Time Well Spent

I’ve been hanging with #5 today. He’s taller every time I see him, which right now is only every Sunday. He’s fourteen. A freshman. Still chatty. He’ll hug me again now, but only sideways and only as long as I don’t make eye contact with him.

Now, I don’t know if this is a boys vs girls thing, or a unique characteristic to #5, but holy cow he’s a space cadet right now. At least, I hope it’s just right now. I hope that it’s a phase and not the permanent state of things. It’s truly remarkable, the private world he lives in.

Yesterday he had a morning scouting event. He knew he’d be getting home after the rest of us had left for work, and before Kelsey* came. Yet, he neglected to bring his house key.

He called me when he was locked out to see when I’d be back.

We have a shared online family calendar. Each family member’s activities are indicated by their own colored dot (the dogs have a dot too, as does Kelsey. There are a lot of dots). I actually keep it updated and do nifty things like send reminders to everyone for events such as trash day– reminders which are promptly ignored. #5 can view, with two swipes on his phone, where everyone is right now. Besides this completely functional calendar, there is the fact that I’ve been in production ALL YEAR. If it’s not Sunday, and it’s not between the hours of 12:30am and 6am, I’m either at work or in transit.

Also? When I’m not in production, at 2pm on any given Saturday, I’m doing a show. That’s been my schedule for roughly the past 20 years. I can see how he might not have that down yet.

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This morning, I had a couple songs from Daydream Nation stuck in my head. Since I had to work at my computer in the dining room, I set up a Sonic Youth station on Pandora. I knew it wouldn’t go well for long, but I got excited when “Teenage Riot” was the first song played. We sat at the table, me doing the budget and #5 doing homework while it cycled through Pixies and Nirvana and then started going south. Finally, he spoke up.

#5: So, what genre is this exactly? Because it sounds like pain and suffering. This music is the end of the movie where people are dying and everyone is losing things.

 

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#5 operates under the delusion that it is possible to half-ass the chore of taking the dogs out. He believes he can take one dog out and not the other, or else not give them the time required while outside to complete all the items on their to-do list.

But the Puggles would make awful drummers. Their timing is terrible.

If you take only one dog out, the other one runs to the window exactly 45 seconds after you’ve shut the door. When you take the second one out after bringing in the first, the first one watches from the window and then when you return, attempts to convince you that they weren’t finished and need to go back out. If that dog happens to be Casey, it’s true. She needs approximately six times as long as Jack to figure things out when she’s outside. This one-in-one-out routine can go on all day.

But every single time one dog is asking to go out, #5 takes only that dog.

This morning, #5 took Jack outside. Like clockwork, Casey ran to the window and stared out. I figured I’d stop it all mid-cycle and harnessed her up. I went outside with her, told #5 she was feeling left out and handed him Casey’s leash.

Passed him the leash with the dog attached to it.

Which he reached out and took from me.

I’d scarcely sat back down when he came back in with them.

Me: Thanks, bud. Did Casey go?

#5: What?

Me: Did Casey go? You didn’t have her out there very long.

#5: I didn’t take Casey out.

There followed a back and forth, with me recounting to him the story I just told here. Afterwards, he just stared at me, totally not believing me.

#5: How is it even possible that you handed me Casey’s leash and I didn’t even see her?

Me: That is an excellent question. Welcome to my world.

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September 2006

 

*Kelsey is our main Adult In Charge. That’ll be another post sometime.

 

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Treading (Cold) Water

In my most recent round of climbing out of the rabbit hole, I’ve read and listened to lots of people with lots of ideas about self improvement. In my interpretation, the most useful advice all stems from the exact same core ideas.

Not that I’m going to summarize them for you here. If you ended up on this blog in hopes of the answer to life’s mysteries, that’s unfortunate and hilarious.

I just finished two weeks of tech rehearsals for my new show. For you civilians, that means I haven’t slept or done the shit I need to do to be less crazy for a while. If you’re a parent, it’s a lot like having a newborn who doesn’t like you. I’m lucky to remember how the coffee maker works, I’m constantly checking to make sure I’m wearing pants, and my head is most definitely not my friend right now.

So core self-improvement ideas may be the same, but unless someone presents them in a way that resonates with you, they don’t hit. I’ve read innumerable versions of these same ideas over the years that didn’t make a dent.

The fact that I’m even attempting to write today comes directly out of what Scott Adams says when he speaks of Systems vs. Goals.  If you have system in place, you can fail at specific goals but still win. Putting out a blog post on Sunday is a system. It forces me to create something, connect, think about something other than work, practice writing, and do something scary that pushes me outside my comfort zone. It isn’t a goal to have x-number of comments, garner a book deal, or get more people than my immediate family to read it. Doing it is the system, and that’s enough.

Tim Ferris says that when you’re struggling, share the thing that you’re struggling with. Let it be embarrassing. Let it be honest. Let it be.

I can do that.

So we’re working ridiculous hours. It’s temporary, it’s part of the gig, and we’re making overtime.

Stupidly, we had a conversation about what we were going to put the extra money towards.

In the past month, the washing machine broke, was repaired, then finally had to be replaced. The next week, the garage door went. After that, #3 suddenly required a housing deposit for college that was inexplicably three times what it was last year.

Then the door fell off the minivan.

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For fuck’s sake.

This was after the snow storm (By the way, stagehands don’t get snow days. Although if you’re super fortunate, your show may get you a room in the city, which mine did).

The door on the minivan was a conundrum. CC and I stood in the parking lot at eleven o’clock at night, with a combined total of six hours of sleep between us, completely baffled. We couldn’t get the door all the way off, and we couldn’t get it back on. Plus, all our tools were at work. It was towed to our mechanic. Then towed to the dealer. Then to the dealer’s body shop, where it remains today, ten days later. It might be ready tomorrow. It might not. CC leaves for Toronto on Tuesday.

And I’m still in production. Someone I love is in the hospital in another state and I can’t get to them yet. My dreams at night are of destruction and trying to solve problems that don’t have answers. I’m sure I’m going to be fired any minute, and convinced that this is the last job I’ll ever be hired for. I hide on my meal breaks and try to regenerate enough energy to finish the next session. I’m embarrassed how hard it is for me, but this is what happens to me when I don’t sleep.

Sleep deprivation is an exponential power added on to every single flaw and concern in my life. I just keep trying to remember that not all of the things in my head are true, and that all of the things both in and out of my head will pass.

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It’s okay. Just take a nap.

 

Saturday morning I chose sleep over a shower.

Last night our hot water heater went. The plumbers come tomorrow, well after I’m at work. Once again, our overtime has other plans. And now it’s been a little while since I’ve been clean. I’m currently debating the merits of going to the gym to take a shower, taking a cold one here, or just simply not giving a fuck.

Right now, the latter is winning. It has a high chance of still winning at 5am tomorrow. I’d apologize in advance, but it appears I’m all out of fucks to give.

Sh*t My Dogs Eat, Part Deux

Twins have a thing. A true DNA-level psychic connection, where they can directly sense thoughts or feelings from their siblings, no verbal communication necessary.

The Puggle and the Fuggle don’t really look anything alike, but they often have the same movements. They’ll sleep in the same shapes and change position at the same time to another same shape. They do the same pug head tilt, the same beagle tracking sniffs.

And they’re geniuses at conspiring together to steal food. They like Milkshakes, icing, and gravy, but they’re really not picky. The phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” only pertains to your idea of what the dog should learn. A dog can come up with plenty of new shit if left to its own devices.

CC and I are both in production right now on new shows, which means nobody’s cooking. Yesterday he ordered the kids a surprise pizza from work and had it delivered. They were pretty thrilled (bonus garlic knots and all).

Everybody got a piece of pizza. What happened next depends on who you talk to.

Jack swears he had nothing to do with it. He only had to pee.

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Fire safety is very important and I had nothing to do with the pizza.

 

#4 claims that Casey got a piece of pizza and took it into the crate.

 

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What?

#5 revealed that Casey pulled the entire pizza box down off the counter, causing the remaining half of it to land cheese-side-to-the-floor and then stole the piece that was witnessed by #4.

When questioned how Casey managed to access the pizza box, #5 blamed Jack for having to go outside. He took Jack out and his sisters, in typical sisterly fashion, let him do all the work and stopped paying attention to anything beyond their phone screens, including any errant Puggling sounds.

Because God knows shit like this never happens at our house and it’s totally okay to check out like that.

#5 also neatly tossed #4 under the bus for getting mad at him for throwing away the three remaining slices that landed tits-up on the kitchen floor.

Casey’s not talking. She’s got a belly full of pizza and is remarkably unconcerned.

Nothing about this story surprises me.

Last summer, CC grilled a gorgeous side of salmon on a cedar plank for the kids’ dinner. The babysitter left to take #5 to scouts and came back to discover a $90 broken plate and a distinct absence of an ENTIRE SIDE OF SALMON. This was the day we discovered Casey had yet again increased her vertical reach.

Shortly after the salmon incident, I had a chicken dish in the slow cooker. It smelled pretty good when I left for work. #4 made some iced tea and left the 10-pound bag of sugar sitting on the counter. I’m still not entirely clear on why a 10-pound bag of sugar is an iced tea requirement, but the Puggles smelled chicken and grabbed the thing that was within reach.

Then #5 sent me this video, which made me happy that we finally got him a smart phone.