Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Putting a Tally on Stress

Okedokey. It’s been a long, long while since I’ve blogged. A year of blogging has come and gone with narry a peep from me. “Why’s that?” you say. Well, not-surprisingly, as I have mentioned before, blogging about parenting is usually only possible when one is not in the very act of parenting. Now, as we all know parenting, in itself, can be considered quite time consuming (even more so when you have little-to-no support infrastructure in the guise of babysitters etc.) As such, time is usually at a premium even when things are going smoothly.

Well, around about late October I started to wonder why I was going flat out and not making any progress. I was throwing myself headlong at housework, child rearing and the job only to find at the end of the day (often usually well into the “am” of the next) I was barely holding ground. I was getting frustrated and exhausted and couldn’t figure out why. That is, until I sat down and took stock of the event roster.

What is an event roster you may ask? Well, this is something I had to come up with on the fly. Essentially I started doing an audit of my day-to-day life starting in August and working my way through to the present day. In this, I included anything within my life that did not include the regular day to day routine, ie: job, commute, housework, quality time at home with the kids, and general maintenance. Into this list I poured everything that didn’t fall into these categories. These included such things as events within the greater family dynamic, change of location for family members, medical emergencies, job changes, financial emergencies, in short: anything that ate away at the 24hrs a day in which I had to operate.

Now, this time could have been eaten up in various ways. Often it was a direct action on my part to solve or manage a particular event or task. In other cases it was taking over for someone else while they dealt with a specific issue. In all cases, though, it had to amount into hours to be counted with anything over eight hours being counted as a single day’s worth of “event response” Grand total? In a four month (122 day) period I have lost 85.5 days worth of time that under normal circumstances would go into the daily routine outlined above. Don’t believe me? Check it out.

Event Roster in days (in no particular order):

Thyroid operation for Jamie’s mom. 2
Taking care of Jamie’s mom and apartment. 5
Brother’s divorce. 1
Brother’s property sold. 1
Jen’s sister’s pregnancy. 4
Last minute 5-day working trip to Toronto IHC. 6
Finding new daycare for Jamie. 4
Finding new school for Jamie. 4
First day of school and subsequent fallout. 2
First day of daycare and subsequent fallout. 1
Giving up old daycare and school 2
Move Jamie’s mother’s apartment. 3
New job for me 2
New job for Jen 2
Visit #1 from Jack 4
Visit #2 from Jack 4
Jack’s visit for the month of August 10
Halloween 2
Thanksgiving 2
Carp Fair 1
Birthday Party #1 3
Birthday Party #2 3
Parent-teacher interview #1 and #2 .5
HR payroll issues 1
Jen’s grandmother hospitalized once 4
Jen’s grandmother hospitalized twice 4
Jen’s grandmother hospitalized thrice 4
Day trip to Omega Park 1
Dental abcess .5
Root Canal .5
Repair to failed root canal filling .5
Transit Strike 1
Winter storm .5

Total: 85.5

Four month period: 122

Now, in a few cases these events were considered positive (Omega Park for instance) however, they still take a way from the overall routine which is why they’ve been counted. The majority of these items, however, are to be considered either negative or at the very least stress-causing. For instance a new daycare might be (on the whole) a good thing but finding it, arranging interviews, payments, working out transport to and from, and helping your child deal with the stress of the move do cut into the overall routine, let me tell you.

So, there you have it. The reason for my silence revealed. As we come into the holiday period I do hope to get myself back onto a more regular schedule as positive oriented events aren’t quite as stressful or taxing on the overall system. Still, for all you parents out there, if you’re feeling bagged sit down and tally up what’s been happening in your life. You might be surprised at what you find

Friday, September 26, 2008


Eh...what the heck? I'm on a roll.

Ok, rant time, boys and girls. So kick back, grab a drink and relax. I've been working on this one for a week or so and I figure it's something I just gotta get off the chest. This one's going to take a bit.

Seeing how Summer has fled before Autumn’s onslaught I thought I’d wrap things up this season with a look at one area of aggravation that I have wrestled with ever since I became a father. I’m talking, of course, about cyclists.

Now, overall I have no problem with cyclists. I can remember long summers watching the flocks of wild cyclists hurtling past my driveway on their weekly round trips to Kingston and I’ll admit I was impressed by their dedication to their cause and perhaps a little jealous of people who could afford the mindset that there was nothing better for them to do on any given weekend than spend a 48 hr period peddling across Eastern Ontario over and over again.

But over the years as I became more urbanized I found my patience beginning to wane with the two-wheeled set. For instance, although I had no problem with young cyclists riding on the sidewalk too often I would watch as full grown adults would ignore the rules of the road, blowing through red lights, going the wrong way on one-way streets and, my favourite, leaping their bikes up onto the sidewalk to dodge through pedestrian traffic. A few times I have even witnessed the unfortunate collision between these cyclists and pedestrians including children, strollers and the elderly. Still, I remembered the inter-city cyclists of yesteryear and I thought, at least, they might have had the right idea and did my best to chalk up the inner city cyclists as simply less evolved when it came to the breed.

However, this last shred of innocence was taken from me a couple of weeks back when I witnessed a pair of the highway variety of cyclists peddling merrily through the rolling hills towing one of the ever so trendily popular child trailers. As I approached I looked on as several motorists did their best to slam on their brakes and either slow down to well below the posted speed limit (thus becoming a road hazard themselves) or manoeuvring their vehicle into the oncoming lane to get around them.

Now, I understand the economic, environmental and sheer for-the-joy-of-it aspects of cycling. However, I do have to question the mindset of an individual who would strap their child into a thin nylon covered aluminium frame to tow them along a highway well below the speed limit and even below bumper level for most vehicles.

As an occasional motorist when I place my child on the highway I strap them into a vehicle that meets highway safety requirements including seatbelts, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes, signals and airbags. I place him into his booster seat installed to meet all safety and insurance standards and I make sure that he and my vehicle are equipped for all contingencies: weather, breakdown, temperature change, first aid, etc.

Thus I wonder at the mentality of someone who would willingly place their child in a situation where not only are they not protected from other vehicles but that they would then proceed to expose that child under conditions where those vehicles are moving at high speed, with only a limited chance of even seeing the trailer before literally and perhaps tragically being right on top of it. A cycling helmet may stop a spill. It will do nothing to reduce the impact of the front bumper of an SUV moving at 80 km/hour.

Even if a cyclist is obeying the rules of the road (a coin toss these days) the laws of physics tend to pick up where the laws of the road leave off. A multi-ton tractor trailer not only requires more distance to slow down than your average vehicle it also creates a great deal of drag on those it passes. Every year children on bicycles are accidentally “sucked” beneath these behemoths to predictable and tragic results. If it can happen to kids on bicycles, is it so far fetched that a child in a trailer is equally vulnerable?

Sadly, for me, the magic of cyclists as a charming phenomena of our environment has well and truly fled. Where once I believed them to be at least somewhat progressive in their choice of locomotion I am starting to find them to simply be yet one more branch of this beloved species of ours that seems incapable of either thinking through their actions or taking responsibility for them when tragedy does strike. For the sake of the next generation, if you’re going to endanger yourself that’s a risk you can take but by all that’s holy, think before exposing your kids to potential tragedy.

The Parenting Blog Paradox

Greetings Folks,

No, I'm not dead, just suffering from the whole parenting blog paradox; ie. How do I find the time to blog about parenting when I'm too busy parenting. Well, given the late date of this particular blog so far my answer's a simple one and rather self evident. I don't, at least, not as often as I'd like. Seriously, since my last blog it's been a busy time. Having had both my kids for a solid month, the transfer of my youngest son to a school that is far more geographically desirable, the switch to a new job for me, a new daycare for him, saying goodbye (temporarily) to my eldest boy and the gearing up of my youngest boy from part time kindergarten to full time Grade one has taken its toll on dear old dad (who, BTW, is now, officially a year older)


Yeah, my sentiment exactly.

Anyhoo, without further ado, a couple of housekeeping issues…

First: A huge thank you to the girls at Florence Childcare Centre of Ottawa. Folks, let me tell you, these ladies looked after Jamie for the last three years or so and I've got to say a better daycare you will not find. I credit them with helping Jamie to become the well socialized little boy he's become as well as his love of all things dance related. Literally, he blossomed under their care. Seriously, ladies, to Kelly, Val, Karen, Amy, Tracy, Sophie, Sarah, Liz, and all the rest, if you're reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart. What you have done has helped put my son on the path to being a better person. And a gift like that will never be forgotten. To the rest of you folks out there: if you're looking for the perfect balance of childcare and development for your child in the downtown Ottawa core check out Florence. These people are golden. Seriously.

Second: To anyone who's looking to slap together a birthday party in the Ottawa area for kids aged three to eight, check out the Canadian Museum of Science and Tech. Speaking from the novel and first time experience of slapping together a birthday for Jamie's friends, these guys rocked. The party was thorough, fun, educational (God forbid), came in a variety of flavours, and they covered everything from food to loot bags. There was even a simulator ride to Mars. Seriously, how cool is that? A big shout-out to Michelle who led the festivities. Hope you found your hat.

Anyway, that's it for the moment. More coming so stay tuned. Radio D.O.A.D. is back on the air.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stuck up to my Chi and Sinking into a Blog. My Quest for the Do-able Workout.

So, there I was, good to go, (health-wise), but with limited resources and no reliable transportation. I had my weights, sure, and that would help (somewhat) in the rebuilding of my health but, as mentioned before, I’m one of these souls who needs to accomplish something on a level other than just physical when I exercise. After 35 years, I can say that for myself, boredom is the quickest way to failure. I think, ultimately, I got this from my dad. For him, keeping healthy was easy, as 95% of his daily exercise was keeping the farm from slipping back into arboreal chaos while making sure that the family had a good supply of heat for the winter. There weren’t too many days when we wouldn’t be able to find him knee-deep in the underbrush trying to drag out yet another fallen tree from the thousands he had planted to be dumped beside the driveway in preparation for the chopping block.

Sadly, however, this isn’t an option for me as, given my current residence, if I tried something like that the condo board would be sure to unleash its equivalent of its squadrons of flying monkeys at me (albeit if only to deliver a stern letter to stop chopping up condo property). So, what to do? Playing with the kids and housework weren’t enough. Routine exercise was boring without a raison d’etre. In desperation I tried to join Jen on one of her many yoga sessions. Yeah, yeah, I know. It hurt. And I looked pretty silly doing it (and even sillier trying to undo it). But it did manage to create more of a feeling of accomplishment than I was used to with just the weights. (I guess the humility was just a perk.) So, was there something else I could do that didn’t require me looking like an overweight precooked (read: doughy) pretzel? Why, yes. And like Yoga, it came in handy DVD form as well. Kewl. My solution? Tai Chi.
This was it. This was where I wanted to go. A workout based on balance and meditation with all the perks of strength-building and flexibility. And I didn’t have to listen to my joints popping while I did it.

At first, I'll admit, I felt kind of conspicuous. At 6’8’’ I’m not the world’s most graceful individual and I suspect when Tai Chi was being developed by the original masters they didn’t have towering 30-somethings envisaged as potential beneficiaries. Moreover, as my only time to workout was either last thing at night or first thing in the morning, it was always a tough call to decide which I preferred more: to yawn my way through the PM set when my body was pleading for sleep or risk an unsuspecting crane doing his best to spread his wings (It’s a Tai Chi move. Look it up.) to being pounced on by my giggling and pajama-clad six year old. My solution? I rotate my timings to make sure I get an equal yet liberal amount of fatigue and indignity.

Still, it seems to be paying off, not only am I now becoming halfway competent at the routines, I’ve also discovered that my overall physique is slowly improving (though I will admit, I still engage in weight-work to assist in the acceleration of what I one day might dare to call a “physique”. I figure next step will be to find a Tai Chi instructor I can get to on a regular basis. Mind you, the chances of finding one who teaches at 11pm and 6 am… Oh well. Sink the Chi, everyone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Still Here (And Panting Hard)

Wow…been a while since I’ve posted. I must say the last thirty days has been absolutely nuts. What with heading down to Guelph for Jack’s birthday, my first cruise aboard a tall ship, a serious-step-up of my duties at work (read: tired), end of school for the boys and Jamie singing at Bluesfest. I find myself frustrated both by the fact that I am gathering a plethora of blogging material yet seem to be experiencing an utter lack of time and energy to “put the fingers to the ‘board”. Oh well, kids do eventually grow up, or so I’m told. I figure at some point I can either count on their pseudo-autonomy or at the very least that they’ll sleep in past 6:30 am. As for the household? Oh well, one windmill at a time, right Sancho? Now, where'd I put those pics....

The Schooner Kajama

The Impromptu crew of the Kajama raising the foresail. Avast! Actually, we did have to stop several times to let the three full grown volunteers on the starboard side catch up.

Under Full Sail....

No Words....

Sigh. Now then as I recall, during one of my earlier posts I mentioned talking about this newfound thing I’ve discovered called “necessity of health” (ie. working out). This revelation came about through a combination of stumbling out of a work environment (prior to my shift to the PS) that was very focused on one staying at one’s desk, coupled with long hours and very poor health habits both in eating and staying mobile. Add the care and feeding of the average suburban household and five year old coupled with a winter where the city would leave six feet of snow unplowed for weeks at a time and well, I gradually began to realize that if I didn’t try to actively get my body up-to-speed I would eventually go from being a primary carrier for my family to being one of the larger-yet-less-fashionable pieces of baggage. And as the man said, “That’ll be the day…”

So, what to do? I figured the first place to start was in the vitamin count and getting my eating habits under control. This, I’ll have you know, was the easy part as it did not really require that much in terms of time allotment. Thankfully, I'm not one of those people who gets cravings (well, not for food anyway). So scaling back and shifting eating habits was fairly straightforeward. The hardest part was actually remembering to eat all three of my meals a day as I had a habit of skipping those I deemed less convenient. Next came the hard part: finding the workout that was right for me. For this particular blog (Part I of II by-the-by) I’ll focus on this. So without further ado...What I didn't do and why:

Gym membership: What are you nuts? When I'm exerting myself, I don't really care for an audience and I sure as hell don't want to pay the privilege of self-ridicule (especially when 95% of what I earn goes to household and childhood upkeep). The other fundamental truth is I'm working at something I want to be working at something. ie. If I'm not accomplishing a task or learning something I find it hard to see the value. Abs alone don't cut it for me. Don't get me wrong. I'll hit the weights, but only if it's on the road to self improvement beyond just the physical. Otherwise, I get bored.

Running: 6 ft 7 inches with a shoe size of 15 EEE there are two truths: One: footwear is hard to find. Two: When footwear is obtained (usually at exhorborant price) footwear will degrade rapidly with increased use. Thus, running, given my budget, and how fast I go through shoes isn't the answer.

Yoga: Ow....ow.....ow....(hold the pose).....(deep cleansing breath)......ow..... and..."Namaste"..... f*cking ow. (seriously though, I still do dabble from time to time)....but sadly not enough cardio to act as a mainstay. My search continued.

Swimming: Similar to the whole gym problem but with a twist, mainly, I don't own a car, and pool resources in which I could do laps are in short supply.

So what's a guy to do? Limited resources, geographically undesirable, a few weights and a desire to learn. Here's a hint... "Sink the Chi." Be back soon....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Father's Day. Tally Ho!

Ok, so the weather on Saturday was absolutely ugly: humid, thunderstorms, just plain nasty. So that left Father's Day for adventuring which was kind of a downer. With Jacqueline’s Birthday (niece) taking up the afternoon and the Tall Ships in Brockville as a potential outing for my youngest I was feeling spread kind of thin. I didn’t know the half of it when I saw in Friday’s paper a tiny two line blurb about…a Medieval Festival. What the Hey? Here? It seems so. For the first time, Eastern Ontario had raised it's cultureless head out of the trough long enough to actually hold (get this) a Medieval Festival. And, much to my surprise, it didn't suck. Better than that, with almost zero advertising, it was just the right balance of populated without being crowded, authentic without being pedantic and downright fun.
Unlike the jousting found in "Medieval Times" of GTA fame the lists at this fair were populated by competitive jousters. (To be honest I was surprised it was still a sport, but apparently it is. Boy, did I miss my calling.) And even though there weren't too many knights on the field the jousts and tests of skill were very impressive and judging from the splintering lances flying every which way, very real. Overall we had a wonderful time. James loved the falconry display. The archery lists demonstrated numerous forms of ranged combat capability and the working trebuchet added a nice touch for the more mechanically minded. In addition there were a number of amazing artisans there. With the added bonus of the re-enactment troupes (particularly the Viking camp, which provided the pre-joust melee, and the gypsy dancers) the day rounded out to about four hours of stuff to see with zero boredom. All in all, folks, it was well worth the price of admission. I'll be watching for this one next year when it returns. Note: Re: Pic # 2 Yup that's James in about 20 lbs of chainmail and accessories.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Leaving Soon (from a theatre near you)

What is it with movie theatres these days? (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Galaxy.) I honestly didn’t expect to have a rant like this until I was well into my “old and crotchety” years but on this I feel I must speak out while I (and everyone else who’s even an occasional moviegoer) can still hear myself speak. This May long weekend, as a treat, I thought I’d take my eldest off to see the new “Iron Man” flick. Between the reviews, the trailers and both of us being like a “before and after” picture of geekdom it seemed like the perfect afternoon break for the pair of us, that is until the trailers started.

Now, I’m pretty sure most ad wizards out there get nervous when tasked with advertising an M. Night Shyamalan movie these days. Despite the man’s genius and genuine earnestness to tell a story he hasn’t had a decent hit since “the Sixth Sense”. But, for heaven’s sake, enough with the deafening base already. We get it. It’s scary. Boo. Now turn down the sound, you idle crow. Here’s tip #1 of today’s rant. Do you know why “The Sixth Sense” was a hit? It…was….quiet. Take it from a dad, nothing more nerve wracking to an adult movie audience than a pale little kid who only speaks in whispers. Screeching soundtracks, thundering base and quiet parts interrupted with high pitched screams are formulaic as advertising goes and done…to…death. Shyamalan, if you’re reading this, fire your advertising team. They’re not worth what you’re paying them.

As for the theatres themselves, really folks, use some common sense. If it’s an afternoon flick, chances are it’s going to be filled with those who’d prefer to keep their hearing intact. And don’t give me any argument about “But you feel like you’re really there!” Here’s tip #2, movie-boy, if I wanted to experience the A-stan, real or fictional, I’d be there. You’re not doing me any favours. In my past I’ve had an arty-round drop a little too close for comfort, thanks. I don’t care how much you crank the sound. It won’t compare and just ticks me off. Though the texture of the popcorn at the theatre and the dust I got to chew when the 105 shell dropped short do taste remarkably similar in texture and fake-buttery goodness. But I digress. In short, muffle it gentlemen. I’d like to keep my kid’s hearing intact for a few more years anyway.