When I Was Your Age…

When I was younger, I can remember making fun of my parents when they’d tell stories about how things were when they were kids. Now, I’m afraid my kids might be doing the same thing to me. I can remember the one year when there was no school bus service due to budget cuts. I had to ride my bike or walk to school every day of my fifth grade year. Now my kids complain if they have to wait for a few minutes at the bus stop. But when I go to tell them how hard I had it (it wasn’t barefoot, uphill both ways in the snow like MY parents had, but still), I have to stop myself. I find myself sounding too much like my parents did and, frankly, it creeps me out!

Pictured: My parents school commute (why hadn't they invented shoes yet???).

Is that just a natural part of life? It reminds me of the words of Job in the Bible (taken totally out of context): “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25 – NIV). I know that’s not what Job was talking about (imagine Job’s “When I was your age” speeches to HIS kids), but that’s how I feel.

Every day when I look in the mirror, I see fresh signs that I’m not in my twenties anymore. I have to put my glasses on first to see it, but there are speckles of gray in my once dark brown hair. I have these few stubborn hairs in the direct center of my goatee (subtlety isn’t my facial hair’s strong suit) that are gleaming white and seem to grow faster than any others. I have these creeping lines in my once smooth skin.

Do I fear getting older? No. But it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. I’m not going to be one of those guys who tries to fight it though. I’m not going to dye my hair or Just for Men my facial hair. I’m going to accept the natural changes as they come. Sure, I’m working on losing some weight, but I’m not going to Botox or lift any part of my body.

Do I feel old? No, I’m only 33 after all. I don’t really know what happened to all those years. I can hardly believe that this year marks 16 years since I graduated from high school. Next year, I’ll be twice the age I was at graduation!

Now, I can hear you thinking, “Come on Mike, this is a blog about being a Daddy to five kids. We don’t read this to hear you talk about how old you’re getting.” But, that’s just the thing. As I reflect back on the past twelve years since my wife and I got married, I’m amazed at how quickly it has gone. It is true what they say: Time Flies!

Time flies

It has machine guns too!

So, as I look in the mirror and notice all the evidences of my advancing age, I turn around and look at the five kids I have. I know beyond a doubt that I’ve earned each and every gray hair. I can smile and know that each of those gleaming white hairs in my goatee represents one of my children. I can know that those lines were earned smiling and laughing (and sometimes frowning) at all the things my kids do. And my eyesight…well, that’s just genetics! So, your attitude about aging is really up to you. You can lament your fading youth, or embrace it – you have earned it!

Until next time…

Which Way Did He Go???

Perhaps you’ve seen the old Merrie Melodies cartoon “Of Fox and Hounds” featuring the character that said, “Which way did he go, George?” If not, you can watch it here in its entirety.

Proof that violence in cartoons is definitely NOT a new thing...

In this cartoon, you see this overly stupid hound dog fox hunting. He’s so unintelligent, he runs up to the fox (named George) and asks him if he has seen a fox. He tells him the fox went the other way. So he runs off, gets injured, and then figures out it was the fox the whole time. He then runs into a fox in a painfully obvious hound dog costume (zipper visible), who identifies himself as George also. He tells him the fox went the other way. The scene repeats over and over again. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. If not, watch it at the link above.

Not that this has anything to do with my post, but it does. As a parent with multiple children, too often we get so busy and so wrapped up in the craziness of life, we can hardly seem to find ourselves. It’s so bad that when we are without children for a day (where did those kids go?), we barely know what to do with ourselves. We sit, eerily spooked by this new-found thing called silence. We look at each other and try to figure out what exactly it was we did before we had kids. It’s a very odd experience.

We know we used to be individual people. We know we used to have hobbies and friends. But somehow, all that stuff got swallowed up by our life with children. The single people we used to hang out with just don’t seem to get us anymore. The married couples who haven’t been “blessed” with children yet seem too put together for us to relate. So, here we are all by ourselves – no kids – and we can’t think of a single thing to do.

So, what usually ends up happening is we do the one thing we can’t do when kids are around. No, not THAT thing…we sleep. Sleep is the first piece of normalcy that disappears upon having your first child. I’m told that eventually you’re able to sleep again, but I don’t think I’ve had a solid eight hours of sleep in nearly eleven years, so I’ll have to take their word for it. I guess I’ll believe it when I see it.

How is it that who we are gets swallowed up by our kids? What happened to all the stuff we used to do? Surely those pieces must exist somewhere? Surely there must be some shred of who we once were somewhere in there?

Pictured: Life With Children.

Perhaps once your kids are teenagers, a shred of normality returns? But then there are dances, dating, and driving. The dreaded triple “D” of parenthood! How can you sleep with all that going on? Sure, maybe your kids can drive and be more independent, but, really, should they? From what I’ve heard from parents of teenagers, life gets even more hectic once they get a little older. I don’t know if I can even fathom MORE hectic. My heart skips a beat even thinking of it.

My only solace is that someday, when all my kids are adults with jobs and families, I’ll find myself again. I’m sure I’m in here somewhere. And, if I recall, I was a pretty cool person (it was 2001, so my memory is kind of fuzzy)! If I’m still blogging in sixteen more years, maybe this will become a “finding myself again” blog. Time will tell.

In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny

Until next time…

Say What?!?

My wife and I were relaxing watching TV on this wonderful Friday afternoon, when our four year old, Seth, burst into the living room freaking out. He shouts,”YOU HAVE TO COME HELP!!! THEY ARE PUTTING IN A SCARY MOVIE AND I DON’T LIKE IT! IT HAS A BLACK PERSON AND IT’S SCARY!!!”

I went to check out the “scary” movie. It was Meet the Robinsons. He was scared of the man in the bowler hat…who DRESSES in all black. Too funny!

image

The face of fear.

As a parent, you have to learn the art of masking laughter. There’s pretending to be in deep thought and bowing your head. There’s turning your laugh into a fake cough. Maybe you have other methods. Would love to hear them.

But sometimes you are so caught off guard and you totally lose it. You can’t help but laugh out loud. Today was one of those. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.

Until next time…

Short-Term Memory Loss

Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of the night, something in the mind of a child seems to reset. I’m convinced they forget every single thing that occurred in the previous 24 hours while they sleep.

Every morning, I wake my kids up for school. And every morning, it’s like I have to remind them of every single step of getting ready in the morning. They seem in awe at the fact that they have to wear pants. They don’t understand why I get frustrated at the blank stare I receive when I tell them to put their shoes on. Each morning, it’s like they’re doing everything for the first time in their lives and don’t have the faintest clue what to do next. “You mean I have to get dressed today?” “What?!? There’s school today?!?”

Like this, only without penguins and a German she-male.

And while I’m on the subject of shoes, why is it that kids never seem to have a clue where their shoes are? You know that you designated a place for them to put their shoes when they take them off. You know that no one else wore their shoes yesterday. You know it, and yet they seem convinced that in the night, some being of darkness must sneak into our house for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc upon their shoe collection and ruining the morning.

But the more I think about it, I think it must happen more than just at night. Think about it. You know they spend six to seven hours of their day in school. You know they learned things. You know they had recess. You know their teacher talked to them. But every day, you ask them how school was. Their response, “Good.” So, like the good parent you are, you ask them, “What did you learn?”

Easy question, don’t you think? But without fail, their answer is always, “I don’t know.” So, you press them for clues. “What did you do at school today?” They reply, “Uhhh…umm…I had a corn dog for lunch!”

You, as the good parent, keep searching for any hint. “What did your teacher talk about?” Blank stares, followed by, “I don’t remember.”

You know your children have just spent approximately half of their waking hours at school. But for whatever reason, they have no recollection of anything that occurred during that time. What exactly do they do at school?

I'm guessing it looks something like this.

So, they wake up each day and have no clue what they need to do to prepare for the day. You send them on their merry way to school, and when they return home, they have absolutely no clue what their day consisted of. And then it comes time for bed. They seem surprised every night when the same time rolls around and you tell them it’s bedtime.

Either their memory is like an etch-a-sketch, or the Men in Black are sneaking in and wiping their memory with that little pen thing.

Whatever the cause, this leaves us, as parents, feeling like we’re stuck in a different film:

Yep, this is my life.

Until next time…

Dealing with Tweens

A few years ago, this word “Tween” popped up. For those of you who might not know (or have lived under a rock for the past decade but are mysteriously familiar with the workings of the internet), a “tween” is a child who is out of the “kid stage” of life but not quite a teenager. In looking up the term, it is used to refer to kids as young as eight, but in my mind, a tween is a kid that has hit the double-digits but isn’t yet 13.

By the accepted definition, our oldest two children are tweens. But by my definition, only my daughter, Oriyah, is truly a tween. This may differ from child to child, but Joey, my nine-year old is very much still a kid. Oriyah, on the other hand, has entered into the true no-mans land of tween-hood.

According to an image search, a tween is someone with an extremely dysfunctional sense of what the word "fashion" means.

As we were walking into our local Wal-mart tonight, she says to me, “Well, Dad, I guess I’m a tween now.” It was just a very matter-of-fact statement of how she sees herself. And I guess, in a sense, it’s true. She has started having little mini-teenage attitudes at times. She’s starting to get annoyed sometimes when we ask her to help with her younger siblings. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Oriyah is a wonderful person and she is a big help around the house. I’m just starting to see little bits of teen-ness starting to peek through.

As a Dad, this makes everything in me start to panic a little bit. The idea that my daughter is going to start being interested in boys (or probably already is) freaks me out. (The realization that boys are going to start being interested in my daughter, on the other hand, makes me want to start purchasing high caliber sniper rifles and start taking training courses in Ju Jitsu or something).

As far back as recorded time, kids have always wanted to grow up faster than they ought to. But for some reason, it seems to me that kids are trying to grow up so much faster these days. Maybe it’s all the technology. Maybe it’s media-driven. Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older.

When I was 10, there was no such thing as a “tween.” You were a kid and did kid stuff, and then one day puberty hit, and suddenly you were a teen. There was no in-between. Kid…BOOM…teen. End of story. Does anyone have any insight as to where this notion that we need such a thing as tweens came from? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

For now, I’m heading out to line the perimeter of my yard with razor wire…my daughter is growing up!!!

Until next time…

I’m reposting this from another blog I follow. Check it out!

Becoming Cliche

 

I like watching movies with my kids. Who wouldn’t? A cold, rainy afternoon simply begs to be spent under the covers watching a treasured classic. As I dust off the old favorites, I’m finding I get a lot of questions. And some of them are a little hard to answer. I am at a loss as to how I should explain the following:

***Spoiler Alert***

The Road to El Dorado– This is an older DreamWorks production (2000AD) with stylized animation and a fabulous Hans Zimmer soundtrack. A star-studded cast, it’s well-acted and often funny. It’s rated PG. For human sacrifice. Thumbs up, DreamWorks.

Toy Story III – A continuation of the story of Buzz and Woody. Except this time, they’re abandoned by their beloved Andy and are eventually taken to an incinerator where the characters say goodbye to one another in  anticipation their fiery end. Sweet dreams…

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Survival Tip #4

It’s Monday. I can remember back to the days of being a kid. Saturday morning would come and I could hardly get out of bed fast enough. There were cartoons to watch!!! I’d tear out of my bed faster than a cat trying to avoid a bath (trust me, that’s fast)! I’d flip on the TV and turn the volume down as fast as I could so I wouldn’t wake up my parents (that’s something my kids haven’t learned yet, I guess). And I’d turn the channel to the USA Network, ready to take in what they referred to as the “Cartoon Express.”

Cartoon Express: One of the few good things to come out of the 80's!

These days, however, there is no tearing out of bed Saturday morning for me. There is no racing to the TV to see what I’d be missing if I had slept in. No, sadly that eagerness has been replaced with the adult (boring) habit of attempting to sleep in. I say attempting because it rarely ever happens.

One thing I fail to understand is that the same kids you literally have to threaten to get out of bed for school each morning mysteriously can’t seem to sleep past the first hint of sunlight come Saturday morning. I guess I could understand it if the Cartoon Express still existed…heck, we don’t even have cable!

So, with that in mind, I present…

Survival Tip #4: Learn to ENJOY the Weekend

Monday through Friday I’m awake before 6:00 AM. Sunday I’m up around 7:00 to make sure we make it to church on time (five kids take time to get ready!). So, when Saturday rolls around, my natural instinct is to cling to every last bit of sleep I possibly can. Unfortunately, as I mentioned about, those natural instincts are usually destroyed disturbed by the results of some other natural instincts.

So, since sleep isn’t really an option, why not enjoy the weekend? Hang out with your kids! Do something fun!

I can hear you saying now, “But Mike, I have five kids. I can’t afford to do anything fun!” Hey, I have five kids too, I know how it is. But your idea of fun (fun=expensive) doesn’t equal your kids idea of fun (fun=cardboard box or fun=making strange noises). Make sure you’re not so eager to cross things off your to do list that you just leave your kids to do whatever they think is fun on their own. Odds are anyway that their idea of fun will be to be directly in the way of your idea of productivity (more likely, their idea of fun will be to destroy everything you’ve accomplished).

Saturday is most likely the only day you’ll get in a week to have fun. Sure, you might squeeze something in on an evening somewhere. But bottom line is, you’re usually too wiped out to try to have fun on a weeknight. So, next Saturday, take your family and do something fun. It can just be running around in the yard. It can be having a family movie day in front of the TV. It can be whatever your imagination can dream up. Kids are entertained very differently than you, so just make sure you’re doing something to recharge your emotional and physical batteries.

And if you don’t get Saturdays off, pick another day of the week to be your fake Saturday. You need it. Your kids need it. Your health and life depends on it.  Am I typing this as someone who has been great at doing this? No!  It’s more like I’m preaching to the choir here! It’s something I am going to try and be more purposeful about.

So go, enjoy your day off and have fun.

Until next time.