Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Liam Turns Four

I was just minding my own business when someone decided to go and turn four. I don't remember agreeing to this.

I tend not to do that whole "where have the years GONE?" thing, just because it irritates me when parents do that. It seems pessimistic to me somehow. I will say I was NOT prepared for this one. By "not prepared" I mean, sure, emotionally I was a bit blindsided, but I also mean I literally wasn't prepared. I've been so completely wrapped up in my own business as of late that I'd kind of forgotten about it until just a few days before his actual birthday, which of course left me feeling guilty. 

So what do you do for your precious child whose birthday deserves to be celebrated? Do you try and scratch together some kind of last minute party, or do you take them to your sister's wedding just three days after his birthday and convince him it's his party.

Sometimes it's good to lie to your children
A bit of cake, candles, a new 'James' for the train table, and some drunk guests willing to sing 'Happy Birthday'...BOOM! Greatest kid's birthday party ever. Liam blew out candles, blushed at the attention, and danced his little booty off with all the cousins his age. A better time could not have been had. If he's looking a little underdressed for a wedding in that photo, it's because he's wearing Finn's backup outfit. He'd already destroyed his nice outfit AND his backup outfit by the time dinner rolled around, so you know he had a blast. 

I love you Liam!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blind Man's Bluff

This past week Liam turned four and my baby sister got married. I'd love to write about those things, but first I have an incredible story to share.

I learned at my sister's wedding that people are actually reading this blog. This is great news! Those people will know the gist of my current life chapter. For those who haven't kept up, here's the story in a nutshell: I'm splitting up with my wife which is sad, but we found a buyer for the house and new places to live so all is well and the boys are doing great. 

I never mentioned much about the buyer in this blog because I didn't want to jinx it. About a month ago we'd given up on finding someone to offer anything close to what we owe on our house, so it was going to be a "short sale". A short sale in real estate (for those who haven't been keeping up on the subprime mortgage crisis) is basically where we tell the bank our situation and they agree to take what they can get for our house so that we don't have to do a foreclosure, which basically fucks everyone involved. The bank agreed and they got an offer. 

Then, out of nowhere, in swoops our savior. Though the deal with the bank was done, our agent was still putting out feelers when she came across a man with an offer. Not only was it for more than we owed on the house, it was for more than we'd originally paid. Too good to be true, right!? The bank agreed this was good news and we got to wiggling our way out of the short sale offer. I was curious about the man who put in the new offer of course, so I asked our realtor for details. It turns the guy is legally blind and had offered to pay cash. I'm not sure which of those two things is more unimaginable.

I can't tell you how happy Erin and I were after this turn of good fortune. We got right down to business, signing documents, filling out our disclosure report, and sorting through the details. The bad news was we wouldn't be making any money on the deal after fees and other costs, so our realtor talked to the buyer who...get this...offers even MORE. Why would he do that?? Is he an angel??!!

Last week things got weird. The buyer shows up at the house while I'm there watching the boys. Finn was napping so I quietly greeted the blind man and his companion saying "oh, you're the new owner!"  

"Not yet" he says. I clenched.

It turns out the man with him was there to inspect under the house. It was 7 days before the final day we were told we had to hand over our keys so Erin and I were both moved into the new apartments we'd only been given 30 days to find. 

I woke up Finn and loaded the boys into the car, making sure the blind man at least heard the sound of young children protesting as we left the house so they could do their inspection. I texted our real estate agent:

I was reassured but I couldn't help wondering if this guy had some sinister plan. He knew we were short selling originally and he knew we weren't making any money off of his first offer so our precarious financial situation was no secret. He may have even assumed (correctly) that if he backed out of the deal we'd be in real trouble what with the fact that we'd be on the hook to pay rent at two apartments now in addition to our mortgage. A struggling couple with young children caught in that impossible situation would have to take drastic measures. They'd probably have to foreclose and then the house could be purchased for a song. Who would then be in a better position to buy the house from the bank than the guy who had just done all the inspections on the house and had strung the nice young couple along right up to the very end so that the house would be nice and clean and ready to move into? Did he offer us more so we wouldn't field other offers? Did he really have the cash or were we being duped the whole time??

I was being paranoid! People don't actually do stuff like that, do they?

Yes. Yes they do.

I was standing on the porch last night at a friend's house when I got the call. My friend had agreed to let me store some of my things in her garage and I had literally just dropped off my last load. My agent said "I'm so sorry, he backed out of the deal". He claimed it was something about renovations being too expensive. This was just hours before the July 16th deadline. All I could say was "Oh wow. We're fucked."

I feel pretty naive. I didn't know enough about this deal apart from my own nagging feeling that it was too good to be true. I guess because he had offered cash it put him in a position where he could do this with no financial retribution. I guess it's a good thing this guy doesn't have to look himself in the mirror. 

I asked about the "sinister plan" I'd suspected. She assured me we would never 'sign off' on a sale to this guy after doing what he did, but I have a feeling it might not work that way. The sale is going to be in the hands of the bank now and I doubt they'll care much about the buyer's moral history, especially if he really does have the cash.

So now what? I'm thinking about painting a giant penis on the living room wall. Something artsy so that any guests the blind man has over to the house will assume it was something he had commissioned and will be too embarrassed to ask about it. I figure it will be months before it's discovered and by then it will be too late. Does anyone have a few gallons of 'taupe'?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Number One Problem

The greatest challenge I've had, now that I find myself doing the 'daddy' thing solo, is finding time to pee. Seriously.

Saturday the boys and I drove down to S.F. because one of my best friends' baby was turning one and there was a party to be had. Even though Liam is about 90% potty-trained, I dressed both he and his brother in diapers for the ride down. I, on the other hand, am a big boy and since it's only an hour and a half drive I knew I'd be okay, but as soon as we got there we said a quick hello to our hosts and hunted down a potty. I let Liam go first while I held Finn and cased the joint.

The party was at my friend's in-laws' house so it wasn't exactly baby proof. It was a little bit like a museum actually. There were lots of fragile expensive-looking things on small tables, some cool antique items arranged carefully on low shelves, and even a very nice set of samurai swords on display. I was going to have my hands full preventing thousands of dollars in damage and possible hara-kiri for the rest of the visit so this one pee break was going to be it. I sat down after Liam and as soon as I let it rip, Finn went for the door. The lock was one of those buttons which pops open easily with just one quick turn of a toddler's hand. Attending the party were a few people I hadn't seen in years and I didn't want our reunion to take place with my pants around my ankles, so I stretched out as far as I could to try and push the button back in. It was a little beyond my reach so I had to angle my "stream" behind me like a cat marking it's territory in order to reach it. Finding this new game hilarious, Finn immediately re-unlocked the door so I swung back over and clicked the button back in again. With few opportunities to pee these days, my body has trained itself to retain fluids better than a camel, so this little tete-a-tete went on for the duration which was about a full minute.

Awkward potty moments like these are common and manageable. It's not just at strange new bathrooms either. Even at home the amount of time it takes to pee is just enough for Finn to smash a jar of jam and begin eating the sticky glass shards, for Liam to blow on Finn's face while he's taking a nap, or for any multitude of punching, pooping, smashing, and other such mayhem to take place.

Most people believe the real nightmare is having to go to the bathroom while driving with the kids, but this is not the case. After Saturday's party there was no chance I was going to manage a pit stop before leaving, not while the boys still had "birthday party" in their systems. They were out the door and playing in traffic before I could say my goodbyes to my friends, so I just herded them to the car and planned to stop and "check the tire pressure" on the way home. "Checking the tire pressure" is when you pull onto the side of the freeway, walk around to the front right side of the car, kneel down on one knee, and pretend to thoughtfully examine the tire while you're peeing on the ground. It takes a bit of acting and an excellent ability to visually judge slope, but it is a life-saving tool.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grandpa Janik's Pantry

Part of (almost) every foray into the ever-endearing Midwest should include a trip to Grandpa's House.

My Grandpa Janik lives in this crazy custom-built dream home with fish-stocked ponds and a spiral staircase and giant TV's and, well, an amazing amount of food and booze.

When the kids and I arrived after our four-hour drive from Kalamazoo, they were like "oh, hey Great Grandpa, hey Judy (GG's delightful and astoundingly energetic wife), if you need us we'll be in the pool."

They went in the hot tub, too

We waved them off and then began stocking the cooler with every imaginable drink in preparation for the rest of the Janiks & co. to arrive. My Grandpa has always been an impeccable host. Once, my friend Jessica and I made the trek to his place at the ripe young driving age of 16, and upon arrival he asked what we'd like to drink and listed off a dozen options, including beer. Baffled, we reminded him that we were only16 and couldn't drink, but he just poo-pooed this. We drank pop instead. As we were leaving, he and Judy filled our car with snacks and drinks, and he pressed some Zimas into our arms. "Just take 'em," he urged. "I won't drink 'em!" Jess and I looked at each other, blushed, and took the Zimas.

The Janiks are dear to my heart, which I was recently analyzing. I didn't really spend a lot of time with them as a kid - aside from some summertime here, a holiday or two there - and yet I have such a great affection for them all. I realized it might have something to do with the fact that they act from the heart and don't steep every action they take in passive aggressive drama and unnecessary bullshit. In short, they are real people. And I love them!

These visits are always a whirlwind of hugs and half-conversations but I still appreciate anything I can get, and I was happy that the kids got to hang with their cousins. Also, I was kind of hungover from an impromptu night on the town in Kalamazoo the night before, and there's really no better place for a Hair-of-the-Dog drink than at my Grandpa's place, because of his built-in Cantina. Yes, that's right, I said built-in Cantina. Wrap-around bar, opposite booth seating, dusty margarita mix bottles galore...I found some Jack Daniels and some coca-a-cola and all was well with my miserable fuzzy-headed world.

The next morning I walked downstairs to find my kids at the dining room table surrounded by three different kinds of cereal, glistening pints full of orange juice, and plates waiting to be filled with their very specific instructions as to how to make their eggs, which Grandpa was kind enough to oblige, though he had to let me know it was a pain, which he did in is usual good-natured way: "Jonah says he wants an egg pancake, I say 'what the hell is that?' he says 'ya scramble it in a cup and then put it in the pan, then flip it like a pancake!' I say 'okay.'* But it takes up the whole goddam pan! And this one, she wants hers fried!" Then he gestured to me with his spatula: "howd'ya want yours honey?"

"Scrambled, please!" I didn't dare say "egg pancake but then folded over an unbuttered piece of toast." I asked if they had any tea. Grandpa said they did, and began pulling boxes upon boxes out of the upper reaches of a cupboard. "We got peppermint... this one's...we got chamomile here...." Judy appeared behind me and piped up "Geno! Don't give her that tea, that's like twenty years old, don't giver that!" "It's fine! It's all sealed up in it's packages, you know? The paper wrapper? It's fine!" I assured him that I was fine with OJ and proceeded to eat my breakfast sans stale tea.

During breakfast I asked Judy about her volunteering, which she does in abundance and makes me really, really sleepy just hearing about it. I mean, this woman...really. She has this dance troupe for seniors that travels around and performs all the live-long day, and she basically runs the whole freaking show. Their dining room is filled with sparkling hats and songs on tapes and random balloons and feathers. She's been doing it for over a dozen years and she's tired as all get-out but she'll never stop doing it. Oh and then she showed me the 14-page newsletter she singlehandedly creates for the senior center every month. I was like..."um, I'm kind of sleepy from looking at all of this can we nap now?" Look at what she does just for fun here! It's nuts. I saw it live once and I cried like a baby.

As we were preparing to leave, true to form, Judy asked my kids to hold some ziplock bags open and then proceeded to fill one with Oreos and the other with Froot Loops, despite my eye-rolling and protests. She ignored me, saying "oh wait, just a few more. Wait, just a few...just one more...just, wait, there's room for another."

I walked into the pantry to grab a few bottles of water, but Judy scoffed, "honey no, you don't want those, those are old, lemme getcha some fresh ones," and then she disappeared into the basement, emerging a few moments later with three bottles of 'fresh' water.

Rumor has it there's no fresh water here
Then we got out to the car and Judy insisted that we take a cooler full of ice, so that I could put some down my shirt when I got too hot on the way home. I assured them that wasn't necessary, but she was already gone, searching. After waiting for about ten minutes in the oppressive Midwestern humidity, Grandpa and Judy emerged with a small cooler full of ice, which I immediately reached my hand into to pull out a perfectly-formed ice cube, wasting no time to shove it down my shirt.

After a few more hugs and kisses, away we went.

Before falling asleep within three minutes on the road, Jonah sighed, "I want to live at Great Grandpa Janik's house, mom."

I said wistfully, "me too buddy. Me too."