New ‘regime’ begins this weekend

Kids age, whether we like it or not. And something we have discovered is that as they age the task of keeping up with them expands dramatically. The messes expand, the dishes increase, the dirty laundry increases. And the time spent on their activities increases. It is a massive experiment in chaos and exponential growth.

None of this is great for people with OCD and control issues. Nor is it great if you take pride in how your house looks and how clean it is. When this happens and you fit into either of those categories the responses are to just do all the work for the kids, and end up wiping out all of your time and energy. Or you surrender and just let them run roughshod over the house. But, there is another alternative.

This is an especially tough month, with all the birthdays, gatherings, kids events. And the only way to really stay sane in response to much of it has been to surrender to a large extent, do the work for them, etc. But I realized what a toll this has been taking on Kim and myself, Kim especially as she falls into the second category.

This all will come to an end this weekend. We have the last of the big family birthday gatherings, plus Halloween and a 4 day weekend for the kids. But I will be off for the entire time, primarily to do parent teacher conferences and also for Halloween events. And I decided that this weekend is time to roll out a new set of chore lists for the kids. With daily check lists, weekly check lists etc. And a lot of the things that will be added are items that we have been doing for them. Because they are getting old and big enough that there is no reason they cannot be doing more of the work that it takes to keep the household running.

I know that I was doing far more than they have at their age, helping with cooking and cleaning as early as I can remember. Partly it is a reaction, they make the mess they should clean it up. But it is also a learning and responsibility exercise for them, learn to do laundry, sweep floors, clean bathrooms etc.

I think that getting them to contribute more to household upkeep will make things easier for us, especially Kim. So this new regime begins this weekend, I expect some bumps and push back, but if we make it clear that this is not a negotiation, it is a requirement, and stay firm on having them do it, it should make things better for all of us as time goes on.

Understanding and sharing will get you far

Saturday morning I woke up, hit snooze a couple of times, then struggled out of bed. Promptly began panicking, because for some reason I thought I was already behind in my timing for departing for Denver. Just as I was rushing through my shower Kim came in, and when I mentioned that I had to get moving she pointed out that it was 6:30, and that I didn’t really have to leave until 7:30. Just amazing that my mind can do that, I knew what time it was, but for some reason my stupid brain decided to play a trick and get me to think it was later than it really was.

Later on my drive I twice got myself turned around in following the directions before I got where I wanted to go. I got to the right place, and I was on time. But I was so flustered by all that driving around that I was panicked.

The important thing to take away from both of these situations is that it was just my brain balance messing with me. And when that happens, when I get that panicked feeling, I need to stop, take a breath and put myself on pause. Because more often than not there is no reason for panic or rushing. It is just something triggering in my head. Gaining that understanding is a part of what I have learned in the past year and learning to push the pause button is just a skill I need to work on.

We laid my friend Justin to rest on Saturday. And it was a wide array of testimonials and stories that were shared. I finally got up the courage to share my own stories and feelings. And then it was over, and it felt like there was finally some sense of closure. It got me thinking, it was really important to us as a family to finally have the memorial for Manny. And it was the same here for Justin, to finally let him go. And for everyone to tell that last farewell and story.

I have no desire to die soon, in fact I plan to live a long long time. But I am at that age when it makes a little sense to think about these events, what do I want people to do. So I sat down today and captured some of that in a document for Kim (whom I assume I will outlive, just based on age and the odds.) I’m not saying everyone should have such a document but after attending a few different memorials/celebrations of life I have some strong feelings about how I want such an event for me to go. Sadly I am at the age where it is more likely that I will be unpacking my suit for funerals than weddings.

Anyway, those are my takeaways from the weekend events. We did other things, Emily had a sleepover and birthday party. We had the BV fall carnival. And while those were fun events, obviously it was the service that occupied my mind the most. And continuing in my path I choose to share those thoughts, to help me understand them and continue to develop strategies when similar situations come up.

Happy Birthday little Princess

Her highness Princess Elsa

Her highness Princess Elsa

Wishing my wonderful little girl, Emily, the most wonderful birthday today!

You can be exasperating, annoying, clingy, stubborn, spoiled.

But you are also sweet, cheerful, infectiously funny, and the apple of my eye.

Enjoy your day sweetheart, I wish nothing but the best for you as you continue to grow and blossom.

A Happy Convergence of Positive Events

Yesterday was a happy convergence of events for my interests and hobbies. I have a very busy weekend on tap, multiple family events. But I am ready for it all and have some good stuff happening to soften the blow as it were.

I had planned on picking up the new Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook on my birthday. But my local game store was out of stock, apparently there was a wist for a second print run. Yes I could have purchased it online, but this is one of the few places where my allegiance to local business and friends takes precedence. After a week or so delay I decided to see if I could at least get a copy from the library, just to read through, before getting a personal copy for the family. Well yesterday the library copy became available on hold for me so I went and picked it up. Of course last night I got a call from the store that my copy is in, so I will go and get that on my lunch. I will keep the library copy for a couple of weeks for myself and let James spend some time with the family copy.

Just in the afternoon and evening of reading through the book I am really impressed and excited. Honestly it wasn’t that long ago that I had pretty much given up on Dungeons & Dragons, figured I would just use GURPS or Savage Worlds for the introduction of Jimmy and kids to gaming. But when I read so many positive things about the Starter set for 5th Edition I figured I would give it a shot. I have been very impressed with the game play so far with the boys. Then getting my hands on the book I am very impressed. It is a very well thought out, well organized and written book. Here are some of the short thoughts in bullet point:

  • The first thing that has struck me is the versatility of the system now. Gone are the old class and race restrictions. If you want to be a Halfling Paladin, or a Dwarven Sorcerer it is now possible. And if you want to be a sword wielding wizard a la Gandalf you can. Just about any fantasy option is now out there.
  • I really like the thinking on the spell lists, gone are the old class spells. Sure there are some spells that only certain classes can get, and every casting class has it’s own list. But you don’t have the old redundancy, trying to come up with a Cleric version of the Light spell, or a Wizard version of Speak to Animals.
  • While I am still figuring out game play (and still keeping to the KISS principle with the boys) it really is a good game flow. And almost elegant flow to everything.

So I am very excited about the book and the game. And I am looking forward to really getting a regular game going with the boys. It is funny, I had also pretty much given up on running games after my last few bad experiences. But running Dungeons & Dragons with the boys has been great so far. And a comment an old friend made on FB last week, about how I was his original DM 35 years ago had me thinking that it was okay to run the game. Sure I wouldn’t mind being in a game as well, but for now this is enough of a fix for me.

Of course I am also on a little bit of a high point after watching the Broncos win another Prime Time game. I was mildly confident going into the game that they should win. But they handled that game very well. And the way that they won, with a strong defense, and hard nosed running game, really impressed me. While last year was fun, it feels better to just handle very game, rather than having to resort to shootout wins every week. And it was fun to sit and read the new book during commercials for a change. A nice convergence of good events.

We have a full weekend planned. Tonight is the Fall Carnival for the kids at school, followed by a short visit with my little brother. Then tomorrow morning I go to Denver to lay my friend to rest. And then home to host a birthday sleepover for Emily, followed by a Sunday party for her, with a bunch of little girls and kids. Then we get to relax a little. So I get some time away from family while driving up to Denver and back (plus the drive time is alone time for me.) It will all be a little crazy but I am ready for it.

Balance in all things is the key

Tuesday I had what might be my last session with the therapist for this go around. And the main point I came away with is that I need to remain balanced. That when I let things get out of balance is when I get into trouble.

That means balance in my interests, remain the FreeRangeGeek. Loving lot’s of different things, but never focused on one to the exclusion of others. That means spending time with D&D, coming up with adventures for the kids and running those games. That means getting out and taking pictures and playing with Photoshop. It also means taking the time to watch my various shows and movies, and reading about them. It means continuing to read, and read lots of different books and genres. Also getting out and playing some Bloodbowl when the league returns. And yes, it does mean paying attention to sports, watching some level of NFL games, college games and other sports. These are all things I love to do, and as long as doing them provides me joy I need to keep doing them. And so long as I don’t let my focus on one take all of my time and focus I will be good.

It also means balance in health. Finding time to get out and run or walk. Trying my best to balance nutrition (not my strong suit but I can try.) Making sure that I get my sleep and rest as well. Not skip sleep to run as I was doing previously. That doesn’t mean I use sleep as an excuse to not run, it means that I plan things so that I am in bed the nights before I run at a reasonable hour.

Last I need to remain balanced with the family and social time. I’m not talking about balancing my time between the 3 kids and Kim. I mean also taking time for myself, even if it just a couple of hours on the weekends. Realizing that if I have a big family gathering coming up that I need to carve out time before or after to recover. This has been one of the hardest things to do, in part because the kids were younger and needed more face time with a parent. But it is also because family is really important to me, and as such I have to fight the feeling of guilt I get when I carve out that time.

If I had to point out the things where my life was most out of balance last year it was in family time and ‘hobby’ time. I let family take up a lot of my time, and I was not doing as good a job of keeping my interests spread out. But the biggest was health, specifically sleep and exercise. Part of that was the foot trouble, but a lot of that was the sleep, I was letting myself get sucked into the trap of shorting sleep so I could exercise. Which on the face of it seems good (I mean I was exercising right?) but was in the end taking a bigger toll than I realized.

That is my plan, and goal. I think I can do it. And use this blog as a form of measuring stick. If I write a post about my weekend and it is all family activity that is a negative sign. If I write an entire post devoted to just one interest, that could be a bad sign (depending on what the post is about, sometimes a single event can generate a post, like a set of picture.)

Quite an enjoyable and productive weekend, and learning to take care of myself

I had a very enjoyable weekend. Mixed in some fun, some playing, some work, and some hiking. The sleepover and Dungeons and Dragons game went very well. We got a lot of work done in the yard. And I got some quiet time to myself to work on some pictures and watch some more Arrow. And I am (slowly) realizing that I may have to re-evaluate some things for fitness and health sake.

Jimmy’s sleepover was a success. The kids spent plenty of time before we played running around, and that helped them calm down a little. I gave them a little speech about cooperation and consequences. And then had to enforce that cooperation lesson with some consequences. But overall it was a good time. I am definitely enjoying it, and am actually thinking of developing this as a regular event after the Winter holidays. As requested I did take a couple of pictures.

Here are the boys being silly, making faces.

And here are a couple of boys just trying to figure out what to do.10420308_10152559255847772_8713582859556532993_n

On Saturday I got the house picked up before family showed and before the guests arrived. Did some laundry as well. Sunday morning, after serving the teenagers breakfast we did some heavy cleaning in the back yard. Cleared a bunch of stuff out of the shed to take to Goodwill. We were then able to move the camping stuff from the porch into the shed in a far more organized fashion. Last, we cleaned up a bunch of the trash and toys in the backyard with (reluctant) help from the little ones. So the back yard is looking much better before the next big birthday event this weekend.

Saturday afternoon we went on the Scout hike in Red Rock open space. We took a different route than the normal. And we took the smaller dog along with us. It was a nice hike, and helped offset my not being able to run in the morning. I took a couple of nice pictures

Danny walking Chiu to start the hike

The awesome reflecting pool at the end of the hike in the late afternoon.

I did get some time to myself over the weekend. Friday night I was able to relax and just watch some episodes of the Arrow (I am almost done with Season 2, which means I am close to being fully caught up.) Sunday Kim took the little ones out to a movie and some shopping so I was able to get some time to work on pictures, back up the computer, and watch a little football. And then of course Sunday night we skipped the Walking Dead in order to watch the Broncos dominate the 49ers in convincing fashion.

In thinking about this past weekend, and in light of how I didn’t run this morning I am forced to re-think some things. I want to keep running, but I also need to get some sleep. As I get older (sigh) I find myself needing that sleep more and more, and really notice when I don’t get as much sleep as I might like. When things are more normal it is easier to just get to bed early before my running days. But with this string of crazy weekends (birthday parties, sleepovers etc.) that isn’t as easy as I might like. I don’t have a ready made answer yet, just commenting on this, and noting that I have been placing sleep over running during this string, which is different from previous practice. But it makes sense in light of how the current craziness involves a lot more more time around people, which means I need rest more than running.

Like I said, it was a good, active weekend. Did plenty of good things. Had some fun. Got some much needed projects done. It was a good, refreshing time.

Finding the line between good family time & becoming overly enmeshed

One of the things that I was initially warned about when I started therapy was that fine line between being a dedicated parent and loving my family and becoming enmeshed in it. And while it is a line I tend to straddle with differing success I have started to notice that Kim has gone too far in one direction. While I love her willingness to do whatever it takes for the family, diving into Scouting (Boy & Girl), attending wrestling meets etc. I tend to take that for granted. This week in particular she was stretched to the limit by it all.

Which means I need to take the initiative to figuratively kick her out of the house tonight for a night out. It means I get the kids to myself and that can be draining for me. But at this time she needs that time away more than I do. Because she will spending tomorrow doing more Scout activities, and then tomorrow night we have Jimmy’s sleepover. And since I will be running D&D for the big boys that means she will have to take care of the little ones. So she needs tonight.

And next Saturday I will be gone most of the day, arriving back in time to help with Emily’s sleepover. While it is not the most fun occasion (Justin’s memorial/celebration of life) it will still be time away for me. So I have that to look forward to, plus I get a 4 day weekend the next week.

It really is all about teamwork and sharing. Like how I tend to do most of the kitchen work, picking up duties, trash. While she does most of the laundry, deep cleaning. And we are gradually getting the kids to do more and more of their duties. Family is not about 1 person doing all the work. And in order to keep that balance healthy everyone has to share. Well the same applies to time away from the family. We need that time out in order to stay sane.

While I need to keep myself healthy by not getting too caught up in all this I need to be mindful of others. I know I need to be selfish enough to take that time for myself when I need it. And I also need to realize that it is not all on me to take care of the kids, that Kim is there and is perfectly capable of taking care of them if I am not there. But in order for that to happen she needs her time as well. To sum up: balance and moderation in all of this is the key. Don’t become so filled up with family that I lose myself. But also make sure that the family gets what it needs to.