Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Break - Not How I Envisioned It

Half a lifetime ago, the term "spring break" conjured up a much different meaning than it does today. I never went on a real college spring break unless you count the time two friends and I visited my Uncle Kevin in southern California during our sophomore year at Marquette, planned a day trip to San Diego to throw my uncle off the scent, then raced down to Tijuana for an afternoon of drinking. But, let's just say the streets of Tijuana aren't exactly filled with co-eds on a random Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Still, the idea of "spring break" used to make me think of sandy beaches, warm temperatures, ocean paradises, people not wearing a lot of clothing and lots of drinking. This week, Lucy is on spring break from kindergarten, which means both kids home with me, and we're deep into our version of a week of debauchery.

When it comes to sandy beaches, there is nothing like a local park in 55-degree weather with a slight rain falling - not exactly paradise. The sand comes into play when you have a two-year-old with you. Sure, I noticed Paige dragging her feet throughout the patchy sand area for an hour but didn't fully grasp what had taken up residence in her Velcro-strapped Champion sneakers until we arrived home today and she dumped a sandbox worth of dirt all over the kitchen floor, then ran off. No problem, kid, I'll clean it up - that's what I'm here for.

The ocean paradises came into play Monday. Allison won a free family pass to the North Clackamas Aquatic Center. As we approached the ticket desk you could see into the pool areas. It was at this moment I realized I would have paid for the next four families in line if we didn't have to go into that Petri dish of disease. Kids sneezing. The stench of too much chlorine. People who needed to wear two or three t-shirts instead of none at all. Of course our kids could not wait to jump into the mix. Two hours and countless trips down the kiddie slide later and we made our way back to the hot, humid family locker room area. Not realizing the floors would be wet despite being told repeatedly by her mother and father, Paige slipped and fell twice on the nasty ground soaking up the last remnants of whatever was living on it. An ocean paradise it was not.

Prior to our adventure to the aquatic center is when I got my fill of nakedness for the week. Paige was thrilled to jam her lunch-distended belly into her new princess swimsuit. I said, "Remember, you have nothing on your bottom but a swimsuit, so let me know when you need to go potty." After just a few minutes in my room getting ready, I returned to Paige's and was hit with a whiff. It wasn't full-on barn odor, so I posed the pooping question. "Me no poop, daddy," was the response. I was suspicious. And, as I thought, once the swimsuit came off, a couple of turds landed on the floor. Awesome. Guess we're keeping that swimsuit. Oh, great, and now she's running naked down the hallway while singing "This Girl Is On Fire" by Alicia Keys. Seriously.

Trust me - the drinking is yet to come. It may not be cheap tequila like in Tijuana and it may not be Natty Light like in Daytona Beach, but it's coming in the form of Pacific Northwest brewed IPAs. Tomorrow is my day, Marquette's day, and nothing is standing in my way of watching that Sweet 16 game. By 4 pm PST, spring break goes on hiatus for these kids. I just hope Paige can keep her dirt and poop to herself for a couple of hours, and I'll promise to do all I can to keep my shirt on.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Importance Of What We Do

It's the first question anyone asks when initially meeting someone - "What do you do for a living?" (unless you live in St. Louis, then for some reason I still can't figure out, they want to know where you went to high school). Rightly or wrongly, it defines us from the start and it's happened to me more than a few times during these seven weeks. Tell them, "I'm the editor of three sports magazines," you get an "Oh, wow, that must be fun." Tell them, "I stay home with the kids," and generally you are presented with, "Well, that's nice you can do that," with a slightly condescending tone and look on the person's face. Maybe I read too much into it, and maybe society still is better accepting of women staying home than men, but it's hard to shake the inferiority complex that comes without having a job.

Part of the recent pity party comes from a lot of college talk lately. It was just St. Patrick's Day (and March Madness starts tomorrow), which conjures up memories of standing in line at a bar on Marquette's campus at 6 a.m. to drink green beer on a cold morning 15 years ago. Is there anything better than college for tens of thousands of dollars a year? Seriously, the fat guy in the Larry Bird jersey and plaid green flannel shirt that day thought he'd become some big-time writer. Maybe he'd be in the creative department of a high-profile firm. I guarantee you, he never considered that he'd spend every morning futilely attempting to dress a 2-year-old who for some reason has the mobility of a drunk baby giraffe when we try to put on a pair of her jeans and socks.

But I need to start looking at this as time spent with Paige I'll never back get. It's been seven weeks, already one more week than Allison had with Lucy after she was born before returning to work, and we've been to the zoo, the children's museum (multiple times), we've played hours (days at this point?) of Little People Princesses, gone for runs with the baby stroller, spent mornings at the park and get to drop off/pick up Lucy from the bus stop everyday. Our family is lucky that Allison and I are 15 years removed from college. We can navigate these rocky waters with one full-time job, a little bit of freelance on my part and some short-term unemployment payments. Is it ideal? No. Am I going to continue to complain when I have to carry Paige parallel to the ground under my arm as we quickly exit the library? Absolutely. Am I spending more time in the craft beer aisle at the grocery store these days? Without question. Will I miss all this when it's gone? No doubt.

So, nothing really funny today. I could have done a whole blog about Paige yelling her Billy Madison line (no, she hasn't seen the movie but I just said the clean version of the line a couple months ago and it has stuck) of "You have to think. You've got a dog. You have a responsibility," while we were parked in the car as I took a phone call for a potential job interview yesterday but I'm sure it will happen again. For now, we will do our best to enjoy our time together although it's much easier to say that at this moment ... she's been napping for the last 90 minutes.

Monday, March 11, 2013

29 Minutes Of Mayhem

Ninety-five percent of the time, these kids move fast. They fly around the house. They burst outside to play. They run where others walk. They cannot be contained. But, try to get them out the door by a certain time, and you'd have better luck quickly navigating the check-out line at Michael's (the craft store - seriously, what's with that place, I swear they enter every item by hand).

This morning we were doomed by the repercussions of the time change and Paige being up four times prior to 3 a.m. last night. Once everyone settled into a sleep pattern, the next thing you knew it was 7:20 a.m., which is exactly 29 minutes before we need to leave the house to get Lucy to the bus stop.

First stop, Paige's room to find out what is that god-awful sound. Oh, OK, it's the ear-piercing scratching of the back of a pacifier against the textured wall. Got it. Thanks, Paige. And because she has 15 pacifiers in her bed (as suggested by the sleep specialist), she has an endless supply of these noisemakers.

I flick on the light and say, "Let's get dressed!" only to be met with, "No, daddy, me need to get mimis (her word for pacifiers) off the floor." She proceeds to crawl under her toddler bed with less hustle than Derek Bell in Operation Shutdown mode (obscure 2002 baseball reference - I don't know my audience here at all).

"Paige, let's go. Come on. Now. Paige. Paige. Now."

It's now 7:26.

As Paige wiggles her booty out from under the toddler bed, I poke my head into Lucy's room where she's actually dressed but her hair looks like it's attempting to curl around itself to form a giant ball at the top of her head. Have you ever tried to brush out the snarls in a 6-year-old's hair and comb out her bangs at the same time? We head to the bathroom. I take our $14 snarl-free brush. I lose again.

It's now 7:29.

Back to Paige's room. "Daddy, me need to get dressed right now!" Seriously? In 30 seconds flat we accomplish what we couldn't in six minutes earlier. I send her to the bathroom to join her sister to brush her teeth. Despite now placing two stools in front of the sink so they won't fight over the same one, they are fighting. Paige has hip-checked Lucy off her stool and is straddling both with a foot on each. Good times. I tell them to stop fighting, which is a complete waste of words. Paige suddenly decides she wants to shadow me, so we leave Lucy to her devices. I enter the bathroom three minutes later and Lucy still hasn't placed toothpaste on her toothbrush. I have no idea what she's done in these 180 seconds.

It's now 7:36.

I head downstairs to "make breakfast," which entails sticking mini waffles into the toaster. Father Of The Year Award, here I come! Allison is on the verge of being late but manages to subdue Lucy's frock. Both enter the kitchen only to have Lucy say, "Oh, I wanted cereal, not waffles." I wanted you to get ready 10 minutes ago, sorry about your luck.

After some mild pouting, Lucy is done eating but Paige is stacking her mini waffles instead of ingesting them. "I'm making a tower, Daddy." I ask her if she can eat her tower. "No, Daddy, my tower!" Why is she so angry?

It's 7:43.

Because it takes at least five minutes for Paige to get her shoes on, we need to get moving. Despite shoving multiple mini waffles in her mouth at the same time, she's still not finished and tells me, "Brown boots. No, pink boots. I don't want sneakers!" I didn't even freaking mention sneakers.

It's 7:47.

"Daddy, I need a bookmark," Lucy says. Did she seriously just read a few pages of her Rainbow Fairies book? Of course she did. She heads upstairs, which is in the opposite direction of the front door where we need to be. Paige makes a beeline to her Little People Princess castle to grab a handful of princesses to take with her. Because, how could we possibly leave the house without a handful of princesses?

It's 7:49 - time to go.

Lucy comes downstairs after hearing me scream, "Now! Now! Now!" She rolls her eyes and tells me, "apparently, my bookmarks are missing, I had to use a piece of paper," as if I dedicate my waking hours to hiding her bookmarks. Now I tell her, "Lucy, get your coat, I think it's in the closet." She looks. "It's not in there," I hear.

I start racing around the house while my ears pick up the whining sounds of, "I guess I'll have to wear a raincoat and be cold today." The guilt is dripping thicker than the cheap syrup I gave them for their waffles.

I recheck the closet to see her pink coat in plain sight. "You kids are KILLING me today," and we run out the door to arrive at the bus stop just in time to see the long yellow chariot pull up.

"Daddy, you hold my princesses. I have full hands," Paige says as we make our way back home. Sure kid, anything else I can do for you two this morning?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

You Gonna Eat That? These Kids Aren't.

Coming from me this complaint is comical but my kids are the worst eaters of all-time. Yes, I'm the guy who doesn't like ketchup or mustard. Yes, the next vegetable I willingly eat will be the first vegetable I willingly eat (although I do a damn fine job muscling down a few greens for the sake of the kids at dinnertime). And yes, I've eaten the same turkey and provolone sandwich for lunch for weeks (OK, months). But, come on, my kids are the worst eaters of all-time.

Here is a short list of foods I've compiled that they currently ingest without force:

Chicken nuggets
Fish sticks
Nutella - Lucy has no concept of any other type of sandwich to pack for her lunch every day
Pizza - only toppings are hamburger, chicken and olives (see, they are bizarre)
Goldfish Crackers
Tacos - this one is most shocking as there actually is seasoning on the beef when I cook it, if Lucy knew this she would just eat the tortilla and ask for a handful of shredded cheese
Spaghetti& Meatballs - only if snowed upon by a heaping helping of parmesan cheese, so it's essentially mac-n-cheese
Cereal - led by the nutritious Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Apple Jacks
Green Yogurt - quite possibly Paige's reason for living
Berries - please don't tell me berries aren't good for them, I'm clinging to this
French Fries/Potato Chips - they lose their shit when the fried potatoes are part of a meal
Anything Chocolate-Based - they are their mother's daughters

Last night Lucy ate enough of her spaghetti and meatballs to earn a "treat" so she picked the packet of Fun Dip she received from a thoughtful kindergartener for Valentine's Day. You would have thought this was her first morsel of food after being held captive for 38 days. We had at least five conversations about how good the Fun Dip was, she inquired about other flavors of Fun Dip to no end and was ecstatic when she realized she actually could consume the candy stick. Greatest. Treat. Ever.

I have no idea how to change their eating habits. I feel like I've already lost them. The other night I made a baked mac-n-cheese that included bacon bits, Lucy refused. That was in addition to homemade baked chicken covered in a few select seasonings, which was a glorified chicken nugget, just not in the unnatural nugget form, Lucy refused.

Allison and I do try. We get the crock pot out once ever couple of weeks knowing full well we are the only two eating anything coming out of that slow-cooking steel appliance. And, tonight, I'm planning to make cheesy chicken and black bean enchiladas knowing full well the prep and baking will take more than an hour, and I'll have to watch Lucy sulk as if I served her a plate of dog crap while Paige will take a bite, then make a motion she needs me to hold a napkin for her to spit it into. Paige eventually will pronounce, "I'm done!" and start playing with her Little People Princesses (see previous blog). Lucy will ask how many more bites as if we're negotiating the price of a used Honda Civic.

Is this my fault? Probably. The story goes I'm the kid who ate peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly) for almost every meal for three years as a kid. I've expanded my horizons slightly since then although peanut butter may be my reason for living at this point (and IPAs). But, Lucy and Paige were blank slates. How did they go from eating anything you placed in front of them as infants to this? How do you turn them back? Will they serve Nutella sandwiches at their weddings?

For now, we'll keep trying to serve them new things, they'll refuse and after a few days Lucy and Paige will beg, borrow and steal to convince me to open up the chest freezer and pull out a bag of breaded fish morsels in a stick shape. I'll oblige for fear of them starving and they will eat like bears preparing for hibernation. Of course, bears would sleep past 5:48 a.m. but that's another story.