Archive for the 'Housework' Category

Linda the ho-bot

February 23, 2011

Andrew Hicks

In the interest of continuity (for those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile), I should mention it’s been almost six months since The Event, and I’m still not back to work. Oh, I’m working around the house — dishes, cooking, vacuuming, laundry and multitasking the double-baby situation — but none of that draws a paycheck or cash tips. I won’t get to exploit all this family work until I’m close to death and need one of these lucky kids to change my bedpan or something.

So it’s about time to go back to waiting on people (unless YOU — yes, YOU — want to pay me to write stuff), since the injured ankle is almost healed. My movement is still restricted, I still have pain at the end of the day, and I never should’ve walked in the snow earlier this month. Also, if you break your ankle in September, and in February, your 2 year old begs you to get on the trampoline and jump with her, don’t do it. You will look foolish, you will ache, and you will regret it. But I’m feeling good, I’m writing, and I’m still not drinking.

I do owe some people some money, though. Can’t lie about that. I get all kinds of robocalls I don’t answer every day. Most don’t leave a message. Some leave an automessage that is joined in progress once my voicemail starts recording. And then, there’s Linda. Linda is a collectorbot who calls and leaves the same 12-second voice message a half-dozen times a day. Crazy thing is, every time I get a Linda message, it originates from a different area code. You know that Ludacris song about having hoes in different area codes? Well, for one ho, Linda is in 124 area codes and counting. That’s impressive, Linda. But annoying.

My birthday’s this Sunday, and already I’ve gotten a card from my mom with a very generous check in it. This proves once again that the most thoughtful gift anyone can give is a lump sum of cash. Made my day. Not a word of this to Linda, anybody.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

This caption has yet to be written.

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Group appetizer binge

January 22, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post was also written twelve hours after the midnight cutoff, while Silas slept and Sarah ate yogurt and watched “Caillou” in her highchair. Two things Andrew has learned about “Caillou” so far — 1) It’s not pronounced “Kaloo,” and 2) The dad on the show cuts his lawn with an electric mower. Andrew’s grandpa had an electric lawnmower when Andrew was growing up, and Andrew was surprised to learn the cord didn’t always seem to be in danger of being run over and chopped up by a giant, rapidly rotating blade. Electric lawnmowers do just seem vaguely uncool, though, like when you see a kid wear a helmet while riding his bike at 8 miles per hour.

Tonight, Tiffany made an impulse stop into the supermarket. She was in the mood to fire up the oven, shove in a continuous stream of frozen appetizers and make a night of eating them and having fun. This wasn’t a couple boxes of wings, either; it was a Noah’s Ark affair — two of everything. Potato skins, jalapeno poppers, toasted ravioli with meat sauce, popcorn chicken, spinach dip, chicken fries and four Red Baron pizzas.

Our abundance of unhealthy food led us to consider doing the impossible: having people over. In 2007, we arrived in Springfield broke, living in a tiny apartment and not knowing anyone. Just as quickly, we were pregnant. Then we had a baby. Then we were pregnant again. Then we had another baby. Along the line, we moved into a house twice as big as the old place, and just recently we got our layout and setup the way we want it, based on the humble quantity and quality of furniture we do have.

Only now, in early 2011, does it seem natural to invite a friend or two or maybe four over to hang out. But we don’t usually actually do it. We arrived at the decision tonight sometime between 8:30 and 9, and we found a pair of couple friends available and willing to come over with their 7-year-old daughter.

In the period between realizing people were coming over and people actually coming over, we force-cleaned the neglected areas of the house. This provided a missing degree of accountability; the house would not have gotten cleaned otherwise.

The bringing of the 7-year-old daughter was key to our plan. Tiffany and I get pockets of time to ourselves — some time individually, less time as a couple. Sarah plays with us, and she plays by herself, but she rarely gets to play with another kid. This turned out to be good for everyone. Kid time for the kids, adult time for the adults, and oven-warmed appetizers for all. Silas even had a fortuitously gracious sense of timing and decided to sleep through almost the entire affair.

Sarah and her new little friend played well together, and the rest of us hung out and cracked jokes and played Guitar Hero. I haven’t done Guitar Hero in a couple years (at the peak of my abilities, I did an alright job playing songs of average difficulty, which makes me perfectly mediocre), but I enjoyed making fun of the entire Rush 2112” track* and its pretentious Spinal Tap/Stonehenge spoken-word nonsense breaks.

The friends we had over went to high school with my next-door neighbor, who bundles and buddies up with me almost daily for outdoor cigarette breaks, so we went as a group to retrieve her. She’s a single lady with four small kids, and it was going on midnight by this time. But through the magic of a double baby monitor, we brought the neighbor over, and sounds of peaceful kid slumber from next door filled the monitor**.

I happened into an unexpectedly poignant moment amidst all this. Sarah had already gone to bed***, and I went upstairs to check on our friends’ daughter, who had been lying on a blanket in Silas’s bedroom, watching The Swan Princess. I peeked in the doorway and saw the little girl holding a large white rectangle with medical-blue borders.

“Know what this is?” she asked me.

I didn’t. I thought maybe she’d found it in the back of a low dresser drawer, with all the stuff we’ve been given and never use. “Where’d you get that?” I asked.

She said, “It’s my pee pad. I pee all the time when I sleep.”

I had instant flashbacks to the bunk beds I shared with my younger brother. He was in the top bunk, with a rubber mattress cover. Sometimes, when he’d wake up and shift position to where his lower leg hung off the side of the bed, his body weight would depress the mattress and cause dribbles of his overnight urine to splash down in my direction.

“It’s no big deal,” I told the little girl. “A lot of people do it. My brother did it until he was like ten.”

“They say it’s disgusting,” she said back, “they” being the other kids, I imagined.

I wanted to give an impassioned speech about how it’s not disgusting, it’s a common problem, and screw those other kids. Having just written the “Rejector or rejectee?” blog post, memories of feeling like an insecure weird kid are still floating around freshly in my brain. I’m siding big with the underdog right now.

Letting other people’s jokes, opinions and snide comments hold you back is counterproductive and criminal, although I have to admit I’ve cracked plenty of jokes and snide comments over the years when I should’ve just kept my mouth shut.

Little moments like the above just provide quick reminders that I’m one of the grownups now, and any support, encouragement and rational thought I can provide for those younger than myself can only help. And beyond those things, I can also provide skins, poppers, toasted ravioli, popcorn chicken, spinach dip and pizza. Which makes the process of getting people to spend time at your house that much easier.

*I mean, this song lasts a ridiculously long time. “2112” is both the title and the duration of the song. It is two thousand, one hundred and twelve minutes long.

**The neighbor had to leave abruptly, and Tiffany and I realized later that we still have her monitor base, and she has ours. Theoretically, either one of us would be provided with daily opportunities to eavesdrop. If nothing else, though, we could coordinate our smoke breaks this way by speaking into the air. We wouldn’t even have to reach for our phones. The Information Age is so pathetically astounding.

***Sarah acted like she was going to fall asleep for about two minutes before remembering she had a new play pal who was still in the house. It was all crying from that moment until we relented and let our wide-awake toddler get up to play some more.

Grape thanks

January 21, 2011

EDITOR’S NOTE: The editor realizes that the sheer amount of editor’s notes is probably starting to annoy. Every time you see one of these notes, it means Andrew didn’t write and post this day’s blog by his midnight cutoff. This time he’s finally sitting down to write his Friday post at 8:37 pm on Saturday.

Silas is baby-babbling away on his mommy’s shoulder, and Sarah’s playing in one of the bedrooms. On CNN, Howard Stern is guest for the entire hour on Piers Morgan’s new interview show that took Larry King’s old cobweb-smattered timeslot. It’s the most interesting TV Andrew has seen in quite some time, which will probably mean he won’t actually start writing his Friday post until 9 pm.

Tonight is a sparkling example of quiet, loving family time; two generations chilling out. An hour ago, Andrew experienced simple, profound happiness while sitting in a glider care with Sarah on his lap, the two of them sharing a bowl of grapes. Sarah said, “Thank you!” with innocent enthusiasm every time her dad gave her a grape. Later, there will be the strain of diaper changing and formula feeding and cleaning up, cleaning up, cleaning up. Right now, there is peace and enjoyment and Howard Stern being intelligent and entertaining.

Procrastination and vaccinations

September 11, 2010

We rent our house. Four bedrooms, two baths, a nice backyard. I’ve talked to my current landlord exactly twice. Once was when the air conditioning went out during a heat wave in mid-June while my wife was eight months pregnant. The other time was on Wednesday, when I broke the sink.

I was doing dishes, a frequent assignment for a daytime dad, and applied what I thought was a miniscule amount of upward pressure on the faucet arm. The thing was rusted out on the bottom, I soon discovered, which created an instant hole that left water gushing out at an impressive 270-degree angle. We ended up doing the rest of our dishes in the bathtub that night, a hardship more bizarre than actually hard. We wistfully compared it to the trials of the original American settlers. Imagine doing the bathtub dishes after the first Thanksgiving. Pause for laughter.

It has to be something dramatic like that for me to call the landlord, even though he’s very courteous and prompt about resolving issues. But both times I made the call over some emergency drama, I tacked on a couple requests that had been brewing indefinitely. Case in point – the entire time we’ve lived in our house, 20 months now, the light fixture in the third bedroom has been broken. It’s always been a case of, “Oh yeah, we need to call the landlord about that.” Instead, we bought a floor lamp and put it on the backburner.

Well, about 610 days later, thanks to me finally bringing it up, we have a brand new ceiling fan/light fixture in what is now Baby Silas’s bedroom. The lesson is, we could have had the fixture replaced 609 days ago if I would have made the one-minute phone call I made on Wednesday. This is a running theme in my life. Stuff gets broken or goes undone, gets viewed as a hassle, gets rationalized out of being acted upon, gets worst-case-scenarioized in my head, and then ends up being resolved way too late in a positively simple manner.

One guy came over to fix both. He showed up announced at 10:40 or so, while Sarah, Silas and I were accomplishing not much of anything in the living room. Sarah had met this handyman once before, when he came over to fix the garbage disposal. At the time, she wanted to give him hugs. This time, she wanted to investigate all the goings-on under the sink. I moved myself and both babies to the master bedroom so Schneider could work in peace.

Kind of the same thing today. I took both babies to the doctor for Silas’s two-month physical and trio of immunizations*. I was running late and couldn’t find the release thingie on the double stroller. Yes, again, I couldn’t work the stroller. My friend Kate Hayes is right. I should practice on that thing in my spare time for when it actually counts.

So I carried Silas in his car seat, and Sarah held my hand and walked from the parking lot through the building, into the elevator and into the office with us. She did great with all that. Sometimes she gets that hyper-independent streak and won’t hold my hand, actually collapses her body so we can’t go anywhere but down to the ground.

Today Sarah was all good walking, but she was also all activity in the examining room. I didn’t bring any toys or books for her, and her only props were two kiddie chairs and a kiddie table. She MacGuyvered the crap out of what she had to work with. She was picking the chairs up and carrying them all around the room, setting up a barricade at the main door. She pushed that table all around the room too. The noise was deafening.

Meanwhile, the nurse was asking questions I didn’t know the answers to, like which hospital we do our lab work at, Memorial or St. John’s? It was a 50/50, and I’m still not confident I answered correctly. In many ways, it’s my first week on the job, and I don’t get daily intelligence briefings. Sometimes as a dad I feel like I can go an entire day without being intelligent at all.

Also, apparently I feed Silas too much. I feed myself too much, so it only stands to reason. My rationale is, if he’s sucking ravenously at the bottle, and when the bottle’s all gone, he’s crying like he wants some more, I’m going to give him some more. I’m hoping this is not the same logic that led the parents of that YouTube Asian smoking baby to up his nicotine intake from a half-pack to a videotaped carton a day. I don’t want to be one of those dads.

* = I feel somewhat lazy as a father. My mom and a concerned conspiracy-theorist friend both wanted to warn me of the dangers of giving vaccines to your infants, and I barely browsed the reading material. I wanted to rock the boat and question authority and screw the man a whole lot more ten years ago. Sadly, now it’s more like, “What’s the normal thing to do? Where do I sign?” I’m old, complacent and conformist. Not bragging, just saying.

Early season batting average

September 9, 2010

I posted my first blog on here yesterday, and I’m sporting a 50% comment response rate per visitor, which is an astounding statistic for any blogger. Of course, so far I’ve only told two people – one of them my mother* – that I started this blog, so that 50% statistic translates into one comment. This brag-stat reminds me of being nine years old and obsessed with baseball statistics at the beginning of the season. I’d wonder how long anyone’s insane 1.000 or .750 or .667 batting average or 0.00 ERA could survive. The answer? Until Game 2.

Well, in Daddy Daytime world, today was Game 2, and Game 1 was some kind of crazy quadruple-header I wasn’t completely prepared for. Let’s review: 3 hours of sleep, 9 hours of baby-watching, 6 hours of bartending on a busy night, 3 hours of errands and unwinding, 2 more hours of baby watching, then 4 hours of sleep. Cue Game 2.

My first challenge this morning was 22-month-old Sarah wanting to have ice cream for breakfast. We have a firmly established breakfast ritual. We wake up, we get a sippy cup of whole milk, we watch a little PBS Kids, we get Sarah in her highchair, we section off some wheat toast with zero-calorie spray butter, we put some scrambled eggs on a plate, and we get ready for work.**

Well, now we’re in the stay-at-home world, which so far is slightly less structured. And Sarah’s one giant comment for the suggestion box is Ice Cream For Breakfast. She pronounces it “Ah-keem.” Which is cute. And makes me wonder, did we leave Coming to America on in the background one time too many? Because… well… you know… Eddie Murphy’s character*** in that movie… is named Akeem… it’s not a funny joke… but if I drag it out… one person… will…… laugh………. maybe…………

We have several moments like this each day, me and Sarah. She wants to play with something harmful. She doesn’t know it’s harmful. It looks like a fun thing. I weigh the pros and cons of taking it away from her. Usually it’s: PRO: She will live, CON: She will throw an enormous damn fit. Then I start to rationalize how dangerous the item in question actually is.

For instance, Sarah can reach for the spare toothbrush in the bathroom. She likes to pantomime brushing her teeth. She also likes to run around with it. Thanks to lots of gruesome ’80s horror movies, I can imagine random crazy impalements occuring at any time. Odds of this happening are low. I usually let her keep it under supervision. That’s just one example.

Anyway, I was dragging ass through the entire AM portion of Baby Watch because I overdid it the night before. Left work late, then straight to Shop-N-Save for a full-on grocery run. The way things have been, I’ve worked two jobs most days, and both are restaurant jobs. There’s lots of easily accessible fatty food around, most of which will not help you make it to your children’s high school graduation party, at which there will be lots of easily accessible fatty food around. With this change in routine, I’ll be at home most of my waking hours, so I’ll need food to also be at my home. Hopefully not so fatty. I’d like to outlive Methuselah if possible.

Putting away the groceries, I found Tupperware’d leftovers in all corners of the freezer and refrigerator. Mostly, I can track down the season of origin of these leftovers – e.g. winter, spring, summer or fall. If I wasn’t running into copyright and funding issues, Weird Al’s 1993 Aerosmith parody “Livin’ in the Fridge” would play while the imaginary montage of this paragraph played out dorkily.

During Game 2, the bulk of what I did was basic Game 2 maintenance while I recovered from Game 1. I succumbed (succame?) to what I call The Temptation Of The Nap. When you’re doing Daddy Daytime duty, you think about all the things you should and could get done, if only those little blessings would just go to sleep for awhile. Then you reach that point in the day where they finally both match up on the unconsciousness level, and you realize… holy crap… you’re so tired… and you have to get back up and do it again so soon.

That’s when you lie down. In a bed. All by yourself. And it’s so comfortable. That you have to just fall asleep. Until somebody starts crying again.

* = Oh, by the way, it wasn’t my mom who commented. It was the other person I told, Kate Hayes, a great old Christian school classmate who married another great old Christian school classmate, moved to Boston and started her own blog at http://www.adventuresinparenting.me. We’ve established that our blogs are not in direct competition, because mine is awesome. Kidding. Because mine is from the daddy perspective. And I think Kate has money.

** = We also placate her with the value bag of McDonald’s fries, so don’t think from the “zero-calorie spray butter” remark that we’re Holier Than Frickin Thou by any means.

*** = Eddie’s main character, that is. He also played Clarence, Randy Watson and Saul. I used to think Eddie also played Extremely Ugly Girl, but that was Arsenio Hall’s brilliant, tour de force acting.