The end of the day is always something Wife and I look forward to. The children go to bed and we can unwind, read, lay down in bed, fall asleep and recharge our batteries for the challenges and battles we’ll face the next day.
Before I can slip into Dreamland, however, I have a few obligations I must honor with the cherubs. Every night, I am expected to provide a story. The Oppressed and The Boy want a story before they fall asleep, and they want different kinds of stories.
The Boy is first. There is usually some negotiation on which stories we’re going to read. I’ve bought some books for his room that I thought he would enjoy. He hasn’t enjoyed them and we read something else. If I try to read something he doesn’t want, he’ll get out of bed, take the book out of my hands and replace it with a more acceptable book. If I try to read something else, he will get back out of bed and fix my transgression and make sure it remains fixed. We read his selection(s).
He’s chosen some novels and novellas for story time. We haven’t finished them, but we certainly started a few. Again, I try to recommend those books we’ve started. I get into them and would love to see what happens next. Alas, his heart and attention span have moved on, and we’re going to read something different.
Reading to my Daughter
I read until he falls asleep. Once I hear snores, I make my way to The Oppressed’s room. It’s time for another round of Story Time. This time, though, I don’t read. This time, I am expected to make up a story, usually about a princess. It has to be a new story every night. It can’t be the same as one I told earlier. Variations are acceptable, but no duplicates. Different night, different story. She likes to test my creativity.
When this is done, I get to power down for the evening and rest until the next day’s demands require me to be vertical again. I’m not needed until then… Or so I think.
There have been a few occasions where I have been derelict in my duties. As mentioned before, I read to The Boy until he falls asleep, then proceed to The Oppressed. There are times when The Boy will be standing at the door of The Oppressed, insisting I left while he was still awake (never happened) and informs me I must return to his room to continue reading the book I never finished.
The Oppressed is a good sport about it and lets me return to finish the book I already read. Once that is done, I return to The Oppressed to finish my story obligations. She doesn’t mind because usually I start the routine over, which means an extra story for her.
Daddy can go to Bed
Stories are finished. I can go to my own bed and put another day behind me. The morning will call with its usual duties, some of which include telling another story, like the one you’re reading now. At least this time I don’t need to wait for anyone to fall asleep before I can walk away.
Stories finished. Children sleeping. Daddy can now end the day. I go to my room and climb into bed. I don’t need a story because I have enough drama in my life, and it tires me. It doesn’t take long for me to fall asleep until duty summons me again.
We are negotiating our way through January. The children are back in school. Wife is hard at work kicking butt and taking names, like she always does. I am sitting in front of my computer reading, writing, editing, and working on whatever comes in front of me.
The children have adjusted to their time being consumed by the cruel and unusual academic punishments. It was a nice Christmas Break, but I think the house is glad to have the little Miracles of Christ out and back at school.
School Days (and Half-Days)
We can’t just hit the ground running, though. There needs to be some consideration for the fatigue and struggles our children suffer. That’s why they invented three-day weekends. It gives them a chance to process the labors of the previous days and weeks. It’s tough. Not only do they have to sit through school, but sometimes, God forbid, there’s homework for them to do after school. Sometimes they’re able to suck it up and do it. Other times it’s a nightmare that never seems to end. It’s hard for them, too.
There are also times where they need to go to school, but it’s only for a half day. Again, this brings joy to their faces. For me, it means I have half the time to do what I need to do before heading back to school to pick them up. It’s incredible, sometimes. On full days, I ask what they did. They answer, “Nothing.” I don’t know what half of nothing is, but I get the same answer when I pick them up on half-days.
It’s the same thing when The Boy goes to his friends’ houses. They do nothing. He’ll bring a toy, maybe some Pokémon cards. When he gets back, he did nothing. Whatever it is, it’s easier than the legal torture he’s subjected to in school.
Driving to the Party
The children must admit, though, that life isn’t always readin’, ritin’, and rackin’ brains. There are times where the clouds open up and let a little sunshine in. Sunshine came on one particular weekend when the boy was invited to a birthday party. I escorted him. The party was a few towns away, which meant a little drive. I love driving, especially when someone is with me. It means a chance to play some music and talk.
I look back at The Boy and ask if he’s ready for the party. Is he excited about it? He ducks out of my view and hides his face. Obviously, my son doesn’t want to talk. He just wants to get to the party and play with his friends.
We Arrive at the Party
The party is at Chuck E. Cheese, a haven for poor, mistreated innocent children like my son. The children congregate toward each other. I find grown-ups to commiserate with. One of the grown-ups just happened to be a neighbor. I coached his kids during one of my stints. We get to talking about parenthood and the thankless duties we perform.
He proceeds to tell me about the previous weeks his family had, which included a couple of hockey games they attended. I listen to the tales of family bonding and watching the Boston Bruins together. Snacks, drinks, and hockey. What a time they must have had. My children aren’t much for watching sports. Like you, my neighbor is a loyal reader and he’s well aware of where sports rank on the list of my children’s interests.
After a little game-playing and running around a crowded arcade, like children like to do, it was time for food. Pizza and chicken bites. Staples of a birthday party. My ongoing quest to shed some inches from my waist was sidetracked yet again. Both the pizza and the chicken were good. This led me and other adults to discuss where we get our pizza when ordering at home.
Games with The Boy
Pizza and chicken are finished. Time for cake. I decline the cake after going slightly crazy with the pizza and chicken. After cake, there’s a little time left for some more games before heading back home. The Boy and I play together in the final stage of the birthday party.
Party’s over. It’s time to head back home. I ask The Boy if he had a good time. He did. I look in the mirror as I talk to him. He ducks and hides again. I adjust the radio. I was thinking about the talk of hockey, and I wonder if we’d be lucky to find a game. Sure enough, we do. I explain faceoffs, one-timers, and checking to the boy, who informs me that this is boring.
We get home. Wife is there. She asks how the party went. I tell her it was good. I talked to the neighbors. The pizza was good, and I ate more than I should have once again.
“What did you do?” Wife asked The Boy.
“Nothing,” The Boy answered.
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Learning opportunities and teachable moments were plenty for us recently. Slick’s car was out of commission. We weren’t sure what the problem was, but it wouldn’t start. Based on my limited past experiences with my own cars, I was thinking battery, starter, or alternator. For Slick’s sake, I was hoping it was just needing to change the car battery.
We tested the battery. Dead as a doornail. I thank the automotive deities for the easier and cheaper of the problems. My experiences have also taught me the battery could still be good, it just needs a little tightening. Call me crazy, but I like to make sure I don’t need to spend extra money before I spend extra money.
Slick and I give everything a once-over and, unfortunately, we need to buy a new battery. At this point, a friend of ours was walking past. He dabbles in cars and comes over to see what we’re doing and how it’s going. We explain what’s going on. At this point, everyone is inside the house. We’re still discussing the situation with Wife, who has since come down to the kitchen to say hello.
It’s Time to Call Triple AAA
I decide for Slick we should call Triple AAA. It’s night. It’s cold, in the teens and I’m delicate. I need to put children to bed, which includes reading stories. I really don’t want to be out there messing with the business of going to a store, going back, loosening a corroded car battery in frigid weather, replacing, tightening, and securing a battery when I can be in my warm house safe from the elements and letting someone else, someone who does this for their job, do their job and earn their money so they can buy their wife and children nice things.
Friend tells me it’s wrong and crazy to get a marked-up battery from Triple AAA. Go to Wal-Mart. It’s cheaper and it’s not difficult to replace a battery. These reasons are true and valid, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s cold and late. I get out-voted and Slick and I are off to Wal-Mart for a car battery.
Buying a Car Battery
We climb into my car. The engine turns. I’m waiting for things to warm up as I stew over my democratic defeat and the sudden need to leave my cozy home. I’m delicate.
We get to Wal-Mart and make our way to the automotive section. Batteries galore, just not the battery we need. We go up and down the aisle hoping to find our battery. Alas, the Wal-Mart gods are not with us, and we need to seek our battery elsewhere. My Triple AAA idea is looking better.
We head back in the direction of home, keeping an open eye for an auto parts shop. It pleases the gods that we should come across one. We enter. There’s a man behind a counter eating a sandwich. Another is behind the counter looking at his phone. We explain to the nice men that we are looking for a battery. We’re looking for the size. Sandwich gets up from the counter and leads us to where the batteries are. Praise be, they have our battery in stock. I turn around with the prize, and Sandwich is already back at his seat.
Installing a Car Battery
We get back in the car with the newly procured power source. It’s late. It’s still cold, but we need to put the new battery in so Slick can do what he needs to do.
We pull into the driveway. There’s not much as far as light goes. We only have so many lights outside. It reminds me of a time in high school when someone needed to change a tire, but that’s another story for another time.
Hood popped. We stand over the situation with our cell phones trying to illuminate what’s under the hood. Slick looks a little closer.
“Is that a screwdriver?” he asks.
I look closer with my own phone. Sure enough, there is a screwdriver handle sticking out from all of the parts, wires, bells, and whistles. Slick removes the screwdriver. I’m glad it just comes out, and it wasn’t something used to hold parts together or fill a gap that shouldn’t be there. We work over the car; one person loosening connectors and another illuminating. We remove the old battery and install the new one. Car starts, hood closes, and we both hustle up the steps and into the house. It’s cold and I’m delicate.
I was out of commission for a couple of days last week. Not fun when the stay-at-home-parent gets sick. I’m not sure what hit me, but it wasn’t pleasant. Stomachaches, nausea, chills. A lot of things that didn’t make for pleasant mornings or pleasant days in general. I was able to put on my “big boy” pants long enough during the day to get some things done around the house, but once I finished cooking, I needed to tap out and go to bed. That was bad because the porkchops I had cooked smelled good.
Sick in Bed
I proceeded to spend the following day in bed. I fell asleep, woke up, found some games to play, answered messages from adoring fans. It was nice. Wife held it down for me during my brief convalescence. She took the kids to school in the morning. If she tried to wake me, I didn’t notice. I was out of it.
That was how I spent the first day of being sick: Being in and out of sleep, trying to stay warm. Wishing I could be well enough to at least drink something. I wasn’t hungry but I was thirsty. My morning coffee didn’t agree with me, and I had to quit after a couple of sips.
I was, however, able to drink tea and, before I went down to the count, I noticed I was feeling a little off and bought a couple of bottles of iced green tea to help me fight through whatever it was that was coming on to me.
It wasn’t exactly an ideal situation. I couldn’t stand. Couldn’t walk. Laundry and dishes were piling up. I wondered about the pick-ups and drop-offs and Wife’s schedule. She was able to get it done for me and I was very grateful for that.
Daddy in Recovery
I was starting to feel better the next day and was able to drink a cup of coffee. I allowed myself some toast. Daddy was hungry but was still feeling a little more delicate than usual. The kids were at school, so I allowed myself to go downstairs.
I took the time to check out some selections from my DVD library to pass the time while I was in recovery mode. It was only a short time, so I was only able to watch two movies. I watched “L.A. Confidential” and the original “Death Wish”. I’ve been wanting to watch a lot of movies that I haven’t gotten around to. (No, I hadn’t seen those two and I know how old they are). Needing to be off my feet and take it easy gave me the chance to watch them.
Watching these movies was a nice way of taking it easy for a day or two. I was soon feeling well enough to return to my father and husband duties and cook and clean. Everyone was glad to have me back. Not because they love me or my cooking, though. They were glad to have me back to doing chores.
Wife and I decided a little road trip would be just the thing this Christmas. We never told the children.
Allow me to share with you our experiences between Christmas and New Year’s. Every family has their traditions. Every family has that house they visit to celebrate the Holidays. Some families may even be that host who welcomes friends and relatives into their home.
Wife and I decided a little road trip would be just the thing this Christmas. We never told the children. We just told Lovie, who has been in charge of laundry, to make sure that everyone has enough clean clothes for the week. She didn’t seem too suspicious about it but went about her chores.
We went to my in-laws on Christmas Eve, went home, went to bed, and woke up on Christmas morning. We exchanged presents and had a quick, light breakfast. As the children ate, Wife presented them with a slide show detailing what the week had in store for everyone.
Everyone packed bags. We took snacks for us. We weren’t sure what would be open for meals on Christmas Day. Everyone loaded up the car and piled in. The Gaggle, Slick, Slugger, Lovie, The Oppressed, The Boy, Wife, and me. We hit the road, always a favorite hobby of mine. We drove through towns and on highways, stopping where we could to buy snacks. After hours of driving, we finally reached New York, and not long after crossing the line into the Empire State, we arrived at the urban jungle known as New York City.
Stop 1: New York City
All things considered; the traffic wasn’t that bad from our home on Massachusetts’ South Shore to the Big Apple. Even driving through NYC was relatively easy in terms of traffic. Like everything else with life: meals, travels, coordination, this trip presented its challenges which we met and…. Well, we met the challenges.
Our base for this trip was the Hilton Garden Inn on West 54th St. We parked on the street, which was utilized as a street for traffic, a bike lane, and a loading/unloading zone for those staying at the hotel. The loading zone was already full when we got there. Wife got out and got to check us in. I manned the driver’s seat just in case someone came by and said we needed to move the car, which may or may not have been blocking a fire hydrant when we first got there.
Christmas in New York
I patiently waited in the car with seven children, some of whom wanted to go into the hotel with Wife. We said no. There was no way we were letting the kids split up in NYC before we got rooms squared away and luggage out of the car. I kept looking in all directions, hoping to find a better place to park and making sure no one was saying we couldn’t be here.
Wife came back out and informed me we were good to go. We unloaded the car and got it parked out of everyone’s way. On to see our rooms, which weren’t adjoining. That’s alright. I’m sure we can make it work. The boys are on the 10th floor and the girls are on the 30th. Okay, we can meet in the hotel lobby, out front. Meet in someone’s room. Oh yeah, there are three elevators in the hotel, and one doesn’t work. Oh…
The day we arrived was a little low-key. After all, it’s Christmas Day. We chose to eat dinner in the hotel. We did some walking around the city. Back to the rooms for some rest and sleep.
The next day was the start of two full days in the Big Apple. We walked around Central Park. We took a bus tour of the city and took a boat cruise and went past the Statue of Liberty. Everyone ate bagels, pizza, and all kinds of unhealthy food that you would expect someone to eat while they’re on vacation.
Cash… or Not
Oh yeah, pizza. Slick and I went to get pizza for everyone one night. There was a place not far from the hotel. It was late. Everyone was hungry, but no one really wanted to leave the hotel. Three pizzas should cover everybody for dinner. We ordered the pizzas and then we are told it’s cash only. No problem. We had the cash. We pay for the pizzas and wait for them.
I realize I never bought drinks and have to make another order. The manager, who took our order, then informs us they take cash or credit cards. Would we like to use our credit card? Slick and I looked at each other and I told the manager we had cash. We’ll use cash.
There were sidewalk artists. Kids got paintings and drawings. Everyone got souvenirs. Wife told me you could get a Rolex for $10 in NYC. I didn’t know Rolex was going out of business. There’s also a question of authenticity with said “Rolexes” and I guess it’s not just the Rolexes. The same thing happens with certain designer bags and clothes. I’m in my 40’s and I’m still learning things.
We took a bus tour around the city and listened to a recorded tour. Everyone learned things about New York City, how things got their name, and the history of buildings and streets. We went down 42nd Street. No miracles. Then again, six children went to NYC, and we made it back with all six kids alive and intact. Maybe there was a miracle.
West 44th Street
I was on West 44th Street. There just happens to be a recording studio on that street. The Record Plant, aka “The Plant” was where John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Jimi Hendrix recorded. Aerosmith recorded there. It was one of those places I had always heard of. I tried to get The Boy to walk down the street with me. He declined. We were also on the far end of the street. I never made it to The Record Plant.
There was plenty to see in New York. There always is. Unfortunately, we had to get home. We needed to unpack our bags and trade dirty clothes for clean clothes, unload souvenirs, get some rest in our own beds and get ready for the second trip of the week.
Stop 2: Home
We got home from the urban jungle of NYC and I took a shower and shaved. It was nice to be in my own bedroom. The past four nights with Slick and Slugger challenged my nose and lungs. I think housekeeping wore hazmat suits when they cleaned our room after we left.
A main reason for stopping at home was an earlier-planned meeting with my parents and siblings for lunch and exchanging Christmas presents. Unfortunately, one of my parents came down with Covid and plans for lunch had to be scrapped. Still, it was nice to get home and unload some of the dirty clothes that were sitting in our bags in the car, especially clothes from Slick and Slugger.
Stop 3: Mystic, CT
We hit the road again. A shorter trip this time. We arrived at a nice hotel situated in a nice part of town. We were near shopping, restaurants, and the Mystic Aquarium. The rooms were nice, the pool was heated. I was waiting for something to happen: some type of infestation, there was a mistake, and our rooms weren’t actually adjoining. Nothing. Accommodations that seemed too good to be true were the real thing.
Dinner and a quick dip in the pool with The Oppressed and The Boy. We fell asleep in our new room, the third in as many nights. The next day was spent at the Mystic Aquarium. The Oppressed got to see turtles. She loves turtles. The Boy got to see dinosaurs. He and I were both glad to see that.
Wrapping up Our Trip
We had to leave the aquarium, though. We had dinner plans with Wife’s cousin at his family’s house. It was a nice house, and, when we pulled into the driveway, I reiterated my death threats to the children if anybody didn’t behave themselves. It went well. All children were able to occupy themselves. Wife and I were able to have intelligent conversations with other adults.
The next morning began with breakfast at a local diner. We did some shopping before getting on the road and making our way home. We got home. More dirty clothes were unloaded. We said goodbye to 2021 and welcomed 2022. It was a year with challenges, kids, lots of kids, and moments that made for interesting stories and reasons for drinking. What mattered was everyone had a good time. We got to do and see things with the kids.