Friday, March 30, 2012

Living Vicariously Can Be Fun

Okay, time for another dose of complete honesty from me.  I love toys.  I like gadgets and fake swords and little Hot Wheels cars and action figures.  Definitely action figures.  When I was a kid, we'd play the simplest, made up games.  We played "War" which just meant shooting invisible bad guys and making machine gun noises.  We'd play "Race" and drive our little cars all over the house.  We'd play "Peoples" (we weren't good at naming our games) and have our Ninja Turtles fight Batman before being punched off the top of the stairs.  And it was a blast.  There was never a dull moment when we had our toys with us.

Then I hit an age where it wasn't acceptable to play like that anymore.  The other kids my age were graduating to video games and, more importantly, sports.  So I traded in my impossible fight scenarios (GI Joe and Shredder vs. Optimus Prime and a stuffed animal) for basketball in the driveway.  And as much as I love basketball and the new things I became interested in, I always missed the toys.  And more times than I'd like to admit, I'd pass the action figure aisle of Wal-Mart or Target and get mad that they didn't have awesome toys like that when I was a kid.  And I'd wish I had a reason to buy them.

Then my son came along.  And just like me, he loves having little miniature versions of superheroes.  And as soon as he had the motor skills to play with them, I bought him as many as I could justify (1267 of them).  And now I get to play with them!  And the older he gets, the more he wants the characters that are in the movies I like.  So when I saw Captain America and secretly wanted the toys, I just showed him the trailer and BOOM, he wanted the toys too.  So now "he" has a Captain America shield, Captain America mask, Thor hammer, Thor mask, Wolverine mask, and an action figure of basically every superhero that I care about.

And with The Avengers coming out in about a month (YAY!), there are a whole slew of new toys coming out to accompany it.  And since being a toy collector is sad and lonely, I get to use my son as an excuse to buy Hulk hands and an Iron Man blaster and whatever else I can find that "he" will like.  So add that to the list of perks I didn't realize I'd have when I had kids.  And also add the fact that we'll get to go see all these awesome movies together when he gets old enough to see them (but before he thinks I'm lame for liking them too).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Know Thyself

There are certain things I don't trust myself with.  For example, I know enough about myself to avoid Golden Corral.  And that's because I'll overeat, feel sick, and gain 12.6 pounds.  So I haven't eaten there in years.  I also know enough about myself to avoid reading comments at the bottom of political news articles.  Although I'm not as good at restraining myself with those.  And at Kindergarten Orientation a few nights ago, I was presented with an opportunity that I should probably pass up.  I should know myself enough to avoid it.  But something tells me that I won't be able to.

The school my son will be attending has a program called "Watchdogs."  And as intense and serious as that sounds, it's neither intense nor serious.  In fact, it's a program where they invite fathers of students to come in for the entire day and participate in school activities.  That means they do the announcements with their kid, they go to recess, PE and art class, and they help out around the classrooms and cafeteria.  And that is a wonderful idea.  Just not for me.  Despite my fear of public speaking and my general shyness around adults, I am very at ease with children.  It may have something to do with relatability or (more likely) something to do with similar maturity levels.  And I'm well aware of this.  I know how to make kids laugh and I enjoy it immensely.  I mean who doesn't like to see a little kid laughing hysterically?

My fear is that I will become a 6-foot-3-inch class clown for the entire school.  My wife would probably say that it's inevitable.  It pairs the only things I like about public speaking (attention, approval) and removes the bad things (crippling fear, judgment, pressure to sound smart).  And anybody who's seen me around my kids or when I'm being silly (which is basically anyone who's met me) would agree that I would be a complete buffoon with that type of audience.  So while I think it's a good program and I think it would be insanely fun, I'm not sure if I trust myself to do it.

But if I'm being honest, that's not gonna stop me.  My son would love it if I came to his school for the day.  Well, he'll love that until he gets old enough to be embarrassed by my presence.  And that's a big enough reason to completely make a fool of myself for an entire school day... while I still can!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Parents Are Insufferable

We had Kindergarten Orientation last night.  My son is 5 and will be starting Kindergarten in August.  And this isn't a big shock to us.  We bought the house we bought for many reasons.  And one of the most important ones was the schools our children would attend.  So we knew this was coming.  That doesn't make it much easier, but at least we can try to be prepared.

But the funny part of the night was when the speaker started going through all the skills the kids should have by the time school starts in August.  They said that he/she should be able to identify most letters, count to 10, identify the colors, and "write" (meaning scribble and pretend to write) among other basic skills.  And the funny part about that was that I knew what every parent in there was thinking.  They were thinking, "Ha!  Little Stridler has been doing those things since she was two!"

Okay, I made up the name "Stridler," but it sounds like one of those new age, post-post-modern names that people use when the normal names are too low-class for them.

Anyway, I know they were thinking that for two reasons.  First of all, I was thinking that.  I wanted to say, "Excuse me, should we look into first grade instead?  My son can count to 20, he can tell you what every letter sounds like, and he can write multiple words!"  But I knew better than to say that.  There's nothing worse than a parent who doesn't understand that all kids learn and develop differently.  And it's not a competition (until middle school).

But the other reason I knew what all the parents were thinking is because every set of parents there (yes, every set) turned to each other after the skills were listed and gave a knowing look.  And they had that infuriating arrogance that parents have when they think their kid is something special.  It was as if they were silently saying to each other, "Pish posh, what a joke!  Our little Creighndyn knows everything!  Why are we wasting our time with this drivel?"

Yes, I imagined them speaking to each other in English accents (it's fancier).  And yes, "Creighndyn" is another ridiculous made up name.  But you get the point.  There is little in this world that is more annoying than a pretentious parent.  And if it were justified, that would be fine.  If your kid is a certfiable genius, brag away!  But don't try to convince me that he'll be graduating college at age 12 because he knows three Spanish words.  I've met my share of Stridlers and Creighndyns.  They're no geniuses.  These supposedly advanced children are the ones who eat their boogers and have their shoes on the wrong feet.

That being said, I'd like to clarify that those kids are no worse than mine.  My daughter has a 50% chance of putting her shoes on the right feet through random guessing.  But somehow, she does it wrong 90% of the time (which I think is statistically impossible).  So all kids are kinda dumb in some ways.  And that's fine because they're kids.  But don't tell me that your little "Kyndryn" is a genius unless you've got proof.  Like maybe some origami that she's designed, or a videotape of a lecture she gave at Stanford last year.  Otherwise, let's all just be happy our kids are healthy and happy and let them compete with each other when it really matters... the sixth grade.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Written Warning

My older brother is quite the prankster.  He'll mess with just about anybody.  And that includes strangers.  In fact, last week he went to the bathroom at work and heard snoring.  He looked under the stall door and saw that someone was sitting on the toilet and apparently deeply asleep.  And he noticed that the guy's pants weren't at his ankles.  So that meant that he'd snuck in there with the express purpose of sleeping on the job.

So my brother, the prankster that he is, jumped into action.  He went to his desk, typed up a funny note, printed it and headed back to the bathroom.  And this is what he slid under the stall door before dashing out:
Your snoring is exceeding acceptable decibel level guidelines as outlined in the Employee Handbook. Please lower your snoring to an acceptable decibel level or face the following disciplinary actions:

1. Bucket of water.
2. Being sprayed with Lysol.
3. Lights off.
4. Picture taken and posted.

Thank you for your continued commitment to employee excellence!

Have a great (and refreshed) day!

And that's why my older brother is my hero.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Slugs And Snails And Puppy Dog Tails (And Punching)

Since we already have one boy and one girl, we weren't necessarily rooting for a particular gender for our third child.  And I'm thrilled that we're having another girl.  Girls are sweeter, they're cleaner, they don't break as many things (on purpose) and I hear they're easier all the way through adulthood.  Plus, I know if there's a mutiny at any point, they won't overpower me physically.

But (you knew there'd be a "but") realizing that my son will be outnumbered 2 to 1 was a bit of an eye-opener.  Because right now, it's even.  If one of my kids wants to wrestle or hit stuff (guess which one) and the other wants to play "princess doctor" they either split up and play alone, or one of them does something they don't like.  But when my son is the only boy, nobody will want to wrestle or hit stuff (except me).  And he'll have two other little humans who want to put on plastic high heels and flouncy dresses and pretend to be figure skaters.  And I just can't have that being his only option.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not at all upset that we're having a girl.  (See paragraph 1 if you have a bad memory.)  But for some reason I had it in my head that we'd have a boy this time (I was good at identifying patterns in standardized testing).  And my preparation for that scenario blinded me to the other possibility.  And I realized that my eldest may be my only shot at raising a manly man who can hit home runs and punch through walls and arm-wrestle and stuff.

So here's my plan.  I'm gonna have weekly (or maybe daily) "guy time" with my son.  We will play rough, we will throw stuff, we will be gross and mean.  And I fully expect to get hurt by this.  Bruises and scars will happen.  And the girls can do their own thing during that time.  But I want to make sure my son turns out to be the kind of man who defends his little sisters instead of becoming one of them.  I've seen both kinds of boys and I much prefer him to be the macho type, not the "princess doctor" type.

Friday, March 23, 2012

In THIS Economy?!

So buying a house was stressful.  And it wasn't so much the stress of making the decision.  We knew it was a good decision to finally buy a house.  We needed more space for our growing family, I got a better job, and renting is essentially throwing your money away (we've spent over $70,000 on rent since we got married).  So we weren't worried about it being the right choice.  The stressful part was all the unknown stuff that could happen.

Two things kept playing on a loop in my mind.  First was the 1986 comedy "The Money Pit" starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.  I kept imagining ridiculous plumbing and electrical problems that, if filmed, would be hilarious.  But in my head they played less hilariously.  I couldn't help but imagine our bathtub falling through the second floor and shattering on the ground level (even though we were buying a one-story house).  And I kept imagining door frames falling down and chimneys collapsing.  And since I don't have the charisma of Tom Hanks, there was a lot of crying in those fearful imagining instead of laughing.

But the other thing that kept running through my head was the constant fear that closing costs would balloon out of control once we sat down to sign.  The voice in my head kept saying, "Just wait.  It'll be so much worse than you think it is."  See, our lender (who made this process pretty difficult and so shall remain nameless) had assured us that we wouldn't have to pay more than $800 at closing.  But every document they sent me had an estimate that was closer to $1500.  And my job isn't so much better that I have an extra $700 laying around whenever I need it.  So we scrimped and saved and sold a lot of our stuff to make sure we had enough.  Then the day before closing, they were supposed to give us the final tally.  But they didn't have it.  In fact, they waited so long to find out what the closing costs would be, that we didn't find out until we sat down to sign (with a stack of hundreds in my pocket).

Luckily for us, the closing costs came out to be less than $400, despite my bank's insistence that they would be more than that.  And that gave us a nice little cushion in case we had to buy a bunch of stuff for our very own money pit.

Also luckily for us, it hasn't turned out to be a money pit.  The home has been well-maintained, renovated slightly, and there hasn't been a single issue we've had to pour money into.  But I can promise one thing.  We will never install a tub on the second floor.  Mostly because I don't want to pour water into it and then laugh maniacally when it crashes and shatters on the ground below.  (But also because we don't have a second floor.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mmm, Epiphany

Okay, let's start with the least consequential but most shocking part of my life.  I'm actually losing weight.

Give that a moment to sink in.  If you know me or you've read this blog, you know that a) I love food, b) I've been fat for a while, and c) I'm extremely lazy.

But I had an epiphany (which at one point in my life I thought was the name of a fancy French pastry).  Actually, it was a two-part epiphany.  Part one was when I realized that my father's most athletic days were before he had kids.  And that doesn't sound like an epiphany, I know.  But he and my mother had me when he was 30 years old.  And he started gaining weight about that time.  So the man who played tennis and softball and basketball growing up turned into a dad who wasn't active or in shape.  And I realized that I could flip that trend on its head if I got in shape.  I could say that my inactive period was before children.  And I could play those sports with my kids.

Now before I get to part two of the epiphany, I'd like to clarify.  I love my dad.  I'm not saying that my childhood was terrible or lacking in something because we didn't play on a softball team together.  Although I'm sure my therapist would disagree (if I had one).  He was and is a good dad.  I'm just saying that it was part of the epiphany.

Part two of my epiphany (which no longer sounds like a real word because of all the times I've used it) was when I realized that I've never dunked a basketball.  I mean, it's not like I forgot that.  I just forgot that one of my goals was to dunk a basketball once in my life.  Literally just once would be fine.  If I dunk and then fall and break my leg so I can never dunk again, that's fine.  I just hope I get it on film so I have proof (and because injuries look cooler on film).  But anyway, I've always wanted to do that.  And I realized that once I turn 30, my chances of dunking for the first time are diminished by a lot.  Everyone I've talked to has said that the 30s are the decade where they finally felt like they weren't able to do the things they used to.  So I imagine that attempting something I've never done before will be all the more difficult.

Then I turned 29 in December.  And that really got me in gear for this weight loss thing.  I've set a goal to dunk a basketball on or before my 30th birthday.  And really, that specific day is pretty arbitrary.  If I dunk on my 31st birthday, I'd still be happy about it.  But it just seems like such a great goal.  And while I know the chances are slim, it's helping me take this more seriously.  I go to the gym now, I eat less, and I have my biggest meals early in the day.  And it seems to be working.  So I will dunk in December (or sooner)!  Although I probably won't.  But I am back to what I weighed when I got married in 2005.  So that's something.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm Still Alive

Okay, I forgot I had a blog.  I'm that guy now.  Go figure.  I always make fun of that guy.  And instead of boring you with my "reasons" (that's fancy talk for "excuses"), I'll just give you a quick update.  Here are the things happening in my family's life:

-We're having a girl!  In May! (this is the part where I panic because that's close)
-We bought a house!
-I'm losing weight! (slowly)
-My kids are growing up! (quickly)

Okay, so that's actually all normal life stuff.  It's exciting normal life stuff, but still.

I make no promises that I'll be back here.  But I do feel that it's a shame that I'm letting so many good stories go unblogged.  I wanted to keep up this blog as a memory aid for when I'm older and I don't remember all the stuff that's happened with me, my friends, and my family (especially the kids).  So I might try.  Laziness usually trumps my blog promises to strangers who have probably long since left this space.

However, I can promise one thing.  There will be a new post tomorrow morning.  And by the time you read this, you'll probably see both of them together because, let's face it, nobody checks this blog anymore.  But I'm gonna go write it now and schedule it for tomorrow.  Technology!

K, bye.