Monthly Archives: September 2010

Hodge Podge

To my dear readers…

The dozens of you…

The B-More Dad has fallen down on the blogging for all sorts of reasons, chief among them: I have some actual work that pays actual money, as opposed to blogging, which pays bupkis.

So here’s a roundup of what’s going on these days:

Winning Essay?

Thanks to the inspiration of my Lovely Bride, I entered Real Simple magazine’s annual Life Lessons essay contest. (The deadline was last Friday, so don’t bother. Plus, you’re not going to win. I am. Well, I hope.) The instructions were to complete this sentence: “I never thought I’d…”

What to write about was a snap: I never thought I’d become an at-home dad. Compared with these blog posts, which leap from my head fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus, how to write a winning entry was a lot harder. It started out sounding whah-wa-wha-whaaaah, like how grownups on Charlie Brown speak. But then Lovely Bride suggested a way to set it up that made all the difference. I can’t remember when they announce the winner. But maybe this will get my foot in the door with freelancing for national magazines.

Business Trip Season

My Lovely Bride is getting ready to jet off to Saudi Arabia for five days to help cement a relationship between the docs and researchers she fundraises for and a new business partnership in the Middle East. She’s been going nuts with the trip planner not doing so much planning. (The person offered to meet her at the airport with her visa if it didn’t come in time. Helpful.) I’ve been giving middle of the night backrubs and making banana muffins to help her stay calm. Her abaya came today, and she’s flying Lufthansa business class. Being able to stretch out flat on the plane (in a seat with built-in massagers) and then taking a shower in the business lounge on the way in Frankfurt is helping make the whole experience not so bad.

Here in Baltimore, instead of hunkering down and holding on for dear life, I’m actually turning it into an educational opportunity for the kiddos. So where is Saudi Arabia exactly? What do they eat there? Why don’t they let women show their elbows? We looked for books at the library yesterday, and for kids, we found two.

My mom is jetting off to Phoenix for the weekend (it’s hotter there than in Riyadh) and is fretting that she can’t come help me while my wife is gone. And friends have offered to have us over for dinner. But I’d just as soon stick to the routine, have supper on my schedule and get the kids to bed on time. I want to keep it as normal as possible. The weekend is the biggest abyss, timewise, but we’ve got soccer in the morning, ballet in the afternoon, church on Sunday and an Orioles game in the afternoon. Plus, our local Home Depot does its free craft activity (supplies and apron provided) this Saturday.

I’m not saying I won’t be stocking up the liquor cabinet, but I’m not worried about surviving while she’s gone. I do this every day.

And compared to my at-home mom friend across the street – whose husband goes to China for two weeks at a stretch – and a working dad pal – whose wife is off to London and Pakistan FOR THREE WEEKS – I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

Working (Sucks)

I’m writing a freelance magazine article – due while Lovely Bride is in Saudi Arabia – and it reminds me of two things:

  1. Despite the aggravation of starting with a vaguely conceived story assignment that took a week to morph into I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living but journalism.
  2. Doing it while trying to keep the house cleaned, family fed, laundry done, dog walked, preschool and playdates juggled, and on and on, is a real drag.

I’d Really Rather…

Sometimes I’d just as soon be the happy homemaker and move the butterfly bush to a better location, de-clutter the attic/guest room/home office and clear the mental decks to start on the living room crown molding project – which first requires painting the living room ceiling.

Fantasy House

Goodbye, fantasy house.

I told myself I had set free the big corner house two doors up from mine, after it had blossomed into such a living breathing fantasy that I had moved in my furniture and chopped down the hideous bushes. But I still longed for the great climbing tree in the back and all that yard space to plant flowers and vegetables.

But then I found that wonderful people are buying my fantasy house. Their oldest kid is in my son’s class, and the family lives six doors up the street. It really helps me put my fantasy to rest to know that a nice family is moving in – and that there will now be five second-grade boys on our block.

I went in the house the other day, and more and more, I’m glad it’s someone else’s project, not mine. So the house has more closets on the second floor than mine does throughout, but they’re going to need paint by the barrel. The dining room is brown, the bathroom is “baby barf green” (one of my kids said) and a bedroom is cotton-candy pink. Ick. The basement needs renovating, and the roof and windows need replacement. And some genius who replaced the copper gutters put up a new one that’s six inches too short.

Fantasy house, I set you free!

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Weenie Barfy Poopie Butt

What is it with 7-year-old boys and their constant fascination with all language scatological and vaguely forbidden?

When our son was 3 or 4, it worked well enough to curb the poop talk by making him go to the bathroom whenever he talked potty talk. Not that he needed to use the bathroom, but he had to go sit there – then he could say all the potty words he wanted. Poopy, pee-pee, doo-doo, ka-ka, whatever. Knock yourself out, kiddo! Sure, these words aren’t on the FCC’s banned list, but we’ve got to have some sense of what’s unacceptable conversation.

I realize that forbidding something makes it more attractive, but no crude talk at mealtime seems reasonable.

But what about here and there around the house? Or playing outside in the yard? Or when his friends are around? Or now that he’s 7?

Why does it annoy me when he says “I smacked myself in the booty?” It’s not totally disrespectful, but it’s crass. Plus, a neighbor kid, who’s not my favorite, says it a lot. Same thing with butt, which seems a couple notches ruder.

I tell him to use other, more creative words. Then I list some. Toosh. Tooshie. Behind. Bottom. Fanny. Derriere. Hiney. Bum. And don’t forget tuchus. All of these seem completely acceptable to me. They’re words I would say in front of my own mother and even my mother-in-law.

I tell myself that I’m laying the groundwork for the years from now when he’ll want to try out swearing. I’ll need to channel my Lovely Bride – the smart one among us when it comes to big-picture parenting decisions – and tell him that an educated person knows better ways to express himself than to use common swear words. Not &#$@head but imbecile, moron, nitwit, nimrod or even pinhead. All wonderful, descriptive words, right?

It’s gotten a little better now that he’s old enough to show a little judgment. I think I’m making some headway in explaining that some kinds of talk are generally okay around his second-grade friends. Possible/questionable around Daddy. Not okay around Mommy or other grownups. Absolutely forbidden around grandparents. Seems reasonable, right?

The other day, another of my son’s buddies demonstrated his new skill: the hand-in-the-underarm fart noise trick. Charming. Maybe I’m jealous that I never learned to do that. (And now as a grownup, can I not make that noise because I have underarm hair?) I asked if his parents liked him doing this, and he said they didn’t mind. My eyebrows went up.

Enforcement on this one could be a real challenge. My rules don’t really apply to other kids when outside of my house.

“Just don’t do it around me,” I said. “It’s rude.”

Maybe if my son is old enough to learn the armpit-fart trick, he’s old enough to judge when he can do it or not.

Now what to do about my 4-year-old daughter? When we send her to the bathroom for potty talk, she giggles. She happily tromps off to the bathroom and then shouts out the window to the kids across the street.

The House I Covet/The House I Have

The house I covet

There’s a house two doors up from mine that, mentally, I have already moved into. It’s a five-bedroom, end-of-group, which in a neighborhood of rowhouses means it’s got the most space both inside and out. I could have more yard. An office that doesn’t double as the guest room. A garage wide enough to open the

The garage and awesome climbing tree that would be mine

car doors all the way. A backyard “bumpout” that gives just a little more space in the kitchen.

A fireplace.

I covet this house.

Bigtime.

The guy who used to own it bought it in 2004 for $375,000 (I love online public records), around the same time we got ours in 2004 for far, far less. Moving from 900 square feet in a fourth-floor Brooklyn walkup, we got triple the space for less money! Six years later, my standards have adjusted, and I would love love love this house.

I'm two doors down. Moving would be a breeze, in my mind.

I even convinced myself that factoring in our gut kitchen renovation, finishing the basement and adding a bathroom, we could probably sell our current house for what it would cost to buy the other one. We could swap, even Steven!

The realtor told me it was foreclosed on in February. The bank bought it for $301,000 in May, but the guy wouldn’t move out. One day in early August, however, all his furniture ended up in the yard. Sofa sectionals, kid toys, electronics, wrapping paper, the works. As if you had two hours to get everything you own out of the house. The poor guy.

The kitchen "bumpout" that would need some work

I know the house would take some work. It needs a new roof, and the bumpout is rotting. The gutters came off in the February blizzards, and the windows are original to the 1938 house. It has stainless steel appliances, but the kitchen-dining room wall is still there. We took ours out five years ago, and built the kitchen we exactly wanted. Moving to a new house would mean working with somebody else’s kitchen.

The ugly chain link fence ought to be replaced, and the garage door swings outward from the sides, so you’d have to put a new door and an opener to be able to park in it. Who knows how much we’d have to paint, and the basement condition is unknown. The yard has been totally neglected, although the guy was nice enough to let me divide his hostas to have some for my yard. Mentally, I’ve already chopped down the horribly overgrown bushes and figured out where my porch furniture would go.

Yesterday, my friend Mike, a former building contractor, peered in the windows with me.

The place would take $100,000 worth of work, he said.

Gulp.

Sure, you wouldn’t do it all at once, but if I just drained the savings account for this work and that and then the roof fails, I’ve got a big problem! And when we refinanced last year, we went to a 15-year mortgage so we can pay off the house when the kids go to college. Would we have to switch to a 30-year to afford the house? Or at least restart the 15-year clock? And even if we made a big profit from our current house and got the other one for what the bank paid, could we afford all the work and stomach getting ours ready to show and sell? (I’ve seen enough HGTV to know we’d have to move out half our stuff to make it look presentable.) And wouldn’t we rather put more cash in the beach house fund?

And then my poor Lovely Bride—already stressed enough about being the sole breadwinner—would probably have a coronary from the worry.  And having moved every three years growing up, she still gets ill at the sight of moving boxes and trembles at the thought of packing once again–even if it is only two doors down.

It finally came to me when I was in Target this morning. Not buying hundreds of dollars of stuff, but getting a new iron to replace the one I’ve ruined, a new curling iron after we left one at the beach, a new alarm clock and so on. This right after I bought a refurbished vacuum cleaner at the Sears repair shop nearby.

If we buy this other house, I can’t do that.

We would be strapped, and it would feel like my first year out of college, when I remember spending $40 a week on groceries and silently reciting the total as I put things in my cart so I didn’t spend too much. I don’t want to go back to that.

And I have plans for our current house.

I’ll get crown molding up in the living room this year if it kills me. We oughtta refinish the first-level floors. My Lovely Bride wants to turn the third-floor attic/guest room/office into a master suite (gotta put in central AC first). We need

The house we're going to keep.

new front and back storm doors. And even though I can barely keep up the tiny yard I have, I still dream: maybe I’ll the nandinas my mom gave me to the front yard and resod the back. And then there’s my dream of turning our back porch into a mud room and the world’s tiniest bathroom so maybe we could still live here when we’re old and have trouble with steps.

The coveting is over. My Lovely Bride agrees. We’re staying.

I still plan to attend the open house at the other place.

This Shuts Me Up (Again)

Again, I stop yapping and yield The B-More Dad Blog to Bruce, the guy who unwittingly moved from commenter to guest blogger after I wrote about a guy at church who asked me what I do when the kids are at school.

Bruce works night shifts and keeps his 19-month-old during the day, when his wife works a high-pressure that drives her nuts. His post prompted my Lovely Bride to suggest Bruce’s wife work on the Working Mommy Guilt. And that they work on Mommy and Daddy getting some time together, too.

So without further delay:

Please thank your wife for the nice thoughts. They made me smile.

I don’t want to paint my wife in an unappreciative light in any way, shape or form because there’s a lot of things I left out that seem to add to the envy/anomosity she has towards me for being the primary provider.

She makes the higher salary and sustains the lion’s share of our bills and has been doing so for quite some years now. Her problem stems from feeling pressured to maintain our standard of living and feeling that she has no real back up in me financially to let her stop and recover from the past year and a half of:

1)   A 33-hour labor when our son was born.

2)   Having a short maternity leave.

3) Feeling like she is missing out on what every other mother seems to experience with their firstborns (reading too many blogs and listening to too many friends).

4) In the middle of a family feud with her parents—who live 20 minutes away—who haven’t seen or spoken to her or seen our son since Easter of 2009 over something extremely petty. (A whole other story!)

5) Dealing with an egotistical, bullying boss who is intimidated by her because my wife has more experience. (Fact, not hearsay!)

She’s been to HR & EEO about her boss—with no success. The pressure has manifested into physically getting sick because she has to go to work and deal with a narcissistic sociopath on an everyday basis.

She’s been told to just quit her job and move on. But in today’s economy, that a WHOLE LOT EASIER SAID THAN DONE!!

Imagine going from a combined $100,000-a-year salary down to 45,000. I can sustain our finances until she feels that she’s ready to go back to work after she been able to just relax for more than 2 days. But things will be tight, and some things may have to be eliminated. All she wants is to work in her field of 15 years without fighting unnecessary drama everyday—and to spend more than 3 hours a day with her only son before he has to go to sleep.

Now with all of that being said, when she finally does have the time on the weekends, it’s additional pressure to be able to run with our son to parks and the library, etc., just like I’m able to do during the week, and it never really works out the way she planned for whatever reason.

There’s not much I can do to help her out of her dilemmas but support her anyway that I can. But as you know, we as humans seem to always hurt the ones we love, and I seem to be the target manifested with the “stay at home” Daddy issues. My tolerance is growing REALLY thin, and I have a short fuse! I’m lashing out to her and I’ve done it twice in front of our son which obviously doesn’t go over well.

As they said in “Forrest Gump,” my wife and I are like “peas and carrots” when we’re in synch. But in the past 4 months, we’re turning into liver and yogurt!!