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:

indy-hat-grab-o

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Three Pictures and Some Pants

A few months after the boys were born, I wrote a piece about fatherhood from my perspective that the awesome site for awesome dads, dads.co, was kind enough to share. At the time, I was still coming to terms with the changes that were happening in my own life and hashing out how I felt with regards to the two new lives that I was responsible for.

Now, looking back from their first birthday, it’s amazing how much I’ve changed since not just since the boys were born, but even since I wrote that post.

Yes, I’ve decided to make their first birthday all about me.

I don’t want to talk about the past several months by yammering on about growth and the triumph of the human spirit or whatever. To that end, I am going to sum up my feelings with three pictures and two pairs of pants.

Babies are babies. Our babies are like your babies are like their babies. For a large part of their first few months they are basically dazed-looking, crying balls of human excretion, resembling a Play-Doh playset filled with swamp mud. Babies are, by and large, loud, gross and dumb. Get mad if you want to; you know it’s true.

Our babies certainly fell into this generalization, and the farther we get from their birth, the louder, wrinklier, spewier, sleeplessier, and generally ickier we remember them having  been. I’m not trying to insult the lights of our lives, but I guess I have to call a poopy spade a poopy spade; they were mostly cranky and squirty, regardless of how much love and adoration we had for them.

This notion of the boys was mercifully retired one day when the boys were a hair over a month old and I took a few pictures as they lay next to each other in a Twin Z pillow. There was nothing extraordinary about it; just some more baby pictures among the thousands I’m sure I’d taken by then, but this picture really impacted me.

Partly this pic had such an affect on me because of the look C is giving his brother, and to the fact that they’re holding hands. I know, I know, at their age in this picture, it takes a bit of anthropomorphizing to read much into this. The hand-holding was coincidental, and C was glancing all around him with that same look; he could have been staring at a teddy bear or potted cactus for all it mattered. No thoughts in those heads but the entrance and egress of food.

Bros.

“You look like a very young Winston Churchill. Oh, and I just pooped.”

Yes, the boys are adorable here, but what really struck me was the juxtaposition of these two kids. M is mellow, sleeping, peaceful. C is wide-eyed, alert, awake, and anxious-looking. Before they were born and continuing to today, that has been more or less their respective “personalities”; M is the more calm, relaxed, thoughtful of the two, while C is more the go-go-go, alert, excitable, and “look before he leaps” type.

That said, it was in this picture that I first saw our sons as people; real, honest-to-God, fleshed out people. It’s hard to explain, but there was something in me that switched from viewing these babies as just babies, or as screaming crap dispensers, or as the reasons sleep was becoming a distant memory. Suddenly I saw them as “people”, as my boys, as individuals who didn’t just need to be taken care of, but that needed to be nurtured and raised to be good men.

If the boys’ personalities hit me in that photo, they clobbered me in this one:

4 months

“Your naiveté is silly, Daddy!”

There was no epiphany this time, it’s just…look at those smiles! I had never in my life seen (or at least noticed) any person look as overflowing with pure, unadulterated joy. I fell in love with these guys all over again. There’s a difference between seeing a person as a human and seeing a person as a person. Smiling and laughing because their old man was acting the fool behind their mommy while she took so many pictures the camera’s memory card was praying for Judgement Day, I saw these guys as full-blown little boys, and reveled in what was (and is as of this writing) the only example of anyone ever laughing at me when I was trying to be funny.

Because chronological order can go screw, this last picture is from the very early days after we brought the babies home.

Kat and I have known each other since 1997. We’ve moved in together, gotten married, been on adventures, overcome struggles, and gotten pregnant, but this, THIS, is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She’s not grinning ear-to-ear or holding her sides from guffawing, but trust me, she is at the maximum threshold of human happiness. After our ordeals with infertility, miscarriage, and the deterioration of my emotional and physical health during her pregnancy, here she stands, holding her new babies and old husband. Her smile in this picture is beautiful and sweet and.it totally says “Screw every single other thing in the world. Screw all the struggles and problems, screw worries about the future, this is all I’ve ever wanted.”

Or she might just have fallen asleep...

Or maybe she just fell asleep…

Winding back the clock even further, while Kat was pregnant I was having some health issues, and they made it hard to know exactly how to feel about – or at least how to deal with – the pregnancy and impending role as a dad. When I found myself in an REI one day, I looked at children’s stuff and came across little convertible (zip-off lower legs) hiking pants. They were tagged as being for six-month-olds, they were more money than I should have spent at the time, and hiking pants are basically useless for babies. But we love hiking and I wear convertible pants when we do, so against all logic I bought two pairs:

Look at 'em. Yep, takes an awesome looking guy to make convertible pants look good.

Pacific Northwest slacks

The boys are a year old now, yet those pants still fit in what is apparently a sort of “five-small-barley-loaves-and-two-fishes” deal. On paper, I shouldn’t have bought them, but they stand as one of the only “wrong” decisions I made during that time that ended up being OK. The boys have been wearing them double the stated age, and, like their old man, they look awesome in hiking pants. I bought these pants in a sincere if ill-advised moment of impulse shopping, but they wound up being a great purchase from a practical standpoint and one of the few “silver linings” that came out of an otherwise pretty terrible time.

It’s such an oversimplification to try and sum up this past year with a few photos; we’ve had so many ups and downs, we’ve watched the milestones come and go, we’ve been humbled, we’ve been empowered, and we’ve both been given purpose in some different ways. Our boys won’t remember this year, but we’ll never forget*.

Bonus picture:

Pictured: personalities at 1

Pictured: personalities at 1

*Except actually we’ve forgotten big swaths of the first few months.

Noobs

Check out this great read from Twiniversity that pretty much perfectly sums up the early days of life with newborn twins. It still doesn’t do the stress or difficulty justice, but nothing can until you’re there.

I feel like I’m in a strange sort of limbo right now; newborn twins in the house damn near killed me (spoiler: they didn’t), but even though I remember the stress, the pain, the fights, the sleeplessness, the wondering how I could ever be a father, let alone a father of twins…I kind of miss it. I feel sad that these two wonderful little people were here and we didn’t get to fully enjoy them.

Job Sitch

In order to accommodate the two little bundles of inconvenience we brought into our home nearly four months ago, we are changing our respective work schedules. Kat will be working in town two days a week and will be off on alternating Wednesdays. I will be off the other Wednesdays and will also be taking Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays off. This way we’ll maximize our time with the boys as much as possible, “save” money on a nanny, and – in my case – gain a little more time to hunt for local jobs and work on writing and my transcription job.

Nothing much will change for Kat, but for me limiting my availability is a pretty big move. I’ll be stepping down from my current leadership role at some point and will be turning in paperwork stating that I am waiving my rights to seniority and that I understand that I am not guaranteed any number of hours and that they can force me to go back to the hours I agreed to when I was hired (full time, any shifts). I’ll probably also be looking at a pay decrease, which is swell.

That said, I have no idea how this will play out in the long run. There is a delicate pas de deux  between my employer and I: do I need them more, or do they need me more?

This question isn’t out of aggression towards them or arrogance towards me; I just know that I do a lot at my job and am a valuable team member, and I’ve been told that my pay (etc.) would be stretched out as long as possible until H.R. figured it out. The last time a situation regarding me and loss of benefits (due to budget reasons) occurred, it got stretched out more than a year before H.R. caught on, so we’ll see. That said, they know I can’t up and quit (utter employment disasters not withstanding), so I’m at their mercy as well.

One way or another, I’ll be taking a pay cut by working fewer days. Granted, we’ll save some money on daycare, and maybe it’ll balance out considering our commutes and my taxes. Either way, it means an end to reckless spending, which is good, but reckless spending has now changed to mean things like “wine” and “brand name anything”.

The belt-tightening has been more or less successful so far, but has room to improve. I’d say our hardest issue is food; it takes time to shop for ingredients and cook them into healthful meals at home, and time is something we don’t have a lot of these days. Again, me being home more often should help, but if the boys decide they want to be up all day and night playing or crying or otherwise deliberately sabotaging my efforts to be productive – which they totally do on purpose – we might find ourselves ordering pizza yet again.

The money stuff is pretty much panicking me, and I suppose Kat to a degree. I just see us in a few months loading our crap into a storage locker and moving into an apartment, only to realize that the two things combined cost more than rent at our current house, and finally needing to move in with relatives and oh my god how can this ever work??? I guess we’ll make it work…

Although the income might be minimal, especially at first, I will also be bringing in a few bucks with a new transcription job. Rev.com, the company I’ll be working for, hired me a while back but only recently squeezed me in to start taking jobs.

After checking out some of the transcription jobs (they’re emailed to me multiple times throughout the day), it seems like an interesting and fun way to earn a few dollars. As a rookie, I’ll earn a little less, but upon listening to some of the audio files available to transcribe, I think I’ll be good at this job and that it will keep me interested. You are allowed to preview each job, and I was listening to pieces that were interviews with Korean War vets. Very interesting, very clear (read: easy to transcribe) and at the rookie prices, I could make roughly $27.00/hour on average depending on my typing speed. All pieces won’t be as interesting, and I won’t be able to crank out as many as my “counting unhatched chickens” mind is imagining, but still; a paycheck is a paycheck. I have the added benefit of working a job I’ll enjoy, that offers hours based on my desires, that is centered around the English language, and – most importantly – isn’t in the retail/food industry. It’s a foot in the door of a bigger world, one where I can report to work and not expect to try to up-sell a customer by offering gravy.

We have no idea where we’ll land with regards to jobs and pay. What we do know is that we are making the best moves we can for our sons at this point in time. We are also fortunate enough to know that if it all really hits the fan (heaven forbid), we have friends and family that will make sure the four of us have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

That’s more than some people have, and we’re thankful for it. This is sort of one of those situations that will work itself out; we’ll just need to have faith that it will work itself out for the best.

Because we’re awesome, we’ve paid our dues, and we deserve it.

 

11 Things a Month as a Dad Has Taught Me

Tomorrow will mark a month since M & C entered our lives. It’s been a busy month, to say the least, as I guess any parent would know.

I’ll admit that it has been a bit more trying a period of time than I ever could have imagined. Going in, I thought I was more or less totally prepared. I’d read the books. I’d watched the videos. I’d absorbed tons of tips and advice from friends, acquaintances, family, and total strangers. And, of course, I had my own assumptions or hubris.

Surprise, surprise, I’ve learned more from actually dealing with babies than any books or well-meaning friends could ever teach me.

  1. By now, many people and a lot of literature will have told you about the lack of sleep you’ll suffer after having a baby. No matter what you expect, take your worst-case scenario of sleep deprivation over a 48 hour period, multiply it by two, add a soundtrack that sounds like white noise as performed by cats being run over by a tank, and you will have a closer idea of how your sleeping life will go. You’re underestimating this. Just…shut up, you’re underestimating this!
  2. The above advice applies more or less verbatim to diaper usage.
  3. You are not a baby whisperer. It’s day 2, your baby is screaming inconsolably, you touch her nose and say “Boop!”, and she stops crying. You repeat this one or two more times. “I’ve got this,” you muse. “I don’t know why people make such a big deal about babies fussing.” And then the next time you touch her nose and say “Boop!”, she goes f***ing ballistic. You haven’t lost your touch; you never had the touch. Babies are fickle things. What works today might not work tomorrow, and what comforted her yesterday might set her off today.
  4. Everyone around you IS a baby whisperer. At least, they think they are, and they might even appear to be. I have found that if I’ve held a crying baby for longer than about four seconds, someone nearby will ask if I want them to hold him. This (rightfully so or not) can come across as them thinking you have no idea of how to comfort a crying baby, and that they have the ability to make the crier in question stop. Sometimes you hand him over and he immediately stops crying. This isn’t necessarily anything you’ve done wrong or anything they’re doing right; sometimes babies just want a change of venue. Also, on a long enough timeline, the comforting embrace of the other person might sour, and you can watch smugly while they spend an hour with a screaming infant.
  5. You have maintained a fairly consistent daily or weekly routine for years. Yeah, you can go ahead and forget that.
  6. Your freedom is gone. Not to sound melodramatic, but yeah. Remember how maybe you’d get the house to yourself sometimes? Maybe you’d head out solo on Sunday to catch some football at the bar with the guys? If, on a moment’s notice, you wanted to leave the house for a grocery run, it was no problem? Those things are not part of your life anymore. Now your life is being where your baby/babies/partner need you at any given point in time.
  7. “But I just changed her!”. And you’ll just change her three minutes later. Deal with it. You might as well forget saying “But she just ate!” and “He was up all day, how can he still be awake?” too. What happened five minutes ago has no bearing on right now.
  8. Your baby is more or less bulletproof. Just watch out for the neck. Even if you bang their head into a wall or something, they probably won’t even notice it. Oh, and that soft spot? The membrane over that is made of, like, nine layers of trampoline fabric, so don’t panic when you feel your thumb moosh in there. Also, your first “emergency” visit to the pediatrician will likely be something totally mundane. Don’t feel bad; better safe than sorry, and the doctors are used to it.
  9. Get used to sharing; your baby is community property now.
  10. You WILL be peed and pooped on. That is all.
  11. She isn’t smiling at you. Yeah, the books all said that smiles in the first few weeks just mean your baby has gas, grabbing your hand is just random, and adorable nuzzling is just rooting behavior, but it’s really hard to keep that in mind when you look down and see a cute, goofy little grin on your baby’s face. Right before she farts in your lap and passes out.