Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Flight Plan

4 May 2012

Dear J-

We found out today that flying with kids us both easier and harder than it looks. It was a surprisingly simple matter of getting to the right places early enough to not be rushed, but then it ended up being a monster task to get them to run all of the itchy feelings out of their system. Still I’m less mystified by the process than before and am reasonably confident that we could make it a little further next time.


Next step: getting them through a long day and then a wedding followed by a reception. I’m surprised by how low the ceiling is on the rental car, though, so if I can make it through tomorrow without concussing myself I think we can do anything.



Compound Interest Time Value of Money

27 December 2011

Dear J-

If I overslept at all this morning it was out of a sense of obligation to the alarm clock: surely it can’t be that time already, i’ll check back in ten minutes and see if I like the answer any better. The strange thing is that after a week and a half of relative sloth I can’t say that the short ration of sleep has really kicked in yet. Just you wait until the end of the week, I promise myself. Is it worth trying to keep up three different blogs as well as my usual consumption of neat stuff on the internet via Google Reader? I have my doubts at the best of times; seeing as how I still didn’t have time to catch all the way up given a whole week off I’m not sure I can sustain this pace.

When you study strength of materials you learn about something called von Mises theory, which states in essence that material’s failure depends on both the axial and shear loads placed on it. In other words, it’s not enough to evaluate the stresses in each axis separately. There’s always going to be demands on my time at work and at home, and it all depends on how much time you’re willing to set aside for yourself. Call it selfish time, call it decompression time, the end result is that you end up taking time away from either work or family. How does that combine? Do you take too much away in one area and leave yourself vulnerable?

At this point, down to one income, we’re finding ways to scrimp and save where we can when we can so we end up taking advantage of free activities (hey, free craft at this store!) and entertainment (the beach, holiday lights) where we can. Yesterday, for instance, we went to see two decorated houses; from the time we pulled out to the time we pulled back in was exactly one hour and it feels penurious to say it, but that too is an investment of sorts. You invest time with these kids to make sure that they’re entertained and it takes a lot out of you. You need the down time to recharge but time spent now is an investment in your relationship to come and I’m planning on using that compound interest someday for their benefit.


Find Your Bliss

15 December 2011

Dear J-

I woke up early enough but managed to hit the snooze button just right (or somehow reflexively used it just enough) to make me a whole hour later where I desperately tried to get out the door fast enough but not before gettting caught by figgy who told me she had to go potty and change her pajamas this made me just late enough to discard any serious notion of riding the bike (which.needs repair again, anyhow — broken spoke) and so of course I kicked me feet a little in a tantrumy protest instead for a few minutes. The pint is that uultimately if I just got up when the alarm sounds I’d have no problem with additional wrinkles to the schedule and that’s my goal (along with getting enough sleep for once) for now.

Years of bad sleeping habits have meant that I’m wholly reliant on naps in the vanpool and elaborate preparations (making lunch the night before, laying things out so I don’t have to fumble in the dark for clothes and wallet) in order to broadcast the responsible punctual adult image. It feels like a sham, though; I catch myself saying “when I grow up …” at least four times a day and I suppose at this age, thirty-six and change, it’s time to put that away. I tell myself that the lessons are not always the ones I overtly sit down and teach figgy and Calcifer, but that they’re sponges who watch what you do and how it’s done and then strive to do it to the best of their abilities. The unspoken lessons by example are the ones I have to watch most.

Someimes I wonder what life would be like without kids but not often; that’s always been in the back of my mind ever since I was twelve or so and heard that my cousin was on the way; hard to believe that she’s twenty-four now and off to grad school; hard to reconcile the adult with the child I remember and I suspect that part of me will always think of figgy and Calcifer as the same too. I wonder what we used to do with all the time we had, I wonder if the these lessons are sticking, I wonder what we’d do without us. It takes me a minute to get calm again but the exercise is worth it: I’ll find peace.



21 May 2011


Dear J-

I suppose that rapture is one of those things you can’t really prepare for: if you’re ready for it and it doesn’t end up happening then it’s probaly not going to happen for you — after all you can’t be so arrogant as to believe you will. You just have to hope, after all. I wasn’t sure if six PM was a matter of your local time or GMT — it doesn’t always make sense for the higher powers to work on your schedule. The right way to live in order to ascend when the time comes is no doubt laid out in religious texts but there’s no guarantees and that strikes me as an engineer as being too inexact. You’ll know you were right when the time comes but until then you have to take it on faith. That’s powerful stuff.

Faith means different things to different people. I take it to mean believing things will turn out as you hope and that’s not enough all the time. Predestination precludes faith, doesn’t it? If you think that you can do all the right things and still get the wrong outcome then what was the use of the faith? Job outlines the requirements of the patient sufferers who have the belief that their struggles do not go unnoticed, their sacrifices not rewarded. I like that idea — yet I can’t believe in it. Call it cynicism or a disturbing lack of faith but it seems too convenient to say that because I don’t believe — secretly or wholeheartedly believe — that’s why it never happens for me.

Besides which I have enough miracles in my life as it is. I strolled them both to the library and that was pretty inpossible to even consider a few months ago. With Calcifer starting in on solid foods and figgy being mostly content to spend time together without too many demands (she can’t be that incredibly demanding for a four-year-old, can she?) we are able to hang together without too much fuss. Faith also means relying on the family to get the right things done and that’s something I can get wholeheartedly behind.


Great Exhortation

20 April 2011


Dear J-

When I was eight and soon after they’d bought the store, my parents showed up at home one day with a brand-new Chevy Van (20, the 3/4-ton model with long wheelbase but not the “maxi” van rear overhang extension). According to my dad the prinary purpose (besides having a second vehicle to tote us kids around) was to support the store with deliveries of groceries from Seattle — gas was cheap enough that it was cheaper to take the ten-hour roundtrip than get a small truck of groceries over the mountains. The secondary purpose reveals just how we were: roughly lagging the times by ten years, wanting to get in on the van customization craze of the 70s, although not with the airbrushed fantasy (van-tasy?) art on the side.

My dad installed wood paneling and floors, cut a small piece of carpet to fit, and built a little bed over the wheel wells in the back — my mom sewed a cover for a piece of foam and eventually we got a permanent sofa installed in lieu of the lawn chairs we had been using, so that we had someplace to sit when in motion and another couple of places to sleep when not. And me? I was there every step of the way — holding lights where needed (all this work was done at night in the driveway) or spotting drill holes (no, a bit more to the right), cutting, prodding, and trying to stay out of the way instead of jumping on everything. There is a small window of opportunity where everything you do is endlessly fascinating to your kids and instead of shrugging them off — which would be easy — to have included their enthusiasm in your activities and I give endless credit to my parents for doing that.

Knowing this, knowing that it’s too easy to absorb yourself in your own activities and try to lock out others thinking that you’d just get it done faster on your own, you have to keep playing the long game instead. What memories do you have of working with your parents? It always made me feel like I was incredibly important, part of a larger whole unit working towards something bigger than what we could accomplish individually. As long as you remember things warmly thirty years on I’m pretty sure you did the right things along the way.


Good Luck

8 February 2011

Dear J-

I saw a skunk this morning on the ride to the vanpool. I’m not sure if it’s the same one that I saw before — let’s say, for the sake of the story, that it is — so let’s call it the neighborhood skunk. It’s not clear if it’s a pet or something wild roaming from its canyon home but this time, instead of lifting its tail in a warning greeting, the skunk continued its rolling gait down the sidewalk, sniffing around at gates and driveways. I thought ha, if it was a black cat then I still wouldn’t have bad luck since our paths are running in parallel, but it’s not completely black, or a cat at all, so this analogy is falling apart immediately. Maybe, I thought, maybe I’ll have good luck instead today. And then just as quickly I realized what good fortune I already have.

Yesterday I got home fairly well-rested — Calcifer has stretched out to four and five hours solidly asleep for at least one chunk of the day, figgy was amenable to suggestion, and no one had to yell to get their point across. As much effort as you put in some days, other days make it seem easy and I find myself thinking that two hasn’t been so bad, why not more kids? Well, between our relatively advanced ages (theVet had to undergo all kinds of additional screenings last time already), the general diffidculty in conceiving the second time (we had gotten several IVF consultations and were about to embark when we found out she was pregnant) and financial means (stretching our dollars over two is easier than over three) there’s all kinds of reasons not to. And yet — I think I’ve already forgotten how deep the sleep deprivation goes now that we’re coming out of that phase (Calcifer is twelve weeks old on Thursday), and we’ve likewise forgotten how much more difficult it is once they become mobile, either crawling or rolling.

All the same I like the idea of three at least in an abstract sense. I can see a day when the youngest would be five and they’d all be happily together. I find myself, when we’re out, counting off the kids and marveling that the bigger families are amazingly well put-together, but that’s no doubt a result of everyone finding a way to make it work together. Yet parenting isn’t always this easy, sunshine and lightness, attentive to your every command. You will wonder if you are maybe the worst parent in the world if your child doesn’t measure up, or misbehaves, or runs contrary to your wishes, and you know what? They will. It is foreordained. But I keep thinking that skunks must crisscross my path all night and while I’m not looking, it’s so amazing.


Three Dots

31 January 2011

Dear J-

Are Mondays easy to bear? There’s no pressure about getting dressed (limited wardrobe means that I have to be vigilant for repeated shirts later in the week), stuff that’s due at the end of the week seems a distant dot on the horizon, and I’m usually able to get up on time after having secured enough rest over the weekend. Sure, there’s work to deal with, but what else am I going to do with my time? If the weekends feel short it’s because we have to cram so much into those two days. Even with theVet finally having Saturdays with us that usually means that we have an extra day to play around San Diego.

I was just realizing yesterday how (relatively) easy it is to take care of Calcifer at this point — he is immobile without us and so, whether carrier or stroller, goes where we direct. Once they get mobile — and verbal, and opinionated — that’s when you need the skills of a hostage negotiator. On the other hand, that’s when the real fun starts. Everyone knows that babies are cute, and sweet, and all kinds of benign cooing, but kids are hilarious even if frustrating. It’s the moments I get to laugh out loud (and I have, often and frequently too) that keep me coming back for more.

Over the weekend I was mentally putting together the number of trips we might have cut out with a family bike on hand. Saturday to the library, one. Later, to Kensington wouldn’t have worked — I have a deep-seated anxiety about crossing I-8 and Mission Valley, both from a traffic view and a geographical one (that’s a big hill). Sunday, to breakfast, nope — same deal with Mission Valley. Later, to Balboa Park, ditto. Finally, out to dinner, yes I suppose so but between traffic and the darkness no one would have enjoyed it I think. Yet perhaps we’d find a way to work around these things, right? It is a lot of money to sink into a vehicle that may not see as much use as you think, so let’s not be hasty.


Honest Company

15 January 2011

Dear J-

It’s clear that our daughter has a busier social life than us, and we’re happy to follow in her wake.  In an awkward twist on a classic, instead of a kids’ table they have parents’ tables at these birthday parties where you try to make small talk and exchange pleasantries with other parents you may not see again for months.  The last couple have been particularly easy for me as I’ve insisted on strapping Calcifer to my front, acting both as barrier and conversation piece:  yes, so new, so new that I don’t want to wake him up, moving along at a joggling pace as the other parents give me knowing looks.

I think part of the imbalance is the schedule we keep:  today, after waking up, breakfast, and vacuuming, we went to the bike shop (I got a replacement stem but not the expertise or tools to fix it) and library (Calcifer asleep this time meant I got to stock up on books), then back for a quick pit stop before heading out for lunch (both kids conked out on the way over, making it an amazingly quiet meal … until figgy woke up) and then over to the party and finally back home in time to walk Oliver and get ready for bed so we can do it all over again tomorrow.  I’m not complaining, mind you — even when we did have the time we spent it by ourselves.

We just have better excuses now.  One of theVet’s friends is getting married soon and there’s a steady drumbeat of anti-child sentiment.  Kids aren’t allowed at the shower (understandable) or at the wedding (bizarre) so we’ll be able to send theVet to one but not the other.  I can see the reason but not the results:  a staid affair attended by adults.  Every wedding I’ve been to has been better with kids, and I find myself seeking out their honest company at parties of all kinds.


New Year

31 December 2010

Dear J-

Yesterday I picked up figgy from daycare for the week, meaning that we take home laundry and completed art projects. Part of the activities yesterday was some sort of New Year’s Parade where the kids must have marched around the playground in the finery they got to take home — in figgy’s case, a glitter tiara and tinsel necklace. That was waiting in easy reach when I got there, and she grabbed them for immediate showing off, but she then continued to point at what they call the Parent Pocket, where important letters and other things to keep out of the reach of children are stashed. I pulled a party horn out and immediately grasped the significance: no other kid had a horn, and no other horns were in the Pockets. As we’re walking out another kid says to us “Wow, you got one that makes noise,” which figgy promptly demonstrated, sounding a note halfway between vuvuzela and dead cat.

Man they hate us. We heard that horn at random intervals last night and periodically throughout the day today.

theVet told me a story yesterday too, where she went shopping at our local mall with Calcifer, having to duck into the Nordstrom’s for a quick feeding and running into other moms-with-small-fry. Said kids were misbehaving and so when privileges were revoked, protested with reproachful looks and quiet words: “But I want to go to the bounce house/to have some candy/to look for toys/etc.” The moms were firm, the children relented, and benefits were restored. Are we therefore doing something wrong, to have grand mal tantrums for the slightest offense or contradiction to figgy’s ways? theVet related these stories in a wondering tone, as though this was the norm for the rest of the world and what we’ve gotten accustomed to — volume carrying the weight of authority and truth — the aberration.

I know that you’re supposed to spend the last week of the year cruising and looking back, reflecting on all the events of the year past — just a few minutes left to run in 2010, who could have anticipated this — but it’s a bit of a conceit that any events would be worthy of celebration anyway. Instead what else is going on right now? Like the past few nights I’m strapped to Calcifer as he settles in for the night (the Baby Björn is by far his third most favorite thing in the world, after mom and milk), looking forward to lying down and knowing I’m not there quite yet, but soon the change in shift will happen and theVet will get up to feed him while I lie down gratefully, exhausted.  Every day is a full day lately, some more than others.

They say that you can’t pick your family but they’re wrong; sure, you can’t pick the family you’re born into, but when it comes time to choose who you’re going to be spending time with — and really, isn’t that a truer definition of family — by the time you’re out of your parents’ house you’re hanging out with people you like and want to hang out with*.  For how prone I am to fits of anger and impatience theVet is there to step in and make us keep our distance, figgy and I, wary cats eying each other for weaknesses in will and stubborn fight until we’re over it.  And though the storms are passing showers, not prolonged monsoons, their brief intensity is enough to spoil hours of quiet togetherness were it not for theVet’s moderating influence.

What we take for granted is often what we miss first if it goes away.  In the dark, with this occasionally screaming demon** I know that it’s not forever.  Yet the crying is enough to drive rational thought away unless cooler heads prevail.  It’s still 2010, and I know how incredibly lucky I am, I’ve been this year — this now is all I need to know, all that needs to happen in 2011 for me to be just as rich and fortunate.


* This does not apply to junior high school, unfortunately.

** Not his fault:  Calcifer’s hitting the six-week growth spurt right on time, which is leading to impossibly small clothes (which he was just swimming in a few weeks ago, wasn’t he?) and short tempers from all.

Shopping Trip

16 December 2010

Dear J-

Picture, if you will, finals week, Fall 1994 semester:  there’s a steady rain coming down the whole time I’m taking tests so on the day I’m finally free I’m sick of the Bay Area and sick of a green December and ready to go home but first I need to get some Christmas shopping in.  At that point I was still doing themed Christmases — and that was the year of the book.  As soon as that last test was over I was out the door and wandering around the used booksellers on Telegraph — Moe’s and
Half Price Books, all right around Dwight and all a mile or so from the co-op where I was living.  When I came back with my treasures, having stretched my forty dollars or so as far as I could — that’s when the real work of packaging and wrapping began; I custom-fitted boxes to each bundle of books over the next few hours, replacing the time I’d usually spend studying with the infinitely more enjoyable task of cutting, folding, and taping.

I’m reminded of that day after today, when we went out and got Christmas errands out of the way.  Cards have been ordered, received, and shipped back out (if we ever get around to efficient solutions I’d have had address labels and a printer too), and we did our kid shopping today, while Calcifer is too young to understand and figgy’s in day care*.  I’m still surprised by how easy it’s been to tote Calcifer around — we hit six different destinations (not all of them stores) without too much difficulty from a demanding newborn.  Sure, he would cry in the car but that $20,000 pacifier would work its magic after a few miles and he’d settle back down, unless hungry.

This week — my last working from home — is winding down and what felt alien at first (the day-to-day operations to keep this household moving) now feels comfortably familiar.  I’m going to miss the morning preparations and bustle as figgy awakens to energize the house, really, the feeling that I’m actually accomplishing something and making a difference instead of flailing at a computer for hours, pulling strings from afar and watching ripples and radar blips.  I’ll have to remember this month off, and remind myself not to go so long between these opportunities:  if it’s only going to be when a kid is born, I don’t know I can wait that long.


* The real trick now is to figure out where to hide the presents, as some of them (easel from IKEA) are pretty big and bulky.  The current default is Calcifer’s closet, as he’s not using it and figgy’s not interested in it.  The next few years should prove pretty interesting.