Archive for the 'parents' Category

31
Dec
13

The Great Jingle Bell Caper

I know this is late, but it’s been a busy few weeks and I’m (as we all know) inherently lazy.

My fondest Christmas memories are of the night before Christmas when my brother and I were tucked into our beds, excited and trying not to fall asleep, only to hear jingle bells outside.

We’d both run into each other in the hall and run to a window. We’d never see anything and our mom or dad would show up and point out that if Santa Claus was close enough to hear, we’d better get to sleep.

Of course at some point I stopped believing in Santa and discovered that the ringing had been coming from bells my father had set up outside our window, with a string running to the back of the house and into their bedroom window.

So my other fondest memories are of the years I assisted my parents in staging this all for my younger brother’s benefit.

Not shockingly, when I became a dad, I wanted to continue this tradition.

I recall my wife not being sold but to me, it was something that would bring a little magic to their young lives—and perhaps a little to my own as well.

We travel a lot during Christmas, so my opportunity to do this has been sporadic. Sometimes the kids would pass out on the way home from somewhere and the last thing I’d want to do was wake them up. Sometimes we weren’t in a place where jingle bells weren’t feasible to ring.

I didn’t really get started until we moved away from California and to New York.

One year I ran a string across the roof of our apartment in Queens, dangling jingle bells down next to our kid’s window. The string ran back to the kitchen in our apartment where I could reach out a window and pull it.

It worked a little bit, but I ended up having to go up the fire escape, onto the roof and ring it by hand.

In the dead of night. In ice and wind.

Which ended up working so much better because the kids heard footsteps on the roof which made them insane.

This year was the year Alpha Tween stopped believing. I don’t remember when it happened and was not a shock—his faith had been tested two years prior when he found candy alarmingly similar to what was in his stocking in the kitchen cupboard.

We pointed out that certainly we could buy the same candy as it was in all the stores and—because he still wanted to believe I’d guess—he let it go.

But at 12, most kids are done and so was he.

He was excited by the prospect of helping me continue the tradition with his younger brother though, so when I went to tuck in the Professor, Alpha had already hid two sets of jingle bells out on the covered front porch of our apartment.

So as I lay down with our youngest, down below Alpha was leaning out of a window with bells in his hands and gently ringing them.

The Professor flew out of bed and looked out the window to their room. He spied a red light in the sky—what I can only imagine was a plane—and while he mentioned it might be a plane he also thought it might be Rudolph.

Shortly after, Alpha came upstairs to get changed for bed and I went downstairs and duplicated his efforts.

When I passed Alpha on the stairs to the boy’s bedroom, he smiled and nodded and I knew they had heard.

This could be the last year for The Professor to believe. As a younger sibling, it seems the magic doesn’t last as long.

No matter how long though, these are the memories I will always cherish—and I hope they will as well.

There’s precious little magic in the world, save for what we make.

Perhaps we just need to make more of it.

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03
Dec
13

I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be

jarvisislazyI have been sick for a little over a week now.

I began to get an inkling something might be amiss the Sunday before Thanksgiving when I sat at my desk watching the NFL slate for Week 12.

That, in and of itself, wasn’t unusual. I do that every week.

What was odd was that this time, I did it shivering under a flannel blanket with about four layers on underneath. Next to the heater.

Yeah, I was sick.

I don’t handle that well—I never do, especially in-season when I am enormously busy. Normally my body and I have an agreement—it doesn’t fall apart between August and January and I let it collapse for all of February post-Super Bowl.

Apparently we’re at war because my body pulled a Blitzkrieg on me and there I was sick.

I was buried in work Monday and Tuesday so I slept a lot of Wednesday, drank a ton of tea and muddled through Thanksgiving (which was very enjoyable). The kids left with mom and dad for the weekend, which allowed me to sleep a bit more and knock some work off early on Friday.

My wife left on Saturday to head to Pennsylvania and a niece’s birthday party. We both thought it bad form if I brought even an improving plague with me despite their assurances that it was fine.

Which left me home alone on Saturday.

Relaxing is a hard thing for me. You’d think I would be good at it, but I’m actually quite awful at relaxing. I am constantly wracked with guilt that I should be doing something. Most of the time I couldn’t tell you what that something is, though it usually becomes work and writing because even when something isn’t on a deadline the more you write the more you’re out there and the better and more diverse a writing resume you have.

There’s another column there grappling with the general American (and male) inability to shut work off, so let’s put a pin in that for another day.

Going into Saturday I made a determination: I was going to relax. I was going to make myself relax, rest, and reboot both physically and mentally.

If forcing yourself to relax seems like an oxymoron, welcome to my world. It’s warm here and we have cookies shaped like schadenfreude.

So Saturday, the wife packed up and headed to Pennsylvania.

And I did nothing—and it was everything I thought it could be.

OK, not strictly nothing. In part because I wanted to get a head start on a piece I needed to write for Tuesday and in part because I had fun things I wanted to do which would count as “something” even if they seem like “nothing.”

As parents, we don’t get much down time. For a work-from-home/stay-at-home dad or mom, it can be hard to ever really shut down because your office (and therefore your work) is always right there.

“I can just hammer out a few paragraphs” or “I’ll just do some data-entry” and the like are things home-office folk tell ourselves so that we feel less shitty for working at home during “non-office hours.”

But that’s just a cover for the fact that, because we are always at the office, we always see the pile of work on our desk and always feel like we should be working.

We lie that we’ll just do a little X and a bit of Y and then flip on the TV but that never happens and the next thing you know you’ve worked overtime for free.

So when you’re a parent—and one who works from home—you need to grab those relaxation moments when you can.

Once I wrote the one piece I felt I needed to (which made Monday a lot less painful), I stepped away from the computer and didn’t look at it again.

That took a lot of self control, let me tell you. I didn’t watch any football, didn’t break down any game tape, didn’t look at potential 2014 NFL draft prospects—all things I could have done and written off as “work, but not really.”

I did a lot of stuff, but none of it was critical.

My day consisted of:

Catching up on Supernatural.

I was about two episodes behind and had to find out what the Winchester boys were up to. Two brothers, a muscle car, 70s and 80s hair metal and monster hunting. THANKS HULU!

Watched Pacific Rim.

Some of you people told me I would enjoy it.

You people undersold it to me and for that you will forever have my anger.

Or not. Who knew I missed giant robots fighting giant monsters? My inner 12 year old was excited.

If you’ve ever played Battletech, watched Godzilla (the originals not the crap with Matthew Broderick) or have read/watched something like Macross and you haven’t seen this flick you are doing yourself a disservice as a geek.

One of my favorite popcorn movies ever.

Ate way too much crap.

Which, when you think about how sick I had been was pretty counter-intuitive but I wasn’t cooking and calzones and cherry coke are tasty sometimes.

Played The Last of Us.

Someone described The Last of Us as the best zombie movie to come out in a long time and it’s a pretty accurate description.

I’m tempted to do a review of it at some point—both from an aging gamer/geek point of view as well as a fatherhood angle—because while there are zombie plant people/infected and bandits and apocalypse things, what the story is about, at its heart, is a grieving father and a lost little girl.

I have a lot of thoughts about it (and OH THE FEELS) but I’ll save it for another time because any half-assed discussion here is just a disservice to the game.

I will say that I have played many video games where I thought “well this could be a cool movie/TV series/book.” In fact, I ingest a lot of entertainment wondering how it would look in other forms. Comics as movies, movies as shows—I think that’s how we tend to absorb our entertainment now.

I cannot think of how this game—which I can best shorthand as the greatest choose-your-own-adventure “book” ever—would be improved by another format.

I can’t wait to finish it and also am sad that I can only experience it for the first time, once.

This game had me do something I haven’t done in forever.

When my wife came home—later than expected—we chatted for a while and she went to bed. I went back to playing. I figured I would play for maybe another hour and then go to bed.

At some point my wife got up and went to get a drink of water or use the bathroom and I thought “huh, she hasn’t been in bed long.”

I checked my watch and found out it was 1:30am.

I don’t play video games often but when I do, apparently I don’t sleep.

You’d think that I would wake up tired on Sunday, having hit the sack well past my bedtime—I mean I work late on Sunday and Monday since NFL games end at midnight both of those evenings, but almost 2am is pushing it even for me.

However, at the end of the day (and the start of the next one) I felt rested and refreshed. My brain was clear and I was surprisingly stress free—not something I feel most days when I don’t do more than a small amount of work.

As parents, we don’t get much time off.

But we should make some for ourselves even a little.

We—and our kids and partners—will probably be better for it.

I believe I am scheduled for another day off on December 12th……2016.

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What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages