So we’re moving to Florida…

…Orlando to be precise. I guess this sort of flies in the face of my initial post here. Oh well. I wrote about being happy in Ohio knowing that moving for my job was becoming more and more a distinct possibility. So maybe that was a reverse jinx of sorts.

I’ve been writing now and again in this space since the beginning of the year as a moderately safe creative outlet between my days of making spreadsheets and my nights and weekends of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This move should give me something to write about at least.

(But unless there’s a Loveland, Florida, I guess I’ll have to change the name. I’m glad I just used my own name as the domain address.)

The timeline is not certain except that it will be fast. I will be working out of Orlando on a permanent basis on March 18th. Just depending on how the sale of our house here goes, Mindy and the kids will be moving down in April or May most likely. I’ll make a few trips up in that interim period.

I’ve been dreaming of living in a warmer climate for some years now,  and this is my chance. I remember vacation in South Carolina a few Augusts ago when it was 95 degrees every day. My reaction was like, “yeah, this ain’t so bad, I like this”. Regardless, two-and-a-half months of brutally humid summers is more than offset by seven months of 75 and sunny. Just need to start stocking up on the sunscreen now.

But it’s not going to be easy, leaving a place where we’re comfortable. Mindy’s family is here. We went to college here. Our friends are here. My family is less than a five hour drive away. Seeing all of these people less will be a challenge. But at least we’re moving to a place where presumably people would like to visit.

So we’re treating this like an adventure. The kids will be fine. They’re young and haven’t reached prime friend-making age. Mindy will be fine. She adds friendships so quickly and prolifically…I have no idea how she does it. Me, I take forever to develop friendships. I remember growing up, wondering who my dad was friends with. All I could come up with was coworkers and the husbands of my mom’s friends. So that’s what I’m banking on. ( I just hope the Orlando office has a sufficient happy hour culture.)

Babysitting will definitely change. No more for free. So this will have to be a line-item added to the budget. And no more overnight babysitting either (unless we fly Grandma down while Mindy and I take off for the weekend).

But it’s worth it. I am still working for a Cincinnati company, so it’s not like we are severing all ties to our lives here. It’s a relatively low risk adventure, realizing that nothing is truly low risk. It’ll give me a chance to grow in my career. Trying to play it safe in the corporate environment is the real risk.

It’ll give the family a chance to grow too. We’ll all be out of our comfort zones, forced to be open to new experiences. I truly believe we’ll all end up better people for it.

So there it is. Florida. Here we come.

A President’s Day retrospective

President’s Day. This is not a holiday that is typically associated with seminal moments in one’s life. And this President’s day is no different. What it is is a three-day weekend. And for that, I am a fan of President’s Day.

I am kicking off this President’s Day Weekend by sitting in Mindy’s office with my laptop, listening to music and browsing the web while she works on of her perpetual side-jobs or projects. The same as it’s been for the last few weeks and months. And I’m fine with that. We watch a lot less TV because of it, but we still get to hang out and sort of relax.

So that’s what’s going on in our lives at the present. And since I’m not ready to write about what I was hoping to write about this week, I figured I just try to remember what I was doing on previous President’s Day Weekends. I doubt I’ll remember specifics, but I should at least be able to comment in broad strokes as to what was going on in our lives at the time.

A year ago was the first President’s Day in our current house. We were six months away from the arrival of Louie, probably taking the easy life of 1-to-1 parent/child ratios for granted. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

Two years ago would be our last President’s Day in our first house. Newport was fun, but we had outgrown it. Earlier in the month, we put a low-ball offer on a bank-owned property in the ‘burbs. That offer was summarily rejected, but it set us on a course to move to our current house. (Who knows if we would have had Louie had we not moved to a bigger place.) So the three-day weekend was spent doing project after project getting the house ready to put on the market.

Three President’s Days ago, I attempted to give up caffeine. It did not go well. I was training for the Heart Mini Marathon at the time. I felt a little foggy on my five-mile-run that morning, but I made it. But by noon I had a headache that made it physically impossible to stand up. I went to lie down in bed and told Mindy to wake me up in a few hours so I could get ready for our friends’ kid’s birthday party later that afternoon. When she woke me up three hours later, I felt like I needed to crawl out of my skin. I did not attend the party. The next day I woke up with the same headache and desire to crawl out of my skin. I did little of use that day but persisted. I woke up on day three in the same miserable condition, walked downstairs to the kitchen and made myself a pot a coffee.

Who really knows what I was doing, specifically, four President’s Days ago. However, I am fairly certain I was yet to come down from my Super Bowl 43 high.

Five President’s Days ago, we were four months away from being first time parents. So our lives were pretty much focused on preparing for that. Our one-car family experiment that only begun six month prior was coming to an end, as we needed to buy a family truckster to cart the baby around. We’d buy a small SUV by the end of the month.

Eight President’s Days ago was our first as a married couple. Not sure what we did, but I’m sure we were up to our eyes in wedded bliss.

Nine President’s Days ago, I in the midst of streak of six annual Vegas trips with my college buddies. I remember seeing Elton Brand at Caesar’s at blackjack table by himself betting a thousand dollars a hand. Since he and I share the exact same birth date, I was always peripherally aware of his career progress. Needless to say, I still have a long way to go to catch up to him money-wise.

Fifteen President’s Days ago, Mindy and I had been together for a month or so, and I took her to my fraternity formal. Amazingly, she opted to stick with me after that.

Twenty President’s Days ago, it was unseasonably warm in Canfield, Ohio. I was in eighth grade. My friends and I played driveway basketball for three straight says. It was awesome. I want a driveway basketball hoop at my house now.

On authenticity, dancing and sailing ships

When I watch things like the scene of Adam and Hannah dancing on Girls, I picture myself being a Brooklyn hipster dancing like a free spirit that didn’t care who was watching. And for a fleeting moment, I’m like, that’s what I could be doing with my life. I always do things like this. Like when I see someone posting Facebook pics of hiking Glacier National Park, I’m like, “I could’ve had that life where I go hiking in Glacier National Park”.

But like I said, it’s only fleeting. Because the next moment, I’m like, I have a pretty awesome life. And I haven’t even hiked in Ohio let alone Glacier National Park. Mindy and I are spending more time getting fit, no reason we can’t do that here.

But back to the hipster dancing. The ship has obviously sailed on me being a 24-year-old hipster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Or Barcelona. I don’t know if they have hipster scene in Barcelona, but being a 24-year-old dancing in Barcelona seems pretty great too.  (Many of my fleeting fantasies involve living in Barcelona. It’s 57 degrees there right now.)

Furthermore, I don’t even think I can be a 34-year-old hipster in Ohio if I wanted. I just got new glasses and Mindy tried to talk me into some hipster frames. But I couldn’t even pull that off. The ones I ended up getting were by quite possibly the least hipster brand imaginable: Brooks Brothers.

But there is at least one ship that hasn’t sailed on me yet, and that’s the joy of  dancing like an idiot. And I have my kids to thank for that. Some times we have Saturday morning dance parties in the basement. Most of the time it’s just impromptu breakdown sessions in the kitchen or living room while getting ready for a meal. I don’t know why my kids like it so much, probably something along the lines of everyone deep down likes to dance. It’s just at some point you grow too old and too self-aware.

And that’s why I like it. It’s the authenticity more than anything.

So every time I see something like that dancing scene from Girls, and I start to long for a life where I’m able to do things that I probably wouldn’t actually do anyway (like dancing crazily in front of a bunch of strangers…I’d probably just sit in the corner and drink), I just remember that I can do that now in the kitchen with Mindy and Edwin and Lyla and soon Louie.

Well, there is one place that I can dance like that. Weddings. I’m in a good friend’s wedding this May. Mindy and I plan to get an overnight babysitter and stay in a hotel. So I’m thinking I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to drink and dance like and idiot.

Figuring out when to let my kids figure things out for themselves

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One night last week after just arriving home from work, Mindy quietly motioned for me to look at Edwin. He was walking around in the house with headphones on and eyes glued to his tiny Nintendo DS screen. Occasionally, he’d shuffle his feet in an attempt to mimic some of the dance moves from whatever music video he was watching.

Mindy said he’d been doing it all day. He figured out that his DS came pre-loaded with a music video (I have never heard the song before–it appears to be some boy band ripping off Blur). When she told me that, I immediately had flashbacks to when I was about his age. I would sit in my room for hours listening to the same songs over and over on a mini record player.

And seeing Edwin’s face that evening and remembering sitting in my room nearly thirty years ago, I felt something visceral: joy. But bigger than just the joy of listening to music. Now don’t me wrong, I love listening to music, and that’s definitely part of it. The other part is about control.

When you’re four years old, there is not a lot that you can control. But each day you gain more and more agency, and the one day someone hands you this magic box that fits in your hands that play can play music. You’ve always loved music because your dad was always playing it for you and singing and dancing to it with you. Now you can control the music yourself.

So seeing that joy, I couldn’t help but want to help him even more. Watching your kids have fun is almost as much fun as having fun yourself. I immediately knew I needed to figure out how to get some more songs on there for him.

But that’s sort of par for the course for me since he got the DS for Christmas few weeks ago. We got him some games that we knew he’d love, like Lego Batman.  However, besides playing a few easy games on our phones or Kindles, Edwin doesn’t have much experience with video games. So games like this are probably a little too difficult for him. When he struggles to figure out what to do, it’s a little sad to see him get frustrated. So you can’t help but try to swoop in and bail him out when he can’t get past that same giant mushroom on Mario (sadly, I’m useless on Lego Batman).

The weird thing is we really didn’t want to get him video game this early. Edwin’s next door neighbor buddy has a DS. And sometimes when playing over there, Edwin would just sit there and watch him play it. This made us think that maybe we should get him one of his own 1) to fit in with his friends and 2) a little tech skills will probably be helpful for kindergarten next year.

I did some reading and became thoroughly convinced that we were fine waiting a few years before introducing video games, even if that made us the weird parents. But then we found out that Grandpa had bought the kids child-friendly tablets for Christmas. Then we saw Edwin had made his own pretend DS by folding a piece of paper in half and drawing controls and a screen on it.

So we said screw it, take back the tablet and get him a DS.

And so in a matter of about a month, I went from strategizing on how to postpone the introduction of video games into our home to worrying my son was getting discouraged due to not being good enough at playing video games. Such is par

I then taught him how to find the music on the main menu screen, and reviewed the symbols of play, pause, forward and reverse with him. He was so proud of himself the first time he played music for the whole family without any help. (And after hearing those three songs on loop for the past week, I’m regretting not being more forceful in my suggestion of uploading more).

He gets a little embarrassed we catch him dancing. I could even notice a hint of embarrassment when he told me the songs he liked. He and I are the same that way–it’s a wiring thing or a self-esteem thing–either way he got it from me,

So another thing I want to teach him not to be embarrassed, and that it’s OK to ask for what he wants (I’m not sure I’ve even learned this for myself yet). But some things a person just needs to come to on their own. This will be tough for me because I’m always over-explaining things, then later I think “well, I figured it out for myself, so what was I worried about?”

This has to be one of the one of the tougher aspects of parenting in the big picture. Knowing when to teach and when to step back and figure things out for themselves. I’m going to do all I can to teach him to do what he likes and not embarrassed, but more than likely, he’s on his own for Lego Batman.

On which I try to describe something as an active decision but is more likely simple inertia…

Before our holiday travels, I took our dog to the kennel for boarding. This particular kennel is in a part of town that we would not otherwise venture to. Not sure how we even found the place, but our dog, being on the timid side, seems to do better at this establishment compared to others that we had previously tried (as in, the staff is actually able to get her to take a daily walk).

Since it was Christmas Eve when I went over there, I had some last minute groceries to pick up for the dinner we were hosting that night. I opted for the supermarket close by. The whole time I was driving through the somewhat unfamiliar territory and wandered the isles of a foreign grocery store, I couldn’t shake the recurring thought of, “man, who would live in this miserable place”.

Whenever I’m in a part of town I deem to be “inferior” to my part of town, these kinds of things run through my mind. Why would anyone live here? If you are born here, why wouldn’t you move when you got the chance? What’s keeping people here? These are obviously not a very fair sentiments. Who am I to think of another part of town as “inferior”. I mean, it’s just a different suburb of Cincinnati. In the grand scheme of things, there’s really not that much of a difference between the two places. (And of course it looked liked a miserable, it was your classic grey December day in Ohio.)

And after pondering it for a while, I realize that this is a microcosm of how the coasts view all of flyover country. To someone in New York, it probably seems crazy that anyone would chose not to leave Ohio for greener (or at least less grey) pastures. So I presume those people that chose to stay in the neighborhoods they grew up in probably do so for the same reason Mindy and I stay in Cincinnati vs moving to a big city: proximity to family, friends, and all the other things associated with that.

Now, I’m not exactly from here, but I’ve lived here for nearly half my life. And I’ve been plotting my escape since the day I arrived. But the thing is, my friends are here. Mindy’s family is here. My family is a four hour drive away. And now that we have three kids, this network is more important to us than living in a more cosmopolitan city. My daydreams of Mindy and I renting an apartment in the Greenwich Village and taking yearly trips to Europe have been replaced by daydreams of having our master bathroom renovated and taking  yearly trips to Hilton Head.

I’m not sure that we’ve made this decision consciously, but choosing to stay in this familiar environment surrounded by people we love will probably lead to a happier life than anything we could experience hundreds or thousands of miles away from our family and long-time friends.

And besides, as obnoxiously sentimental as it sounds, our kids are what’s most important these days. A major part of parenting (I think) is worrying less about being interesting and more about fostering a loving and stable environment for your kids. So for the foreseeable future, Mindy and I going to live in Ohio and daydream about that downtown apartment in that trendy neighborhood we’ll have when all our kids have moved out.