The Best $4.68 I Ever Made

…I might have another option. Maybe. We’ll see.

If you missed my last post re: us not being in the 1%, I’ll sum it up briefly: I need to pick up some extra work to add a little padding to our finances in case of those unforeseen expenses that tend to pop up exclusively when you don’t have padding.

computer hit

It’s called “Murphy’s Sucker-Punch.”

This would mean missing weekend time with the family – basically the only quality time all four of us spend together – but sometimes necessity trumps preferences.

That said, at some point in the past you might have read or heard me mention a transcription “job” I had been “hired” for. I took some tests for a transcription company and became a contractor. This allowed me to choose audio transcription jobs that they post, and work whenever and wherever I want, and earn a little walkin’ around money. It’s a much better way to earn extra cash than the last thing I tried.

abuse

Now I’m married and a father, so I do this for free.

You also might have read or heard me lamenting the fact that I could never scrounge up the time, energy, or wherewithal to get rocking and/or rolling on this transcription job.

I took this test roughly two years ago, and almost immediately, my eyes had a faraway look, dreaming about busting out transcriptions throughout the day, filling in spare time by earning money for the fam by doing something I enjoy. The (then) forthcoming babies would be strapped to me as I worked, sound asleep through the day, soothed by the clickety-click of me typing hundreds of words per minute and the soft glow of the computer monitor.

But then…

computer hit

This guy again!

Getting started proved harder than I thought. I had new twin babies, I was still working at the store four days a week, my “free time” was actually spent cooking, cleaning, running, questioning my life choices, and trying to keep up on this blog.

When it became clear that we’d probably need to add a secondary income, the obvious choice was to have me get back into the grocery/food-service/retail game. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of that game, but you do what you gotta do.

I had a bit of a now-or-never moment and decided to at least be able to say I’d given the transcription thing a shot. I logged in to my two-year-old account, re-read some tutorials, and plunged in. I took the shortest job they had. I didn’t make a lot of money for that first job – just $4.68 – but it was the first job I’ve been paid for that wasn’t in some sort of customer service field. Other, than, well, the customers of the transcription service.

Who knows? Maybe I can turn this into at least something to add a few bucks here and there to the budget, and have a job I enjoy. In case you skimmed over the title of this post, it was the best $4.68 I’ve ever earned.

Of course, this whole post is basically just a footnote now, because…

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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.

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

Things Are Awesome

Been a while since I got any sort of update for the family and friends and anyone else who’s paying attention. I’ll try to keep it brief yet concise and stick to a reasonable amount of pictures.

So, yeah, the boys turned 1 on the 12th of April. One. Wow. It seems like only yesterday that we were exhausted, panicky messes questioning our ability to raise two healthy, well-adjusted boys. Wait…actually, that was yesterday, but it was also a little over a year ago.

We made it, though, 365 days of ups and downs, like ships in a stormy sea of parenthood. We’ve come a long way – all of us – from those early days, when we had no clue what we were doing and sleep was a novelty. We now consider ourselves among the parenting elite, celebrating each milestone the boys reach and waving them in people’s faces like a “Good Job!” sticker on a second grade book report.

Since last we left our heroes, they’ve started waving (sometimes grunting out possible salutations), pointing at things (that’s the finger referenced in the title), getting around almost exclusively by walking, getting down steps, running toward the street the second our backs are turned, refusing to eat, showing defiance, screaming and weeping over their mother when she’s in the room as though she’s going off to war, doing things they know are bad just to get a reaction, and often producing gross giant man turds instead of gross baby slop-shit.It’s la vida dolce, at least compared to a year ago.

Anywho, I think the most judicious way to describe the goings-on here is with pictures and the boys’ own words:

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Swings are awesome.   2015-02-14 16.20.09

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Pickles are awesome.

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Chairs are awesome.

2015-02-16 12.52.20    2015-02-16 12.53.44

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Piggyback rides are awesome.

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Tupperware is awesome.

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Riding toys are awesome.

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Mommy’s sippy cup is awesome.

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Mommy’s awesome.

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Water tables are awesome.

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Hiking is awesome.

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Killing it at peek-a-boo is awesome.

Killing it at peek-a-boo is awesome.

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Lawn chairs are awesome.

Rocking horses are awesome.

Rocking horses are awesome.

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Tulip festivals are awesome.

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Mega Bloks are awesome.

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Sharing is awesome.

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Snack cups are awesome.

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Cupcakes are awesome.

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Not really, no, they’re not.

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Blowy balloon cage things at Wiggleworks are awesome.

So are these things.

So are these things.

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Never mind, chairs suck.

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I’m going to sit on foot stools instead. Foot stools are awesome.

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Getting to wear dad’s hat is awesome.

Wrasslin' is awesome.

Wrasslin’ is awesome.

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Mega Blok storage bags are awesome.

Family is awesome!

Family is awesome!

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.

Something Webbed This Way Comes

If you’ve known me personally or kept up with me on Facebook, you probably know about our roof ducks.

We hadn’t been living in our current house for very long before we’d start noticing – from time to time – one or two mallard ducks sitting on the roof of our house and occasionally on the roof of our neighbors’. It was cute. I dubbed them “roof ducks”, we went on with our lives, and that was that.

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Only that wasn’t that. That wasn’t that at all. That wasn’t even on the same bus as that.

No, the ducks seemed to like our roof. Their visits became more frequent, and their numbers grew. Now, I love birds, and birding, and bird feeders, and ducks, and whatever, and I love them more than most people probably do. So I was surprised myself when I started to get annoyed with the ever-growing flock that was hanging out on my roof twice a day.

See, that was the first problem: the ducks began arriving (and still do arrive) twice a day, once between 7:40 and 8:30 a.m., once again between 2:45 and 4:00 p.m. Yes, that precise, and yes, that frequent. Now, this might not be more than a novelty, an oddity of the natural world mingling with suburbia. The problem is the noise.

Because a few ducks landing on your roof at 8:00 a.m. isn’t particularly loud if you notice it at all.

But a flock – say, half a dozen and up – sounds like this:car

Seriously, these animals are able to be borne by both water and air, but they’re defying physics somehow, because when they land on my roof it thunders. Ducks are like the Avengers’ Hellicarrier of the animal kingdom.

Now, there are a few large fountains and many ponds in our neighborhood alone. There are also a few areas of protected marshland, including a large parcel in the adjacent state park. The neighborhood across the street has two moderately big lakes in it (hence its “Twin Lakes” moniker), several retaining ponds, and, oh yeah, WE LIVE ON A POINT OF LAND SURROUNDED BY THE PUGET SOUND!!!

It's like that old rhyme: "Water, water everywhere, so please get off of my roof and go hang out in that water."

It’s like that old rhyme: “Water, water everywhere, so please get off of my roof and go hang out in that water.”

I might be able to make peace with the fact that a nomadic tribe of clomping ducks likes to kick it on my roof, noise notwithstanding, if it wasn’t for the time of day. The morning visits come when the babies are just down for their naps, and much, much worse, when I am simultaneously taking what I call a “solidarity nap”.

The noise has woken them up, woken me up, kept me up, and given me some pretty messed up dreams.

I started going outside when the ducks would arrive to scare them off, hoping that in time they would learn that they are not welcome here.

At first, the noise of the front door opening was enough to send them scattering. They got used to that, so I started shouting at them. When that wore off, I took to throwing rocks, but stopped when I realized that my throwing ability was probably at least partly to blame for my always being picked last for teams in middle school.

Finally one day I dug out one of the few relics of my youth that I still have, a Super Soaker FPS 2000, which is a handheld water cannon that could probably double as a crowd control device.

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“This is the best damn gun made by man. It has extreme sentimental value. It’s miles more worthy’n what you got…I call it ‘Vera’.”

Yes. Water. The duck’s only weakness.

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“It burns!!!”

The gun worked, and still mostly works, but I do feel a bit silly going outside in sweats or pjs to spray ducks on my roof with water.

One look at that bed-head and the neighbors are going to think I'm some sort of weirdo.

One look at that bed-head and the neighbors are going to think I’m some sort of weirdo.

Even the Vera is only a short-term fix. The ducks are starting to get used to it and only those who actually get hit are leaving.

What does one do when one has an infestation of water fowl? Bird spikes, fake owls, ribbons, etc. won’t do because the HOA won’t allow stuff on the roof. A real gun is out of the question, as duck corpses and bullet holes littering our roof would be problematic.

I’ve looked up pest-control companies, but their only solutions again come back to stuff on our roof.

The worst thing – the absolute worst thing – about this whole ordeal is that I’m pretty sure this is all deliberate.

The ducks numbers, audacity, and dire warnings are all growing. I see the way they look at me. They aren’t the looks of wild ducks. There’s intelligence there. Evil, spiteful intelligence. I know a threatening look when I receive one.

"SOOOOOOON!"

“SOOOOOOON!”

Did you read that in Donald Duck’s voice?

"SOOOOOOON!"

“SOOOOOOON!”

You did that time.

I think that that guy’s the leader. I have dubbed him Stripe, after his resemblance to the gremlin leader in “Gremlins”.

You have to really want to see it.

You have to really want to see it.

What should I do? I’m seriously asking. I’ve Googled this very problem and all that came up was a picture of the Ghost of Christmas Future pointing at my tombstone.

I need to know that I’m raising my boys in a world where they need not fear marauding gangs of algae-feeding poultry.

Most of all, I need my naptime back.