A Person More Talented Than Me!

If you’re like me, you probably read that title and started thinking of a very long list of people. Don’t feel too bad for me; earlier this week I had someone tell me that my cakes are the BEST (they used all caps). I do things.

While you and your friends do a march madness style bracket of people I could possibly be referring to, I’m gonna move on.

I’m not sure how much insight into my personal character you are able to grasp as a reader. Obviously at this point I want people to enjoy my writing. I hope over time that more people will feel inclined to come back on a regular basis and tell their friends, but at the moment it’s hard to tell where things are going and where I fit into the lives of what often feels like a very short list of people who stumble into my little world here. Am I just the handsome comedian to people? The super intelligent handsome humorist? Perhaps you think I’m a total jerk, who is handsome. Do I let the light shine on your heart the way Linus vows the Great Pumpkin will pave the way for the magical spirit of Halloween? I may never know, but I’ll let you all in on a little secret.

I like nerdy, geeky stuff.

someone_who_loves_you-600x600That’s why I love James Hance.

Now before I go further I want to be clear that the following are my own opinions and while the timing of my post is certainly not a coincidence, I am getting nothing to plead with you to go spend lots and lots of money on his amazing work.

So enough delay, go right here.

The title at the top says it all for me. “Relentlessly Cheerful Art.” Not just cheerful art, relentlessly cheerful art! Art so cheerful that it refuses to not cheerful at you. That alone is so awesome that you might forget that there’s so much more to his site.

The perfect place to start is on his prints page where the magic of his mind becomes almost overwhelming. Look, I have my little nerd loves, so when I find a guy who takes things two things I enjoy in an obsessive kind of way like the movie “Shawn of the Dead” and the Muppets I am a pretty happy camper. I could sit here and link picture after picture, but seriously, just go look! There is something you’ll love, and better yet, there’s something you can share with your kids. For only 10 bucks you get an amazing, high-quality print, and look at the sizes! How am I so sure of the quality? We’ve purchased two prints and a very awesome shirt (which are also extremely well made and at $25 is certainly affordable). There’s also kids size clothing, stickers, ipod and iphone cases, and hoodies. Don’t you just want to hold hands with someone and hop around in a state of gleeful euphoria?!

Now the reason I have chosen to post about this fantastic dreamaginationer at this specific point in time is his latest book, which I’m so giddy for that every so often Melissa has to put me on my back and rub my belly to calm me down like a shark. Now Mr. Hance has already put out one book which I have sadly not purchased as of yet, but believe me, I plan on it. Both prints we own are from the “Wookie the Chew” series, and William loves them. I don’t need to have a copy of his previous writing in my hand to know that a mash-up of “Winnie the Pooh” which is one of William’s favorite things in the world, and “Star Wars” which I love, is going to be an instant hit in this household.

Now, if you have lasted this long without just throwing in the towel to the idea that “Ev has a man-crush on this guy” I’d like to bring up one last thing – he’s a dad. Better yet, he’s a dad doing everything he can to take care of his little girl. I’ve said it before, and it might always be true, within the blogging world I am no one. If you don’t want to believe me that minivans are a great purchase for your family, then okay. However, James Hance is a person far more talented than me, and I’m certainly moved by his abilities and by the story of his daughter; I think you will be too.

So I urge you to go and find joy in his artwork, and if you can help with funds to his little girl then do! Having his artwork in the house for months now I can certainly attest to the fact that it will always be boldly in your face, unapologetically turning the corners of your mouth upward. You will find yourself relentlessly cheered.

Go! Tell him I sent you! He’ll say, “Who?” That’s just this thing we do…

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Uncool or Just Very Specific?

So it’s been a while. I’m am not angry or upset. The simple fact is that the addition of Bonus Baby to the house for about 9 hours a day has not presented me with much free time. So much so, that when it happens I tend to find things I really need to catch up on. Like showering.

I was fortunate enough to catch a little bit of a break last week when my mom came into town for a visit. I love when she comes to town. She’s one of those type of guests that requires very little entertaining. She’s there for the grandkids, and that’s as much as she asks for really. That and vegetables to be in the house. Fair enough.

Along with her annual visit, Melissa and I get a date night or two. It’s become such a rare thing that it’s almost as if we’ve started dating all over again. While this might seem sort of romantic or maybe even a chance to renew the spark that tends to settle when you find yourself with only a handful of hours alone each night, for me it puts a lot of pressure into the evening.

Here’s what I mean – We planned two nights out together, and while we were given no guidelines or time limits, we set up my mom as best we could. Meaning, we fed the kids and tried to get them in a state that they would have about an hour to wind down before bedtime. Nice, easy evening for my mom.

We approached both nights with the same conversation:

Anything you want to do?
Nope, you?
No…

The topic went in circles over where to eat and what we might do afterwards. We both agreed that there didn’t seem to be any movies playing that we had the slightest desire to go see, and I made the point that seeing something just for the sake of seeing something had a strong chance of ending with me falling asleep, not that I’d complain. So both evenings would find me driving aimlessly toward nothing, and Melissa would get irritated over the feeling that I was putting the pressure on her to come up with some fantastical idea for us to act out. She was partially right on that notion.

Then, like many parents, we hit the big question:

Are we uncool now? Have our kids made us uncool?

Let me first answer that question with, no. It’s easy to let that idea creep in, though. We found ourselves with an amazing opportunity to get out of the house and do anything at all. Anything. Yet we drew a blank until it became a valid idea to go pick up some last minute groceries. It’s a frustrating thing to have some freedom and no clue what to do with it.

Then it dawned on me that cool-status was not the issue. It was expectations.

I spend a lot of time looking outside. I wonder what’s going on out there. Most importantly, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I could be like those people out there. Walking around without even thinking about what a gift it is just to be out there walking around. Being a stay-at-home parent is a very important job. A job unlike any other. However, it often carries with it a sacrifice that few outside the circle can understand. So when that rare chance at freedom comes along, we want, no, it must be perfect. It must be magical. When it comes to dinner, a chance at something new sounds great! Unless the food is bad, because the food can’t be bad on that most rare of occasions out of the house. A movie? Sure, but it can’t be one of those movies that would work just as well on the TV a few months later. It has to be something that can’t be missed on that big screen. As the sun begins to set, we can go for a walk. It just can’t be through an area filled with spiderwebs or graffiti or a ton of dirt, because when we kiss I don’t want to open my eyes and see I’ve been standing in the local dog’s latest work. I want several months of magic in an evening, because it often needs to tide us over that long.

Perhaps this is a venting of sorts. Perhaps it is a reminder to get out more. Either way, I’d argue that we are not the least bit uncool. We or I, however, have very specific expectations for any evening we are out together. That’s what can make date night so stressful.

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What to expect, when you expect to be expecting.

Long before I started this blog, I found that many of my friends asked me pregnancy questions. It may have been my availability that allowed the questions to be directed at me instead of Melissa. Perhaps even that some people enjoy my long-winded tales that perhaps push the boundaries of what they wanted to know by diverting into unending tangents. Either way, I found myself the verbal pregnancy consultant for several of my friends. It’s nice to feel like my opinion of the matter is trusted.

There seems to be a routine of sorts as couples approach that ultimate decision to both bump and also grind, without any form of protective baby-barriers. It can be…well…it is a very nerve wracking time for both people. There’s always a great deal of “what ifs” and I think that causes a lot of people to enter into this very special occasion with their minds on the wrong things.

So I thought it might be nice to compile a little list of things I’ve often been asked or told, and try to respond as best as I can. That gives me the ability to answer the questions of my friends by directing them here, giving me the page hit, and allowing them the chance to avoid yet another long-winded conversation with crazy tangent guy. Seems fair, right? Little bit of win-win for everyone?

“We’re waiting for the right time.” – The most common thing people say to me, and the most difficult to respond to, because it deals with many issues. This is a statement that means many different things to different people, but the short version in my opinion is – when it comes to making the decision to have your first kid, there is no “right time.” Planets don’t align very often, and a golden beam of light is probably not going to envelope you as you’re crossing the street trying to decide if you should buy that next pack of condoms. Without specifics, it’s hard to go further, but be aware that things will turn upside down regardless of how much you’ve decided it’s the “right time.” Trying to base your decision on something so broad leaves you with every opportunity to invent a reason of why it is not the right time. If you are so desperate to find a reason of “why not” then perhaps that’s enough of a reason.

“We’re saving just a little bit more money.” – This is a great, specific idea that tends follows the above. You should absolutely be concerned about the cost of raising a child. I know a few people who have put no thought at all into the financial ramifications of children. I even know a couple whose plan involved government aid. Seriously. They knew they couldn’t afford a child, but figured with assistance, they would get by…to some degree. It is certainly something that people can underestimate, but if your mind is going to a place where you think those last few paychecks to close out the year are going to save you…it’s already time.

“We want to have the baby in ____, so we’re not going to try until ____.” – One of the biggest misconceptions among the people I’ve known who have tried to get pregnant, is that everything happens on a schedule. We hear stores about these kids in high school and college who have a drunken night together and wind up pregnant and there’s this feeling that it must be so simple. The reality is that those two kids, now facing a world of decisions, had a series of chance where everything had to line up perfectly. So many things have to be taken into account in order to get pregnant, and I’ve had more than one conversation of panic over, “It’s been a month! What’s wrong!?” Even at the age where pregnancy is most easily conceived (mid-20’s) the average length of time before pregnancy is five months. If you want something a little closer to home, ask people you know. You’ll probably be surprised at what you hear. Melissa and I had a rough time getting pregnant, and perhaps I’ll talk about it someday, but as we asked friends and family it was alarming the number of miscarriages we heard about, the years of unsuccessful attempts that sometimes required fertility treatments, and of course people who had medical issues that prevented pregnancy altogether. My point is, predicting a “due date” to line up with some form of schedule is not realistic, and I’m not just talking about the potential for things to happen in a longer time frame than expected. I know a family who believed the second pregnancy would take just as long to happen as the first, so they set their “schedule” of  when to start trying. They were pregnant within two months. Think of it as a pre-cursor to life with kids – you’re on their terms now.

“Is there something…sexual…we should be doing?” – Believe it or not, I had this conversation. I don’t mind talking about sex, but it can be a little awkward. Especially when being told that I could think of miscarriages as at least a partial success because clearly whatever we were doing to conceive was working on some level. So here’s my secret technique: Silk Boxers. You’re welcome. No, in all seriousness, I don’t know of any position or time of day or day of the week that really increases your chances. At one point we had been using those ovulation sticks, but that didn’t really work for us. I can say that even though I’m unsure if this was really the “key” to our success, something that doctors talk about is keeping everything as stress free as possible. After two years of trying, and some very emotionally painful moments, we took a week long vacation to Las Vegas. It was a great week, and we didn’t think about pregnancy while we were there. Nine months later, William was born.

“I’m not sure I want to bring a child into this world.” – It breaks my heart when good people say things like that. We need smart and caring people, who are willing to be involved with their kids, out in the world. Still, it’s hard not to see the truth in that statement. I heard it said like this, “You’ll never miss what you’ve never had. With kids? It’s not until they are in your life that you realize just how much you want them.” I know several couples who have no interest in having kids. The very idea of parenting is a scary subject for them. Well it is scary, and the world isn’t always nice. I can’t help but wonder, as I look at commercials for awful reality TV programming – did these “parents” go through any of those fears? Don’t be afraid. If you have a good head on your shoulders and you want to have kids, do it, and then be the best parent you can be for your child. That certainly has to be a step ahead from the TV parents.

Lastly….

“I’m not ready to stop doing what I want.” – Thank god for people who can admit that. There are plenty of bad reasons to not have a kid, but this…this is a real reason. I’ll admit that some people certain have a lifestyle that has allowed them as parents to keep up a healthy social life. Many parents are better than Melissa and I about getting out of the house, including time without the kids. There’s perhaps an element of not having access to family here, or the idea that many of our friends don’t seem to understand (or have perhaps forgotten) our need to get together in a comfortable environment that allows us to be social without a need to look over our shoulder the whole time. Either way, you must realize that after you have children you give up a certain level of freedom while they are young. I don’t like the idea that you can keep up the same level of selfishness and I don’t like the idea that you can maintain the same level of party lifestyle AND be mom and dad. If you have that itch to travel, do it! If you have that itch to spend money without thinking, do it! I’d argue that while the party doesn’t have to stop…it does have to slow down. Maybe more than you want it to. So if you feel the need to put yourself before the baby, definately wait to have a kid.

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There’s no doubt about it, trying to decide you are ready to take the leap is a tough decision. The first time around left me constantly feeling lost.

What were/are your questions approaching the decision to have kids? What were/are your answers?

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Mother’s Day and the Very, Very, Very Low Bar

Ah, back in my uncomfortable office chair. The extremely fake leather on the arms of it have long since torn open to expose about as much padding as a high quality piece of paper might offer. It’s been many months now since I’ve written anything, which isn’t to say I haven’t often thought about it. So much has happened since my last offering and as I sit here wondering if that’s a bolt I feel under my butt or if I perhaps sat on a toy, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the idea of where to begin.

Last night I was struck with a heavy urge to log in and write…something. Anything. Again, the momentary panic crept upon me. What do I say after a long absence? Surely my first post in months should be something profound. As I had done many times in the same situation, I shut down my computer and went upstairs to bed. I got into the covers, being careful not to wake up my beautiful wife. She was so peaceful. That’s when I noticed v-shaped sagging of our mattress again. I sat there thinking about our friends who have owned 2 different mattresses since we purchased this one. How could she fall asleep so easily on such a crappy mattress? The answer is pretty simple; it doesn’t take much to make her happy.

And I knew what I wanted to write about.

I had a small vision for this blog. Certainly nothing long term. I realize that the vast majority of people who have ever read a single word on this website are people who also have my phone number. What pressure am I under really? I’ve had probably two people question why they never see new updates from me, and one of them sleeps 1-3 feet away from me every night. Clearly there are few expectations of me as it pertains to blogging. If there’s any pressure, it’s minimal, and we are clearly dealing with the heavy scrutiny of the same woman whose current favorite food is pre-packaged cupcakes. It doesn’t take much to make her happy.

It’s a very, very, very low bar for me to live up to.

Which brings me to Mother’s Day. First, a heart-felt belated Mother’s Day to any who might be reading. I’ve had many motherly figures in my life, and I love all of them dearly. Still, it seems appropriate to say that the most important mother in my life right now is the mother to my children. So on a day that many people feel is meant to honor the mothers in this world, I’m short on ideas as to how to show my appreciation to her. Lucky for me, I live in this digital age where countless articles are written by countless people, all of whom claim to know, “The Top 10 Things She Wants for Mother’s Day!”

For anyone looking to be bombarded by anything from the stale (GET HER FLOWERS AND ALL THE CHOCOLATES!) to the uproar educing (TAKE THOSE LITTLE BRATS AWAY FROM THE GODDESS MOTHER!), these articles are probably very helpful. I, on the other hand, was at a loss. So much so that late Saturday evening, as Mother’s Day loomed on the horizon, I conceded that I had no plan at all, and asked my wife if there was anything she wanted. Her answer was perfectly simple, “Just a nice day with everyone.”

Nice…sure.

A simple request, but per our usual routine of chaos, I found it hard to deliver on something so, well, simple. Sleeping in turned into sleeping in…..ish. Breakfast in bed turned into family picnic time in bed, which turned into family TV time in bed. Still, the boys were on good behavior, and I was feeling quite pleased with myself. That feeling lasted till I had fed to boys lunch and put Carter in bed for his nap. That’s when my Saturday slapped me right in the face. In an effort to be completely available on Mother’s Day, I did a massive amount of work outside on Saturday. Somewhere in the 12 hour range. Turns out I was tired the next day. I tried my best, but with Carter asleep and William playing nicely with mommy, I fell asleep with what I’m sure was an, “I’m disappointed in myself” face. I fell asleep on the smallest portion of our sectional couch. My feet hanging off the edge, and covered by a blanket that would either cover my top half or bottom half. I chose bottom. I chose poorly.

Somewhere in my slumber, I realized that it was still Mother’s Day, and that I had in fact fallen asleep, I awoke quickly, trying to get a grasp on the situation and see if there was something I should be doing. That’s when I realized that my foot had become tangled in the blanket. I was stuck, and still too tired to remember that I could just reach back and undo my foot from the death grip the blanket had put on me. So instead, I laid there, face down, one foot flailing frantically in the air as if it was trying to swat away a fly. And from my wife, the laughter started, but perhaps something was funny on TV. My foot continued to do an impression of a dog with peanut butter on the roof of it’s mouth, and the laughing got noticeably loud. So I looked up at a very pleased mother of two, laughing uncontrollably at her husband. In a moment of weakness I might add.

I guess what I’m saying here is, I don’t always like those stupid article lists of overused, boring ideas that supposedly “every mother wants.” I like to get my wife flowers for no particular reason, and with her work schedule, she really tends to want more time with her kids, not an excuse to take them away. Lots of people are tired of holidays like Mother’s/Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day because we think of these days as a requirement for some sad offering to prove our love or loyalty. Of course, if all we do to recognize these days are run to Wal Mart the night before to get a bunch of painfully old flowers and the first card that doesn’t make us want to vomit, that’s all it will ever be.

Maybe you don’t have to play the “today’s a holiday game” to show someone special that you care. I will say that my wife had a good Mother’s Day, and maybe it was just luck that everything went well for us that day. Still, she had a nice day with everyone, and got to see me flail around like an idiot.

And a card.

Not too bad.

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Take…I don’t know…like 5 or something.

The last time I made an attempt to really “start a blog” 7 random people stumbled onto it. I’ve always wondered what became of them (or if they ever think of me), but I’ll probably never know.

I think I’m good at this part now. The “first post” thing where you feel it necessary to state some form of objective. Why you made a blog, why yours will be different from the other million that are about the same thing, or even why you promise that this time (!!!!) you really will write more often!

Five attempts in roughly 2 years or so, and my reasons for wanting to have a blog haven’t changed. This little space is supposed to be my safe place. My nest in the trust tree. The place where I can come and word vomit the things that are bothering me at any given time. I’d like to talk about things from my perspective as a stay at home father, and more so I’d like to talk about things from my perspective as a me.

It’s difficult to say what will become of this, my version 5.0a, but I’m willing to make some form of effort to find out.

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