Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Parenting

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Having kids is like getting pecked to death by a duck. No truer words have been spoken.

Having kids is like getting pecked to death by a duck. No truer words have been spoken.

As I’ve told my wife, raising children isn’t necessarily hard work but a lot of repetitive work and constant reminders. Brush your teeth. Stop hitting your sister. Leave that alone. Get your hands out of your pants. No, you shouldn’t put ranch dressing on your fingers and eat it.

One day last fall, while walking around a crowded festival we mistakenly thought the kids would like, I overheard an older couple talking:

“You know what I always say, right?”

“No, honey, what’s that?”

“Raising kids is like getting pecked to death by a duck.”

I laughed out loud. I wanted to hug that man for putting something into words that I was having trouble describing. What is having kids really like? Could you describe the experience to someone who didn’t have them? Would you even bother trying?

If I owned a time machine I would use it for a lot of good things. I’d solve world peace, become the next Warren Buffett, solve the Kennedy Assassination mystery and stop myself from dating that one crazy girl in college. I’d also sit down and explain to my former self what having kids is really like. Sort of like this:

You have five minutes to get something done. After that? Can't make any promises.

You have five minutes to get something done. After that? Can’t make any promises.


Your life will revolve around the five minute rule

Years ago, before kids, after the nightly dinner was eaten and my wife and I shared our pleasantries, I’d head off to the basement for headphones and computer gaming. Now, I can’t read a paragraph of a novel on the couch without getting interrupted. I’ve named this phenomenon the Five Minute Rule. It’s impossible to go more than five minutes without something to deal with. Try it. Time the outbursts. You’ll see that it’s real. If you do happen to go more than five minutes, you’d better go check on the kids, one of them is probably eating something they shouldn’t be.

Mimosas! Breakfast of Champions.

Mimosas! Breakfast of Champions.

You’ll drink when you normally wouldn’t.

A year ago, we went to breakfast at one of our favorite places, known locally for their bottomless mimosas. While waiting for our orders, we looked around the noisy dining room. Everyone who had kids had a table full of mimosas. The kid-less couples were sipping coffee. I’m not saying you should become an alcoholic, I’m just saying that sometimes, you need something to get you through.

You will become a power eater.

I used to savor my food. Taste it. Enjoy it. Let the flavors roll around in my mouth. Now it’s a race. First one done has to play quarterback to get the kids to finish. This is especially frustrating when you have a child whose idea of finishing dinner is brushing her teeth with her half chewed peas still in her mouth. I wish I could tell you that we didn’t notice her peas still in her mouth while tucking her into bed but I can’t.

You will become your parents.

It’s inevitable. You will understand why your parents used those annoyingly frustrating phrases:

“Because I said so.”

“Just do what I told you to do.”

“No.”

Kids like to argue. Lawyerly like. Sometimes their logic is sound but darn it, not everything is debatable. I am Dad. Just do it. Now. Because I said so.

You'll learn how to MacGyver all things parenting.  Like what to do with a filled diaper in the middle of a restaurant.

You’ll learn how to MacGyver all things parenting. Like what to do with a filled diaper in the middle of a restaurant.

You learn how to improvise.

After my first child was born, I had a new Dad moment in the hospital. I hadn’t slept much. I went for a walk with my parents and vented my distress over raising a small child. I didn’t know what to do with him. He was so small and delicate. He would need to eat. I didn’t know how to do that. I was scared. I cried some; as I said I was tired. My Dad smiled at me, “Son, you kids don’t come with instruction manuals, you’ll figure it out.” We did.

You’ve underestimated what love truly is, until now.

I’d always believed that love at first sight was not real. Love must be nurtured for it to grow. I found out how wrong I was. You don’t know you’ve been missing something in your life until you have it. When my kids were born, I was engulfed in a feeling so pure and deep that you cannot describe it to someone who hasn’t had it happen to them. You’ll do anything for your kids and if you’re like me, you have forgotten what life was like without them. You wouldn’t trade that for anything in this whole wide world.

Anything that you’d like to add to this list? Feel free to add it to the comments below.

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Life is a marathon and sometimes, you need to stop running to understand what you have.

Life is a marathon and sometimes, you need to stop running to understand what you have.

It was when I was in the 6th grade that I first realized the true finality of death. It was a watershed moment. I imagine you’ve had one of those moments too. You’ve been running the marathon that is life, and something triggers you to jump out of the race and pause; maybe grab a cup of Gatorade, wipe your brow and contemplate things. I remember one of the first times that ever happened to me.

Halfway through 4th grade, a nice couple moved into that vacant white colonial, with the faded red shutters, that sat across my small New Jersey street. They would often come over and hang out with my parents. I was much too young to drink this Budweiser stuff that I would often find around the house afterwards but their laughter would often keep me awake at night. My mother would get to really laughing, that sort of laugh that starts deep within your belly, and I would always want to find out what the joke was because I knew it had to be funny.

A few years after they moved in, they had a beautiful baby girl. To my 6th grade mind, they seemed happy. On the Halloween after she was born, I can still remember our neighbor dressed up as a Budweiser can, smiling and hoisting an open beer can over his head, his daughter sleeping in her stroller beside him. I was sitting at the bottom of our porch steps, my old pillowcase in between my legs piled high with candy, when he saw me and smiled.

“Happy Halloween, Kid.” he said.

As I later found out, he didn’t take very good care of himself. He had heart issues. Sometime, shortly after Halloween, in the early morning hours, he died of a heart attack on his couch, his baby girl asleep in her crib.

For many nights after, I laid in bed and cried. I wasn’t friends with him. We had never sat down, laughed and drank any of that Budweiser stuff together but it was the first time that I truly understood that he wasn’t coming home and what that truly meant. His life was over. No more Halloween costumes. No seeing your daughter grow old. How I viewed life changed a little then. Maybe I even grew up some too.

Hello Mr. and Mrs. Ambulance driver? Can I come with you? I think I'm having a heart attack.

Hello Mr. and Mrs. Ambulance driver? Can I come with you? I think I’m having a heart attack.


Last summer, while driving home from work, I felt a tugging and pulling in my upper right chest. I turned the radio up and tried to ignore it. I figured Justin Timberlake could make it go away. Then, I did something you should never do. I Googled my symptoms while at a stop sign. HEART ATTACK, they all said. I panicked. The world went a little fuzzy. I pulled over. Fumbled with my phone. Called 911. Took a nice ride in an ambulance. Chatted with the nice lady who tried to give me an IV.

As it turned out, I was fine. Pinched nerve in my back was acting up. I got a stress test a few weeks later which revealed that my ticker is in excellent shape. All these months later though, the mental YouTube of those events still play in my head. The panic. How life turned into white snow like an offline channel. My sweaty palms and the feeling that I was going down for the count. How I knew that I had much more to do out here on this earth.

I turned 40 last month and spent the majority of the holidays sick. My thoughts since July have been jumbled and confusing. Fears and anxiety. Smiling on the outside but crying out for the mid-life crisis police on the inside. I’m healthy as an ox. I have lots more life left. That’s good.

Temporarily, my marathon has stopped and I’m taking a sip of that Gatorade. What are my plans? This? That? Can I do better? Can I love my wife better? Can I give myself to my kids better? Can I do life better? Yes. Forgive me while I sit here on my porch a little while longer and count my candy.

How about you?

Thanks for stopping by today. Can you be sued by Mr. Craig? Normal programming resumes next week…

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ~Mark Twain

Taking stock

Taking Stock of this blogI’ve been blogging part-time for the past year. I started off doing a lot of it over at Multifamily Insiders and still do from time to time. The way I look at it, this blogging thing is really just a way to speak, to you, to others, about stuff rattling around in my brain. In January, I decided to register my own domain name and over the course of this year have built a very small gathering of followers. I’m not famous, I’m not a webrity, my traffic numbers are paltry at best but it’s hard for me to be mad about that. Blogging only gives back as much as you give it. It’s time though to breathe some more life into BSitko. Over the next 6 months here’s my improvement plan:

  • I’m not posting enough.
  • I post when I get an idea that nags at me until I type it out. Blogging is a hobby, a way to talk things out and if I felt that I had to do it to fill a “deadline”, will it be fun anymore? I do want this blog to become successful though. So going forward I DO need to post regularly. Twice a week. Hopefully you will all enjoy the expanded content selection.

  • I need to comment more on other blogs.
  • This isn’t just to brown nose or strictly for selfish reasons alone. There are blogs I read almost everyday and I mostly remain silent on them. Blogging is a community and I need to participate fully in it.

  • I have no central focus.
  • Blogging about social media is fun. Sometimes I like to chat it up with my multifamily industry people. Other times my kids do something so ridiculous I need to talk about that. On occasion, I spot a new gadget out there that I need to talk about. The problem with being too broad is I keep confusing people when they come here. If you’re arriving for a social media article and you spot a parenting one and one talking about renting apartments, I’m sure you click away confused. Should this broad approach continue or do I need to focus on just one thing? What do you think?

What does blogging mean to me.
Something Amber Naslund said in her excellent post from last week helps me keep it in perspective. Blogging helps “me establish an area of expertise, a personality and point of view, and work through ideas that interest me” For reasons I couldn’t put into words before, they describe why I do what I do today… hopefully going forward there will be more of it.

Personal Story

Pill PoppingI’m 37 years old. To some that’s young and to others that’s ancient. Your perspective is probably brought on by your own age and your own experiences. I won’t hold it against you for either viewpoint. I mention this because to most who know me, I’m constantly prattling away about how “old” I am and always quipping about how “They don’t make things like they used to”. Part of me is just joking when I say this and part of me is serious. I don’t like getting older.

Can’t control time
This worrying about my age stuff IS kind of dumb don’t ya think? I can’t control time. Tomorrow I will wake up, breathe in, glance at my daughter who I’m sure is waiting for me to take her to the bathroom and get another day older. That’s inevitable. Two months ago that cheery morning routine was partially interrupted with a dull pain in the center of my back. It was annoying, I thought little of it, and after a few it settled down and stopped. Every week thereafter that annoying dull pain stopped going away quickly and instead remained behind. At first it was mid morning, then early afternoon, the mid afternoon and finally, it didn’t go away at all.

Heading off to see Mr. Emergency Room doctor.
Last Friday after work, I laid down on the couch in my living room and didn’t want to get up. Well maybe that’s not quite right. I laid down on the couch in my living room and COULDN’T get up. It was then I realized that I needed help. After spending half the night in the ER on delalutin (which was really good stuff by the way), I found out I have a pinched nerve in my back. For anyone who has experienced this kind of back pain, you’ll understand the amount of discomfort I’ve been in. More to the point though it was then, while laying on the hospital bed and listening to the doctor explain what I had, that I realized I’m no longer in my twenties. I mean I’m REALLY not, forget the jokes about my age, and the offhanded comments about getting older, that was when the reality of my “situation” set in. I can no longer take my body for granted and I am not invincible. I believe we all have that moment…have you had yours?

Something dumb.

Guy walks into a bar. Next time he needs to watch where he’s going.

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5 Minute Rule

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” ~Franklin P. Jones

5 Minute RuleI’m watching my 5 and 3 year old lay on the floor and pay vigil to another CGI movie, Ice Age. It’s a “relaxing” time as a parent and part time blogger because I can actually sit here and type something and they aren’t demanding my undivided attention. These moments are rare and typically only occur in 5 minute increments. You see we have strict laws in this house. When I’m home I am forced to abide by the 5 minute rule. Rule #3.001 as decreed in the Szczytko Family precepts of 2006 are hereby given:

You are not allowed to go more than 5 minutes without being interrupted.

This can mean anything. My normal newspaper tucked under the armpit bathroom break? Better hurry up.

Knock. Knock.
“Dad I need to ask you a question!”
“Son I’m in the bathroom!”

Even in the shower… *Curtain moves*
“DAD! Brooke said a bad word, do you want me to say it? Hey! I see your butt!”

One of the lessons we try to teach (and fail miserably at) is when not to interrupt someone. Having a conversation with someone can often be a challenge:

“So yes Bob we’ve been playing around with some social..”
“DAD!”
“…media and…”
“DAD!”
“…we started getting…”
“DAD!”…
“OH my goodness, what do you need son?”

The crazy part is we’ve explained to them a million times to wait until people are done speaking in order to ask your question. They aren’t getting it.

“Dad! I just farted!”

I’m a typical guy when it comes to potty talk. I find it hilarious. On occasion I’ve been guilty of actually encouraging it. My wife has given me the lecture and so over the past few months I’ve been trying to de-encouraging it. The problem is the kids aren’t recognizing that it isn’t okay to do it and especially not when at a restaurant. My daughter always seems to do it right when there’s a lull in the restaurant conversation “Dad! My butt stinks!”
Potty talk

I can’t make things magically appear.

“Dad I want that strawberry milk box!”
“Yeah but Brooke I don’t have one to give you.”
“But Dad I don’t want the chocolate. I want strawberry.”
“Brooke I don’t have a strawberry one.”
“Dad! I want a strawberry.”

This could go on like this for hours if I let it. I will typically sigh and start singing a childrens song.

You only have to ask once.

“Dad can I get a juicebox?”
*SHAKES MY HEAD* “No Luke you don’t need one right now.”
“Dad can I get a juicebox?”
“Dad can I get a juicebox?”
“Dad can I get a juicebox?”

Perhaps they feel that we’re susceptible to the Chinese water torture technique. It never works. Perhaps they feel that asking repeatedly makes things magically appear. See above.

Our van didn’t come equipped with arms that protrude from our seats.

“Dad I dropped my toy, can you pick it up for me?”
“Luke I’m driving, I can’t do that.”
“But it’s right there on the floor. Don’t you see it?”

After listening to this for the 3rd time on a 5 mile trip, I wish the van had an ejector seat. I should write Honda about that.

The good stuff.

I kid of course (no pun intended). My kids are my everything. To be honest, I don’t remember what life was like without them. Some day I hope they’ll read this post and laugh like Heather and I did while coming up with it. I hope they’ll understand how much we really love them. We do. Someday when they’re off with their friends and only utilize my wife and I as a taxi service, we’ll want the 5 minute rule back. I’m sure of it…aren’t I?

What lessons are your kids having trouble learning? Care to share…?

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I was standing in the field with my daughter, a cool bay breeze was blowing off the water. We were getting ready for the whistle to blow and officially begin the annual Easter Egg Hunt at our community beach. Brooke was telling me how fast she was going to run and “Dad I’m going to get 100 eggs!” I was smiling my daddy smile, as I so often do after little sentences like this, when the lady in charge announced that the maximum amount of eggs per kid was 12. Wait a minute ma’am did you just say maximum?

What does a maximum teach our kids?

There are several groups of kids out there vying for eggs. Some are aggressive and given their attitude would no doubt take all of the eggs if they could. Some kids just aren’t aggressive enough. They arrive at the last minute to an egg only to be superseded by the aggressive kid. In the end, they’d get their 12 eggs but probably not more than that. Then there are some that fiddle fart around, pick daisies and feel the cool bay breeze. They’d walk in with their 6 and wonder why they couldn’t get more.

Once you introduce a maximum you eliminate the aggressive kids who want to go above and beyond. You allow those daisy pickers to take their sweet old time and eventually get their 12. What you really do is make everybody average.

Do you want to be average?

No you probably don’t. Are you? Please don’t tell me that you allow maximums to hold you back. I’m hoping you’re that type of person who grabs 25 eggs and doesn’t feel bad for the one holding 6. Look if the 6 kid wants more, he needs to watch what the others do, develop the passion for getting better and come back next year to crush it. That’s how you learn.

It’s like giving kids medals for just playing.

I pretended to not hear the lady in charge. Brooke went out and picked a whole bunch of eggs. Kids were walking off the field and leaving them behind. Brooke grabbed them. We came back with over 2 dozen and didn’t feel bad about that. You’ll say I’m a rule breaker and you’re probably right. I thought it was a silly rule which doesn’t teach the kids anything. Go out and get them…don’t let someone tell you that you can’t.

Life is an Easter Egg hunt.

The eggs are your dreams, aspirations, knowledge. Are you going out there and grabbing as many of them as you can or do you sit in the back, pick daisies and wonder “Why not me?” Don’t let somebody tell you, just before the whistle goes off, that you can just have 12. Go out and get 30. What’s the worst that happens? They’ll kick you out and take your eggs away? Next year just buy the beach, have your own egg hunt and make your own rules.

Happy Easter…go out there today and find some of your own eggs.