Back to Work

When we uprooted our lives to move to Virginia for Kat’s new job, we knew there was a possibility – probably a strong possibility – that we’d need to reassess the “stay at home dad” situation at some point. When we looked at our new income versus outgo, we found that it was going to be tight. The cost of living here is higher than Washington (believe it or not), and we knew it was going to be a pretty thin margin.

We recently decided that, unfortunately, the time has come to look at me going from full-time SAHD to a full-time SAHD and a part-time employee somewhere. I’ll be trying to find something in grocery/food/retail, since those are apparently my only marketable skills ever since that accident sidelined my skating career.

They called me "Belle of the Ice."

They called me the “Belle of the Ice.”

I’ll still be home with the boys during the week, and ultimately (“hopefully”) the plan is for me to work a shift each day on weekends. I of course don’t mind doing whatever I need to do for the security of the family, but for the last few months I’ve called no man mister, and it’s been nice. It’s also nice is some time off from morning-to-night responsibility, and filling up all seven days with full-time work of one kind or another will probably be a little tiring.*

We talked about day care (too expensive), a part-time nanny like we had in WA (expensive and hard to find), and getting an au pair (a young woman [or man] would be living with us), but those parentheticals outweighed the notion of having me go to work during the week. Just like when I was part-time at Met, it doesn’t make sense to work a job just to pay someone to watch the boys so that I can work at that job.

This leaves working weekends, and that should at least be enough to have some cushioning and still be able to afford to send donations to Peter Popoff.

The first taste of Miracle Spring Water is free, but sooner or later everyone comes back to the Popper.

The first taste of Miracle Spring Water is free, but sooner or later, everyone comes back to the Popper.

While I’ve (mostly) always taken pride in a job well done, the SAHD job is the only one that has ever brought me true fulfillment. I also like to think that I’m really awesome at it.

That, and delivering moving soliloquies.

That, and delivering moving soliloquies.

I might be missing out on family time on the weekends, but I’ll have that time during the week, and I’ll feel good about contributing to the family in a more tangible way again.

That said…(continued here).

*I know a lot of parents out there struggle much harder than we have to, and I don’t want to understate my respect for those who do; I know a little something about it. I’ve just been fortunate enough to have lots of time with the boys and weekends with the whole family, and I’ve gotten kind of addicted to it. That, and Miracle Spring Water.

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Ten Years of “For Better or For Worse”

Our Christmas tree is probably a lot like many of your Christmas trees; covered with ornaments accumulated over a lifetime, many of which tell their own story. Collectively, many of our ornaments tell the story of our 10-year marriage. As we decorate each year, we can recall every trip, every occasion, every gift, every funny story behind how we acquired each festive bauble. From mementos of trips to handmade gifts from friends to celebrations of our boys’ arrival, our Christmas ornaments are snapshots of some of our best moments and adventures.

Inexplicably, ten years ago Karma allowed me to follow through on one of the only good decisions I’ve ever made (that didn’t involve choosing where to eat dinner). Before friends and family and this psychopath that managed the venue (a story for another day), I married Kat, whose virtues are too many to name, but among them is the ability to draw the best out of me, and the best of me out.

Other people in this world have had a better decade and worse decade, but I think not that many have had a more eventful decade than we have. From marriage to cross-country moves to new (good) jobs and new (shitty) jobs to job losses to amazing trips to cancer to infertility to mental health issues to lycanthropy AND vampirism to two wonderful twin boys, we’ve had a rich tapestry of a married life.

I was thinking about this when I was admiring our Christmas tree ornaments this year. I want to share two of them with you:

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A few others may have gotten into the shot, but you aren’t allowed to look at those.

In the foreground there is a resin Santa with a cat draped over his arm. This was the first tree ornament we got as a married couple, during our honeymoon (read: broke-ass three-day weekend in St. Augustine).

Behind ol’ Saint Nick is a little Elmo figure, merrily toting some presents somewhere. It was bought unceremoniously in the Christmas area of a nearby Target. It was the first ornament we got “for” the boys, beginning to weave their likes and personalities into our familial holiday DNA. It was also the last ornament we got before our ten-year anniversary this week.

We’d bought ornaments before the Santa, and we’ll buy more after the Elmo. I just thought about the juxtaposition of a nicer, “grownup” ornament and a fun one for the kids, and think they’re interesting bookends to the first decade of our little family.

I’m Back, Baby

I know what you’re thinking: “Robb, a lot’s happened in the last few months, but you haven’t written any  blog posts lately!” Right? Isn’t that what you’ve all been saying, loyal audience? Right? Guys?

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“Chirp chirp chirp.”

Well, between being up to my neck in cross-country-move-related shenanigans, switching from part-time to full-time SAHD, and trying to settle our home and explore the area, I’ve been even busier than I used to be, and that’s saying something.

Then, that’s always the excuse, isn’t it? I can’t write about things we’re up to because we’re too busy doing those things.

I’ll sum up our current situation as briefly as possible, then flesh it out in future installments: We moved to Virginia, just outside D.C., when Kat was offered a job she couldn’t pass up. I’m doing the stay-at-home-dad thing for now, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

 

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Well, second best.

The boys are healthy but not speaking more than a few words at this point, so they’re a little delayed. We started speech therapy, but that’s a whole other post (or series of posts). My in-laws live in the area, which is nice, but we miss our friends in the good Washington. Aside from a hell of a case of plantar fasciitis I’ve been limping around on, everyone’s physical health has been good, and my mental health seems to be stable.

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For now.

We seem to be getting caught up enough on life that I might be able to get some writing (and other relaxing things that are oh so crucial to my sanity) done more and more frequently. The bad news is, knowing the direction my life always seems to take whenever I think “Now I can get my life on track,” I’ll likely be working graveyards and weekends at the Blimpie’s in the Hess station down the street.

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My new boss, and a member of this year’s homecoming court!

To tide you over until I bust out some more updates and rambling diatribes, you can read some creative writing of mine here. In case you didn’t know (you didn’t), I started writing silly stuff for the boys before they were born; poems, little stories, advice, and whatnot. I’ve had fun doing this, but I’m sad to admit that without pictures, the boys couldn’t possibly care less about sitting and reading it with me. I can’t draw for jack ever since I stopped after high school, but what do they know? Maybe I’ll slap some stickers in there.I had already hand-written this stuff a while back, so I’m throwing it out there on the ol’ internet so I can say I got something posted.

So enjoy (or at least don’t tell me if you don’t enjoy), and watch here and at my writing blog (the one you’re about to go to) for new stuff coming soon; I know you’re looking forward to it! Right? Guys? Right?

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“Sorry, you only paid me for the first three chirps.”

How Motherhood Has Changed Me 

Please read and follow one of my favorite blogs by a fellow parent who kicked infertility to the curb and had twins (sound familiar?). There’s infertility. Loss. Heartache. Pregnancy. Twins. Joy. Exhaustion. Ninja fiction. Reviews of Eastern European topiary gardens. DIY hot rod repair and maintenance. Yes, a little bit of everything.

Telling the Psychiatrist – “I Have An Ocean Rolling In Me”

I love seeing artists take their mental health “issues” and make something beautiful out of them. Please check out this post and the associated website.

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I used to have a love-hate relationship with the huge “ocean” of thoughts, feelings, and images inside of me.

I loved the fact that I was so creative, artistic and imaginative!

In an ocean you can dive, splash and play. You can ride high on majestic waves and look out into endless sparkling blue.

But… in an ocean you can also drown. 

You can drift out too far and find yourself lost. There are storms. You can get really exhausted trying to swim back to land.

I used to envy people who didn’t know the wrath of an inner ocean. They had little fountains inside of them, with perfect landscaping. They had pleasant ponds with happy fish. They were normal and I was a freak. I hid the wild ocean and pretended that I had a pleasant pond as well.

I came to the point where I had to ask…

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Sh*t People Say to People with Mental Illness 

Personal experience with some of this:

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“We all get the blues!”

You: Um, so… I can’t function on a daily basis. I’m on the floor right now, unable to move. I’ve been sobbing for so long that I can’t breathe. This is my everyday. This is NOT “the blues.”

“Just be strong and put on a smile.”

You: Obviously I’ve tried that. I’ve gone to the Olive Garden and eaten breadsticks and spaghetti like a champ, talked about the weather, and smiled my best smile (while simultaneously losing it inside) 30 mins at table smiling, 4 mins in bathroom crying, back to table smiling for another 15. “Check please.” I’m trying so hard. Thanks for making me feel worse about myself and like I’m weak. I’m already ashamed.

“This will be your new doctor- he’s a 25-year-old resident!” (Nurse voice)

You: Ok, thanks.

“Hi- I’m James! I love working with bipolar people.” (Resident voice)

You: Um…

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Plearning

The other day we took the boys to the Tacoma Children’s Museum (my review here). I’ll admit that I went in with a bit of trepidation; I cringed at the thought of looking at museum exhibits with 1-year-old twins. If I had done some research (read: asked my wife one question), I would have known that the museum is basically a huge play place designed to stimulate sensory development and imagination.

I would have killed to go to a place like this when I was little; though I’m pessimistic as to what the policy would be regarding allowing a homicidal toddler to come in.

The boys had great fun, and as we watched them play and learn (I have dubbed it “plearning”), we actually learned a little more about where they’re at developmentally. All in all, a very good experience, and I highly recommend it if you have kids in the single-digit age range. If you want to take older kids, people will probably look at you weird. If you go and don’t have any children, please never read this blog again and drive your windowless van out of Washington.

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“Are you kidding? I look like Thanos’ janitor.”

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“Guys, GUYS?! They have rocks here, just like everywhere I go in the world! Sweet!”

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“Malkovich Malkovich?”

Serious caption: They had these things that were literally metal rods protruding from rocks. Eye-removing and stone-age assault capabilities aside, the boys loved working on getting various objects with holes drilled in them onto said rods. It was really fascinating to watch how developed their hand/eye coordination has become, especially considering how neglectful we are when it comes to that kind of stuff.

Serious caption: They had these things that were literally metal rods protruding from rocks. Eye-removing and stone-age assault capabilities aside, the boys loved working on getting various objects with holes drilled in them onto said rods. It was really fascinating to watch how developed their hand/eye coordination has become, especially considering how neglectful we are when it comes to that kind of stuff.

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“Guys, GUYS?! They have a sink here!”

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Today’s lesson: Fire is snuggly.

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“You know what my kids don’t know enough about? Opening doors. I wish they had something that could show my toddler how to access areas where he shouldn’t be.”

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I believe they call this “The Battle of the Somme Experience”.

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Pictured: A happy dad with his sons. Also: some sort of light-up table thing that I’m pretty sure caused some permanent eye damage.

Empty quiet house…

K and the boys are off in the other Washington visiting friends and family in the area, and I decided to take a few vacation days to relax and get some work done at home that I can’t always manage to when I’ve got toddlers…toddling, and what-not, right under foot.
Between work, home in general, the twins in particular, and all the other bits and pieces that account for my time, I have been missing a lot of sleep and failing to get things that are important to our family (like home maintenance) and things that are important to me (like writing) done. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up to only a little behind this week!
That said, my emotional stages regarding this “stag” time have been surprisingly inconsistent. They have gone something along the lines of:
• Oh my God, I can’t wait until you people get out of my hair.
• You’re leaving tomorrow? Already?
• OH MY GOD, I can’t wait until you people get out of my hair!
• I can’t believe they’re gone…
• This house is really empty and quiet…
• THAT WAS THE BEST SLEEP ANYONE EVER HAS EVER HAD EVER!!! STAY AWAY FOREVER!
• This house is really empty and quiet…
• *has panic attack trying to decide what to do with all this time*
• I can strut around with the TV up and vacuum at midnight and not bother anyone! This is awesome!
• NO, THIS WAS THE BEST SLEEP ANYONE EVER HAS EVER HAD EVER!!!
• My purpose seems a little less purposeful…
• That was a good run; a good lonely, lonely run.
• This house is really empty and quiet…
• I’m staying out late with beer and cigars and grilling under our open windows and IDGAF! Time by myself rules!!!
• Who did I cook all this food for?
• *has panic attack trying to decide what to do with all this time*
• At least I can finally get some writing – my sole catharsis – done!
• *has writer’s-block panic attack*
• This house is really empty and quiet…

It's not all drudgery when they're here...

It’s not all drudgery when they’re here…

Priorities

Wait for it…

I’m going to try to paint a word picture that does justice to the outing the boys and I took to the nearby beach park the other day.

We arrived at Dash Point Park with little to no fanfare and I unloaded the boys from the van without incident.

Now, as you might or might not know (depending on if you read this blog, which I guess you do or you wouldn’t be seeing this), M likes to wear stuff on his head*, to the extent that he puts things on by himself and wears them around the house. *refer to figure 1.1

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1

“The way I wear my hat? No, they can’t take that away from me.”

When we got to the beach, M decided that due to the bright sun, he’d probably better wear some head protection. Actually, I’m not sure if he thought that at all, but he still grabbed one of the beach pails I’d brought and plopped it down right on top of his head.

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“Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard you call…” Ladies and gentleman, Jimmy Bucket.

OK, sure, whatever. He’s worn buckets in the past, this was no different other than the fact that we were in public and that there was a little shovel on the handle of the pail. Hey, whatever floats his boat, I figured. He’s happy wearing a pail and spade on his head, I’m happy for him.

He wore the bucket through the parking lot, down the beach, and up to the water. He wore it as he picked up pebbles and handed them to me. He wore it while C ventured out into the water just a bit.

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He wore it when the first wave hit.

In this part of the Puget Sound, the waves aren’t usually much to speak of, at least not on a clear, sunny day with no wind. I’m guessing that the big-here-small-everywhere-else waves that began crashing into the shore were from the wake from a freighter or something. Wherever they came from, a series of waves started “crashing” into the shore, scaring the absolute living crap out of the boys.

By the time the second wave hit (none of them even reached far enough up the beach to touch us) I was running up the beach, a crying, panicky boy under each arm.

Once we were at the top of the beach and out of “harm’s way,” I played with the boys at the little playground there as they calmed down, then put them in swings facing the water and pushed them for quite a while so that they could see the water calm down and smooth out.

I took the boys out of the swings and did have to coax them a bit…

“No.”

They climbed over and played with some driftwood logs, and I finally got them down to the water again.

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They were calm for the most part, especially M, surprisingly. C stayed pretty tense and seemed actually mad at the water.

“Curse you, mighty Poseidon!”

“Umm…he said it, mighty Poseidon.”

It was a pretty mundane outing except for one thing: As I was trotting up the beach away from the water, the boys sobbing hysterically and holding on to me, I had to set M down to get a better grip on him. In so doing, I knocked the bucket off of his head, and it bounced about six inches away from us. Without missing a beat, M – who I hadn’t grabbed up again – stopped, turned around, took a few steps back towards the water, grabbed his bucket, slammed it down on his head, turned around and came back to me, arms out, still crying. I was obviously busy and the boys were upset and everything, so I didn’t get footage of M’s risk-life-and-limb devotion to his hat, but I’m including what I think is a pretty accurate recreation:

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