Elmocation

Before the boys were born, I was the best dad ever. My kids were never going to eat anything but homemade, organic, mostly vegetarian food. They’d never know who Ronald McDonald was. I would take them to kid gyms and classes every day. They would never watch TV.

Turns out, constraints on time and finances relegated some of those to the “A guy can dream” file.  The last one, though, was something I thought I could pull off. I couldn’t, and it’s actually made me pretty bummed.

sad dad

I’m next month’s centerfold.

Granted, I knew the kids would watch some TV. We do watch TV in our house, and this is a world of screens, so winding up looking at moving pictures on a screen was, of course, inevitable. That said, I feel like we’re in dangerous territory.

When the boys were newborns, I could throw stuff on in the background because they could barely see, let alone realize I was watching campy ’80s slasher flicks in their presence. When they got older, we allowed some Caspar Babypants music videos (if you haven’t checked him out, do yourself a favor and do), but that was about it.

Somewhere along the line, a certain little red monster from Sesame Street made an appearance on our TV. Yes, Elmo was here, and we’re the ones who invited him in.

elmo

“Ta-da, bitches!”

There are a lot of compelling reasons why Elmo appeals to toddlers while making parents want to throttle the Muppet until the puppeteer’s wrist snaps. From his bright red color to his child-like speech patterns to that piercing falsetto that is something akin to the Son of Sam talking to his neighbor’s dog.

elmo

“Burn it all down, Mr. Robb.”

Suddenly, the kids demanded more and more Elmo. Elmo was one of C’s first words (well, okay, he says “Ello”), and sometimes the choice between watching Elmo or riding out the tantrum fell on the side of peace. Naturally, the kids went all Pavlovian on us and can throw some epic tantrums in order to see their favorite little red beast.

elmo-plush-deluxe-infant-costume-bc-38699

The fact that he swallows kids whole like a python doesn’t seem to put them off at all.

So, is it so bad to have a couple of tots watching an “educational” program for, at most, a couple of hours a day, a few days a week? It depends who you ask. You can find plenty of opinions saying that it’s totally okay, like this, this, and this, but you can find at least as many opinions stating that any TV before your kids are old enough to write a college thesis on what they’re watching, like this, this, and this. Hell, even publications like Psychology Today can’t agree on whether or not TV will turn your kids’ brains into mousse, or into a flexed bicep of intelligence.

When we switched to toddler beds due to the boys’ penchant for going all Houdini in their cribs, they stopped taking naps, as to leave them alone in their room meant a total disassembling of the same. It was easier to simply handle them for 1-3 hours a day rather than invest time and money into converting our guest room into a second nursery or watching them turn their present room into a cinematic tornado cliché.

This means that I (SAHD, here) have 1-3 hours or so of extra time with the boys. Yep, 12-13 hours a day alone with just the lads. That’s a long time to spend with anyone, let alone two-year-olds.

I’m a human. I have responsibilities as a “homemaker” and a (minute) wage-earner. I also like to sit down by myself for a few minutes to relax or fire off some emails or eat without being spotted by my kids and having to hand over my food. Sometimes just having the boys nap for a half-hour bought me enough sanity to make up for whatever else I’d been put through during the day.

When naps went bye-bye, I looked for other ways to keep the boys occupied while I did the things that I needed to do outside of being 100% involved with them. What I needed was a nanny.

elmo2

“Mr. Robb is looking for talking plush toy with no concept of pronouns? Elmo is Mr. Robb’s monster!”

More and more, Elmo was tossed on in the background merely to keep the kids occupied while I washed dishes or made lunch or curled up in a ball and wept about my failure as a parent. Soon, as with most drugs, an hour’s worth of Elmo didn’t cut it any more. Suddenly, I was putting on the Little Baby Bum and Mother Goose Club videos of children’s public domain songs. When these grew old, Monsters, Inc. went into the DVD player and became a staple in the stable. I tried introducing various Disney movies and other kids’ fair as a sort of cinematic methadone, but to no avail. We always wind up back with Elmo.

So for now, we’re sharing parenting duties with an admitted monster and various other programs. I absolutely don’t begrudge people who have their kids watch more TV than I do, and I I know that TV is okay in moderation.I also know that Elmo is actually fairly educational, but dammit man, I feel like I’m doing the boys a disservice every time I turn on the TV in order to buy an hour or two of non-toddler time..

 

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Let’s Do This Thing

…We’re going for it. If you’re falling behind on reading my posts (the same way I’m falling behind on writing them), you might have missed my last two, wherein I talked about the need for me to go from full-time stay-at-home-dad to full-time SAHD and part time wage-earner. As much as I love contributing financially to the family, my work experience before, during, and after college has consisted of various levels of food service and/or retail; noble professions to be sure, but I’m tired of them, my wife’s tired of being a restaurant widow, and the boys would probably like to keep our current arrangement of seeing each other over the weekends.

A couple of years ago, I began aspiring more than ever to earn enough money to keep things nice and stable without having to stand at a counter and feign interest in how someone’s day is going, like I do when my wife comes home from wherever it is that she goes.

While my education, ambition, and a handful of skills said that I could do something new to earn a little scratch, the reality of nearly two decades of work experience and the challenge of learning a new job while taking care of twin babies said something different:

I think they were being sarcastic.

Still, while researching work-from-home jobs, I came across Rev, an online transcription service that pays people to transcribe audio files it uploads onto its site. I took the entry test, got accepted*, and was able to start listening to recordings of people and typing them out for money. Only I didn’t.

Even something as simple as transcription seemed too challenging to leap into, what with still working at the store and doing the parenting thing. It was also partially the fear factor of starting something new when real time and money were at stake.

When Kat accepted her new job in D.C., we decided to try things with me as a full-time SAHD. It’s a job I’m fairly good at, and, unlike my previous jobs, it allows me to exercise my own brand of dictatorial control without HR always getting involved.

hr

“For the last time, refer to them as ‘valued team members!’ No more of this ‘discontented rabble’ nonsense!”

It’s doable, but it doesn’t give us as much wiggle-room or ability to save as we’d like, so we decided it would be best for me to bring home something more useful to the family than anecdotes about the day’s trip to Target. (Spoiler: I forgot the one thing I went for.)

Which brings us back to the transcription thing. We did the math, and based on two trial weeks, it seemed like a viable option. By then, I had actually applied for a weekend job at a nearby grocery store, a job I subsequently interviewed for and was offered.

*deep breath*

I respectfully declined. I haven’t declined many job offers before, and to roll the dice on this new thing was pretty…well…dicey.

Yep, we decided to go for broke (insert uncomfortable laugh here) and give the “me doing a job I like” thing a whirl. I’ll get more into the five w’s of the job in my next post, and it will be a while before we see if this was a huge mistake or not, but we’re at that now-or-never point of trying something new. It’s something that might not be as lucrative as other prospects, but which can potentially pay off in other dividends, like work-life balance, mental health, and…well, that’s really about it.

For now, we’re 90% excited and optimistic, and only 10% WHAT THE HOLY [EXPLETIVE DELETED] WERE WE THINKING??? Given that this, right now, is the happiest I’ve been with my life in a  long while, I’m really hoping we can make it work out. Well, I know we can make it work out, I hope we do make it work out. The fact that we physically work out so rarely gives me cause for concern.

*I’ll discuss this in better detail later, but I want to emphasize the point that I am not an employee of Rev, but am classified as a “contractor,” self-employed and, unlike my last job, able to come to work in my boxers, if I want.

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.

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:

IMG_0139[1]

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.

Grandma!

The boys’ grandma (my mom) managed to survive another year standing between a whiteboard and a kloib* of middle-schoolers (not to mention surviving Kansas, in general) to make it out here to Washington for a visit. It had been a year since she last made it out, so from the first visit till now the babies went from screaming poop beasts to screaming poop beasts that can walk. Luckily, besides pooping and screaming, they now also know how to laugh and hug and say “hi” and manipulate their environment and wave and stuff, so that’s nice.

Don't forget looking badass.

“We also know how to look badass.”

No, Skyping just isn’t the same as actually holding your grandkids or, conversely, being held by your grandma, so we were all glad she could get back out here. One of the problems with having family spread across the country is the difficulty in getting together more frequently, so we cherish the visits we receive and that we get to make.

The boys are in that awkward age (read: 0-3) where they’re too old to just kick it in the living room all day, but where it’s challenging to find things we can do with them that meet the following criteria:

  • stay in line with nap/bed times
  • don’t involve over-exertion for any parties involved
  • are affordable
  • don’t require attention spans or comprehension skills greater than those of a cicada

“Hey, that’s not very…um…ooh, a fence post!”

This can be tougher than it sounds. Luckily, for one day Grandma took us to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium as an early Father’s Day gift to me, and the boys actually had a pretty good time, considering they think every animal is a kitty.

“Meow.”

We also got some time in at a nearby “spray park,” something that was new to me when I heard of them but which are kind of a big thing around here. You know running through the sprinkler in the yard? That, but if it was at Dr. Seuss’ house.

Splooshtambulous!

Splooshtambulous!

M got blasted in the face by water the last time he was at this park, so he was a little hesitant to play in it this time, but C was all about it.

“Yeeeeeaaaaagh!”

“Peace!”

“I am AMPED, braugh! *pant pant* That was a choka macker; thought I was gonna wipe out there *pant pant*, but…oh, I gotta get back in there, those waves are choice!”

“Can we please go?”

She also managed to do on her second day here what we’d been putting off since the boys’ birthday: assemble their Radio Flyer scooter bike things.

bike

We tried them out in the driveway for the first time, and the boys did about as well as you’d expect (or maybe better) for one-year-olds on scooter bike things for the first time. Honestly, every time we get in the driveway or front yard, we spend a lot of time stopping one or both of them from running into the street, which seems to be most desirable place to be ever. They also got to wear their scooter bike thing helmets for the first time. As you may recall, M has that big old round hydrocephalus head of his and we needed to go with a helmet meant for kids twice as old, and it still fits a little awkwardly, but he seems to actually enjoy having the thing on. I think they get a little proud when they accessorize.

2015-06-10 05.58.59 2015-06-10 06.00.03

“Hey girl…”

I had to work one day, so my mom and Kat went to a nearby Wiggleworks franchise. Wiggleworks gyms are basically hybrids of playgrounds and padded cells (or maybe Dr. Seuss’ home gym), and the boys absolutely love it there. The timing also worked out because the place sort of stresses me out, as the boys are little enough that you still have to chase them around, which is hard and awkward in this place.

"Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people." - me about Wiggleworks/God about Israel

“Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.” – me about Wiggleworks/God about Israel

"This Millennium Falcon is going to be epic."

“This Millennium Falcon is going to be epic.”

We all got out of town on Saturday and headed for Fort Worden State Park and Port Townsend on the peninsula in the upper-left corner of the state, a couple of hours away but worth the drive even with two toddlers. The park’s pretty interesting, a former military base that stood guard over the entrance to the Puget Sound, but which now offers great views of the Sound and mountains, has a museum, marine science center, trails, campsites, woods, “ruins” of gigantic cannon turrets and other concrete and steel kill-structures, and buildings that have been converted into everything from rentable cabins to rec centers to votech classrooms. Port Townsend, the cute little Victorian town nearby, was also having their big farmer’s market that day and the sun was shining throughout our trip.

The boys didn’t care about any of it except for the gun batteries, and only because we let them run free (more or less), so that pretty much made their day.

At a gun battery in Fort Worden State Park.

At a gun battery in Fort Worden State Park.

"I can totally make this. I just need to wait until they're not paying attention."

“I can totally make that distance. I just need to wait until they’re not paying attention.”

"In my new life I think I'll be a haberdasher."

“In my new life I think I’ll be a haberdasher.”

"Tra-lee, tra-la, I love strolling through the grass on a sunny day."

“Tra-lee, tra-la, I love strolling through the grass on a sunny day.”

"Short grass!  Short grass! I like strolling through short grass!"

“Short grass! Short grass! I like strolling through short grass!”

Between distance, scheduling, practicality, and finances, we don’t get to see family as often as we’d like, so it was really special having my mom here for a week, and even if the boys don’t remember, I’ll get to enjoy the memories of watching them squeal and laugh with their grandma.

*Science FACT: A group of middle-schoolers is called a “kloib”.

Building Blocks

The boys turned one year old a couple of weeks ago.

Holy crap.

I’ve already talked about my evolution as a dad, but it’s even more startling when I look at them and see how much they’ve evolved, from gross noise-beast pupae to intelligent, walking, talking* mini-mes. Gobots to my Transformer. Micro Machines to my Hot Wheel. Tiny capsules soaking in water to my already fully-formed sponge dinosaur.

No, you’re dating YOURself.

No, you’re dating YOURself.

These guys have opinions, likes and dislikes, habits, skills, and annoying individual traits.

I have been watching them grow over the last year, delighting as they told developmental roadblocks and hurdles, one by one, to suck it. Since one boy or the other usually did something new first, we’d begin watching and prodding the other to start doing that new thing. Then we’d bring up all the stuff this baby did first, and remind ourselves that we shouldn’t worry that he isn’t doing this or that yet, constantly reassuring ourselves that the boys are each where they’re supposed to be at developmentally. Confused? I am. I had always expected a much more orderly, predictable progression of development for babies.

Turns out I read the wrong guy's baby books.

Turns out I read the wrong guy’s baby books.

That said, I have this new perspective. See, we (Humans. Every single one.) look at growing kids like Lego sculptures, getting more and more fleshed out as each block is added.

They say God is something of a...*puts on sunglasses*..."maniac".

They say God is something of a “maniac”.

There’s a quote (attributed to Michaelangelo but probably not by him) that I’ve always enjoyed which goes something like “When carving [a sculpture] I just chip away everything that doesn’t look like [the subject].”  Now that we’ve come along a bit, that’s how I see the boys; they have everything they need to become the men that they’re going to be. They each learn things when they need to learn them, and their genes are locked and loaded. The things that aren’t them – like hourly projectile vomiting and falling face-first into every [insert noun] they go by – are slowly but surely being chipped away. Assuming I don’t screw them up, they’re on course to be pretty well-rounded people.

My best unicorn impression!

My best unicorn impression!

Our kids might be in trouble…

*babbling incoherent nonsense**

**still more coherent than a lot of people I encounter on any given day

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changing…

…turn, and face the graffiti-covered stall door.

A problem faced by parents of multiple children (born at once or not) is juggling multiple babies when one needs to be changed in a public place. Before the boys were born, if you had asked me what I expected regarding changing them in public, I would have admitted that it sounded like a challenge, of course, but that if I could do it at home, or in a van in a rainy parking lot, or anywhere else, I could certainly manage a Safeway restroom.

gross

It’s a grocery store. They sell food there.

It's a grocery store. They sell food there. Also sold: trash bags, paper towels, and cleaning products.

 Also sold: trash bags, paper towels, and cleaning products.

I had absolutely no idea of just how challenging this can be. Any women reading this and nodding and chuckling about how true this is, slow down; I can only address this from a man’s perspective, but I promise there are different – not necessarily worse, but different – challenges. This was, again, something I wouldn’t have thought of before actually having to do it. Changing tables are changing tables, restrooms are restrooms, and changing multiples just means being able to hold on to one child with one arm and changing the other child with the other arm. Piece of cake, right?

Anyway, I wish I’d sought out or gotten more information about the hazards of changing multiples in public venues, especially by dads. That said, over the last year, this is what I’ve learned:

1. Shopping carts can’t go in.

Assuming a public restroom can physically accommodate a shopping cart, you’d be a jerk to bring one in, and if it’s full of unpaid merchandise, stores frown upon you doing so anyway. This might not sound like such a problem, but if you have both children in a shopping cart, even if only one needs changing, you are faced with the task of bringing both into the restroom by hand. Some restrooms in baby-heavy places like Babies-R-Us have special seats you can buckle the third wheel into while you take care of business, but your run-of-the-mill can will only have a changing table and an air of dread. Now, maybe your kid is to the point of standing or even walking on his own, so you might be thinking that a toddler leash is the way to go. They’re great, but…

2. …men’s rooms are obstacle courses of grossness and awkwardness.

If you aren’t familiar with the layout of a gentlemen’s  w.c., they range from very small, with nothing but a toilet, to a bit bigger with a urinal added, to large, with multiple stalls and urinals. Leash or not, your kid’s going to be able to reach something you’d rather not have her touch, which means keeping her out of toilets and urinals, from crawling under stalls, from grabbing onto the leg of some poor sap who’s trying to relieve himself, and from just getting on the floor in general. You have no idea how gross a men’s room floor can be; I’ve been doing unspeakable things to them for weeks just to drive this point home. Having all those urinals and toilets so close to the changing table is almost unavoidable because…

3. …a lot of men’s rooms had those tables installed after they were designed.

OK, this is true of a lot of women’s restrooms as well; changing tables didn’t enter on the scene until the mid-80s, so restrooms built before this (and many after) don’t make any space accommodations. This is why you find a number of them in the large handicapable stalls; there’s simply no room anywhere else. In a men’s room, odds are that you’re on the wall opposite or right next to the urinals, and given the tight spaces, you might practically be rubbing back-to-back with guys trying to do their business. Women’s rooms might be pretty tight too, but you aren’t dealing with dudes with their members in hand urinating into what your kids see as shiny white water tables. Such limited space means you could really use a hand, but…

4. …men aren’t as prone to help.

Yes, in spite of a new enlightened age of stay at home dads, mannies, and other male caregivers, a lot of guys are less patient about things like infants shrieking in their private spaces and men taking up room with toddlers and related accessories. It’s really as if Full House taught us nothing. Now, in full disclosure, I have had a guy offer to hold one baby while I changed the other. He was a twin himself, and had twins himself, so there was some camaraderie, but still; most guys are hesitant about helping. Some still look on it as “women’s work,” some might just assume that you’ve got handled or that they’re bruising your ego if they offer to help, and some are worried about coming off as a child molester. Of course, doing it by yourself is even harder when…

5. …there isn’t a changing table at all.

Now, to be clear, I have encountered exactly one men’s room that didn’t have a changing table, and after a cranky Tweet to the proprietor, they had one installed. That said, I understand from some of my fellow dads (and Ashton Kutcher, I guess) that many men’s rooms still don’t have tables, apparently assuming that the women will be changing babies while the men smoke cigars and discuss big game hunting or whatever. Again, I can’t speak much to that – maybe the Seattle area is ahead of the curve on this – but I can’t imaging having to muscle my way with multiple babies in to a restroom, only to find lavatories and stink.

I don’t pitch petitions much, but please take a minute to sign this one asking restaurants to install changing tables, if for no other reason than to avoid parents changing their kids on the table next to yours while you eat. Don’t make us resort to that.

Letting Go

One thing that has been surprising/not surprising since even before the boys were born is the massive influx of “stuff” that a new baby – let alone two – causes. Seats. Bouncers. Toys. Diapers. Swings. Cribs. Stuff for the walls. Dishes. Food. About five minutes after the first positive pregnancy test our house began filling up with more things to keep babies warm, cool, entertained, fed, safe, clean, stimulated, relaxed, awake, asleep…

Naturally, the “butterfly effect” kicked in. Bit by bit, our stuff started to get displaced. The office and guest bedroom became one. Closets were emptied. Kitchen cabinets were consolidated. Bags and boxes were taken to Goodwill. Closet contents went into the garage.

Still, we had too much stuff. It seems like every nook and cranny is filled, so much so that some of that new baby stuff is in cardboard boxes taking up floor space. There have just been too many things we “couldn’t” get rid of. “We’ll need that someday. That has sentimental value. It’s just too cool to get rid of. If we get rid of it and decide we want it again, we won’t be able to replace it.” We (read: 90% I) couldn’t stand to get rid of enough stuff.

Now, eight months in, I realized that I am more or less over any attachment I had to a large percentage of our stuff.* I think it happened when I suddenly and without trying made peace with the fact that with babies in our lives, I needed to be ready to lose things, and to practice patience and forgiveness when it happens.

Once that had settles in, it wasn’t long before I realized “hey, if I can be OK with a baby breaking something I care about, why have I been lugging some of this crap that we never use from house to house?” I’ve finally started to see what K sees, cabinets and closets and what have you overflowing with stuff we can easily do without. I’m keeping a mental list for whenever we have the time and wherewithal to put together a garage sale. If it doesn’t happen before our next move, the thrift shop is going to get quite a load of stuff.

I’ll probably shop for more baby stuff while I’m there.

*calm down, K

Coming Back to Christmas

I think it’s been a combination of factors that have led me to what at best can be called a disinterest in and at worst a loathing of Christmas and its entire affiliated season.

First and foremost, I have been working some form of customer service/retail job for the last…well, every day I’ve ever been employed for my entire life. In particular, for the last – oh my God – seven years, I have been employed with a high-end grocery store. Something about having wealthy people get pissy because you’re sold out of organic mulling spice packs can really chip away at my holiday spirit. Add to that year after year of looping Christmas music (courtesy Muzac) bombarding me for 8+ hours a day, lack of time with family, and first-hand experience with people at a level of holiday narcissism and gluttony that would make Linus vomit into his blanket.

On top of this you can stack age, a growing lack of disinterest in holidays in general, and the shadow of depression looming over me even darker when I’d rather be enjoying the season with my family. It has all added up to what amounts more or less to a resentment of holidays in general and Christmas in particular.

A robust and sincere tip of the hat to my brothers and sisters in retail, food service, hospitality, and other service jobs who don’t flinch during holiday times and especially to those who enjoy them. Kudos, and I even get it. The holidays are more intense, seem to fly by, can be exciting, and even I get a sense of enjoyment when I contribute to making someone else’s holiday/s great. What I particularly dislike, though, is the disregard with which one in our profession is often treated, a disregard that increases during the periods surrounding the various holidays.

I might as well be an Amazon page for all the consideration I get.

This is part and parcel of the service industry, and one typically becomes numb to or at least used to it. What I’ve never been able to reconcile, though, is the increased disregard and even contempt leveled at employees in various customer service jobs.

I’m sorry your family is stressing you out and that you forgot to order your turkey until it was too late and that your credit card bill is growing and that I have offended you with my inability to help you in these or any other matters. Truly.

As the years have passed, and my displeasure with what I do in general growing, I have lost more and more interest in, concern over, and enthusiasm for the holidays. They (all of them) have become just more work challenges to get through, no more fun or exciting than inventory or budget meetings or Weasel Stomping Day. Grab your bootstraps and get through it.

My real problem with this is that it’s really an area of work I can’t help but bring home. I deal with holiday stuff – music, food, etc. – at work all day. Coming home to more holiday music and food isn’t a lot of fun anymore. Placing my own holiday stress second to that of total strangers makes my stress that much tougher to tolerate. I largely dislike Christmas music anymore, or at least any of the common stuff. I look forward to Christmas morning and Halloween night like I look forward to doctor appointments. I’m too frazzled to pick good gifts for people, and although I always plan big holiday meals, I wind up regretting the choice about 30 seconds into taking food from the fridge.

For the first time in ever, I have something really, truly exciting to look forward to this Christmas: a couple of babies.

Last year, when K was pregnant, I actually had some serious optimism about this. I want these boys to renew my excitement in holidays. I need them to.

I know that’s a lot to dump on babies. Asking my children to restore my enjoyment of holidays? They are not real life Rankin/Bass characters.

I don’t care. This year might not make much of a difference, and even next year might be a little tepid.

At some point, though, I will watch these two little terrors start to actively enjoy Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and the rest.

Fireworks?! Eggs?! Turkey?! PRESENTS?!” I want my babies to look forward to and enjoy holidays the way I used to, and I’m praying that they bring me back to at the very least optimism about them. I admit it; I plan on living vicariously through these guys. I’m not even sorry.

I think that at a certain age, you accept that the bulk of holiday fun is for kids. So you let the little ones have their fun. That, in itself, brings more than enough happiness to many adults, and I’m eagerly looking forward to being one of those adults.

I know pinning the enjoyment of holidays – especially Christmas – on our little boys seems a bit unfair. My justification is that they brighten up my regular days so much that I can only imagine what they’re going to on Christmas.

 

This is M's "official" first crawl. All it took was a singing, light-up novelty Christmas decoration from Hallmark.

This is M’s “official” first crawl. All it took was a singing, light-up novelty Christmas decoration from Hallmark.

Winter time!

Winter time!

OK, Santa didn't scare them; it was the three grumpy teen girls in elf costumes and the other two women helping shaking jingle bells and cajoling the boys to face the camera. Fun, but a bit intense. Oh well. It was free (at P.T.'s office building) and they got to keep those bears!

OK, Santa didn’t scare them; it was the three grumpy teen girls in elf costumes and the other two women helping shaking jingle bells and cajoling the boys to face the camera. Fun, but a bit intense. Oh well. It was free (at P.T.’s office building) and they got to keep those bears!

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Awesome Santa in Kent, WA.

 

Daddy needs Christmas cheer too.

Daddy needs Christmas cheer too.

2014-12-13 06.12.10

GQ pose!

GQ pose!

First Christmas, first pile of electrified strangulation hazard studded with gass.

First Christmas, first pile of electrified strangulation hazard studded with gass.

8 months old!

8 months old!

8 months!

8 months!

Catching You Up On the Adorableness

Nothing to see here, only

RIDICULOUSLY CUTE BABY PICTURES!!!

 

On our hike down to Dash Point State Park Beach.

On a recent hike down to Dash Point State Park Beach.

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

C used to have trouble falling back asleep in the mornings. Solution? Snuggle with daddy.

C used to have trouble falling back asleep in the mornings. Solution? Snuggle with daddy.

I *was* asleep when she started to snap this. I think it still counts as a "napping dad" pic.

I *was* asleep when she started to snap this. I think it still counts as a “napping dad” pic.

Speaking of napping...

Speaking of napping…

2014-09-26 05.42.28

Purchased: A bunch of toys and this seat/tray. Best toy? The tray

Purchased: A bunch of toys and this seat/tray. Best toy? The tray.

Yup. Tray.

Yup. Tray.

Never say they have nothing in common.

Never say they have nothing in common.

Three studs.

A stud trifecta.

2014-10-04 23.31.19 2014-10-04 23.31.21 2014-10-06 18.30.53

We're being stern today.

We’re being stern today.

Because literature.

Because literature.

2014-10-08 17.15.14 2014-10-08 17.15.44

"I haz teeth!"

“I haz teeth!”

Yes, he's really biting my nose. Yes, it really hurts.

Yes, he’s really biting my nose. Yes, it really hurts.

2014-10-13 07.39.49 2014-10-13 07.40.14

"Kitteh?"

“Kitteh?”

The cat's actually a pretty good sport.

The cat’s actually a pretty good sport.

2014-10-22 09.04.19 2014-10-22 09.05.40 2014-10-22 09.09.08 2014-10-27 05.46.08 2014-10-27 05.48.21

Cartoon puppy cute.

Cartoon puppy cute.

2014-10-29 14.42.50

The day he learned to pull himself up in his crib.

The day he learned to pull himself up in his crib.

First time riding in a shopping cart like a grownup.

First time riding in a shopping cart like a grownup.

2014-10-31 12.32.37

Grocery shopping is a serious affair...

Grocery shopping is a serious affair…

2014-11-01 10.41.51

M holding himself up (mostly) on the Jumperoo while baby bro tries to jump.

M holding himself up (mostly) on the Jumperoo while baby bro tries to jump.

M, my little Seahawk.

M, my little Seahawk.

"Batman" for story time. Again.

“Batman” for story time. Again.

Not C in a roller-coaster. Just C having fun.

Not C in a roller-coaster. Just C having fun.

C is pretty proud of himself, learning to stand with the couch.

C is pretty proud of himself, learning to stand with the couch.

And what's on the couch?

And what’s on the couch?

Kitteh!

Kitteh!!!

Again: Alike.

Again: Alike.

Grinny and Smiley, the Polar Bear Boys.

Grinny and Smiley, the Polar Bear Boys.

2014-11-12 17.24.43

Pictured: milk coma

Pictured: milk coma

2014-11-13 10.57.39

He learned to crawl backwards first, taking the fence with him.

He learned to crawl backwards first, taking the fence with him.

"Well, I took care of that drawer you wanted pulled out."

“Well, I took care of that drawer you wanted pulled out.”

2014-11-15 16.57.06 2014-11-16 10.23.26 IMG_6668 IMG_6680 IMG_6715

Sometimes jumping makes us tired...

Sometimes jumping makes us tired…

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They were thrilled with their Halloween costumes.

They were thrilled with their Halloween costumes.

The spirit of Halloween lives in our house...

The spirit of Halloween lives at our house…

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Aviator scarves and headgear knit by a friend.

Aviator scarves and headgear knit by a friend.

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