Planting Things: Pt. 1

I briefly mentioned in my last post that The Narrator and I have taken a whack at some horticulture. I know absolutely nothing about gardening. When I was a kid, my father scratched out a small plot of land in the rocky soil near the house and planted a few things like radishes, zucchini, and some tomatoes. My mother had planter boxes on the porch with flowers and such too, but as for me, the only thing I’ve been able to grow are various cultures of mold completely by accident when I forget about foodstuffs. This has lessened significantly since I’ve been married since my wife is not a slob and highly encourages me not to be as well.

We took a trip to the store a few weeks ago to pick out some seeds and supplies. We decided to start with things that could be initially cultivated in those little window pots, then transplanted later on. I wanted food, The Narrator wanted flowers. We got 8 little planter pots and put tomatoes in four of them, and flowers in the other four. We stuck them in what seems like the only window in the house that gets sun, and waited.

Lo and behold, after less than a week, there were signs of life. Our first flower pot began to sprout. He was overjoyed, and I was shocked. We’d managed to grow something. A few days later, all four of the flower pots began to sprout, and not long after that, the first tomato plant. Now, all eight pots have sprouted, and we both check them multiple times a day- as if there will be measurable progress between when we leave for work and school, and when we go to bed. I wish I could say it was just him doing it, but no…I’m just as bad.

My next step is going to figure out the transplanting. Where we live, the ground is nothing but rocks with some dirt scattered over the top of them. Not only that, but we’re renting the property and I don’t feel like digging up a patch of not-our-yard for a few tomato plants and some flowers, not to mention coming up with an elaborate system to protect them from the various wild animals which would gladly feed on anything green. With a plethora of deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and skunks, we’d be picked clean before the first flower bloom.

However, I think I’ve hit upon an absolutely brilliant solution which would not only solve the animal problem, but keep me from breaking my back and various gardening tools as I try to dig through the rock-garden that is our yard. Stay tuned, I think you’re going to like this.


The Insane World of the Five Year Old; Second Guessing Myself as a Parent

The Narrator and I are not getting along very well lately in some quarters.

His stubborn streak is fighting against my impatient streak and we’re both losing. For homework the other day (Yeah, homework in kindergarten still doesn’t make sense to me.) he had to ‘see how many numbers you can write on a piece of paper. The kid knows his numbers very well, and has excellent handwriting. He decided he wanted to see if he could fit all the numbers up to 100 on the page, so he started with teeny-tiny little numbers. Then, he realized that might take longer than the six seconds he was wiling to dedicate to the project and froze up.

He melted in his chair, began to complain that his whole body hurt, cried, whined, mewled, and flat-out refused to write more than one number at a time, each one necessitated by either my wife or I saying something like “Okay, please write the next one.”

The entire process took nearly fifteen minutes and each second grated on me like you wouldn’t believe. When you KNOW your child knows something, and KNOW they have the ability to do it quickly and efficiently, yet refuse to do so on some unfathomable principal, it is infuriating.

This is a constant event around our house too. Cleaning up his toys, eating his dinner, doing his homework, If the things we give him to do are outside his scope of what he considers interesting or necessary, it is a fight. He resists. I push. He cries. We both get yelled at.

My theory is that things need to become a bit more unpleasant for him- the idea that NOT doing the things he’s supposed to do will result in consequences that are not to his liking. My wife tells me that doesn’t work on him. I maintain that it WILL if we give it enough time, but I was overruled and my less-than-friendly approach to things was rejected in favor of more….peaceful approach.

The point is, he’s not responding to any sort of prodding on ANY matters, but we cannot afford to let him do things at his own pace all the time, or- he’d finish his breakfast in time to catch the bus for his first day of junior high, and his dinner would be broken down and carried off by fruit flies before it was completely eaten.

He isn’t troublesome or defiant, he is just resistant to being told to do anything that either isn’t A) his idea, or B) anything he thinks is worth doing at the moment.

Now, when we’re not dealing with matters of discipline, he and I are getting along amazingly. He and I are experimenting with plants. I’ve never grown anything but mold, and he’s learning about seeds and things in school, so we took a crack at planting some a week or so ago. He and I were equally amazed with all eight of our starter pots sprouted plants. We have four tomato plants, two forget-me-not pots, and two pansy pots.

That has become our project, and sometime after Easter when I construct the outdoor planter, he’s going to be helping me every step of the way….except for the part with the saw. I’ll probably leave him out of that.


As I write this, I think I realize the issue.

I’ve become more of a buddy to him than a parent/authority figure. We’re constantly doing the ‘fun’ things. We fish, hike, hunt, do work outside, I took him to NYC to the museum, we plant things and do projects together. Is this why he resists when I try to get him to do something he doesn’t want to? Is he seeing me as a PEER more than a parent? Is it made worse now that I’m working nights and don’t see him as much as I used to- then try to fill the time we DO have together with the ‘fun stuff?’

The more I dwell on this, the worse the feeling in my gut. Did I miss the chance to establish myself as someone that needs to be respected, and have firmly entrenched myself as ‘one of the guys’ to a five year old, such that when I push him to do something, he sees it like being bullied by one of his friends?

I know nothing about child psychology, and matters of the adult mind are enough to give me a migraine….but I honestly and truly worry that I have not established myself to my son as an authority figure. Not that I want to be a hardass with him, not at all. I LIKE having my ‘little buddy’ but at the same time, I need him to know when I tell him to do things for his own good, or- in the unlikely event that I have an important lesson to teach him- I need him to take something away from it.

And honestly- I reached the conclusions in the last half of this post while writing the first half.

There is much to ponder, and I don’t like the feeling I’ve given myself today.

Damn it, parenting is hard. We should have just raised ducks.

It’s Okay To Be Wrong

The results from yesterday’s parent-teacher conferences are in. Academically, our little kindergartener is doing very well. He is doing spectacular in math, and his teacher described him as a ‘very kind and caring boy.’

He’s about average- where he should be with reading, although he’s hitting a minor stumbling block- his own bull-headed stubbornness. You see, the boy is very much his mother’s son. Things need to be ‘just so’ and absolutely right the first time. If he’s reading and comes across a word he doesn’t know, he’ll take a run at it. But if he doesn’t nail it the first time, all of a sudden, it is impossible, and he shuts down.

We are trying to teach him that he’s in school now because he DOESN’T know everything and that he’s there to learn. Making mistakes is part of learning.

He won’t have any of it. If he can’t read a word, or perfect a skill on the first try, “Its impossible” or “I’m just the worst.”

We can’t for the life of us figure out where he picked this up from. My wife has ALWAYS been encouraging of him, and I’m trying my damnedest not to push him too hard when we try new things.

His confidence level is his biggest problem right now. Even his teacher said that if he gets beyond that, he’ll be right up near the top of the class.

She related to us a story from the other day.

-For St. Patrick’s day, the teacher moved some things around in the classroom, as if a leprechaun has been there and played a trick on them. The ‘leprechaun’ also left a small plastic gold coin in each one of their cubbies. When the class got back, they were excited about the findings. The Narrator though, looked thoughtfully at the gold coin and noticed that it had a pirate stamp and treasure chest on it. (Those were the only coins the teacher had) He went to the teacher and said with narrowed eyes… “Mrs. C….this is pirate gold. I don’t think a leprechaun left this here.”

The teacher told us her reaction was “Uh oh…how do I get around THIS one?”

He’s bright, thoughtful, and kind, but needs to realize that he can’t be prefect.

His only other little setback he gets from me. No question. He’s constantly worried about the other kids in his class. He’s not ratting them out or anything, but he’s trying to help so often that he forgets to take care of himself.

I’ll help him with that….as soon as I figure out how correct it in myself first.

All in all, he’s doing very well and we’re extremely proud of him. I am a LITTLE annoyed though, apparently, at 5, his handwriting is already better than mine.

Parenting and Bike Riding

The Narrator is rapidly approaching his 6th birthday, and while he’s still very much a child, there is no doubt that the world is coming at him hard and fast. We’re having to explain more complex and important issues to him at home, and whatever we do with him now will resonate for a very long time.

At his age right now, raising him is a lot like teaching him how to ride his bike.
I need to make sure the training wheels are on right and hold onto him as he pushes the pedals slowly and awkwardly down the road at first. I’ll hold the handlebars to make sure he doesn’t turn too sharply and fall.

He’ll get bigger, smarter, and stronger, and soon I’ll jog alongside him as he does it himself. I’ll reach out and catch him when he starts to fall, and…..I’ll let a few of the falls happen. He needs to learn to take those falls, and get back on the bike.

Then, I’ll stand back and let him ride out a ways on his own. Still ready to run after him if things go wrong, and still counting on those training wheels that I gave him to do their job.

Eventually…not yet- The training wheels will come off. Then he’ll balance on what I’ve taught him and what he’s learned of his bike and his body all on his own. If one of those lessons are lopsided, he’ll continue to fall until he figures it out. This is crucial. Some people never seem to figure it out, and continue to fall for a very long time.

The last step is watching as he pedals out of sight for the first time. Up the hill and around the corner. Strong on his practice and lessons. If he comes back unscathed, he’s ready and there’s nothing I can do but let him grow.

Good Luck Kid.

The trick to successful bike riding and indeed successful parenting- is knowing how long to hold on, and when to let go. If I just plunked him on the bike and said “Figure it out!” He’s probably going to end up seriously worse for wear. If I hover over him forever, he’s eventually going to resist everything I tell him about bike riding, try something rash, and end up hurt as well.

Life and growing up aren’t any different. Parents cannot just figuratively say “Figure it out!” when it comes to the real world. Nor can we hold hands constantly or we risk being pulled away from.

The trouble, and what I worry about constantly- is finding the balance. How ‘tough’ do I need to be on him so he learns lessons from me, and how much distance do I give him to figure things out on his own?

The good thing is- I’m not doing it all on my own. My wife and I compliment each other fairly well. I often accuse her of being too overprotective, and she often balks when I hand the 5 year old the keys and tell him to “Go start the car.”

I’m just terrified that I’m going to do something that results in a lop-sided lesson. I’ll leave something out, I’ll harp too much on something….and he falls harder than he would have if I’d done my job correctly. Maybe he’ll break something. Maybe he’ll get a scar because daddy didn’t tell him about something, or was too hard about something else. Or, worst of all- stopped paying attention when things got dangerous.

When The Narrator comes home from school for summer vacation, I’ll be very grateful for the fact that I work at night and will get to spend days with him. I’ve already got a lot of activities planned out for the time we’ll get to have, and- scary though it may be for both of us….we have a lot of bike riding to do.

Coldless Cold.

I’ve been whining about winter since the first snow flake as fallen, and half of my readers I’m sure are looking forward to spring not only because heating bills will be lower and the feeling will begin to creep back into their extremities, but also because I’ll shut up about it already.

The one thing DO have to be thankful for this winter, is that for some reason, I’ve skipped getting sick. Like…at all. Historically, I’m on tap for at least one good chest/head cold that leaves a wracking cough for about a week or two. This year? Not a sniffle.

If you’re a superstitious individual, you might be thinking that I’m on the verge of jinxing myself.

At first I was wondering if maybe I had done something that made me superhuman. Perhaps some dietary change to include the magic bullet for immune boosting? Then I remembered that just the other night I ate a pint of chocolate ice cream, and ruled that possibility out.

Then it hit me- It isn’t that I’ve been healthier…no, not at all.

It’s that its been too freakin cold for any viruses or germs to survive outside of a human host long enough to be transferred to another human being.

When an outdoor sneeze transforms to gentle snowflakes, or a running nose changes from one stage of matter to another, even the germ-infested kindergarten that The Narrator gets packed off to every day is effectively quarantined by the walks to and from the bus. Germs are being killed off by the extreme weather, and I feel like a million bucks.

Thanks Winter.

Now go away.

Easter Weekend

Holidays have always been a bit of a challenge for us, ever since we had kids. We painstakingly set up schedules which rotated between families to be visited, trying to allot a reasonable amount of time with each so one set of grandparents doesn’t feel jilted.

I’ve mentioned before that I love my parents and my in-laws deeply, but cannot help but feel like there’s a competition between them for who gets to spend the most time with the grand-kids….especially since we STILL have the only grandchildren in either family.

So, we would usually switch out Thanksgiving and Easter. If we went to my parents this year for Thanksgiving, we would travel for Easter to my wife’s parents. Then we would switch next year. Smaller holidays would be played by ear.

Christmas was ALWAYS done at home though. That was ours. At least, of course until both sets of families decided to make sure they visited US.

It’s been a minor hell trying to schedule everything.

This year though….it is going to be different. I’m going to be selfish. My wife and I are supposed to go to my in-laws for Easter this year.

The trouble is, since they’re an hour and a half away, it isn’t easily turned into a day trip so overnights are required, especially with the little ones. And, since I work the ambulance on Friday nights, and PD on Sunday mornings, the visitation times are impractical.

I’m seeking to change that and not tell anyone. Except you. I think I can trust you not to rat me out.

One of the benefits of working full time now, is that if I can find someone to take the Sunday shift from me, I can get it off with pay. So I’ve started hunting for a replacement. IF I manage to get the day off, I’m also taking off the Friday night ambulance shift.

That will give me all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning as a break in what has become a pretty intense work schedule. And I don’t plan on sharing it with ANYONE except my family. We’re not going anywhere. Even though I’m freeing up the time so we COULD travel….we ain’t.

I’m staring the possibility of three whole days off with my wife and kids after what will be two straight months of 52-57 hour work weeks. As much as I love my extended family, I don’t want to deal with any of them over that short stint of the closest thing to a vacation I’ll have had in years.

But, I am worried that my in-laws will invite themselves up on Easter Sunday and ruin my plans. Or that MY family, who is very local, will ‘drop by.’  It is a feeling of fear as weighty as the joy at the prospect of some time off.

I need a plan.

I need a lie.

I need that f*ing time alone with my family.

The Lost Tooth

Now for something a tad less laden with whining from me:

The Narrator lost his first tooth this morning. That, coupled with his conjunctivitis, makes his head a minor disaster zone.
…..also he has a slight abrasion on his eyelid where he faceplanted into my holster the other day running to give me a hug when I came in to visit while I was working.

So yeah. ‘ole ‘Head Wound’ is in full swing.

Any way. He’s had a wiggler for a couple of weeks now. This morning, while he was crying about having to go to the doctor for his pink eye, we noticed that the tooth was hanging by a minor thread. We mentioned it to the normally squeamish five-year-old, who reached into his mouth and promptly plucked it out.

Now, I have no idea why- but this loose and wiggling tooth has been giving me the willies since he’s gotten it.
I’ve used scalpel blades to cut open fingers to remove splinters.
I once dug out a plantar’s wart when I was in high school….with a swiss army knife. (Very dumb)
Hell, one of my jobs is to chauffeur to the hospital people with various ailments that may or may not include a plethora of bodily fluids.
I’ve handled corpses at accidents, and once- a burn victim from a house fire

….all without negative effect. No problem whatsoever. No gagging, puking, nightmares, or passing out. I once did an ambulance call that took an HOUR to get to the preferred hospital, with the patient puking the entire trip. My EMT was green when we got there, but I was okay. I wasn’t HAPPY about it, but suffered no (wait for it)….. ILL effects. (yuk yuk)

But for some reason…the fact that part of my son’s head was popping loose was enough to make me cringe. He’d come running up to me and tell me to ‘feel how wiggly it is!’ and I could barely do it. There’s something irritating about devoting so very much time to a small child in an effort to PREVENT their body parts from falling off or out- only to have it happen anyway.

He was terribly excited about it, so I felt a little guilty when I told him “Congratulations, that’s part of your skeleton you’re holding” …which might have freaked him out a little. I got the stink eye from the Mrs. over that one.

The funniest part though, is his little brother. In full-on “Monkey see, Monkey do” action, the two-year old Mini-Me is running around trying to wiggle HIS teeth, and we can’t convince him that he ain’t even close yet.


Anyway, what’s the Tooth Fairy’s going rate for teeth these days?

Runnin’ On Empty

I’m completely siphoned of energy this morning readers. I got in from work about a half hour later than usual, and by the time I had a something to eat and went to bed, it was around 12:30.
My standard rule for my wife at night time is- if Mini-Me wakes up at any time before the morning, she is to wake me and I’ll deal with it.

Well, he woke up last night around 1:30. I heard him before he woke up my wife, and went in with him.
“Daddy?” Came the tiny little voice from the darkness: “I took a nap!”
In spite of things, I had to laugh. I put him back to sleep, dumped him in his crib, and went back to bed around 2:30.
5:30am, I’m being woken up again. This time, he woke up my wife, who did exactly what she was supposed to do, wake me up to deal with it…not knowing he’s already been awake.

Needles to say, his 5:30 wake up was the final one. There was no going back. I dragged his sleepless and grumpy little carcass out to the living room and turned on some Peppa Pig while I tried to doze on the couch for half an hour before everyone else woke up.

THAT doze was interrupted by my wife asking for help in the bathroom. Surprise! The Narrator has pink eye!

Which means he’s got to get to the doctor. No problem at all, except my car has a flat that I hadn’t fixed yet, so I had planned on taking my wife’s car to work today. In a surprising flash of thinking for a sleep and coffee-deprived brain, I called my father, who was working at the same school as I was headed to for the day. He came and picked me up, I was able to leave the car for my wife’s doctor run, and I’m now sitting at the old day job, ready for anything nothing.

My wife is gloomy with me because I didn’t take the day off from work, I didn’t bring a smidgen of cash with me for a school lunch, and I’m not going to make my father, who has already chauffeured me in today, drive me out to lunch this afternoon, so I’m effectively stuck until 3PM today without food, funds, or transportation….and MOSTLY, I’m stuck without coffee.

I’ve gone stretches without eating a substantial meal.
I’ve gone stretches without sleeping a solid sleep.

But no coffee? That dog won’t hunt Monsignor.

Wish me luck. Because in spite of the no coffee, I still need to go deal with a 5th grader who figured out how to access pornography on the school’s computers.


As I was doing a school check tonight, I saw a bunch of cars lined up outside of one of the entrances. I pulled up next to one and asked what was up. “Play practice” came the reply. Convinced that there was nothing afoot that required my attention, I went along on my merry way.
I drove along remembering back when I was in school, going to practices for the drama club.

Back then, our director was one of the social studies teaches, with a spectacular talent for putting on drama productions. He was a perfectionist too. He tolerated nothing but the best, even from the kids who worked with him. To say he was a cruel task master wouldn’t be fair, but he was a strict, vocal man whose end results were always worth the near hell it was to work under him at times. 
I started off doing lighting, my first show was a production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” I was a mere seventh grader, and was floored by the talent that the director was able to coax out of my older peers. The show went off amazingly, and I was hooked.

I remember that parents used to be very upset at him all the time because rehearsal would sometimes run late into the night, but we never minded, and nobody could argue with the results.

In spite entering the world of drama, In the technical field, I longed for stage roles…. mainly because I had a massive crush on one very talented girl at the time.

Eventually I landed a few supporting roles, and had great fun with them, but I realized pretty early on that I wasn’t really much of an actor. Instead, I found a calling backstage. Set construction, stage managing, and later, in college, fly operation.  Those jobs gave me free reign to use my skills of improvising and problem solving. The director would say “I want to do….. . Can you make it happen? ”
Myself and the inevitable crew of absolute geniuses would be given the task of “making it happen.”

I improvised solutions to problems that occurred in the middle of shows, and helped arrange rapid and complete set changes, designed and built sets in historic buildings that required everything to be free- standing since we couldn’t secure to walls…..

So much fun.

In college I spent a little more time on stage, landing a small role as a cop in a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” That was my last on stage show, and myself and the other cop had to improv a bit when one of the other actors jumped a whole page of script. We rapidly crammed the whole page into two lines and moved on.

After that I was strictly backstage and loved every minute of it.

When I left college, I managed to hook back up with my old high school director, since retired from the school, but working with another local theater group. I ended up backstage, along with my wife, on what to date has been My last show,  “Steel Magnolias.”

All told, I’ve been involved in about fifteen productions, in numerous capacities, and I miss the hell out of it.

I miss the time consuming process of learning cues, set changes, lines and the people I was working with.

I miss creating magic for people, and having fun doing it.

I miss people coming to me with problems that needed solving with duct tape, some airplane cable, decking screws, or some careful application of fireworks.

One of the major regrets in my life right now is that I don’t have the time for that anymore.  I know things change and we all have to move on, but some of the people I worked with, and the shows I spent time on occupy a huge positive part of my past.

The biggest thing was the payoff. Unlike a lot of things in life, the harder a team worked on a show, the more obvious it was come performance time.  I never worked with a crew who wasn’t willing to bust their asses to make sure the people onstage had everything they needed, and still were on call to make on the fly changes as circumstances might dictate.  I never worked with a cast who want willing to work with us as we tried things out to get it “just right.”

During a college performance of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” we spent almost a week with trial and error in attempt to fly in a wooden cross for the crucifixion scene that would be steady enough to actually hold the weight of an actor while being secured only by the wires that flew it in. The actors worked with us without complaint as we worked out a system that looked friggin awesome when we put it all together in the end.

Theater productions are as much, if not more about teamwork than any athletic undertaking, and I miss that. Even my six months in the police academy couldn’t match the level of teamwork and cooperation that even the smallest theater production could boast.

I guess I’m a bit nostalgic tonight. While technically I am still charged with problem solving every night, it isn’t quite the same. I miss the experiences and some of the spectacular people that I spent many nights on a darkened stage with. 

Ah well.