Let me check my calendar

Every year I make my wife a calendar for Christmas. I upload photos of our boys to one of the online photo gift sites and lay it all out there. It can be a tedious process, but she enjoys the end result and it gives us a kind of memory book for the year.

The cover is always a nice shot of the boys together, often gathered around one of their favorite weapons from the year. You know, a sweet shot of loving children and something that throws bombs.

My wife takes more pictures than I do. If I want to amass the best collection of photos to use in compiling the calendar, I need access to her pictures too. We have a shared drive on the cloud where we dump all our pictures together, which is easier than hacking into her phone. Well, it used to be easier.

Nearly every adult American now walks around with a camera on his or her person at all times. No one takes advantage of our snapshot existence more than my wife does. She is a visual hoarder, taking pictures of everything and anything.

If there is a stray dog in our neighborhood, my wife has a picture of it. Something’s on sale at Target? We’ve got photos of the merchandise and more of the sale sticker. School permission slips, sales receipts, suspicious-looking loners who might be involved in human trafficking? We’ve got it covered.

The problem is that all these photos are automatically uploaded to our photo sharing cloud. When I need to find photos of people we actually know, I find myself wading through a bunch of pictures of random stuff I can’t identify.

Arranging the useful photos into a calendar is difficult enough. All the extra pictures means added scrolling through to find the useful ones, and excessive scrolling is the bane of the personalized photo gift maker.

Since pictures of our actual children are getting harder to locate, I told my wife I will make a calendar of all her random shots next year. Maybe I’ll make one for the entire neighborhood, so everyone can find their lost pets and be on the lookout for that shady character who walked down our street last April.

Here’s a taste of what it would look like. Is this the new direction the family calendar should take?

January: That lovely salad the waiter set down in front of the stranger at the next table.

 

March: The donuts you like, just in case I happen by the bakery department next time I’m out.

June: The unmarked van you pursued all day, waiting for the captive inside to fashion some sort of “HELP ME” sign.

 

October: The mysterious coat left at our house after the Halloween Party.

November: The random cat sniffing around our garage. Not pictured: 3 lost dog posters; none resembling this cat.

December: “Is this a good deal? Do we need a TV in the pantry?”

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We must all hang together

It wouldn’t seem right to skip my annual report on putting up the Christmas tree. We were a little later than usual putting ours up this year. The boys forgot to nag about it for a little while which allowed the parental holiday sloth to take over.

Eventually the boys realized there was some hulking monstrosity missing from our already crowded living room. The sloth was chased from the house, but the parent host was made to stay and drag all his tubs of festive cheer up from the basement.

We have an artificial tree (the sloth’s legacy), which the boys were eager to assemble. You don’t get that kind of quasi-LEGO experience with a real tree, no sir. On the other hand, a real tree doesn’t require the dreaded chores of spreading wire branches and fluffing Mylar needles. It’s a Yuletide tradeoff.

Hanging together.

After the first minute of branch-fluffing, I noticed Big Brother and Buster had disappeared. Big Man was still invested though. He helped me test the lights, and gave me tons of helpful advice about where I should run each strand. I was switching the TV back and forth between a basketball game and a football game, and trying to finish cooking a stew in the other room, so he certainly put more thought into running the lights than I did. One way or another, they got on the tree.

The football game was coming down to the wire, so I corralled Big Brother and Buster and made them help Big Man hang ornaments while I let myself become distracted. There was an indirect correlation between the height of the decorator and his enthusiasm for the job, which is why the bottom of the tree is more densely populated than the top.

We have a number of TV character ornaments. Big Man found two from the same cartoon. “I have to hang these two next to each other, because they’re friends,” he told me. I couldn’t argue with that. Besides, I gave up arguing with children about the proper ornament disbursement years ago. Joyful little hands always make a more beautiful tree than cold geometry does. Sure enough, Finn and Jake ended up dangling from the same branch. Friends should always hang together.

Finn and Jake always hang together. It’s what friends do.

Later I noticed Rudolph, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, and the Abominable Snowman hung in a group. So were Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa. Both television casts were on display near the bottom of the tree, leaving no doubt as to who hung family and friends together.

Why are Rudolph and Hermey in such a hurry?

Abominable Snowman is after them!

Big Man may not win any Martha Stewart Christmas Tree decorating awards, but he’s ahead of the game on empathy. I’ll take that over a perfectly balanced tree any day. It’s a good thing.

 

 

Father of the Year Award goes to really fungi

At heart, I’m a night owl. Society has forced me to modify my natural disposition to conform to our morning culture, just as it has forced me to become more outgoing than my old, introverted bones would like. This cruel world can make me wake up early and talk more than I want to, but it will never make me drink coffee, so I’ve got that tea cup’s worth of identity to hold onto.

As a night owl, I like to stay up a little later on weekends. My wife, poster child of morning people, does not. She goes to bed without me, and that is where the trouble starts. Little boys see an empty spot in the parents’ bed as an invitation. There is hardly a little creature in all of nature who doesn’t love to snuggle up to Mommy for a nap.

The mommies of the animal world seem to love having their “babies” cuddled up around them. The daddies don’t. Just ask Mr. Lion if he likes to find a pride of cubs sprawled out on his patch of grass when he’s ready for a snooze.

I adore my children, but it’s hard to see them as anything more than annoying lumps when I find a bunch of annoying lumps on my side of the bed as I pull back the covers in the dark. Now I must extract and schlep a couple of 40-pound bags of potatoes to their own beds without waking them. This wouldn’t be so difficult except these sacks of potatoes have limbs that will be reliably tangled around each other, the blankets, and Mommy.

Getting them into their own beds is the fun part. The horror is yet to come. Little boys turn into blast furnaces when their minds wrestle with dreams. I could heat my house off one sleeping four-year-old if I could get him to lie still while I hooked up the ductwork. Children tend to be deep sleepers, so the heat they produce doesn’t wake them or inspire them to kick off the covers.

A fun shot of the other fellas I took at our last dads’ group meeting.

I am a light sleeper, and I am disturbed by those rare instances when I wake up in a sweat. Imagine my horror as I lie down on sheets already damp with sweat. There is disgust, and sometimes swearing. If there is a system of reincarnation wherein entities return as what they most deserve, I will live my next life as a fungus spore. I’ve found the perfect environment for that.

I usually end these nights by wrapping myself in towels and sleeping as close to the edge as possible.

I’ve discovered a new respect for WWI trench soldiers, made to always sleep on soggy ground. I’ve learned a greater regard for Mr. Lion. Fungi, on the other hand, probably have it pretty easy. The one thing I can say for fungi is they’re probably awesome dads who don’t complain at all about the “babies” funking up their beds.

 

Homeless caveman squats in area sunroom

You can’t really call a room with coordinated throw pillows a man cave. It’s the closest thing I’ve got though.

My house is too small and my family is too big. I have only three children, but my boys have a way of building themselves in to a horde. They are everywhere, and even when you can’t see them, you can still hear them.

I lived many years in our home without feeling the need for my own special space. In the past year, things have changed. First, the living room TV has been taken over by video games. I have two kids addicted to PlayStation and one kid who is happiest when his brothers are playing it. Intently preoccupied boys have not one second to waste vexing a younger brother.

Second, I recently discovered I can read again, after a 10 year hiatus, if I hide myself well enough. Being better equipped to distract themselves now, these bloodhounds don’t hunt me down as constantly as they used to. I might be able to slip away for 20 minutes of solitude.

I need a sanctuary.

The bedroom doesn’t make for a good man cave, and it’s the first place they look. The basement is too cool and humid, and occasionally it floods. I’m not trying to spelunk in my cave. I just want to watch sports and read.

Over the summer, I discovered I could slip away to the Three Seasons Room to catch moments of peace. I even read an entire book out there, over three seasons. These stolen moments were a delight, but I can’t say I established a man cave.

Color coordinated pillows. Humbug! I can hardly bring myself to nap on them.

There are many flaws.

  • The name, Three Seasons Room, is pretty generous. It’s more of a Two Seasons and Spare Change Room. Maybe round it up to 2.5 seasons. November through March are cold, barring a very mild day with hours of sunshine.
  • The room is right off the kitchen, so if any kid needs help getting an emergency cup of juice, I’m the first responder.
  • It was furnished by the lady of the house, which means it’s tasteful, and worst of all, inviting. It has matching stuff, no neon, nor any of the other assorted, tacky paraphernalia that tells people to zip it when the game is on.

    Breakfast nook with table centerpiece. I expect this to become a man cave essential any day now.

  • I made the mistake of putting a Roku TV in there. It’s kind of a poor man’s smart TV. It’s a TV with an average IQ that seems genius compared to the dim-witted TVs I’ve always had. Now, anybody can watch Netflix movies at the push of a button. Maybe I don’t know enough about man caves, but I don’t think they’re meant for men to watch Smurfs with their families on football Sundays.

My 2.5 Seasons Room is not much of a man cave, but it’s a baby step forward. I’m not greedy; I don’t need a whole cave. I can live in a man cubby for a while.