Life in 2016
These are my stories about day to day life as a business man and father of two little ones. My precious little offspring are now one and three and my business is seven years old. Jen and I are rapidly approaching our fourth decade.
The one thing I used to hate most about the holidays is how the ambient energy cliff dives right after.
What I mean is, having a bunch of people over or staying with family or friends emits a lot of energy. You can feel it. You can feed off it. There is a constant noise. Something is always happening. But it abruptly goes away when your last visitor leaves and shuts the door or you return to a cold empty house. You stand there in silence all alone. It was always depressing to me, especially when I lived alone before I had the pups.
However, this year was different. It was better. With my two rambunctious little ones, the party never ends. It’s amazing how much energy—and noise—two little humans can emit.
Today is mine and Jen’s thirteenth anniversary. To make it special, the whole family went out to Chili’s (Casa Grande’s best).
As we are eating, Jen says, “who would have thought 13 years ago we’d be sitting here with two wonderful little kids.”
It’s amazing to think about all the thousands of little decisions in both of our lives that brought us together and led us to that momentous meal and the wonderful family we have today.
I have no doubt that we will log another 13 great years built on thousands of little decisions that will lead us all down a unique road. It will be interesting to see where we go from here. I have a feeling that the next baker’s dozen will be more challenging, yet more rewarding.
Who would have thought that someday we would have reliable 100 Mbs Internet speed in our homes—at an affordable price no less! It became a reality today. Cox cranked my pipe to give us 100 Mbs down and 20 Mbs up.
According to SpeedTest.net, our connection is faster than 92% of all US connections. This is in Casa Grande—that’s amazing to me! When I first moved to this podunk town in the early 2000s there was nothing but dial-up. Cox didn’t exist. Even five years ago I was using a crappy wireless ISP getting a measly one or two megabits down.
Now Cox is currently offering 300 Mbit service in Phoenix. We don’t even have the computer horsepower to max out our 100 Mbit connection. My Nexus 5 Android can only achieve a maximum of 40 Mbs down over Wi-Fi and Jen’s old 2007 Mac Book gets about 80 Mbs on average over the 1 Gbs wired LAN.
The previous 3 years we had a 15/3 connection with Cox, which I thought was fast. It is truly amazing how Internet connection speeds have increased over the last few years, yet prices have stayed relatively constant.
When 1.54 Mbs was the shit
Back in the late 90s, Devry had a pair of balanced T-1 connections for the entire school. That beat the hell out of my 56 kbs dial-up at the time. I would walk to school just to download MP3s onto my 100 MB ZIP disk. I thought downloading songs at one megabit per second was blazing! This was of course after hours with almost no one else on the network.
Going back even further to 1996, the entire South Heart School system in North Dakota was on a single 33.6 kbs modem. That was actually painful.
Remy is shocked
I was at my desk with Remy playing quietly beside me. He was messing with the screws and levers on my chair. I was focused on work, not paying too much attention to him. If he’s quiet, it’s best to just let him be and try to get some work done.
Then, all of a sudden, he’s screaming bloody murder!
I look over and he’s face down frantically screaming into the carpet. I quickly roll him over to see where he is hurt.
I look around for toys or something that he could have hurt himself with.
He’s probably just being a drama queen again. I decide to ignore the commotion. As I’m turning back to my computer I see the printer plug hanging half way out of the power outlet.
Remy’s fascination with power outlets comes to an abrupt end.
After several minutes of crying—but still whimpering—I tried to get him to go to the outlet. He wouldn’t go near it, much less touch it. As I pushed him towards it, he pushed back.
I was shocked!
He was shocked!
Finally! Now that we know what that is all about we can move on with our lives.
We’ve been having a hard time getting the kids to sleep in their own beds.
Before shut eye, I first had to move kids out of my bed. I don’t mind if they sleep with us, but inevitably, I am kicked several times in the head—or other delicate areas—throughout the night. It was getting ridiculous. I wasn’t sleeping. I had to do something about it.
So I designed a bedtime ritual.
First, everybody goes potty.
Dim the lights and throw a pink mermaid garment over the kitty lamp to emit a soft relaxing glow.
Read two story books with Priya nestled in her bed and Remy on my lap (or off playing in the dark closet). The Peek-a-boo book seems to capture Remy’s attention for more than two minutes. Priya really loves the Curious George stories.
Then I tell one fairytale of my own while pacing with Remy in my arms. It’s almost always about a little Princess named Priya and her little brother, Prince Remy, who live in the faraway village of Casa Grande. No matter how I tell it, I always finish with, “the end!” Priya always says, “nice story dad.”
Then I sing the ABC lullaby, which is simply the ABC song slowed way down. If Remy is still a little squirmy, I hum it a second time.
Finally, I put Remy in his crib and tell him to close his eyes. Priya is usually snoring by this time, but if she isn’t, I hold her hand until she falls asleep. She loves when we hold her hand.
I have been doing this for about two weeks now and it is working like a charm. As we go through the ritual I can see the kids winding down. They know what’s ultimately coming. Sleep.
The Remy remedy
Once in awhile Remy will cry or crawl out of his crib during step 7 of the ritual. This is a clear violation of the ritual rules. So I came up with a remedy that works surprisingly well.
Without saying a word, I immediately grab him and haul ass to the garage. I tell him this is the garage. Then I calmly and confidently place him in the freezing cold, pitch-black garage and lock the door for about ten seconds. After a lot of crying and door pounding, I grab him and haul ass back to his crib. In he goes, as quiet as an angel.
This little tactic is very effective and almost always works on the first or second execution. Remy has never required more than three trips to the garage. At that point, his two—and only—choices become crystal clear.
I used to waste countless hours trying to comfort and love him and kindly explain to him that he needs to go to sleep. I struggled with him every night. Now, in the last couple of days, just simply saying the word “garage” makes him go right to bed without a peep. It’s nice that we have an understanding.
Word of the day
I’m sitting at my desk trying to get some work done. It is pointless. The kids are making so much damn noise even 25-decibel ear plugs are no match for these little scream machines.
So I decide to do something less cognitive: check my email. I see Merriam-Webster emailed the word of the day.
- marked by unruly or aggressive noisiness : clamorous
- stubbornly resistant to control : unruly
This single word concisely sums up the kids lately. They agree to quiet down but as soon as they turn around they are screaming at the top of their lungs again!
One thing I’ve come to realize is that the attention span and short-term memory of a three year old human—not to mention our one-year-old—is much shorter than that of a dog. I truly am baffled that the human species made it as far up the food chain as it did.
For many months Priya pretended we were pigs: mommy and daddy pig, Peppa, and George. She is relentless with her pretending. God forbid, if we call our son Remy, she would quickly interject, “no, he’s George!”
Well, the pig phase has passed.
A new phase
Now it’s “guy kid” (a.k.a. Remy) and she is “girl kid.” This has been going on for weeks now. At first it was cute.
For instance, one night I finished reading them a bedtime story. I turn off the tablet and the room is pitch black and silent. I’m assuming the kids are both asleep. All of a sudden Remy starts kicking his crib and making noise.
I say, “Remy! Quiet down.”
Priya corrects me in a sleepy whisper, “guy kid.”
Parents annoyed with girl kid
Now it’s gone too far. We can be in the middle of scolding her:
Priya! Do not push your broth…
And she will interrupt our lecture to correct us:
No, I’m girl kid!
It was an absolutely beautiful spring day—about 83 degrees with no wind. After eating cinnamon pumpkin pancakes, we went to a neighborhood park. The kids enjoyed the swings and slides. Priya ran! Lots! That girl loves to run.
We soaked up a lot of sun. It was time for a nap.
After some rest, we headed to the Dave White park for a dinner picnic and more playground. This time it was the rock wall and other climbing stuff.
Finally, we enjoyed a bike ride just after sunset.
Needless to say, we were all exhausted. Everyone relaxed in front of their screen: Jen on her iPhone, Priya on the iPad, and me on the computer. Remy played toys in the living room. It was nice and quiet for about a half an hour.
The trouble starts
I’m in the office, when I hear Remy messing around with the stereo; I hear it click on. I’m thinking, dammit, he’s getting into trouble again, but I’m concentrating so I overlook it. Then I hear some banging and a crash. A moment later, I hear the home theater computer beeping.
“What the hell is he doing?”
Just as I’m about to get up to see what kind of trouble he is in, he comes waltzing into my office with a smile on his face and the wireless computer keyboard in his hands. I realize the big crash was him doing what he had to to get the keyboard, which I store high up out of his reach.
When I look at the computer screen I see he was typing a bunch of gibberish. What he was trying to do was play a movie! That little shit booted the computer, turned on the stereo, and when he couldn’t get a movie to play after pounding on the keyboard, he decided he better get my expert assistance.
I guess he felt left out and just wanted to sit in front of a screen and relax too. He was in control. That little shit gets into so much trouble all the time, but he does amaze me with his one-year-old mind.
Dead in the water
Priya and I are sitting at the table enjoying a burrito in silence. Then she just starts telling me all about the ocean.
Whales live in the ocean.
Dolphins live in the ocean.
Fish live on the island.
I said, wait a minute, fish don’t live on the island but they probably live in the water around the island.
She agreed and added, “yeah, and they live in the ground.”
I said, “only if they are dead.” She agreed again.
I asked her, “do you know what it means to die?”
With conviction she says, “the fish’s batteries are dead.”
We took Priya and Remy to check out a potential school for Priya today. I spent about an hour with the kids in the classroom while Jen talked with the administration.
Priya did really well, albeit a little shy as usual. She immediately started playing with the kitchen set and made dinner for Remy and I. At this point we were separate from the other kids, who were building a house, enjoying stories, etc.
Later we were invited by the teacher to join the others and have snacks. Sounds like a good idea, except Remy had other plans.
He grabbed a big plastic two-foot-long dinosaur by the tail and the back leg. Holding this scary meat-eater out in front of him, he charges at the kids sitting at the table. My one-year old Remy starts making a nasty growling sound and keeps lunging at this four-year old boy. The boy jumps out of his chair, frightened, and hides behind the table. Remy doesn’t stop. After he drives this poor boy completely under the table, he set his sights on a five-year old girl. Remy got a little scream out of her and that’s when I put an end to his little horror show.
It was kind of entertaining watching this. I was having a sort of out-of-body experience, but then I realized, this is my kid and he’s actually terrorizing the others. He’s not just playing. He won’t stop until he’s stopped. I thought, oh man, I have a feeling we will be having many conversations with Remy’s future teachers and the parents of his peers. If Remy is freaking out kids four times his age now, what the hell is he going to do when he’s five?!
Nap time frustration
I am getting the kids ready for their one o’clock afternoon nap. Priya loves napping. I think she actually understands the benefits of sleep. A few times she has told me that she is sleepy and next thing I know, she is in bed. She also loves when I read her bedtime stories. She says, “Not too many, just two stories.”
Remy on the other hand mostly hates sleeping and rarely pays attention to the stories. It is a constant struggle to get him to sleep, especially if he is over tired. In the last few weeks however, he has been going to bed without a fight. Today was not one of those days.
Putting him in the garage in order to make him realize his bed is the better option is a tactic I actually haven’t had to use in quite awhile. I was ready to resort to the old tried and true tactic today though, but first I had to catch the little guy. He was not going down without fleeing or fighting.
Priya, already in her pajamas waiting quietly for her story, could see how frustrated I was wrangling him. Then all of a sudden she hits me with a question, “Is he a sucker or a savage beast?”
I busted up laughing! I couldn’t believe she just said that. After a moment of laughing, she says in a serious and demanding voice, “Well … which one?”
My little girl knows how to cheer me up. At times when I’m frustrated with her, she will say, “Just be happy daddy! Smile like this!” Then she puts on a big glowing grin.
We were in the middle of a story when Remy, as usual, starts acting insane. He can’t seem to pay attention to a story for more than a minute. I had to put him in his crib.
I lay the Amazon Fire tablet (our story book) screen up to illuminate the room. Priya, as usual, can’t wait for me to continue reading so she gets out of bed, grabs the tablet, and follows me around with it.
Tonight was no different. As I was making my way to the crib I hear Priya right on my tail and see the light shimmering around the room. Then all of a sudden, the room goes pitch dark. I hear a thud followed by a sweet little, “I’m sorry.” I quickly realized that Priya had fallen and the table landed screen down on the carpet. I dropped Remy in his crib and start feeling around for the tablet to shine some light on the situation.
I notice Priya trying to get back on her feet. She continues apologizing. I now see that she had tripped over the little kid couch in the middle of the room (Priya was sleeping on it because Remy took a whiz on her bed). This was a new obstacle she didn’t account for, apparently. It also doesn’t help that she stares into the bright screen while she walks in the dark.
I felt bad for her. I helped her up and said, “You took a big spill little girl.”
Priya busts into laughter!
I said, “Why is that funny. You fell. That’s called taking a spill.”
She starts laughing again and chuckles, “That’s funny daddy! I spilled!”
Priya is very expressive with her language lately. She is really catching on to a lot of idiomatic phrases.
Anyway, I wondered why she thought “taking a spill” was so funny. I imagine at this point in her life, spill only refers to tipping over a cup of water. So for her to imagine herself tipping over and dropping the tablet must have been the cause of her hysterical laughter. I have a feeling that “spill” will become part of her every day vocabulary and now take on a new meaning.
As I learn Spanish, it has been interesting to see the contrast between English and Spanish in describing actions and situations. I’m essentially on Priya’s level at this point. I can relate to her learning English. I too catch myself laughing when I learn the idiomatic “Spanish way” of saying something.
It has been a real joy to witness Priya learning English. She is also grasping Spanish well too—as well as she can with me being her only Spanish teacher. She often asks me for the Spanish word to describe an object, or just tells me if she already knows.
At the dinner table, it never fails, she says, “Hey daddy, remember Spanish?” immediately followed by “What’s table in Spanish?”
I say, “I don’t know.”
She quickly answers her own question, “Mesa!”
As we eat, she makes her rounds with silla (chair), cuchara (spoon), cuadro (painting behind me which she is convinced I painted), copa (drink), vaso (cup), manzana (apple), piña (pineapple), té (she never says tea anymore), and many more. She is solid on at least 30 Spanish words at this point.
A stressful good day
I just put the kids to sleep. I must say, bedtime was pleasant tonight. Not a single tantrum or trip to the garage. Both went to the potty then jumped in their beds.
To wind down the night, Priya and Remy watched Dora the Explorer together, cuddled up on the couch. After Dora, Remy wanted to catch a few shows on YouTube before bed. Priya wanted “just four stories” from her paper books.
Story time with Priya
First it was Gullivers Travels followed by The Velveteen Rabbit. Then Priya practiced reading Baby Elmo Goes To The Zoo. She is really getting the hang of word pronunciation.
As I learn Spanish, I found that sometimes memorizing aspects or constructs of the language is easier than learning and applying the rules or exceptions. I found that is also the case with Priya learning English. At first, I was trying to teach her some rules. For example, if o is followed by a then the o is long (i.e. boat). However, these rules, and all their exceptions, confuse her more than teach her. She seems to learn quickest by simply pointing to a word and telling her what it is. At this point her memorization is superior to her logic skills. So for now, I’m going to take advantage of her excellent memory. I figured she can learn about rules later.
While reading tonight, Priya did very well with short words like zoo, bird, at, the, Elmo, cat, etc. She also does well with some big words like elephant. She sees it and just says it. I think she recognizes these bigger words from all the ABC learning videos she has watched on YouTube.
We had a funny moment tonight when she sounded out ship.
“Shhh … i … t … b-u-c-k-e-t?”
Then, with a straight face, she looked up at me for confirmation. I burst into laughter! Not only does she rely on her YouTube education, but also dad’s vocabulary.
I’m so proud of her willingness to learn. The most rewarding part is seeing the pride she has in herself. After she plows through an entire sentence one letter at a time, she beams with excitement. It’s amazing to share these moments with her.
Back to the beginning
We started the morning by going to a Thanksgiving feast hosted by Priya’s teacher, miss Katie. It was at a park with very tall and elaborate playground equipment.
Of course, Remy wasn’t about the stick around for singing and food. He headed straight for the playground. He was up for a challenge.
When we get there, a four to five year old boy was climbing a rock wall with the assistance of his dad. The boy eventually struggles to the top with his dad pushing him most of the way up. That kid made it look like a tough climb.
This is definitely not a toddler rock wall. Most rock grips are spaced father apart than Remy’s arm span. It is the most difficult rock wall Remy has ever faced since he started walking about 15 months ago.
But Remy doesn’t sweat it. He just grabs and goes. No hesitation. No fear.
The amazing thing about Remy is that he uses whatever he has to to get the job done. My mind was blown watching him.
At one point, he used his chin to hold himself while get got a better grip with his hand. When he didn’t have an available “rock” to grab, he stuck his little finger in a bolt hole instead—I wouldn’t have even thought of that! At times he used nothing but the grips of his bright yellow boots and the bumpy texture of the wall to leverage himself upward. This little boy has physical excellence.
The only help I gave him were two hints about his next move. My little two-year-old monkey boy made this ten-foot vertical rock wall look easy.
The problem with this playground equipment is that it is two stories tall. I have never been on anything this big. The first level is about 10 feet high. In fact the older boy from earlier wouldn’t go down the slide at this level. His dad begged him to go down the slide, but he wouldn’t budge.
I couldn’t stop Remy. He practically pushed the boy aside and jumped down the slide with a giggle. After Remy gets to the bottom, the other boy’s dad says, “he’s brave!”
Remy scales a ladder and is back up at level one with me in no time. At this point I’m still in shock about him scaling the rock wall with such ease that I didn’t even notice the ladder going up to level two.
So now I’m climbing right behind him in case he slips. I’m thinking this is getting pretty damn high. I was right. When we get to the top, I stop and look out. My fear of heights kicks in. I realize: one wrong move and potential death is imminent.
Remy points at two tunnel slides with a big smile. He’s on the go again.
He sits at the top of the slide. It’s practically straight down with two small curves back and forth. Remy asks me to push him. I’m like, you’re kidding me; you’re going to go fast enough without a push.
I was right. The slide beat him up.
He comes out at the bottom holding his head yelling, “Ouch! Ouch!” But between ouch-es he’s laughing (I think this kid loves pain).
I fly down the slide after him. I check his head. No blood.
I asked him, “You okay?”
He says, “Again!”
Now dad’s scared
There are also poles with little steps that you can climb directly up to level two. One pole in particular has steps that spiral the pole. This is the pole that really freaked me out.
At first when I see it I think, oh this looks fun and a bit challenging. I show Remy and he’s on his way up in no time. I quickly realize he’s out of my reach and not coming back down. He’s on his way to level two, 20+ feet up.
I immediately begin to freak and climb the pole after him. I’m thinking, if he falls, how am I going to catch him without falling myself? My initial fun thoughts about this pole have just been smashed to bits.
I’m worried and scared. I try not to look down.
Remy is wearing a fairly durable jacket and it is zipped up more than half way. I figure I can grab it if worst comes to worst.
Again, I didn’t foresee the obstacles ahead. Remy gets to the top step. He knows the only way to go is to the level 2 platform. The problem is that it’s about 20 inches away from the top step. That’s a bigger span than Remy can handle, but it’s not stopping him. He starts to reach out with his foot. There’s no way he can make it.
I yell, “Wait Remy! Wait!”
Thank God, he waits.
I climb a little higher and stabilize myself. I grab him by the back of the jacket and toss him over to the platform like a 20 pound bag of potatoes.
At this point, the only thing I’m thinking about is Remy standing up, losing his balance, and stepping backward off that platform before I could catch him.
(My hands are actually sweating while I type this. I have to keep wiping them on my shirt.)
More than half the kids today never made it to level 2, including Priya. In fact, poor little Priya was crawling around on level 1, scared to stand up. Several older kids got to the slides at level 2, looked down, and went right back down the ladder.
I chased Remy up and down that jungle gym of death about 50 times today. My heart was racing in fear the whole time while he was having the time of his life.
Every time I yelled at him because he was about to die, he would just look back at me and laugh, as if every thing is fine. That’s when I had a flash back to my childhood.
As I’m chasing Remy worrying about him slipping and falling, I could hear my mom in my head.
Clint! Get away from that ledge!
If you slip and fall, that will be all she wrote!
If you don’t get back here, I’m going to (insert personal threat; e.g., punch your woofers)
My poor mother would get sick to her stomach with my carefree stunts. I would always tell her, “Mom, you worry too much! Just relax.”
She always told me I would get payback someday when I have kids.
Now the tables have turned. You were right mom.
Contemplating the future
On the way home, all I could think about is: this boy is only two years old. What is he going to do in 10 or 15 years? What the hell am I going to do?
I imagined us hiking the Grand Canyon. I could just see Remy climbing out on a rock ledge, with a 1,000 foot drop, saying, “Hey, the view’s nice out here.” Meanwhile I’m sick to my stomach repeating the words of my mother.