Tag Archives: raising kids

What Comes This Year?

IMG_2302

What Comes This Year?

I got an email yesterday out-of-the-blue from a company asking me what adventure . . . what bucket-list things . . . what was going to happen this year?

That’s actually a fortuitous question as I have a lot that may happen this year.  Some of it involves my kids.  Much of it actually does not.

As children get older they tend to have their own lives and their own things they want to do.  So as a result many of their ideas for what the year brings are different than mine, but we will still go out, do things, be adventurous on our own.

Together?  The kids all want to see the volcanic area of far northern California, so we’ll make a trip at some point to Mount Lassen.  When it’s warmer and the snow isn’t an issue, of course.

One child wants to try out for basketball.  Another is running for Fall student council.

Bucket list?  Well…I’m not ready to kick said bucket, but regardless, a couple of those items will tick off this year.

David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd, is playing the Hollywood Bowl in the Spring.  I’m going.  No question.  Tickets in-hand, trip ready, all set.

Sometime in the spring as well?  I plan on hitting the recording studio to begin work on a solo record.  I’ve been working the material for a long time.  It’s really time to get it set to tape and release it.  Will it sell?  Who knows?  But I have to get it out.  Kind of killing me not to do that.

There are a million other things I’d love to do but we will see.

I want to see the site of the first nuclear explosion.  I know, that’s weird and a bit off-the-path, but still a totally strange thing I’d be able to tell people I did.

I want to go back to the Midwest and see family.  Not a bucket list thing, but we’ll do it anyway.

Yosemite.  We did it once, and it’s close by so why not?  Our first trip was a bit odd . . . for personal reasons.  We’ll do it right this time.

To be fair, this whole post was actually inspired by that company’s marketing person emailing me.  Maybe it was a robot email.  Maybe it wasn’t.  They say they have a contest and are pushing readers of sites like mine to enter . . . as part of their outdoor gear company.  If you’re interested, you can go here and explore the company’s website.

I will be up-front and tell you that I do not actually own anything from the company nor am I able to give an endorsement as I haven’t used anything from Cotopaxi.  Not saying they’re bad, either, just that they contacted me.  Regardless, an interesting email and it did inspire me to write so for that reason I thank them.

But it does beg the question . . . what does your 2016 look like?

Advertisements

Human Decency

IMG_5850

Human Decency

I saw what might be one of the worst things I’ve seen someone in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad suburbs do this morning.

In the middle of a large amount of wind mixed with pelting rain parents like me were in line trying to drop their kids off at school.  That’s not such a big deal, many of us do this every single morning of every single weekday when the schools are in session.

But this morning I had dropped my boys at the school, turned at the light, and was making my way back through the neighborhood.  That direction takes me back past the high-school on my right and it’s adjoined to an elementary school.  My boys’ middle school went back into session after the holidays.  The elementary school was not.

Yet there are still kids, living in the neighborhood behind the elementary school, who have to get to the Middle School.  There’s a crosswalk there and a four-way stop.

So this morning a little girl, maybe 6th grade, was waiting to cross.  I’m not a friendly driver, I admit that, and I tend to get frustrated with others on the road.  No road rage, just stress and high blood pressure.

But a little girl with a pink umbrella and little pink rain boots?  What kind of cold-hearted person doesn’t stop for that?

Someone on the other side . . . the northbound lanes.  Once I had stopped, facing south, the woman in the car just to my left stopped as well.  The little girl, bright pink, was trying desperately to keep dry and cross the street.

That’s when some idiot got angry and decided to try and go northbound anyway.  When the little girl looked up and saw the car, the minivan honked…and honked…and got angry and the little girl just trying to legally cross the street.  In the rain.  In the crosswalk.  As she jumped the wind grabbed her umbrella, pulled her into the intersection and the minivan honked several more times, mouthed something with an angry look at the girl, and slammed on their brakes, honking all while the girl crossed in front of the people.

This is part and parcel with a lot of crazy things.

When you go on a date with a woman, something I tell my sons, you should pay.  If you ask that person on a date or to lunch or even just coffee, you…should…pay.  It’s human decency.

You should hold the door open.  Not just for women, girls, grandmas, etc…but everyone.  Don’t race and hold “door close” on the elevator.

I don’t want to get on a Dennis Miller style rant here, but we all have hurried, crazy, silly lives.  I have a job during the day and a job at night taking care of the kids.  I get up extra early to get lunches made and exercise a little and get ready for school.  But when things I was taught by my mother and father to do arise . . . I do them.  There’s 30 seconds to stop for that little girl in the crosswalk so she doesn’t look like a character in a Buster Keaton movie.

The upside was someone in the other lane pulled up beside the mean person who almost hit that little girl . . . and abruptly told them off through the window in the rain . . . and honked at them.

At least some people recognized…it’s not always all about themselves.

Another Year

IMG_2527

Another Year

I noticed just today, as I got an alert that there was a bunch of traffic on this site . . . that I haven’t written here in awhile.

Let me explain, for those who might subscribe, or want to read, or the less likely few who might wonder “why?”

There’s a pretty simple explanation.

I haven’t really needed to write.

This isn’t some epiphany, I haven’t had a resurgence of religious fervor or fallen down a well or freaked out or anything.  I’ve simply not needed to do it.

I started writing here, I’ve said before, because it was honestly helpful.  Think of it as an online journal, a way to express the really good, really bad, and in-between when I needed to get all that feeling and reality out of my head so I could move forward with my day.

Most of the things I’ve written, some of it more than four years ago, came from the darkest part of my life up to this point.  I was grieving.  I would run at 1,000 mph with the kids, cooking, cleaning, laundering . . . and then they would go to bed.

…and all was silence.

The only thing left were the voices inside my head, the worries, the memories, the grief, and the panic.  They all swirled around.  When the kids wouldn’t listen; when there were bad grades; when I had to face punishments and there was no one left to back me, just me.

8:30pm through midnight were the worst hours of my life and the times I wrote, every weekday, about what went on in my household.

But as I said, a strange thing has happened.  Maybe not strange, wonderful perhaps.  Joyous? Loving?

This coming year, 2016, will mark a year where there has been more happiness than disappointment.  Not as many screw-ups and nowhere near the panic or disappointment that were there.  Tears that are shed come mostly from laughing so hard.  When letters, cards, pictures or other things of my late wife appear they’re happy memories, not bad ones.

So 2016 comes and we have made plans, have been moving, thinking, and creating.  College beckons for one kid, graduating college is on the horizon for the following year too.  My boys are reaching out and doing more than they ever had before and doing it separately.  Student Council, Academic Clubs, guitar, reading, writing, basketball . . . all my kids are doing amazing things, things that I didn’t anticipate.

Things we hadn’t done before.

The year is a new one, and it’s a blank canvas.  It’s an empty page awaiting the first grey and silver smudge from the pencil as it hits the paper.  It’s waiting for us to tell the story . . . and it will get told.

But it doesn’t always get told for all to see.

As much as I wrote it was never everything that happened in our home, that would be impossible, impractical, and self-aggrandizing.

No . . . this last year has seen something extraordinary.  It saw us all becoming the people and family we are today.  It saw us being influenced by the past but not living within the past.

A new year holds so much promise . . . we just have to live up to that.

After the last year?  We might just be able to do it, too.

Togetherness

IMG_5400 (1)

Togetherness

My daughter and I had always had a hot and cold relationship.  Love was the constant.  Even though she was tied to her mother’s hip, it seems, she never lacked in confidence in her Daddy.

When the teenager up there (at a ZZ Top concert, by the way, she was thoroughly surprised just how much she enjoyed herself) was a little girl she and her mother were thick as thieves.  That is…until she got hurt, had a cut, or was sick.  When that happened, she came crying (literally) to her Daddy.

This might have been from when she was an infant.  Her birth was rough, with an emergency c-section and her mother out cold for more than a day.  I actually took the baby home with me and her mother was still in the hospital.  The baby contracted RSV, while her mother recovered from a post-op infection.  So I would wake up, give her an albuterol treatment, feed her, change her, go to bed, and repeat every few hours.

So when she was hurt as a little toddler or little kid she came to her daddy.

Then immediately went back to her Mom when she felt better, hugged her, and told her mom thank-you.  Sometimes she’d even stick her tongue out when I jokingly said “hey!”

Still . . . I worried a lot about this little girl when her mother passed.  So the fact she talks with me nearly every night, kisses me good-night, and is closer to her dad then ever . . . that’s a kind of paradigm shift, one that would have been hard fought before.

But only recently have I seen her worry about me.  A lot.  When I started working out harder she wanted to make sure I did it right, not because I’m obsessed with my weight but because I need to get healthier, lose some of that bad weight in the stomach that can cause heart problems.

So every other night she’s met me in the front of the house and worked out with me.  She’s taken exercises from PE classes, asked her teachers, and put a nice little regimen of core exercises together.  She does them too, for sure, but she makes sure her old man does it and isn’t injured.

It would be easy, I suppose, to be embarrassed or indignant that your daughter is telling you what to do.  I don’t look at it that way.  My daughter is looking at me and thinking that if I am wanting to be healthy she can, too.  We do it to the degree we need…and move on.  We aren’t starving ourselves and we’re not trying to be body builders.

The small eye-rolling moments still happen.  When I goof off during warm up.  When I say “No…not 21 Pilots…we work out to Led Zeppelin” but she tolerates those because she likes doing it with me.  Or she’s worried.  Or both.  Either way, I take the win.

So when I look at this teenager in the room with me now I realize that things are a lot different than they used to be, but that’s not a bad thing.

Different is good when it gets you even closer to kids who just a few years before . . . would never have admitted they wanted to be that close to their dad.

It Makes Everything Better

IMG_5743

It Makes Everything Better

A few days back I was walking through a park near where I work on my way to the local courthouse for a story.  In the middle of the park is a series of benches, all worn, the paint coming off, initials carved in the paint.  They are sleeping places where homeless often take over, or the local kids getting completely stoned from their weed of choice.  It’s not an intolerable place, I don’t want to paint it like that.  It’s just a park in the middle of the city . . . a place where all the people you’d meet in the middle of a city might gather, I suppose.

On the edge of the park is an apartment complex and a number of kids live there.  So I imagine what I saw on my walk was from one  of them.

On one of the benches, in-between the rubbed-off paint and behind the scrawl of words carved in the seat was a teddy-bear with a heart between its hands reading, simply, “hugs.”

I bring this up because in a moment when I was rushing to get somewhere, after a stressful panic of working on what I needed to know for a court hearing and juggling several stories I stopped and snapped that picture.  I captioned it “hugs make everything better”.

I bring this long story to a point because I didn’t know how true that was.

Friday the 13th was just a bad day.  Not because of some triskaidekaphobia.  This was just a bad day.

Bad, sure, because of a series of attacks in Paris.  I have friends who are or were there.  I found out they were safe and then faced watching it unfold on national news like everyone else.  Bad because, that day, after a massive investigation the response was not quite what I’d hoped from our story.  We got a response, but you always hope for more.

Then I found out sometime in the middle of the news from Paris unfolding, that someone I knew in my youth had passed away.  It’s amazing the memories that flood when that happens, no matter who you are.

So when I got home, late from all the events of the day, I faced three kids and a barrage of stories of how bad their days were.  Terrible, it seems.
“I had to run the mile today.”
“Some kid pushed me into the bushes.”
“We went over all these issues about gender studies and you need to know this about this and about this . . . ”

And I blew.

I’d had a rough day.  I was in dress clothes still, cutting vegetables, putting dinner together, and I was the conduit for yet more bad news.  I just could not take any more nor face any more issues.  The week was almost over, the day was over and I’d had it.  My brain could not digest any more emotional turmoil.

“I know you have all had a bad day.  I’m home late…that should show you that my day wasn’t really great, right?  Could I just make dinner and change into some jeans before you pummel me?”

I did change.  As I came out of my room my daughter walked up with a smile and kissed my cheek.

At the bottom of the stairs waiting for me was one of my sons.  I was waiting to be stressed out.  He hugged me.  His brother met me and joined in.
“Hugs make everything better,” he told me.  I put my arms around both necks and smiled.

They do indeed.

Forgotten Memories

A6AAA6C2-A937-4F24-8D87-6D3CCD5B48AC

Forgotten Memories

Ever found something you didn’t even remember you’d lost? That was what happened to me the other day.  It wasn’t a watch or piece of jewelry or a favorite shirt or lucky penny or anything like that.

It was a camera card.

You know, those SD cards that you put in your camera?  In the old days you had film, negatives, prints, those all took up space and you might forget them but they were hard to ignore.  These . . . well, these were easy to lose and ignore they are the size of a postage stamp.

I found this card strictly by accident, I was looking for something completely different in my office.  I didn’t even know it was there, but having seen it on the top of a shelf I put it into my computer and there it was.

A series of photos, apparently taken by myself and my children, a combination of both for sure, that had tiny little twin boys and a pre-teen middle girl and my oldest…graduating 8th grade.

It’s interesting to see the differences in the kids.

The boys, certainly, have the happy ignorance of youth.  The girls have that giddy smile of transition that you get when you’re not old enough to care about the homecoming dance or who’s dating whom or whether you look good enough in that outfit.  (Okay, the oldest did, but the drama didn’t come until much later)

The hollowness of grief isn’t visible here, either.  That’s not to say that they bear some major burden or massive weight on their shoulders, that’s not true.  They don’t look that way today.  No…what they show here is the lack of instant and quick maturity and age that they developed in a matter of weeks or months after they lost their mother.  The smiles are carefree and sincere and without hesitation.

A couple things are evident to me from this.  The carefree smiles are back.  It took . . . whew . . . more than a few years to get here.  It took stability and knowing things are okay and that I’ve not completely screwed up to do it.  My daughter still asks when I get paid and if we’re okay financially, though, which is a throwback to when we were struggling.  That’s when their mother was alive, not after she passed away.

The other noticeable thing that saddened me a bit was what was missing from the photos.  Even if the kids had taken them two people are nonexistent: me and their mother.  I kind of understand why I’m not there, I was probably taking some of the pictures.  Their mother, though, hated her photo being taken.  I like to believe that if she’d known finding this card with her on it would have given me and her kids some pleasurable smiles she’d have allowed the pictures, though.

This has been the case with so many of the memories we find buried in boxes or on shelves…the real moments, the ones where kids are covered in frosting or taking a bath in the sink or running in the cold air . . . those are missing her.  It’s a sad reality that we don’t have her in there . . . the ones we do have are the sort of portraiture and staged photos.  Yet the ones we love – even from those sessions – are the outtakes where we all are smiling, laughing or being silly.

Still . . . it’s nice to see those smiles and realize just how far we’ve come.  Maybe that’s why fate put that card just where I could find it in the first place.

 

A Costume Conundrum

IMG_5709

A Costume Conundrum

I never have had a problem finding costumes for my kids to dress up.  They have creativity pouring out their ears.  If anything, pulling off the creative costumes is far more difficult and expensive than any thought of being creative and doing it.

My two sons have very different personalities.  My one son love Sci-Fi so his was in his head forever.  Most the parents and none of the kids in his school or what have you even knew what he was doing.  He didn’t care.

IMG_5710 Yep.  He went as Arthur Dent.  Martin Freeman,hitchhikers-guide-dvd-uk the actor in the film version has a doppleganger. My son had his slippers, his green robe, even the slightly depressed and confused look of Freeman from the film.  I had to get  a green robe, of course, but we had the slippers and the shirt and sweats.  He lost the towel, so he’d be in some big trouble in the Douglas Adams universe.

His brother up there in the top was Charlie Brown.  Not a big deal at all.  His sister . . . a Hogwarts student.  Again, not hard, she had the cape and the tie.

I was encouraged to dress up, be a kid again, have fun!  We were going to a friend’s house so why not?

The conundrum was what to do?  I had a half-hour to get a costume.  I started with Marty McFly, I had jeans, a jean jacket . . . but the only down vest in the house was pink and was waaay to small.  That succeeded in also making me look about as old as I was.  It dawned on me then, though . . . kakhis . . . hat . . . military-style shirt.

IMG_5708

So I was Indy.

That came together in about 10 minutes…with a chorus of “that’s just NOT FAIR” from the daughter, who couldn’t believe I slapped together a costume in a few minutes and it was actually a passable Indiana Jones.  Okay . . . old Indy, like Crystal Skull-ish Indy, but still . . .

This was a great day for a number of reasons.  we went to friends, had food, the kids went out and got – literally – 9-10 pounds of candy each.  The boys counted and traded with their friends.  My daughter laughed and talked about her classes and such.  It was a great night.

When we got home my daughter and I sat down, the boys exhausted and sleeping already. She looked up, a twinkle in her eye like her mother used to have.  My wife had that twinkle when she was feeling mischievous and wanted to do something.  This day came just one day after their mother’s birthday, a day that they all enjoyed and sadness was not the norm.  (Okay, I was a bit down in the morning, but it got much, much better).

“Can I count my candy like when I was a little 5-year-old again,” my daughter asked?
“Of course, I told her.”

She grinned, took a meticulous count of all her candy, laid out what she’d try to con her brothers into taking, and then kissed me good night.

This . . . was the end of a great evening, and we weren’t even trying for great.  Just to get by.

But then . . . my son DID have his towel with him at the beginning.  I guess we somehow had reached level 42 . . . live, the universe and everything.

I Been Up…I Been Down

IMG_5569

I Been Up…I Been Down

Weekends are a weird dichotomy in my home. They are the one time I sleep past 5:30 or 6:00 am.  Yet I don’t get really past 8am because…essentially…they are catch-up days, too.

The last few weeks have seen an abundance of weekend events and things too, though. We had homecoming one weekend.  Then I had a gig with a band – musicians I’m thrilled allow me to make some noise on the stage with them.

IMG_2302

But then today saw me showing my exasperation with the three remaining miniature Manoucheris in my household. One had been sick with a cold, which he has since passed along to me. I started another change in eating habits because I’ve been told I’m eating too little and I won’t lose weight unless I balance my diet better. It’s true, I’m sure, but I feel more than a bit bloated from eating more than I normally do each day.

Then came today.

My daughter was in her usual position – asleep until nearly noon.

I didn’t.

After twins arguing constantly . . . and the kitchen a complete mess . . . and several weeks of getting behind on cleaning the house I had reached nerves that had gotten more than a little raw. Add losing energy from a cold and it gets worse.

So when I had to load a plethora of dishes that one of the boys missed for the dishwasher while in the middle of prepping to vacuum I had my own temper tantrum.

“You know . . . I got up this morning, made you breakfast, mowed the lawn, did two loads of laundry and then cleaned up the front room,” I calmly asserted.
“I cannot do everything,” I informed them. “If I did I’d sleep sometime around 2032.”

It made a small dent.

When my daughter woke up I told her “good afternoon” and she rolled her eyes.
“You know, I’ve cleaned your clothes, at least some of them. You could take the rest upstairs.”

Then my son put his creativity in place and made one of the cutest Halloween decorations ever using recycled Kuerig K-cups. Ghost lights.

IMG_5692

The pleasure was short-lived, though, when I went to wash sheets and the bottom sheet of one of their beds tore down the middle. They simply don’t make them like they used to I suppose. This created a hour-long search for old twin sheets until I can replace the custom space-themed sheets on his bed. Life of having a late wife who was part decorator, I guess.

Then came the 7:30pm hyperactivity, which seems to hit with every kid around the ages of 10-12. This is solved fairly simply with chores. Lots and lots of chores.

While making beds the sons begin to ask if I have any stories about their older sister or oldest sister and things they did that got them in trouble. After regaling them with one or two I look down and it dawns on me:
“You don’t need to start telling stories about their problems. You yourself tried to climb up your dresser only to have it fall on you. You were screaming your head off.”
That stopped the conversation dead in its tracks.

It was a long weekend of cleaning, decorating, and other issues that I never thought would come up. But in the end, as they went to bed, tired and satisfied . . . it ended, this weekend, on an up note as I turned on the ghosts and watched them twinkle in the house.

Amazeballs!

IMG_5572

Amazeballs!

(Yep, I did it. The uncool Dad thing of saying the current slang that was added to the urban dictionary. Deal with it!)

When’s the last time you did something amazing, spectacular, jaw-dropped speechless for your kids?

I don’t mean “I am (insert butler/maid/launderer/chef) for my kids” kind of thing. We all do incredible amounts of work for our kids. I don’t mean the daily grind. I also don’t include soccer practice, baseball, sports competitions, swim meets, school plays . . . none of that. I’m talking about something totally unexpected, off-the-map, hard to do, hard to find, hard to accomplish kind of thing?

I actually managed that this week. I have my share of real life. Guitar lessons on Saturdays. School clubs, student council, field trips, all of that. My daughter had an adventure for Homecoming that had me playing chauffeur for two days.

This weekend I loaded the four smaller Manoucheris into the car and drove up to Portland, Oregon. It’s not because I like rain or the show Portlandia. (Okay, I like Portlandia, but I digress)

You need some back story here. Not Disney Phineas and Ferb backstory. There’s no “stand outside and be a lawn gnome” business going on here. (There’s actually a Wikipedia page of Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s backstories. Amazing! Google the lawn gnome, it’s worth the digression. We’ll wait here for you!)

………….

(Okay you’re back…)

My son has a soft spot for what is called stop-frame animation. He grew fascinated when I was watching a documentary one day on the director Ray Harryhausen. He is the man behind Clash of the Titans and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. My son sat, at age 10, and watched two full hours of the history of Ray Harryhausen. He has a scale model of the Jason skeleton as well as a t-shirt bearing homage to the late director.

JasonAndtheArgonautsSm

The technique is called stop-frame because you make a model, or puppet, or what have you and you move the model a fraction. You shoot a still frame of film. You move it a little more . . . and a little more. It takes 24 of those pictures to make one single second of a film.

My son decided to start doing this himself. Last Christmas I got him software that came with a web-camera that lets him shoot stop-frame cartoons. I do believe in all sincerity that making these little movies was a boon to my son’s mental health. He was having a really hard time dealing with the grief of losing his mom. The meticulous nature and attention to detail funneled his creativity and helped I am sure of it.

Some amazing movies are made with this system. One of the biggest studios now, a studio my son knows and loves, is called Laika. They have made the movies Coraline as well as The Boxtrolls, and ParaNorman. My kids love and have seen all these films.

Coraline, courtesy Laika Films.
Coraline, courtesy Laika Films.

I reached out to the folks at Laika and told them exactly what their films and what this kind of animation has meant to my son, and to all of us. I simply wanted to have my son meet an animator or talk to one or see the inside of their building, anything would be great. To my astonishment and utter delight they told me I could come up and see them and they’d give us a full tour.

Thus the trip to Portland, the city where Laika has their headquarters.

I kept why we were going a secret, other than telling them we were visiting their older sister. When we pulled up there was no indication where we even had arrived.

“Dad, this looks like an insurance company,” they told me, knowing full well it couldn’t be.

I cannot tell you what we saw. That’s part of the deal. No photos, no phones, non-dicslosure all around is the theme of the day. None of us cared a lick. We were happy to sign it.

My son asked a million questions, enthusiastically and almost giddy. The answers he got had the same level of enthusiasm and imagination. The fact that this little 12-year-old was on the same wavelength seems to have connected with the employees who took us around.

There is nothing to compare with that starry-eyed look of astonishment and excitement when your kids are truly youthful and imaginative and seeing something they’d never thought in their wildest dreams they’d experience.

So why do I tell you this? Am I looking for the “Coolest Dad Ever” award or something? No. This is my lesson to every parent because I learned it well: our kids work really hard not just for themselves but for us, too. When my son was grieving he tried to keep it from me or he tried to work it out even though he was terrified to face it and didn’t want to deal with it. It caused him terrible problems which hurt him and made me hurt as well. I couldn’t fix this problem. Some are just too big for a dad to tackle.  Yet he found this amazing thing that let him work out his frustration and grief and he worked it out as much for all of us as for himself.

So when the thought hit me that if I took the family up to visit their sister, we could stop in Portland maybe they’d let us say “hello.” Instead, this wonderful group of people at a major studio told me to come in and we’d get a tour. We’d not only get to see someone who works for this company . . . we’d see them in action.  I got an event that all four kids will remember for a lifetime. We saw magic – not film magic, though that is there. We saw imagination turned technical turned artistic turned . . . beautiful.

IMG_5573

“This would be the coolest place to work . . . ever,” my son whispered to me during the tour. I can’t disagree.

The folks at Laika told us “we need box office results in order to get the money to keep making these so we’ll need you to go see this film. Maybe see it twice!” It was a joke . . . but little do they know we were at Boxtrolls on opening day and we’ll be seeing Kubo and the Two Strings, their new film (I am allowed to tell you the title) next year, too.

Poster for Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika films, coming out next year
Poster for Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika films, coming out next year

Amazement. Sure my kids showed their amazement, slack-jawed, eyes glistening and floored at the imagination.

I’m not amazed at that. I’m amazed that a group of people who had no need to show us around simply said “come on in!”  I’m amazed at how lively and excited they were with us and the others getting a tour that day.

I’m amazed at the love and humanity of other human beings. That is truly wonderful.

(Yes…I resisted the urge to say “that was truly amazeballs!)

Super Powers

Embed from Getty Images

Super Powers

We were in the car, driving, heading north to visit their sister in college. The way there was split into two parts, as we left on a Thursday evening and were going to arrive on Friday morning.

I made the kids get up sometime around 6am so that we could hit the road.   We had roughly 4 hours left before we hit the college town and picked up their sister.  We had a deadline: we were supposed to get to a studio where we were getting a tour. Why or how this happened – and what it was like – are a completely different story. Suffice to say . . . we got there and amazement was had by all.

About an hour into the trip only one of the four people in the car was awake. Fortunately that was me, the driver. Could have been quite disastrous otherwise. I moved along, news playing through the car’s speakers, when my son woke up in the back seat.

“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“For what?”
“That I fell asleep.”
“That’s okay. We have a ways to go so no big deal.”
“But you don’t get to sleep.”
“Well…no.  That’s okay, though.”

He was quiet for awhile, his brother and sister breathing heavy in their REM slumber.

IMG_5570

“So how do you do it,” he asked, his head cocked just a bit to the side.
“Do what?”
“Stay awake like that. Is it like a super power?  When you become an adult do you get the ability to not fall asleep or to stay awake without needing sleep?”

I had to try hard not to laugh because he was actually quite serious.

“No,” was about all I could muster. “No, it’s not a super power being able to stay awake. I just do.”

He couldn’t wrap his head around it. It honestly seemed to bother him that he got 9 hours of sleep and was barely able to stay awake and I kept going.

Sleep.  More appropriately staying awake. It’s probably not a superpower. I would suppose sleep is more Kryptonite to my waking hours than staying awake is a superpower.

I didn’t go into the routines of the day with him. I don’t know that he’d understand and I don’t want him to think I am put upon in my role as a single dad. Yet, to give him fuel for that super power fire, I realized, when we got home from the trip, around 5pm, I didn’t get to just sit on the couch. All the clothes in the bags we’d packed needed to be washed, as did their PE clothes from the week.

The house was a mess.  I started dinner, which while lacking in complication, was still something needing to be made. While that simmered I loaded up the dishwasher, ran it, and switched out the loads of laundry.

I made cookies, then lunches, then cleaned up the table. Fortunately while out I’d purchased some Coltrane with Kenny Burrell for the turntable and we listened to some old jazz while I cleaned up.

Staying awake isn’t really a super power, it’s just a necessary evil when you get older, I suppose. Sometimes you work too many hours and the elusive hours of sleep are because you obsess over success in your job.  Then there’s the times when you do something wonderful with your family . . . and then you have to pick up the routine right after.

What they didn’t see was that exhaustion hit about an hour early and after cleaning up the last of the night’s dishes . . . I was done. Spent. Nine hours of driving, laundry, dinner . . . that had taken its toll, even on me.

As I said . . . sleep. Kryptonite for the super dad.