bentangle

Tag: my wife

Ebony, Ivory, and Other Hard Woods

by on Sep.22, 2010, under family, home & stuff

This weekend had been significantly more eventful than most recently.  Among these events were a couple of parties, a couple of changes to the household, a couple hours of work that I could have done without, and a couple more projects on my to do list.  Most of these (except the work-related part) can be traced back to my mother coming to visit, and all seem to be related to wood in some way.

My parents as well as my wife and I were invited to a surprise 25th-anniversary party on Saturday for my uncle (the party being the surprise part – I’m pretty sure they were aware of the marital milestone).  My mom, being the opportunist that she is, planned to come up on Thursday so that she could get in some visitation with the kids.  As usual, this visit seemed to dovetail into tackling projects that we had otherwise left in a primordial phase (for some reason my wife thought she could stave this off by tackling all open painting projects earlier in the week – so silly).  The first to bubble up was tearing up the carpeting in the living room – something my wife had been wrestling with for weeks (weighing her hatred for the state of the carpet with her fear of the state of the floor beneath it).  Naturally we dove into it and less than an hour later our living room floor was bare.  As it turns out, it is going to need some work – I now have the pending projects of sistering the joists, tacking the floorboard more firmly to the new joists, patching, sanding,  polishing and finishing the floor, and then debating with my wife over whether we should top it with a new floating floor.  But at least I don’t have to hear any more about the carpet.

The next conversation thread that came up on Thursday night after we were settled on our newly repositioned couch was Christmas – specifically gift ideas.  My mom had the idea that she wanted to get each family a very high-end electronic piano (apparently as part of this plan she had already bought one that my sister declined – my mom conveniently claimed that one as her own with, I’m sure, no regrets).  In our case she decided to have the conversation before dropping the chunk of change.  And apparently our consent to the idea cascaded to a shopping trip on Friday so that by the time I got home on Friday evening my kids were already accustomed to fighting over who gets to play next (my wife is slightly more patient, though this gift will likely parallel that of Rock Band last year in that most nights as I’m saying goodnight to the kids she will already be engrossed in playing – at least with this she can wear headphones and not pique the kids’ curiosity to any noise sources).  I have to say that it is an awesome keyboard – it is a full set of 88 keys, full-sized and fully weighted.  If has plenty of options including a built in metronome and a variety of very realistic instrument voices.

As a welcome distraction from our creaky floor and the kids slowly learning not to abuse their new toy, we headed to the surprise party Saturday afternoon.  There my wife, mother and I enjoyed a reconnecting with a number of relatives we don’t get to see often as well as others we didn’t even know we had (some of them classifiable by the third part of this post’s title).  My cousin did a splendid job not only preparing for and conducting such a party, but managing to keep knowledge of it from its victims right to the moment they walked in the door (right down to making sure no suspicious cars would be parked near the house).  It was great to have that time with them.  My aunts even made time to join us for breakfast the next morning before getting back on the road for their long journey to upstate New York.

As this post has grown longer than intended, I will close with on final story that may seem like a non-sequitur, but isn’t quite.  This morning our routine was convoluted more so than usual by the fact that my wife’s car needed to be dropped off for service due to a scraping noise coming from the front, driver’s-side corner.  If I had had the time, I may have looked into it myself to some extent, but I got home late from work the night before and didn’t have any time in the morning to do more than drive it around the block before committing to the tasks before us.  My wife, as is characteristic, worried her way through a variety of ridiculously expensive possibilities such as  a broken brake shoe, blown shocks or struts, or even a cracked axle.  As it turned out, the true culprit was a piece of wood – a tree branch wedged in the suspension.  Supposedly in the process of correcting this issue, the shop noted wear in the sway bar and still managed to score around $300 from us.  But all said it seems wood is the theme ingredient of my week.

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Dawn of a New Day

by on Sep.08, 2010, under family, parenthood

This week my wife received a rare gift – freedom.  For the first time in at least 4 years my wife had the benefit of time in a day without a kid in tow or a phone-call away from needing to be picked up.   You see when we discovered we were having a second child, it quickly became evident that daycare costs strongly outweighed the benefits of a second income (at least at the level of income we were accustomed to earning).  So my wife drew the short straw of being the stay-at-home parent and has subsisted at some level of harried-ness ever since (I could often gauge that level by how early in the day I’d get the IM asking when I’d be coming home – 5:00=relatively good day, 2:30=pick up gin on the way home).  But this week that all changed.  This week both children started a new school year – Cricket in first grade and Grasshopper in pre-school.

Tuesday was Cricket’s first day.  The night before seemed to require a number of pep talks due to nerves and fears over the changes to her routine (new teacher, new room, some new classmates).  After my wife’s pep talk seemed to leave her more skittish, I gave her a relate-able story from my own youth that got her not only out of her funk, but looking forward to school.  She was all set in the morning in her pink flowery outfit and sporting her new princess backpack (the pink fedora got nixed in favor of pigtails despite her pleading).  As a family we all walked to her school (it is only a few blocks away within our neighborhood), got her in the right line into the school, and made the trek back home where I hopped in the car and headed to work and my wife and Grasshopper got to some fun mommy-son time (probably involving sword-fighting).

Wednesday was Grasshopper’s first day.  Though his was somewhat abbreviated as it was an orientation day and he insisted that I be the one to go with him to it (good thing my office is fairly flexible about when I get in).  So he and I got to play in his new classroom with all his classmates and their moms.  Since it is the same pre-school that Cricket went to, several of the teachers and administrators came and fawned over him as the young male version of his sister (it won’t take them long to figure out how different they are from each other).  He played at almost every station in the room with the possible exception of the dress-up station (which I took with relief as I knew he would likely have put on a cape and possibly started to refer to himself as Captain Cockwarts – I have no explanation for this one, he seemed to just make up this persona this weekend).  At the end of the day, mommy came to pick him up so I could jet on to work from there.

So going forward, my wife will have Tuesdays and Thursdays with just Grasshopper, and the rest of the weekdays to herself until after lunch.  I’m sure she is already planning how these slots of time will be filled.  I’m also sure she is bittersweet about it as it is time she will miss spending with her babies (I almost said angels, but that would be grossly inaccurate).  I’m fairly certain that I won’t get nearly as many 2:30 pleas as to when I’ll be coming home, but I’d also be willing to bet I’ll get a lot more IMs from her before lunch (if I worked closer to home, maybe I’d go home for … lunch).  The point is that she will finally have a share of personal freedom in her life to do with as she pleases.  My calendar, however, already seems to be filling up with more items (e.g., back-to-school nights, parent events, taking the kids to YMCA classes).  Ah well.

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Everything Old Is New Again

by on Sep.07, 2010, under Entertainment

As my wife depicted brilliantly on her blog (dtemama.com), we took the kids to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire this weekend.  It was quite the initiation for them.  Though truth be told, my visiting tenure there only dates back to the first time my wife took me with her family (back when we were still dating).  But she has been going sporadically since her teen years and it seemed like something the kids would enjoy (if not fully understand).

It turned out to be a fun time had by all and it couldn’t have been a better time to go.  The weather was just right for it, and it happened to be Children’s Fantasy Weekend.  So as we walked in the gates the kids were handed pirate treasure maps on which they were instructed to find several letter clues around the fairgrounds that would spell a password to get them some pirate treasure.  While the map was a tad confusing (it was nice of them to label all of the roads on the map, though it would have helped if there were also matching signs on the roads themselves), the kids managed to keep up with our meandering trek around the park and go excited every time they found a clue.  We took in some fun shows including the birds of prey demonstration, a human chess match, as well as a the jousting match at the end of the day.  Though despite my encouragement to try some authentic Renaissance fare, the kids opted for pizza for lunch.

Grasshopper soaked it all up like a kid in a candy store.  As we passed shops he would shout out “Look! A Harry Potter cape!” or “Look at that pirate skull!”  During a lull where my sister-in-law was waiting for the next glass-blowing demo and my son was decidedly too hyped up on lunch and excitement to be trusted in the vicinity of dozens of hanging glass bobbles, I took him away from the group for a father-son foray into a sword shop that was setup to look like a beached pirate ship.  Both on the way up the walk to the opening and through the entire tour around the store he couldn’t be more exhilarated.  He climbed on the cannons and pretended to fire them.  He sparred with another boy with some wooden practice swords.  He pointed out dozens of exciting decorations and items of interest.  And impressively managed to refrain from grabbing any of the real swords upon my explanations of the real dangers in doing so.  By the time the human chess match was underway in the late afternoon, he was petering out – he nearly fell asleep in my lap (most likely the occasional sword fighting in the match was all that was keeping him from conking out).  But he managed to get a second wind long enough for dinner and the joust (though he was dead asleep long before we arrived back home).

Cricket was equally sparkly-eyed over the events and scenery of the Faire.  Though much of her interest was targeted toward princess and fairy-related items (though she was also excited by dragons, swords, and pirates).  She wanted to see and try everything (including a turkey leg – I believe her uncle let her try some of his).  Being nearly 7, she was a little more understanding of the fact that the Faire was a depiction/dramatization of a period in history.  Though I’m sure her concepts of the history of humanity is very spotty at best (she finds it incredulous that there weren’t things like Wii and iPhones back when I was her age).  There wasn’t a shop in which she didn’t find something she wanted, though we did promise each of them one souvenir and so she was good about cataloging the things she liked so she could make her choice by the end of the day – she went with a princess hat (conical silky hat with frilly edges and streamers – I’ll take that over the $75 dresses and $40 parasols she had her eyes on earlier in the day).  Her brother opted for a small wooden sparring sword which took all of his might not to swing all over the place as we walked around the rest of the day.

If there was any complaints I could offer on the day, there would only be one small one:  this weekend was supposedly Children’s Fantasy weekend, and though there were disclaimers about the joust being graphic prior to the start of it, I really did not expect the level of violence that was displayed to an audience knowingly more heavily weighted with children than usual.  It started off as I’m accustomed to – the usual grandstanding hoopla that opens things up and gives the event personality and color.  Then the jousting commences, then the sword play, then some more talk as you think the bad knight is on the ropes and read to give up.  And then the bad guy claims to be secretly working for the King of Spain and an attack force moves in and explosions start up (even up to this point, though the booms are a bit loud, I’m still feeling this is all fairly family-friendly).  Then, to end the confrontation, the good knight, who has the bad knight on his knees after a stab to the gut, slices the bad knight’s throat and fake blood drools from his neck and spouts out of his mouth. Grasshopper’s point of view prevented him from seeing that particular bit, though I doubt he would have understood it to question it.  But Cricket, who was further down the bench near her grandparents got an eyeful of it.  When I asked her after what she thought of the joust, she commented that it was interesting, but she wasn’t sure why the guy spit out cherry juice at the end (I assume my in-laws threw that explanation out there right after the shock of the ending faded).  So I guess there is no particular harm done, and I can appreciate realistic drama and effects as much as the next guy (as a guy, I thought it was awesomely done), but I found it a little surprising given the theme of the weekend.

Anyway, it was a long day and everyone seemed to have a great time.  When they were asked what they favorite parts of the Faire were, the kids both stated that they liked the ship-swing ride and playing with the hula hoops (they’re kids – it’s all about engagement).  I’m sure that this is the start of a semi-regular tradition as I’m sure they’re going to want to go back over and over again.  And I don’t mind one bit.  To see the world of the past light up in a kid’s eyes like a new and exciting place brings a child-like gleam into my eye.

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Big Hearts, Short Sleeves

by on Sep.01, 2010, under family

It is interesting how much emotion can be conveyed with a small amount of words.  For instance, this morning as I was getting ready to leave the house I called up the stairs to everyone to let them know that I was leaving for work.  Each of my family members replied in turn in their own unique ways:

Grasshopper: BYE DADDY, I LOVE YOU!

Cricket: I belong to you, Daddy!

My wife: The money is on the table.

The last sounds odd out of context, though in truth there was no immediate conversational context to it – my wife and I just have a very down-to-earth relationship and have a knack for picking up random long-dead conversation threads and/or answering each others unasked questions.  But the tone of each response reflects much greater depth of the emotions behind them than the words themselves convey.  My kids are full of exuberant, idealistic affection for the father that they only see in passing in the morning and for a few hours in the evening. My wife, already in the trenches of dealing with getting the kids ready for the day, sticks with purposeful messaging (the love we share is known, implied, and not in need of constant reinforcement).

I can’t help but wonder sometimes, when in my own life the level of emotional openness and heightened expression that my kids seem to exude had faded.  What are the factors that delay or expedite this process?  When should I expect my daughter to transition from her current puppy-dog phase to something more similar to the cynical teen that I’m sure she might become?  Should I try to stave it off or just accept what comes?

The oddity of it is that it is so dissimilar to my own attitude I find myself sometimes wondering if we are really related.  I wouldn’t necessarily call myself cynical (though I certainly maintain a healthy level of cynicism), but I’m definitely a picture of nonchalance.  A perfect example of my cool under pressure demeanor is one that is often cited by my in-laws – usually around Thanksgiving.

The event in question happened during a Thanksgiving about a decade ago at my wife’s aunt’s house.  While my aunt-in-law and several other of the matriarchs of the family were buzzing about the kitchen and the majority of the men and children where engrossed in whatever football game happened to be on, I walked through the dining room to grab a snack from the kitchen island on the other end of it.  As I did so, I noticed that one of the drip candles that were on the table seemed to have dropped a piece of wick and as a result a circle of the tablecloth about two inches across had been charred and was slowly edging wider by some very low flames.  I calmly walked into the kitchen and asked my aunt-in-law “Aunt Ann, your table is on fire.  Do you have a pot holder I can borrow?” to which she responded with a flabbergasted “What!?”.  While she wended through the people in the kitchen to get to the dining room and see what I was referring to, I grabbed the first thing I could find to handle the task – a damp dishrag.  By the time I got back there, she and two of my wife’s cousins were watching the now soda-can diameter ring of fire in abject shock.  I skirted around them and patted the fire out with the dishrag, blew out the candles to avoid any possible recurrence, and grabbed a couple of sweet gherkins from the pickle tray and went about my business.    The rest of the ladies seemed to bustle about it for a while before the table was retrimmed and the commotion reformed in the kitchen where it previously resided.  Many of the men didn’t even seem to notice anything had happened.  But my aunt-in-law tells the story of it almost every year.

Anyway, I know that I am somewhat unique in my lack of excitability.  But there are times when I wish a little of it would rub off on my kids (and perhaps at moments my wife as well).  While I appreciate the positive end of their heightened emotional state, the negative side of it is rarely much fun.  Cricket is a picture of indecisiveness – she can easily waste a half-hour trying to decide whether pink or yellow shorts go better with the brown shirt she is wearing (and then throw on leprechaun socks).  Grasshopper will have a 20-minute stand off over not liking green beans (including throwing silverware and having a tantrum across the house) before finally eating a forkful and realizing he loves them.  The trouble with family drama seems to be the balance – keeping the levels of comedy and tragedy in line and not pegged at 11.

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You and Me and Your Brother Makes Three

by on Aug.05, 2010, under family

It seems that it will be a mom-free weekend.  Starting tomorrow morning through Sunday it will be just me, Cricket, and Grasshopper fending for ourselves.  I’m not actually particularly concerned.  I’m not one of those passive working dad’s who defers the majority of parenting to the matron of the house.  I even cook sometimes (mostly on the grill, but not exclusively).  So I’m sure we will survive …. hopefully.

My wife will be departing early tomorrow morning on a trek to NYC for a blogging conference (in case you weren’t aware, she has not one, but two blogs that she likely updates more often than I do: Down to Earth Mama and She Acts).  She will be whooping it up in the Big Apple for the weekend with blog-related discussions and parties.  Not that I would worry for the sanctity of our marriage regardless of the nature of the conference, but being that she will be surrounded mostly by female bloggers, the most that will likely happen is some all-girl drunken music videography (it’s happened).  I guess there is a sliver of the possibility she might get swept into an overzealous celebration of the repeal of Prop. 8, but I’m not overly concerned.  What hyjinx will ensue are likely to be of a much more tame and innocent variety of which she greatly deserves.

Anyway, besides regularly scheduled events of the weekend (of which there are surprisingly many) I have very little in mind for our sans matronus weekend.  As it stands, I have to take them to swimming lessons, the farmer’s market, a family reunion, and potentially a free movie screening (and probably some other events that my wife will point out that I forgot to mention and therefore will not remember to do).  So outside of meals there is limited bandwidth for other events.  But I may try to fit in some shopping and some other entertainment where I can – perhaps even some fruit picking if time and weather permit.

My biggest concern is that I’m going to be plagued with work issues that try to follow me home.  I’m slowly working to have more redundancy and less direct dependency for certain things, but the curse of being good at certain things is that you are the only one who can handle them – I’m not playing arrogant here, it is simple fact.  But I’m training a new guy to be the next me, and trying to leave no issues up in the air so that I can make the most of a wife-free and hopefully work-free weekend.

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