Wednesday, April 29, 2009

old school

Owen is already learning you can't go home again, even if he doesn't understand that yet.

We've had pretty good child care luck. When Owen was born in 2005, Lisa took seven months off.

(Before you get all excited and start applying for her job, this was seven months without pay. Lisa's an opera stage manager who gets contracted per show. So basically she took no contracts for seven months. So didn't get paid. So we lived on one income, which was not the most fun thing ever, but that's not what this is about.)

As I was saying, we've been lucky. Lisa stayed home longer than many can, and the single income thing didn't kill us

(Although I'm not super excited we may be doing it again soon. And no, Lisa is not pregnant.)

When she did go back our moms each came to help for several weeks.

(Which also didn't kill us, though in some ways came closer.)

And with Lisa's sporadic work schedule and piecing together babysitters here and there (that sounds like we dismembered them. we didn't) we didn't put Owen in daycare until he was over a year old. Having seen many friends hand their kids off to infant care at 6 weeks, we were happy we could wait, and Owen thrived (and continues to, thankfully).

When the time did arrive to start him in daycare, we found a place close to where we work in Downtown LA that we were really happy with most of the time he was there. When we did have issues, they addressed them (mostly. took way too long to get me a new keycard for the security gate.). Their hours were RIDICULOUSLY convenient (6am - 6:30pm. That is not a typo.). The location worked well for us (and was right near the train station which Owen loved). The director and staff were friendly and caring, and the teachers Owen had really seemed to love the kids and what they were doing. Oh, and it was cheaper than almost everyone else I knew was paying. I still don't really know why, but I'm not complaining.

This is the Old School.

(We've always called it school with Owen, even when it was really just daycare. Also, I feel strange posting the name of the place, but if you're in LA and interested email me and I'll share. If you still want the info by the end of this post.)

Owen LOVED the Old School. Once he got over being left somewhere besides home, and apart from the inevitable tough days now and then, he loved it. He made friends before we knew he was old enough to HAVE friends. It was a strange experience visiting friends whose daughter was in his class and seeing they had something going on which had nothing to do with us or time they'd spent together while we were around. They were tight, and that happened all on their time, not ours. He loved his teachers, and often he didn't want to leave when one of us showed up to take him home. How could our house compete with all these toys, kids, and a playground right outside? We saw his social skills blossom, and get this - they basically potty trained our kid for us. No kidding, one day they were like, "start sending him in underwear, he's ready." I felt like tipping them.

Then we got pregnant with Nicholas.

(Clearly, it was my wife who actually got pregnant, but we're a team, so I say "we got pregnant" even though I realize she is the one with the uterus and did all the actual gestating and pushing the baby out and it makes me sound like kind of a new age parenting hippie to say "we got pregnant" but there I said it so whatever. Again, this is not what this is about.)

When we started contemplating how to handle the logistics of a second child, we decided two things: We were getting a nanny, and we were moving Owen to a school closer to home. We'll call this the New School.

The New School is four blocks from our house (Old School: 10 miles). The New School has been lauded by friends since before we had kids as the best thing that ever happened to their kids. It's only slightly more expensive. Having Owen at the New School would allow the nanny to pickup and dropoff (Car Talk, anyone?), and meant he'd be in school with neighborhood kids, some of whom might end up his classmates for years. Also, as Kindergarten started to loom, we wanted him to have a slightly more academic atmosphere than the Old School provided. Theirs was basically structured play, with crafts and stories and circle time, which is great for little ones, but lacked the beginning reading and math we think is important to at least start introducing somewhere around age three.

(This makes it sound like we've spent much more time thinking about educational theory and approach than we have. We basically play this thing by ear and try and do what Owen's ready for. Honestly, the way notes home from his teachers at the Old School were spelled, I was not sure I wanted them teaching my kid to read, sweet and well meaning as they were. Also (and this probably bothers me the classically trained musician more than most), his teachers could not sing. I don't mean they didn't have beautiful voices. I mean they couldn't carry a tune in a fucking bucket. Owen still has trouble matching pitch and I blame them. We sang to the kid, but they had many more waking hours with him in those early days, and how the hell can a kid learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when it sounds like there are only maybe 3 1/2 notes in the song and their relationships to each other are entirely arbitrary and vary from one verse to the next? Does that song even have verses? Whatever, you get the point. And again, this is not what this is about.)

So we decided to move Owen to the New School. We thought a lot about timing this move. Knowing he liked his Old School, we didn't want him to associate leaving there with the arrival of the baby (fucking baby you came and I had to change schools and I hate you!), so we decided to wait and move him several months after Nicholas was born, while Lisa was still off work (she couldn't take quite as much time off with #2, further reason why we went with the nanny option). We actually made the switch while out of town on vacation, so when we got home, Owen started in the New School. If he were older I think we'd have wanted him to have a chance to say goodbye, but at 3 we just thought that wouldn't make sense to him. He'd probably think we were saying goodbye for the day and coming back tomorrow.

The good news is I think we succeeded in making the school move not about the baby. Owen loves his brother and has never connected his arrival with changing schools, that we know of. That said, the school move was a little rough at first. The first few days were great. He was all caught up in the novelty of the new school and the differentness of it all. We naively thought we were home free. But about a week later we heard:

"When can I go back to my Old School?"

My heart sank. Because of course he couldn't go back. We'd structured our lives around him being close to home, not to mention paid money to the New School and given up his spot at the Old School. It was time to move on, but how do you tell that to a 3-yr old? We told him the New School was his school now, and he was going to keep going there. Thing is, I wanted him to WANT his New School, and by extension to have fond memories of his Old School without actually wanting to go back there again. Which is totally unrealistic, especially since I also have my moments of pining for my past. And I'm 35 - he's 3.5. I'm a whole power of 10 older than him.

But those moments pass, and before long, he did get past it. Mostly. Pretty soon he wasn't asking about his Old School anymore, and was really having fun at his new school. He made friends, he likes his teachers, he's learning all kinds of cool stuff. And the logistics are working out great and we're really happy about the move.

But now and then, it comes up. We see someone from the Old School - at a birthday party, playdate, etc. - and he asks about going back. But the more time that's passed, the more his Old School isn't really the place he knew anymore. Almost all of his friends have moved on. Most of the teachers we knew and liked are no longer there. And, of course, he's not the same kid he was, either.

And maybe that's the hardest thing to accept.

He's changing.

And it's all good. It's what's supposed to happen. He's growing up. And that is both the best and the hardest thing to watch. He's the same sweet funny cuddly charming kid, but at the same time, he's not. He's different every day. And that is, as much as anything, why none of us can ever go home again. Because not only is home not the place it was when we left, but neither are we the people we were then. We change. And that's what's supposed to happen, but sometimes we think back and sigh a little about who we were, and will never be again. At least, Owen and I do.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

my wife thinks twitter is weird

Public Service Announcement: This is where I start saying fuck on my blog. This will likely continue. You've been warned.

I am obsessed with like Twitter. Lisa thinks it's weird. Being honest, I thought Twitter was weird too before I figured out why it rules and became obsessed got into it.

I've been on Twitter almost a year, but most of that time didn't count because I didn't know what I was doing Twitter hadn't gotten cool yet. My brother suggested I join. He's techie and knows stuff so I thought sure, I'll try it. In the beginning I didn't get it. But once I figured some things out it got much cooler. Here are a few errors I made when I started on Twitter. I share them so that you may avoid them and learn from my mistakes. I'm a giver.

My 1st Twitter error: Tweeting (that's the verb for posting updates on Twitter) exactly what Twitter asks you to tweet, "What are you doing?" The lesson? No one give a fuck what you're doing most of the time. Be selective. Be interesting.

My 2nd Twitter error: Using it only one-way. I posted status updates mostly via instant message. This is like tossing messages over a wall to a crowd you can neither see nor hear. This is lame. Don't do this. Lesson? Twitter is a conversation. Read more than you tweet. Respond to others. Interact.

My 3rd Twitter error: Using Twitter like Facebook. At first I only followed (that's what it's called when you read what someone else tweets) people I already knew. It seemed weird to follow people I didn't know. What the fuck did I care what THEY were doing? The problem with this is very few people I knew were on Twitter, and most of them didn't tweet very much. So my Twitter feed (the stuff I saw going by on Twitter) was kind of dead. Lesson? Follow interesting people. And don't be afraid to unfollow (stop following) people who aren't interesting or who piss you off. Who has time for that shit?

With all these things working against me, I lost interest in Twitter.

About this time I started reading blogs. Mostly mommy and daddy blogs. I'll write more later about my journey into the blogosphere (how insidery and annoying is that word?). Reading these blogs, I discovered a lot of the bloggers I was reading were on Twitter. So I followed a few. And once I got over being annoyed about them constantly plugging their blogs (which of course I now also do), this was the beginning of my obsession what got me interested again, for real this time.

Here's something I discovered about blogs and Twitter - both are a conversation. At their best they're interactive. Comment on blogs. Respond to tweets. There are exceptions. Some bloggers and Twitterfolk (I use this because I hate the term tweeps, which many use to describe people on Twitter. I'm not a fucking tweep. I am Twitterfolk.) are funny one-way. They say stuff that makes me laugh, and that's enough. @badbanana is a great example:

Now that's funny. But much as I love me some @badbanana, he's not what got me hooked. What got me hooked was conversations. Conversations in 140 characters or less with people. Interesting people, funny people, insightful people. People with questions I had answers to, and answers to my questions. Twitter is like a massive water cooler conversation. It's the ham radio of our era. You can decide who you want to talk to, how often, and when.

And this is where Lisa starts thinking it's weird. I've made friends. Most of these friends I've never met in person. And I follow them on Twitter and I read their blogs and I know things about some of them I don't know about people I know IRL (In Real Life. That's more Twitterspeak. Or maybe it's blogspeak. Not sure.).

Her thinking it's weird could also have something to do with me tweeting during dinner. Maybe I should knock that off.

EDIT: For some rather more coherent and potentially useful tips on using Twitter, check out Matt Singley's post on 5 Ways to Follow Good People on Twitter.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

do not underestimate the power of the tummy

Owen is obsessed with Star Wars.

Owen is 3 3/4 (he'll correct you if you say he's 3 1/2), and obsessed with Star Wars. He's probably too young for this fairly violent (and completely awesome) series of films (and cartoons - did you know there were cartoons?!). But we love it, and thought he would love it, and he does, so yahtzee! The thing is, I couldn't take much more Diego. Or the Wiggles, oh my god the Wiggles. If you've managed to avoid this particular Australian import, count yourself extremely lucky. I thought we were so clever to have kept Barney out of the house, then the Wiggles flanked us and moved in. Clever Wiggles. Anyway, Owen has now seen all six Star Wars films, the Clone Wars animated feature, and many episodes of the Clone Wars animated TV show. He owns three very realistic, battery operated lightsabers, complete with lights and sounds, and has played Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga on PlayStation3. He's definitely too young for THAT. We're horrible parents.

But that's not the point. The point is, he's most obsessed with particular aspects of Star Wars. Much to my wife's chagrin ("I thought I had more time!") his fixation is primarily on the female characters who aren't wearing a lot of clothing. This includes Leia in the early scenes of Return of the Jedi, Padme Amidala after the arena scene in Attack of the Clones, and Asohka (Anakin's padowan learner) in Clone Wars. All have bare midriffs, shoulders, legs - you get the idea. He also digs Jedi and lightsabers, but likes them best if they are defending (or wielded by) scantily clad females. We think questions about whether he might be gay are pretty much answered.

When Owen wants to watch Star Wars, he usually asks by saying something like, "I want to watch Star Wars, where Princess Leia gets captured by Jabba, and has a tummy." Having a tummy means her tummy is bare. When he sees someone with their belly showing he asks "Why does she have a tummy?" When he isn't wearing shoes and doesn't want to walk on something without them, he'll object, "But I have feet!" We were driving one day and talking about the beach, and how he wouldn't need shoes and could run around with bare feet. From the back seat: "Silly Daddy, not bear feet, KID feet!" So it's just feet. And tummies. So back to that.

The tummy fixation isn't new. He will consistently notice and comment on anyone with a bare belly. He's into observing and pointing out body parts, and tummies are special, I suspect because they're less often spotted than say, heads. Visiting a local motorcycle shop with my stepdad, Owen spotted a poster of a woman in a bikini, leaning suggestively against a motorcycle. He took inventory: "She has legs, and she has a tummy, and she has those, and she has arms ..." That was a few months ago. By now I think he knows what "those" are called (his baby brother is breastfeeding, after all). He's nothing if not observant.

If you aren't already, you should be reading Tanis Miller's blog, Attack of the Redneck Mommy. She's funny, and smart, and Canadian, and often blogs about her boobs. What more do you want? Anyway, I follow her on Twitter and had her avatar up on my screen when Owen walked by. He stopped and looked at the picture for a bit, and then in a slightly shy but impishly smiling way said, "Why isn't she wearing a shirt?"

I think she might be, you just can't see it in the picture.

(Impish smile) "She looks like she's ... captured."

I told Tanis about Owen's comment. She says this is why she'll never change her avatar - according to her, her real photo? So not captured. I suspect we may have planted the seeds for a rich sexual fantasy life for our not-yet-four-year old once he's a bit (read: a LOT) older. I also suspect Redneck Mommy would be proud if that's true.

So, that brings us back to Star Wars, doesn't it? I'm king of the segue.

As I mentioned, in addition to the mostly naked women of Star Wars, Owen likes the Jedi. He wants to be a Jedi when he grows up. He holds out his hand and screws up his face and wonders why no people or objects move around the room from his powers. It's awesome and a little heartbreaking. I've given him no reason to think he can't be a Jedi when he grows up. I hope he never stops believing he can. As Yoda said about not believing, "That is why you fail."

Star Wars creeps into almost every conversation now. Last week Owen asked, "What kind of car does mommy have?" A Honda.

"What kind of car does daddy have?" A Toyota.

"I like daddy's car better ... because it has Yoda in it."

My faith in humanity bolstered, I now think introducing him to Star Wars was a pretty good idea. We're awesome parents.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

elmo vs. the easter bunny

Some giant furry creatures we trust, others we don't. Why is not always clear. Honestly, I would have expected this to go the other way.

The Easter Bunny ... ok.

Elmo, not so much.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

stuff that's hard

I'm not good at sticking with stuff that's hard. I tend to start things then not see them through. Here is a list of things I've started and not really finished to my satisfaction.
  • guitar lessons
  • bass guitar lessons
  • voice lessons (yes, I got a degree, but more on that later)
  • blogging (see how sometimes I try again?)
  • working out (i'm back on this one, and so far so good)
  • losing weight (see above)
  • pyramid schemes (this was a bad idea. it's good I bailed)
  • writing thank you notes
  • cleaning up immediately after cooking
I get all fired up about something new. Then days, weeks, or months (ok sometimes a few minutes) go by and I've forgotten about it completely. Blogging is a good example. Last October I discovered a whole bunch of blogs by fellow parents I found inspiring, motivating, funny, and generally awesome. So I thought, hey, I could do THAT. So I started a blog. Because it was free, and because I could. I wrote a few posts. They were pretty lame. I couldn't think of much to write besides "hey, look, I have a blog!" So that petered out after a few weeks.

Today I'm starting again. We'll see how it goes.

I was inspired in part by two amazing people and the unbelievable community of love and support that has grown up around them. They are parents. They blog. They're on Twitter (I'm on Twitter to. @badassdad05. Come find me and say hi.) They're funny and warm and open and generally awesome. They are Heather and Mike Spohr. You can read about them on their blogs The Spohrs Are Multiplying and The Newborn Identity. Be forewarned, it gets pretty sad. Last week they lost their little girl Maddie, 17 months old. Lisa and I went to the memorial service today, and it was beautiful and positive and completely emotionally exhausting. I'm really glad we went, but man it was rough. And I'd never met Maddie. So I can't begin to imagine what her family is experiencing. Well, maybe I can begin to imagine it, but then I really want to stop imagining it because it's horrible.

So, I've decided that if they can stand up at their daughter's funeral and say things that are funny and moving and poignant then I can write a few words now and then. And pick up my guitar more often. And practice songs I don't already know.

We'll see how it goes.

Clicky Web Analytics