Category Archives: Family

Hopes for a Happy Valentine’s Day

 

I had a weird moment at the store today.  As I was paying for the cards and flowers I had belatedly picked up for the girls, ( I didn’t forget, they were just all with me this weekend ) the young man behind the counter gave me a wink and a nod, smiling as if we shared some private joke.  It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized that everything I had purchased was in quantities of three.  I’m fairly certain the young cad had misidentified me as a fellow player, multiple women in my life expecting attention on this day devoted to love.

There was a time when things may have been closer to his presumed interpretation.  Days when Valentine’s was among the holidays I made sure to work, not wanting to have to decide who I was spending it with.  A time when I was more concerned with staying friends with someone after my “three month rule” had been reached than with actually treating them overly well during that allotted three months. I wrote recently about not being very popular for a stretch of years. The next chapter in that story is a decade of overcompensation for that. Years when I was kind of a dick, to be honest.

 

 

Those days are far behind me now.  As flattering as it may have been for this kid to think that I could still pull off these types of maneuvers, I have no interest in proving him right. I’m still juggling multiple women and trying to keep too many at a time happy, but I’m related to them all now.

My concerns these days are different, no longer concerned with who I am buying for, but how much.  Last year Baby Cupid brought baskets of presents, but I’m willing to concede that may have been a little ridiculous. I settled on absurdly priced cards and flowers, an older movie for each of the kids, and a New England Patriots Super Bowl Championship T-shirt for my wife, leaving them strategically placed as I headed off to work.

 

 

Was that enough?  Of course not.  This is why I struggle with this “holiday” every year.  Twelve years ago my wife inadvertently started changing me into a different person.  A better man.  All three of them continue to push me down that road daily. How many chocolates is that worth?

Hopefully the girls are happy and know that I love them.  Even more importantly, I hope this is true the other 364 days of the year as well. I hope that young stud at the supermarket gets as lucky as this one did and that one day he’s buying multiple Valentines for a more respectable reason.  I hope when I get home from work tonight my wife is feeling frisky and most importantly, I hope that the shirt fit.

 

 

 

Laughs of Christmas Past

 

Like most parents in America,  ( I’m pretty sure )  Christmas Eve was spent watching football, wrapping presents, and drinking bourbon.  We also spent a lot of time reflecting, talking about how much better this year was than last, how much faster each year seems to go by, and how we probably should have picked up more bourbon.

 

Ten years of holidays together lead to a lot of stories.  My wife’s first time drinking red wine coincided with the first time that we hosted both families at our new house together.  It also may have been the last time that she ever drank red wine but everybody keeps coming back every year, so we’re able to laugh about it now.

 

I do not look amused

 

One of my favorite Christmas stories is an inadvertent prank that we ( I ) played on Kayla one year.  Something that my family always did was to disguise presents in different boxes so that smart ass kids couldn’t shake them or otherwise identify the contents ahead of time.  Every child knows what a box of clothes looks like or a packet of socks.  These are always the last things opened.  I was determined that she would not have that option.

What I did on this particular Christmas, in my infinite cleverness, was to convince my wife to join me in wrapping all of her gifts in  food boxes.  CDs and DVDs hidden in empty boxes of crackers and instant rice.  Books in cereal boxes.  A necklace in the discarded macaroni and cheese box from earlier in the week.

Not once did it ever occur to me that she wouldn’t open these boxes and discover the contents inside.  As a child I always knew that my prize would lay at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box.  So surprised were we that to our shame ( and amusement ) we didn’t tell her.  To her credit she opened every last gift before heading upstairs to cry and wonder why Santa hated her.  Any trust issues she may have developed in the interim are strictly incidental and again, we all laugh about it now.

 

did not have oatmeal on her list

 

There are fewer years to look back on, but plenty of stories already that we were telling about Alaina.  The two year old who’s parents were tired of going out into the cold  to allow her to enjoy her slide, so bought her an inside one instead.

 

Not spoiled at all

 

The odd little three year old with the symmetrical piles and need to organize her gifts as she was opening them. Her reluctance to move on to the next present until satisfied that the previous one was where it was supposed to be.

 

two for the “big” action figure pile

 

No matter where you were or what you were celebrating, I hope this weekend was a good one, new memories made.   I hope you were surrounded by friends, family, and most importantly, laughter.

Cheers.

 

 

A Visit From The Christmas Spirit

 

We’re now a few days into December, and the spirit of Christmas has officially invaded our household. To be more precise, it has completely taken over the five year old, but the riptide in this river of jolliness is hard to resist.

It started with the radio. My deft avoidance of Christmas music stymied the same way it seems to be every year, by AC/DC’s Mistress for Christmas. Too late I realized that holiday music was playing and from that point on, nothing else would do. When I was scolded for changing the channel on a lottery commercial set to the music of The Twelve Days of Christmas, it was clear that resistance was futile.

With a full day already planned for Sunday, ( drink beer, watch football ) I gave in to familial pressure and spent all day Saturday spreading cheer. We sharpened our axes, bundled up into warm clothes, and headed off into the wilderness to find our perfect Christmas tree.

 

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We checked our fuses, played a game of extension cord scavenger hunt, and doubled my electric bill for the next month.

 

christmas-spirit

 

We cleaned mouse turds from boxes of old decorations, drank hot chocolate, and gave the dog something new to try and destroy.

 

chritsmas-tree

 

Watching my family laugh and decorate the tree, smile and admire the lights, and generally just appreciate each other’s company, this grinch found his heart temporarily growing a few sizes. Next year Kayla will be eighteen, her future uncertain. Alaina is already starting to have some questions about Santa that are getting harder to answer and this level of enthusiasm from her will be hard to sustain.

All thoughts for another day. Right now it’s time to go watch Elf before the moment passes.

 

 

Ballers Are Parents Too

 

I don’t do this very often, but every few years or so a day comes along when for one reason or another, I’m just not in the mood to go to work. No matter what I’m actually doing, I’ve found that “belly issues” always makes the best excuse for not coming in. It evokes instant sympathy, nobody wants to be anywhere near you, and there usually are no further questions.

It’s probably the excuse new Boston Celtic Al Horford should have used when missing Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat for “personal reasons.” This is Horford’s first year as a Celtic, signing a four year, $113 million deal this off season and greatly raising expectations for the team. Having already missed nine of the first sixteen games with a concussion, many in town felt that with a contract like that he needed to be out on the court, even after hearing what his “personal reasons” were.

 

horford-2

 

His reason turned out to be the birth of his second child, a daughter named Alia. The main source of contention being that since she had been born Sunday night in Atlanta, he really had no excuse to not be on the court Monday in Miami, a short flight away.

Personally, I think he should have skipped Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons as well. Under the collective bargaining agreement of the WNBA, the women’s professional basketball league, players who become pregnant have no time limit set for when they are expected to return and are paid 50% of their salary for as long as they are absent. Most resume practice after eight weeks and return to playing a month after that. Some of this discrepancy in expectation can be attributed to the physical demands and recovery from childbirth, but how much is also the notion that it is more important for a newborn to have this early bonding time with its mother than with its father? Sheryl Swoopes, the very first player signed to the league in 1997, missed the first six weeks of the inaugural season after giving birth to her son and was lauded for how well she played upon return. Al Horford was criticized for taking off a single game out of 82.

 

swoopes

 

According to a 2012 report by the Department of Labor, nine out of ten US fathers take time off from work after the birth of their child or in order to adopt a child.  Only 13% of these were paid paternal leave and 70% were forced to take ten days or less off. Right now California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that provide paid family leave to both fathers and mothers equally and only 14% of US employers provide it voluntarily, almost all in white collar, high income professions.

Becoming a parent is never more real than in the first days and weeks after the baby arrives. Having both parents home during this time provides so many obvious benefits for the entire family, both short and long term, that it’s nonsensical to demand fathers immediately return to the workforce. This is no longer our only role and it’s time for that to be recognized. 79 of the 167 countries in the world provide paid paternity leave. We need to start appreciating the new realities of fatherhood here as well.

 

 

 

 

Shaddup and Eat

 

To the relief of many, 2016 will soon be behind us. In a few days we will sit down with family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner and from there it’s just a few short weeks until we do it again on Christmas. We’ll eat way too much food, drink a bit of wine or scotch, and somehow find a way to make room for pie. We’ll talk about the weather, trade news about people that we know in common, discuss current events.

Uh oh.

For most of this year, current events has meant only one thing : politics.  If you are like me and have guests coming from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, this is a topic that it’s probably best to avoid this year.  No mentioning of the T word at the dinner table.

So what else has been going on?

There was a massive earthquake in Japan this week, a small tsunami generated in the same Fukushima region devastated in 2011. These types of natural disasters are happening with alarming frequency as the climate….never mind.  Not everyone believes the science behind climate change.

The Stock Market is way up. That has to be good for everybody right?  Proposed corporate tax cuts and the rollback of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act should enable the rich to get richer, and just think about all those new construction jobs along the southern border.  Hmmm, maybe not.

The Standing Rock protest?  Probably want to stay away from any protest talk.

Pop culture, maybe that’s the answer.  A lot of big names in music passed away this year.  A lot of big names threatened to leave the country…The Walking Dead has been really good so far. That Negan character really doesn’t seem to take criticism well, does he…Some good movies came out.  Did anybody see that one about Benghazi?

Sports?  The Dallas Cowboys, one of the biggest stories of the NFL season so far, will be playing at 4:30, right about the time we’ll all be finishing up and settling into a post-turkey daze.  They will be playing the Washington Redskins, a name that many Native Americans insist is a racial slur and should be changed. Racists in Washington?  I don’t like where that is going…

 

So what are we all going to talk about this year?  When I was younger all holiday dinners took place at my grandparent’s home. Every Thanksgiving my grandmother would make everybody at the table stop and pick something that they were thankful for before allowing us to eat.  I hated it as a child and am skeptical about the chances of it being implemented in my household, but maybe the overall concept can be embraced.  Instead of bitching about the world and the people in it, let’s remember the idea behind this particular holiday and try to embrace it.  Let’s take time to appreciate where we are and the people that we are with. They won’t always be here.

If that doesn’t work, there is another lesson to be taken from those dinners of my youth.  After his vodka glass was filled, grace was said, and the food distributed, my grandfather always had one last thing to say before eating.

“OK everyone, shaddup and eat.”

 

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