Monthly Archives: July 2010

Business Trip

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF ATLANTA—As an at-home dad, the notion of a business trip seems like a luxury of the employed. You dress like a grownup and go through airport security without finding crayons or crackers in your pocket. You eat food that someone else prepared, and you sleep in a strange bed for a few days. And if you’re lucky enough, your shirts get done while you’re out.

I just realized that I’m on my first business trip, minus the frequent flier miles.

This week, we drove to North Georgia, where my wife is nursemaiding her mom after knee replacement surgery. We usually come for Christmas or Thanksgiving, when clouds roll in and completely obscure the gorgeous mountain views. The fog gets so bad that I keep thinking Jack Nicholson is going to pop out, like in “The Shining.”

As the surgery date approached, my Lovely Bride and I decided the kiddos and I would join her down here for a week when it’s not freezing and grey. One day, we hit the multiple lakes and swimming pools and paddle boats and canoes and rock slide that we only dream of during winter visits. Another day I took the children swimming at their cousins’ pool 40 minutes away. Then yesterday we drove 60 miles to the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta. (Mommy, meanwhile, has helped with rehab exercises, cooked and cleaned, and still logged a half-day of work.)

And then it hit me: I’ve got it pretty good right now. I’m pretty much doing the same job (wrangling the children) that I do in Baltimore, just in a different place.

My wife has planned and fixed supper every night, which she is loving, and so am I. She’s trying out a new cookbook and getting her bake on. She tried a new corn recipe. A new veggie side dish. Peach cobbler! She even did laundry while we were at the aquarium. I came back and found it folded and neatly stacked, waiting for me on the bed!

The only time I’ve been in the kitchen – except to do dishes – was to fix breakfast the first day when I charged out of bed and took over the kitchen. I’m used to being the sole chef as my Lovely Bride dresses for work and sprints out the door by 7:45, so it’s hard to turn of my Kitchen Commander function.

(Full disclosure: I baked my Lovely Bride a birthday cake – but try doing that in a strange kitchen without asking your mother-in-law (while she’s in rehab machine on the sofa, flexing and extending her knee) at least six times where to find the cake pans, cooling racks, cocoa powder and pecans. Oy.)

I’m sure there comes a time for business travelers when the charm wears off, and you just want to slog home. We’ll launch the 700-mile road trip home soon, and it will be good to be back in my own bed and kitchen. (For more road trip stories, click here. Or here.) But as soon as we’re back, I know I’ll miss having the cooking and laundry done for me.

Most of all, I’ll miss having my Lovely Bride around all the time.

Diaper Bag Dialogue: Potty Victory!

Once again, I turn to the Baltimore At-Home Dads group for some real-life conversation about life as an at-home dad. And some talk about poop. And the exhilarating freedom that comes from completing potty training the youngest child in the family. The names from the following e-mails are omitted because I didn’t ask these guys permission to use them.

At-Home Dad No. 1:

“Since I have no one else to crow to about this, I’ll tell you guys—

“After almost eight full years of changing diapers, I am done! Child number three has completed the potty training. Our long national nightmare of butts is finally at an end. The line for congratulatory high fives forms to the right. Thank you.”

At-Home Dad No. 2:

“Dude, major high five!  Your commemorative golden poo nugget is on order.  Now I need to go and change my son’s diaper . . .crap!”

D3: “So are you for hire with your vast experience?!!!”

D4: “You now have about a year of “DADDY!  Can you come wipe my butt?!!!” and having to pull over to find a bathroom more often cuz’ she’s not able to “hold it” as long as the others!  Don’t worry, they’ll be changing your diapers soon….;o)”

D5: “[My son] has been doing it for two weeks now. It’s too good to be true. I call it my Vanilla Sky life. In real life I’m probably in a gutter somewhere, crying ‘How hard can going in the potty be???’”

And The Bickering Stopped

God Bless grandparents who live not even a half-day’s drive away. My folks have taken our 7-year-old son for a long weekend, and as soon as we got home from taking him to them, peace descended.

We meet the grandparents about halfway between our house, in Baltimore, and theirs, 100 miles away in Tidewater Virginia. There’s a Chick-Fil-A that’s one-third of the way for us, and another that’s one-third of the way for them, so we pick which one based on who has how much time that day. Whenever we meet Grandpaw and Michaele-mama (my mom’s grandparent name) for lunch, the kids get excited, because they know chicken nuggets and a noisy play area are in the very near future.

Either there’s a full moon or it’s the height of summer or both, but the bickering in our house has reached fever pitch. Part of it stems from my son’s inability to tolerate even the tiniest shade of inaccuracy in any comment whatsoever from my 4-year-old daughter. Or the slightest error in her pronunciation. She doesn’t help any with the 4-year-old drama queen act. Then there’s his budding sense of humor and absolute mental block toward understanding that a 4-year-old can’t add or spell or do pretty much anything else as well as a 7-year-old. Despite how many times I remind him.

Sigh.

Here’s what they said recently when discussing hobbies and (separately) our 18-year-old cat:

Carla: Puss is a sweet old man.

Eddie: You don’t know if he’s sweet because you haven’t tasted him.

Carla: Eddie, you don’t know what sweet means. Like kind.

Or this…

Carla: I like ice skating.

Eddie: You’ve never been ice skating.

Having one child in the house is a real treat. Nobody fights over who gets to pat the cat. Or which movie to pick for Movie Night on Fridays. Or who gets which color popsicle. And whichever child remains is just so agreeable to pretty much everything. It’s nice to be the center of attention. Of course, that also means even the slightest goofing off at the table gets noticed immediately. Then again, with no sibling to compete with, the dinnertime antics fall off considerably.

Having only one child in the house is already doing wonders for my ability to rub two brain cells together long enough to form a complete thought. I even managed to fix supper tonight (well, boil corn and heat leftovers) while fixing a gin and tonic and writing a blog post at the same time!

And there was no whining!

No disputes!

Granted, an all expenses paid trip to an island without telephones or internet access with my Lovely Bride would be the absolute best.

But barring that, having one child in the house is absolutely heavenly.

P.S. Here’s a shout-out to a new reader and fellow at-home dad in Charlottesville, Va., with a 5-, 3-, and 7-month-old. You can do it, man! You might not be new at this, but you might enjoy a few thoughts from my Letter To A Newbie written for The Baltimore Sun’s Charm City Moms Blog.