Birthdays, and Telling Family “No.”

The Narrator turns 6 on Monday. (Woah) We are planning on doing something nice for him this weekend and maybe having a party for his school friends and family in a week or so on an open weekend when the weather is a bit nicer. This weekend though, we are planning on taking it pretty easy.

In addition to tomorrow being my only day off for the week, it is my birthday, and per my request, we are doing as little as possible. It was a long work week and I need my down time.

Sunday I have to work in the morning, but I’ll be home around dinner time and we’ll probably celebrate The Narrator’s birthday then, since on his ACTUAL birthday on Monday, I’ll see him for a total of less than two hours between his school and my work schedule.
I tallied up some numbers the other day, and it turns out that I get to spend a little less than 29 hours a week with him- that is when we’re both home and awake- so the time I DO get with him is very precious and special, and on his birthday weekend, I want it to be exactly that.

Cue my in-laws.

My mother-in-law tried to invite herself up this weekend. They “Wanted to see The Narrator for his birthday.” They knew mine was Saturday and that we ‘probably have plans’ (we don’t, but still) so they wanted to come up Sunday.

Now, I understand that they would like to see him for his birthday, but she deliberately picked the day that I WOULDN’T be home to come up and see him, thus being the first people to celebrate his birthday with him- before even I can.

In a rare move, I rejected their plan to come up. My wife agrees- with the limited amount of time we all have together, the initial birthday needs to be an intimate affair. The idea that someone else would get to do it while daddy isn’t here….just is a lousy message and makes me feel like shit to think that anyone would even think that is a good idea.

“Hey, we know you won’t be there to celebrate your son’s birthday, do you mind if we do it?”

I didn’t wait for my wife to call her parents and tell them no. I did it myself.

I adore my in-laws. They’re wonderful people. But my mother-in-law in particular, has a tendency to think that since they’re an hour and a half away and my family is 7 miles away, that she’s being cheated out of spending time with her grandchildren, yet my side of the family gets the pleasure of seeing them all the time. This simply isn’t true- even MY family isn’t seeing us this weekend. I’m opting for a quiet Saturday with my wife and the boys, and Sunday after work will be when we celebrate our oldest son’s birthday, without hosting anything or worrying about anything other than ‘us.’

Honestly, adapting to my new work schedule hasn’t been all that difficult for ME, but it has been for our extended family. Working on Sundays means that our periodic visits are shortened. Adding my shifts to The Narrator’s school schedule, and we simply don’t have the time to accommodate everyone’s desires to see the kids.

But not once has anyone bothered to think for a moment that even I don’t get to spend time with my son that often and that the free time I DO have with him- I’d like to spend it trying to be a father instead of a host.

So I’ve managed to upset people in the extended family by cutting off access to us this weekend while we celebrate a few birthdays quietly and intimately.

….and I’m perfectly okay with that.

Let’s All Have A Tea Party!

While working a slow shift tonight, I decided I needed something to drink. The salt from my Chinese food dinner grabbed me hard and I was parched.
I stopped into the local gas station, the only place open in town at 9 pm on a week night in the off-season.

Lately I’ve been drinking more than my fair share of Arizona Green Tea, and grabbed a bottle from the cooler. At the counter are two young girls, a trainee and her more experienced partner. The trainee takes my drink and looks at the register.

“Hmm. What does this get rung up as? “
Her partner looks over. “Grocery?”
“No.” The trainee says. “It has to be tea, so it isnt taxed.”
The trainer looks at her, confused.
You can’t tax tea remember? The Boston Tea Party?”

….this immediately followed the lady who tried to tell me that her dog unlocked the car door from the inside, allowing medication to be stolen from therein.

I absolutely adore my job sometimes.

Planting Things- Part 2. (A Setback?)

Several weeks back, I posted about The Narrator and I deciding we were going to take a whack at some gardening. Our seedlings in all 8 pots sprouted, with the four tomato plants growing faster than I ever thought possible.

Here they are last week:

Fresh after Repotting

The four flower pots might be a problem, it MIGHT be that I stuck too many seeds in too small an area, so while they’ve sprouted nicely, I’m worried they’re in too dense a space. I’ve already repotted all 8 seedlings.

Every morning we checked our plants with pride. Every morning nothing has died is a victory.
Everything is still inside, I’ve yet to make the move to the outdoors with them since I haven’t gotten around to building the elaborate contraption we need to keep from digging into the rock-laden back yard.

You may recall that in the original post, I mentioned that this was something completely new for us. I even joked that the only thing I had been capable of growing to this point was mold.

Well, yesterday morning we woke up and found…..

A freakin mushroom. The speed at which it grew was amazing. It had not been there the day before when my wife watered the plants, and the picture above is the first time we saw it. I know mushrooms can grow quickly, but this surprised me.

We left it there, and this morning it was dead, slumped over and shriveling.

I’m in the middle of doing research to find out if the presence of fungus in houseplants is bad news, a harbinger of death….or nothing to worry about. Again, knowing absolutely nothing about growing things, and knowing the fungus usually occurs on rot…my 2+2 logic is leading me to believe that this single shroom isn’t good news…but time will tell.

Stay tuned for ‘the project’ – in which I construct a contraption which will allow outside planting of these things without uprooting every rock in the Catskills.

Luck of The Draw

The other night I took a break. An honest-to-God break. A buddy of mine is highly active in the conservation group Ducks Unlimited and they were hosting a “Sportsman’s Night Out” – a raffle event with the proceeds going towards wetland preservation. There would be beer, food, and friends. I brought along my youngest brother in law, and we went up to kick back for a little while. Even my wife told me. “Go. Spend money. Have fun.”

So I did.

Immediately upon entering the door there was a table selling “Super Raffle” tickets. $100 got you $150 worth of raffle tickets, plus a set of filet knives and some other branded trinkets. I bought in, and by the time we sat down for the raffles, I had dropped nearly $150 on that and a few other various raffles. The prizes were pretty cool, and again- the money was going to a great cause. My brother in law milled around a bit, but didn’t really pick up any tickets. He isn’t a huge hunter (yet, I’m working on it) but he was having fun all the same.

We came to a booth where they had a shooting simulator- basically an arcade game on a bigger screen. $10 got you a chance at the game, and a raffle ticket to win a rifle. He had no real interest in the raffle, but wanted to try his hand at the simulator. $10 spent, he got his ticket and proceeded to astound everyone around us with his skills at the sim. (His father is a firearms instructor, he grew up shooting.)

Raffle time, and we sat down with our food. My $150 worth of stubs are lined up in front of me.

I struck it lucky for one of the smaller prizes, but lost out on all the ones I had really been interested in. Then came the draw from the simulator booth. Mat says “Oh, hey, I’m in this one.”

They call the winning number.

“00224!”
“Damn! Mat says, I missed it by one. I have 00225.” We laughed and waited for the winner to claim the rifle. Nobody got up.
“00224? No? Okay, we’ll draw another one……How about…01327!”
….again….no answer. The drawer looked astonished.
“Nobody wants a rifle? Okay, third time’s the charm!……00225!”
“Hey! That’s me!”

Sure enough, Mat had the winning ticket, on the THIRD draw of the raffle, and SEQUENTIAL to the first ticket drawn…on the ONLY ticket he bought all night.

Some people say there’s no such thing as luck. I don’t believe that for a second.

The night over, we headed home. I had a great time and am already planning on going back next year. I’m grateful for my buddy who turned me on to the whole thing. I don’t even mind having spent the money because again- the cause was good and the chance to get away for just a few hours and relax was worth every damn dime.

Free-Range Parenting (Alternate Title- AD Makes Everyone Mad)

Unless you’ve slipped into a coma in the last week or so, you’ll no doubt have run across the story of the parents who let their 10 and 6 year old kids go off to the park alone. The police picked them up, the parents got in a bit of hot water, the police are being sued, and the internet is going insane over it.

The overwhelming majority of what I’m reading is coming down hard in favor of the parents, slamming the police for picking up the kids. (They did make an error, but I’ll get to that in a minute)

Internet commentary has largely been complaining that government agencies are literally picking our kids off the street, that we are creating a generation of fear, that the parents did nothing wrong, etc. There has been a LOT of “Back when I was a kid, we used to…..” or “We are stifling our children’s independence and creating a overprotective society!”

My take?

I’m in the lucky position to view this story from all three angles of it.

1. Where I grew up, I was granted a lot of freedom by my parents so I know what it was like to be out and about on my own or with my siblings.

2. I’m a parent. I have two boys that I want to grow up strong and independent.

3. I work in law enforcement.

So. That being said, and given what I know, who I am, where I’ve been, and what I’ve done?

The parents screwed up. Actually- no. Everyone screwed up a little in this story.

But it started with the parents screwing up. I completely understand the desire to allow your kids to grow up independent and strong…but letting them loose at 10 and 6 without any sort of supervision is endangerment. The world is simply not the same place as it was when we were kids. I’m quick to shake my head at the people who say “Bah! when I was a kid, my parents let me wander off all over the neighborhood, and as long as I was home when the street lights came on, I was okay.” Fantastic.

Old-age parenting techniques also may have included heavy-handed spankings when you messed up, bourbon on the gums when you were teething, and other such things which we try to avoid these days.

“But I turned out okay!”

Apparently not, since you think THIS is okay.

“But your way raises a generation of dependent wimps who can’t take care of themselves.”

No, I just think there are other ways to foster independent growth without the possibility of endangering safety. Even 20 years ago, when I was growing up, and my siblings and I were cut loose a bit, we had restrictions. Everyone in the ‘neighborhood’ I lived in had an eye on us when we biked to the post office or whatever. When we were in the woods, we had to stay in ‘earshot’ of my mother’s voice- which might sound like a short leash, but good LORD that lady could bounce her voice off of the hills behind our house pretty amazingly. We weren’t CONSTANTLY under my mother’s eye, but she knew where we were, what we were up to, and never far enough away that an emergency would turn into a crisis.

Simply letting your kids wander off to a park, or ‘free ranging’ them….sounds like an open invitation to disaster, and creating the possibilities of something going wrong, all in the name of making sure they’re ‘independent.’

Sorry, but as much as I want my kids to be independent, they can wait until they’re a bit older- enough to make decisions for themselves that aren’t going to be rooted in childish innocence or ignorance because nobody bothered to teach them otherwise.

Now- from a law enforcement side, if I’m driving down the road- even in the small town I work in, and I see two kids, 6 and 10 unsupervised? I’m going to pick them up. I’m going to make every effort to IMMEDIATELY contact their parents…not wait hours and hours as was the case in this story, although I expect that had less to do with actively detaining the kids, and more to do with ‘that’s how long it takes for CPS to react to something.’

Still, the parents would need to be contacted immediately. I could not, in good conscience, drive past a couple of unsupervised kids and not find out exactly what the hell is going on and where the parents are. No good cop, no good ADULT could do that.

Letting parents be parents is a great idea. Letting parents make mistakes as they learn HOW to parent is necessary. Letting parents put their kids at RISK because they’re trying to foster independence….is problematic.

I realize that I am absolutely in the minority here. And that the bulk of the internet support is in favor of these ‘free range parents.’ There’s an overwhelming stink-eye cast at the police who, I believe- were trying to look out for the best interests of the kids, and NOT impose some government power-arm on families and parents.

Cutting kids loose to grow and learn is a great idea. But at 10 years old? No. Not to the extent that these parents did. Lets be real folks- ‘passive parenting’ as I’m going to call it- is a miserable idea. When we become parents, we take up an unspoken oath to guide, nurture, and protect our kids. It is our new JOB to make sure they’re raised to the best of our ability. And that can’t be done enough in 10 years that you can kick them loose to the world and say “They’re learning to be independent.”

The rookie cop isn’t given a week’s worth of instruction, handed a gun, and told to ‘go get it done.’
The apprentice electrician isn’t given a blueprint for a million dollar log home and told ‘wire it.
But the 10 year old kid can be told ‘go forth young man, and learn. Also, watch your brother’??

I feel like that at 10 years old, parenting still needs to be a bit more hands-on. No, I don’t advocate helicopter parenting. Remember, I’m the guy that hands my 5 year old the car keys and tells him to go get it started. But I also don’t tell him to start the car, boogie on down to the gas station and pick up a gallon of milk.

The world is an ugly place. I watch people who ‘love each other’ willingly punch each other in the face. I watch separating parents put their kids in the middle as emotional bargaining chips. I get countless fax reports from the state on missing and abducted children.
….and I for one cannot see the merit of unleashing my kids into that world without an eye on them when they’re still hardly old enough to take care of themselves, and I absolutely refuse to agree that my way of parenting is raising a kid that is worse off than the one where the question “Where are you kids?” Can be answered with “Beats me.”

What do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

That’s me on the right.

The Narrator and I were sitting on the couch the other day having a chat, and somehow or other the subject of work came up. Now, I realize that asking a five year old what they want to do with their life is a silly thing to do- Hell, I knew a girl who, at the age of seven, still wanted to be a mailbox when she grew up, and even as an adult on a career track, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do until I was 29.

But of course, it is always a fun game to play with children, so I asked him.

“I want to be a race car driver.”
“Cool. You do know that means you’ll have to work on riding your bike this summer right?” (He rejected the bike last year because it was ‘too wobbly’ and he was afraid.)
“Why?”
“Well, if you can’t ride a bike to the end of the driveway, how do you expect to be able to drive a car around a track really fast?”

He sits quietly for a moment, and I think I might have scored a point.

“Well. Maybe. But do you want to know what jobs I DON’T want to do?”
“What jobs are those bud?”
“Police, firefighter, ambulance, and fix computers.” (If you’re new to the AD family…this is essentially my resume)

I may have scored a point on the bike vs. race car discussion, but he wasn’t going to let me get away with it.

Parenting is hard enough without having a five year old that can fence with you verbally and riposte so quickly.

I might have to flee to the Himalayas to ‘find myself’ when this kid hits his teen years.

Croup, a Double Ear Infection, and the Myth of Sleep

As I mentioned in my last, quick update- the whole family’s been laid out with various illnesses. Tuesday, The Narrator seemed to be in the clear, so we packed him off to school, and scheduled Mini-Me an appointment with the doctor because he began to have a terrible cough.

Croup, it turns out, which makes him miserable, and completely wrecks the sleep cycle of everyone in the house with him. Tuesday night, I came home from work and found him snuggled up with my wife on the couch. I took him and put him down and we went to bed. Immediately following our heads hitting the pillows, The Narrator can be heard crying in his room.

We go in to find him clutching his head and moaning. Even knowing how overly-dramatic he can be, it was obvious he was in severe discomfort. We got him back to sleep, then tried again to get some rest ourselves. He woke up again, and I went in with him and got him back to sleep. Shortly thereafter, Croupy McBaby started to cough again. My wife attempted to bring his sick little butt into bed with us, but that NEVER works, and I ended up taking him back to his room and sleeping with him on the futon until 7am. Yesterday morning saw The Narrator sleeping until nearly 10am- and while I ran off to do a private computer job, my wife scheduled HIM for an appointment. I hustled home to put Mini-Me down for a nap while they were out at the doctor, and while I waited for them to come home, I readied myself for my 3-11 work shift.

Of course, last night didn’t go any better. Mini-Me woke up three times, and I ended up in with him all three times. Thankfully, Mr. Double Ear Infection slept all night long and woke up feeling pretty good.

In spite of his infections, he’s the healthiest of all of us right now. That is to say- he’s able to sleep, his cough is gone, and he isn’t running a nuclear grade fever.

Mini-Me is starting to come out of it- aside from his still obnoxious cough, he was his ‘normal’ self this morning.

Only Mommy and I remain at death’s door. Between my getting up all night to take care of the boys, rushing around during the day, and working at night- and HER parenting all day and working hard to get Etsy orders filled, neither of us is getting much sleep, so even the mildest of maladies has become augmented into fairly crippling sicknesses.

This is one of those things they never bother to tell you about parenting. When your kids get sick, you’ll get sicker, and the chain of care stops right with you. When your little bundles of joy become mewling balls of misery, you’ll do everything you can to help them. You don’t think twice about getting out of bed multiple times a night, or cradling a pain-ridden five year old until either the medicine kicks in or he cries himself to sleep. None of that bothers you. But it all catches up in the end. Not only will you most likely pick up a mutated version of whatever ailed the little darlings in the first place, but it’ll stack up right on top of an exhausted body, and you’re left not only to fend for yourself, but to NOW deal with healthy, lunatic children while you’re at the height of a sleepless suffering.

I’ve said it before people, parenting is glamor. The absolute height of what life can be.

Requesting Either Fast Forward Button, or a Mulligan.

We’re three days into a lousy week. The Narrator picked up a nasty cough and cold just before Easter and generously shared it with everyone. The house is a place of catastrophic misery right now. I’m dealing with some growing pains at work, nothing major, just finally getting a taste of a full work load for the first time in…..ages…and to ice the cake- the weather’s been fickle to the point of obnoxious. One day it’s touching 60 and sunny, the next….snowflakes and wind. Spring is getting brought into this world kicking and screaming, and Old Man Winter seems to be cheating death at every turn.

There’s a bright spot though, next weekend I’m meeting a friend of mine for a sportsman’s night out. We’re going to play raffles on some hunting equipment, drink a few beers, eat a couple of burgers, and forget about everything else for a bit.

I just need to get that far.

Still Here!

Family life in the morning, working nights, and filling in the gaps with Ambulance shifts and a little bit of IT work….my time is monopolized by a lot of things that aren’t this blog.

But I’ll tell you something my friends…I’m happy.

The job is going great, the kids are getting bigger, smarter, and funnier every day, I’m catching up on all of the bills and payments that I’d gotten behind on in the time I spent un and under employed…and its getting warmer out.

There isn’t a day that goes by though, where something happens and I don’t think to myself “That would be a great blog topic,” but that usually happens while I’m driving somewhere, or have a kid sitting on me.

I always have my phone with me, but I’ll be honest- I LOATHE typing anything at all on a cell phone. The keyboard is always too small, autocorrect is a pain in the jimmies, and even Swype isn’t as effective as I’d like it to be, so updating on my phone is generally out of the question, leaving me to find time to sit at a computer and hammer out an update.

On the parenting front, we’re on the verge of potty training with the little guy. He’s starting to show an interest in the bathroom and what needs to be done there, and he’s gotten great at letting us know when he needs to be changed.

Since we are planning on him being our final child, the elimination of diapers from our lives forever will be a celebration akin to that of our wedding day.

The big one, The Narrator- is going through a lot right now. He is a highly sensitive child, and everything has an emotional impact on him. The other day, we were horsing around and I told him to stop sticking his finger in my ear. He began to cry, saying something like “I never do anything right!” You could chalk it up to overdramatics, but this is the sort of thing that happens all the time with a highly sensitive child, and dealing with it is extremely difficult. My wife is reading up on the matter, and her book will be required reading for me when she’s done. It has to be, because I often get reproachful looks for handling an emotional melt-down in what COULD be described as a manner a bit more gruffly than what is deemed helpful for a kid in his situation.

I’m working on it.

Our Easter holiday plans have deteriorated. Where I was hoping for four day off…I end up with one and a half.

I am working Sunday, it turns out my personal time doesn’t kick in for a whole YEAR, and Easter isn’t a paid holiday, so I’m not entitled to it off.

The good news is that we aren’t being visited by family. Bronchitis struck my in-laws just as we visited last week, so they’re all sick and plans to come up have been cancelled. The bad news is that The Narrator is getting sick now.

So while my time at home will be cut shorter than I wanted it to be, It still promises to be a quiet holiday with the immediate family, which is really what I wanted- no matter how long it ends up being.

If I’m not able to get back in here again for a while, I want everyone to have a Happy Easter and I hope the kickoff of the month of April finally signals the end of a long, miserable, brutal winter for you.

Back soon, with a scientific theory I’m working on that sheds light on a strange social norm, deeming it necessary for the survival of the human species.

…..Sometimes there’s a lot of time to ponder from the front seat of a patrol car.