Getting Old

 

When you’re young, birthdays are an exciting time, full of cake and presents. Alaina has been looking forward to hers since about a week after last year’s. It’s a confirmation to her that she is really the “big girl” that she believes herself to be. It’s also a day that is all about her, which she apparently doesn’t realize has also been just about every other day since she was born.

They certainly aren’t the same as you get older. I liked turning eighteen. The idea of being able to vote and influence what was going on in the world in a small way appealed to me. Twenty-one wasn’t a big deal, as I’d already found a few bars that would serve me. Twenty-six kind of sucked as I was now in my “late twenties” and wasn’t very proud of where my life was at.

Turning thirty I took a week off from work to go on a pretty good bender. I was already divorced and lived in a half empty house that I’d just spent a small fortune evicting another failed relationship from.  Any nights not spent on a bar stool consisted of playing video games or in front of the computer trying to predict fantasy football statistics.

I have a full house now, with a younger wife and two kids that don’t give me any time to sit around feeling old. I’m forty, my sideburns come in grey, and my back is a disaster, but I spend more time bitching about how fast the children are growing up than I do about the fact that these bags under my eyes might just be permanent.

My baby tuning four has had me melancholy all week. ( My wife might use the word cranky.)  I don’t understand where this articulate, self-sufficient little person has come from. She is almost the same age as her sister was when I first met her. Kayla is now turning sixteen. When did that happen?

I guess this is just another unexpected side effect of parenting. A fifty-eight year old patient confided in me last week that her aches and pains were probably just a normal part of reaching “our age”, and I laughed it off. I go to the “little girl” section at Target to shop for my daughter and I’m pissy the rest of the day.

Maybe I just need some cake.

 

 

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Best Day Ever (For Now)

 

Her party won’t be for another few weeks, but as of Sunday my baby is officially a big girl of age four. No longer anything remotely resembling a “toddler”, I’m going to need a new tagline, but “raising a teen and a little girl at the same time” just doesn’t sound very promising. I’m open to suggestions.

We’d spent almost all day Saturday doing yard work so that we’d be able to devote Sunday to the birthday girl.  She knows her born-on date and that it was this month, but with no reminders the preceding week, she was surprised when presented with her gifts. Her favorites seemed to be some gardening tools for “helping” mommy and a new Red Sox hat to wear around town with daddy.  A “Happy Birthday” phone call from the Bubble Guppies topped off the morning.

 

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There was no desire to fight the holiday weekend crowds anywhere, but the weather was fantastic so we settled on a drive to We-Lik-It, a family run farm in Abbington that sells it’s own maple products, hormone-free beef, and locally grown produce.  Even more importantly, they make their own ice cream.

It’s also an opportunity to see some animals, one of Alaina’s favorite things to do. We take her to zoos and aquariums, but I’ve managed to keep her happy and entertained with trips to different farms and pet stores. To her, ferrets and parakeets are just as exciting as sharks and monkeys are to the rest of us.

We didn’t see any ferrets or parakeets, but there were cows, donkeys, goats, ducks and chickens so she was thrilled. Observing the birds turned into an important teaching moment, as she was convinced that they “poop out eggs.”  I’m pretty sure that Alaina is old and intelligent enough to never mistake chickenshit for scrambled eggs, but I’m glad we were able to clarify this just in case.

 

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Animals and ice cream were followed by a few hours at the park. She wasn’t dressed appropriately for running around the splash pad, but as she kept reminding us, it was her birthday. Dinner was pizza, for mainly the same reason.

As she lay down to sleep, Alaina informed us that she had “the best day ever.” This has been her description of plenty of other days in the past, and I’m pretty sure that her party day will eclipse this one, but it was still great to hear. It was a good reminder that although tons of presents, cake, and a bouncy house full of friends is pretty awesome, a simple vanilla cone, a couple of donkeys, and a full day with your family is pretty awesome too.

 

 

50th Post! Updates and Thanks

 

 

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Its been three months almost to the day since I started this little project, and I continue to be surprised and humbled by the reception that it has gotten. I want to thank everybody for reading, and also for the kind words, Facebook shares, and Re-Tweets. Word of mouth is the only way that a blog can grow and the steady increase in new readers is because of you.

For my 50th post, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’m going to re-visit some of my early posts, with updates and thoughts on what I was thinking as I wrote them. I thought it might be of interest to those of you who have been with me from the beginning and a chance to check out some older stuff for those that have found me more recently. If it works out I’ll do it again in a few months, if not, well, every idea isn’t going to be a winner.

 

Eavesdropping  My first post was about trying to get into my kid’s heads and failing.  I really had no idea what I was doing yet, but I think it holds up well.

The Death of Profanity This is the post that started to get people’s attention and was the first time I got some Facebook shares. The teenager still never really swears, but the toddler will occasionally surprise me, mainly in an attempt to get attention.

BFFs This is still one of my favorites. Its about the small town I grew up in and my old friends. It looks like Alaina will be in a new classroom next year, but I hope she’s able to remain friends with some of her little clique.

1st Party Invite  Alaina went to another party this past weekend, but my wife drew the short straw this time. She actually knew some people there so it wasn’t quite as weird for her.

Momentous Moments This was kind of a snarky post that came from the realization that Alaina had written “Dad” on an etch-a-sketch, but  it was purely by accident. I’m still proud of all her accomplishments.

Church This post was about our desire to get the teenager involved in “positive” activities. She still attends the same church and Youth Group. I don’t know what ever happened with the boy.

Shilling vrs the Trolls The first time I used sports as inspiration for a post, I wish I’d split this one into two. My thoughts about Internet safety and the teenager get lost in the story about Curt Shilling. I actually tried to get him to re-tweet this, but he didn’t bite.

House Arrest This post suffered the lack of a good title and the fact that everyone else was also sick of the long winter we had. Nobody wanted to read my bitching about it.

A Little Obsessive  By far my least read post, but I still like it.  Its about my daughter’s inheritance of my borderline OCD.  She still keeps the house pretty tidy.

Self Esteem  I’m still really proud of this one. It was the first time I’d done any research for a post and is about how important self-esteem can be, particularly for teenage girls. I still occasionally push it on twitter or blog link-ups.

Play With Me! The first time I really used pictures to further a narrative.  Thankfully, Alaina is much better now about playing by herself. I still spend a lot of time playing, but with the nicer weather, we spend much more time outside than on the floor. I still get Batman.

Cartoons The first of my “old man” rants, about how much better the cartoons were when I was a kid.

Sneakers and Wings A quick read about a day out with the teenager. It’s still hard to find time alone with her, but we manage to sneak in lunch or a movie when we can.

No Shenanigans on my watch I talk about the reasons why the teenager will never be allowed out on nights that are “drinking” holidays.

Rude Awakenings A funny story about my little “miss independent.” It’s still a battle to try and get her to come and get me when she wakes up in the morning.

 

 

 

Puff Puff Pass

 

It’s not always possible, but whenever we can my wife and I try to screen pop culture before the teenager is exposed to it. We let her watch The Walking Dead, but not American Horror Story. We’ll buy her the Maze Runner books but want her to stay away from Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s an impossible task to try and shelter kids in an age where everybody carries 24/7 porn access in their pocket, but we’re determined to try and shield her from as much of the world’s depravity as we can manage.

One of her favorite movies of the past few years was 21 Jump Street, so we recently watched the sequel in anticipation of her wanting to see it a few dozen times. I’m assuming that Channing Tatum has as much to do with her appreciation of these movies as the comedy. There are several humorous moments in each, but they seem to be trying to find a middle ground between Adam Sandler style slapstick and the dick jokes of a good Judd Apatow film. It never really fits together into a cohesive movie.

 

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I understand that I’m not in the target demographic for the Jump Street movies. I found the jokes lazy and borderline offensive in their homophobic undertones, but there was no graphic sex or nightmare inducing violence that would have us discourage her from watching.

My real concern with many of the comedies being marketed to teens today is the way drug use is portrayed. Once again the main characters inadvertently ingest hallucinogens and there is a several minute montage of them seeing rainbows and unicorns, skipping around and giggling until the effects wear off, seemingly without side effect.

I’m not a prude by any means. I love Game of Thrones and own all the Saw movies. When I was Kayla’s age I was listening to the angry young Ice Cube, not this cuddly caricature that she knows him as.  My friends and I snuck into movies we weren’t supposed to see and bootlegged cassettes of inappropriate music.  I have no illusions that she isn’t doing the same.

 

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But I’d really prefer movies to go back to depicting drug use as they used to.  Pot smoking was used as a very successful comedic tool, but Jeff Spicoli and Cheech and Chong were idiots. It was clear that they were idiots because they smoke too much doobage.  Cocaine was something that the “messed up friend” did, like Jules in St Elmo’s Fire.  Less than Zero, Bright Lights, Big City and Drugstore Cowboy all had us terrified of addiction.

Maybe it was just the times we grew up in. The crack epidemic and associated violence and inner city disintegration made drugs a hard thing to try and glorify. It was something we were raised to fear, like nuclear annihilation and the AIDS virus.  I try to be honest about whether or not I may or may not have inhaled in high school, but also tell her about the terrible things I’ve seen happen to those who go further.

I want her to be afraid. The number of deadly drug overdoses in America has increased for eleven straight years, despite the increased use of Narcan and other therapeutic drugs that are used to counter the effects of opiods. I work in a hospital as an X-Ray technologist.  I’ve personally seen about a dozen kids in just the past month brought in for overdosing on K2, synthetic marijuana.

I can promise you that they were not seeing rainbows and unicorns.

 

 

Nitey-Night Time

 

Another birthday will be upon us soon, with the usual lamentations about how quickly time goes by. My little girl will be four in a few weeks, meaning that she no longer fits even the loosest definition of a “toddler”. I’ve seen the next developmental stage described  as either “early childhood” or “pre-schooler”, but if you ask my daughter she has been a “big girl” for quite a while now.

It’s easy to look back at baby pictures and miss the early days, but I’ve found a good night’s sleep to be the best cure for that “new baby smell” yearning.

Every parent-to-be thinks that they understand how much their sleep patterns are going to be disturbed and thinks that they can handle it. I think most would later look back and laugh at how naive they were. There really is no advance preparation for the grumpiness, lack of focus, and even depression that sleep deprivation can cause.  It leads to forgetfulness and impaired judgement at a time when these things are the most crucial. Besides the spit stained shoulders, sallow skin and puffy eyes are the easiest ways to identify somebody with an infant at home.

Parents may have a different answer for their “proudest” moment, but “happiest” for most is going to be the first time little precious slept through the night somewhere besides the living room floor.

 

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Now that my parenting thoughts and opinions are available over the internet, I find myself often giving unsolicited advice to new parents. Most of this is either complete hogwash or blatant common sense, but the one thing I do stress often is the importance of keeping sleep routines constant. The levels of crankiness for both child and adult are directly proportional .

 

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As is often the case, these lessons were learned the hard way. When Hurricane Irene left us without power for a week in August of 2011, we spent three days miserable and used $100 worth of gas the next four so that my my daughter could nap in her swing.  After a family vacation in 2012 that consisted mainly of us being terrorized by an overtired toddler for a week, we spent the following summer’s holiday in a cottage forty-five minutes from home. The reason? So the little princess could be driven home for naps. Anybody currently thinking my daughter must be terribly spoiled has never been around a two year old that hasn’t slept in a week.

 

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She’s gone from crib to toddler bed to twin and the routine has pretty much gone unchanged. At 6:45 she puts on her PJs and cleans up her toys. This is followed by 15-20 minutes of sitting calmly on the couch, often with a sippy cup or small glass of milk. By 7:20 she is headed upstairs to brush her teeth and go potty. We read her a book and she then “reads” it back to us. She gets one stuffed animal to sleep with and the lights go out at 8:00.

None of this is particularly radical or ground-breaking, but it’s worked for us for the past three years. Variation tends to lead to difficulty and repeated trips to her room.

It’s a shame everything else can’t remain as constant.

 

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Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms