Time Together

The room was dark was except the white glow emanating from my computer monitors. It was just enough for me to notice that Luca had snuck downstairs and curled up in Kim’s computer chair.

She watched me type away for a few minutes.

lucabelle2

Her brothers and sister were already in bed. It was late. She should have been in bed too. But I sensed she wanted some company.

I removed my headphones, closed Firefox and turned my chair towards her. She jumped off her chair and onto my lap.

“Tell me what you did tonight with the babysitter”, I said. 

“Nothing"

Maybe she doesn’t want to talk.

She put her head on my chest while I tickled her back. I know she loves that. She knows I know she loves that. But I ask how she likes it anyway.

“Perfect”, she says.

I can barely hear Luca’s breathing over the rain smacking against the roof and fence. She has her arms wrapped around my neck. I feel like I’m wearing a bib made of a little girl in purple pajamas.

I swivel my chair back and forth assuming she’ll fall asleep.

I think back to this afternoon when the sun made a rare appearance for a few hours. While the other kids were riding bikes and jumping rope, Luca had situated two umbrellas off the back of a beach chair to keep the sun out of her eyes as she read a book.

I pulled up a chair next to her to watch her read yet careful not to disturb. She didn’t say much to me then. And she doesn’t say much now.

Sometimes it’s enough to listen to the rain together.

Dear Santa

The kids wrote letters to Santa tonight. When I commented to Luca how many items she came up with she said, “I underlined the really important stuff”.

I’m sure Santa will appreciate that extra bit of flexibility.

dearsanta

Enjoying Every Minute

Have you ever found yourself in a situation and thought, “What am I doing here?”

Going back nearly twenty years, I asked myself that question the day I woke up in Germany, and it finally hit me that it would be two years before I saw my family and friends. I stared at the ceiling as the sun crept through a small window. I didn’t want to move. Afraid of the unknown and not quite sure how I ended up thousands of miles away from Utah.

kaidad

A similar experienced happened to me this past week. Kim was cleaning the kitchen while I tried to corral our three youngest children into the bathtub.

Luca was yelling because it’s her turn to take a bath. But the water is dirty. And what if there’s no more hot water left because I filled the tub too full, and mom is hogging the rest of the hot water by WASHING the dishes?

Catastrophic! Who knew hot water was so rare?

While washing the shampoo from Anna’s hair, Kai decided to pour water down the back of my pants, and now the kids can’t stop laughing because it looks like dad peed the back of his pants.

Hilarious.

I’ve had enough.

I lean up against the hallway wall. I’m exhausted. I’m outnumbered. What am I doing here? Before I can answer that, I notice only two kids in the tub where three should be.

How did one escape while I’m standing TEN FEET AWAY?

This isn’t our first child. I can’t blame it on lack of experience or rookie mistakes. One might assume that by number four I’d have a handle on things. An orderly dinner would lead to kids working quietly on homework. Bath and bedtime would be a cinch. I should be a seasoned veteran by now. The Mariano Rivera of bed time. Yep, the bedtime closer.

So why does our bath routine result in more water on the floor and down my pants than in the tub? If the Super Nanny were in town, I’d be getting a lecture while our kids sat on the couch pulling faces and trying not to laugh.

As this runs through my mind, and I’m about ready to call for backup, I feel a tug on my pants. When I look down, I see a dripping wet two year old streaker holding a blue towel. He extends his arm towards me and says, “Help!”

I wrap him in the towel like a burrito so he can’t escape before picking him up. Before I can dry his hair, he puts his head on my shoulder.

There’s no better reward.

Later that night as I took off my shirt, I realized Kai’s long blonde hair has soaked much of it.

I may not always know what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying every minute of whatever it is.

Strength in Few

Left to their own devices, the kids will turn any room in the house into a blanket and cushion fort. I don’t mind it because it reminds me when I used to the do same thing with my parent’s brown and orange couch.

When it was time to pickup, I used to call the kids together to explain how they needed to work together to clean the room. But, over time, I found the kids spent more time debating who would fold blankets or arrange cushions than cleaning. Each task required a mini-meeting, and each child felt he/she got the worst job. A simple task that should have taken 10 minutes took 30. And nobody was happy.

Lately, I’ve changed my tactics. The goal remains a clean living room, but I’ve found a way to accomplish it in half the time:

Assign one child to the task.

For example, when I asked Lincoln to take down the latest fort, he didn’t spend the first five minutes telling Anna she was folding the blankets all wrong. Anna wasn’t around to drive the other two crazy by whistling the Smurf’s theme song. And Luca wasn’t able to sit on the couch and bark commands like a drill sergeant.

Lincoln was able to figure out the most efficient way to clean the living room with no distractions from his sisters. If he did a good job, he’d garner all the praise. No sisters stealing the spotlight. And that’s exactly what happened. Strength in numbers? Not in this case.

I’m convinced the same situation plays out every day in nearly every business. A job needs to get done so a committee is created, and more time is spent in meetings than solving the problem.

How many times have witnessed a  software projects drag on for months with little to show afterwards? I’ve seen this scenario play out at nearly every company I’ve worked for. The assumption that the more people you toss at the problem, the faster you’ll reach completion is false. The opposite is true. Each person you add will want to make his or her “mark” on the project. The more people you invite to a project, the longer it takes to reach consensus (if you ever reach it). More people = more meetings = less time spent doing actual work.

I spent years trying to create a team to create a company website. I recruited a number of talented people to help me. But it was impossible to get everyone together. No one felt like taking ownership. And why should they when any accolades they might receive would be diluted by the size of the group. There was always another project that was more important. So nothing got done for many years. It wasn’t until I convinced my boss that I could create the site with the help one friend that we finally made progress.

When a project comes in at work, I now intentionally figure out how many people I need and cut that number in half. It’s not easy to do because I’ve been taught that adding more resources will result in a shortened schedule. That’s usually not the case. Just because you can add more resources, does not mean you should.

Think back to the last time you created and finished a project that made you proud. Were you part of a large team? Were you part of a small group? Or was it only you?

Sisters

sisters

Luca is reserved and structured. She likes order. Dislikes change. She keeps us guessing.

Anna is nothing like that. She wears her emotions on the surface. She’s a burst of energy and giggles and smiles.

And occasional trouble. Like when she asked a friend from church why he had more hair on his arm than his head.

One benefit from having more than one child is seeing how they interact with each other. Anna can barely contain her excitement when Luca returns from school.

Luca acts like a bear hug is no big deal.

But her smile tells me otherwise.

Anna Makes a Call

My day in the office started out like most. A Diet Coke kept me awake while I made my way through my inbox.

Delete. Delete. Forward. Delete.

I checked MSNBC to catch up on the latest Republican scandal before running off to a meeting.

I emerged two hours later. Mind fried. Too many issues fighting for my attention. I chased three aspirin with another Diet Coke before heading back to my office.

And then my phone rang. I could see it was Kim and sent her a text saying I’d call right back.

But should I?

annabus

Sometimes it’s best to cool down. Let my mind and emotions rest a bit. I can’t say I’ve mastered keeping work induced stress from seeping into my relationships. Plus, the aspirin hasn’t kicked in and the Diet Coke buzz is wearing off.

But I feel I should call, and when I do, Anna answers:

“Dad, guess what happened at school? One of the boys in my class ran home at recess. He didn’t even look for cars!!”

She was out of breath from laughter after witnessing one of her classmates make a run for the border on the first day of school. Who hasn’t felt like pulling the same stunt to get away from the moment?

And he didn’t even look for cars. Hilarious stuff to a 5-year old.

She tells me about the cushy seats on the bus. She’s excited about her teacher and recess, but right now mom is taking her through the McDonalds drive-thru where she’ll order a cheeseburger with “everything on it except pickles and onions” so she needs to run. 

Anna’s call caught me off guard. My kids seldom call me at work. I was composed this morning as I watched her walk up the bus steps with her new Hello Kitty backpack hanging off a shoulder. But as I listened to her voice, I’m far from composed as I hunch over my desk wishing I could be with her.

Sharing a cheeseburger.

The Ride Home From Church

I can’t wait for the ride home from church.

And neither can our kids.

Three hours is a long time for the youngsters to sit on a wooden bench listening to adults talk about religious topics and sing strange hymns where the women sing one verse while the men wait around to join in at the end. Who made these rules?

When the doors swing open to the parking lot my kids bolt out of the church like it’s on fire. No use in screaming their names across the parking lot when we’ve reminded them over and over to use their chapel voices.

But the ride home is the best part because I have no idea what will come out of their mouths. They are chatty and can’t wait to tell us what they learned. They get stories and prophets mixed up. Anna usually sings us a song she learned, and we hope the lyrics don’t include butt, poop or fart.

But it usually does.

Sometimes I wonder what we gain by dragging our kids to church each week. I’m not sure our kids are any more reverent than before. But they’ve made some good friends and it’s time we can spend together. And where else will they learn about the Jason the Baptist?

Now, can someone please hand me the Tupperware full of Cheerios and the Benadryl?

Bike Safety

I don’t remember how old I was when I learned to ride a bike. But I remember my neighbor pushing me across our front lawn. When I fell off, my Toughskins absorbed the grass stains. Eventually I got the hang of it, and pedaled around the neighborhood looking to take it off any sweet jumps.

The only safety precaution I followed was not riding in the street. I had to wait a few more years before I could officially do that. But until then, I was content riding on the sidewalk and across my neighbors lawn which didn’t go over well when I learned how fun it was to skid across wet grass. That summer, their lawn looked like a driving range.

bike

Look ma, no helmet! I put that bell to good use whenever someone dared use the sidewalk when I was out out riding my Stingray.

I never wore a helmet. I never owned helmet, unless you count my Houston Astros baseball cap. Sometimes I’d pedal around in flip flops. I never gave much thought to safety. Maybe I should have, but I’m sure I wasn’t much different from most kids who grew up in the 70’s.

If I allowed my kids to ride around like I did, I’d have family services knocking at my door within minutes.

My son looks like a hockey goalie riding his bike around our cul-de-sac. It’s surprising he has enough energy to pedal while sporting a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads. I’ve even seen him wearing gloves! He spends more time getting ready to ride his bike than actually riding his bike.

Twenty years from now, will we watch kids ride down the sidewalk in full body armor?

Is my son safer than I was at his age? I’d like to think he is although I don’t believe he’s getting nearly as much exercise as I did as a kid. What child wants to spend 15 minutes pulling, strapping and adjusting gear (that never quite fits like it should) to pedal 100 yards down the street? No thanks, I’ll just stay here on the couch with my Nintendo DS and bag of Cheetos.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched my son pull up the driveway with his helmet pushed over his eyes or his kneepads dangling at his feet.

At least when I was riding around in my flip flops and swimsuit I could see where I was going.

A Really Bad Day

I watched her walk up the Slip ‘N Slide after I told her to walk on the grass after she’d had a turn to slide. Before I could say anything, Lincoln dove head-first down the slide before crashing into Anna’s shins.

As Anna scampered away, Lincoln sat on the slide with tears running down his face and a goose-egg forming on his forehead. As I helped Lincoln to his feet, I yelled to Anna that her time on the slide was finished. She walked to the other side of the yard where she stood with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face.

annalynn

When one of Luca’s friends and her mother rang the door bell, the kids raced to greet them. Luca had been invited to her friend’s home. When Anna realized she wasn’t invited, she acted up, and Kim sent her downstairs in timeout.

I sat at my computer typing away. Music played in the background. I could barely hear Anna’s sniffling. She sat on a cheap plastic chair with her knees pulled up against her chest. Her scowl showed no signs of leaving. Her actions ensured she’d spent more time in timeout than playing.

It’s tough being five.

Kim and the gang were upstairs. I wondered how long Anna would stay on the chair. Would I have to remind her? Would she test me? I looked straight ahead at my computer screen while trying to watch her out of the corner of my eye.

When I felt enough time had passed I asked her to come sit on my lap. She wasn’t sure what to think.

“Let’s talk, Anna”

“About what?”

“About whatever you want”

She wiggled around on my lap so I could see her face. Her eyes were bloodshot. Her cheeks bright red. She wants to see me, but she doesn’t want me to see her. I figured she was done talking, but I was wrong.

“I’m just having a really bad day”

I’m not sure what constitutes a bad day to a five-year-old girl but, nobody would argue with her assessment today. I love Anna’s honesty. At times I’ve struggled to connect with her, and I know these opportunities don’t come along often.

“We all have bad days. Even dads have bad days”

“Do you cry when you have bad days?”

“Sometimes”

“I’m going to be good tomorrow, because I cried all my tears out”

With that, I picked her off my lap, gave her a hug and sent her on her way.

Mouse Repairs

I sat at my computer this evening staring at my monitors. Like most nights, I had at least a dozen websites and programs splashed across my screen.

My mind was everywhere yet nowhere.

I cleaned the house on Sunday afternoon. Now it’s Friday and it’s still clean. That hasn’t happened since Kim and I were first married.

I’m accustomed to sliding my foot into my Eccos only to find a buck fifty worth of change. Yet this week I’ve got dressed without discovering any treasure. I’ve not had to hunt down my belt or keys either. It’s like getting an extra 15 minutes each morning.

Kim took the kids to Longbeach, WA to spend time building sand castles, visiting lighthouses and hanging out with her parents. I know they are having a lot of fun based on the pictures she sends me throughout the day.

The house was so quiet tonight. Our dog, Elka, only makes sounds when she snores. I was missing Kim and the kids as I sat at my computer goofing around on Facebook.

I noticed my mouse wasn’t working very well. It just wasn’t very responsive. I was about to slam it down against the desk when I noticed something. Where did these crumbs on my mouse pad come from?

Turning over my mouse over revealed two half-eaten Cheerios, no doubt a gift from my one year old son, Kai, who thinks my mouse is a TV remote he can use to change the channel in the room next door.

As much as Kai can frustrate me taking my wireless mouse on a tour around the house, I miss his little face looking up at me. If he can’t make off with my mouse, he enjoys sitting on my lap watching the iTunes visualizer and listening to music. If I’m lucky he’ll fall asleep on my shoulder.

No, I’m already very lucky.