Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sharing with Fetuses

It's been a strange and busy week for me. Add to that my latest case of the blogging blues and you get nothing. That is what has been going on around here. Nothing.

I'm poking my head back in today just to share a short story. Arica shared it with me and now I'm sharing it with you.

Lately Braden has been talking to the babies. He goes up to Arica's tummy and says "Hi babies." He will tell anyone that asks he is having "baby sissers" or "two babies" depending on his mood. Yesterday as he was eating some gold fish (the crackers not the pets) he took his relationship with the babies to a whole new level.

Braden lifted up Arica's shirt. Then he stuck a gold fish in her belly button and said "here babies".

That's a good sign. Sharing with his little sisters already.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Cousin, My Friend

I wrote a post some time ago called Cousins by Blood, Friends by Choice. It was somewhat of a stretch at that time to call Braden and his cousin friends. I admit now that I only broached the topic in order to post a video of them that I liked. Jackson, Braden's cousin, for the longest time didn't care for Braden. It's not hard to understand why. He was the only grandchild on Arica's side of the family for two years. He got all his Grandma's attention, and like any kid, he was not too excited about the idea of sharing her.

Fast forward to today and the two boys are actually pretty good friends. Sometimes they fight, but that's normal. I have seen Braden drag Jackson across the floor by his neck so I know there is still some reason for caution, but the relationship has become much more amicable nonetheless.

This newly successful union brings about a new question. With our twins on the way, how will Braden respond? How will he like sharing his Mom and Dad with these new babies? And two at once no less.

Jackson's family is expecting another baby too. They are having a little boy, and the due date in only two weeks ahead of Arica's. So Jackson will have to learn to share his Mom and Dad as well.

And both of them will have to learn to share Grandma and Grandpa with THREE MORE KIDS!

That's another topic for another time. For now let's put all that aside and just appreciate the budding friendship that these two cousins are enjoying. Last month they spent a couple Saturday's together after Jackson's soccer games. Braden LOVES Jackson and would spend every day with him if he could. But Jackson initiated these gatherings, which is proof that he might just love Braden too.

So here's to the two little guys that have helped each other learn how to share loved ones, a skill they are both going to desperately need.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Being a Better Husband

I wrote my Twin Girls Top 10 about things I needed to do about two weeks ago. It was all in good fun until I got down to number ten. The last item was to be a better husband so my girls will have a good example of how they deserve to be treated. This line of thinking has been stuck in my head for quite a while now. The fact that their idea of what a man should be will come almost entirely from me is beyond scary.

I don't know why setting an example seems to be more critical now with girls than it did with Braden. He is also getting his example from me. I guess it comes from that innate fatherly instinct to protect your little girls. They're not even here yet and I'm already wrapped around their little fingers.

For much of my life I thought I would be the typical Dad as portrayed on TV. I thought I would be the 1950 version of Dad. I would work. I would come home. I would sit in my recliner, drink beer, and watch sports. I didn't need to cook, clean, or do anything else.

Thankfully reality eventually set in. Now I don't even have a recliner.

After work I try to help the best I can. I like to cook actually. I don't think anyone likes to clean, but I help a little. I share the duties with Braden as well. Sometimes I may need to be reminded of what those duties are, but once prodded I can help.

Being an example for the girls is much more than all that though. It is not necessarily about dutifully pulling my share of the load. I can't represent my part in the marriage as the ox that carries the heavy load because he has too. Dad can't be the guy that does all these things out of a sense of duty or worse yet just to stay out of trouble.

I have to be loving above all else. I  read a verse from the book of John today where Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." My attitude and help around the house must be taken in the same light. I am not being commanded. That is not the point. The point is that if I love Arica, I should want to help her as much as possible. I should show my love through my actions.

I should happily mop the floor.

I should joyfully fold the clothes.

I should rejoice in changing a dirty diaper.

Let me be the first to admit that this type attitude is not easy for me. I'm human. I would rather watch a ballgame than do any of that stuff. And that is why I wrote #10 the way I did. I have a lot of room to improve as a husband. There is always room to improve, and I want to strive towards a more perfect love that can be seen easily by my children.

These are just the things I think about when my mind wanders. I think it's a lot more productive than my pre-children day dreaming of fishing and cold beer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Scooby Doo Crazy

Braden has gone completely Scooby Doo crazy. He watches Scooby Doo cartoons all the time. He would watch them all day if you let him. I didn't see this one coming at all. He has been a Pixar Devotee for a long time. Cars and then Toy Story. He still loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But how do you jump from those things to Scooby Doo?

It must be the monsters. Braden is always talking about monsters. When he watches the show he points out every monster and tells us when they are trying to get Scooby Doo. Yesterday afternoon we were playing outside and Braden just started running around with his hands in attack position growling and saying, "I monster!" From that I think it's safe to say that he likes monsters.

I guess he takes after his Mom on this one. I don't like horror movies. I don't like haunted houses. I have never even liked Halloween, until we had Braden of course. It's fun with him. My point is that I don't like being scared. I don't get the point of that whole thing. Fear is not a enjoyable emotion as far as I'm concerned.

Arica on the other hand loves it. She loves scary movies. She loves Halloween, haunted houses, roller coasters, and any other adrenaline fueled scare tactic. She would never sky dive or anything like that but she enjoys a moderate does of scary.

Braden is the same way. He loves for us to scare him. When we do he runs to the other parent, hugs their neck tightly and says "I scared Momma!" or "I scared Daddy!" So as much as everyone keeps telling me he looks and acts just like me, I know that is not completely true.

Braden likes monsters just like his mother. For me that means I will have to become more comfortable with scary things. By scary things I mean Jason, Freddy, Dracula, werewolves and the like. That is where I draw the line though because there are a lot of scary thing that I refuse to include in my life.

For example, there is not enough liquor on earth to make me comfortable with Lifetime Movies or Oprah.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First Kicks

I felt one of the girls kicking for the first time last night. That is always a very cool moment for the expecting Dad. Arica has been feeling the kicks for weeks. But it is always much later before Dad gets his first touch from the new life growing within.

Feeling that kick makes things seem a little bit more real, and it means that the arrival of the little kickers is getting closer. I thought it was awesome to get a small little foot five from one of our girls. I don't know which one it was, but I'm glad she said hello.

For that matter even if I did know which girl kicked me, I wouldn't be sure what to call her. We haven't quite figured out the proper naming convention for twins yet. I say the first one gets a certain name and the second one gets the other name, but what do I know. At this point you just can't be sure which is which.

That makes it harder to talk to them before birth. When you have one kid you can pat your wife's belly and call them  by name. I talked to Braden all the time. I wanted him to know my voice when he appeared on the scene.

With the girls I won't know which one I am talking to at any given time. I guess as things get further along they will stake out claim to certain parts of the uterus. When these claims are well established we can give them names like top baby and bottom baby.

Whatever their names, and whichever girl, one of them kicked my hand last night and it was awesome.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Waiting on Reality

The words "You are having twin girls" must be among the most frightening phrases in the English language. It's like my own personal "The British are coming! The British are coming!" Yet I sit here every day in a state of perpetual bliss. I don't have a care in the world.

So what's wrong with me? Why am I not more worried or frightened?

I assume that the day of fear will come. The day when my lack of knowledge no longer impedes the storm clouds of worry. To this point the perfect storm of time and ignorance has kept my fears at bay. Raising twins is still a few months off. Until they arrive I will just enjoy my life...said the dummy.

For now I wait and watch Arica's ever expanding belly. I watch the outward results of two growing babies. I watch as tiny boxes of shoes keep making their way through our doors. As pink and yellow dresses and other miniature outfits parade through our home, I stand idly by with a stupid grin on my face.

I'm having twin girls, I think to myself. Then I continue watching some mindless episode of The Office more concerned with the well being of Michael Scott than my own.

I know reality will come raining down on me one day like a thunderbolt from above. This reality could be sparked by a doctor's visit, a double stroller purchase, or simply by the reasoning center of my brain waking from its winter slumber.

However this thing is triggered, I hope it doesn't come while I'm driving. The last thing I need is to drive off in a ditch somewhere sobbing uncontrollably.

If that happens it will probably go down like this:

When the police arrive on the scene I mutter through trembling lips, "The twins are coming....THE TWINS ARE COMING" as I stare through the officer with wild unfocused eyes.

He asks me to calm down and repeat myself.

"I'm having twin girls," I say in an ominous tone.

At which point he kindly sends me on my way, understanding that I have suffered enough for one day. But he really doesn't understand what having twins means. No one can. Not even me.

And that, my friends, is why I'm cruising through life without a care in the world.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tools of Fatherhood

During all this talk about twins and girls and getting ready for that ship to land, I am still practicing the art of fatherhood for one supremely awesome little boy. Braden is never outshone by the preparation and nail biting that accompany a twin pregnancy. In fact he probably couldn't be outshone by the sun if it took up residence in our living room.

This morning at 3:30 am he reminded us of our duties when he woke up crying. When I went to ask him what he wanted Braden replied, "I want sleep Daddy's bed." On a side note Braden thinks the couch is my bed. Not because I am frequently in the doghouse, but because that is where he gets to sleep with me on those particularly difficult nights.

This time I told him no to Daddy's bed. Then I rubbed his back until he went back to sleep. Thankfully that only took a few minutes. Because any more difficulties would have required me to call in the big guns. At our house we call her Mom.

Arica can get Braden to do most anything. She has her bluff in on him. She threatens and he moves. She can threaten time outs, naps, taking away toys, turning off the TV, and other things. Even when those threats are met with the utmost dissension, she eventually wins out. Of course it is not always threatening that works. Many times it is a simple explanation that gets Braden's approval. Other times it is redirecting his attention to something else. Arica is a master of all these techniques.

On the other hand I am a master of none. My threats carry the weight of a feather. Even when I carry them through I can't get the desired result. Braden has actually started to respond to me a little better. Sometimes he knows I mean business. But most of the time he either carries on like I'm not there or he digs in and argues ferociously. If you've never seen a 2 year old argue with a 33 year old then consider yourself lucky. It is not a pretty sight.

During these most difficult of times I do have one weapon. When Braden is being difficult for some reason Arica can go to her bag of tricks for reason, punishment, or distraction. I am not so lucky. In my tool box there is but one tool for sticky situations. When the going gets tough, you know what I do?

I tickle.

This is certainly not award winning parenting, but you do what you have to do. I can't succeed at any of the typically prescribed disciplinary methods, but man can I tickle a frown away. It's fun for now, but I better get some chops before Braden reaches high school. I can't see tickling as a proper method for handling any of those teenage problems.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Twin Girls: To Do List

We found out one week ago that we are having twin girls. I am very excited about the opportunity to learn all about the father/daughter relationship. I am certain that I will be powerless against these little angels. Even though it is very exciting, it is never too early to start a to do list in order to prepare our family for those teenage years.

I tried to rise above the fray and not make all the normal girl jokes, but I just couldn't help it. The jokes are all teed up and just waiting for me to take a swing. So here they are in top ten to do list form. I did sneak a serious one in there as well. Well maybe I should say more serious because I have to give all these items consideration.
  1. Find the guy responsible for the Coors Light twins commercial and strike him down.
  2. Get the Double Mint guy next.
  3. Upgrade from single barrel shotgun to double barrel.
  4. Enroll Braden in MMA fighting class at earliest opportunity.
  5. Get meaner dogs.
  6. Call Bear Grylls and learn some of those dead fall trap techniques.
  7. Develop War Face.
  8. Pro/Con list on mote versus castle wall.
  9. Start long campaign to convince Arica we need a more public weapons display in our home.
  10. Be a better husband to set a good example for the girls on how they deserve to be treated.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sooner Dog

Spring has pretty much arrived in Arkansas regardless of what the calendar says. We have pear trees and daffodils blooming everywhere. My rose bush is making its yearly effort to grow into a rose tree before I can stop it. The weather is warmer, and we are outside every afternoon.

After I get home from work Braden and I go out and play in the back yard. Braden practices his driving skills in his Lightning McQueen car. He drives in a fairly continuous left turning oval so that he can jump of the roughly one foot drop on the backside of our concrete slab patio. That is his favorite thing to do. And yes I realize that the constant turning left could be a sign that Braden will like NASCAR, unlike his Daddy.

Braden also likes to take wagon rides and jump on his trampoline. He loves to run around and pretend his is blowing away or pretend that monsters are chasing him. He just simply loves being outside.

Braden being outside every day probably means just as much to our lab Otter. Since being banished to the back yard a couple years ago he has been patiently awaiting a new friend to play with. Well, patiently might be a stretch. He has never liked being a dog. Otter is what my dad calls a Sooner Dog. He would sooner be with people than eat.

And now that Braden and I are back there with him regularly, Otter has been reborn. He runs and jumps. He barks happily and wags his tail. He follows us everywhere just waiting for the next game or the next pat on the head. 

I am sure that he and Braden will be the best of friends. I am really happy for my old buddy Otter. He needs a new more lively friend. And lively is certainly right in Braden's wheel house.

As for our other dog Abbey, she doesn't really care for our intrusion into her world. She spends most of her time running away from Braden. I guess that just proves that some dogs are social and some dogs are not.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Man Space

I am excited that we are having girls. I know that they will teach me a lot, and show me a new type of loving relationship that I never thought possible. They will be great.

Having said that I am definitely going to need a good support group. I will need help handling the things that Dad's have to handle when girls are involved. You can call it observation, protection, or flat out scare tactics. I'm thankful that our first child was the little guy we call Braden. I know he will always watch out for his sisters.

I also know that I will need another guy to hang out with. Braden is going to be that guy too. I've mentioned before that I don't like the term man cave, but Braden and I are going to need something like that. We will need a place to occasionally escape from the main part of the house that henceforth will always be running on estrogen. Braden and I will have to carve out our own little manly niche somewhere in our home.

Unfortunately, finding a house big enough for three kids and a full size playroom for the boys might be a little difficult. So with that in mind I think Braden and I might just claim all of the outdoors for our man cave. We can call it our man space. After all, hunting, fishing, baseball, football, camping, and any number of other manly things that I enjoy take place outdoors.

So here's to spending as much of my life with Braden as possible outside the walls of our home. It will be our sanctuary. And as you can see from the photo above we are already pretty comfortable with the idea.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Raising Money for Twins

It was hard to watch him drive away. It felt like he was taking a part of my manhood with him. At the same time it was certain that he was taking away part of my past. Left in the driveway watching him go I was staring at my future. Even though I stood frozen, feet planted firmly on the cracked slope of our driveway, I was taking a big step towards a better life.

This was probably the first time that I have ever given something completely selflessly. So often I give only so I might get in return. My giving is part of some grand plan to get what I want. This time was different. I was getting nothing in return. The situation looked so dire that I actually tried to back out of the deal a few days earlier. I tried to get myself off the hook.

In so doing I nearly ruined the selfless act altogether. For it is not enough to give. In order for your giving to truly matter you have to give with the right attitude. Every man has been asked to do the dishes and had some smart remark in response. Even though we end up doing the dishes anyway, our wives are not standing in line to sing our praises. That is because we didn't do it with the right attitude. We have to give with a cheerful heart for the true impact to be felt.

So even as my fishing boat drove off into the midday sun I felt a tinge of joy in my heart. I knew this was the right thing to do for our growing family. I'm thankful that Arica was there for me when I had a little crisis of selfishness. If not for her I probably would have went fishing instead.

Twins don't wait until they arrive to start changing your lives. They start right in from the time you see that first ultrasound. Changes have to be made, and I'm glad we have the ability to make them.

After all, I can fish with my Father-in-law whenever the mood strikes. It's not like I sold all my fishing gear and moved to the dessert. Fishing opportunities will always be there. The opportunity to raise twins is not so common.

Since I sold the boat I found out we are having two girls. That means the financial need is going to be even greater. And the money we got for the boat will buy an awful lot of shoes.