Month: June 2008 (Page 1 of 2)

Stunning

I should probably hold off on saying this for a few more days, until I’ve had a chance to listen through it more, but the best album of the year so far is The Midnight Organ Fight by the Scottish band <a href=”http://www.myspace.com/frightenedrabbit”>Frightened Rabbit</a>. I’ve tried to put on my amateur rock critic hat and find some really eloquent words to describe them, but about all I can come up with is that the album is freaking brilliant. I discovered them this morning through the excellent <a href=”http://fuelfriends.blogspot.com/”>I Am Fuel, You Are Friends</a> blog and immediately went out and bought the album. It’s been a long time since I had such a strong emotional connection to an album on my first listen. It’s only 1:00 and I’m already on listen #4.

Check their MySpace site or <a href=”http://hypem.com/”>The Hype Machine</a> for some tracks. You will not be disappointed.

Wasting Time

I’d like to preface this post by reminding you all that I’m nearly 37 years old, am married, have 2.5 kids, and have a Master’s degree.

Last night, I spent about 45 minutes shooting a water gun at the mother raccoon that lives under our deck each time she peaked her head out to see if the coast was clear for her and her kits to go on their evening foraging run.

 

Thoughts On Parenting

<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html?_r=1&amp;oref=slogin”>This article</a> is a thought-provoking (and lengthy) examination of how couples struggle to achieve a fair balance when it comes to raising kids, managing the home, etc. I’m fascinated by how little the numbers have changed over time, as though there’s something hardwired in either us or our society that prevents us from moving the ratios too much. Regardless of how your family is set-up (one career, two careers, single parent, etc.) I think we all struggle with this.

This comes along at an interesting time for me. I’m approaching the fourth anniversary of when I began staying home with M.. I’ve had a couple friends ask me what kind of feedback I get from others about the choices I’ve made.

I think it’s important to say first that I’ve always felt like my friends and family respect me for choosing this path. If anyone thinks that it is an odd choice, or that I’ve left some of my manhood behind in the process, they’ve never shared that with me. Almost everyone has been extremely supportive.

I feel like I get some extra slack from people for two reasons. First, when I decided to stay home, it was because my job was eliminated. While I had an opportunity to stay with my employer, I was ready to move on (Just the other day S. said her memory from our first year in our house was me sitting in my office, looking miserable as I pretended to work.). Also, I told everyone I was going to grad school. I think a lot of people thought this was a short-term thing, not a semi-permanent decision. (S. and I may have thought that, too, when we first chose this route.) Second, my path was paved here in Indy by a good friend who set-aside his legal career for almost five years so he could stay home full time with his three (and later four) kids. He established that it was ok for a man to stay home, and did a phenomenal job at it, which made it easier for whoever next decided to do it.

Things can be a little different when I get away from our immediate friends and family. There are the random, well-meaning people we run into while we’re out-and-about who assume I’m taking the day off from work to hang with the girls. I try not to get offended and politely explain that’s in fact what I do every day. But there are days when it’s tough to take. For example, a week or so back, I got that line from a lady at Old Navy. A couple hours later, when we got home, I checked our messages and had one from the mother of one of M.’s friends to reschedule a birthday party. I had RSVPed for the party, but the mom left the message for S.. I had had a long day with the girls, dealing with screaming and whining and crying and 1000 questions, and I felt a slight where there was no intention to slight me. In those stress-laden moments sometimes those comments can frustrate and upset me. I think that’s probably true for any parent, regardless of their role.

Therein lies my secret to parenting success. You have to be egoless. You have to understand that whatever choices you make are about giving your kids the best, most normal childhood possible. You can’t take it personally, at least for more than a moment, when someone doesn’t understand your parenting model. If your kids are happy and fed and cared for and reasonably well-behaved, that’s all that matters. Let others think what they want to think.

After reading that article and thinking about our family set-up, I realize again how lucky I am. S. and I have naturally, without much debate or argument, established areas of responsibility that are roughly equal. There are aspects that overlap and others that each of us take on in full. We may not do things exactly how the other would, but we don’t jump all over each other when things aren’t perfect around the house or with the kids. The responsibilities shift a bit when she’s working a lot, or on the nights/days when I have an assignment and have to be out of the home. But our arrangement makes it easy to do that without too much disruption. We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to find a balance that is fair to each of us. I know a lot of couples want to get there but other things (careers, kids, etc.) have prevented them from doing so.

I’m not sharing all of this to make us seem like the perfect parenting/marriage model. Trust me, we’re not. But I do think that it is important to, from time-to-time, sit down and examine how you are doing as a spouse, parent, friend, etc. Even if there is room for improvement, at the same time you’ll notice the things you are doing right, which is easy to lose sight of when the kids are screaming, the house is a wreck, and you’ve got a deadline coming up. If you feel like you’re coming up short in 10 areas, chances are there are 10 or more areas where you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing.

What To Call It

This is how strange a spring it has been: today, June 17, is the first morning this year that I’ve spent most of my time in our three-season-room/sunroom/screened-in porch, or whatever this room is called. Most of the spring it’s been too chilly to hang out in here anytime before lunch. Over the last couple weeks, it’s been hot and muggy, too much so to come out even in the mornings. Plus, when the girls get annoying in the morning, sometimes we just open the door, shoo them out here, and stay inside to get a little peace. I’ve missed these gentle morning breezes.

When I exchange e-mails with people, they always ask about S. and how she’s feeling. The general answer is pretty good, but tired. A couple weeks back was the busiest week she’s ever had at work, and you could see she was having a much harder time recovering than she did two kids, or even one kid, ago. I’m pretty sure I’d be on permanent bedrest if I had to gestate a child, so I’m impressed with her ability to stay upright.

All continues to look good on her visits to the doctor. We’re over half-way there now, and should schedule the official date for the c-section sometime in July. Expect it to be the week of Sept. 29 – Oct. 3.

We haven’t talked names for awhile, but the last time we did, we got it narrowed down to 5-7. That can all change, of course. We’re struggling with finding a name that isn’t too much like M. or C.. I’ve decided I need to be able to yell at any of the three girls from any part of the house and have the correct girl come to me. So no Morgans. S. found a name that we both really liked. It fit our Celtic requirement, is not one you hear every day – or even every week – and had the proper strong girl connotation we’re looking for. But, it had kind of a wacky Irish spelling, which made it hard to pronounce. I loved this name, but even as I looked at the list, I kept saying it wrong. So it got nixed. We don’t want to curse our kids by giving them names they’re constantly having to correct the pronunciation of. Also, we’re facing the challenge of not picking a name that someone in our group of friends has already claimed. There is one particular name that a long-time friend has used, but this long-time friend is not someone we see on a regular basis (this long-time friend knows the name is under consideration), so we’ve discussed if it’s ok to use it. For now, it’s still on the list. Naming a kid shouldn’t be this hard!

So, we’ve got this list that we haven’t looked at much lately. I would say there are three names I really like right now. A week from now, I might think something completely different. We didn’t think we’d have a M. or C. when we were 22 weeks along with either of them.

It’s Boston’s World, We’re Just Living In It

I feel comfortable saying the Celtics have this thing wrapped up, since they have a 31 point lead three minutes into the fourth quarter. I believe that’s what you call a comprehensive ass-kicking. So much for my Lakers in five pick.

Paul Pierce proves he’s one of the best players in the NBA, officially ascends as the second best NBA player to come out of KU, and puts a nice wrapper on the year of the Jayhawk (Bonus: Scot Pollard gets a ring as well!).

KG finally shakes his Great Guy, Not A Winner label with a huge game six. The Kid was a monster tonight.

And perhaps best, Ray Allen found his shot for the Finals. It was sad watching one of the most beautiful shots in the game desert him in the early rounds. Another nice guy who is worthy of a ring.

And where was Kobe? He had some nice moments but he completely disappeared for long stretches as well. If he gets credit for nothing else, Doc Rivers deserves credit for figuring out how to contain Kobe.

Ray Allen has hit three more threes since I started typing this. Amazing. I could watch that shot all day. The only thing that could ruin this is if Lamar Odom throws a punch, which he seems like he’s poised to do.

One final point: all this Boston sports success started after my brother-in-law moved to Boston to attend Boston University seven years ago. The Patriots winning three Super Bowls. Defeating The Curse. And now the Celtics win their first title in over 20 years. The kid has some karma, apparently. He needs to start going to some Bruins games, I guess.

Free Golf

Happy Father’s Day, late in the day, to the other pops out there. I enjoyed mine. Worked in the yard. Had a little cookout for the local family. Enjoyed my gift, the <i>Rock Chalk Championship</i> DVD. (I learned one thing from the DVD: Bill Self is a locker room genius. No singing <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZKoIu-ECfs”>”Eye Of The Tiger.”</a> No tired “Everyone is against us,” tirades like John Calipari is perpetually rolling out. Just calm, confident speeches that inspire his team. Of course, those speeches would not have seemed as cool had Memphis hit one more free throw or Mario’s shot rimmed out.) Oh, and watched a little golf.

First thing’s first: Tiger fucked up. His crazy run on Saturday would have worked much better on Sunday. That’s a historic way to win a tournament. Now the dramatic birdie putt on 18 today was nice, but after scuffling around all day it didn’t have the same feeling that his eagle – chip-in – eagle run Saturday did. Of course, with the playoff Monday, he still has a chance to do something special for the history books.

And now it comes down to Tiger’s knee vs. Rocco’s back. You know that back is tightening up tonight. I have to say, I’m generally a Tiger Uber Alles guy, but I really enjoyed watching Rocco this weekend. Sure, he’s a nervous guy, which kind of makes me nervous, but I loved his attitude. He was just having fun, enjoying every moment of his run, not getting too down when the inevitable U.S. Open stumbles came, all while acknowledging the greatness of Tiger. Monday’s round should be a lot of fun.

(I actually stayed up and watched an entire NBA game last night, hoping the Celtics would close out the Lakers. Paul Pierce was phenomenal, until he gave Kobe that little opening for the game-clinching steal, but that was not enough. Now they go back to Boston meaning there’s at least one more night where, at 11:00, I bargain with myself: “Well, it could be a great fourth quarter, but that means I’m not in bed until 12:15 at the earliest.” The NBA sucks.)

Reader’s Notebook

My on-going quest to read everything ever printed.

18 – <i>Open Line</i> – Ellen Hawley. This is a fun little novel about a lark run amok. Annette Majoris is a late-night radio host in Minneapolis who dreams of making it big in a real city, specifically New York, not some sleepy Midwestern town. One night, after being bored to death by another round of conspiracy-theory spouting callers, she casually asserts that the U.S. government faked the entire Vietnam war. It was, she claims, a giant mind control experiment. The reaction is swift, emotional, and loud. While some shout her down, others, including many who served, tell her that she’s either on to something, or that they can finally explain some of the issues they’ve been dealing with since their return 30 years ago.

Her cause is quickly adopted by many. A group of anti-government libertarians begins furnishing her with documentation about both of the inconsistencies in the war and with other government programs. She meets a benefactor of the Minnesota governor, who is searching for an issue that his client can leverage to take the reins of the Republican party in the next primary cycle. Veterans groups line up both for and against her, her show becoming a nightly therapy session for many of them to attempt to make sense of the strange dreams they’ve been having.

What is never clear is if Majoris really believes anything she is saying. She is instructed by her station owner to not take sides, just ask questions. Her audience grows, she hosts public forums, moves to a bigger station, and begins talks for a TV show. All that is clear is that she desperately wants to get to New York and make the money that comes with working in that market.

<i>Open LIne</i> is a funny statement about our modern media culture. Real issues with depth lose out to vaguely sourced conspiracies. Conflict trumps intellect. And, as Hawley seems to want us to believe, media personalities are far more interested in growing their brand, increasing their marketshare, and fattening their pockets than providing any real service to their viewers and listeners. In an election year, those assertions are even more relevant.

19 – <i>Winkie</i> – Clifford Chase. Perhaps the best first 30 pages of any book I’ve ever read. The rest of the book was very good, too, but the opening sequence of this book is amazing.

<i>Winkie</i> is the memoir of one of America’s greatest criminals and his trial for over 8000 charges, ranging from terrorism to sedition to blasphemy to believing the earth revolves around the sun. A full 12 prosecutors take 18 months to present their case against Winkie, in front of a very sympathetic judge and a courtroom full of cheering supporters, while the media foams at the mouth for his immediate conviction and execution. It truly is the trial of the century. Sound ridiculous? I’ve not shared the best part: Winkie is a teddy bear. A living, breathing, talking, walking teddy bear.

So yeah, a book about a teddy bear on trial for some of the worst crimes ever committed. How does this work? Quite well, actually. <i>Winkie</i> is in fact an allegory for how we assign blame in our society. We need bad guys, especially in the age of terrorism, and are all-too-willing to convict people without ever hearing all the evidence against them or considering their defense. All we need to hear is “Charges have been filed…” and we’re ready to string them up. In a complex world in which one of the men running for president can’t consistently keep Shiite and Sunni straight, a problem no doubt much of America shares, we want easy answers and solutions to these strange new problems. So, it does not matter that Winkie is a teddy bear. The fact that he can somehow walk and talk means he must be responsible for all the crimes he is accused of committing.

<i>Winkie</i> is absurd, shocking, and hilarious. It also serves as a mini-memoir of the author and his family, which both provides context and emotional depth. The book doesn’t quite live up to the first 30 pages, but it is still an excellent work and one of my favorites I’ve read this year.

Overheard At The Library

While at the library last night, M. and C. were playing with some toys while S. and I were looking at books about ten feet away. Another little girl, who looked to be 4-5, ran up to them and asked, “What are your names?”

M. gave her a look for a minute like, “Who are you, asking me questions?” but finally got happy and said, “I’m M. and this is my sister C..”

The girls chatted about names for a minute and then M. pointed to us, “That’s our mommy and daddy. Their names are Mommy and Daddy.”

Both S. and I had to look away and laugh. When I looked back, their new friend was looking at us smiling, too, as if she understood the joke.

Rain, Rain Go Away

I want to be careful how I say this, because there are a lot of people across Indiana and other Midwestern states who have truly suffered over the last week because of all the rain. Some of the pictures from just south of Indianapolis were incredible.

But, I’m ready for all these freaking storms to go away. C. is now incapable of sleeping through even the mildest of storms. Despite having a fan cranked up in her room, at the first rumble of thunder, she starts crying, gets out of her bed, and comes and finds us. She was out of bed twice last night because of storms, and then seemed to be having bad dreams (no doubt of thunder) the rest of the night. I know this because I spent about four hours in her bed, and every 30 minutes or so, she would scream, “NO!” and then fling her body across the bed. Most of the time that meant her head crashed into mine. It’s bad enough I’m squeezed into her bed getting kicked all the time. But the head butts are especially insulting.

And for the record, this started right about the time I bragged about how she had turned into a good sleeper, finally, on the blog. Just another example of how sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut about the cool things your kids are doing.

Party Time

M. had another birthday party this weekend. I highly recommend checking out the family pic page (right there on the right sidebar, top link, for you newbies) for some good ones. This was a special party in that there were farm animals. Two ponies. Two baby goats. A rooster. A hen and some chicks. A rabbit. And all were either drugged up or mellow enough so the kids got to get up close and hold/pet them. M. got to go on her first horse ride ever. She liked it so much, she took two more. I fear the words “Mom, Dad, I want a pony,” are in our future.

She had a great time, got to see some of her school friends again, and ate some yummy cake. My favorite part of the day was how she told S. about one of the ponies after she got home from work. The pony’s name was Strawberry Shortcake. M. called her Short Strawberry Cake. We’re still chuckling about that one.

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