Parenting with one arm tied behind my back.

Well not really behind my back, it’s in a sling, but I’m still stuck with just one arm for the next couple weeks. The only reason I’m able to write this now because I used my iPhone and uploaded it from there to my blog.

In the days ahead there will be a lot of challenges. Everything from getting the boys dressed and fed in the morning to changing Josh’s messy diapers is going to be tough.

Zack snapped this shot of me trying to corral his little brother with just one arm.

Zack snapped this shot of me trying to corral his little brother with just one arm.

So what exactly happened to me? I had a repetitive stress injury, “medial epicondylitis” which is a fancy term for “Golfer’s elbow” and my ulna nerve (your “funny bone”) had become displaced. After living with the pain for the better part of a year and a half I finally underwent the corrective surgery to remove scar tissue and return my nerve to its proper track.

The weeks leading up to the surgery have been a blur. Knowing that I would be unable to do manual labor afterwards, I rushed to get all my “honey-do” jobs done. Not the least if which was building new furniture for the boys.

No more beating myself up doing tasks around the house. For the first time ever I’m going to have to pay someone to mow our lawn because I won’t be able to push the mower. The rest of my jobs around here are just going to have to wait.

Final assembly of the boys' beds. Thanks to my "helpers" I got it done in time.

Final assembly of the boys’ beds. Thanks to my “helpers” I got it done just in time.

These first few days after surgery while I’m still drugged out of my gourd I’ll have help with me all day. But Starting next week I’ll be on my own for part of the time. That’s what scares me.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed the boys will continue to take it easy on me. So far they’ve been pretty accommodating not to climb on me or wrestle like we normally do. Zack has being a great help bringing me pillows to prop up my arm and fetching me glasses of water. Even little Josh has been patient with me, pointing out “Daddy’s boo-boo” and not touching my arm.

Another of Zack's photos. This is how my kids see me now.

Another of Zack’s photos. This is how my kids see me now.

Just a few days into April and it’s already proving to be a crazy month. With all that’s happened in these few short days, its hard to imagine it’ll only get crazier. We’ve already survived building bedroom furniture, surgery, the boys sharing a room, and Dad being home all the time.  In the days ahead we’ll be preparing for the baby’s arrival, starting physical therapy, setting up the nursery, welcoming visiting family, Andrew’s birth, and more, and all this with one arm tied behind my back (er… in a sling).

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Three more days to torture myself

I’ve been neglecting my blog lately, but it’s been for a good reason. With a new baby arriving soon I have a ton of stuff to do and not much time to get it all done. Being on the computer has taken a back seat until I get all my “honey-do” jobs done. The deadline used to be AJ’s due date (May 9th), but now I’m having arm surgery (April 2nd) so I’m starting to panic. After the surgery my left arm will be immobilized in a splint for two weeks and once it’s off I still can’t do much for several weeks.

There’s a lot to do, and not just the usual getting ready for baby things. To make room for Andrew’s nursery, Zack and Josh will need to share a room and that means new furniture. I don’t have the time, the tools, the materials, or the skills, but I’m just insane enough to try and make it all myself. I don’t know if I’m just stubborn or a special kind of stupid, but I’m determined to make this work.

Josh "helps" me measure and cut the side rails on his big brother's bed.

Josh “helps” me measure and cut the side rails on his big brother’s bed.

Zack will get a loft bed with stairs and Josh will have a brand new “big boy bed”. Both of them will be extra-long twins and as indestructible as possible. I’ve been working on the beds every weekend and any spare minute I have. My bum arm and lack of carpentry skills has bogged things down a bit.

Zack's bed frame disassembled waiting to be sanded and stained.

Built entirely out of 2x6s and 2x4s, Zack’s bed frame disassembled waiting to be sanded and stained.

One of my father’s favorite expressions was “Measure twice, cut once”. For me it’s been more a case of “Measure three or four times, cut once, cut once more, swear at it a bit, make a trip back to Lowes, and then do it all over again.”

I turned my back for a moment and found this artful arrangement of building materials had somehow appeared. Hmmm... I think it may be my "helpers" again.

I turned my back for a moment and found this artful arrangement of building materials had somehow appeared. Hmmm…  either we have a poltergeist or it may be my “helpers” again.

The boy’s enthusiasm is encouraging, but their “help” leaves a lot to be desired. Tools and materials have a bad habit of wandering off. I even I caught Josh “playing Daddy” the other day:

“”Where’s my wrench? It was right here!”

“Now I can’t find the hammer!”

This has been a massive learning experience. While my bed construction is a tad on the crude side, it has so far proven as indestructible as I’d hoped. After I finished the frames I bolted them together and let the boys torture test Josh’s bed for a bit. It helped show me a few areas that I needed to improve and I made modifications based on that.

Let the torture test begin! It's not everyday Dad sets up a twin bed in the living room. The boys take advantage and bounce as much as possible.

Let the testing begin! It’s not everyday Dad sets up a twin bed in the living room. The boys take advantage and bounce as much as possible.

I’m getting closer to the finish line on the great furniture debacle of 2014. The beds have been made and then disassembled ready for sanding and stain, and I’ve nearly completed the staircase (with dresser drawers under each step) so it will get sanded and stained tomorrow as well.

Testing for fit. These are the stairs that Zack will use to get into his loft bed.

Testing for fit. These are the stairs that Zack will use to get into his loft bed.

Once the beds are finished and assembled I’ll post an in depth blog detailing their design and construction. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ll make it. I have three more days to push through the pain in my arm and do as much as I can with two crazed little boys under foot.

Well, enough computer for me… now where’d that sander go? Ugh…

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What’s harder Parenting or manual labor?

I’ve missed a few days updating my blog but it’s been for a good reason. We made arrangements to get our septic tank pumped later this week, and to save a few dollars I had the bright idea that I’d dig the cover up myself. We had talked to the woman at the septic company who pulled up our records and gave us an “accurate” description of where the four tank lids were that I would have to uncover.

My lunatic children go crazy inside the house. I think I'm better off staying out here in the rain.

My lunatic children go crazy inside the house. I think I’m better off staying outside in the rain.

Saturday morning I set to work eager to get this simple job out of the way as quickly as possible. This being Washington, it was raining of course which didn’t help anything. Carefully following the measurements I was given I calculated where the first lid should have been. I say “should have been” because of course, that’s where it wasn’t. I dug three feet down and found nothing. Wet, tired, and a bit frustrated I wasn’t sure where to try next. This was when the boys came out to “help”.

They were thrilled to discover the dirt “Volcano” their Dad had built in the back yard. They climbed the dirt mounds over and over as I set about digging another hole in the yard hoping that this time the tank would reveal itself. Armed with toy sandbox shovels Zack and Josh decided I needed a hand. As I dug deeper they “helped” by replacing the dirt back into the hole while I was still standing in it.

As the rain came down, so did the dirt. One of the few benefits of having a shaved head is that when my kids sprinkle dirt on me, it’s just a matter of brushing it off. After another half hour of digging, the new hole had transformed into a semicircular trench that now connected to my previous excavation. The elusive septic tank was still nowhere to be found.

I was feeling defeated. What I had thought was a simple enough task, uncovering the four tank lids, had proven too much for me. All three of us were wet and muddy, but the difference between me and my young assistants was that they were still going strong while I was exhausted.

That was when fate (and Mommy) intervened. Kat told the boys to get back in the house to get clean and warmed up before they get too cold and miserable. Since I was already cold and miserable, I opted to stay outside and continue searching for the giant cement box that was buried somewhere in the yard yet continued to elude me. My energy spent, the only thing that kept me going was that I was just too stubborn to admit defeat.

Then, as I contemplated giving up once and for all I heard the noises coming from inside the house. It was total chaos. “I don’t want to change my clothes”, “Get off the bed with those muddy shoes!”, “I wanna go play!”, “Stop crying and take your shirt off”. And then the screaming started, and the crying, and the scream-crying. Should I go help, or stay outside and keep working? I had a choice to make, hard manual labor in the cold rain, or parenting my two crazed little boys. When push came to shove I chickened out. Opting for the easier of the two tasks, I began digging with new resolve.

My victory! At long last I found it! Our idiot dog poses outside in the rain next to the uncovered tank.

My victory! At long last I found it! Our idiot dog poses outside in the rain next to the uncovered septic tank.

Eventually I found the tank. As luck would have it, I had been only a foot to the left of it on my first attempt, but had then started going in the wrong direction with my subsequent holes. The kids finally stopped giving their Mom grief and got warmed up and now, victorious in my quest, I staggered inside to get cleaned up.

To celebrate we all went out to lunch. The kids were happy that they got to go out to a restaurant. My wife was happy that I’d dug up the tank, saved us some cash, and didn’t kill myself in the process. I just felt accomplished that I’d actually done something I’d set out to do, accomplished and exhausted… very exhausted.

Much calmer now, Zack reads to Josh on our way to lunch. (I generally don't take pictures of the kids when everyone is flipping out)

Much calmer now, Zack reads to Josh on our way to lunch.

I may have gotten away with it this time, but I know next time I won’t get off so easy. Sometimes being a Dad means that there are jobs around the house that only a Dad can do and I’m alright with that. I took advantage of the situation. My eight month pregnant wife wasn’t going to be out in the rain digging up septic tanks. It sucked, it was hard work and I’m out of shape, but I consider myself lucky having gotten off easy. Kat is the one that had to deal with riding herd on two rambunctious little boys that didn’t want to be cooped up in the house, and that’s a lot more difficult that just digging a hole any day.

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My typical morning…

An actual conversation with my kids this morning:

Zack: “I want milk”

Me: “Okay, here’s some milk”

Zack: “I don’t want the blue cup Daddy, I want it in the pumpkin cup.”(The cup with pumpkins on it)

Me: “Fine, here’s some milk in the pumpkin cup. Josh, you can have the milk I poured in the blue cup”

Josh: (crying) “I want pumpkin cup too!”

Me: “Okay, here’s some milk in the other pumpkin cup.” (I pour the milk into an identical second pumpkin cup)

Josh: (now screaming & crying) “No! I want pumpkin cup!” (Points to the cup Zack is drinking out of)

Me: “Zack, can you trade cups with your brother? I know they look the same, but he really wants the cup you have”

Zack: “But it’s MY pumpkin cup!”

*Both boys are now screaming and crying.*

Me: (trying to be patient) “I know that one is yours, but Josh would really like to trade with you. Could you be a good big brother and let him switch cups with you?”

Zack: hesitantly “Okay”

I swap cups and give each boy the milk that their brother was previously drinking out of. Josh takes a couple sips and finally stops crying.

Zack: “I want juice”

*Screaming starts again*

They're always so pleased with themselves when they've worn Dad down to a frazzle.

They’re always so pleased with themselves when they’ve worn Dad down to a frazzle.

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Best laid plans…

It’s crazy how easy it is for even the best laid plans to go awry. This past week we had planned to have a glorious three day long weekend filled with completing “honey do” lists, watching the playoffs, and going out to dinner with the boys.

I realize now that we were tempting fate with our unbridled optimism.

Friday night I got to sleep early (well early for me anyways) in hopes that I would wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to get a lot done. Saturday started off well enough, the only sign that things were amiss was when our little one Josh turned his nose up at eating anything for breakfast.

Josh "helping" clean the garage in Daddy's hat (before things went south)

Josh “helping” clean the garage in Daddy’s hat (before things went south)

As the day went on I tackled the garage, cleaning it out and creating a studio space where we can do future arts and craft projects. Kat kicked butt going through the piles of papers and filing them all accordingly. The boys had fun “helping” me in the garage (I’d planned to write a blog about this later), but as the day went on Josh got fussier and fussier. We had even talked about inviting my Mom and taking the boys out to dinner (IHOP or Izzy’s Pizza) but by evening Josh was just too cranky to deal with and Zack had started acting out of sorts too. Tired of being yelled at by our offspring, we decided for an early bedtime hopeful that they would feel better with some rest (again with the optimism).

This looks good now, just wait until it's spread all over the floor... yuck!

This looks good now, just wait until it’s spread all over the floor… yuck!

And that’s when it happened… the vomiting… and vomiting… and vomiting. Josh turned into some demon child launching the contents of his stomach all over his bedroom. While not as bad off as his little brother, Zack had a turn at getting sick too. Saturday night we spent debating whether or not to take our poor little guys into the ER.

I imagine it’s a debate that every parent has had with themselves time and time again. How sick is “too sick”? Under the circumstances he didn’t have a fever and seemed in good spirits so we opted for the watch and wait option. I stayed up until one in the morning with an eye on the baby monitor ever vigilant that our little guy didn’t wake up and start throwing up again (I also scored my personal best on Candy Crush). Jumping up at the slightest sign that anything might be wrong, we didn’t get much sleep. Thankfully though, the boys slept just fine, but the next day my wife and I were total zombies.

Josh was no longer the crankiest little butt-head this side of the Mississippi, but in his place we had a “snuggle monster” who refused to be less than an arm’s reach away. I have to admit, I did breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at least we’d get to watch the Hawks in the playoffs and not spend our day that the hospital, but our dreams of a super productive weekend had flown out the window.

A happier picture from a happier day, because quite frankly... when the kids are sick I'm not gonna be taking pictures. (and who wants to see that anyhow)

A happier picture from a happier day, because quite frankly… when the kids are sick I’m not gonna be taking pictures. (and who wants to see that anyhow)

One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make to my life since becoming a parent is learning that there are no certainties. Kids are ever unpredictable, so I’d better get used to rolling with the punches.

Unfortunately I’ve also learned that if one of the boys gets really sick, it’s a good bet that I’ll come down with the same bug about half a week later. But that’s a blog entry for another time.

Oh Brother, “Your Brother”

I like to think I’m a patient man, I really do. But sometimes that patience really gets put to the test. My oldest son Zack has a bit of a speech delay which makes getting through to him a little tough sometimes. He is going to preschool and gets speech therapy once a week, so it’s improving, but it can still be infuriating at times.

How can someone who looks so sweet drive me so very very crazy?

How can someone who looks so sweet drive me so very very crazy?

Right now, the most annoying thing in the world is “Your Brother”. I don’t know when it happened, but once too many times while I was talking to Zack I referred to his little brother Josh as “Your brother”. Instead of making the connection between “Your ___” and “My ___”, Zack started using “Your brother” as another name for his brother Josh which drives me absolutely bonkers.

A typical conversation between me and Zack:

Me: “Where is your brother?”

Zack: “Your brother is in the living room”

Me: “No, my brothers are your Uncle Dick and your Uncle Bob, your brother is Josh”

Zack: “Uncle Dick and Uncle Bob aren’t your brothers. ‘Your brother’ is in the living room.”

Me: “He’s not MY brother, he’s YOUR brother. You should to say ‘MY’ brother is in the living room”

Zack: “My ‘Your brother’ is in the living room”

"Your brother"... I mean "My brother"... uh, "Little brother"... er, "josh"... or whatever.

“Your brother”… I mean “My brother”… uh, “Little brother”… er, “josh”… or whatever.

Hopefully we’ll get it straight sometime. I should learn by my wife’s example, she found a way to avoid this whole headache and just calls Josh “Little brother”.