in the womb. And yet… and yet you can’t go. The paralysis of exhaustion seizes your being and you lose consciousness on the couch or love seat, wrapped in a blanket that smells like cheerios and apple juice to the sounds of prime-time television shows. The bliss of bed, mere moments away has nothing on the sheer, unadulterated ecstasy that is immediate sleep.

Thus is the cycle of parenthood. Thus is the circle of sleep. You know someday you’ll be able to crawl into bed at a decent hour and get a good night’s rest on a regular basis, but for now….you’ve grown used to the random hours of sleep you can grab on the peaceful nights, and the random minutes you can get on the terrible ones. It isn’t so bad. Being tired at this point is as much a part of your life as breakfast is. Unless of course you skipped breakfast because you slept through the alarm clock. Or forgot to set it in the first place.

I promise, you get used to it.

Out of Coffee.

There is a direct relationship between the urgency of our need to grocery shop, and the amount of coffee is left in the house. This morning indicated a DEFCON-5 need to hit the store on the way home from work. With the boys being ill the last few days, my wife has hit the coffee pretty hard during the day to make sure she’s able to function. Last night was particularly bad so the need for it this morning was a borderline emergency.

Mini-Me was up most of the night fussing and coughing. He’d done well the night before, but relapsed last night. The lack of sleep and subsequent irritation and exhaustion on behalf of both parents led to us having an argument in the middle of the night which lasted much longer than it should have, and started over something fairly trivial.

Ever notice that? Fights at night when everyone is exhausted can go 0-60 quicker than a Sesto Elemento and usually over something that really isn’t that big a deal to start with.

Anyway. Exhausted to start, a bit of a fight that extended into the late hours/early morning, and a baby that still wasn’t thrilled with the idea of sleeping more than an our or so at a time. I don’t know how good at math you are, but those three factors add up to a miserable start to the day. The saving grace for lousy mornings is an immediate cup of coffee.

Alas….There was none to be had. Chastise me if you will for allowing our supply to deplete to such critical levels, I deserve it. Lucky for me, I had a backup plan. I left the still-icy house and puttered to the gas station to fill the car up before heading to work. Gas station coffee is not noted for its quality, but it is certainly welcome in an emergency. Then a thought occurred.

While sipping my delicious, life-saving cup o’ joe…I pulled back into our driveway and brought a 16oz peace offering to the Mrs. I don’t think it was enough to reverse the stupidity of last night’s spat, but it was noticeably warmer when I trundled back out the door and finally headed to work. Maybe bringing home a pound or two of “the good stuff” this afternoon will get me the rest of the way off the hook. If it doesn’t, at least I’ll have something to drink after another night on the couch.