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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And so it begins...

The grand experiment that is public education. Some pics and comments from Anna's first day of preschool on Monday.
This is her teacher and her assistant during the home visit a few weeks ago. Yes, Anna gave her the apple, but you'll notice that she has something in her mouth. It would be a bite from the apple. Stay classy Anna!
This was a tough pic to take. She looked so big to me, but yet she is
still my little girl. Tod had already taken Eli in to the daycare, so
Anna and I decided to walk in together. She decided that she didn't need
to be carried and she most certainly didn't need to hold my hand.

First official school art project.


Eli was NOT happy to see big sister Anna board the bus. Either that or he was pissed that he was inside and we were outside.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is this the little pup I carried?


Those of you who have been following my blog for some time, behold the latest installment of “they grow up so quickly.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ewwwww! From the mouths of babes



A note from Tom: I read this on my friend’s Live Journal account and I asked if I could repost. I know that at some point in my life, I will have the same conversation with either Eli or Anna. I think that the way he dealt with this situation is both real and expected. I am thankful that he has allowed me to do this. I changed their names to protect their identity.

“Ew.”.....
It was so quick. It was off the cuff. It really was just a little knee jerk reaction from a little girl in elementary school. It wasn’t aimed at me. It wasn’t meant the way I took it. It was small.
It was one word....one syllable.

I know my response was excessive. I know it wasn’t intended to injure me. I know my child. I know there is a difference in what you see, know, and experience at home, with what you see, know, and experience at school amongst peers. I know I’m dealing with a young mind that is trying to learn how to better comprehend, better understand, better evaluate...all while dealing with the trials and all involved with being a 10 year old girl entering puberty.
I know.

I know. I know. I KNOW.

But one syllable.....two letters, brought every single fear and doubt I have of myself crashing into the middle of the room.

We were eating dinner. We were re-watching Glee, as Lori doesn’t stay up late enough to watch it when it regularly airs. Yeah, I know. We usually have the TV turned on when we eat dinner. Earlier in the episode, a girl learns that a guy she likes is interested in someone else, and assumes she knows who this someone else is. She is hurt and immediately throws a rock through the young man’s windshield. Later on, she comes back to the young man to express her sincere regret and she apologizes. She explains how she understands why he’d like this other girl she thinks he likes. He responds by telling her he lied when he told her that he likes the other girl. Suddenly, his face blanches a little, he looks around nervously, and you can actually see tears starting to form in his eyes.
He leans in real close and whispers, “I’m gay.”

Instantly, Lori looks up from her plate and says, “Ew.”

Mark and I both whipped our heads toward her, rather offended. “ EXCUSE ME? EW?! Did you just say, ‘Ew.’ when that boy told his friend that he’s gay?”

I raised my hand. “HI! I’M gay”
Mark raised his hand. “I’m gay.”
I sat there stunned. “Does that mean you think, ‘Ew.’ when you think of me?”
She was suddenly very embarrassed and looked down.
She muttered an ashamed, “No.”
”Well, what’s the difference?”

And bam. With no warning, I had tears in my eyes. I thought to myself, “Are you seriously CRYING?! This was nothing. What’s wrong with you?” I stood up, and mumbled, “I’m just gonna go to bed now.” I went into the bathroom. Lori followed me in. “I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
”Lori, do you understand? Do you GET it? Lori, how would you feel if they showed a special ed class on TV and we all sat here and laughed at those kids and said how pathetic they are?” I instantly regretted saying it. I watched the pain of my statement come across her face. “It would hurt my feelings.” I could see her crashing. I could see her heart sink and the sadness washes over her.
”I’m sorry. I know that was harsh. But I’m not sure you can know right now just how much you saying ‘Ew.’ about a boy telling his friend he’s gay really hurt me.”
I could tell that I was not yet to a space in my head where I could turn me off and focus on her and try to make up with her. I went in my room and shut the door. I laid on the bed and covered myself.
And I cried.
I cried because part of me believed that everything I’ve tried so hard to do, whatever it all is that I’ve ever felt I needed to make up for, trying to be a good dad, a good man, a good friend, an example......all that suddenly meant nothing, because after all that, in the end, I’m still reduced to “Ew.” in the eyes of my child.
Mark came in to hug me and express he knows I know she didn’t mean it, yet he knows how much that would hurt me. And he just laid there and hugged me.
Lori came in the room and sat on the bed next to me. She was crying. She looked broken. I felt like shit for making my child hurt like this. And I knew she felt horrible for me thinking she would intentionally hurt me. ”I’m really, really, really sorry.” She said through sobs. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings so much.” “Lori, why are you crying?”
”Because I just feel so so so bad.” And she collapsed against me and cried.
I said to her what I wrote above, why I was so hurt. I told her I knew she didn’t mean it, and it wasn’t intended to strike at me. I reminded her that, yes, I am gay....and guess what.....so is this man that lives with us. I explained that it just exposed some of my biggest fears in life....that in the end, my children will think poorly of me. That they’ll see me and think, “Ew.”
I told her that, in turn, I was sorry for making her so upset. I told her we’d be fine and I was tired anyway, so I thought I’d just go to sleep. I told her to go back on out to the living room, and she could watch tv a while longer until bed time.
I felt stupid. I felt sad. I felt overly dramatic.
Intermittently, I had sent out some texts after I first went into the bedroom. Just a few. The responses were all saying they were sure she meant nothing. I was told to just talk it out with her. Of course I’d talk it out with her.
As soon as I sent out the texts, I felt even more stupid. I knew what people would say to me. And I knew that it wasn’t what I would want or need to hear just then.
I just knew that I had this hurt. This irrational, too big a hurt issued from a small sweet child that loves and adores me. A child that still screams my name in greeting and runs to hug me. A child that calls me every single day that we’re apart just to ask what I’m doing and to tell me she loves me.
Of course I know the child’s heart.
It was just a quick moment when my guard was down. A moment where I faced and thought I was realizing one of my biggest fears.

I love my children. I love my children very much. I will protect them, provide for them, go without for them and use my last breath in trying to ensure that they are happy, know love, and feel safe.
I just don’t ever want to feel that fear again. Though, I imagine that it is that fear, amongst other fears and hopes and dreams and wishes that will keep me doing what I do.
If she didn’t “get it” before last night, I’m pretty sure Lori gets it now, though we’re both much sadder for it.

Me being gay is not an “Ew”.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: The Witching Hour

The Witching Hour (now with hyperlinks!)

The routine has been good for the past few weeks, but as 4:00 pm approaches each day, a sense of dread comes over me. While I am eager to see and play with my kids and husband, the other life duties get in the way. The time between 4 and 7 pm are indeed insane, as we try to balance what has to be done with what we think should be done. I have become pretty good at whipping up quick and easy dinners and have done pretty good with getting food on the table in a timely manner. But, since we’re trying to eat healthy, the dinner prep involves more than peeling away a plastic film to reveal the brownie. It takes time and someone has to watch the kids. The nights when Tod is at a meeting are insane. Between the cat hollering for her dinner and the two eager kids demanding snacks, I feel more like I am on K.P. than a parent. I have found that Sponge Bob and the high chair can help facilitate dinner prep, but it’s not the best parenting, and I know that. My coworkers got Eli and Anna a great art center, and we set it up in the dinning room and Anna is quite content to tear through and color everything she can get her hands on. Eli however, is a creature of habit, just like the cat. When his hunger alarm goes off, food better be presented before him or ELSE! I have found that by breaking up a snack bar, or handing him one animal cracker at a time keep him occupied and not screaming at the top of his lungs. I hate to placate a kid with food, but this buys me time and helps with the meal prep.
So finally dinner is made, and then we start to eat. I have stopped making three different meals, and have begun incorporating bits and pieces of our dinner into what the kids are eating. Sounds good in theory, but it’s truly amazing how far a 16 month old can fling a plate of green beans that have suddenly become boring to him. He’s more adventuresome than Anna at this point, and will at least try something. I put a tablespoon of gravy on her chicken tonight (at her bequest) and it turned into a 30 minute ordeal to get the gravy off the chicken. I am resisting turning dinner time into short order cooking time, as I know families who have kids who will only eat this or that and the parents end up cooking separate meals for all involved. A friend of ours has a grandchild that would only eat chicken nuggets and little else. I know a bit about the young child’s dietary needs, and according to our physician, they will indeed not starve to death if they pick and peck at their food. I swear that Anna could probably live on yogurt and juice.
But back to the table and dinner: we used to be able to start with a prayer, but once Eli sees the food, it’s over and his caveman grunts and howls become pretty loud while we try to offer a brief thanks. I added to this blessing to our prayer at tonight’s meal as Eli wailed in protest of this spiritual delay: “… and God bless Eli, as he is apparently starving to death.” It was greeted with a grunt and a fist on the table. He must have some Viking in him. I have accepted the fact that those halcyon days of yore when we would listen to music and talk about adult subjects and not have to referee food fights are over for the time being.

Then the bed time rituals start, Eli goes down first and is a dream, so we are lucky with that. He’s out by 7, and sleep through until we go and rouse him in the morning. Anna, however, requires a committee and a UN Peace Keeping Force to get her into the bedroom, let alone getting her to think about sleeping. She is the queen of negotiation, and will twist your words and your patience as she resists settling in for the night. I don’t know what her problem is. She knows when she is tired (“Papa, you know I only pick my nose when I am tired…” as she stands there in front of you picking her nose) and she understands that she feels better after a nap or a good night’s sleep. Plus, she has, in my opinion, a rockin’ room. There are books and tons of toys, plus a really cool (IKEA!) bed. I’d be in heaven if someone told me to go there and stay put. Most nights she goes right to bed, but there are some nights when the banging on the door and the pathetic whines of:

“I’m thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirsty”

“I’m hunnnnnnnnnnnngry”

will go on for hours. Then there are the brain-jolting screams at 3 am for no apparent reason. I guess we are paying the price for having her sleep through the night at an early age.

I remember seeing an article about how parents can make time for themselves, and in typical Parents Magazine style, they presented a bucolic view of these two alleged parent’s evening routine. The highly posed and stylized photo had the tag line: it’s 10 pm, the kids are in bed so Marcia works on updating their children’s scrapbooks while John checks the latest sports scores and stock reports.”

BULL SHIT!

If it’s 10 pm here, my ass is in or near bed and the only thing I am working on updating is my beer consumption. Seriously, as Barney Frank so eloquently asked, “on what planet do you spend most of your time?” By the time the kids are in bed, the kitchen is cleaned up and we have prepped for the next day, it’s usually around 8 or 9. Then there are the work and other emails to check, blogs to quickly read or write (natch) and the occasional DVR’d program to watch.

Scrap booking?

Maybe Eli and Anna will get one when they are in high school. Were it not for one of Tod’s coworkers creating a baby book for Anna, we’d have no physical record of her first year. So yeah, the hobbies are kind of out for now. I have learned to watch and enjoy Top Chef on fast forward (sidebar, I could give a shit about any of the Cheftestants this season) and have begun to skip the interviews on the Daily Show. Our Netflix selections sit patiently on top of the TV in hopes that one day we’ll watch them. I recall my Mom talking about watching this movie of the week or this special on ABC when I was a kid. There would be much hype and discussion and when the big night finally came, it would be Doug, my Dad, and I watching while my Mom slept sitting up on the couch. I now know how she feels.

There are some nights when Tod and I barely speak to each other before we collapse in bed. But then the alarm goes off the next morning, and the day begins again. I used to laugh at the chattiness of my cat in the morning. I would stumble downstairs for coffee and she would trail behind me meowing to me her night’s adventures or screaming for food. I would “talk” with her and at times it felt like we were actually communicating. “How was your night?” I would ask, and a series of meows would follow. But now, after several pushes of the snooze bar and the promise to work out tomorrow, I go with Tod to wake up the kids. Lola, the cat still offers her morning commentary, but it’s quickly drowned out by the “AAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!” coming from Eli’s room when we open the door to his room and wake him up. Apparently we adopted a junior Arthur Fonzarelli. At the reception for his baptism last weekend, there were several young toddler girls in attendance. He was in his high chair, being doted on by the grandmothers, several of the girls walked by to go outside and play. As they passed, each got a “heeeeeeeeeeeeeey!” from our junior Guido.

Once Eli is up and around, Anna will call out from her room to be “waked up” by Eli, as she loves to have him come in and pounce on her bed. The squeals that drive me crazy at dinner time are fun and endearing at the 6 am hour as her little brother beats on the bed to find his big sister.

And then the day begins again.

There are breakfasts to be made, lunches to pack, and Nickelodeon to watch. Would I trade this for anything else? Hell no. These two are the best thing (after Tod) that ever happened to me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday Tree-hugger post

Tomorrow will be a sad day. The two stately trees that are in the front of our house will be coming down due to the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer. The smaller of the two is pretty much dead with a few leaves here and there. The taller one is alive, but is infected pretty bad. From a distance, you can’t see the holes the bugs make, but when you get up close and look into the bark, you can see what damage the little buggers have done. Two of our scientist type friends have diagnosed the problem, so we’re not just making this stuff up to get some new trees.

If these trees were on our property, and not the city’s property, I’d be crapping my pants, as the cost to cut these down will not be cheap. But, since they are on the easement and it’s the city’s property, I will rest easy tonight. At 9:00 tomorrow morning, our street will be closed so the crews can come in and take them down. Due to the larger one’s size, and age, they are closing the street in case anything goes wrong. If the trees do go down, I hope they point them EAST and not WEST towards our house.

The taller of the two trees towers over our house, it’s visible from down the street both ways, and is easily the tallest tree on our triangle. It is also filled with a bee’s nest. I have alerted the city crew to this fact and hope that they take me serious. The hole in the tree, which is at our second storey window level, is teeming with bees, honey bees, the good kind. A discussion of what to do involved all kinds of Pooh-ish stunts to gather the honey. Since I have a mild allergic reaction to bee stings, I think I will stay away from all that.

Tod has found a time-lapse app for the webcam, so we’ll set it up in Eli’s room to record the day’s events. Who knows, there may be some hot lumberjacks.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: From Chaos to Routine

The past two weeks have been nice, as we have avoided much of the chaos that defined most of the early summer and the past month since Eli moved in. We are snuggly wrapped up in our own routines with school, work, and daycare and life seems to be settling into a delightfully predictable grind. I went back to work full time mid-August but we did not have daycare for a variety of reasons (our day care lady’s desire to be a carnie, black mold, the usual). That left Tod with two kids who were still getting to know each other and the limits of our patience and that made for some stressful days indeed. I took advantage of my Dean’s offer for FMLA time off and ended up missing two of the Professional Development days offered the week before classes started. It was nice to have that down time to do nothing. No really, we did NOTHING one whole day. We sat on our butts and watched T.V. It was magical.
Since then, Tod has gone back to work, and Eli has survived his second week of daycare. He doesn’t seem to be too worse for the wear, but the mornings are a little stressful, as his screams come through the walls as we walk to the car to go to work. He is becoming more vocal, and any day now will start using words. I can feel it. Right now, he’s still in caveman mode, and relies on his canon of grunts and other noises to make his requests or displeasure known. He’s also quite the little beat box, and produces some amazing noises that Biz Markie would love to have in his repertoire.
He’s also become much bolder around Anna. He initially just took whatever she did to him, stealing his toys, hitting him, biting him, etc. Now he’s much more active in his reaction to these offenses and there have been moments where we have had to bite our tongues so we didn’t LOL at the situation before us. A perfect example of this took place at Tod’s parent’s house. Anna was playing with some Legos, and Eli had two of them that were ACROSS THE ROOM from her. She spied them in his hands and rushed over to grab them from him telling him, “NO ELI! I was playing with them, they’re MINE!”

Ever seen “Finding Nemo?”

Remember the seagulls?

MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXRgpum7OUo

Eli went about his business and found some other blocks and put together a pretty sizeable stack. He then came up behind Anna and smashed the blocks over her head just like a wrestler would do with a folding chair over his opponent’s head. He squealed with glee as he brought down the blocks to her head and then ran off. Anna then stood up screaming and crying in “pain”. I am certain that there was some pain involved, but I am also certain that this wasn’t just her head that was hurting, but also her pride. I had to look away as she put on the act of her young life and feigned outrage over his behavior. The pressure in my head from stifling the laugh about caused a hemorrhage in my skull.
But lessons were indeed learned that day. Anna quickly found out that Eli will be (and quite possibly already is…) a formidable opponent. They are now playing together in that bizarre way kids play. Many times this play is just running around screaming at each other and laughing hysterically when they catch each other or when they fall. Car trips are insanely loud, as Anna can get Eli to crack up by doing godknowswhat to him in the backseat. This causes her to giggle, which causes him to laugh even harder and it continues until my ears are ringing. The laughter is infectious and we usually join in or just shake our heads and drive on. They may not be siblings by birth, but they are falling into the groove of what it’s like to be brother and sister quite easily. Life is good and I am happy for that.