Monday, May 15, 2006

Random weekend moments

Apparently it is true, as we grow as parents so do our super-parent powers.  Science may find labels to categorize what they do not understand, they may call it Mother’s Intuition, but I know the truth now.  I have been gifted. It is a gift that has grown in strength. I believe it feeds on the age-energy of my children. As the boys grow older so do my powers.  Inside of me is a growing force, an untapped wellspring of strength.  I a humble human now possess the power of conspiracy.  Let me give you an example.

Liam is across the park playing street hockey with his buddy. There is very little hockey going on, and a whole lot of head to head discussion.  My parent senses tingle and I head across the park to see what they are up to.  As the boys spot me coming they huddle closer, faint muttering drifting across to me in increased in fervor. As I get closer Liam pops up and says

Liam:     “Dad, J invited me over to watch a movie tonight”
Me:     “oh a movie, do his parents know?”
J:     “yeah, they said it was ok”
Liam:     “Can I go?”
Me:     “What movie?” Liam looks a little crestfallen at this. Hmmm a conspiracy to avoid that question?
Liam:     “King Kong”
Me:      “I dunno about tat movie, I am not sure it is appropriate….”
J:     “It’s PG-13 and Liam has seen all the Harry Potter movies”.
Liam:     “Yeah, and they are all PG-13”
J:     “And so was Spiderman, and that was as well”
Liam:      “And Star Wars and…
Me:      “I get the point boys”.

You think they had this all planned out ahead of time?

So I replied in the age old paternal tradition. "Go ask your mother."

Sunday night we are sitting at the table, supper is almost over and the last dredges of dessert are being consumed. Keegan picks up his bowl and moves it to his face trying to lick it clean.  I look over saying, “Keegan please don’t lick your bowl, it’s not nice manners.”.

He looks up at my face; he looks at Yvonne’s face. He looks back down into the bowl, a small puddle of melted ice cream and brownie crumb mush taunt him from the bottom. He looks back at us with a desperate look of consternation flickering across his features.  His eyes widen and his lower lips pouts forward. His gaze drops back to the hallowed ambrosia in the bowl and I hear a small voice. “Me not know how”.

Yvonne bursts out laughing and that particular lesson in manners  fades away.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

As If

It’s game 5. The Sens are behind 3 games to one in the series. It is crunch time; no mistakes or it is elimination. There are 3 minutes left in the first, the game is tied at 1 apiece. The Sens just got a tough penalty for too many men on the ice and are trying to kill it off. Upstairs my wife is respecting the sacred and hallowed institution of hockey play-offs and is watching the boys, letting me watch the game.

The phone rings. Since Liam is over at his friends place I figure maybe it is them calling and pick up the phone. Turns out it is my sister… dammit she should know better.

We have a little idle conversation as the period winds down, plans for traveling next weekend, why she’s not watching the game, how the kids are doing, why she’s not watching the game, what is the weather like, why is she not watching the game.

The period ends and she gets my full concentration. The conversation occurs as follows

Her: “So I have a question for you.”
Me: “What’s up?”
Her: “C (her son) has a really nice jacket that dad bought for him last year. It is in really good shape, but…”
Me: “But what?”
Her: “It’s a Maple Leafs jac..”
Me: “Not a chance.”
Her: “But it’s reversible.”
Me: “No way, thanks anyway. Do you want him to get beat up? Frick I might as well send him to school in a tutu.”

Gotta run the second period is starting.

p.s. Even though you called during the game I forgive you since you made me laugh. Love you sis.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The New Currency

It seems there must have been a lot of snuggling going on back in the summer of ’97 because all of Liam’s friends have birthdays in the April/May time frame.  For my boys; birthday parties seemed to really increase in terms of numbers around age 5.  I suspect this is mostly due to kids starting school and having a sizable pool of friends to invite.  When I think about this I feel sorry for Keegan who has a September birthday and won’t really know any of the kids in his class well enough to invite.  

A couple of years ago the golden gift was BeybBlades, when they went on sale Y and I would buy them by the case and save them for birthday distribution over the year. After Beyblades it was Battle B’damons and so forth and so on.

These days the modern 8-year-old currency is EB Gift Cards.  These can be used to purchase a fast variety of used video games. It is nice as a parent because you never have to worry about what you are going to buy. Never trying to guess what a kid would like, or worrying another person bought the same gift.  Also there seems to be 4 EB games within a 5km radius of where I work and live.  The downside is that they never go on sale so you are kinda stuck at a base present price for every birthday.

I was out driving at lunch to pick up a game card for tonight’s birthday party when I had this absurd image of an entire economy fueled by 8 year olds. Game cards as currency exchanging hands in a frenzy of buying and selling of used games. Central to this is the Bank of EB, setting commodity rates on the prices of games, announcing rate adjustments to help stimulate the economy.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I am officially old

It’s not like the signs were not on the wall.   We have the grey hairs in the goatee, not to mention the chest, the eyebrow and the “nether regions”. My barber now trims my ear hair during a cut.  I have the whole nose hair thing to deal with.  Add my surly disposition, my need to wear Cardigan’s in the winter and te fact that my age is quickly approaching the big 40.

But to be honest I always felt I was mentally young. I still know all the latest music. I still ca name the Saturday morning cartoons and those little whipper snappers of mine still have not bested me playing video games.

But today my world shattered. As I entered the local recreation center to register the kids for a summer camp there was teenage couple sitting, no sprawled on a bench engaging in some amorous behavior.  And my first thought was… bah, get a room, there is no need for ”Outward Signs of Affection” (thanks Mrs. F. that term will never be forgotten). Worse yet I almost said something to them as they pawed and groped there way to new hormonal heights.

Cripes I am old.

If you build it , they will come.

Boys, boys and more boys, I’ve got lot’s of them. With three very active, very rambunctious boys in my house you can imagine at times things get busy.  This is probably not news to anyone that knows my brood or me.  Life is busy, it stays busy, there is not an end in sight to this busy-ness, but truth be known that’s ok… both Yvonne and I are well aware of what the next 15-20 years of our life is going to look like. With this foreknowledge and a wife that is a planner, and by virtue of marriage, I a planner’s apprentice, we have made plans.

Notice the theme to this week?

We have a plan on how to deal with raising 3 boys in today’s society. The plan is pretty simple, but mostly deals with handling the teenage years.

  1. Keep the boys busy in organized stuff; sports, science club, music whatever. Keep them busy so they are not wandering the streets of suburbia in a testosterone induced haze of bored group mentality.

  2. Make our house the social center of their life, and the lives of their friends. Allow them to have their friends over. Feed their friends; Give them space to hang in comfort and privacy. Give them entertainment.  The idea is, give them a place where they want to hang out and you can keep an eye on them.  If they and their friends are in our basement, or swimming in our pool(future plan), I can see what they are up to. If they are somewhere else I can’t.

Yeah so having packs of teenage boys living in my basement is going to be hard on the furniture, the carpet, my nerves and the drywall (yes mom I remember the damage we did).  Yes, feeding the packs of boys may require me to start having groceries delivered in dump trucks… but if that is what it takes to keep the kids out of trouble then that is what it takes… We are planning for this.

Of course these (at least in my procrastinator’s mind) were always future plans. The pool will be installed in a couple of years. I will finish the work in the basement in a couple of years, I will invest in a fruit orchard , vegetable farm, meat packing plant in the future.

But as I have learned this week my plans do not always go as… well planned.

Yvonne took the day of work on Tuesday to help integrate our new nanny. Liam arrived home from school that afternoon, burst in the door, dropped his school bag and headed to the bathroom while yelling  “HiMomGottaPeeGoingBackOutToPlayHockey” all in a single breath. This is pretty standard after school activity.  While Liam was in the bathroom, Yvonne went to the garage to throw out some garbage. Imagine her surprise when she opened the door to find 3 other boys rummaging around in there.  A familiar face pops out of the “hockey gear bin” and she recognizes one of Liam’s friends. Who promptly says in the same one-breath-rush-of-words, “HiYvonneJustGettingTheHockeyGearReady”.
While at the same time running out the door with the other 2 kids hauling a net, a full set of goalie gear, 3 tennis balls, 4 sticks and what appeared to be 3 sets of roller blades (which I did not know we owned damn garage sale junky wife).

Last night Yvonne picked up the boys early for a Doctor’s app’t. She asked me to whip by the house and pick up a health card prior to meeting her.  When I pulled in front of the house there was a full-scale hockey game going on.  At least 5 kids(none ours), all our gear, the nets, bottles of water… etc. As I get out of the car one of the boys runs up and says “LiamSaidWeCouldPlayHereAndUseHisStuffTillHeGetsBack. WhereIsHe?”.  

There is nothing that occurred that was not part of the plan; boys hanging at our house, boys eating our food, boys using our stuff. I had just figured I had a couple of more years before it happened.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pan A, Plan B, Plan C

This was the plan.

I was going to take the summer off from coaching soccer.  I was going to focus this year on getting my certification for coaching hockey and then put on my coaches at next fall. Part of my reasoning was that Liam’s level of soccer was getting higher than any innate skill or knowledge of the game tat I might have. I also wanted to pick up coaching for Aiden, but at his level soccer is still more of a clinic style rather than practices and games.

It was a good plan… I liked it, meant the summer was going to be more relaxed and I would get the opportunity to watch the games rather than running around keeping the kids focused and chasing the ball.

Like I said that was the plan.

Somehow between here and there I got signed up to be a coach.  I am not quite sure how it happened.  They called me and I said I was not interested in coaching this year… then they informed me that they would be mailing out my team list.  I told them again I was not interested and they started to read off the names on the list to see if I recognized any of them.

Even odder in this whole process was the fact that when all the dust settled it turns out that I am coaching Liam’s team, 1 night a week practice, 1 night a week game and I am also coaching Aiden’s team with the Sat morning timeslot.

Like I said, it was a good plan…

Friday, April 21, 2006

Reflections of a Cloud

I think a good description of my personality can be expressed in a couple of words.   Positive, out-going, upbeat…  mind you there are many who may also throw in terms such as cynical or sarcastic, but today’s comments are more about the positive sides of things.

For those of you who know me in real life, you will understand when I say that March and April have served me up a big ol’ steamin’ bowl of Stress. Stress with a capital “S” I might add.  This has been both in my personal life and my professional life.

For the most part I deal with stress but letting it slide off my back or burying it deep in the recesses of my mind and dealing with it only when I have to. I try not to be a fretter. However, when great gobs of it are slung around your life and you feel like you are walking slumped over all the time there can certainly be visible signs.

2 weeks ago things hit a peak and I was buried at work.  I ended up pulling some 60-hour workweeks while trying to balance everything that was going on at home.  The end result was that my usual jovial work face was replaced with a much more quiet and somber visage.

In hindsight it was interesting to watch the reactions of my co-workers, who for the last 15 months had only dealt with my sunnier disposition.  Last week people tended to tiptoe around me. I had management coming up to me, using their quiet voices, touching my arm or shoulder and asking if everything was ok….  The first couple of times it was kind of amusing, then as the stress built it got annoying. At one point I remember thinking “Yeah, I’m fine, just stressed, but if you keep asking me if I am ok then I will show you what fucking stressed is truly about”.

I found it interesting to watch the reflections of my own personality being mirrored on the faces of those around me.  In the back of my brain the little social scientist that lives there (along with the historian, biologist and author) kept notes.  

I have often commented to my spouse that I have little patience for negative people.  It is my personal belief that spending your days wandering around being grumpy and pissy does nothing but sour the air of the people next to you.  I try to wake and face every day in a positive and upbeat manner. The reaction of the people around me confirmed my opinion.

While the stress levels have actually continued to grow, I have become a little more used to them, and like a pack mule, have hunkered down and bent my back to the load I need to carry for the next little bit. In doing so my smile has returned.

A final thought occurred to me as I was writing this.  While the concern that was expressed by management was certainly an annoyance, upon reflection it was certainly nice to be working with a bunch of people that actually seemed to give a damn.  

Mind you they were probably concerned about me going postal and the product not being delivered on time.  

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Darkness Awoken

There is a dark secret within my family. The heartwood of our family tree is rotten and corrupted. I know this from personal experience, for I was the victim.  At the heart of my childhood torment was the high-inquisitor herself, the queen witch… my eldest sister.

She had at her fingertips a variety of spells and incantations to drive a young mind into the depths of rage and despair, but her most powerful dark ritual was repeated endlessly until the victim was rendered hopeless.

It goes like this

Little Tommy Tinker
Sat upon a clinker
He began to cry
What a poor boy am I

Today even writing that out still makes my teeth clench.

I had hoped that my branch would be pure, that being the victim of years of abuse would have somehow cleaned my genetic lines of whatever chromadial (yes I made up the word, but it does have a nice cadence don’t you think) mutation caused the torment gene to be awaken.

Alas I was a fool to hope for such miracles.  

Last night we were heading out to the local Dollar Store to pick up goodies for loot bags. I had loaded and buckled all three boys in the van and then ran back into the house to grab something.  I was a little longer than I had anticipated… but when I got back to the van Liam was in a state of inarticulate rage, tears rolling down his face. I honestly believe that had I been a few seconds later there would have been bloodshed. I knew all this without opening the van doors… I could hear his wails of anguish over the sound of the running engine, and behind the closed doors…. I could also hear the cause of his torment.

Two little voices singing in the night, two little voices whispering a dark incantation over and over, two little voices repeating

I love you
You love me
We’re a happy family.

Or in two-year old speak

Me love you
You love me
We a family.

After the tears had been wiped away and the rage settled I got the full story.  Apparently while waiting in the car Aiden had started to sing the tune…  Liam, (being a big boy and using his words) informed Aiden that the song was annoying him, at which point my youngest (or as I like to call him, the child incarnation of darkness) picked up on this and started belting it out in full voice.  Of course Aiden followed along.

Poor Liam, so much like his father.  Now that the younger boys have smelled weakness they have started to circle like a pack of rabid wolves.

And to you my eldest sister, feel pride and joy, for your genes have run true and the legacy lives on.