Under Siege: “Computer broken, Daddy”

 

or  Living very carefully in a pink cloud of estrogen…

Not sure if you remember me, but it’s been a while.

Hi.

I’m Dave, that stay-at-home-dad to three girls: 6-year old Sydney, and her 2-year old twin sisters Emma & Maddie. I know…THREE GIRLS.  I had joked with a friend once about having a bevy of girls when I was younger, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

I’ve been a bit absent lately. Turns out my middle child, Emma, decided last November that she wanted my laptop. She wanted it to be a little closer to her, down there on the floor and quickly took decisive action to make that happen. It seems the power cord to a resting laptop is a very attractive thing to pull on…so she did. Crash! Laptop met the floor, and died a quick death. Thanks Emma.. Good work. My girls are assertive, that’s for sure.

It should be said of that laptop, though, that it wasn’t in good shape. Polluted with spyware/malware and a grossly overstuffed hard drive, we could easily look at this as Emma putting it out of its misery.  Maddie, the youngest (Emma’s twin), had months earlier rendered a number of keys on the keyboard inoperable or missing all together.  I never really got the full story, but my wife, their mother and co-conspirator, let them tap away on the keyboard (tap = pound). To the best of my recollection, your honor, I last saw the laptop with the arrow-keys and the number “6” key in fine working order, and return to discover two of the arrow keys missing altogether and the “6” key floating on the keyboard, unable to be secured back into its place. You don’t realize how often you actually use the “6” key until it’s gone?  It’s a lot more often than you might think.

The lost arrow keys and the wonky “6” didn’t impede my contributing to this site, Everyday Childhood (although I do blame their absence and inoperability for all syntax and spelling errors in said contributions). I discretely worked around these issues without commenting on them publicly (just a series of private “What happened here?” and “You kids are NEVER allowed to touch this laptop, EVER!!!” comments, made usually to nobody in particular (since I’m usually ignored – testosterone, it seems, renders me invisible in my home – it didn’t really matter.) But the demise of the laptop at the hands of midget #2 ended my contributing rather suddenly.

Because I am here, back in the saddle, as it were, you can conclude that I’ve got a new laptop. Shiny and new, free of all that malicious software and boasting a squeaky clean and even more so, enormous hard-drive…I’ve missed being able to share my adventures with and the exploits of my girls. I’m excited about the adventures to come.

Since we last spoke, all those months ago, so many things have happened. We’ve moved from an urban setting to a very suburban neighborhood where we’re still settling into new routines, discovering things to do in our new neighborhood, experiencing exciting dramas with new friends and neighbors all while learning an assortment of shortcuts to the closest Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery. I’m compiling a list of all the best places I can escape to (that is not located in either my backyard or garage) to enjoy a beer, or watch a hockey game…an escape from the kids on those rare occasions when that is possible or required.  I’m even compiling a list of the best and worst places to take the kids for lunch when they revolt against the mac n’ cheese and I find myself once again under siege, defending my sanity….and this laptop… from these tiny, albeit adorable, vandals.

Under Siege: The Battle of No

 
Or… My New Two Least Favorite Letters.

Note from the Editor: I’ve been lazy this week… But clearly the Dad’s have been on the ball. My friend and new neighbor, Dave, shares below a bit about his least favorite letters… N. O. Happy weekend my friends! xo- Kel

I’ve been trying to find the funny in all of this. To find the things that will make you not look at this posting as though you’re witnessing a guy venting about things that seem unworthy of venting about. I’ve had plenty to vent about over the last couple months…and saying that out loud like this, I feel ridiculous myself.

 

I’m a very lucky guy. This is true. I have a wonderful wife and 3 beautiful, smart, healthy little girls, each with a crazier, almost sardonic, wit than the last. They’re sweet, sassy and exhibit great understanding of sarcasm for a 5 year old and twin 2 year olds. These are things I find wonderful about my girls. They’re constantly changing, though, and new facets of their personalities come to light at some of the most unexpected of times. With all that we’ve been up to, the events in our lives of late, the twins have found it the right time, for them, to embrace a new, more rigid approach to demanding things. Exhibited by their increasing reliance on the word “No” It’s as if they found themselves realizing that “No” can actually be their pat answer to EVERYTHING that is asked of them. It made this last summer much more challenging in new and interesting ways, but seems to have become their policy in the last few weeks…right in the middle of our move The funny part in this, is that they even answer “No” to things they want…and for a few moments before they realize that they’ve answered wrongly, it’s being able to see them back-pedal, and try to convince me that the “No” was in error, and that they want it…”Yes, yes…”

 

Beyond the “Battle of the No’s”, It’s been quite a busy couple of months. We’ve spent the last 5 months house hunting, and dragging our three little girls fussing and complaining (and giggling) through the whole process with us. They’ve, to a point, even been able to voice their opinions about the houses we’ve seen along this path to a new home. Mostly, their opinions were laced with lots of saying “No”, of course. I’ve felt a great deal of sympathy toward our real estate agent for putting up with all the drama that these 3 little girls bring along, as if they’re pulling little wagons filled with crazy behind them, everywhere we go. The screaming and the running around like little sugar-propelled crazies through these empty and, sometimes very much, lived-in houses, I’m certain I’ve beaten my personal best for the number of times apologizing for their craziness. They grew to be much better and considerate of the places we were seeing as we went along. Finally, after looking at dozens of homes, we found the perfect house! Two offers, two counter-offers, more negotiating and suspicion that the seller’s agent wasn’t excited about selling the place to us and consequently tried to delay the process even more, we managed to close on our new digs. Not a single “No” from the girls though. They loved the place right from the get go… The girls have good taste.

 

Back before our daughters came along, moving seemed inconvenient and cumbersome, but a relatively easy process. When there are kids in the picture, however, we’ve learned, that the move goes from being a simple thing to an infinitely more complex exercise in logistics, strategic car swapping, sleep-management and sanity-maintenance. We’re now closing out a week and a half of packing our belongings into a loading truck, driving the massive moving truck to the new place, unloading, sorting, unpacking and organizing is now complete, now for the fine tuning…

 

{NOTE: it was at this point, as I was writing this last night, sitting on the couch in our dimly lit new living room…that I passed out. Laptop, on my lap… Fingers on the keyboard. I don’t remember much of the moment, but it seems I looked up for a moment too long to watch a scene from “Tron: Legacy” –this is no indication of the quality of that movie, by the way – on the television…then…blackness.  I woke up around 2:30 AM, laptop still on my lap, still whirring… Posting still not complete. Saved the file. Closed the laptop. Fell back asleep.}

 

…Waking up in our new place is a wonderful feeling. The girls wake up with the sun (which sounds nice, BUT…) and this place just fills up with sunlight and the sound of little girls doing what little girls do each morning. In this case, this morning, little girls apparently come and wake their Daddy, who passed out on the couch last night, by slapping him on the face and exhorting “Wake up, Dada….Wake UP!”  SLAP!

 

“Leave Daddy alone for a bit, baby. I’m tired…it’s…what?…(looks at watch)…it’s 5:37.”

 

Followed quickly, in unison, with a…“No!”

 

 

 

 

Under Siege: Orbit

One of the toughest moments I’ve had as a parent, so far, happened exactly 2 years and 2 days ago. That was the day before my twin daughters, Emma and Maddie, were born. Yeah, Friday was their birthday, and that’s a very exciting thing around here. But in my heart, this day is also the anniversary of the day our oldest daughters world changed too.

There was always, like most parents I suspect, a very elevated spot that we placed our first child on. We didn’t spoil her…well, we tried not to spoil her, but she was the center of our world. We orbited around her. Her happiness, safety and health were the most important thing to her mother and I. We took grief from Grandma at times because we didn’t let her stay overnight at her house. Not because we didn’t trust Grandma, but because we didn’t want to be away from her that long. We wanted her to wake up in her home, in her bed, with her Mommy and Daddy right there if she needed them.

In hindsight, we kind of did her a disservice, in a way, by being so attentive and centering all in our life around her so much. Now, at 5 years old, she can hardly stay the night away from her parents without getting upset and typically having to be picked up early because she wants her Mom and Dad.  Sorry about that, Sydney.

I’m sure it’s not a unique consideration, my reasons for feeling this way. The day that my very pregnant wife and I went to the hospital to bring these twin midgets into our world, we took a few moments and sat on the hearth of my mother’s living room fireplace, knowing all was about to change in our lives. I remember the feeling, and acknowledging so, that these were our last moments as a family of three: Mom, Dad and Sydney. Soon, we’d be bringing the twins home and everything would change.  How would I ever love these two kids as much as I love their big sister? How can we do this to Sydney? How is she going to handle not being the center of our attention…. She was sun which around which we orbit?

Last week, Sydney started Kindergarten. It was a big, emotional event in our family that day too. We were excited for all the reason a parent gets excited about these things. Mostly, we were proud of how Syd was meeting a new challenge head-on and with excitement. Her first day entering this new world just made me think of how things have changed, and how they’ll continue to change as we all grow as a family. Thinking about that change made me reflect back to that day 2 years ago.

Emma and Maddie will never know the impact that they’ve had on our lives in such a wonderful and challenging way. Today, though, that question of  “How am I going to be able to love these two as much as I love their big sister” has been answered: How could I not?

So, we celebrate Emma & Maddie’s birthday, and Sydney’s Big Sister Day…The biggest change though, not that they’re getting older or maturing in new ways, it’s that all 5 of us now move around each other, pushing and pulling in a comfy, noisy, baked-goldfish fueled low orbit.

Happy Birthday Emma & Maddie… and Happy Big Sister Day, Syd.

Under Siege: Taking the Circus on the Road

**Note from the Editor** So happy to have Dave back for another Friday! I hope you enjoy his writing as much as I do. And if you feel so inclined… leave him a comment and tell him so! Happy Friday my friends! -Kel xoxo

As I am a slave to my efforts in making my wife happy, I agreed to take our annual 4th of July trip to her parent’s house in Western Pennsylvania again this year.

I say “agreed” in that there really wasn’t any choice, and even if inside I knew it was going to be a chaos and scream filled trip, testing our sanity and pushing the boundaries of our breaking point, I was going and there was no way around it.

The mission of this trip, as with any trip we’ve taken since we had the first of them, was to take our 3 little girls (Sydney, 5 and Twins Emma & Maddie, 22months) to Grandma & Grandpa’s house in rural, Western Pennsylvania, visit family and friends and then return home a week later, safely. It’s expected that we would be nursing wounds sustained on the trip, mostly in the form of injuries to our sanity, but also, it seems, physical injury in some cases (Emma, it turns out, is a bit of a masochist … She didn’t go a single day, didn’t miss an single opportunity to add another injury to what ended up being a pretty impressive list of them by trips end.)

The reality of it, the ugly truth about these trips, is that beyond the sweeter parts of spending time with family and friends we love is that, although it’s only a week long in actual travel time, it really turns out to be a lot longer at the end of it all.

What the fictitious “Visiting the In-Laws” travel-brochures (which I’m, of course, making up for dramatic purposes) don’t tell you, is that your trip will be three weeks long, give or take. It turns out that the week or so preceding the actual departure day, the stress of preparing for and knowing what you’re about to embark on this exercise in chaos…it all begins to build, in ways similar to how you might find anxiety building in the week leading up to an appointment with your dentist for root canal work done in a week is stressful before hand…then comes the root canal (or, in this case, the 4+ hour long flight with two lap-children and a 5yr old who has some substantial skill at playing the Wild Card in such circumstances) … and more root canal (spending a week out of our natural organized and controlled habitat, but rather in one of the most non-childproofed and family-filled houses in the Eastern United States…all with two, now incredibly more mobile, frighteningly curious and wildly mischievous 22 month olds ). Did I mention that there was no anesthesia? Oh…yeah…that part.

I’ve painted a pretty picture, haven’t I? It makes you want to pack-up and take a cross-country trip with your own midgets, just to see what it’s like for yourself, right? Well, I will admit that amongst all the crazy and, forgive me for saying it again, screaming (because there was a lot of screaming on this trip.) I will also admit that being in these environments that were new to us, and often times filled with hazard, requiring constant attention be paid to their every move, really made their individual personalities come to the fore: The Social Butterfly was more obviously butter flying around than normal; the Super Cautious one was exactly that, watching her sisters be crazy all over the place from a safe distance; and the Daredevil one dare-deviled it so much that I suspect she set new records for the number of bloody-noses, fat lips and face-plants one 22 month old little girl has ever given themselves.

The injuries aside, it was really fun to watch them explore this new world, and to watch them grow. It’s amazing how quickly they emulate other kids that they encounter along the way too… as a matter of fact, this, the 3rd week of our trip, the back-at-home-deprogramming portion of the trip, we’ve been focusing on breaking them from new habits that they formed during their crazy week in Pennsylvania.

Did I mention that Emma, the daredevil, has maintained her streak of excellence-in-face-planting each day since returning? On a Side note, her propensity for injury on this trip has allowed me to field-test my newest pair of cargo shorts. I found that I could easily carry an entire first aid kit in the pockets of the right side alone. (**Editor’s note… this made me laugh. -Kel**)

…And tonight there was talk about planning our next trip back East around Christmas. How much damage can these girls do in the snow, I wonder.

So…How’s your Summer going so far?

You Can’t Have Too Many Pockets

Under Siege: The Adventures of a Stay at Home Dad
or “You can never have too many pockets”

Note from the Editor: This weekend I am at the Type A Parenting Conference. Iran through Dave’s post as I was jamming a bagel in my face and drinking OJ this morning…. you see… last night was the first sleep I had gotten in 36 hours or so because of an overnight flight. But that’s another story. Dave’s story, on the other hand, has real value and it’s funny… so read, enjoy, and comment! xo -Kel

In this space, a few weeks ago, I made a casual joke about how I was going to write about all the exciting points of perfection that is Cargo Shorts. It was really a joke, based on fact, because I do love cargo shorts. But it was just a joke, nonetheless.

Since I made that joke, though, I’ve gotten so much feedback from friends regarding their opinions about them, the cargo short. Some love them, some hate them…a few actually really hated them. But then there were a couple of friends that professed a deep love for them. I, myself, fall into this latter group. I think they’re the best invention since… I love them for their capacity to make life a little simpler in chaotic times….

Today, I took my twins, Emma & Maddie (22months) to a nearby mall. As with any trip we take, anywhere, with the twins, keeping things simple is the best way to go. Even going simple though, there’s still a bunch of things that have to be handy. Typically, I carry keys, wallet and phone, in my pockets, but today saw a lot more than that. Here’s the inventory:

1 pair of car/house keys

1 cell phone

1 wallet

1 pair of sunglasses

2 pairs of toddler-sized girlie sandles

2 pacifiers

…and at one point during the day, I was also, in addition to those things, carrying :

2 empty sippy cups

1 diaper

1 small case of wipes

Reading back over this list, it seems like it could be far-fetched. I assure you that this was no exaggeration. These are some magic shorts, baby.

Even with all of these things in the pockets of my shorts, I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping them organized, along the way…so much so that when the twins are walking with me through the mall, they will often times, reach into the pocket that their binky’s are in and pull ‘em right out.

They just make life and travels so much easier.

Yes, they may not be the most attractive piece of men’s clothing…but they’re better than cargo pants, especially in this Arizona heat

Just a few of the reasons why I love my cargo shorts.

Under Siege: The Adventures of a Stay at Home Dad

*Editor’s Note: As promised… I let Dave write again this week. I’ve been working in New York all week and if it wasn’t for my contributors, Cassandra and Dave… you’d have nothing to read! And besides… I really like his stories and the way he uses the phrase “salty language”. Ha! This week’s story is one that I’m sure most of us have dealt with: big kids in a height/age restricted play area. I know I’ve dealt with this before. I’ll save my feelings for the comment section. Will you join me?

Or “You Tell me, what would you have done?”

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a couple of moments that I walked away from wondering to myself, “Did I handle that right?” or “Could I have handled that better?”…Or even “Was that my business to try to handle in the first place?”

A couple of weeks ago, during a rare rainy day, I had taken my three daughters, Sydney (5yrs old) and twins Emma & Maddie (1 ½ yrs old) to a kid’s playground at a nearby mall – you know the place…everything is soft except for the heads of the kids running around crazy and colliding with each other, all within the padded walls of the play area. It was precisely the unpadded heads of my children I was concerned about when that obviously too-tall to be in the play area toe-headed kid came running around the end of the play area in which Emma & Maddie were playing.

When I noticed this kid causing havoc, I asked a couple of the other parents in the area if I was just imagining that this kid was being a bit of a hazard and before I could go any further, each one of them chimed in that he definitely was, One even mentioned how he’d knocked over a much younger child just before we’d arrived at the play area.

Meanwhile, the little guy continued his running around the play area. As he came running around one of the large padded climbing toys, narrowly missing collision with Emma, I said rather loudly “Hey, let’s slow it down, no running, ok?” which was flatly ignored, and in such a way that it might have appeared I had said it in French. When his next race around the playground brought him near me, got in front of him, and said, “Hey, we’ve got to slow down, ok…we’re gonna run over the little kids and someone’s gonna get hurt if we don’t slow down.” Again, he just looked at me like I was speaking some foreign language and continued running around at top speed.

By this time I was a bit more than annoyed that this kid was being so disrespectful, so, on his next go-round, I stopped him by getting in his way and asked him where his parents were. He looked around a bit and then pointed to a tall, surly looking guy who began to approach me, seeing his kid being stopped by another parent. I moved toward him, stuck my hand out to shake his, and introduced myself as the parent of those 3 little girls over there. He nodded as I spoke, but it was one of those nods that said he “didn’t give a crap”. I explained that I had asked his son to slow down a couple of times and was just ignored, so felt I needed to bring it to his attention. It’s at this point, as I’m reading his reaction to what I’m saying, the voice in my head asked me “So, Dave, do you think he looks like he’s about to take a swing at you, or am I just imagining it?”

Mr. Tall Surly then began to lecture me about how these were all kids and who was I to try and police the playground…I responded with an “I’m not looking for a problem with anyone, I’m looking for you to do something about this. He’s being a hazard to my children and to the other kids, and was disrespectful when asked to slow down…and if you don’t do something, I’ll have to ask security to come in, and I don’t want to do that.” The guy then began to berate me in front of all the other parents and children, tossing out some salty language, as if he had just been called out at 3rd base when he clearly thought he was safe at his Wednesday night beer league softball game. Then, to cap off this display, he made a big show of removing his son from the play area because of “this guy thinks he’s running this place” – making certain to point at me as he was loudly telling everyone I was the reason he was pulling his son out of the area. I wasn’t pleased at how that parent handled things, as a matter of fact, I was surprised, as I tried to approach it in a “hey, we’re the adults here” kind of way.

I walked away from that visit wondering if, in a case like this, would it have been better to have just removed my children from the area…or was it right to try to address the issue with the parent, even at the risk of the parent being jerky about it?

I think the majority of us parents are trying to instill respect and responsibility in our children. But I also think a lot of us are feeling our way through this ‘being a parent’ thing and hoping to come out on the other end as having made good decisions along the was. I can say that after I had my exchange with the father, I had a couple of parents give me an approving Thumbs Up, and one actually stopped back by to tell me that the guy looked like he might have been a bit hostile, and that he hung out and “had my back, just in case, ya know”….it was nice to get these affirmations from my parent-peers…. But I still wondered if I did the right thing.

So, you tell me…

What would you do in a situation like this?

Have you ever experienced this sort of thing yourself?

I’m curious.