Monday, January 31, 2005

Celebrity Baby School Holiday Keepin' It Real

Today through Wednesday are school holidays, so I've got Jake at home, expect little blogging until Friday at the earliest. But I also have things to do on Friday, so it might be next week before I get 'round to more observations.

I don't want this blog to turn into a simple recounting of my week and the (sometimes) interesting things that happen to me. I always wanted to deliver a kind of meta-narrative on what its like about being a SAHD. But that sure does seem to get harder to do as I continue along this path. There are only so many times you can revisit the "Wow, lookit how much more time we have!" theme. Is this a silly concern of mine? Do people who try ther meta-narrative have ideas for how they are able to keep it fresh? Feel free to comment.

Finally, I can't help but comment on the Celebrity Babies site. I've gotten quite a lot of hits from the folks over there (and I love them all!) but I just have to ask the question: Why are coming here? I like to think Homo Domesticus provides entertainment, education, and witty social commentary, but it does seem a step or two removed from the starry offspring trail! Not that I'm complaining! Far from it. I'm just, you know, curious. Please leave a comment and tell me what you like/dislike. Or even if you're just trying new links. One thing about blogs is you can get reader input and decide to make changes if you feel like it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Days Work Before 9AM

If I can ignore the dogs long enough (squirrels have been in the yard this morning, and so every time a leaf blows or I scratch my nose they bolt for the back door) I can write this short post about this morning.

Today is group picture day at Jake's school. I've known this for a week. The note with the little envelope to send in a check for the photo has been on the kitchen island for the last three days. Each day, I would forget to write the check, gripe at my failure, and say to myself that I'd write it "tomorrow". Well, today there was no "tomorrow" to be had, as after seeing Jake off at the bus stop and walking the dogs, I came home to find the picture envelope leering accusingly at me from the kitchen island. Just to add insult to injury, I hadn't taken into account the described background ("rustic red brick with ivy") when dressing him in a red shirt.

So there was Jake at school with no picture money, a shirt that would clash, and no doubt a serious bit of upset coming on. But, I was at home, staring at that hateful envelope, and not at work, suddenly remembering (assuming, that is, I remembered at all).

I grabbed my checkbook, scrawled some numbers on it, stuffed it into the envelope, dashed upstairs, tried to find a shirt (or two) that might go with red and green (I'm not sure I succeeded), jumped in the car, stopped and goed my way to his school, jogged up to his room, dropped them all off, and got back in time to pay bills and write this piece.

I'd pay myself on the back harder if I couldn't help remembering that if I'd just written the doggone check last night none of this would have been necessary. :-)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Parent

Last night I was well and truly rebuked. And the hell of it is, it was totally deserved. As rebukes go, it was quite gentle, actually. I suspect that the rebuker didn't even realize part of it.

What happened was…well, it was kind of complicated in the details. Suffice it to say that while they were playing, the kids next door (lets call the boy M and his older sister N) did something that really upset Jacob. Just short of tears, in fact.

The story came out as we were eating dinner. It started out as a tale of goofing around on the part of one of the neighbor kids, and evolved into quite a bit more. I should state right at the outset that it wasn't anything that would have gotten anyone hurt, and these kids aren't any better or worse than your typical kids of that age. But what isn't good is Jacob's being unwilling or unable to feel like he can leave, or tell them what is going on isn't right and make his vote against it stick.

M is the only boy about Jake's age in the immediate vicinity (he's actually a year older). They have played together ever since we moved here. I've gotten a bit dependent on them. And I think having M be Jake's only out of school playmate has begun to be a bit of a problem. It may be that Jake feels that if he walks away form some game or activity of M's he doesn't like, then he doesn't get to play with anyone his age (parents are still cool to play with -- we played a lot of football last week, but still, kids your own age are always better). It would be better if he met some other kids from school, from his own grade, more often. You know, the occasionally maligned "playdate" (mostly maligned by those who lack a real understanding of families lives today, I might add).

I'd like to say that those were my insights above, after having gotten him to talk about what was bothering him at dinner last night, but it wasn't. They weren't my insights. Nor was I the one who kept asking questions and got him to spill the beans. Both of these accomplishments were the result of Trish's efforts, not mine.

So I stand thrice rebuked: Failing to dig deep enough, failing to see the problems beginning to crop up (this wasn't the first time M had done something that Jake went along with against his better judgement, or had upset him in some way), and failing to move before to involve other kids in Jacob's after school playtime.

I'm not Superdad (though someday I hope to play him in on TV), and I know that we parents are going to screw up. Its part of life. Still, I'm the guy on the front lines, and I didn't notice or act. I got lazy, and Jake had to pay the price for it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday Short Takes

I just installed Windows XP on my computer. I had managed to keep 98 running for a while on up to date hardware, which some folks seemed to feel was kinda impressive. I did this partly to be cheap and partly because XP was the new target for every bit of mal-ware to come down the pike. Win98 was apparently passe` for hackers. But I went to spend some of my Christmas money on a new game and it wouldn't run on 98. I checked around and the supply of software that would run on 98 was getting thin, so I decided to bite the bullet. The install actually went quite smoothly. My old copy of Norton AV doesn't quite work, and I hard a surprisingly hard time getting Firefox going, but all seems good now. I'm sure a few more kinks will turn up, but all in all, it went a lot better that I feared it might.

I could use advice on how to make Explorer (not Internet Explorer) open up on the C drive instead of My Documents. 90% of the time, I don't need a document.

I'm having a devil of a time getting Jacob to drink milk for lunch. Its not that he dislikes milk. Quite contrary. The problem is that he vastly prefers whole milk over any lower-fat version. And the organic milk we like to give him does not sell small (6-8oz) containers in whole, only lowfat, or flavored lowfat, which of course makes them very sugary. So far, he isn't real thrilled with the other varieties of whole milk that do come in smaller containers that we've tried. The other option, using a thermos or kids cup to send in his regular brand of whole milk, is foundering. The best device we have found so far to use to hold the milk is actually a variety of baby cup. It's actually pretty "big kid" for a baby cup, being equipped with a straw that folds down to make a solid seal using a flip-top thingy. But apparently some kids at lunch teased him for having a baby cup. I might head up to lunch with him today and use it myself. With luck, that'll put a kibosh on the baby cup thing, but we'll just have to see.

One problem with being home all day is snacking. I've done a lot more snacking on cookies, chips, etc. in the past month or so that I used to, and certainly more than I did while working. Now, I am getting more exercise than before, so I'm not actually gaining weight, but it is still irritating. I could lose 20 pounds and not miss it, and this isn't helping. At this moment I'm chomping on an apple, which I hope will help.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Disguised as Dogs

I'm pretty sure one of my dogs is really a cartoon space alien. I'm also pretty sure one them is really a cat, or perhaps was a cat in a former life, like Shirley MacLaine (and if Shirley hasn't claimed to be a cat in a former life, just give it time), or maybe is a cat driving a big robot dog. Only one of the beasts in this house that looks like what we commonly refer to as a "dog" is really an all-out dog.

Why do I say these things? I'd like to give you some examples. Start with Hubert. Hubert looks like a Great Dane. But he is pretty obviously really a cat. The main clue is that he is the finickiest eating dog I've ever seen. Despite having a mouth bigger than most European cars, Hubert manages to eat his food with a daintiness that would impress Queen Elizabeth. Most dogs, when given something that isn't totally off their "food" list, eat so fast that you wonder if their taste buds aren't actually located in their stomachs, and only after they have swallowed and are licking their chops do you see the occasional quizzical look come over their faces, suggesting that maybe that hunk of broccoli might not have been so tasty after all. Not El Huberto! He somehow manages to operate that gaping maw of his such that any medications hidden in his munchies are left behind, often licked clean of the tastier bits. Then Trish or myself gets to do our lion tamer trick, where we stick our arms down his gullet up to our elbows in order to deposit whatever medication he's on that day. About the only thing that periodically makes me doubt the cat hypothesis is the number of times he manages to injure himself, but that can be explained by the fact that his cat brain doesn't fully understand how to handle his dog body.

I'm convinced that if could communicate the idea to him, he would be completely capable of performing that trick with the cherry stem where you tie it in a knot using only your tongue. There are other clues (like his love of fish), but that will do for now.

At first we thought Marquis was a pig of some sort. He makes the oddest grunting sounds, and like a pig, will eat almost anything. I caught him gnawing on a carrot one day. But he didn't like to root around like pigs and despite his grunting grumbling was actually a bit of a snuggly dog. Then Jacob decided that Marquis was in fact Stitch.

This made a lot of sense. Marquis is much stronger than his size would indicate. He doesn't like to swim, though he does like to wade. He has a somewhat short temper but his bark is far worse than his bite (I don't think he's ever snapped at a person). He is very destructive of his toys. And paper. And cardboard boxes. He makes those odd gruntings, which we now realize aren't grunting at all, but his native alien speech. Granted, he isn't blue and doesn't have six limbs like Stitch, but I'm certain there is a good reason for that. Some sort of disguise, no doubt.

This leaves George. Now George is all dog. He eats anything in front of him, and he eats really, really fast. He is totally in your face, licking away. He will jump up on his hind legs to hug you (especially if you have a white or otherwise nicely clean shirt on). And he's a good 6'2" standing up, so it's an impressive hug. He obsesses over squirrels and birds in the yard. So much so that I'm almost afraid to type the word "squirrel" for fear he will attack the back door. And he manages to get into dog sorts of trouble. You may recall that he was forced to wear a funnel for a while to protect his face while he recovered from a minor operation. Just yesterday I discovered what looked for all the world like a piece of fishing line sticking out of the scar. I think it’s a suture that was missed when they removed them, but who knows? It might really be a piece of fishing line. I've no idea where he could have gotten into it, because we don't have anything like that in the house, but that is exactly the sort of trouble a real dog would get into.


Upon arriving at the vet, we couldn't find the consarned bit of string. But the vet at least said that wasn't unheard of for internal stitches to do that. Disappearing ailments seems like a cat thing to me, but I'm pretty sure that is only an isolated incident.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Just Checking In Again

As you could see from the lack of posts since Tuesday, Jacob was not quite well until, I think, last night. I mistakenly let him go to school on Wednesday due to an apparently broken fever and claims of feeling good, but that evening the fever was back (our doc has said that fevers tend to be highest in the afternoon and evening). But yesterday numerous temperature readings showed normal, and we declared him healed. Of course, now Trish is showing signs of coming down with something.

School is out Monday for MLK day. Probably won't be any blogging then.

The writing project hasn't really gone anywhere, what with the disruptions of the past week, but the acting one at least has something to aim at. Two productions are going to be shooting soon in here in Austin, and are accepting submissions. I've got the photo place working on some 8x10s as we speak. It would be nice to get something with a line. Crowd scenes are completely necessary, but you should know, I'm a complete ham.

Speaking of smoked meats, we are having a potential candidate for new pastor of our church down this weekend, and I have been volunteered to smoke brisket for the meal. Cool. I love working my smoker, but rarely get the chance to do so. It takes so long, and with Trish being vegetarian, its serious overkill to get the thing going for just Jacob and myself. Which is too bad, people seem to think I'm pretty good at it. Another good thing about this is that it might mean the end of the Call Committee, which Trish has been on and has sucked up a lot of her free time over the past 6 months.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Brief Appearance

A quick note here. Light blogging due to Jacob being slightly ill. Nothing serious, but he has had to stay home from school, and it did give my wife and I a bit of a sleep deficit one night. More for her than me, since she volunteered to stay up with him. As I told her the next morning "I'd complain about lack of sleep, but I'm afraid you're too groggy to kill me cleanly." Playing catch-up by napping didn't work for me, as one of our dogs dropped a wooden block on my head, suggesting, I think, that he wanted to play.

Only other note: When Jacob is home sick, even when he is occupied watching TV or playing on the computer, I am unable to get myself to perform any but the most elementary of tasks. Strange.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Choose, But Choose With Knowledge

I wanted to write about what made for drudge work and what made for play work in the SAH world, but the ideas I had seemed to evaporate as I sat down to write. For now, I guess we'd better just acknowledge that doing the same sets of things every week can become boring and seen as drudgery. You just have to be ready for that and recall the other drudgery you faced in the office -- because I suspect that if you loved your away from home job, you wouldn't make the choice to be at home, unless it was forced upon you by circumstances. But then you'd still be faced with the end of the novelty at some point, and yearn for what you loved before, assuming it was possible to get back to it in some way.

I have had jobs I liked and jobs I loathed, and in my case it really boiled down to the people I worked with and for. As a solitary type of person, I find the loss of that contact (when it was good) a negative, but nearly so as to make me want to change my mind about being mostly a SAHD. And the crap-shoot aspect of finding a good office environment doesn't make me eager to try again, either.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Is This a Guy Thing?

A couple of things are on my mind as I type today. First we have Rebel Dad's announcement that he is taking a job (something I will explore more fully in Friday's post). The second is an observation my lovely and brilliant wife made last night, that these things that are a revelation to me would not be so revelatory to a woman, and that my blog would not be all that interesting if it were written by a woman. Or at least, not as interesting to others.

After thinking about what she said for a time, I've decided that's not quite right. Now, certainly, a woman writing about staying at home with the kids would be totally in the category of dog bites ma-…er, person. But I can't help but think that its actually quite likely that any woman today choosing to leave the "workforce" after 15 years to take up a place in the home would discover many of the same things I have, and face many of the same issues. Especially if she came from a family where the mom worked outside as well. And popularity would depend on the quality of the writing as much as the subject matter. Erma Bombeck wrote a column for years just about things she did with her family (and how many Bombecks were there? Good point, but I think that had as much to do with opportunities for women in general as interest in the subject matter).

[pause to toss dog toy across room]

We'd both discover time, we'd both probably struggle with the change in tasks, issues of self-worth in sweeping the floor as compared to memo-ing Marketing to death, that sort of thing. Maybe she wouldn't be as surprised by the amount of pet hair that collects in just 48 hours time (having gotten some training in domestic issues that a brother wouldn't have), but that's not the sort of revelation that I think about when thinking about the changes I've made.

I even suspect there have been about as many news articles written about women leaving the "working" world for the home as there have been about men doing the same. More, even. Granted, they would have a different emphasis, but its not as if there is no interest.

[pause to toss dog toy across room]

Differences there would be, of course. Vastly fewer people would look askance at her or call her manliness into question, for example. A mom that says she stays at home in response to "what do you do" doesn't have to explain any further. But she might feel pressure from other women that are working to justify her decision in ways that are uncomfortable. I don't pretend to truly understand the contradictory pressures women face in dealing with work and home, but I do know they are there. Issues of working and staying home affect women very differently, and I'm not saying it would be easier at all, just err..., different.

I await the slings and arrows of women who will point out to me all the ways in which I've gotten it wrong. And really, if I have I'd appreciate hearing it. I'd like to think I've cogitated on the matter logically, but I'm no woman and many a beautiful hypotheses has been slain by an ugly fact -- and rightly so.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Meaning of Time Off

I see from my Sitemeter that folks checked in here regularly over the Christmas Holidays. Thanks! Sorry there wasn't anything new to read during that time, but vacation is over now, so regular posting will re-commence.

I'll spare you the detailed holiday post-mortem, except to say that it was great. The one exception to sparing will be in this detail: I can't recall a more relaxed Christmas, ever. After some thought, I realized the reason for that was that I was at home.

Other things contributed, of course. We had no visitors, no travel to visit relatives (Trish had to duck out for about 3.5 days for a conference, but that didn't affect MY relaxation -- well, mostly. I got to welcome her back, which was very relaxing), and most importantly, no schedules to keep. That really hit home this past Friday, as I reckoned on what today would mean. Up at 6am, get Jake off to school, the dogs fed, laundry going, etc. meet him at the bus at 3pm, off to karate at 4:15, drum practice, dinner, etc. For two weeks we got up when we were ready, did things as we pleased, and never worried about bedtimes.

The big thing there is still that two weeks. I don't think I've had a two-week break since I started working, with the exception of Jake's birth. If I was still working away from home, I might have taken 1 week off this year. And that would have been nice, but it would have been nothing compared to what we had. Instead of an extra seven days having fun, I would have spent most of them basically just marking time at the office (the period between Dec 21 and Jan 1 has got to be the most unproductive of the year).

Okay, I didn't spend that entire time laying on a couch, popping bon-bons and watching all 6 discs of the "Return of the King" Extended Edition (Jammer sez -- thumbs up!). I still had the basic cleaning and the laundry and straightening up of the after-effects of Christmas Day (that took about three days all by itself). But still, with no places to be and no marks to hit, it was still amazing laid back and restful. Mark me folks, big blocks of time are generally better for relaxation that lots of little ones.