You Smell!

Yes our boys have reached that age. It is now uncool for Mom and Dad to say “I love you” in a public setting. They might be shunned at school if one of their friends were to hear us express our love for them. Now as they get out the car for baseball, school, or a sleep over they no longer give me a hug from the back seat and say those three words. I’m lucky if I get a “Bye dad” or the male head nod (guys you know what I’m talking about.) They slam the car door, no longer looking back at me as I watch them disappear.

This kind of stung at first, knowing they were reaching that stage where their parents are seen as “uncool,” listen to weird music, hugs are unwanted and Kisses from mom are nearly toxic while in public.

After a little thought I came up with an idea, a code that I could say to them that would express my love for them while maintaining their sense of parental separation. Only they would know what I meant, none of their friends would get it.  “You smell!” I yelled as they left they car. They only turned for a moment shook their head and smiled.  “It means I love you,” and now I can yell it as loud as I want to and only they understand. “You smell too dad.” they laugh back, and I smile. I win this round of the war of coolness.

And The Zombie Says “Brrraaaiinnnsss”

The boys have been great big brothers to Keira. When they are with here, she is always laughing, playing, and just having a good time. They work on ABC’s, colors, numbers, and Anthony even has her able to say the first four numbers of pi. (Yes, he is a super nerd who has memorized the first 19 numbers in pi.)

Boys being boys though, they have also taught her a few things not as innocent.

1. The Zombie says…

While the kids and I were driving to the book store the other night, they were sitting in the back entertaining Keira by going over animal sounds. You know the old “What does the cow say” and baby says “MOOOOO!” They worked through the cows, ducks, and cats before Anthony bust out with “What does the Zombie say??” Without pause, Keira says “BRRRAAIIINS.” I tried not to laugh, really! But what’s funnier than zombie babies?

2. Bellies are fun!

We have been working with Keira on body parts. “Keira find your nose” moving on to eyes, ears, head, etc… This leads to Keira finding her belly to which she lifts her shirt and smacks her belly. The boys find this immensely funny. They took it one step further and now ask “Find Daddy’s belly” to which she will come running up to me, lift my shirt and smack my belly. If you are ever at our house and she lifts your shirt to smack your belly, I apologize ahead of time.

3. Peek a boo kicked up a notch

Since day one of living with the boys, I’ve hidden around corners and jumped out and scared them. They have taken on this own trait to scare each other. Now they have a weapon…  You guessed it – they have taught Keira to hide around corners and wait until you are just next to it to jump out and say “Boo!” Leading, of course, to them rolling on the floor with laughter.

I sure hope 3 ½ years from now, when Keira enters kindergarten, that the teachers are ready for this little zombie-loving, belly-smacking, peek-a-boo girl.

Finding Community

Since the moment that Jason and I started living together, we’ve been in constant go-mode, moving around the county, the country, and even a short stint for me living abroad. The boys have experienced their own upheavels, moving no less than 7 times before the age of 8. By the time that they had made friends in their current neighborhood or school, they’d be packed off to moved to another one.

So, when we settled into our current house 3 years ago, both of the boys proclaimed adamantly that we were NEVER MOVING! At first, the thought of not moving was difficult for me. Wanderlust strikes Jason and I frequently. When I changed jobs or the thought of living in Europe starts to entice us, we stop and remember the promise we made the boys. They need stability. No moving.

It took my recent work out craze to get me to finally appreciate what not moving would mean for us. As I ran into the gym for a new zumba class at the gym, I looked around at all the women getting their kicks and wiggles down. Some of them were moms I knew from the boys’ baseball team. Some were women closer to my age, trying to also work off their baby weight. I’d be seeing them at kindergarten as I walked Keira into her first day of school.

As we danced around the gym, I heard the women motivating each other, praising and laughing, smiling at me when we both knew the work out was insane. It was a community of people who were all supporting each other.

As I drove home from the gym, with a smile on my face, I began to realize the community I had been missing from all my years of moving about. I finally felt somethingI haven’t felt since I left for college at the age of 17:

Home.

Finally I appreciated the feeling of belonging. At last, we had stayed in one place long enough to create stability. I knew other moms and dads at school by their first name. We have formed friendships close enough that the kids call our friends “aunts” and “uncles”. I have walked through trying to conceive, pregnancy, infancy and now into toddlerhood with friends who have a daughter the same age as Keira. And when going for a walk, neighbors now come out to remark how big the boys are getting and how great they play with Keira.

I never had a chance to even stop and see what I was missing. In the throes of wanderlust, I’ve had amazing experiences. But it was the boys who gave me the present of slowing down and staying still long enough to realize what amazing experiences were awaiting me in my own backyard.

Barely Balanced

Ever since the Deeds household relocated to Pennsylvania, going to the Renaissance Faire has also been a favorite pastime. The boys would get dressed up in their Renaissance gear and we’d make a day out of going to see the shows and enjoy the medieval food.

Whenever we’re visiting the faire, the boys’ favorite show has always been Barely Balanced, an acrobatic comedy show where the trio performs stunts of flexibility, standing on each other and doing ridiculous backbends. And if that’s not enough, sometimes there’s fire involved.

I have to admit that I also am very fond of this show, if not for the same reason that the boys are. While the boys get a thrill of seeing whether the performers fall or light each other on fire, I am always delighted when they end the show unscorched.
It gives me a sense of hope.

Each day as a parent feels like another day of barely balanced aerobics. Juggling the schedules of work, school, the kids’ sporting events, errands, chores around the house… And then to add to it the back bends of trying to fit some exercise in our exceedingly busy schedule.

Some days, as we’re looking at the to-do list a mile long of daily chores and house maintenance, I wonder how we’re going to make it through the day without at least pulling a muscle or setting ourselves on fire.

But somehow, every day we wake up in one piece. Whether we accomplished our to-do list and made it through our hectic schedule or whether we ended up sitting in our pajamas all day, exhausted with drool partly hanging out of our mouth… we dust ourselves off and get ready to put ourselves into yet another ridiculous position.

The Morning Assembly Line

In the past, mornings have consisted of the boys waking up for school at the same time, with Keira waking shortly after, creating a buzzing chaos every morning. With Anthony moving up to middle school this year and taking the earlier bus, the Deeds routine has become a “Morning Assembly Line”:

First thing in the morning, I wake up Anthony, nice and early, just as the sun is changing the clouds to pink. We take Zar Zar, and Titus out for their morning break. Anthony feeds the dogs. I feed Anthony. Anthony brushes teeth and hair and stumbles on to the early bus.

I grab a cup of coffee to take it up to Kirsten, who I’m hoping is in the shower and not running late. I wake up Ethan, run back in to the master bedroom to give Kirsten a morning kiss, before heading downstairs.

I feed Ethan, who in turn feeds the cats and waters the dogs (because that’s how they grow). Ethan jumps in the shower and makes just enough noise to wake the baby. I run upstairs under the pull of Keira’s singing giraffe to change the baby’s butt and get my morning snuggles (she’s such a daddy’s girl). I surprise Kirsten with baby giggles while she is getting ready until she looks at the clock and realizes she’s running late.

Keira and Daddy run downstairs to get Mommy her water, Coffee (it’s capitalized for a reason, folks), a banana and other food items for work. Kirsten runs out the door with a kiss to all as I tell her to drive safely (not slowly, just safely). Ethan tromps downstairs like a heard of elephants, usually with both dogs in tow. He grabs his backpack and heads out the door to the bus stop.

In two minutes, Ethan realizes he forgot his jacket, his lunch, his clarinet, or something else and comes running back towards the house. I hold out his missing item and off he goes. Keira and I watch the bus carry Ethan away from the picture window. I turn towards her and say “alright, little one, time to start OUR day.” She giggles and looks at me with her cute face and says “Daddy, noooo….”

The Greatest Job in the World!

Well it’s official, I turned in my resignation today. I will be leaving the hotel and customer service industries to start a new and exciting profession. I start my new job on May 7th 2011. I’ll be working for four of the greatest bosses in the world, my family.

Kirsten and I have been trying to create the opportunity for me to become a Stay At Home Dad (SAHD) for awhile now. If you read “In Defense of Dads” you’ll know that for a time I was a Work From Home Dad and we both saw the positive effects it had on our boys both in their education and overall attitude. I grew up with a stay at home mom and a father who ran his own company which made both of my parents very accessible to me. I credit this as one of the biggest influences on my life and want to give my children the same.

For me being a stay at home dad is not a 5 year plan until Keria attends Kindergarten but rather a career choice. This is what I want to do. I want to explore the world with my children. I want to be the chaperon on the field trips. I want them to always have someone to come to with questions and concerns. I want to see the smile on Kirsten’s face when she comes home to dinner on the table, a clean house and can she can relax.

This is a new job for me and I will need some adjustment time, but I’m excited and can’t seem to stop smiling every time I think about it.

Grown Up Decisions

I was driving home from work, anxious to get home and see my family. As I hurried along, a huge semi pulled onto the freeway. I grunted and put on my blinker to get into the next lane to pass. At that exact time, the wind pushed against my car just slightly. But it was enough to make me pause and think.

What if that wind blew and pushed me into the semi? How would Jason get along if I was gone? How could the boys go on with one more person walking out of their lives? I began to have a panic attack realizing that I had nothing in place for my children if I died. No will. No life insurance. No one set up to be the care taker in the event that Jason and I were both gone. I slowed down and got back into the right hand lane. It just wasn’t worth it.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had a mini panic attack while considering leaving my children behind. In the first week that we brought Keira home from the hospital, I woke up in a cold sweat. My sudden gasp woke Jason as I begin to cry and shake, thinking about how dependent this little girl was on me for survival. “Jason – what would you do if I was gone!? How would Keira EAT!”

“Honey, we’d find a way to manage. I’d put her on formula.”

“FORMULA!? You’d put our baby girl on formula after how hard I worked to breastfeed her!?!” I have to admit, I was a bit delirious at this point from lack of sleep. Jason calmed me down and we both went back to sleep, putting the conversation behind us.

The thing that was different about my latest panic attack was that it spurred me to ACT! While Jason had been trying to talk me into getting life insurance, it was always at the bottom of my to-do list. My coping method was to put my head in the sand. But finally, I was able to put my own fear of mortality aside and think about the children (and husband) I could potentially be leaving behind. I called Chris, a life insurance agent friend, and got our life insurance policy moving with his company Baron Insurance Group.

Instead of following someone else’s rule of thumb on how much to buy, I broke out our monthly budget. I modeled what would this same budget would look like if my income wasn’t there. What extra expenses would there be? What would the buffer be like? What stress would this budget put upon whoever was left to take care of the kids? I modeled and modeled until I was absolutely sure that if my kids had to ever deal with the loss of one of their parents, they wouldn’t have to worry about if Daddy (or Mommy) was going to have trouble providing food on the table.

To date, it was the most grown up decision I have ever made. And when the life insurance policy came in the mail, documenting that we indeed were all set up, I felt tension release from my chest that I never knew I was holding in. No matter what happens, my kids were going to be okay.

Next stop: Preparing the will.

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