Something has happened recently. Ever since the boys returned to school, I’m living in some kind of alternate universe – maybe a black hole. I’m starting to fray at the edges. I’m holding on for dear life but the drain of fatherhood is circling and sucking me down.
Maybe it’s because summer was so laid back. Lots of staying up late and sleeping in. Midday matinees, beautiful beach days, and falling asleep watching a favorite TV show. No schedules. New experiences every day. Fairs, carnivals, Disneyland, and our annual summer trip. Lots of walking to Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream. And all of it with Daddy & Papa, who were more available themselves because of all the daylight hours. Life for a kid couldn’t have been better.
Then, SLAM. That’s the door closing on summer. It’s August 22nd, the first day of the boys’ school, and suddenly life is one big schedule to stick to. Up at 6:45am, no matter how tired you are. Eat a good breakfast. Brush your teeth. Wear nice(r) clothes. Leave the house no later than 8.
Smile at the teacher. Be nice to your new classmates. Try your best. Act your ages (6 and 5), not your shoe sizes (2 and 1.) Eat your lunch – all of it. Remember to go to the bathroom. Keep your shoes on the entire day.
I have to give the boys credit; they are really trying. Even when they don’t feel like it, they continue on after school to the activities for which I signed them up (which was over the summer when, unlike now, the minutes seemed endless.) I just have to remember that in these transitions from school to swim lessons or school to basketball practice or school to dance, I must always have FOOD available. The fuel gauge is always on empty by the time I pick them up, and if there is not an opportunity for them to refuel, it’s not a pretty sight. I know how I can be when I get even a little bit hungry; children, on the other hand, cannot even begin to modulate their emotions adequately.
Ahhh, emotions. We’ve seen them all in this first month of school. Some bouts of ecstasy and joy, as demonstrated by the way they skip to school, say hello to a classmate that they might run into from a previous year, or even greet us when they are in a particularly loving state. But mostly they are extremely FRAGILE. Crying like the world has come to an end. Sobbing like a car has accidently backed over their most favorite stuffed animal (ok, that has happened.) Screaming at the top of their lungs, as if it’s a contest to see who can shatter glass. Standing in front of you pounding their heels into the ground (haven’t seen that since they were 2!), and crossed arms banging down to their chest with a simultaneous NOOOOOOOO!(another favorite of days gone by.)
It’s no wonder that lately Papa has had that “deer in headlights” look when I return from an errand with the boys left in his hands. Or that, when I say I’m going to go out for a little workout or shopping, his first words are “how long?”
I’m sure that these same scenarios are playing out in millions of homes across the nation. I don’t think my boys’ actions are pathological whatsoever. Nevertheless, I plan to hug more and yell less. Feed more and scold less. Because this is obviously a rite of passage to the preteen years, and this is what I signed up for. I need to stay strong for them. Just give me my snack first.
By: John Jericiau
I’m falling in love with my sons’ elementary school. And what’s not to love. First there’s the location. It’s a 3-mile commute to the school from our house, but half of it is with an ocean view. It’s located in the tony part of Santa Monica, and the neighborhood is beautiful, safe, and clean. Surrounding the school are gorgeous mansions, craftsman homes and well-coifed lawns. It seems like every day is a gorgeous day there – sunny and 72 degrees. Joggers and walkers, nannies and caretakers, and FedEx delivery men breeze by the school gates in the morning with smiles on their faces because they are ecstatic that they get to enjoy life here.
Parents gather by the gates around 8:30am, waiting for the welcoming bell to signal the start of another wonderful day. Excited chatter between friends as well as strangers fills the air. Children with Gap shirts and OshKosh B’Gosh pants giggle in a circle, surrounding a friend’s iPad and watching candy getting crushed or birds getting angry.
The gates open and the principal opens her arms to welcome everyone. Parents and kids rush their way to their respective classrooms, so as not to waste a single minute of learning. Parents are then quickly summoned off campus, comforted in knowing that the children are already beginning to practice reading and writing in an awesome, safe public school. Our school scores a 10 out of 10 on www.greatschools.org. Its API score is almost 950 out of a possible 1000 (www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap). There’s a lot of pride among the community, and the school maintains its small town charm despite the fact that enrollment is almost busting through the 800 pupil level.
But there’s something you might not notice – and I did not notice – at first glance. And it’s becoming more and more apparent to me. I’m a guy living in a woman’s world. Yes, there are the few involved dads who drop off their child(ren) in the morning, saying hello to the teacher before they rush off for work, much like you would rush away from the grocery store when you see the Salvation Army worker ringing their bell at the holidays. Once those men have left the premises, I have found myself floating in a sea of estrogen, whether I’m chatting it up with other parents or attending a PTA meeting. Of course there are male teachers (or so I’ve been told), but they are busy in their classrooms and I have no interaction with them.
This year my oldest son is in first grade. The seat he vacated in his kindergarten class from last year is now filled by my next son, since they are exactly eight months apart in age. I decided to put my name in the hat for Room Parent for my son’s kindergarten class so that I can have maximum exposure to the daily trials and tribulations he will experience. I just found out that I got the job. I was told to attend a Room Parent Orientation Meeting in the multipurpose room (what else do they do in this room?), and as I wheeled my almost 10-month old son into the room my eyes made a sweep of the occupants. Yep, all women.
I’m definitely given the once over by the women, and with a few the twice over. I can see the questions all over their faces: Why would a man be Room Parent? Where’s Mom? Can he handle that baby and participate in this meeting at the same time?
I’m definitely feeling like I’m held to a higher standard than the average parent. I have to prove myself every day. But I think that as long as I act confident, all will be good. So that’s just what I did as the meeting got underway at the same time that my infant son decided he was insanely hungry. Without a pause I swept in for the save with a 6-ouncer of formula, propped up expertly with two blankets I brought with me, and within a minute I had both eyes back on the PTA president, the assistant principal, and our Room Parent Handbook.
Five minutes later it started: a deep but loud extended grunt from my son, signaling the beginning of an unexpected, out-of-nowhere mega-poop as he sat in his stroller. At first my fellow Room Parents chose to ignore the sound, but when the second one came a minute later, louder and deeper than the first, it was met with chuckles and knowing glances. The third, fourth, and fifth moan came in rapid succession, and I could feel myself bonding with the women, thanks to my son’s colon.
Finally I could ignore the grunting (and now the smell) no more, and with the intensity of groaning diminishing, I looked around the room for a changing table. Unfortunately, diaper changing did not appear to be one of the purposes of this room, so I spotted a clearing on the carpeted floor in the back of the room where I could lay my fresh diaper and all the necessary accouterments. I nonchalantly got up from my front seat (an unfortunate choice of seat) and went around to the back, more comfortable with the fact that the backs of everyone’s head were facing me as I cleaned up a load of poop that managed to find its way out of the diaper and into every piece of clothing my angelic (and recently bathed, of course) son was wearing. As I started to wipe away the watery waste, I could hear the leader of the meeting give instructions to the audience.
“Please turn your seats to face the back and take a look at this video that we have made on the subject.”
The projection screen for the presentation was lowered to within six inches of my head as I, in the bent-over-kneeling position, methodically and expertly wiped my son clean. I glanced up between wipes to see everyone looking at me, with mostly loving, been-there-and-hang-in-there eyes and faces of admiration.
I smiled as I got back to the project at hand. Yes, ladies, I may have a penis but I’m the real deal. And I’m hoping that more men will join me soon, because it’s a little lonely at the top.
I had a horrifying experience the other day. I picked up my son from his kindergarten class, and as we walked past the door of one of the five other kindergarten classes in the school, a guy caught my eye. I’m not blind; in fact, I’m fairly aware of my surroundings, so a guy catching my eye is not unusual. My boys’ school is in a great part of town with lots of power parents and celebrities. Pretty people and toned people. Well dressed and well off.
What was different about this guy, walking out with who I assumed was his son but possibly his grandson, was that he looked like someone I used to know. Actually, I thought right away that he was the father of the person I used to know. A heavier, more wrinkled, less hairy version of the guy I used to know. Just like the friend I remember, except that he has just gone through a course of prednisone, or has just woken up from a long long nap.
I quickly calculated that it had been 12 years since we had seen each other as coworkers, but when our eyes locked it was confirmed. It was definitely my friend!
We went through the usual oh-my-gods and how-long-has-it-beens, and I’m hoping so hard that I am concealing the surprise … er, horror … that I am feeling. Finally he was looking at me, taking in my entire body from head to toe, and I thought to myself, “Here it comes. He is going to go on and on about my youthfulness and how I haven’t changed a bit, and how my waist still looks nearly a 29, etc etc etc. I hope he doesn’t leave our reunion feeling terrible about himself”.
The words came out of his mouth and I had no time to deflect them.
“John, you look so …. so different! I hardly recognize you, but then again that’s you in there, for sure dude. I guess we are all getting old.”
What? I don’t feel old. Okay, it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, but I blame whichever of the boys woke me up the night before for that. I can’t run 100 miles per week like I used to, but I am running at least 10 miles every other day. I seem to catch guys’ eyes now and then, but I admit it is more then than now. There was a time when not a day went by without some kind of flirtation from someone. Like the guy who quickly wrote “YOUR ADORABLE!” on a piece of paper and plastered it against his driver’s side window as we randomly waited at a red light together during the commute to work. Back then I even found the misspelling of “YOUR” endearing. Or the long list of guys who followed me out of the gym or Albertsons or the pool. When friends would say that maybe I should carry a fly swatter to keep them all away (or most of them), I would chuckle because sometimes it was nearly that bad (or good, depending on how you look at it.)
But life is different now. I drive a minivan, for God’s sake. I push a stroller with a 9-month old. I hang out with parents of my boys’ friends. And I don’t give off that “come and get me” vibe that I used to, because I got the man I want and couldn’t be happier.
Still, it’s a blow to the ego when you’re told in so many words that you look older. It happens to everyone, of course. We are all getting older. But I do not like it. So much of it is out of my control. No matter how much I exercise, my hair continues to thin. No matter how much I groom and loofa and exfoliate, my ears still sprout hair. No matter how many vegetables I consume, my eyesight continues to worsen.
We’re supposed to age gracefully, but when you meet someone from your past who hasn’t seen you in a while, it’s just awkward. And this is just the beginning, now that I’m in my (very) early 50s. How am I going to deal with this? There are those people that seem to defy the laws of gravity and age flawlessly, but apparently my body has not gotten the memo. So I’m just going to focus on my husband and my three boys and the love that they shower me with every day. I will try not to take it to heart when my husband reminds me not to overeat. And I will shrug off comments from my sons such as the doozie I got the other day: “Daddy, please don’t lose any more hair. You look so scary and it makes me cry.”
Me too, son. Me too.
Here’s something that makes my blood curdle: inappropriate or vulgar language or actions in front of my brood. I’ve never been one to curse. Except for when I’ve been completely out-of-my-Italian-mind mad, I don’t think my husband, parents, or friends have ever heard me speak an unspeakable. I don’t use profanity in my everyday vernacular, and when I hear it from someone else I consider it a sign of lower intelligence.
I don’t tolerate it one bit from the kids either; even idiot, jerk, and stupid are among the list of banned words in our family. So when someone in close proximity to my children slips out a bad word, it literally makes my hair stand up on end. I’ve been known to try to silence the guilty party, using a technique that is matched with the age of the speaker. Teenagers walking by who are talking like teenagers sometimes do might get a “hey guys” from me, and invariably they know what they did and immediately apologize and either stop with the vulgarities or at least whisper them. Adults, on the other hand, seem to react better to a single shout of “Language” in the nicest tone possible, at which point they look at me, then the kids, and then back to me with apologetic eyes. I don’t want the boys to hear these words at their age, because they are so incredibly impressionable.
At least the vulgarities and cursing we might occasionally hear were not directed specifically at me – that is until last week. All three boys and I were running late for a doctor’s appointment at Kaiser, and we found ourselves in the lobby of the medical building navigating through an obstacle course crowded with people of all ages traveling all different speeds, some with assistive devices and some without. We were able to keep a steady speed, both older boys grasping tightly to either side of our stroller, a stroller that was carrying a sitting 9-month old who was being entertained by the near misses that Daddy was exaggerating with “whoa!” and “aaaaah!”
We continued in this way until we were a few yards from the elevator that would take us up to the appointment. It was then that I heard the first few words from the furious fellow: “HEY! WHY DON’T YOU WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING?? YOU ALMOST RAN OVER MY F—ING SON!
It was so loud that it caught my attention (and everyone else in that lobby) and I was horrified to see that he was looking directly at me. I knew right away who his son was, since he was the only little boy we came across on our route, and I could definitely understand how from his vantage point it might have looked like we came dangerously close to bowling the boy over. However, much to the delight of the boy and my boys, my “near miss” was a couple of feet from contact but I acted like it almost happened.
I tried to assuage the angry man by singing back, “Sorry, buddy, I was nowhere near your kid” with a smile that quickly disappeared as he threw a barrage of obscenities at me and my kids in his next couple of sentences — obscenities that were aimed directly at my parenting abilities, my driving abilities, and the size of my reproductive organ, all in one fall swoop.
I shot back with a “WATCH YOUR MOUTH IN FRONT OF MY BOYS!!!, which I realize is a far cry from my usual nicely put “Language!” but I was proud that I managed to avoid any profanities that to my surprise were starting to erupt through my trembling lips. He threw back at least six or seven more obscenities, and even started to head in our direction, but the flow of the crowd swept us into an open elevator and the doors slammed together like the storm doors of a shelter before an approaching hurricane.
It wasn’t until we were safely ascending past the second floor when I saw the horror on the boys’ faces. My middle son started balling as he put a death grip on my thigh and begged me not to let that man come near us. I admit some easiness when the appointment was over and we traveled back down the elevator and through the lobby back to our car. I had seen enough episodes of “Snapped” and “Crime Detective” on late night TV to know that some criminals will lie in waiting before pouncing on their unsuspecting victims.
We made it in to our car completely unscathed, however, and the boys talked about the scary event the entire ride back to our home. I could tell by what they were focusing on that, in their minds, bad men and profanity were inextricably linked forever.
I couldn’t help but be a tiny bit thankful for this learning opportunity. I’d do anything to find that guy and thank him myself, right after I kick the f—king s—t out of him.
By: John Jericiau
I’m going to warn you right now: don’t try this game. My saga started the day I ignored this sage advice from close friends. In a moment of wanting some junk food for my brain, I clicked on the colorful app that had been calling my name from the display of my iPhone 5. Life has not been the same since. It’s been two weeks of living hell.
My husband has been bringing his iPad to bed every night, staring at the brightly lit screen in an otherwise dimly lit bedroom. As I tried to fall asleep I couldn’t help notice his blank stare into the screen, with an occasional swipe of his index finger followed by a burst of multicolor fireworks. I refused to look any closer, however. My life is so incredibly full and I have no time for another recreation. Plus, my fingers are really really tired by the time we crawl into bed around 10pm.
He and our surrogate/friend would have occasional conversations about saving each other or hitting a tough level or desperately needing a life, but I would show no interest in the conversation nor ask for any explanations. My top talk topics these days are more like back-to-school shopping, five-year old bedwetters, and tonsillectomies. My mother-in-law, who is barely computer savvy, jumped on the bandwagon, as did her sister and her sister’s daughter-in-law. I would get an errant posting on my Facebook newsfeed about how one of them reached a certain level in the game, but I had no idea that Facebook was to blame for this nationwide addiction.
For those two or three of you out there who don’t know about Candy Crush Saga, this game is a variation of match-three games such as Bejeweled. Each level has a game board filled with differently colored candies, and might contain obstacles. The basic move of this game is horizontally or vertically swapping the positions of two adjacent candies, to create sets of three (or more) candies of the same color. It was released over a year ago for Facebook, and then released for smartphones on November 14th, 2012, just three days after our youngest son was born. Maybe that’s why I personally never got the memo, but certainly plenty of people did. As of March 2013, this game became the most popular one on Facebook (sorry, Farmville), with an astounding 45.6 million average monthly addicts – I mean users.
In contrast, there are roughly 1.2 million crack addicts in the USA, but that’s where the differences end. Just like crack, Candy Crush Saga is so addictive that it sinks its poisonous teeth into your cerebrum after the first use.
Addiction specialists describe the effects of crack in this way:
Addiction hits hard and fast, usually acting on the brain within eight seconds of the time it’s used. However, the length of a high is relatively short, lasting under 10 minutes in most cases. With even one use, it can become incredibly physically addictive, largely due to its intense effect on one of the brain’s vital chemical messengers called dopamine. This rush of dopamine causes users to immediately feel happy and high and then depressed and restless, causing many users to immediately re-dose. This cycle can continue for days, leaving users feeling simultaneously exhausted and wired.
Crack is the poor man’s cocaine; Candy Crush Saga is even more available. It costs nothing out of your pocket (the app is free), unless you get so desperate that you want to prolong your high by paying $0.99 for just one more hit even after you failed to progress to the next level. Embarrassing to admit, but one late night I paid $4.95 (through my iTunes account) because I got so close to completing a level that I was sure I would find success with one more try.
So after two weeks I must bid adieu to this pitiful pastime. No more cries for help from all my Facebook friends that need lives to keep them playing the game. No more draining my iTunes reserves. No more sneaking into the bathroom so I can get in another game without being disturbed. No more constantly checking my watch because I was notified by the game god that I had to wait 12:33 until I was allowed to resume playing. My three boys need me. My husband wants me. But recovery is a life long process. I think – no, I KNOW I can do it. I just need to take it one day at a time.
By: John Jericiau
Okay son number 3, it’s time for you to receive your first letter from your Daddy. I’ve done the same for your two older brothers. I hope when you finally read this (or have this read to you) you will realize what a special and unique person you are.
Happy birthday! You’re 9 months old today! We will continue to celebrate your birthday monthly, or at least refer to your age in terms of months, until you’re between 20-22 months of age, when we will start saying you’re almost 2 years old. I have no idea why this change happens then; it just does. Your Daddy and Papa prefer to celebrate monthly anyway, which is how we celebrate the anniversary of our first date, which was 110 months ago today.
Yes, you have two fathers, both who love you very very much. I pray that by the time you are able to read your letter, the fact that you have two dads will be met with an “oh cool” or a “yeah, so?” by your classmates. Right now the momentum in our country is pushing toward marriage equality for all, including your two dads (who got hitched back in 2008 after both your brothers were born). I hope that this momentum will continue – so much so that you will be stunned to learn that there was a time when this country did not think your Daddy and Papa should share their love and lives with each other, just as I was stunned to learn when I was growing up that there was a time in this world when our black friends would have separate bathrooms, water fountains, and schools.
Speaking of your brothers, one of whom happens to be black and one white, they love you very much. Don’t let their actions fool you, like today when your oldest brother tried to dump you out of the door frame jumping contraption but your Daddy came just in time to catch you before your head made contact with the hardwood floor. Or like lately when your other brother will not let you play with any toys because they suddenly became toys that he wasn’t done playing with. No, your brothers, just like your two fathers and four grandparents and eight aunts and uncles, are infatuated with the very person that you are, and could not wait for you to arrive.
Your Daddy and Papa worked hard to get you here, with the help of an angel who you already look at in a very special way. She kept you safe and warm in her body for us, so that you would enter this world in a healthy, happy way. And you did. You were born in Los Angeles (whereas your oldest brother was born in Santa Monica, and your other brother in Hollywood) at 6:10am and we were there to welcome you with open arms. Some day if you want to hear the E Hollywood True Story edition of your journey from before conception until after birth, we will be more than happy to tell you.
You are an extremely happy baby with forever a smile on your face, except when you’re crying, which is not often, which is a good thing because it’s loud. You get tons of admiration for your charm and good looks, both which come either from your Daddy or your Papa. To us it matters not from where your DNA is from, but if it does to you, then one day you can find out. Right now it feels as if you came from the union of your Daddy and Papa’s love, and that’s good enough for us.
You are sitting up very well, and eating some baby food that we have either bought or made in a blender. Today you had a concoction of apple and banana that Papa and the boys made for you, and you absolutely loved it. You weigh between 20-24 pounds (your weigh-in is tomorrow at your doctor’s appointment), and you fit into clothes for a 12-month old. You’re saying Dada to me and everyone else, and lately when I walk out of the room you cry, and when I return you greet me with the greatest smile. Even your eyes smile, eyes that have not yet settled on a color but seem to be somewhere between hazel and green at the moment.
You appear to show absolutely no interest in crawling at this time, and you’ve done only a little bit of rolling, mainly to get to these little stuffed giraffes that you’ve seemed to take a liking to. Yesterday you stood in your crib while grasping the railing for nearly a minute, so you may be one of those babies who bypasses the crawling and goes right to the walking. Your oldest brother walked at 11 months and 1 day, but no pressure!
Dustin, I’m so happy that you are in our family. When you arrived our family felt complete, and you’re everything we could ever hope for in a son. Maybe the magic of our family birth dates reflects your unique, special quality. Daddy 12/22, Papa 6/22, Devin 5/22, Dylan 1/22, and Dustin 11/11. You still made it 22 but in your own way. Here’s to keeping that going your entire beautiful life. I love you.
As the end of the summer sets over the horizon in a couple of weeks, we are trying to fit in as much as possible, and apparently so is everyone else. The other day another family (with two boys of their own) met us in the Goofy parking lot of the happiest place on earth (Disneyland), a day that cost us $499 before we even started it. We spent the entire day there, leaving at 11pm, and I didn’t have my other half with me. Just a 6-year old, a 5-year old, and an almost 9-month old. Sounds crazy, and it was. Luckily my friend, the matriarch of the other family, parents her kids similar to me (always keep upbeat and excited for the kids, but maintain behavior with a stern voice), so that made it nice.
Disneyland was packed, with the wait lines of the popular rides upwards of 100 minutes (which once you do the calculation you realize is a freaking long time). With two adults we could go on most of the rides while the other adult watches the strollered ones, and if we can convince the boys to say they were seven years old, the minimum age allowed on some rides.
Besides keeping upbeat the entire day, it was important to keep the boys hydrated and fed. The drinks and snacks I smuggled in at the bottom of the stroller, buried under the extra set of clothes, warm jackets, and emergency formula, helped immensely. The security glanced at the bottom of the stroller when they were checking my diaper bag, but when they saw the sleeping infant (Good job, Dustin!) I think they just didn’t want to go there!
I had pajamas waiting back in the minivan at the end of day, which made the transfer from van to bed once we got home a snap. They were asleep before we were even out of Goofy, as I had hoped they would be, because they would need their rest for the following equally epic destination: the Orange County Fair.
This huge carnival smells like sugar from the moment you enter the front gate after paying $34 for a family of five. Since it is a once per year event, and the whole reason for going to a carnival is the food, the boys (small and big) got a pass when it came to dietary concerns. After rides and games (and hundreds of dollars worth of tickets to get on these rides and play these games) we made it out of there by 9pm, with the boys asleep within a few minutes of departure.
Both events seemed perfect for mid to late summer events, and the boys were asleep with smiles on their faces. It’s taken Papa and Daddy longer to recuperate, however. Daddy is fatigued right down to the tips of his fingers, which makes even writing this blog post on his laptop difficult. That’s why I’m ending it here.
Eighteen days and counting until school begins.
As I’m going through the day-to-day of life with a husband and three boys, I find myself wondering if other stay-at-home parents are having similar experiences. I say parents because this is not a mom or dad thing. This is not a young or old thing. This is a life thing.
Having both an infant and a pair of toddlers in my life comes with its own craziness. If one kid is not sick, it’s another. If one son doesn’t have a birthday party to attend, then for sure the other will. If one kid is in a mellow mood, then one of the others will surely dive into a meltdown of epic proportions. If one child wants mac-and-cheese, the other will only want anything but that. If one crashes early for the night, another will choose that night to have insomnia.
But putting the kids aside for a minute (please, I’m just asking for a minute), what I’m really referring to is the life that is going on around the kids. The life that you squeeze in while you’re standing and eating your lunch for 30 seconds, or when you’re sitting on the toilet (and inevitably that will be when all hell breaks loose.) It’s the life you try to live when you’ve ducked into another room for a second under the pretense that you will be right back with something for everyone that is so incredibly exciting and so amazing, and it will be yours as long as everyone behaves and stays as quiet as possible.
If life is one huge pie, I can take a small slice out of it – let’s say the last 48 hours — and give you some examples of its current craziness. I won’t even mention the ear infection that we are right now trying to work through, or the push to begin eating solid foods, because remember that this is about the life that is not directly related to the kids, but life that they unknowingly try to thwart at every turn.
Having decided to stay in Santa Monica for the time being, progress continues on our remodeling. Today our two boys’ loft beds and bedroom furniture arrived, along with two trusty assemblers, to be set up in their new bedroom (which was the guest room.) The new guest room (our old office), already occupied some nights by our number one guest (our surrogate/friend), continues to be enhanced with Internet and phone connections, some pictures, and an overall cleaner disposition. Our new office/gym (our old garage) has regressed somewhat into a storage area because we are in desperate need of a purge, but it’s still a work in progress as I get a bid for a new modern fancy windowed and insulated garage door today. Besides a storage facility, the garage is doing a good job as a gym, as I’m cycling on the stationery bike at 100 rpms while I write this blog on my laptop.
I have a few hours to dig deep while Alen takes all three boys to a three-hour birthday party, a shindig I really wanted to attend because it has some fun adults attending, but you can’t have everything. Plus someone needs to stay and supervise the assemblers and meet with the garage door rep. Plus it’s rare that I get time at home with NO kids, although as soon as they drove away from the house I began to miss them. I want some time to myself but I really miss the boys.
We have three rental properties in Venice, one of which is becoming vacant in a few days. An ad I placed on Westside Rentals two days ago has already yielded 175 calls, emails and texts, lots of which I had to simply ignore because I just did not have the time to respond. Some of the ones I did respond to had questions about the noises in the background, perhaps because of my kids or a friend’s kids or it was pickup time at surf camp or we were on the beach or at Universal Studios, or else prospective tenants had been unable to leave a message because my voice mailbox was full.
I remembered my sister’s birthday yesterday, and we got in a singing message from the boys as we drove home from Grandma’s house. I spoke to my gardener about some trimming, and I shopped for groceries last night right after I went to redeem a mani/pedi gift certificate I received from hubby from our last month’s anniversary celebration. Yes, men have mani/pedi’s also, but no I don’t really like calling it that.
Last night I paid bills until I ran out of money, and then I shopped for my sister’s birthday on Amazon (yes it was yesterday so yes I am late) as well as my nephew’s birthday (it was last month so yes late again) until I was too tired.
I picked up the backyard (the gardener will not move toys to mow the yard, so I have to), answered some email, and went for a long run so I can at least live to see my boys graduate from high school. I trimmed the nails of thirty fingers and thirty toes, and bought birthday cards and gifts for today and tomorrow’s parties.
It’s safe to say that these past 48 hours, packed with some trials and tribulations, are an accurate reflection of my life now. How about yours?
By: John Jericiau
I haven’t checked for accuracy, but I feel like we are almost smack dab in the middle of summer break. We’ve long returned from our two-week vacation in Puerto Rico, but yet still have a significant amount of time until the first day of school slams into us like a frying pan on your head. School and all of its scheduling and rushing and play dates is but a distant memory, but now you can just begin to feel the anticipation of the new school year invade your head.
I was going to work on Dylan’s numbers with him, so I better get going so he knows how to write 1 through 10 well before he enters kindergarten. For some reason he writes a 9 when he means a 6 (and vice versa), and he writes the number 8 by piling one zero on top of the other, instead of writing the figure 8 in one fall swoop. I don’t know how or why these things have happened. I just know that I was going to work on it “all summer” with him, and I’m aware that “all summer” has shortened significantly. I really wanted these boys to be riding their bikes proficiently by August. I had imagined that we’d be hiking at least every other day. After all, surely we could fit in an hour of hiking each long summer day, no?
To be fair, they are taking swim lessons almost every day without fail. And they have enjoyed a handful of days at surf camp. They’ve seen at least five movies so far this summer (just today we saw Turbo, in fact, and loved it), and we’ve hit the library more times than I can count.
To be honest, I had a goal of allowing the boys to enjoy lots of free play this summer, and I think we’ve really been successful in that respect. Many times I’ve tried to get some things accomplished in the house while they used their imagination in the back yard to play together, or their fists to fight together.
The most enjoyable thing about this particular time is the lack of rigid scheduling. I haven’t yelled, “Get out of bed!” once. In fact, I do everything I can to let them sleep in while I have some me time (well, me and an eight month old). They stay in pajamas until we decide to leave the house, and sometimes they take two baths in one day. They’re up late most nights (9 pm is the latest), and we’ve done more things as a family because of it (board games, walks for ice cream), which is fantastic.
I’m going to try hard not to let thoughts of first grade and kindergarten enter my brain yet. I want to live in the moment, and I want the boys to live in the moment also. Yes there are fewer and fewer of these moments, and the time will come when we are watching our sons walk into class once more. For right now, however, I’m not even going to watch a clock. Now that’s enjoyable.
Perhaps I write stories about events and experiences every week, but don’t follow up well enough regarding the outcomes. At least that’s what I’m sensing lately, what with readers sending me private messages (more of them in the last few months for some reason) and asking me, sometimes begging me, to tell them how this turned out or how that is going. So I’m going to use this time to tie up some loose ends that I may have left hanging out in the blogosphere.
I wrote a while back about how I had gained some weight (I lovingly call it baby fat) in the last six years (my oldest son is six), which was difficult for me to swallow, unlike Krispie Kremes, which are not difficult. I started training and competing in triathlons and endurance events way back in 1979, so for twenty-nine years straight I was able to eat anything and not worry about gaining weight. I was a mean lean 150 pounds. Then came our first child, followed eight months later by our second child, and the perfect storm took over my body. I was training way less, eating way more and way worse, and sleeping less, which theoretically promotes weight gain. This was happening to a guy approaching 50 (whose metabolism has taken a nosedive) who also has obesity in his genetic makeup. Let’s just say that at least half of my ancestors do not resemble stick figures.
Today I’m at 170 pounds, unable to run shirtless on the bike path, unable to fit into my favorite outfits. I’ve worn pants with buttons that have popped off or fasteners that have failed, using a belt to hold it all together. I wear loose clothing, leave my Speedos home when going to the beach, and make love in dark (or very dim lit) rooms. It’s pretty pathetic. I wrote over a year ago about losing weight being way up top on my list of New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote about the many ways I would work hard to lose the weight in a slow and sustained manner, and I resolved to get right back down to my 150-pound race weight.
That never happened. But life happened. Son number three happened. Being the consummate optimist, however, I sit here in July of 2013 and still believe that I can get back to my race weight of 150 pounds. Just twenty pounds. I’ve begun to cut out the unhealthy fat-laden foods. I’m trying to exercise more. I’m trying to eat fewer calories. Give me strength. I’ve been here before, talking the talk without walking the walk, and I’ve failed. All I can do is hope that this time I won’t fail.
I wrote last year about the conflict we were having with our home. Should we move to a bigger house away from the beach, or stay put and try to make it work here. We love our location by the beach in Santa Monica, but who’s to say that we wouldn’t be happy somewhere in the valley, where we could have more rooms, an even bigger yard, and maybe even a pool. It would take lots of cash to fix up our place, and where do we start? Everything needs attention, updating, and fixing.
We decided then that, for now, we would stay at the beach. And we’ve made great strides towards upgrading. Out with the old rotted picket fence surrounding our property, and in with a sleek sexy horizontal wood fence. We converted our garage to an office/gym, which theoretically should help me with my weight-loss efforts. Our office in the house is converted to our guest room (and our most frequent guest — frequent being every weekend so that Daddy and Papa can have Saturday date night — is our surrogate/friend). Our old guest room is in the process of converting to our eldest two sons’ room, complete with two bunk beds with desks underneath, new furniture, and plenty of storage bins so that toys can stay our of sight. And the room our two eldest sons have inhabited since birth, which is attached to our master suite upstairs, will now become our youngest son’s room. We’ve had every hardwood floor in the house refinished, and we’ve repainted the entire downstairs. We’ve had window shades installed downstairs.
Yes we still have to paint and change the carpet upstairs, landscape the front and back yards, paint the outside of the house, purge all of the junk that has collected in the last twenty years, and finally get a mind-blowing tree house built for the boys. But we feel so pleased in the progress we’ve made and the way everything looks. It feels like we have a new house in the best location. We’re happy. We still check out open houses on occasion, however. It’s good to keep our eyes open.
Sometimes Alen and I just look at each other, shake our heads and just say “Life. Wow”. Because you can have a plan and the best intentions, but then life will throw you a curve ball: a son with tonsillitis (it’s happening now), a son who won’t eat vegetables (we have one), etc. The best plan is to work toward your goals, giving it all you got, but be willing to change course and adapt to current conditions as they happen. And so I will continue to work hard, until I’m in shape and living in my dream home, cooking vegetables for my healthy sons. Or die trying.
Then, and only then, will we entertain the thought of adding rooms to our house and a dog or two to our life. And putting in a pool.
And building a guesthouse. And buying some artwork. And rehabbing our kitchen, so I can have a nicer place to avoid.