“Real” is frustrating and slow. But so so much better.

Our “catch.”

Summer is rapidly approaching. I am thinking about what is possible to achieve or what I would like to achieve before it comes and goes. Over the past summer I had a simple goal: I wanted the girls and I to catch some fish*. Berries is all we got. Luckily no one got hooked in the eye. I learned something about prioritizing. Keeping the hooks out of eyes quickly became the priority followed by keeping children out of the pond.  Another big priority was preventing myself from having a temper tantrum about the tangled lines, inability to follow my (overly complicated) instructions, and other impediments to catching a fish that are inherent to attempting to fish with a 2 and a 4 year old.  After a few trips of going to ponds ostensibly to fish only to turn it into a walk around looking for raspberries we dispensed with the fishing all together and went on a purposeful berry walk.

The one on the right was the keeper, we let the one on the left go.

Monkey 1 angling for berries.

Then Nisha baked whatever fruits of our labors actually made it home into a great cake like thing.

Probably much better eating than a muddy water sunfish anyway.

Hooray. So some take aways to influence this summer’s goals:

 

  1. Pick something realistic!
  2. Have a (preferably tasty) back up plan.
  3. Don’t burn the bridge to your back up plan while Driving to Bologna.

 

*We also needed to conduct way too many real estate transactions and move all of our worldly possessions about half a dozen times while not losing all of our sanity. Oh, and then have another child. But catching a fish was a big goal.

Stay at home dad alternative facts: “Doll”

Poor Monkey 2 doesn’t actually have any proper dolls. But…she loves that drill. And so do I. It’s funny how not having to lug and plug an extension cord makes work so much more appealing. It makes me think of all the little impediments that get in the way of incremental progress. Hmm. Ought to do something about those. So far Making a List Of Impediments hasn’t helped.

 

 What you  may not see is that Monkey 1 rests the battery pack on her knee when she uses the drill so that she can steady it. I didn’t teach her that. Kids will find a way to overcome their little impediments. Inspirational.

 

This post brought to you by wonderful neighbors. Both the drill and the fantastic skirt Monkey 1 is wearing originated with friends and neighbors who knew we would put things to use. That has contributed to a virtuous cycle of trying to be as helpful in the neighborhood as possible.  Also it is quite the morale booster to reflect on all of the great things I have received from others (life itself for instance).

Speaking of being thankful for simple things:

Stay at home dad alternative facts: “Scooter”

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Poor Monkey 2 wanted to ride it all the way to the park but she didn’t get past the driveway. She calls it the red scooter.  It is actually called a creeper.*  The creeper isn’t really very effective as transportation.  It is very effective at helping me creep around under automobiles, though and for that I am very thankful.  Funny, it is also an effective indicator of my increasing age/sense. Fifteen years ago Past Me I would have ridiculed future me for wanting wheels and a pad(!) to lay on underneath a car.  Gravel in the back was a point of pride. Past me, you were mistaken**. With a creeper I can even work on a wet cold driveway or even in a light rain.  Brilliant. Added bonus: I can imagine using this as a furniture dolly someday in a pinch. Past me never thought about furniture dollies. Or any dollies, for that matter.

 

*The creeper is probably one of the best worst names for a tool. My favorite worst named tool is actually called a reamer. It sounds awful. It’s what is used to clean out a hole in a tire so you can plug it. BTW, I keep a compressor and a plug kit in the trunk of my car because in many cases I would be able to fix the flat without swapping out the real tire for the donut. I’d rather get back on the road with a real tire. Below is the compressor I’ve had for five years, it is really great. Also, a tire plug kit. I keep the tire plug kit in the compressor bag along with a headlamp and pair of diagonal cutters. Wow. Quite the tangent.

 

** Hey Past Me, you should have bought a minivan instead of that Brand New Truck back in 2002. You never listened to anyone, ever, did you?

A song to bring you back around…

Clearly I haven’t posted much of anything on the blog for months. Throughout this time I’ve been doing lots of other things, but alas, that is not the real reason. The “real reason” is more difficult to overcome than simply being busy. The problem of trying to be perfect. This is the same reason why it might take me twice as long to paint a room as a contractor or twice as long install light fixtures (or outlets, or deadbolts, or smoke detectors…).*  I’ve been trying to be too perfect. That’s a fool’s** errand.  The Avett Brothers have a  great song that sums up how to move past regret.  Enjoy where you’re at!

 

Oh, and another thing. I couldn’t figure out how to share something perfectly so I put it off until it was way too late. I’m a huge proponent of parenting and particularly of converting dads to be stay at home dads. I had the opportunity to share this message on a much bigger platform than my own. Check it out!  So You Want My Job: Stay At Home Dad on the Art of Manliness

 

 

*The one job I do super fast now that I’m back in the swing of things is change diapers. Newborn Monkey #3 is a boy, so it pays to be even faster than before. You only need to get peed on a few times before you learn.

**Any time I hear the word fool I hear this song in my head:

Summer Blur

Summer has been busier than I could have ever expected. I have come to understand the appeal of nostalgia for the past because the past always seems to be the only time that is less busy than now. The past is certainly simpler than the future because the dust has already settled while the future is a swirling, roiling dust cloud about to engulf everything.

 

I have been thinking about dust and simpler times lately, mostly while sanding plaster  doing drywall repairs. My first experience with dust storms was in West Africa but I didn’t really become a dust storm connoisseur until I got to Iraq. Both of those places held simpler times for me, much simpler, even if I failed to recognize it at the time. So now I find myself in the strange position of looking upon those pasts more favorably than when they were futures or presents.

 

Watching a dust storm approach is very interesting. From the ground one has no idea how long it will last. I would wonder whether it was local dust or dust from far away. In Guinea our dust supposedly came from the Sahara. In Iraq I imagined the dust clouds to be trapped with the borders of the country, just pacing around killing time like the hundreds of thousands of Americans. Regardless, life continues within the cloud mostly as it does without and then it passes. Just as the air clears I view that I’ll handle the dust a little smarter next time, mostly by keeping my mouth shut.

Song for an “Aha!” Moment (or a kick in the butt)

I’m fortunate enough to watch my daughters develop their sense of independence incrementally in real time.  Along with those abilities I’m also trying to encourage a healthy (maybe extreme) resistance to negative societal pressure so later on they can be just as insufferable and righteously indignant as me.  Any time I need to feel that thrill of independence and self determination all I have to do is listen to John Butler’s “Used To Get High” and my sense of stubborn resistance to all things negative is renewed. Then I listen to it a bunch more times until the thrill wears off. The irony of being addicted to a song about common addictions in our society is not lost on me.

This song also serves a dual purpose as a kick in the butt to keep fighting the good fight. One of the things I miss about the Marines was the ready proximity of someone to kick my butt anytime the need arose.  I imagine that there are plenty of people willing (itching?) to kick my butt out here in the real world but they don’t express it so readily or clearly as I would like.

Enjoy. (But not too much.)

 

Tuesday 5/24 Vegetables…after an Ice Cream Sandwich at the Beach

Big Kale!

Big Kale!

This afternoon/evening I’ll distribute the epitome of health after having gorged myself on the World’s Largest & Messiest Ice Cream Sandwich at a local inland beach party. The local business improvement district does all kinds of interesting little events and today’s was cooler than most: play beach music on a street corner, toss some beach balls around and have the famous Captain Cookie hand out crack, er, ice cream and cookies to the first 200 people who show up.  Pays to be early!

Life on a Roller Coaster and a Tulip Poplar Update

We all take it for granted that kids, little kids especially, are very emotional. This is an easy situation to under appreciate, for instance, in the car when Monkeys 1 & 2 have decided that however long this ride has been is JUST TOO LONG and there is no way anyone is going to make it to the destination with any semblance of happiness. The overwhelmingly positive side of this “emotionalism” (thank you, Avett Brothers) is that you know these (crazy) people you’re dealing with are sincere. As we grow up as individuals and as a society it seems sincerity has become so un-cool that encountering it in the wild is so rare that it sometimes causes confusion.  Embracing sincerity knocks the built up irony off your emotional edge and brings it back to being razor sharp. Sharp enough to be useful but also sharp enough to cut you again. (Although to muddy this mixed up metaphor even more I’d like to point out that dull kitchen knives are usually more dangerous than sharp ones, likewise for chisels, planes, and saws.)

An odd example: There I am reading a book to my girls, Peace Is An Offering by Annette LeBox. Its my first time seeing this book as it was one that Monkey 2 grabbed off the library shelf for no other reason than that she could reach it.  It’s quite a nice little poem about reaching out to people to make the world a better place and the pictures are nice so we’re all happy. Then I turn another page and get hit in the face with a shovel.  I’m looking at a beautiful illustration of a mother and her two kids looking at the Manhattan skyline from what appears to be Brooklyn. They’re sitting underneath a cherry tree with pink petals, some of which are drifting around them*. The text talks about finding peace even in the wake of tragedy and after the loss of friends. Having never encountered a 9/11 reference in a children’s book before I was stunned. I was also stunned by the enormity of trying to explain why I was stunned, why I was instantly so sad.  How do we explain to the innocent that there is real malice in the world? How do we explain to the very young that their entire world has been shaped by 9/11 and its after effects? I turned the page and rejoiced to see kids skipping around a Maypole.  We’ll have to grapple with the darkness of the outside world later, I guess.

Just about doubled in size so far.

Just about doubled in size so far.

 

In purely optimistic news, our Tulip Poplar seedlings are doing great.  We haven’t had to water them at all given our Deluge for what seems like all of recent history.  We have needed to weed them even though they are in little pots. I’m always impressed with the tenacity of plant life, even if it makes our forest restoration that much more difficult. It’s good to have a worthy opponent.

 

This is how Monkey 2 helps. Take that, Science!

This is how Monkey 2 helps. Take that, Science!