Today is my daughter Ainsley’s last day of preschool.  If you’ve been following along, you know that she will be staying home with her ol’ daddy until kindergarten begins in August.  Ainsley leaving preschool is bittersweet for me.  I’m very excited for our upcoming time together, but I acknowledge that she may miss out on some experiences she could get with other children present in a more structured environment.  Our family has been incredibly fortunate to have three of the best childcare providers any parents (and child, whether they realize it or not) could ask for.  This is something I have not taken for granted, but as the end of an era is upon me, I can’t help but wonder if these women understand how much they are truly loved and appreciated?  My daughter is my most precious and fragile cargo, and for my wife or I to be able to drop her off each day knowing that she will be safe, happy and genuinely loved, is beyond comforting.  It has been a gift.

Ainsley’s first preschool (some might say “daycare,” but it was so much more than that) experience – from three months to three years old – was with Ruth Ann, who also taught my son, two of my nieces, and several friends’ children.  It is my belief that she is one of the greatest people on Earth.  Ruth Ann’s role in the mental, physical and emotional development of my kids was equal to or more important than the role my wife and I had.  Among so many other important things, she taught them what it means to be kind (who could possibly be better at teaching this?).  I see this in my children everyday, and it is what I am most grateful for.  Ruth Ann will always be thought of as family, and will never be forgotten.

Ainsley has been with her current teachers, Erica and Mary, for almost two years.  It is a classroom setting, but the individual attention to all the children has been so impressive.  Ainsley is reading and writing, has a love of art, and has become very outgoing.  I attribute much of this to the care she has received from her teachers.  There is a large window in the classroom that allows you to see the playground, which is where the kids are usually playing in the afternoon when parents are arriving to pick them up.  Sometimes I sneak in and watch Ainsley.  Many days she is playing with friends, but it is just as common to see her sitting on a bench talking to Erica or Mary – and they always seem engaged and glad to be part of the conversation.  It’s little things like this that I have noticed, but have not done a good job of expressing my gratitude for.

Over the next four and half months, I will be stealing ideas I have picked up on from Ainsley’s teachers over the last four and half years.  My number one goal is to keep her happy and learning.  We will read and tell stories, we will sing and make loud noises, we will create art of all types, we will go on adventures, we will find ways to help in the community…we will have fun!  But I have a feeling there will be days when we both will wish we had a “real” teacher around to help out.

Bob Talbert said “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.”  Thank you to Ruth Ann, Erica and Mary for teaching my daughter to count, and doing so much more.  Over time her memory of you may fade, but the values you have instilled in her will be ever-present.




Learning to Relax

March 23, 2015

My final day of work was on a Friday, and I had been so ate up with anxiety during my last two weeks, that I still had trouble sleeping over the weekend once I was officially done working.  I expected an immediate sense of relief – a release of pressure like air coming from a valve stem – but I didn’t really feel somewhat relaxed until Monday morning.  I woke up early (my body clock still on my old schedule), then realized that I didn’t have to go to work.  This was an amazing feeling that I couldn’t remember experiencing before.  Even during vacations, I used to wake up early with that voice in my head saying “there are only (pick a number) days left before this trip ends, so you better get up and make the most of it…actually, you should probably check your work email first.”  Sound familiar?

Excited and well-rested, I jumped out of bed and made coffee, took out the trash and recycling, and got my daughter fed and dressed for preschool (she won’t start staying home with me until April).  By 7:30 my wife and daughter were out the door.  My son happened to be on spring break this week, and I knew he would sleep for another few hours.  The morning was all mine!

I started some laundry, cleaned up the kitchen (which we had left messy the night before because I know have time to do these things later!), went for a jog, cleaned one of the bathrooms (a priority, as my preceding anxiety had caused some severe issues on the pot…), went grocery shopping, picked up teeball gear for my daughter, did some more laundry, took about a hundred loads of crap to my neighbors’ house (we are sharing a dumpster as part of a spring purging project), did some dinner prep, played basketball with my son, hosed down the garage floor, and folded laundry (however, not the way my wife likes it folded).  Am I bragging?  Maybe a little, but mostly I’m just pleased with what I got accomplished.  It’s important to me to be productive, although I’m not going to beat myself up if some days don’t go this well.

I then took and shower, and realized I was exhausted.  It was late afternoon, but I had a little time before dinner needed to be started, so I decided to lie down and rest for a few minutes.  Then something truly amazing happened – I fell asleep. This is significant because I don’t nap.  In the last 19 years, I can recall taking two naps.  Once after a camping trip when my tent flooded, and once while in the hospital after having surgery to remove my thyroid (that nap had to be drug-induced).  I may be forgetting a few, but naps are a rarity.  My brain doesn’t turn off long enough.  This was the highlight of my day, and was proof to me that I am I the right path.

There’s a Chinese proverb that states:  Tension is who we think we should be, but relaxation is who we really are.  Maybe the Chinese are on to something here?  I will continue to test the theory.  You should too.

A week ago, after working for the same company for two months shy of 19 years, I quit.  This was an action that was about 18 years in the making, but I’m not one who is overly motivated or particularly fond of change…  I have a wife and two young children, a mortgage, various other debt, no college degree, and I walked away from a lucrative career and the only real job I have ever had.

It sounds insane, I know, but after so many years of trudging through mental anguish, I decided that the cliche about life being too short to hate what you’re doing is actually good advice.  I have lived with fear and anxiety my entire adult life, and decided I had to make a change.  So, with the support of my wonderful wife, I have left the business world and will be spending the next few months as a stay at home dad (or “house husband,” as my wife now refers to me). This is very scary, but it’s also a priceless opportunity to spend a summer with my four year old daughter and eleven year old son. The final summer before my daughter starts elementary school, and possibly the last summer that my son will consider allowing me to hang out with him.  We will be living frugally and making sacrifices, but fortunately my wife has a good job and we have decided we can make it work.  I have a background in construction, so I may work a few odd jobs to bring in some extra income as needed.  My construction experience is a blessing and a curse, as I have already been assigned a daunting honey do list, but I look forward to crossing tasks off.  Like an old ballplayer who still thinks he has it (or needs the money, as the case will be with me), I will come out of retirement once school starts.  Until then I will make the most of this experience.  I will do everything I can to be productive and genuinely happy.

I know there are tens of thousands of people out there who fantasize about quitting their job, so I have decided to blog about my experiences, and will try to post something at least a couple times a week.  I expect my time off to be very challenging, but also fun and rewarding.  I know a change like this would not be a fit for everyone, and I certainly don’t recommend making any kind of major life decision without careful evaluation and consideration – oh, and probably better planning than I have done.  Maybe my blog will be an eye-opener for someone considering a career change?  Maybe it will amuse someone occasionally?  Maybe no one will read it, but it will allow me to document what’s going on in my family’s life at this given time, which could be good for my kids to read later in life?

For today, I will leave you with a quote from Karen Lamb, who said “A year from now you will wish you had started today.”  I first saw this quote about six months ago, but have thought about it literally every day since.  Finally I decided it was my “today,” and I made my leap of faith.

Here’s to all of us finding that elusive thing called happiness.  Cheers.