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A Weekend’s Adventure

I planned a weekend for the kids and myself in order to allay some fears.

I suppose planning might be a bit of a stretch.  I had a rough idea.

At the Beach
At the Beach

Noah, my son, is quite the filmmaker, for a 10-year-old.  His game device has the ability to do single-frame shots and he puts together little stop-frame animations using legos or clay or whatever he has around.  So as a result I decided we should, in a visit to San Francisco, visit the Walt Disney Family Museum.

The whole reason for heading to the city for the weekend was to look at an area where his entire class was going on a field trip.  But in the process I decided we should all enjoy ourselves.  Not that going to the spot of the field trip wouldn’t be enjoyable, but Noah is nervous.  He doesn’t know a lot of people in his new class and he’s nervous because he’s worried he might get hurt.  I understand that you’ll never let anyone in unless you take that risk, but as a 10-year-old who’s been through a lot of troubles, been made fun of and given a reputation as an angry young boy I can see how he’s closed up and put a shell around himself.

So we went to the city . . . and the kids had a blast.  It’s not often I get to say it’s an amazing weekend, but this happened to be one of them.  It’s been an adjustment for the three kids to have life without their older sister in the house.  Just under 3 years ago they lost their mother to a resistant strain of pneumonia.  Then in August we moved their sister to her new town and started her in college.  For them, this has been a rough 3-4 years.  So to head out, spend the night in a different town, and just walk around and have fun . . . that was special.

2013-10-26 13.52.41The Disney Museum was a hit.  Noah stood in front of a wall with every frame of the first Mickey Mouse cartoon printed out . . . and when I went to snap the picture he spotted something that amazed him over my shoulder . . . causing him to gawk and look amazed as he stared at the opposite wall.

2013-10-26 14.59.00We went to the San Francisco Museo de Mechanique and played old games and video games and ton of other things.  We ate food that was just horrible for us.  We visited Ghiradelli Square and had ice cream.

2013-10-27 11.37.08The following day we went to the Marin Headlands and visited where giant gun batteries were placed to protect the US during World War II and the kids were marveled at how amazing the area was.  Noah was running up hills and bouncing from spot to spot.  Sam was . . . well, he was cold.  His twin was more excited than he was . . . until he saw the barracks and gun turrets.  Then he was excited.

Their sister, Hannah, was excited but took so many pictures she spent more time with her nose in her broken phone than looking at the Golden Gate Bridge stately and towering over their shoulders.

We spent an exhausting weekend running around and packing as much into as we could.  The thing about that kind of exhaustion though . . .

It’s invigorating!

Going Rogue

No, this isn’t some dissertation about Sarah Palin, there’s a reason for the line.

Noah, the writer, at work
Noah, the writer, at work

My son, Noah, is quite the writer.  I’ll admit, of course, that some of his humor tends to go toward the 10-year-old range.  Stories like the Pig who Found a Hot Dog is one of his last books he wrote on his own.  You can make your own jokes about cannibalism because he certainly did.

He now has 3 stories in his Pig series.

Then came his latest: The Gummy Bears of Tra-la-la-la-land.  The opening salvo of his book: “unbeknownst to anyone, the gummy bears were going rogue.”

I didn’t write any of the words in his story, but I do encourage his writing.  His dad, after all, writes nearly every day, either here on this blog or part of his daily job as a television producer.  I marvel at how, at ten, he has a vocabulary and creative mind that allow him to think, first, that gummy bears would actually have the ability to go rogue, and second . . . know how to use “rogue” and “unbeknownst” in the same sentence . . . let alone use them at all.  Hell, I’m not sure I’d have had the vocabulary at ten.

Sam's Poster In-Process
Sam’s Poster In-Process

But it’s not just Noah . . . Sam, Noah’s twin brother, wanted to enter the fire prevention poster contest . . . with only one day to complete his poster.  Yet he did it . . . sitting in the kitchen, on a chair, staring at the stove, looking for details on the burners and stovetop.

Hannah, my middle child, has this habit of “borrowing” my Dobro (it’s a guitar, if you didn’t know, with a metal cone resonator – kind of like a speaker cone – rather than a sound hole) in order to play her music.  She will hear a song online and then learn it, immediately.  She’ll even write her own material and then come down (usually at the most inopportune moment, but that’s a kid for you) and play it for me.  I always stop what I’m doing and make time to listen.

Same goes, by the way, for the gummy bear story and the artwork.  This is their world, and I like to think I’ve played at least a small part in encouraging it.

So here we were, seven at night, and rather than watching television – and it was on in the background, don’t get me wrong – they were all working separately on their projects.  So rather than Agents of SHIELD – which they really like, or cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants – which I can only take in very small metered doses, they were immersed in their own imaginative worlds.  Sure, Hannah’s has a tendency to be filled with teenage shuddering angst at times, but maturity and experience will temper that into some great songwriting.  She could likely, with work, sell what she’s written already to a teenage audience.  It’s just a matter of practice.

My point . . . the gummy bears may have gone rogue in the story, but my kids somehow have made imagination and creativity their own version.  Going rogue, you see, is not as hard as you’d expect.  It’s not some crazy political ideal that has not real teeth – a la Sarah Palin – it’s actually been finding their own way, their own path.

After a couple years of figuring out where we’re going, it’s nice to know that the kids have all found their way . . . with a little help from me, their navigator.  After all, you can only go rogue for so long.

Wish You Were Here…

I would have posted the above Pink Floyd song title 2 1/2 years ago and had a totally different frame of reference.  Today, however, the frame is built by my middle daughter, Hannah, in reference not to her mother but her sister.  My oldest daughter Abbi, you see, has moved to another state and started college.

Hannah on Guitar
Hannah on Guitar

The reference is actually quite literal.  Hannah came into the living room on Friday night, after an entire evening’s activities, and said “look what I learned how to play, Dad!”  She started the opening salvo of the title track of Floyd’s 1975 ode to longing, loss, memory and their friend, Syd Barrett.

“Could we do another video and send it to Abbi?”

With someone that excited by their musical inspiration, I could hardly say ‘no’.  Rather than set up a webcam, though, and simply grab our guitars and play, I took her into my office and set up ProTools and put the headphones on her ears.
“We’re going to record it and then make a video.”

Hannah was really apprehensive, so I plugged in, click track running, and had my amp very quiet, the mic closer to her, and helped her play.  She decided at that point this should be a project for both of us, asking me to sing the opening verse, she the second, together on the 3rd.

It’s a beautiful song, particularly in its simplicity, and I was quite caught up in her enthusiasm.  I won’t post it here both for her nerves and for the fact that I don’t want to infringe on Gilmour and Waters’ copyrights.

Wish You Were Here is always gives me a little bit of a twinge.  Andrea loved the song, not just due to the message, it made her think of her sister and some random teenage adventure she’d had.  It’s almost hard at times to hear the line “we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year” without thinking of her belting out that line, off-key, sometimes on-purpose, and grinning from ear to ear.

Today, however, it brings nothing but fond memories of how my daughter had a burst of inspiration, leading to my own inspiration and then making a video.  It took all day, but then we put it all together.  The melancholy feeling was there, but more about missing Abbi than about sadness for their mother.

It’s interesting that a song about loss and mental illness and sadness can bring happiness to others, but in the end the message is universal.  How I wish you were here.

Yet Another Story

After writing a long post on our trip to the Calaveras County Big Trees for Good Enough Mother, I did exactly what I said I wasn’t going to do last weekend . . .

I took my oldest daughter to the movies.

2013-08-10 14.58.31-1I could say there’s some major, gigantic difference, that I’m not being a hypocrite, and I’d be truthful in that.  Abbi, my oldest, took the other three kids – her sister and twin brothers – to the movies yesterday while I worked.  (Pulled a Saturday shift…but I can take another day off this week.)  I told them last weekend I wasn’t going to the movies due to the cost and the fact we needed to get out of the house.  That’s why the trip to the Big Trees.

But today I took Abbi, my oldest, to the movies.  It wasn’t because the other 3 didn’t deserve to go.  I could claim it was a reward for watching those three while I worked all day yesterday – and it kind of was.  I could make the claim that she’s going into theater and drama and she, therefore, loves these kinds of things.  I could easily, legitimately, say all these things.  That wouldn’t be reality.

Reality is that I took her because . . . I won’t get to share near as many nights as before with my oldest.  I do an equal number of things with each kid . . . Hannah loves music and I took her to see the Who.  I take her to ice-cream and we go on walks together.  We play guitar and I help her record the songs she writes.

The boys have varying interests.  Noah likes stop-motion so I watch things with him about Ray Harryhausen and analyze the original Clash of the Titans and Wallace and Gromit.  We read stuff together.  Sam loves Sci-Fi and Doctor Who and we talk about that and go see things and watch it together.  That’s each one’s love.

But Abbi and I have seen movies since she was little.  When she was 4 I took her to the IMAX theater at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and it had a 3D movie about fish.  I still remember her, gigantic Elton John-looking glasses on her head, trying to grab at the fish coming out of the two-story movie screen.  When Monsters, Inc. came out she had to see it because the little girl looked like her sister, Hannah.  (She did, too.  Hannah and “Boo” had a striking resemlbance)  As a result, this year she saw Monsters University with the other kids.  When Prometheus came out and it got the press of being Ridley Scott’s first Sci-Fi film in years she had to see it.  I took her to opening night.

So on the last weekend before she takes the plunge, heads out to college, and lives with two other girls in a dorm room and begins an entirely new part of her life . . . I took her to the movies.  Just one last time.  She’d been dying to see Elysium because we’d both seen the movie District 9 by the same director.  It wasn’t Matt Damon or Jodie Foster, it was the art of it for her.  She loved how realistic it was and how great an actor Damon is and how brilliant Sharito Copely acted in the film.

I loved that one more time . . . just one . . . I got to go to the movies with my daughter before she’s more Abbi, the adult than Abbi my little girl.  She hasn’t been that little girl for awhile now, and that’s something I wish I could have changed.  Losing her mother to pneumonia that quickly affected all of us.  It affected her, I think, more than even she wants to imagine.  But if I had any influence on her life, I like to think and hope that telling her to do what she loves as long as she’s smart and does it well is the greatest influence.  I have always told my kids they’re smart.  They have brains filled with nearly as much useless information as I do – just haven’t seen as much – and that isn’t always a bad thing.

There could be a thousand different reasons for any number of things.  For her today may have just been the movies, too.  For me, though, it was one more Abbi/Daddy day before it all changes.

She’ll always be my daughter, my little girl.  I just wanted one more trip to the pictures before it’s clear she’s not little any more.

Powerful Nights

The power went out last night, something that seems to be happening a lot lately in our neck of the woods.  It certainly wasn’t the heat, that was not a factor.  Nobody seemed to have hit a power pole and knocked out a transformer.  PG&E, our power company, never bothered to call us to tell us what was happening.  Though I saw about a half-dozen trucks and bunch of guys in PG&E uniforms down the road with a water main gushing water down the road and tinkering with the power lines.  They never bothered to tell us it might go out.

Hannah, my middle, had homework to do.  She was shouting from upstairs that she couldn’t do it without light.  I don’t disagree, but it was obvious she wasn’t too upset by the lack of light due to her brain shutting off all problem-solving skills as well.  My oldest daughter, now just a week from leaving home for college, had found literally every candle in the house and lit them up for light.  My twin boys liked it . . . for awhile.  Then they got bored and took showers by candlelight as well.

I walked up the stairs, took a couple candles I had sitting in my bathroom and bedroom – not sure why I had them in there, no romance going on in my household – and took them to Hannah’s room.  After lighting them up she declared “hey!  There we go!” and she was back to her old studious self.  I’m not certain much homework was actually done up to that point, I think her secret communiques to her friends from middle school were actually dominating her time.  With no power she was forced to do homework, which was a good thing.

Andrea, years ago
Andrea, years ago

Earlier in the day I had told my kids to call their grandma – their Mom’s Mom – and tell her “happy birthday.”  They gladly did it . . . and I’d have taken them all to visit her a suburb over from us, except I had an appointment at my sons’ school.  It was a strange day, this one.  I left work, got home, changed clothes, and went to “back-to-school night.”  It’s a hard thing to be slapped in the face with what your struggles are and know the slap isn’t an intentional one.  I showed up at the school and had to simply attend the classroom that was closest to me.  That was Noah, one of the twins’ classroom.  I found his teacher’s door first.  As I sat there, we had a card from my son, which was sweet and I’m not going to duplicate for his privacy.  He’s done exceptionally well considering how much change he’s had to face and the fact it all changes again next year for middle school.  Still…it’s a good thing.  He gets an almost-fresh start.

Noah
Noah

Someone from his old school initially started a rumor that Noah had punched a kid in the face and gotten expelled and that’s why he was at this school.  After a couple days with Noah keeping to himself, being shy, and generally not being a powder keg – which he’s not – and the rumor died off because, let’s face it, that’s kinda boring when he doesn’t haul off and attack someone, right?

But I understand both his and and his brother, Sam’s, shyness.  I sat in a room where every parent knew every other.  I grew frustrated with the obsession over the change from “STAR Testing” because some parents are more concerned with the testing results than the concepts.  I love that “no child left behind” is left behind.  I like the new federalized core curriculum and had read up on it.  I never took those tests well and neither did my kids, yet the STAR tests are a favorite subject of so many parents who think it’s an indication of intelligence.  It’s not.  It’s an indication of test-taking.  (yes, my opinion, leave me alone in my convictions, please, and don’t email or comment.  You won’t change my mind)  Sam’s teacher is telling me about options for both his migraines and for his slight stutter that comes out when he’s too excited to think about his words and he stumbles over them.  She’s not concerned just giving me options.  I like that.

But I noticed all through the process that I was alone.  There were so many couples there.  “I’m ___________’s Mom…and I’m his Dad” and I found myself noticing how much easier it would have been if I had my wife here to attend the other classroom.  Part of me felt bad it was all about the convenience and not the affection, but reality transgresses the heart sometimes.

In the night, with the power out, Andrea’s sister forwarded a picture to us brought by their Aunt.  It was of my girls – Abbi, Hannah, and Andrea – my wife – with her sister’s step-daughter and Andrea’s aunt Carol.  Carol died not long after Andrea, cancer overtaking her.  It wasn’t the most amazing picture of her, no, but it’s the normality of it that I miss, I suppose.  It’s not that I want others to feel guilty, nor do I think I’m bad off.  I’m okay with the juggle, it’s just that some days it affects me more than others, I suppose.

My Sam . . .
My Sam . . .

Maybe it was the candles.  Maybe it was the darkness, or maybe it was the whole day, a stressful juggle at work, the race home to get to school, the nightly routine still in play, and then going over everything the kids need for school.  I missed her.  It’s not that I don’t miss my wife every day . . . but it wasn’t as sad or poignant most days of late.  Tonight it is…sometimes you miss the smile or the scent or the fact you look at the mirror and think in terms of whether she’d tell you that the outfit you’re wearing looks okay.  Sometimes you just need another body to help with things.

Sometimes you just wish you had someone next to you when the power goes out.

Old Stories

At the Trees
At the Trees

Over the weekend, as I stated in my last post, I took the kids to the Calaveras County Big Trees park.  It was during the trip to that very state park, though, that my kids asked me if I’d ever been to the park before.  I had, but it had been a very, very long time.  In fact, the only time I’d actually visited I wasn’t even a resident of the state of California.  I wasn’t married yet…may not even have been engaged.

When I started dating Andrea, things were pretty hot and heavy at first.  We spent nearly every free moment together.  When she went off on any kind of break, particularly over the summer, I visited.  This was one particular break, most likely Spring Break, as I distinctly remembered the trip.  It wasn’t memorable because of the trees or the drive or the altitude…it was memorable because I had to have a tooth pulled and I waited until after the trip to visit Andrea to have it done.  This was problematic because I ended up having it pulled on the day of my computer final.  (still managed to get an “A” in it, though)

I told my kids the story, of how I had come out and visited their Mom.  How we drove all the way to Big Trees because, frankly, her father wanted to take us there.  I was all for it, but I distinctly remember Andrea being less than thrilled.  Still…she caved in and did it anyway.  If it gave us a chance to have some wine and a picnic – a fact I left out of the story for the kids – their mother was all in.  I went along and, frankly, hopped up on narcotics for the pain in my infected gums and aching tooth, I could have visited the Calaveras County landfill and not cared.

Why I bring this up, though, is because there was a dichotomy to the story.  I had fondness for their Mom, and my brain still remembers great details of everything that happened in those first years with her.  They were intense and fiery and sexy and I would go back to those very memories whenever things got bad or difficult to remind myself…this is why you married this woman.

But during the trip, when I’d bring up the trip with their mother, each of the kids would have their own qualifications for what likely happened:

2013-08-10 14.42.35“I doubt Mom would have walked up this trail, Dad.”  That was true.  It was near vertical in places and filled with tree roots and their Mom was likely dressed to the nines, even to go to a state park.
“She didn’t like hiking.  Mom wasn’t an outdoorsy type.”  True again.
“Did you stay a long time Dad?”
“No, kiddo. ”
“Because of Mom?”
“Well…no…your Mom probably wanted to stay.”
“Grandpa, right?”  That was right.  Andrea’s Dad liked to say he visited places, but he didn’t spend a lot of time there once he’d arrived.  He’d go, see the sights and get out.  Lingering wasn’t something her family did.  Camping they did, but I wasn’t up for that and we weren’t in a position to do it at that time.

It was interesting, to me and I had come to realize that we had swung the pendulum both ways: we started out two years ago adoring everything about Andrea.  She was perfection, the beautiful photos from her youth and the smile and the love she showed us.  A year later we were talking about the bad things, the stuff that put us through so much stress.  That seemed all we could dwell on.  Now, though, we’ve reached the happy medium, which is what marriage really is/was, right?  We had hard times, we had amazing times.  I’m sure my own kids will have their vision of how their Dad raised them and there will be things about me that drive them completely bonkers.  I hope by the end they realize I tried my best.

But as we stood there next to a tree that was thousands of years old, I knew they’d at least remember visiting the place.  Where they weren’t real sure they wanted to go after we got home it was all they could talk about.

As I tucked in the boys for the night they informed me “we had the best day, Dad!”

That’s all I could hope for.

Weekend Adventures

Often we do simple, little things that take us out and about.  Many times, if we have the money, it’s simply a movie.  That’s what the kids wanted to do.  The twins wanted to see the new Disney movie Planes, while my oldest wanted to go see Elysium.  My middle simply wanted to do anything…she’s pretty easygoing.

I had other plans.

They weren’t massive, but I got up early enough that I made breakfast for the kids and began my task.  I made sandwiches for all of us, put some root beers and ice in a cooler with them.  I bought chips to have and a box of grocery store bakery cookies.  (I know, I preach making homemade snacks and buy some, but I had a plan)  I put it all in the back of the car and headed out the door with the four kids in tow.

We hadn’t really gone on any kind of adventurous outings before this, but I figured it was time.  Abbi, my oldest, leaves in 10 days.  10.  That’s how long I have until the family of five becomes a family of four.  I hadn’t really anticipated this change two years ago when my wife passed away.  It’s one of those massive milestones.  I had spent a long time looking at the funds (or lack thereof) in my bank account and what we’ll need to head out the door and go to another state with her for college.  She’s excited, a little nervous, probably a lot scared…but really anticipating a good time at school.

The kids at the Sequoias
The kids at the Sequoias

Knowing we didn’t have a lot of time left to us we went to the Big Trees.  Do you know it?  It’s in the middle of Calaveras County, CA – yes…the same one with the frog-jumping contest made famous by Twain.  You enter a national forest and then a state forest and then you’re there, in the mountains, something like 4,500 feet in elevation.  You’re up in among pine trees that reminded me of the smell of South Dakota when we used to visit there as a kid.  Friends reminded me that this is where George Lucas shot a good portion of Return of the Jedi.  We didn’t even think of that.

We just saw these massive, gargantuan trees.

I could see, before arrival, that it raised some doubt in my oldest’s brain.  She wasn’t sure this was the kind of adventure she wanted to achieve.  She isn’t the hiking type, doesn’t camp.  The boys and Hannah, who grew up in Texas and California are about as big a city dwellers as you’re going to get.  When I told them to get shoes they could hike in they tried to wear them with no socks…in the mountains…in the trees.  I immediately sent them up to change.  Again.

Still, when we arrived and they saw the giant stump big enough you could fit 8 families on it for Thanksgiving dinner they were amazed.  Floored.  Happy.

We hiked up the overlook of the entire forest.  We sat inside a hollowed-out center of a tree.  We walked through a downed tree, hollowed out by fire.  We spent a long time, hours there.

It was two hours there and two back, but they didn’t care.  We listened to a couple podcasts, some music, sang along to the radio . . . and just enjoyed the day.

As it got dark we sat outside, lying on blankets, watching the beginning of the Perseid meteor shower.  We saw a bunch of stars streak, flame in the brightest, shortest of intensities.  The pink and green and blue flame streaked by like tails in the sky.  The boys missed wishing on one at first and then started to as another streaked by.  The small start that was moving in a straight orbit I informed them was either a satellite or possibly the International Space Station and they followed it as it left the sky and crept over the horizon.

As I tucked them into bed, all three, I sat and rested for the evening and realized that sometimes . . . once in awhile . . . we have a good day.  It wasn’t with their mother, but we brought up together . . . she’d only been up here once with me, before they were born, and she wasn’t a big fan.  We’d spent about an hour then and that was it.  No hiking.  No walking around.  History was glorified by her father’s words not the plaques we read today on the trail.

It wasn’t a huge adventure…but it was still adventurous enough for us.  That’s all that matters.

Pieces of You

Have you ever taken a look at yourself or your spouse or your children and seen the pieces…not the full picture?  I remember my wife as the whole, the person who smiled and melted my heart.  The woman who encouraged me to do anything I thought I could achieve and helped me to succeed when I did.

But there are times I see the issues with those parts of myself and my wife.

Those pieces, just splinters of DNA that copy and mold to the distinct personalities and thoughts of my children.  This is particularly difficult in days like the first day or school at a new school for the first time since they started their educations.  I see the pieces of myself and my late wife in them, and they’re not always the best pieces.

My son, Sam, is outgoing and smiles a ton.  That’s like his Mom.  He flirts and acts silly . . . then he gets ahead of himself and starts to stutter a little and that’s like me.  He makes friends easily – like his Mom – and then gets shy and doesn’t ask their full names – like his Dad.  He’s happy, nervous, and still okay with moving schools.  He gets nervous and giggles a little and tells too much information and can’t stop himself from talking – like his Mom.  He’s athletic…okay that was neither of us.  No idea where he got that one from, but it’s to his benefit in today’s society.

Then there’s Noah.  Noah lives in his head, though not in a bad way.  Like me and others of my ilk he doesn’t share too much of his feelings.  He holds them in, to the detriment of himself and others.  It’s been over 2 years and he can’t delve into finally grieving properly for his mother.  He’s insanely smart and particularly caring.  He is imaginative but to the point where he cannot understand why others can’t see what he’s thinking.  He has a head full of miscellaneous information and cannot wait to let it all out.  That was me, and I totally understand how that makes him hard to understand.  I know this because that was me as a kid.  I had a ton of random information in my head.  As an adult and a journalist it’s a great thing, I can know a little about a lot.  As a kid it’s maddening because you think everyone should like it as much as you do and they just . . . don’t.  You get made fun of and you get isolated.  That was Noah on his first day of school.  When asked to share what his likes are and what he does he talks about making stop-frame movies.  When asked to explain he mentions Ray Harryhausen.  That gets him called a “blabbermouth” which follows him the whole day.  As the new kid.  In a new school.  When he gets angry he can’t control it – that’s where he’s like his mother.  The poor kid got the worst two pieces of his parents.

He still says it was a good day, difficult as it was.

Now I face my middle, the shy, bashful, quiet Hannah who plays guitar, heading out tomorrow to school.  She wants her sister to drop her off because her sister has been to that school.  She’s nervous but doesn’t want to tell me – that’s her mother.  The shy, bashful, quiet thing is me.  She’s tall like her mother with thick dark hair like her father.  She’s powerful on the guitar and creative like me and pouts like her mother.  She’s an amazing kid, smarter than she gives herself credit (like me) and strong in her will (like her mother).

Her older sister has recently begun mothering more and more.  I don’t get angry at this, it’s like her Mom.  But I can see that’s a front for the nerves of leaving all three kids and her Dad behind to start fresh as her own person in a totally different state.  Alone.  She compensates by doing 1,000 things – that’s her mother again.  But she’s right and knows it all and tries to mother even her father – that’s both parents coming out.

Gather all four kids together and I see the whole of both parents.  But they didn’t just get the worst, they got pieces they have to live with and adjust and bend to their own will as well.  Abbi is stronger-willed than her father but creative like him.  I love that.  Hannah is shy like her father but powerful in ideas like her mother.  Noah and Sam are both major combinations of both parents.

Some of these things would never happen if their mother was still with us, I know that, but that doesn’t mean it would be better.  Instead…I’m happy they are adjusting, however slowly.  As long as they know I am here to talk with them and help them use the strengths from each of us to their advantage.

Those are the pieces that will help the most.

Change and Children

Change is inevitable.  That’s the saying, right?

But we’ve faced a lot of changes in a couple years.

A change in family structure – my wife passed away about 2 1/2 years ago; A change in homes; a change in jobs; change in schools for the oldest child; a change in parenting.

Noah
Noah

Some of that – a lot of it, in fact – was for the best.  The new home, a rental, is less than I spent on a mortgage.  It is more in my budget range.  The new job isn’t in management, affording me the time to get home and care for the kids.  The new parenting paradigm, though not at all the direction we were headed, turned out to be pretty good.

There were other changes, though necessary, that didn’t really help much.

Changing my oldest, Abbi’s, school wasn’t an easy change.  It was necessary.  She had been going to a private, Catholic high school.  I couldn’t afford that, not with tuition the rate of most private colleges of out-of-state tuition at another university.  The move in her junior year, right in the middle of high school, was hard on her.  She made her way, she’s a strong, determined, bright kid.  She shouldn’t have had to, I know that, but there really was no choice.  There were nights I couldn’t do anything about the problems of the new kid or the lack of a date or not being asked to prom or what have you.  These are things that she always struggled with: “I’m always the good friend and never the girl they want to ask out.”  Those were her words before her Mom died.  Now, it’s just “guys don’t like smart, quirky girls, Dad!”

Well, I do, but that’s not an indication of the average male, I suppose.  I was, after all, married to the same woman for 18 years.

Tomorrow marks another major change.  This one isn’t for Abbi, the oldest, it’s for her brothers.

Noah and Sam, my twin 10-year-olds, are changing schools.  Again, necessity dictates the change.  The boys are moving to the public elementary school, spending their last year before middle school in a different school.  It’s not an easy thing.

Noah, in particular, is really worried.  He says he’s not.  He’s tried to be the staunch, brave, hard-working kid with no thought about what’s next and that he’s doing fine.  He says he’s excited.  But I know better.  Oh, sure, there’s excitement, but there’s so much concern.  He’s a worry-wart, yes, and that’s always been the case.  But he’s faced a lot of changes and has had a hard time facing that change.  He lost his mother and he’s still not dealt, completely, with that loss.  He’s sad, he wants her back, he might even, if I’m not over-thinking things, feel guilty.  He has no reason to feel guilty, but I’ve heard little things, here and there, about how sad he is about his temper tantrums and about how he acted when his Mom was around.  I don’t put up with the tantrums, never did, and from the morning he lost his mother he hasn’t thrown one.  Not one.

But that has nothing to do with her passing away.  His throwing tantrums at 3, 4, 5, 6, even 7-years-old isn’t his fault.  It was ours – mine and his Mom’s.  She didn’t like the screaming and the shrieking and the noise.  She caved in all…the…time!

Noah came in this evening to my bedroom to sleep.  He is so worried he couldn’t fall asleep.  I sit here and hear him start to snore a little bit and finally doze off around Midnight and I’m pleased…pleased that he can find some calm in my presence.  I am happy that he’s comfortable and can finally get some sleep.

If only I could be there to help him face all his stresses.

But then . . . change is never that easy.

Papers, Pencils, Calendars and Calming

We sat at the dinner table tonight and all my son could talk about was how each school year started at his previous school.  What he liked.  What he hated.  How his therapist told him to handle things.

That last bit is what told me what I needed to know.

Noah
Noah

Noah, one of my twin sons, has always had a problem “fitting in” and I put that in quotation marks for a reason.  It’s not that I think he needs to conform, God knows I didn’t at his age.  No, he just has a hard time keeping his thoughts, feelings and anger to himself.  It’s like he got the creativity and quirkyness of his Dad and the short fuse of his Mom.  That’s a really bad combination.

The part that’s difficult is knowing that we had to change schools and that it’s bothering him.  I’ve known for awhile, but he’s not wanted to talk with me about it.  He’s talked with his older sister.  That, or they’ve both just tried to insulate me from it and that’s not going to work since she’s leaving in 20 days for college.

Changing schools is a necessity, by the way.  I’ve moved the boys from their private school to the public one.  It’s not just financial, though that plays a role, but also because I simply have no one to pick them up from school each day.  Even if the public school has a “4th R” or extended day program I couldn’t get there in time to pick them up by 6pm every day.  Between traffic and the uncertainty of my job there’s no realistic solution there.  However, the school’s buses and the fact my middle daughter is old enough to watch them granted me the solution.  Hannah is going to the public middle school, the boys in the grade school just down the street.  I’ll take them to school each morning and the bus takes them near our house each day – less than a couple blocks – and they can get home.  It’s a pretty simple solution.

But for a kid whose school career to this point has been littered with incidents and some accidents involving behavior, lack of control and grief this isn’t an easy transition.  He’s really worried.  Every other night he’s been in my bedroom with worry or bad dreams.  I never turn him or any of the kids away if that happens.  I can see the concern on his face, though.  Abbi tries to head it off and says they’ve talked about it, but it’s obvious he needs to talk more.  It’s the conflict in how the kids handle their grief in different ways.

Abbi
Abbi

In a lot of ways Noah and his sister are the same.  Talking about grief or their mother or what they miss isn’t easy for them, they’d rather push it down and keep it away.  Unfortunately, it only can stay packed down for so long before it comes up and explodes out, under pressure.  For Abbi, that will ease as she starts her life as a college student.  For Noah, it’s another woman in his life who’s leaving.  At least he knows this one’s coming back, but sometimes it’s like he hopes or thinks his Mom will return and help him and that’s heartbreaking.

Still, I’m here and in between the pencils and the paper and the calendars and erasers . . . there’s me helping to calm him.  Somebody has to stand up for him, even when he’s struggling.  Somebody has to stand with him, even when he’s wrong, and help him stay on his feet.  That’s always going to be me.

I’m okay with that.