I’m married to Forrest Gump

All credit to my wife, she really does not get excited over celebrity.  And frankly, I don’t either for the most part. I will admit to freaking out a tiny bit when I saw Harrison Ford walking on the Upper East side at 6:30 in the morning.  Smaller than I thought and not particularly fetching in his workout leggings, but good lord, it’s Han Solo.

However, since event planning is a part of her career and was a major part when in New York, she has met some notable people, but now they seem increasingly more political.  As I add the latest to the wall of fame, I now have a shot of her with Gene Wilder, Rudy Giuliani, Chief Justice Sam Alito and now Mr. Attorney General –  Eric Holder.

Laura with the Attorney General

My latest accomplishment? Glad you asked. I just finished assistant coaching Henry’s U-8 soccer team.  It was a lot of fun as the kids at this age actually begin to show improvement and some basic understanding of the game, as opposed to the intro-level soccer, which was the proverbial cat herding.  And imagine my surprise when I received my first ever coach’s gift – a certificate usable at many of our downtown establishments.

Didn't my old paychecks used to have a few more zeroes at the end?

But of course the grass is always greener.  Laura would much rather be spending time with the kids (although soccer is not her thing) and I actually would rather be working.  I often wonder if mom’s who stay at home would rather be at work or stay at home. I think it depends on whether you worked or not before the infestation of children.  One of my sister-in-laws would definitely much rather be working.  The phrase ‘suburban-mom-stay-at-home-hell’ is never far from her lips.  But other moms I know seem very happy and content just staying home and running the house and the kids.

I worked for several years before the kids and for the most part enjoyed it.  And for the first 3 or 4 years with two boys 16 months apart, I probably would rather have been spending some weekends at Gitmo as a nice vacation from the endless cycle of pooping-laundry-cleaning-crying cycle.  But now, this whole pick up at the bus, coaching soccer thing isn’t too bad.

Especially when you are married to Forrest Gump.

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The most important thing to know when visiting New York with small children is….

Well thats easy, where to find a clean (and free) public bathroom.  We used to live in Manhattan and even after residing there for 6 years, it was still a pain to try to find a decent bathroom without having to drop $5.95 on a bottled water in some dingy corner store.  Seriously, good idea here peeps, someone should write a tourist guide to New York that shows where to find a good bathroom, it would be gold, especially for parents of young kids.

Unfortunately, the longer you live outside of Manhattan, the more you lose your street smarts about quickest routes to take, when to cab / when not to cab, what to pack, etc…  So as we boarded the train from Katonah, I was busy reviewing all of our supplies for the 6 hour or so visit and mentally trying to picture how to get the boys from there to here without losing anyone or getting runover. Especially when you are dealing with this in the city and on the subway:

Pharoah Henry

Jackets – check.  Small amount of cash – check.

But just as suddenly, my head starts throbbing and I think, where in the hell are these kids going to take a crap?  Especially Turner, the poor kids likes to totally strip down to his birthday suit when he has to go.  The thought of him dropping trow in most NYC bathrooms makes my stomach knot.  Just burn those clothes, please.

But luckily, the train was my first clue.  We’re getting off at Grand Central Station, right? They may not be super clean, but they should be ok (no standing water, etc…) at this time of day and we don’t have to buy anything to use them.  Perfect, boys are good for another hour or two, hopefully.

Next stop is the part at Uncle Henry’s rectory.  This is a dream.  A super duper clean, and possibly holy, bathroom for the kids.  The party is from 12 to 3 and I think I made them go at least three times knowing its not getting any better than this.  After this, lets hope for a calm subway ride to the Times Square Toys R Us.

Ruler of the subway

Finally, after a few video games and a couple of slices of pizza, we head back to Grand Central with both boys in tow and no accidents to speak of.   So of course we go right back to the same bathrooms from the morning and wow, thats a lot of water on the floor and of course the boys are happily stomping in it….

GET OUT OF HERE

Naturally, every one in the area stares at me like I’m nuts, but they don’t know how fast the guys can get really filthy in a situation like this.  Luckily, the East Wing bathroom is better, we get in and out and everyone passes out on the train.


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Zen Furniture – Is it really a couch if no one can sit on it?

Is this a couch?

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? Someone much brighter than I theorized this many years ago and honestly, I really can’t add much to that metaphysical /  philosophical discussion.  However, I do have a modern-day discussion that to me has more significance.

Quick back story – Laura and I are both fairly opinionated on many things and as we moved into our first home together, we unfortunately discovered we were / are both VERY opinionated on decor.  I don’t know what I like all the time, but I always know what I really don’t like. Laura, god bless her, has wonderful fantastical ideas about decor – a four-post bed with a canopy / tent top to give off an arabic air or painting just one wall a certain way.  Many of these are too far out for me and / or I honestly think it will look great for 3 months, good for another 2, ok for one and then drive me nuts for eternity.  So, after several years we have pushed / pulled, yin /yanged and finally reached a current détente knowing things that are totally out of the question, so we don’t even try.  As always, pick your battles.

In the past year or so, I’ve almost agreed to everything Laura has suggested either not wanting to argue or she finally has found a great middle ground between her flair and my slightly more conservative sense of style.  And I’ll say one thing she’s given in on comes in regards to utility. I have given her artistic vases that she initially refused to put flowers in, but finally caved.  She argues art, I say, why not use it.  (Some, like the Chihuli, she still refuses to use and has it sitting on the mantle like the egg from Risky Business). Later, I gave her this lovely bowl, but she really seemed shocked when I served a trifle or some other desert in it.

Art or utility?

Flash forward to about a month ago.  We’ve been re-doing our master bedroom for the third time in 7 years, at least we re-painted for the third time in 7 years and now seemed to have a bit of good mojo in terms of finding comforters that match drapes that match furniture that match walls, etc…  Either forgetting my ‘buy to use, not to look at rule’, being overly confident in her new-found position of designer in power,  being somewhat deceived by a website, or probably some combination of the three, she decides to buy a ‘decorative’ couch.

Me: “Whats a decorative couch?”

Laura: “It’s an accent piece.”

Me: “Yeah, I sort of get that, but we can use it right?  We can sit on it and read a book or whatever, right?”

Laura: “Of course, it’s a couch.”

Me: “Ok, that sounds good, I’ve always wanted a chair or a loveseat to put in here so I can read and not just fall asleep in bed by 8:15.  Should be nice.” Pretending to be excited, I sense something in her tone that makes just a wee bit cautious.

So a few days later, a smallish box arrives and I call her to tell her the good news.  She’s excited, so I’m happy, but a bit leery at the small size of the box.  Either I have to put it together, or it’s really small.   Or I find out, both.  The couch, if you want to call it that, was easy to put together, but the size of the box and the tone of her voice betrayed her and I was right to suspect some skullduggery on her part.

Please take two seconds and look at the couch at the top of the blog again.  Pretty, right? Matches the room, nice accent pillow, all that good stuff.  Now look at the couch.

WTF?????

Either I am some sort of giant, or this is the most ridiculous stupid couch in the world.  Are you serious? It’s like a foot and a half high.  I’m only 5′ 8″ and I look like Manute Bol or Andre the Giant on this thing.  I tried laying on it, no good.  I tried sitting on it and it’s almost as uncomfortable as one of those awful “WC’s” you are forced to use in Europe.

So there it sits, a couch that is absolutely perfect for our little french bulldog Franklin, our cats and absolutely nothing else.  I can’t even pawn it off on our boys who at 5 and 6 are already too big for this completely absurd waste of materials.  The only thing Laura has going for her is I’m too cheap to throw something out that is brand new and I’m waaaaay  to embarrassed to try to give this away.  This is a new low, literally, like waaaaay to low to the ground to be a freaking couch!!!

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Mother’s Day Realized

Well she got it – sleeping in (although with two of the dogs), newly cleaned and stained deck and a nice dinner of pasta and grilled asparagus. Happy Mother’s Day!

Sleeping in with the girls

newly stained deck

et voila - dinner

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Mother’s Day Edition

First of all happy Mother’s day to all the moms out there.  While its tempting to discuss how this is just another Hallmark holiday that has been co-opted by the candy industry, you won’t find that here.  No, this is one blogger that gets it, the stay at home dad.

Unfortunately, Mother’s day is oddly enough a bit more difficult to do something nice for your wife and / or mother of your children if you are a stay at home dad.  I imagine that many father’s will do something nice like cook for their wife or maybe even help with some of the daily chores so she doesn’t have to life a finger.

However, since I cook most nights (editor’s note, my wife is a better cook, but just based on scheduling, I cook more than she does) and since I do the majority of the drudgery at home – laundry, vacuuming, pet duties, more laundry, bathroom cleaning, did I mention laundry yet?  These types of chores don’t have as much meaning for her as they would for some, it’s just part of my job.

And since she earns the paycheck, any sort of gift over a certain amount of money is usually discussed and thus ruins any surprise.  Plus after 8 years of marriage, getting jewelry is a bit excessive for Mother’s day and my wife, while delightedly surprised, is not expecting or needing anything along those lines.  And while she says a card is all she wants, I feel crappy just getting her a card.  But at this point, I also have to get a card from each of the boys, so three card minimum is the beginning.  And speaking of the boys, instead of possibly a day off from them, she definitely wants to spend it with them, so me taking them out isn’t usually an option either.

So, what to do?  Of course sleeping in is step one.  Breakfast, maybe, but she really likes to cook brunch and does a very nice brunch.  So what I’m usually left with is a big project and a special meal or a favorite meal of her choosing.  Cleaning the basement won’t do, its big, but not special. Maybe planting a tree or a shrub, but by May, most of our new plantings are in the ground.  So something that is qualifies as a special project, but somehow has a cleaning angle to it (for some reason, cleaning is a huge turn on for her – is it for other women?)….

So this years winner – redoing the back deck.  It has the cleaning element since I have to power wash the deck, but then the “shiny quality’ as I have to stain it.  So, I’ll spend my mother’s day weekend working on the deck, which will then be beautiful for whatever special meal I have to come up with on Sunday so we can eat outside on the new deck.

Any suggestion for that perfect meal?

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Yes, Darth Vader is dead.

So many chattering monkeys in my head upon the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death.  Relief, joy, vengeance, an unexpected great amount of sadness, wondering what we learned after nearly a decade since September 11, 2011.

As parents know, once you have children, you suddenly see the world through their eyes, at least part of the time, but hopefully on the big occasions.  This and another couple of daily philosophies have helped form some of my thoughts on this occasion.  One being, be the person you want your children to be, one of Laura’s tenets.  Another, this one is a big one for me, sleep on it.  If something makes you mad, or if you really want to buy something or you have any potential irrational emotion or impulse, sleep on it and see how you feel the next day.  Lastly, how to make this a teaching moment for our 5-year-old and 6-year-old, who can’t possibly fathom the depth of emotional and historical significance of this week.

As for my emotions, I was initially relieved, excited and fascinated at the actual mechanics and planning of the daring raid.  This was coupled with immense pride at our soldiers, a well deserved tip of the cap to our commander-in-chief and an immediate sense of relief.  “Finally, finally, he’s gone”.

But being a male who lived in New York and saw the second jet hit the tower with his own eyes, my thoughts quickly turned to the end of the Godfather when Michael Corleone took out the heads of the five families.  Iran, take out their nuclear sites, Libya, get Qadhafi out, Syria, tell Assad he has 10 minutes to pack and go.

But those thoughts quickly faded as the commentary on the nearly decade long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reminded me the futility of occupation 10,000 miles from home.  And the recent events of the Arab Spring with peaceful demonstrations show that democracy can’t be forced, but can be implemented by its people.

And then suddenly, I see on the tv, college students celebrating everywhere and I think, do they even remember 9/11, how old were they?  And then I remember being 8 or 9 in the early 80′s and being terrified of nuclear war and the Russians.  Perhaps, sitting at home in Nebraska as an 8 or 9-year-old and seeing those towers fall was even more terrifying than being 50 blocks away.  Suddenly, your parents are afraid and they are never afraid.  Could this happen to us, could someone bad come and get us? And now, the greatest childhood monster from under the bed, or hiding in the closet is no longer there and yes, lets drink and cheer USA USA USA.

But when you are 5 and 6, you are able to understand basic concepts like good and evil, just not the depths of those forces and the potential ramifications of actions.  As my son’s soccer coach and I discuss each week at practice, we almost feel its necessary to try to teach them something about the game, but we also want it to be fun and not get in the way of a bunch of 6 year olds running around.  So with this news, I spent a good part of my day postulating on the proper tone to teach them about this event. I want them to realize its a big deal, but don’t want to scare them needlessly about things they can’t understand at this point in their lives.

After turning the tv off, I sat down for dinner and not surprisingly, the topic of discussion is Star Wars.  But before I could finish rolling my eyes, I decided to listen instead of butting in and heard my wife and Turner have the following conversation.

Laura: “A very bad man was killed today.”

Turner: “Like Darth Vader?”

Laura: “Yes, like Darth Vader.”

Turner: “So, Darth Vader is dead?”

Laura: “Yes, Darth Vader is dead and that’s a good thing.”

Yes, to me, it seems a good thing too.

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Fear the PTO

Today I just got a ton of street cred at our kindergarten.  More on that in a bit.

But first, am I the only one out there that is scared of his / her Kindergarten / Elementary PTO?  I know people fear Google and now Apple too with the iPhone tracking and of course Facebook when it comes to privacy issues, but I tell you its my PTO that scares the hell out of me.

If there is anything nominally related to school, we get two robocalls (three if we had a home phone), at least two emails (most likely more) and probably a weeks worth of handouts in Hank’s folder. It goes from:

“Here’s an announcement that may or may not have some importance” to
“We know you got the first one, but we’re sending along a little reminder” to

“We are going to bludgeon you to death with announcements until you can recite the announcement yourself in your sleep even after two bottles of wine”.

I know.  They do great things. They help run the school.  And we have a wonderful school. They take care of the kids, organize activities, take care of the teachers.  And we have wonderful teachers.  But wow, I fear if I ever crossed them a death squad would know where to find my wife and myself and have us in a sack in the east river in about two and half minutes.  Our bank accounts would be emptied and our children’s memories erased.

They are everywhere and nowhere at the same time and seem to be all smiles all the time.  On the surface, it almost appears cliquish, but more in an evil Stepfordish way.  We recently received a nice note that said something to the effect of, “since you have not been fortunate enough to help in the class, we are giving you FIRST chance of volunteering to chaperone a field trip!”  And you know what it worked.  Getting a chance to spend time with Henry, yes.  Fear of the hidden assassins on the rooftops, yes.

In all honesty, Laura and I would love to spend some more time at school with Henry, but she works and Turner is at pre-school and the schedules are tough to manage.  When they are both there next year, it will be much easier to drop in and help.  But I may have gotten the last laugh today.

For just the second time this year, I decided to drop in for lunch with Henry. I brought Turner along so he could see where he’s eating lunch next year and just for something fun to do.  Suddenly a woman approaches me and tells me she’s doing a film about the ‘typical day in kindergarten’ and is it ok if she films me eating lunch with the kids.

“Heck yeah!”  Now, I have visual evidence that I was here and if I’m ever under that interrogation light with cigarette smoke blown in my face, I can say “look at the tape, I volunteer!”  And during orientation meetings, everyone will get to see me with the kids, eating lunch, having fun.  And all those parents that volunteer all the time will think, “I never got to be in the film”.

Who am I kidding, if it comes to that, I’m pretty sure that tape will have vanished in the night and we’ll be somewhere in Arizona with all the other parents that didn’t volunteer with their PTO.

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