Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You Can't Be So EMOTIONAL!!

I had one of those outer body experiences that dads go through every now and then. My second son, who is very much like me, always wears his emotions on his sleeve. We were playing in the backyard and I was guarding him in a game of one-on-one basketball. I went for the steal and accidentally bumped him. He got upset and ran into the house. I didn't think that was being a very good sport, so I chased him into the garage. As I tried to lecture him about being a good sport, hanging tough when things don't go his way, I started getting really upset. By the time that I got to the main point of the my long lecture, "You can't be so EMOTIONAL!", it wasn't even a split second before those words left my mouth, that I realized how ironic the moment had become. I was just as emotional as my son and felt pretty foolish lecturing him in the garage, while I was all worked up.

Luckily for both of us, we get upset fast and we forget about it fast. I gave him a hug after I apologized and told him that dad was sorry for lecturing him, when I was doing the same thing.

One more humbling moment for the record books.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Big Brother's Backpack

This is a story that I remembered while driving to work this morning. We were getting ready for the start of school back in August. Our third son was starting Kindergarten and needed a real backpack for the first time. I went to the local Target store and found the best backpack that was, not too large, plenty of pockets for stuff and, a dark color to hide the inevitable stains/dirt that will accumulate on it shortly. I was eager to show the NEW backpack to my third son. Meanwhile, my second son saw the NEW backpack and thought it was the coolest thing. "Do you want to trade?" he said, to his younger brother. My third son jumped at the chance to have his big brother's old backpack. I, of course, stepped in and said that it would not be fair since one is NEW and the other old (and dirty already). The younger brother (my third son) insisted and was thrilled to have his big brother's backpack. After many months at school, both brothers are still happy with their backpacks. Little brothers do look up to their big brothers and in ways that I would not have thought.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kids Are A Gift

I was sitting at my desk, late last night, working on the computer. In the other room, I could hear the sounds of multiple boys giggling and tossing in bed, trying in vain to get to sleep. A little background on our current living situation. Shortly after having our fourth son, we decided that our 3 bedroom, 2 bath house was just too small. We set off on a long, seemingly never-ending, journey to remodel the house and add more living space. We have been staying at my in-laws' home for about 8 months now, while our house gets worked on. Lucky for me, my in-laws are terrific (I hope they feel the same about us after this long stay :) ).

During the remodeling the boys, with the exception of the youngest, all stay in one bedroom at night. There is a large king sized bed in which they all sleep together on. The boys ages are 9, 7 and 5, so they all fit fine. It is the getting to sleep part that is difficult. Inevitably each night, I have to play the bad guy and threaten to have them sleep in the garage, if they don't quiet down and get to sleep. Tiredness eventually wins over silliness and the boys fall asleep in a large ball of jumbled blankets and pillows.

On this night, I was at my laptop in the next room and just quietly listening to their giggles. If ever you want a group of boys to giggle, just tell them all to be quiet and go to sleep. It works everytime. I had had a long and difficult week, but I just sat there and enjoyed their laughter. I was very thankful for our boys. They're exhausting on a good day, and frustrating on the bad days, but a blessing nonetheless. I need to remind myself more often what a privilege it is to have kids.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Want To Be A Baseball For Halloween

I have 3 boys old enough to trick or treat this year. So the annual "what am I going to be for Halloween?" started early just after school started in September. Luckily, two of the boys wanted to be Boston Red Sox players. "Easy!," I said to myself. Manny Ramirez has long shoulder-length hair, which I made by taping black yarn to the inside of the Boston Redsox hat. They wore their little league baseball uniforms with Boston Redsox shirts and looked great.

My oldest son, on the other hand, wanted to be the 756 home run baseball that Barry Bonds hit. As an engineer, I prided myself by thinking that I would come up with some clever way to make him look like a baseball. Well, after about 2 weeks of trying various thoughts and designs, all I could do was make my son look fat, but not like a baseball. He was getting a bit concerned and volunteered to be something else. He decided to be a basketball trading card instead. "Great!," I said.

Well it took some doing, but I managed to scan one of his basketball cards and blow it up to about 2 feet by 3 feet in size. I put the image on a large poster board and cut a hole out where he could stick his head through. I'm happy to say that it all worked out well and all his friends and classmates approved of his basketball trading card costume.

Another successful Halloween accomplished. Now, I just have to figure out what to do with 3 large bags of candy....

Friday, October 12, 2007

Aiming At The Toilet

We have four boys, so it is not surprising to me when there is a little urine around the toilet that didn't quite make it. Recently, things were getting worse and my wife and I were scrubbing the toilet all the time, trying in vain to keep the bathroom smelling nice. One morning this week during breakfast, my second son got up to go to the bathroom. I happened to be walking by the bathroom, and I notice him aiming at the top edge of the toilet as a game. Of course, he is missing half the time and, well, you know. Yuk!

After a long lecture, actually a short yell session, I made it clear that if he wanted to play the aiming game while peeing, he would have to clean it up. He didn't seem to like that so much. The bathrooms have never smelled so nice. Well, as nice as a bathroom in a family with four boys can smell.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh To Be Young Again...

I had the pleasure of walking my three boys to school this morning, as I do every morning that I don't have a meeting at work. The 9 year old heads quickly off to his classroom and friends. The 7 year old gives me a hug and runs off. I walk hand-in-hand with the 5 year old to his kindergarten class. I help him hang up his backpack and make sure that he is okay. He gives me a big kiss and a big hug and I'm off.

This particular morning, I bumped into a neighbor and hung out in the school-yard for a few extra minutes after the school bell rang. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice my 5 year old with a classmate holding the daily attendance list, and heading for the office. Everyday, two kids from each class gets chosen to bring the attendance list down to the office. My 5 year old had this big smile on his face. You would have thought it was Christmas morning from the beaming eminating from his face. I just stood there admiring the simple joys of a child and longed for days gone by when such a little thing as delivering an attendance list to the office brought so much joy.

Oh to be young again...

Friday, September 14, 2007

You're Not a little boy anymore!

The other day, I was rushing through the usual morning routine. Get up at 6:30am and get myself ready. At 7:00am wake up the 3 boys that are school age and get them breakfast. Since my third son has just started Kindergarten, after two weeks he is still having difficulty with the early wake up call. Pre-school started at 9am, so he is having to get up a whole hour earlier.

This morning was no different. The older brothers were already up, dressed and eating breakfast, when I had to wake up and carry my third son to the breakfast table. After nudging him repeatedly to finish his breakfast, we finally were ready to head out the door. He began to whine about his socks not feeling right and then his shoes were too tight. Of course, it was getting later and later for school.

I finally got flustered and scolded my 5 year old with, "Hey, you're in Kindergarten now, you're not a little boy anymore, so let's get going." As soon as those words left my mouth, I realized that my comment was ridiculous. Anyway, dads say stupid things, just like little boys. Oh well.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

3 Days of Sleeping-In!

This was the first week of school and, of course, the end of Summer. Three of the boys this year will be attending the same elementary school. My wife and I are quite pleased with this arrangement, since it means fewer locations and times to have to drop off at preschool and elementary school. We still have the myriad of play-dates, baseball practices, swimming lessons, piano lessons, and so on.

For our third son, this was the fulfillment of his wish of finally being able to walk to school with his two older brothers. As with many younger siblings, he has been ready for elementary school for many years, having attended all of the school's special events as a family. The part that he wasn't looking forward to was the 8am starting time (preschool started at 9am). He was always snoozing when his brothers were getting up and ready for school in years past. True to predictions, it was very difficult to get him up and fed in time for school. You'll notice that I did not say, get him up and dressed. The main reason is that with 4 boys, we learned from experience that it is just as easy to have them sleep in there shorts and T-shirts after evening showers than to have to fiddle with pajamas in the morning. We can get all of the "I want to where these shorts with this shirt" stuff over the night before.

After a long week of school and getting up early and struggling to get our third son ready, I was very proud of him that he had made it through his first week. I came home from work to pick up something and happen to see my wife driving in with our third son after school. He got out of the car and raised both arms in jubilation and exclaimed "three days of sleeping in!" (This happened to be Labor Day weekend; to explain why this was a three day weekend.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Younger Brothers Are Great!

Our third son will be starting Kindergarten tomorrow. Over the weekend, I took all of the boys to Target to buy school supplies. Our third son did not have a backpack, so I purchased a nice one with lots of pockets for his stuff. When we got in the car to go home, he said that he wanted a blue one instead of the nice new green one that I had just purchased. His older brother, our second, quickly jumped in and said, "I'll trade you." Our second son has an old blue backpack, of course. The younger brother was very happy to have his older brother's blue backpack. I tried to talk him out of it, but both brothers were quite satisfied with the trade and the situation.

Sometimes, as a parent, even though I think a situation may be a bit unfair, I have to remember that they think differently at their age. Who am I to question the happiness of one older brother receiving an unexpected NEW backpack, while one younger brother rejoicing in getting his older brother's much admired OLD blue backpack.

Younger brothers are great!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sleeping Bags Really Do Work

I'm happy to say that even Dads can learn from their mistakes. After the last camping trip, in which I forgot the sleeping bags and nearly froze my boys, this time I wrote a list and made sure I brought the sleeping bags. Everyone got a good night's sleep, kept warm and cozy in our sleeping bags on top of another great invention, Therm-A-Rest mattresses.

This most recent trip, I went up with two other families. One was a veteran "boy-scout-Dad" camper and the other a first-time-camping Dad. I noticed that the boy-scout-Dad had everything he needed in neat bins. He says that they keep all of the necessary camping equipment (cooking supplies, pots, pans, folding chairs, plates, stoves, lantern...) in two large bins in the garage. Whenever they go campling, they just through the bins in the back of the car and go. No need to even go through an elaborate check list to make sure they didn't forget matches for the campfire. Pretty smart idea.

One final note. My emergency flashlight, with the crank charger so that you never need to buy batteries, failed. It really destroys my confidence in emergency supplies that are supposed to work during emergencies. I guess not all emergency equipment is what it's cracked up to be. I'm not quite back to buying boxes of batteries so the boys can play flashlight tag all night, but I definitely will do more investigation before buying my next set of "never needs batteries" set of flashlights.

When Are We Going To Get There?

Any trip, any length, it doesn't matter if you are going to the neighborhood store for some milk, you know the question is coming. "When are we going to get there?" is inevitable. After having four boys, you would think that I would have a good answer, but I don't. "We'll get there, when we get there" seems to be the typical response these days, but that is not satisfying. When I am low on patience, I might respond with, "if you ask me one more time, I'm going to turn the car around and go home," but that doesn't work either.

I obviously lack a proper response or suggestion on this one. My only observation is that all of my boys, the ones old enough to talk, of course, asks this most classic of travel questions. Giving them an estimate of the time of arrival only satisfies them for about 5 minutes. I don't want to get them a handheld video game, just to keep them quiet. My wife and I feel that children should be able to find entertainment in conversation, the view out the window, reading, magnetic chess or some other thing that requires their mind other than a video game. We're old fashioned that way.

I would have to confess, that sometimes when I am alone driving one of the boys, I do give them my cellphone so they can play the one video game on it and keep entertained.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Cold Night Of Camping

We have a local open-area preserve in Palo Alto, Foothill Park, which is open to the residence of Palo Alto for hiking, picnicing, and camping. I usually take the boys up for several trips during the summer; it is so convenient and the boys love camping.

My wife is the organized one between the two of us. She has lists for everything and remembers the details of any trip. I'm more free thinking and have an "on the spur of the moment"-type of mindset. An example of this is that I can pack for a trip (1 day or week long) in about 15 minutes. She will take a week to come up with a list of items that she needs and another several days to get everything ready and packed nicely.

Last Friday, I was going to take the boys for an one-night camping trip to Foothill Park. I get home at around 5 pm and planned to throw the tent into the car, pack, buy some snacks and be on our way. My wife was upset at me for not having a list and a plan. I didn't pay attention in my usual way. I get everything, including the boys, into the car and, just as planned, go to store for some fun food (smores of course) and head for the campsite. I was thinking that we were making great time as we drove into the campsite and set up the tent in no time. That is when it hit me. I forgot to pack the sleeping bags. "Not a problem," I said to myself since the previous weekend was so hot and I was convinced that we could just bundle up and weather the night.

As it turned out, I counted down the hours from 1am to 6pm as we huddled, freezing, through a night of "sleep." I did not sleep a wink. Partly because I felt so stupid and partly because the boys kept waking up and telling me how cold they were. As soon as there was an inkling of light, I pack the boys in the car, turned up the heater, and was on our way. I bought them a great pancake and waffle breakfast and quitely entered the house. Everything was going well, as I pretended not to make a big deal of my stupid mistake, until my 2nd son began coughing and starting to have a fever.

I don't know which night was more difficult. The night camping in the cold, or the first night back when I felt so guilty about getting my son sick. Suffice it to say that it was a very humbling weekend. I am going to have to rethink this "have a list and plan" thing. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Kids Remember Everything

The other night was atypical in that it was even more chaotic than usual. My second son had a fever, see blog on "Cold Night of Camping," and my youngest son, who is a toddler, kept waking up and screaming. It seems that he, did not get enough of his usual baby food as we went from eating out at a restaurant for lunch to a picnic for dinner. In both circumstances we fed him pieces of adult food vs. his usual bowl of baby food and goop.

During this long unrestful night of sleep my third son came running into my bedroom with a slightly wet pair of underware and shorts. I quickly changed his underware and found him one last pair of shorts in the dresser. The rest of his shorts where in the queue for washing. He promptly stated that he did not like to wear these shorts and was clearly extending the situation beyond what I had energy for given the circumstances. I was tired and said that I would get him a "new" pair of shorts tomorrow so that he would go back to bed.

I woke up tired, got dressed and went off to work. Half way through the day, I was in a meeting with my staff and I get a call from home. Usually it is my wife and since it is during the day, she knows not to interupt me unless it is important. I answer my cellphone and it's my third son, asking "did you get my new shorts?"

Kids remember everything and they actually take you at your word.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Freaks on Vacation

My wife and I just returned from a 5 day vacation in Seattle and Vancouver, BC. We travelled with our 4 boys (yes, 4 boys!) by flying up to Seattle and driving the rest of the way to Vancouver. It was one of the first times that we traveled with all 4 boys (ages 9, 7, 5 and 1 year). Imagine the look on people's faces as we got on the plane at Southwest Airlines. No one wanted to make eye contact with us in fear that we would sit our 4 boys next to them on the flight.

I came from a family of 4 children, but growing up in the 60's and 70's, I never felt that people were starring at us whenever we went out. That was certainly not the case this week. My wife and I felt like freaks with two heads, the way everyone starred at us as we walked through airports, restaurants, hotel lobbies... Can it be true that having 1 or 2 children is cute, but having 4 or more is outrageous in these modern times?

It is good to be home in the old neighborhood, where the novelty of us having 4 boys has long worn off and we can just go about our ways (two-heads and all) without hardly a notice.