Friday, October 25, 2013

The downside of children growing up

I have mentioned before how little an empty nest is going to bother me.
Left overs in the fridge – oh no. Actual hot water for a shower – oh the horror. More than an eighth of a tank of gas in the car when I need to go to work – say it isn't so.
Yes there will be many benefits when the youngsters fly the coop.
My oldest will be moving out any day now (he just doesn't know it yet.) My middle one is in Grade 12 and he is looking at university and my youngest just entered the hallowed halls of high school, so the light at the end of the tunnel is still a few years off, but it is growing brighter.
Even now as my kids get older and more independent, my wife and I find we have more time for ourselves. We can actually go to a movie and not have to re-mortgage the home just to get the entire family in. Going out for dinner no longer involves clowns, grease burgers or a play area.
When the children were really young, going to a movie or anywhere else for that matter, was quite a process. We would have to book a baby sitter a week or so in advance, pick up the rented child watcher, leave a list of what is to be done, make  formula, write down contact information, blood types, next of kin, genetic DNA codes and all sorts of information.
Following the evening out, I drove the baby sitter home which, depending on the sitter we were blessed enough to get that night, either took a few minutes, or more than a half hour for a round trip.
Of course when we did get home, the dog would bark, which would wake up the children which would mean we had to get them to go back to sleep which meant any relaxation gained from the evening out was somewhat diminished by the immediate return to parental duties.
As they grew older, it was a little easier to go out as not as much preparation and planning was required. Eventually the oldest one reached an age where he could look after his siblings and whole new world opened up.
Now, my children are all in their teens so they can pretty much fend for themselves. Going out consists of telling the kids, “Hey, your mom and I are going out. There's food in the fridge. Bye.”
And off we go, simple as that.
However, in a stunning development, a problem with aging children and their independence has arisen that I did not foresee: Halloween.
For the first time in roughly 17 years there will be no one trick or treating in my home.
But if no one solicits strangers for candy, and if I am not required to escort them around the neighbourhood to gather said candy, how am I supposed to collect my 20 per cent service fee?
OK, now we have a problem.
I have always loved Halloween and long believed it should be some sort of national holiday, but this year things will not be the same.
The two oldest have not wandered the streets begging for sugary treats for a few years now, and this year my youngest is not going door to door, but to a friend's Halloween party, meaning I will be without my allotted portion of sugary treats.
I could just go buy some I suppose, but where is the fun in that? Where's the thrill of looking through the loot bag to see what all 'we' collected?
It just won't be the same.
My middle-aged waist line does not need the candy influx so I guess this is one of nature's ways of keeping me from getting flabby, well flabby-er anyway.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Look up, look waaaay up

It was good to talk to someone who knew exactly how I felt and what I go through on a daily basis.
By no effort on our part, we were brothers of sorts as we face similar issues and challenges.
You see, I am 6'4” tall. Being tall has many advantages such as being able to see over a crowd – my personal favourite - or being able to reach things in high places.
When you are tall, certain things are expected of you. I have changed more lightbulbs in my lifetime than most could even imagine .
Of course there are also hazards to being height enhanced. I have bonked my head more times than I can possibly count.
Just the other day my noggin took a hit as I walked into the open back door of our mini-van.
I was busy loading stuff into the rear compartment of the van, and my watch-out-for-things-that-you-can-hit-your-head-on radar was temporarily down when I stepped forward and whammo – mini-van to the cranium.
Having rattled my brain time and again, I am instantly angry when it happens. It is just an automatic reaction. I admit it is not the best reaction, but I have never claimed to be perfect.
I have also hit my head on the top of door frames, on tree branches, a steel clothesline post (that one hurt) and have taken out more than one chandelier by simply standing up from a dinner table.
The destroying of chandeliers was mostly when I was younger. I grew 10 inches in eight months and was not used to my new height so I developed the habit of looking up before I stood up from any table.
It is a habit I have to this day.
So at my friend's birthday party this summer it was nice to talk with two brothers of the tall who were both a couple inches higher than I am.
We spent a few minutes comparing notes – and forehead scars. We talked about bashing our heads, reaching things without a step stool, about people asking 'How ya doing Stretch?' and of course, changing light bulbs.
I can't talk to my wife about such matters because she is only 5' tall. In the 25 years we have been married, she has bonked her head only a couple of times and it annoyed her each time.
Welcome to my world. 
It is always strange to run in to someone who is taller than I am as it is an odd feeling to look up to someone when I talk to them.
I am just not used to it. That is why I have suggested to my wife we take in the tall people's convention put on by Tall Club International.
Men have to be at least 6'2” and women 5'10” to become a member. (My dad, mom and sister all qualify.)
It would be interesting to be one of the shorter people in the room for a change.
For some reason, my wife has expressed no interest in attending the gathering  even when I suggested we could then attend a little people's convention and she could walk around feeling tall.
Again, she declined the proposition.
My wife's family is, how shall put this – vertically challenged. They are not a large people. My family on the other hand is like the land of the giants. 
The men are tall, the women are tall – everyone is tall. 
My dad's side comes from Germanic decent, while my mom's kin have a Nordic bloodline. Vikings are not known to have been of small stature.
My children however are neither tall, nor short, but slightly above average.
I am not saying it is better to be tall, short or anything in between. It's just the way it is and you are who you are.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hormone hurricane blowing through my home

I have heard it said raising boys is harder when they are younger and easier when they are older.
The exact opposite is said about girls.
Being a father of both, I can say without hesitation “Yikers, were they ever right.”
When the boys were younger they were nothing but a mass of kinetic energy, always having to do something.
One of their favourite pastimes was wrestling. Not professional 'wrassling' where they hit each other in the head with chairs, but just good, old fashioned wrestling around on the ground like young lads have done since the beginning of time.
They would wrestle in the livingroom, the front yard, the backyard, the mini-van and on occasion, even in the grocery store, much to the horror of their mother.
I was a popular target for their wrestling attack and I spent many a moment fending off two tiny grapplers as they tested their strength against dad.
After one particularly energetic match, my wife, who was watching with an amused look, asked why they never wrestled with her.
“Because we love you,” said my eldest before going for another headlock. Only a five year old could devise such logic.
They were not bad boys, just your typical energetic lads looking for an outlet for all that pent up enthusiasm, but they did take constant watching, guiding and correcting.
The term 'perpetual motion' was conceived by a father watching his young sons as they tore around the estate.
My daughter on the other hand was content to calmly play with her dolls – of which she had roughly a gazillion. Everyone would comment about how quiet she was and what a little angel she is.
That is if we could hear each other over the roar of imitation car sounds, explosion sounds and other noises made by my sons and their friends who invaded my home on a daily basis.
Boys took a lot of attention in their younger years, mainly because they never thought things through and dove into situations without considering about the consequences.
“Um, dad, I wanted to help you out so I decided to move your motorcycle for you and it kind of fell over...on the lawnmower.”
“Why did you even try to move my motorcycle?” was a rather exasperated reply.
“I dunno, because I thought it would help.”
After picking the bike up and looking at customized dent in the tank, I figured there was no point in getting angry because he was just trying to do something nice. But I was once again reminded how you have to watch young lads every second.
Meanwhile my daughter was pretending to make cookies in her room – silent as a little lamb.
Fast forward a few years and my daughter is...well, let's just say raging hormones can be problematic at times – like all the time.
Suddenly the boys were the easy ones to raise. They were quiet, well quiet-ish, and were logical in their discussions.
But take a pre-teen girl with hormones raging through her like a torrential flood, tsunami and tornado all rolled into one and a look out.
“Honey, could you please get all your dirty laundry from your room please?”
Simple request, right?
“Why is everyone always bossing me around? Why does everyone hate me? I'm moving out and never coming back.”
Dealing with a young woman with newly installed hormones is like trying to baptize a cat - there is just no easy way to do it.
I was not prepared for this hormonal hurricane.
And of course all of her friends are going through the same process, so the girl drama is enough to make me want to take a job as a yak herder in Peru.
I asked my wife how long this would go on for. She just smiled and patted me on the shoulders.
Did I say 'yikers' yet?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I married the worst criminal on the planet

My wife is the worst criminal in the world.
Not that we have ever really done anything illegal, but I know for a fact she would never make it in the underworld of crime.
This became painfully obvious when we went on a road trip a few years after we were married.
Junior was just over a year old and my mother-in-law blessed us by taking the wee one for the weekend so we could have a little getaway.
It was the first vacation we had been able to take in years and the first time we would be away from Junior for more than a few hours.
But we were confident he could handle being with his granny for a couple days, so we packed our bags and ran for the car.
Um, I mean we tearfully said goodbye to our precious child before forcing ourselves to leave our first born as we embarked on our trip where we would miss him dearly every second we were away.
Who am I kidding. We ran for the car so fast the wind of us passing by knocked our neighbour on his butt.
Packing took a matter of minutes, as all we had were two suitcases instead of the dumptruck load of stuff needed to go on a weekend outing with a toddler.
I will admit, there was a little bit of guilt at leaving Junior behind, but fortunately I was able to ignore it.
Our destination was a hot spring resort town where we would have two glorious days to rest and relax.
We were not staying in what we soon dubbed “The Richie Hotel” because we were not rich. Instead, we stayed at a decent hotel down the road that was more suited to our budgetary situation.
Because this was a hot spring town, we wanted to bathe in the natural pools of mineral-laden water. The problem was, our hotel only had a regular old hot tub, so we ventured to the public hot spring facility which was basically a large, warm swimming pool.
It was somewhat relaxing, but not quite the hot spring experience we were looking for. Later that day, we wandered down to The Richie Hotel and saw not one, not two and not even three, but four pools of varying sizes filled with hot spring liquid.
Upon seeing the pools of luxury an idea formed in my cranium: we were going to crash the place.
Sure there were signs that stated for hotel patrons only, but God made the hot springs, so who is man to tell me I can't indulge. Later that evening, we snuck in the side entrance, doffed our jackets and shoes and slipped into the soothing warm water.
My wife was nervous about breaking the rules, but I convinced her it would be fine. She was just beginning to relax when hotel security came by and started talking to people.
When she saw him, my wife went white as a sheet. She became visibly nervous as he came in our direction. I casually asked if they were closing the pool and he said they were just asking anyone under 18 to leave because it was now time for adults only.
What a wonderful idea, I said as the security guy went on his way. 
I looked at my wife and I thought she was going to have a heart attack. She was nervous and stressed and a few minutes later we had to leave because she could not keep up the criminal ruse any longer.
We gathered our stuff and took off like we had just robbed a bank.
She began to breath easier and I realized I had married the worst criminal in the world.
I tried to get her to sneak into The Richie Hotel again the next day, but she would have none of it.
Personally, I rather enjoyed our walk on the dark side. 
The weekend went by way to fast, but it was relaxing, restful and informative as I learned never to involved my wife in any sort of activity that was not 100 per cent above board.