5 Years

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 5 years.   Kids are doing well, sailing through school without any of the problems I worried about.  They’re as socially adjusted as they’ve ever been, which isn’t saying much, but they are who they are.  I’ve traveled more in the last 5 years, than the previous 15, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing things I never would have done in the past.  Life’s had it’s ups and downs, but that’s par for the course.   Communication with the kids mother is in writing, but it’s not unpleasant in either direction, and I think we get along better using email and text messages than we would ever do on the phone or in person.

The last couple of weeks though, have been somewhat of a challenge.

  • The end of the school year and coming vacation is always a bit of a transition.  This year the schedule has tossed a couple of 3-in-a-row weekends with the kids, which is a good thing, but throws off the routine, and the budget.
  • I found out, in trying to refi the house that the current value is $25k less than it was at the peak of the housing crisis, and that there’s no way to get any money out, the only thing I can do is lower my rate, and maybe drop the monthly payments by 3 or 4 hundred bucks a month.
  • I then found out, that the “balloon payment” to the kids mom for her share of the house, that we agreed would happen in 2015, and is part of the divorce decree, actually puts a lien on the house, automatically, as an unsettled judgement.  Even though it’s not due, and I’m not changing the balance of the loan, I can’t refi to lower the payments, because the title has this judgement on it.
  • I heard from my daughter, that she has been baby sitting for her neices and nephew because my step-daughter needs to go visit her husband.  It appears he’s in the hospital, because of an attempted suicide, because the step-daughter was leaving him, because he’s violent.  It’s rough to hear from your kid, the “adult” news in the family.
  • Then through her mother, I hear that the violent husband of the step-daughter has taken the car, and left, and no one knows, or no one is saying where he is.  So the step-daughter is home with 3 little ones, no car, she can’t get to work, and… (there’s no way to type an adequate pause here), she’s pregnant.
  • And the savings account is empty, the checking account will be empty as soon as the bills are paid, and there is no refinance, no second source of income, just the regular paycheck, which covers the bills, but not much else.

It’s going to be a thin summer.

 

With all that said, it’s still summer, we still have the sailboat, and I have an outboard on loan so we can actually go sailing.  The kids said if we can go sailing they don’t need to “go somewhere” this year on vacation.  So we have plans to sail here there and everywhere, with a few overnights to add to the adventure.

I feel like there may be potential for some romance on the horizon, although, my glacial pace of dating means it might be christmas, or maybe my retirement party where I actually “make a move”.

Work is busy, but not crazy, which is good, the time goes by quickly but work is still done at the end of the day.  No overnights here to add to the adventure.

I guess, really… it’s just life, single, married, whatever.

 

 

 

Hard World

When 5th grade started in the fall, my son’s small class had a new addition. Our little private school gets a new kid occasionally, but nothing like public school, where you might not know half a dozen kids in your new class some years. A day or two into the school year, we found out, somewhat abruptly, that the new students brother had committed suicide over the summer. The teacher quickly sent out an email apologizing, that he knew this might come up, but he hadn’t expected it to come up during the “what I did this summer” part of the first week of school. We learned more details, and the school hosted an evening seminar on helping children cope with suicide. I didn’t attend, but I’m sure there was valuable information presented. Being curious, I looked up information on the brother, and found while they lived in the same household, they weren’t actually related. That doesn’t diminish the impact of suicide, but it somehow makes it seem slightly less catastrophic.

It didn’t take long for the dust to settle, so to speak, 5th graders are pretty resilient, and for kids, death is just a thing, a part of life. The class moved on to more mundane things like homework, and book reports and such. The girl’s mother, or foster mom really, sent email to the class, asking if anyone could carpool, because she was a school teacher, and needed to be to class before it was ok to drop off at our school. Since she is sort of on our route, I volunteered for Wednesday mornings. It went fairly well, she’s a remarkably normal 11 year old, (5th graders are pretty resilient), We went through the fall, altering our normal routine on Wednesday mornings, and things went ok.

Over time, both of my kids complained that wednesdays weren’t working out, that they didn’t like the disruption. It caused my 5th grader to get up 90 minutes early, (long story), and he liked to sleep in as long as he could. As the winter holiday approached, the kids were less and less happy with Wednesday mornings. In addition, my son doesn’t much like his classmate. “She’s kind of weird, and she disrupts the class”. I felt bad, I didn’t want him to be stuck with someone he didn’t like, and she seemed like a fairly nice person. It kind of seemed unfair. But I can’t decide who he likes and doesn’t like, I just get to make suggestions. I finally decided that I needed to let the mother know, we’d continue to carpool until the break, but afterwards, we’d need to go back to our old schedule. Which brings me to the present.

I took the kids to a christmas show, which was lots of fun, but ran long, and was on Tuesday night. They didn’t get to bed until 11, much later than I had anticipated, and I told my son, I’ll drive everyone to school, and then come back and wake you up. Sleep as much as you can. He was happy that he didn’t have to get up. I got to pick up his classmate on my own, which was a first. She was surprised to see the car empty, but I explained, and told her she could sit in back, or up front, her choice. She sat in the front seat and chatted with me all the way to school.

“I have kind of a crush on your son” she said, “but don’t tell him I said that”. I told her I certainly wouldn’t. She asked if I wanted to know why she liked him. I said “sure” although, I have to admit, part of me didn’t want to know. She said, “he’s really funny”. I was reminded they’re only 11. This girl has had quite the life so far. Way too much for an 11 year old, and she’s found she likes a boy that I know doesn’t much care for her, and she’s bravely plugging away moving forward through her life, hoping for the best.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the situation. My desire to promote her to my son, and realizing that it’s not my place to steer him in a particular direction, or try to convince him he should like someone he doesn’t like. It’s the luck of the draw that brings people together. But at the same time, life can be particularly unfair. It occurred to me that while my life had it’s challenges, I had nothing compared to this little girl, who has already lived through more difficult times than I have experienced in most of my life.

Somewhere in the middle of thinking about her situation in life, I realized that her I was responsible for ending her brief Wednesday morning time with a boy in school she liked. I’d like to be able to save the world, or at least the small part of it that I live in, but at the same time I know if I interfere I can only make it worse.

I spent the day wishing there was something I could do, or that things had turned out differently, or something that didn’t leave us in this awkward position.

Which House?

A friend told me the other day, that she had overheard the kids talking about which house they liked better, mom’s or dad’s. She took some enjoyment in telling me what my son had said to her daughter, when they didn’t know anyone was listening. It seems he likes dad’s house better “because there aren’t any rules”. She thought I would be mortified, since it’s so stereotypical for dad’s place to be the party house, and mom’s (like her) have to enforce all the rules. She grinned waiting for me to reply.

I thought about it for a moment, and it seemed like a compliment. The kids have bedtimes at home, where my son has lived his entire life, and while they are adjusted slightly as they grow older, his 4th grade bedtime is still around 8:30, depending on how many chapters of whatever book I’m reading him he can talk me into reading. He doesn’t complain about his bedtime, he’s more interested in getting to the book, than stalling for more time. He does his homework on his own, I don’t have to do much, other than remind him that if he doesn’t get started now, he’ll be using up game or reading time later. He will avoid practicing his cello, mostly because he doesn’t like cello, but he gets to it, again, wanting to get through the time to get to the other side so he can do things. His laundry goes in the bin, he dresses himself in the morning in the clothes he picks out.

I looked at her and said, do you know how hard it is to have a household where there appears to be no rules? Bedtime isn’t a “rule” it’s just what he’s been doing since he was little. Brush your teeth, get your jammies on, and get into bed. The routine is so rote by now, that there’s no question. As I thought about it more, we really don’t have “rules”. There are things that aren’t ok, that he’ll be told, “that isn’t ok” and usually that’s enough to curb whatever it is he’s doing. On the other hand, if they ask me to do something, and for whatever reason I say no, and they can provide a non-whiney, reasonable reason to do the thing, then, it becomes ok. I’m open to bargaining, as long as both parties keep their side.

A lot of their attitude comes from treating them like they are real people. When I answer a request, in addition to thinking about how it will affect their bedtime, appetite, homework time, or whatever; I also think about how I’d answer a friend that was asking the same question. If I can’t imagine telling someone I know, “no you can’t do that for whatever reason” it’s probably worth more consideration before saying no to the kids.

My kids have made it pretty clear to me that they prefer my house. I try to attribute this to the fact that they’ve lived in this house forever, and it’s more like home. I usually fail, and pat myself on the back for being a good parent, or occasionally, wonder (to myself) what their mother is doing, or not doing that makes them prefer being “at home”.

Positive Attitude

The kids mom, from before she moved in, pointed out to me that I don’t have the most positive attitude. I don’t think that’s actually the case, but I worked to be more of a positive person, to be a better parent, make her happy, and to be a generally more positive person. She felt it was important to be encouraging to the kids, and be positive to whatever they were doing at the time. I actually took this to heart, along with many of the other parenting advice she’d offer as I careened through the transition from single guy, to parent of 3.

With this in mind, it always shocks me when a situation comes up where she does something so against her own policies of parenting. (This is where you get to read about one of them, in case you didn’t see that coming)

In going to the marching band events, football and basketball games, my son has become enamored with the trumpet. He thinks the trumpet players are the coolest in the band, and when he gets to band he’s going to play trumpet. Never wanting to be one to miss an opportunity to feed their interests, I checked with the music teacher at his school, to get her opinion of having an instrument beyond his cello to play, (the school requires strings in 4th & 5th grade). She said he was doing well with the cello, and other than the fact that he might not have the lungs at 9 to power a trumpet, she thought it was a good idea. She recommended an instructor, and told me to let her know if i needed anything. I checked with the high school band leader, who likes the little guy, and he offered books, and advice, and looked forward to having him in the band in 5 years. Then I offered to rent him a trumpet, and have him take lessons, if he was willing to commit to 5, and the trumpet didn’t supersede the cello. If for any reason he didn’t like the trumpet after 5 lessons, we’d quit the lessons, return the trumpet, and he could move on to something else. He was thrilled.

The next time I saw him, after a few days at mom’s house, he said, I don’t think I want to play trumpet. I said, why not, he said, well mom says it will be too hard trying to learn 2 instruments at once, so I don’t think we need to get one. I wondered what his mom really said, before it went through the translator that was my kid. Then I realized, it didn’t matter what she said, it mattered how he took it. I told him that the option was there if he changed his mind, and that I had been looking forward to him driving me crazy practicing all the time, and left it at that. Then I sent an email, outlining the research that had gone into the decision, and that it seemed that whatever her comment to him had been, it had been considerably less than positive. She apologized, and said that he’d caught her off guard with the idea of a second instrument, and that of course it was fine with her if he played. I asked, if he brings it up again, to please be encouraging, or at least neutral.

Weeks went by, football season turned into basketball season, and weekly he got to hang around the band room before and after games. One of the trombone players took a particular liking to him, and told him he needed to get started, if he was going to be good. At the point he started talking about being a trumpet player again, I made the offer to get him a horn. He said… let’s just rent, in case I don’t like it.

I didn’t hesitate this time, went out and picked up the horn, arranged the first lesson, and he’s now driving me crazy with practicing all the time. The trombone player is telling people he’s responsible for this little guy playing trumpet. And, I heard a sentence I’ve never heard with any instrument from any kid…

“Dad… can we PLEASE go home…. “

“Why?”

“So I can practice my trumpet”

Stepson Returns

My oldest (ex)stepson came home from Afghanistan today.  He’s out of the army, and he asked me if I could pick him up from the airport, and if he could stay with me for a while.  He and I have never been what you’d call close, but for some reason, he decided to check with me, rather than asking his mother.

It’s an interesting place, especially when there are still younger kids in the house, to sit and have a beer and compare military service with someone who was, at one time, your kid.  He’s so much more of an adult than when he left.  He’s looking at buying a house, going back to college, taking advantage of the benefits his military service offers.  He’s playing computer games with his younger siblings.  He’s more like a friend than I had ever expected, and he’s here, which is shocking to me.  No one has mentioned “mom”, not him, not the younger kids.  They’ve just been enjoying each other’s company.

In addition, his younger brother called this morning to tell me that when his mom, boyfriend, and the kids head out to visit him, he’s not willing to let the boyfriend stay at his house.  There’s a history there, new boyfriend is kind of a recycled old boyfriend, and while the kids were young, they have memories, maybe not accurate ones, but ones they believe, that aren’t the best.  He was calling to tell me that it didn’t have anything to do with me, and that I shouldn’t worry about that, he’d make it clear to his mom.

Needless to say, it’s been a strange day.  I’m not sure what to make of it.   Mostly I feel sorry for their mom.  Her son is home from the army, and she hasn’t seen him.  Her other son disapproves of her choice in men.  These are her adult children.    While a part of me relishes it all, most of me just is sad at the whole situation.  Part of me feels that the only thing necessary to make tonight perfect would be her here, and another part of me knows that the night wouldn’t have been so carefree if she was here.   But, as they say, whoever they are, “it is what it is” and I intend to make the best of it.

Meanwhile, the newest (ex-step) grandchild is due today.  We didn’t get a message, so it’s likely that she’s not here yet, but the newest member of this disjointed family is due anytime now.  In addition, there’s a another kid, the son of the baby’s dad, who treats me just a grandpa.  Kids are so generous with their affection.   They’re not worried about how you’re related, or that you might not really be related at all, just that you’re someone that they can point affection toward, and they do.

What a strange life it’s turning out to be.

Catching up

It’s been a while since I took the time to post here. I think I thought I may have settled into this single dad life, and things got busy.  I took the kids to Disneyland, their uncle picked up the bill, they Haas a good time, and said that we didn’t need to come back. 

My son said, after the trip, “dad, can we go on a vacation where we don’t have any plans?”. Disney appears to have been too much for him.

Summer is approaching and I have no idea what I’m doing with the kids. I keep thinking something will fall out of the sky, and it will work out.

My oldest step son is coming to town. He called me to ask if he could stay with me while he is here.  I was shocked.  He is getting out of the army, after a very successful hitch, where he earned every kind of bonus they offer, mastering Arabic, and deploying.  I asked if he had talked to his mother, and he said, actually, we don’t talk much.  I feel.for his mom, I’m sure she isn’t pleased to have him staying in my little place. The kids are excited though.

Blogging for Money

Being in the technology industry, and being older, you tend to miss things that other people pick up on. It took me forever to figure out why Twitter was such a big deal, and as I work my way through this blogging thing, I’ve discovered what it appears everyone but me has known for a long time. Blogging is a business.

I rememmber blogging when it first started, and people were trying to explain how the word came about. It was journaling for everyone to see. I’m sure there’s more than a few people that regret being quite so open and honest for the world to see on this new fangled web journalling thing, called blogs. It’s certainly occured to me that some people can make money doing this, and there are a number of blogs that I do my best to keep up with, (meaning I check in occasionally). But blogging for money didn’t even enter my mind as I was shoved into this single parenthood thing. I didn’t think more than a couple of people might be interested in what I had to say. Mostly I just figured I would be more likely to write stuff down if it was in a place that I could access from anywhere, and since it didn’t cost anything to do, why not just use a blog.

I didn’t know until recently that there are blogging conferences, and I can’t really wrap my head around what people do there, besides drink and introduce themselves, and take down a bunch of new blogs to go home and read. I’d be the guy sitting in the corner, with my phone, reading some particularly interesting blog that I has discovered, or more accurately, pretending to read something interesting until someone came along and started talking to me. Actually, I do that now.

I’m sure it doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think I’d change what I write if I was writing for an audience. If I had an advertiser, I’d wonder what would interest the people who might click on that ad. I wouldn’t write things that might offend people, and I’d be overly careful not to be boring, (which should be obvious that I’m not doing now). I might bring in a few bucks, (I don’t really want to know what a well marketed active blog makes), but I think I’d have to go find another outlet for getting the thoughts out of my head.

Ad odds with that, I just read an post at http://www.sgwkids.blogspot.com/ about a day in the life of a single dad. Laundry, cleaning, making lunches, pretty darn close to my routine, but entertaining at the same time.

Maybe this is practice for moving into a role where I can write for money, please feel free to comment and tell me it’s not a good thing to waste my time on. Focus on your strentghs.

888

I’m sitting around the office, kids are at mom’s, my regular Wednesday night tennis game has been canceled again, (and we’re running out of tennis weather), and I managed to get around to trying to clean up the flickr account. There’s over 4,000 photos in my flickr account, I’m trying to use it as a backup, but it’s really hard, (at least for me) to organize things in a reasonable way on Flickr.

So I’m looking through pictures, and wind up at May 2009, and thought hey, I wonder what pictures I took and uploaded just before the kids mom announced she was leaving? That’d be kind of interesting, in a looking at a totaled car after an accident kind of way. Some of the pictures were really old, like that was forever ago that we did whatever thing. So I headed over towolframalpha.com and typed in days between may 21, 2009 and today, and it came back with 888. If I was superstitious, I’d find some revelation in 888. Being less than that, I just thought it was cool, and thought about Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, which has no connection, other than the repeating numbers, and it’s in the news a lot.

So my Flickr pics aren’t really any more organized, but I did find my previous attempts at making some sense of way too many photos somehow reasonable. I’m starting to think there was value in having to pay for film, pay for processing, and then wait a few days, or overnight, or 1 hour, (depending on the year) for your printed pictures to come back. If I’d had to buy all of that film, it would be about $537, just for the film. Processing would easily double that figure. I do have lots of pictures of the kids, although, they’re pretty repetitive.

So I’ve used up an hour, written some meandering paragraphs, answered txt’s from an old friend, who only contacts me when his website, (which I host) is down.

Sigh…

Happiness

I’ve started a few posts, trying to describe, more to myself than the few people that stop by here, that while my life is pretty good, and I’ve made a lot of little improvements to how I do things to try and get myself out of the rut that I feel like I’m in, I’m not happy. I have a good time, I do fun things, I go out with friends, had my post marital relationship, and while I can honestly say I have fun, I can’t say that I’m happy. I think I was close for a while, or I was working so hard at not being unhappy, I didn’t have time to think about anything else.

Knowing your not alone, in this weird sort of, life is good but… state is helpful. Jenni at singlemomwhoami.com , wrote about, what I think is a very similar situation and summed it up much more eloquently than I did. I had decided the day before yesterday that exercise was my next attempt, maybe I’m on to something. Thanks Jenni for putting so well.

Parents & Drinking

Singlemommyhood.com linked to an article on the Today show about drinking parents. They asked what thoughts were about being a single parent, and drinking. I started thinking about how different my kids lives are compared to my childhood. Beyond the fact that both their mother and I are fairly non-social, we’re not anti-social, we’re just awkward, and don’t know exactly how to handle the social settings, so we tended to find things to do that usually didn’t involve large groups.

When I was a kid, we had parties, and parties meant more beverages than normal. I played waiter when I was a kid, making sure eveyone had a drink. When I was 9, I tried taking a sip or two of every drink I delivered, which resulted in a lot of humor for the guests and a lot of puking later in the night, and the next day. I remember having dreams, when my mother was pregnant with my sister, that I could hear the baby crying, because mom was drinking so much. I had no idea, being just shy of 10, that alcohol during pregancy was bad for the baby, I just didn’t think the baby would like it much, and it was in there, and there was nothing the poor little thing could do.

Parties would wind up, on those occasions when I was still awake, where the guests would all assure each other they were fine to get home. But one night, an hour or two after everyone left, the phone rang, and it was one of my dad’s coworkers, calling from jail. They wanted the hosts of the party, my parents, to come and bail him out. A whopping lapse of judgement on his part, exceeded only by my parents packing me and my baby sister up and driving the 20 miles or so to the jail he was to pick him up and drive him home. I didn’t think of the sheer stupidity of the entire situation at the time, but, really?

There would also be the occasional, or more than occasional fight that comes out when both parents are pretty hammered. I remember hearing my parents fighting, and glass breaking. I pulled the blankets up in my bed and tried not to hear. The next morning my mother’s favorite lamp was missing. She threw it at my dad.

In my teens, mom would pop open her first can of whatever beer was on sale at about 11 am. I’m not at all sure how she managed to make it all the way to dinner, and manage to actually cook something, but she did. On a night after a long day of swilling down the beer, somehow mom and I were at a neighbors, and they wound up making out, while I sat and waited for her to ride me home.

I stopped acknowldeging my mothers existence that night. I didn’t talk to her, answer her questions, or respond to her in any way. It wound up being considerably easier than dealing with her. I guess I was a stubborn kid, because this went on for months, until my dad sat me down one night and said, “you should give your mother a break…” I asked him why, and he said, “she’s been going to AA for a month, and hasn’t had anything to drink, and you haven’t even noticed.

He was right, I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t care, but somehow loving our parents is in our DNA, and I gave her a break. I never told him what happened, and I’m certain she didn’t. I’m pretty sure she didn’t remember any of it.

Which brings me back to parents and drinking. The Today show article was about baby Lisa’s mother, who admits she had more than 5, but less than 10 glasses of wine, and blacked out at some point during the night. She’s not at all certain what she did that night, but she KNOWS that she didn’t do anything bad to the baby.

If you have a glass or two of wine after you put the kids to bed, while you read your book, watch a movie, talk on the phone, or just sit in a dark room and breathe, that seems pretty reasonable to me. You’re still able to provide your full attention to your children, should something happen. If you drink enough to black out, or make out with a neighbor in front of your kid, I think maybe that’s not ok.

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