My Faire Pirate Captain completes his 2nd voyage around the sun

My little man just turned two. TWO. I have no idea where the time has gone. His actual birthday we had a ton of errands to do, but managed to have a play date in the park in the middle of it and a Jake and the Neverland Pirates cake at the end. The big celebration happened this last Sunday at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. You see, there was a pirate band playing this weekend. It was too perfect. They were only playing two weekends and one of them was right after his big day. Since he is super into pirates right now, it seemed too serendipitous to pass up. Plus we love the Faire. It’s my wife, Katie’s, favorite place in the world and where I proposed to her.

We made him a pirate costume. I wore a Goonies shirt and a our catbirdbaby carrier. I joked all day that I was dressed as his pirate ship. Our daughter picked out her favorite princess dress and carried her Merida bow and arrows. Katie was decked our in her garb. We were going to meet up with some friends. It was set to be the perfect outing.

20130830-144442.jpg

We made our rounds and ate our favorite Faire food while setting my timer for shows we wanted to see, making sure we wouldn’t miss the pirate band, The Dread Crew of Oddwood. They were playing a 3 o’clock show right next to the big pirate ship. We made our way there. And. He. Fell. Asleep. I laid him down next to the stage in the shade thinking maybe he would just take a little catnap for the few minutes before their set started. Nope. He ended up sleeping through the whole set.

The set:

It was really good. Better than I expected. What was I expecting? A gimmick band of people playing dressed as pirates. What we got was a band that worked seamlessly together. A band that didn’t slow down even when one of their members got a head injury from the stand up bass, mostly because it was a tiny stage occupied by seven pirates. Yes, they are a gimmick band, but they are believable. They actually exist outside of the Renaissance Faire. The Dread Crew of Oddwood is a real band. The set list consisted of pirate themed original content and as an added bonus they played a montage of songs from the Legend of Zelda because they saw our friends’ kid dressed as Link in the crowd. While already really enjoying the set, the geek in me sent me overboard (see what I did there?)

20130830-143638.jpg

While they were packing up, I told them about how we had planned our trip around seeing them for the little pirate captain’s birthday and how he had fallen asleep just before they took the stage. One of the members ran over, grabbed his hat and set it in top of the sleeping boy’s head and posed for a picture. He also said that they would have sang happy birthday to him, which would have been awesome (if you guys are reading this ;)… ).

All and all, I would say that Gavin’s 2nd birthday is definitely going in the cherished memory pile. Plus we now have an album of pirate songs. Win, win, win… Argh!

Education system anxiety…

Of all the things that are stressful about parenthood, choosing a school for your kids is up there. The other day we visited a Montessori school down the street from our home and absolutely fell in love with it. Being a kid that grew up in the public school system, I can see the pluses and minuses. Yes, socially there is an advantage to how public schools operate, a large number of kids are grouped into a setting where they are encouraged to make friendships and be exposed to a large variety of people. There’s of course the financial side too. The fact that public schools are covered in your taxes is nice.

Here’s my guff though… Public schools are the first to lose funding. The child to teacher ratio is getting out of hand due to spending cuts. You know, because it makes sense to cut teachers before you cut anything else. What else is underfunded in public schools? Yeah, that’s the arts, obviously something near and dear to me.

I was one of those smart kids that slipped through the cracks. I wasn’t properly challenged until middle school where I was suddenly thrown into the advanced English and math classes. I always felt like the dumbest smart kid since everyone else had been supported and encouraged in these subjects for the years before. I was the outcast of the outcasts. That being said, I also had a huge problem with authority. Yeah had. S what did I do? I stopped caring and coasted by. I managed to do so in a way that i was able to get out of high school a full year early because I didn’t care for the system and I knew how to make it work for me.

I don’t want that to happen to my kids. I Want them to be challenged and encouraged to do their best in school. I don’t want them to be the outcast of the outcasts, not knowing where they belonged. Sure that contributed to my becoming the person I am today, introduced me to the punk scene way back when. Solidified my political all beliefs. BUT, my kids have something I didn’t have that can make up for that… An awesome punk dad. They’ll still be super unique and exposed to so much of that.

The school we visited had everything we were looking for and want for our kids.there is a low student to teacher ratio, it’s a large school (it’s actually housed inside a giant old church and has a very Hogwarts-y feel to it), it’s double Montessori certified, close to home, mixed age groups, individualized learning, and a huge bonus, there’s financial aid for your second year onwards. Oh and it goes all the way through middle school, so they’ll have the continuity that I never had as a kid.

That’s why.

Recommended track list:
Operation Ivy: Gonna Find You
The Sex Pistols: Seventeen
The Minutemen: God Bows to Math

The Balancing Act

If you have been following along this summer, it’s no surprise that I have been spending a lot of time with my family. It has been nice since during the school year this last year I was so busy and they were commuting so much, that I did not see them nearly enough. The first moth of break was the four of us doing as much as we could afford and visiting with family that we get to see once a year. I’m not exactly sure how we fit that much into one month.

Recently my wife, Katie, started a position at a new job. Since I was not able to find a summer job that made any attempt at supporting a family of four and she was, that put me in a new role. I have become the stay at home dad. Most of the day it’s just me, the kiddos and the dogs. I wold like to beat my cheat and say that it has been easy, but I would be a monumental liar. Well, that sounded a little bit too dramatic, but what I meant to say is that noonday is perfect and that being a stay at home parent takes a lot of hard work and practice.

Kids like to be entertained. I find myself trying to be as creative as I can in finding ways to keep them occupied. Also, having two kids that are very different from each other adds its own set of challenges to this. If one is coloring, obviously the other one wants to as well, BUT if one of them has the color that the other one wants all bets are off. Or if one doesn’t have theatre cue that the other does, that coloring book is going to have one stroke on each page and then they’re done. Then it’s off to trying to manage two tasks when all you want to do is sit down for a minute and drink your cup of coffee.

I’d say that the biggest hurtle that I’m trying to get over with my new duties is trying to figure in time for my own work. I usually end up writing these entries at nite or early morning when the kiddos are sleeping. I’m also struggling to find time to work on arty things. I keep telling myself that I need to sit down and sketch when they’re down at nap time or for the nite, but man I am usually beat by then. It’s hard and I think that I’m getting better at it, but finding that balance is very difficult. Knowing me, I’ll probably figure it the day before classes start up again.

Here’s a couple of things to watch out for in the next few weeks…

The Chicago Comic-Con/ Wizard World Chicago August 9-11th. I’ll be there in artist alley helping my friend Rebecca of Becca’s Bombshells and meeting John Barrowman, aka Captain Jack Harkness. And then there’s the sixth annual Oak Park Micro-Brew Review on August 17th. Have fun and maybe I’ll see you there!

Recommended track list:
The Scissors: Ice Cream Man
Alkaline Trio: Trouble Breathing
Coheed and Cambria: Away We Go

Babies, Locks, Firemen, and how the System saved my Son

Pretty quickly, things in this family go from hectic, to fun, to nitemarish. This is one of those instances and is pretty much the story of my life…

The nite before last, my wife was attending a birth as a doula. That is after getting off of work at her full time job.. The kids and I spent most of the day driving around doing errands. While she was finishing up at job number one her client went into full labor and we had to drive straight out to Dekalb so she could get there in time. The kids and I dropped her off and then drove all the way back home where we had a sleep over in the living room waiting for the call that the baby was here and we could get Mom. This was the best part of my day.

When we got that call is where it gets a little more crazy. Once we picked her up the next morning we had to book it straight back to her other job. We dropped her off, had lunch at McDonald’s and then, since I was sick of driving, we decided to spend the day at Woodfield Mall. We had a blast browsing at the Disney store and mostly they played on the giant foam Looney Tunes playground. By the way, i have apparently neglected to include Looney Tunes in their learning experience and had to give my daughter a crash course on who’s who. Oops. We rounded out the day by picking up my wife and getting hot dogs at the local hot dog joint down the street from home. It was a pretty great day…

It was, that is, until the kids went to wash up after dinner while Katie and I tried to talk and catch up with each other. My 4yo daughter went to go wash her hands after eating and her almost 2yo brother decided to trot in after her. Pushing happened over who got to use the sink and then we here the door slam shut. And click. Our daughter is standing outside the bathroom, our son inside. He had just locked himself into the bathroom. Shit just got real.

Little side note: We live in a pretty old building and the doors aren’t those (now in my opinion) awesome new doors where you can take a screw driver and unlock it from the outside. No this is a serious deadbolt, only locks from the inside, honest to gods nitemare.

We took turns trying to coax him into unlocking it, which at first he was laughing about. At one point our daughter even shoved us out of he way because, “he only listens to me and does everything I tell him to do”. Not this time. Then after twenty minutes of that not working, panic set in for all parties. He was sobbing because Mom and Dad couldn’t save him. Our daughter was freaking out, and frankly so were we. We tried taking off the door knob to see if we could somehow reach the lock. Nope, now we just had a locked door with no knob. We tried kicking it in like in the movies. Nope. Stupid old solid door… Eventually I threw in the towel and called 911. The dispatcher tried her best to calm me down and told me the fire department was on the way. Fire truck and all.

They got there and tried a few things until they ended up using this ratchet bar thing that stretched the door frame enough to pry the door open. He was finally out. Soaked from head to toe in sweat and tears. The lieutenant fireman told our son that he should come outside where he got to see their truck and was awarded a junior firefighter hat and badge. And that’s the story of my life.

Recommended track list:

Social Distortion: Story of my life
Operation Ivy: Room Without a Window
Minor Threat: Screaming at a Wall
The Replacements: Kick Your Door Down
Stiff Little Fingers: State of Emergency

When an Anniversary date becomes a family nite and why that’s ok.

My wife and I just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Well, at least we were creative in how we celebrated it. She just started a new job and we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together since. Last Thursday we decided to do something crazy. Some fun family activity to make the Summer feel extra summer-y. We went to the drive-in.
Continue reading

DIY Dinner on the Dole

It’s no secret that we are pretty damned poor. In order to keep fed we are on foods stamps and WIC. That doesn’t mean that we can’t eat things that taste good, though. Last nite the kids and I hoofed it to the grocery store with a strategic shopping list, ie our WIC coupons and came up with a delicious meal.

Ingredients:
WIC items:
Brown rice
1 cup of chopped up Sharp Cheddar
Frozen broccoli
Splash of milk

Food stamp items:
1tbsp butter
1lb chicken breast Tender strips

Cook the rice as directed, steam the broccoli over the cooking rice if you have a steamer pan.
Cook the chicken in a separate pan and cut it down afterwards to retain juiciness.
Once the rice is done add the butter, milk and cheese. Mix till its an awesome cheese sauce.
Add the broccoli and chicken.
Enjoy!

My daughter said it was the best thing I had ever cooked and asked “how did you get this to taste so good?!”

Track listing:
I cooked it all to the music of Stale Chofli, a local Chicago suburbs band i used to know

Summer: Its Not the Heat…

My wife and I are both students and we recently wrapped up our first year of graduate school. Now that its summer I find myself thinking “I hope someday, I am able to enjoy Summer”. Here’s the thing, I don’t. I can’t. Summer is probably the most stressful time of the year for us. We survive off of student loans during the rest of the year, which adds its own form of stress, but this, this is immediate stress. There is not financial aid in the summer, so that means finding jobs. Finding a summer job is crazy. There are people out there that spend months searching for a full time job that is year long with no luck. No one ever seems to want to hire someone for three months out of the year, and you’re dreaming if you want full time. I had that interview for that teaching gig a few weeks ago, but I have yet to hear back. Even if I get it we’re still behind. Essentially I need that for my résumé, not the pay check. Being a student seems to mean constantly planning for the future and not knowing how to get through the now. It sucks. A lot. Add two kids to the mix and its amazing that I still have any hair left on my head.

Those two are the reasons that we keep doing this though. I need to finish this graduate program so that I can teach at a college level and bring in some sort of decent pay consistently. To those that tell me that college teachers don’t make a lot of money, yeah thanks but I’ve been so dirt poor for so long that a lowly teachers salary seems like all the riches in the kingdom to me. And who needs more than that? Seriously. At least growing up punk has taught me how to mend clothes and fix toys. We are damned good at making things stretch.

So here we are trying to make ends meet. Trying being the operative word, though at times its more like hope. It’s discouraging having people repeatedly tell you that they don’t want you. It’s scary not having a solid plan. Worst of all, it sucks knowing that summer is supposed be fun and not being able to experience that, not being able to let my kids experience it. It breaks my heart, but we keep trying. Less than a month into my break from school and I find myself wishing that the semester could start back up, just so that we can start living off of tomorrow’s dime.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get some good news this week. I’m manically checking my email to see if I got that teaching spot. I just need some good news. Maybe then it will start feeling like phow I imagine summer should feel: Fun.

Recommended track list:

Pennywise: Homeless
Weezer: Holiday
Alkaline Trio: Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
The Ataris: Boys of Summer