Thursday, July 24, 2014

Clarity

Being a stay-at-home for round two is an interesting experience. Elias is completely and utterly on the other end of the spectrum from Kai in almost every possible way. As parents, we're not supposed to compare our kids as "better" than one another in any fashion; and yet, comparisons often occur naturally: who ate this way; who acted this way at bath time; who slept this way; and so on.

I love that I get to live through so many experiences with Eli. As a veteran parent, I think I'm more relaxed with Eli than I was with Kai. The first time around in being a parent, you tend to get so wound up in trying to do everything right that you miss so many of the quiet moments. Things like just playing on the floor with no educational objective in mind. Things like just spending time looking in each others' eyes and smiling to see if the other one will smile back. Things like taking the time to investigate every leaf, blade of grass, or rock outside, because it's likely his first time to ever have seen them (at least as far as his memory goes).

I am very intentional - probably overly so - in that every time I pick Eli up from his nap, I try to always hug him and say the words "I love you" to him. I try and carry on a conversation with him during meals when I feed him every day (go on and visualize it; it's more ridiculous than you can imagine). I try not to let anything, from the changing of the most offensive of diapers to the lotioning down after a bath, go by as something routine and mundane where he and I don't intentionally interact.

To be honest, I screw up. A lot. My tolerance level has in some ways not so much been shortened as it has been eradicated. I've gotten frustrated, angry, raised my voice, and said things I regret even as they are coming out of my mouth far more times than I care to admit. To Eli. To Kai. To Ashley. And time and again, I have had to apologize for being an ass. (Perhaps not phrasing aloud it quite like that, because I don't want Kai to pick up yet another word he shouldn't say.)

I'm discovering that my staying home with Eli is as much for my benefit as it is for his. With Kai, I was at a crossroads when I started my SAHD journey with him, in many ways at one of the lowest points in my life. I was dealing with the death of my father, the questioning of what I was supposed to do with my life. I defined myself as a dad, and only as a dad.

With Elias, I'm far more me than I have been in years. To be fair, I'm still dealing with the loss of my mom and the trainload of issues that stem from picking up the pieces of what it's like to be orphaned. But these days, I'm facing them as a much better me than I have been before. I don't define my being through the framework of what I do (or as I have been prone to call myself: "just a stay-at-home dad") as much as I do through the identity of who I am as a person. The boys both see me at my best, they see me apologize for being wrong, they see a healthy balance of how to fight well and how to love well.

I'm still not sure who or what I'm going to be when I grow up. But for the first time in ages, I'm having fun trying to figure it all out.

And for as much as the constant drooling during teething, sleepless nights due to whatever reason, the refusal to eat the amazingly healthy meal I spent hours preparing, or the fact the lightbulb happened to be shining in a manner unleashing to him and he gets fussy, angry, and tries to punch me gets on my nerves - I wouldn't change a single moment with Eli.

Except for maybe the offensive diaper bit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Yellow and Black Attack

As a Christ follower, I believe that every person and every thing on this planet is created and designed with a divine purpose and plan in mind for its life. However, there are four possible exceptions to this rule:
  1. Spiders
  2. Cockroaches
  3. Reality television stars
  4. Fans of the University of Alabama

(Items 2-4 may, in fact, overlap in definition.)

Those who know me well know of my fear - nay: phobia - of all things arachnid. When Ashley and I were first dating, the revelation of my lack of "manliness" around these eight legged demons came when she discovered that I killed a spider on my back porch by chucking a cement block at it from the other side of the fence. Since then, and fearing that I might toss a shoe/can of corn/chair/potted plant through a window in my zeal to kill off these invaders, we have taken on distinct roles when it comes to pest removal in the house:

She kills spiders. I kill everything else.

There are only two problems with this rule:
  1. During the day while she is at work, I have to kill all the things. Otherwise, I will just lock the boys and myself in a closet, stuff a towel under the crack of the door, and hang a note on the doorknob telling her that we have been in there for five hours waiting for her to arrive to kill a spider; and
  2. When I walk Maggie. Outside, there is no jurisdiction for pest control.

Last summer, I became aware that a new (to me) breed of crawling hell spawn was infesting our neighborhood. I was walking Maggie past an empty house one night (problem #1), without my glasses on (problem #2), near where a streetlight had gone out (problem #3). Through my hazy sight, I noticed what looked to be a spider suspended in midair. Upon closer inspection (meaning I almost walked face-first into this Sheol of webbing), I saw that it was indeed a spider. A spider that was approximately the size of my palm and fingers were I to stretch out my hand. A spider which had spun a web roughly two feet in diameter.

I think the next time I saw a doctor, they made note of my having hypertension. It may or not be related to this.

Since last year (and Ashley taking on the role of Xena to rid our neighborhood of not one but two of these oversized escapees from the world of Harry Potter), I have learned these crawling personifications of nightmare fuel are called banana spiders. How and why something with the name of a creature that sounds like it should be sequestered in the Amazon is living - and breeding - in South Carolina is beyond my understanding. But breeding they are.

I should know. I've found two of the probable offspring so far this year. I say offspring because while they lacked the Toho-level oversized proportions of the two from last year, they make up for their stature with the size of their egg sacks.

One was brazen enough to build a web stretching the breadth of the stairs leading to our back door. Yes. It was trying to encase the house in a web so that it could eat us. Apparently it was raised on a steady dietary stream of watching ARACHNOBHOBIA. Ashley killed it, although I still feel the need to salt the earth upon which it was smooshed, fearing it may rise again.

The second sighting was last week. About seven houses down the street (STILL TOO CLOSE), I saw another of these infidel creatures, mocking gravity, God, and the laws of nature as it brazenly hung upside down on its web. This one, larger than the one that tired to cocoon our house, somehow, I let live. Maybe it was a sign of maturity within me. Maybe it was me finally beginning to come to terms and live in peace with all of creation. Maybe it was a sign of respect, that if I don't mess with it, it won't seek revenge upon me.

Or maybe it was just that I knew that if I didn't kill it on a first strike, I'd freak out and probably jump into the street and get struck by on an oncoming truck, all the while screaming in a register that would make glass panes shatter throughout the city.

But just to be safe, I'm going to Lowes today to stock up on cement blocks.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Washes Whiter Than

I really shouldn't get so emotional while doing laundry.

Oh, sure: I can justify a grumbling over the seemingly unending mountain of clothes, sheets, and towels that apparently self-replicates every few days.

I can smile with a gleam of nostalgia in my eyes as I fold shirts and shorts that have been passed down to Eli, remembering what Kai was like at age one and how stinking adorable Eli looks in every article of clothing I've had to wash to get rid of the breakfast/lunch/dinner he wears as much as eats.

I can understand the way my heart flutters a bit as I put into a pile to store for Eli the clothes that Kai has outgrown, noting that he is growing up way too damn fast.

But then I feel my breath catch in my throat, brought on by noting that Eli's "outgrown" pile contains pajamas, shirts, onesies - all manner of baby clothing - that were purchased by my mom. Clothes that now he has outgrown them, my mom will not be purchasing replacement clothes for. 

Ever.

Clothes that will go into a large bin in our basement for eventual sale or trade at the local consignment shop. Clothes that are moving on. Clothes that are moving on, even though parts of my heart have yet to move on.

I really shouldn't get so emotional while doing laundry.

Oh, sure: we've kept special baby clothes for Kai. We're keeping special baby clothes for Eli. Neither of us have the skill set to be able to craft a blanket out of 34,721 shirts, onesies, or footie pajamas to pass on to the boys.

They'll have clothes. Clothes they wore when they were babies, that one day when they're older they will look upon and be amazed they were ever that small.

We'll have memories. Memories of who gave them what, and how little time passed between when the shirt was first too big for them before it became skin tight almost seemingly overnight.

But not everything. To hold on to everything would be too much. Some things need to be let go of. Some things need to move on. Some things would weigh us down, clutter up space, and prohibit the ability to grow.

(I think I'm still talking about laundry, but maybe a bit more than that.)

I really shouldn't get so emotional while doing laundry.

But then again, how else am I going to get some of these stains out?