2020 Hindsight

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There’s been a lot of talk about 2020 and how glad people will be to see it leave. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Coronapalooza isn’t going to disappear when midnight strikes and the ball drops to ring in 2021.

But that’s not why I’m here with you this week. I’m hear to tell you that 2020 hasn’t been all that bad. Not for me, anyway, and I want to share with you the memories of the year that was all about toilet paper, homeschooling, and wi-fi bands that were tested time and time again.

The year 2020 was a year that saw us as a family of five. One left us and two more came. One more came after that and we are now a happy family of seven. We made a jump from dealing with elementary school problems to dealing with teenagers, high school, Driver’s Ed and the multitude of happy experiences and memories that spawned from everything teenager.

Wife finally got one of her wishes. She got to spend more time at home. Granted, she was working from home so it wasn’t exactly ideal, but she didn’t have to fight traffic or deal with coming home after children had gone to bed. I even got to have lunch with her sometimes.

Youth sports got me out of the house with The Boy. We got to spend some time on the baseball diamond where I saw other ways to use a facemask besides protecting your face. Chew toys, sling shots. It’s amazing what kids can do if they’re bored enough. I also spent my time dodging errant throws and thrown bats as well as directing traffic on the base paths and making sure there was one person not chasing a batted ball so the up-and-comers would have someone to throw to as soon as they were done jumping on each other while trying to get said batted ball. Speaking of happy days on the diamond, I would like to take this time to thank a certain neighbor for taking over a couple of times so I could go on vacation with my family.

Vacation. Ah, yes. Vacation. Those glorious weeks spent with my wife, children and my wife’s cousins… and four additional children that belonged to one of those cousins. It was a good time. Swimming and campfires and no wi-fi. I think The Oppressed is still traumatized by the wi-fi-less week. Those therapy sessions are going to be epic.

We spent some time swimming at a nearby beach. We took walks. We dealt with the outdoors and the elements as best we could. It wasn’t Disneyland (our first choice for vacation before the Coronavirus fiasco) but we were able to spent some time together.

Summer vacation ends and we are back to homeschooling and The Homework Wars. We have a small break between homework and dinner where The Boy and I go to flag-football practice. I was an assistant coach. I get another chance to do something with him. The Oppressed has sworn off sports for the rest of her life. I need to find something else to do with her.

Driving lessons. Just one
example of our “fun” this year.

The sports seasons end and the weather gets colder. I move from coaching youth sports to helping one of The Gaggle as they start their driving lessons. There have been plenty of white-knuckle incidents and missed turns and slamming on the brakes when someone realizes halfway through an intersection that there was a stop sign. Good times. We will soon have another child starting Driver’s Ed. My liquor cabinet won’t be empty for a while. The colder weather brings a change to the seasons. We celebrated Thanksgiving. I won’t say how many were there because I’m still not sure what the limits are for gatherings at the time. Whatever they are, I’m sure we were WELL within them.

We gave candy at Halloween. We helped shovel out neighbors. I started to tell my stories to the world about parenting and all of the joys that came along with it. I also took another job writing. A friend of mine took me on to write some feel-good stories about the good people at Northeastern University and their accomplishments. I immediately said yes because I don’t have anything else going on right now. Sounds like fun. It has been.

There was no such fun when I pulled a deck of “Uno” cards out of my Christmas stocking and looked at The Oppressed on Christmas Morning. Playing cards is right under Batting Practice on the list of Cruel and Unusual Punishments she is seeking to have permanently banned. I’m hoping she will change her mind. In the meantime, there will be more stories to tell about me, Wife and our five kids who fill our home with love, memories, and ulcer-inducing stories.

So, what exactly will 2021 bring to us? I have no idea. I’m stuck with you here in 2020. I know there will be three in high school and one wrapping up elementary school and getting ready for middle school. A child in middle school. What could possibly go wrong?

I do have hopes for the new year. One hope is that we can finally get back out to doing normal things. Go out to eat. Take a vacation. Send my children, all five of them, to school full-time. Whatever 2021 brings us, I will be sure to let you know about it. Thank you for being with me this year as I share the ups, downs, and adventures in Parenting. The year 2021 should be an interesting year and, if anything goes wrong, there’s always 2022. Right?

Happy New Year!

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The Family Meets St. Nicholas

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(Based on “A Visit From St. Nicholas/’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house. Kitty was purring. She’d just killed a mouse.

My glasses were cleaned and laid out with care in hopes that bourbon and beer would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of more screens danced in their heads.

Wife on her side of the bed. Me on mine. Wondering how long ’til a child climbs in.

When down in the kitchen there was such a clatter. I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Turned on the light. Blind from the flash. Hand over face to see who it is.

The moon outside shone on the snow gave a luster of midday to objects below.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but The Gaggle, The Boy, The Oppressed in good cheer.

They poured out some eggnog, so lively and quick. I shooed them to bed. Here comes St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came. And I shooed and scattered as I called them by name.

Now Lovie, now Slugger, now Slapshot and screwball. Junior and Dearie, make haste down the hall. Go to your rooms. Get in your beds. Make not a peep. Just rest your heads.

I wanted to throw them, to make them fly.

There was a lack of hustle. They just rolled their eyes.

Meanwhile, I heard a sleigh slow to stop

Eight not-so-tiny-deer resting on top.

A Christmas vision

The sleigh-driver hopped off. Claus and bag, too

I hoped that bag had a bottle, brand new.

Something nice, tasty and strong.

Something enjoyed after homework gone wrong.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

Kitty was watching. She just had to look.

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,

Toys for everyone. Jills and Jacks.

His eyes—how they twinkled as gifts were dispersed!

He sung to himself a nice Christmas verse.

His droll little mouth carried the tune

As the Christmas Star rose high over the moon.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

Made me grateful he wasn’t vaping. What a relief

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was gen’rous and kind, a right jolly old man,

With a bottle of single malt scotch in each hand.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

I asked him to stay for some Christmas cheer.

He politely declined, then waved to our Dears.

The children had been right there standing behind us.

By the time I looked back, Santa had left us.

The Miracles of Christ stood there and smiled.

The Boy pointed and asked, “Is this one my pile?”

But I hope you enjoy your own Christmas night.

Happy Christmas to all. Daddy’s tired. Good night.

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Spirits… and Wine… and Beer

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As you know, I take my drinking very seriously. I fancy myself to be somewhat of an expert on beer. I am still learning about scotch and bourbon but I’ve always thought learning is fun.

During the Christmas season, I always try to read “A Christmas Carol” and one or two other stories of the Season written by Charles Dickens. Christmas in Victorian England seems like a fascinating thing to me and Wife. The Spirit. The decor. One time wife had to go to London on business not long before Christmas. She returned with mini mince pies, Christmas pudding, and some catalogs that featured some dinners you could order and pick up in time for Christmas dinner. Turkey. Goose. Beef. I asked wife if they shipped international orders.

Okay. Back to the drinking. I like drinking and I also like history. I have a book on what they drank during Colonial America. Colonists took what they had and turned it into delightful and delicious concoctions. Everything organic and made from scratch. Ever have a Rattle-Skull? Delicious.

One of my favorite recipe sources.

I first learned about a drink called a “Smoking Bishop” the first time I actually read “A Christmas Carol”. I was intrigued enough to look it up. It looked interesting and easy enough. I made a batch and it was wonderful. I try to make some every year. There are lots of variations on the recipe. I don’t know if there is one “original” recipe but this is the one I use.

Photo: toriavey.com

Speaking of “A Christmas Carol”, Fezziwig served Negus at his Christmas party. I’ve looked for a recipe to this drink. The easiest one calls for a mixture of port wine and boiling water. Add some nutmeg and cinnamon. A little lemon juice. Some suggest you mix the nutmeg and wine and let it sit for an hour or so. I make it and serve immediately with a lemon wedge.

I’m always looking for new things to try. I don’t need to look for reasons. The Miracles of Christ give me plenty of those by themselves. What do you like to make and drink? I know a lot of people like egg nog. Wife has a special recipe for that that has been handed down for generations. I like to sample some of that to. After all, ’tis the Season.

Laundry Quest

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If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. In my case, if I want something done I have to do it myself.

Dirty laundry on a good day

I have previously mentioned each of the Miracles of Christ are given a chore. This is their individual chore for two weeks. Normally, I find myself doing other people chores if people are going to have clean dishes come dinnertime or if I want clean clothes.

One particular child was charged with laundry duty for a period of time. This responsibility came with more than a few teachable moments for everyone in the house. Said child learned there is an indicator on the washing machine that tells you when the door is locked. Maybe they didn’t see it. Maybe “Door Locked” was too difficult to comprehend. Whatever it was, they wanted to add something to the washing machine after it had started. Rather than pause the wash to unlock the door, they decided to try brute force to get it open. It worked. The door opened. The door broke and we needed someone to come and fix the door to the washer but it worked. And the door opened.

There was a positive to come from this. The child learned to look before trying to open the washer. An added bonus for them was learning more of the features that came with our state of the art washing machine, like a door that locks when the clothes inside are being washed. What will they think of next?

Then again, the clothes actually making it down to the basement and into the washing machine are an improvement. Bedrooms throughout our humble abode have hampers that are piled high with dirty clothes that are waiting to go into the laundry room. One nameless child has a hamper that has clean, folded clothes in their hamper. But that’s a story for another day.

I find myself bringing clothes down and doing a load of laundry myself on occasion. This prevents the occasional child from telling me and Wife they have no underwear. Sometimes the child in charge of laundry will help out by moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer or from the dryer to a table in the basement. That’s it. They don’t fold the clothes. They don’t bring the clothes upstairs. One of the children does their own laundry. They never run out of clothes.

I find our laundry laborer on the couch and ask about the clean, unfolded clothes on the table waiting to be worn by eager members of out family. “Oh. I got busy.” (Netflix) “Oh. I’m gonna get to it soon.” (XBox) “I’m going to get to it.” (Pick something.)

Like I said, I find it to be easier if I just do it myself. I find I have clean clothes that way. Plus, it prevents people from being killed by a collapsing mountain of clothes.

Just me and… Forget it (A Marriage Story)

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We’re a busy family. We always have been. Wife’s work schedule is insane. The kids have sports, doctor’s and dentist appointments, drivers ed. We travel here and there to visit family and sometimes help family with various things around the yard. There’s things around our yard that need attention. We’ll get to it. Sure.

We’re busy just like you. Everyone has their obligations and to-do lists. It’s nice to get away for a while but even then it can be tough for me and Wife. Our children can be territorial; Not with me of course. I could be missing for a month and they wouldn’t care as long as screens are charged up and the Wi-Fi is working. I’m talking about their mother. That’s right. Their mother. I have been reminded numerous times that Wife is their mother. My mother is not in the house and therefore they get to have her and not me. People don’t own people and they should be able to spend time with whoever they want. I’m still working on that message for the children.

One time we took a vacation to a resort. This was before we became foster parents. There was me, Wife, The Oppressed, and The Boy as well as some of my in-laws. One week at an all-inclusive resort. No cars. No going anywhere except the beach and the restaurant. During that entire week Wife and I had a 20-minute lunch together. That was it in the entire seven days.

A rare photo of Wife not surrounded by children.

I know you’re reading this nodding your head. You’re dealing with the same thing. Or you had the same thing once and don’t anymore. You may miss it those days and for that, I pray for your mental health.

It’s not all bad. Sometimes when when we need to go somewhere and have to take two cars, the kids want to go with Wife. This allows me some quiet time. Sometimes the cars are so packed one or two of the children have to go with me. That’s when they show Wife how they can contort themselves in the car and still be able to go with her. They are willing to do anything if it means going with their mom and not going with me. I’m looking forward to one of the children getting their license. Maybe then Wife and I could go together in one car and the children could go in another. Maybe then we could get some alone time. It would just be for an hour or so but I’ll take what I can get.

Last week we had a Zoom meeting with some friends. Wife and I were set up with drinks and snacks waiting for the host to join. Something went off inside The Boy as he sensed I was sitting too close to my wife. He sped into the room, jumped on the couch and crated a spot between me and Wife for him. He doesn’t want me to get too much time with my wife. He doesn’t want me to get any time with my wife.

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