Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas at Daddy's House...

Here it is, the masterpiece! Yes, those are the little hands of Miss M working on her first gingerbread house! She calls it "cookie house." Obviously Daddy didn't bake it; it's from a kit. Still, we had a ball putting it together and decorating it. Funny, she didn't want to eat it though. Guess it's just too pretty. :)

I have to say, after all the fear of having a lonely Christmas, it might have been the best one I've every had. Who knew? I went to a movie with a friend Christmas Eve (Avatar, pretty good), had breakfast with a buddy Christmas morning, and then went to a big Christmas party that afternoon. Saw a ton of friends and realized that I wasn't the only one who didn't see family on Christmas. Once Miss M showed up, we had SO much fun. Roller skates, a princess castle, and a new tent (in the form of a castle) were her big presents. We barely left the apartment for the next two days! The excitment on her face was priceless and I actually forgot that it wasn't the actual Christmas Day.

Feeling really grateful and realizing that while this isn't the life I pictured, it's a pretty good one.

Happy New Year to everyone. Looking forward to hearing about all your lives in 2010.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Not So Bad...

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you all enjoyed the day with family or friends.

Happy to report that after dreading Christmas without my little girl, the last three days have not been that bad. Spent a lot of time with friends, saw a movie (Avatar: pretty good. Cool graphics) and went to a great Christmas party this afternoon.

Cool thing is, I didn't feel lonely and while I missed my little one, the three days were fine. Talked to her a couple times a day. She was SO excited to have had Santa come and is excited to have him come again to Daddy's House.

There is an upside to divorce...TWO CHRISTMAS'S!!!

So she's back with me tomorrow at noon until Monday night. We're going to open presents, build a gingerbread house, and play with our new toys! I'm excited.

I think the key is, don't try to do it alone. Enjoy the off time with friends and family and know that the little one will be back, even if it's not the actual day. Thanks for the encouragement and well wishes everyone. Enjoy the weekend!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Cheer, Part Deux


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas in New York: A Little Christmas Cheer

Since so many of us are having trouble getting into the spirit this year, I thought over the next couple days I'd share some of my favorite Christmas funnies. Enjoy!

More to come tomorrow!!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Lack of Balance

So, that's how I feel today, only I wish the teddy bear was my little girl. Then again, if it were, I may not feel this way.

The holidays are having a disturbing effect on my this year. It's my first year without Miss M on Christmas Day, although I get her the following day for 3 days. Still, I think I'm feeling the culmination of a lot of things...

Over on Big Little Wolf's Daily Plate of Crazy, BLW posted yesterday about not feeling balanced because of an inability to do things for herself. I totally relate to that. On the days I have Miss M, besides going to work, I only spend time with her. This also goes for the weekends when I have her. True, we do playdates with other parents, but there's no time for me alone. On the nights when I don't have Miss M, I make time for Hot Girl. She above anyone understands the necessity of "me" time, but I feel guilty taking it instead of spending time with her as I know she misses me. Throw work into the mix and there's very little for me.

I see a shrink every other Friday. He's been great at helping me work through the anger of my Ex's affair, given me great suggestions on how to communicate with her to get what's necessary out of the co-parenting relationship, and is helping me work on my "picker" in romantic relationships. He truly is amazing. By far the most effective therapist I've ever had. Last Friday, he suggested that my life is out of balance. I'm either all on at work, with Miss M, or with Hot Girl. No where in there is time for me to go to the gym, do significant meditation or spiritual work, or explore what I want out of life.

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret any of this. Thing is, when I'm not with Miss M, I'm thinking about the next time I will be. Being a father to her is the most satisfying thing I've ever done, no exception. I feel stretched though and often tired. Shrink thinks I'm sad. I think he's right. About what, though, I'm not sure.

Is it possible that I'm still mourning over the loss of the marriage? Probably. Not the lose of the Ex, but maybe over the loss of what the Ex was supposed to be and represent. I'm certainly stressed about money. Times are tight. While she rarely says so, I know Hot Girl is frustrated that she is essentially the "Tuesday night and every other weekend girl." Unavoidable at this point and she understands it, but she has a valid reason to feel that way. I feel guilty even though no one has told me I should be.

Shrink suggested that I get a baby sitter on Saturdays for a couple hours when I have Miss M. That way I can go to the gym, see a friend or two, or just get some general "me" time. I'm considering it, but I know I'd be thinking about what funny thing Miss M might be saying that I'd miss or the spontaneous hugs that she runs over to give me. I get it, I really do...if I do things for myself, even a little bit, I most likely will be able to feel more whole, less tired, and to get better quality time with both Miss M and Hot Girl. So why am I hesitant to do it?

Maybe because this is the norm for me. I've been so conditioned to "do for other in order to get back" that I feel selfish taking time away. It's a catch 22, right?

What do you other single parents do to recharge your batteries and feel more whole? Balancing the child, work, significant other, and health (spiritual, physical, and emotional) is tough. For me right now, that last one is getting ignored. Suggestions welcome :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fun or Discipline?

I'll start with this doesn't happen often. I am truly blessed the Miss M, while being a strong willed child, is at the same time mostly compliant with few tantrums. Most times if they do happen, it's because of an inconsistency between how her mother and I handle things (or the nanny) or simply because Miss M is tired. She is in that "in between" phase where she most days refuses to nap but then ends up exhausted by 5:30 or 6:00 PM. Last night was one of those nights. It was also my last night with her before she goes to her mother's for a week for the Christmas holiday.

I was feeling like I'm sure most of us do who share custody. I value every moment and want to make the best of the time I have with her. We play games, hug on the couch while we watch her favorite shows, and read books. Interactive things that make for good "Daddy and Me" time. Last night Miss M told her nanny that whe wanted to wait until Daddy got home from work so that we could eat dinner together...sweet right??!!! So I was excited to spend the evening. We made dinner which she didn't like so much. She was "all done" quickly and then began asking for donuts. Hmmm...

Now, I'm not a hard liner when it comes to having treats (her mother is). As long as she's eaten healthy during the day, a treat after dinner seems appropriate to me. There were some donut holes left that the nanny had gotten her and she knew it. Problem is, the remaining ones didn't have sprinkles on them. Miss M LOVES sprinkles. When she saw the selection, she, in her tired state, immediately began crying and jumping up and down, demanding sprinkles. She then begain demanding chocolate milk. No please, not asking nicely, but "I want!!!" in that 3 year old demanding tone, complete with teary eyes (poor baby, I knew she was just tired). I calmly explained that she wasn't asking politely (she does know how) and to please use her manners. With that, off came the Princess clip on earrings she was wearing. She flung them across the floor, ran to the couch, threw herself on it, and began to cry. Quite the little drama queen, right? That's her mother's side...

At 7:00 PM with Miss M in her jammies, it being below freezing outside, and Daddy desparately wanting quality time with her before she left this morning, I had a dilemma. Do I 1) get her dressed and walk half a block (literally 100 yards) with her to Dunkin Donuts while she drank her chocolate milk, or 2) calmly insist that she pick up the earrings she threw, apologize for the tantrum, and ask nicely for what she wants, all the while knowing that this could take a LONG time? Miss M can be quite stubborn when she's in this state.

Option 1 was SO much more attractive and the path of least resistance. I gave it serious thought. Thing is, I knew that if I did it, I'd be setting a bad precedent for later. Daddy, who's OBVIOUSLY wrapped around her little finger (and she knows it) would be set up for more trouble later. Crap! So much for fun, right?

It took a good 30 minutes to get her to pick up those earrings. The first one came at about 10 minutes. The second was much tougher. Everyone's discipline style is different. Mine is to remain calm, start with "I love you" and explain that her behavior is unacceptable and turn off TV and allow no other activities until she does what's needed. Usually that results in an on the floor crying fit to which I respond again, "I love you and I'll be right here on the couch. As soon as you do "X" we can have some fun." She is stubborn, though. It usually takes a while.

We got through it and had a nice rest of the night and fun morning. I'll see Miss a couple times for lunch before Christmas. Ex has been gracious about that (I know it pains her but I'm appreciative). In the meantime, maybe I'll go buy some sprinkles to keep around the house.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Have Yourself a Lonely Christmas...

Usually I'm a pretty upbeat guy. I've learned over the past few years to focus on the positive and to be grateful for what I have, not resentful for what I don't. It's tough sometimes given the situation we single parents find ourselves in. I didn't want a failed marriage, certainly didn't want to spend time away from my daughter, and only chose to leave my marriage because I was getting no help from my Ex in trying to work things out.

Last year was the first Christmas we spent separated. Due to the custody agreement, Miss M spent Christmas with me. This year, it's my turn to sit at home. Miss M is spending Christmas with her mother and some friends on Long Island, so I won't see her from the 23rd to the 26th. I know, it could be a whole lot worse. She comes back to me the afternoon of the 26th and stays until the evening of the 28th. Really not so bad, right? Then why am I having a hard time with it?

Truth is, if money weren't an issue, I'd be a stay at home Dad. My career is good and I'm relatively successful, but as I got into my mid 30's I stopped defining myself by my career and became more concerned with the happiness of my personal life. As long as I can pay my bills, my daughter can live comfortably, and I don't hate going to work every day, my job is really just necessity, nothing more. I'd much rather be at home playing with Miss M and her Barbies, baking cookies, and digging in the sandbox. No such luck.

Being relatively new to this single parent thing, days off of work and downtime are kind of hard for me. True, I have Hot Girl to hang with and she's GREAT, but when we're together and Miss M isn't there, I feel bittersweet. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way. Hot Girl deserves 100% of my attention when she's there given the tremendous understanding and flexibility she gives me due to the custody schedule (we've not yet done a reintroduction). She gets it, she really does. She'll spend Christmas day through the 28th with her folks (to which I'm invited but have declined since I need to be back on the 26th). I'm ok with that and have a host of friends and invites for afternoon Christmas parties.

Still, there's that hole I'll feel: the absence of my little girl sharing her new toys with Daddy, spending the morning in our jammies drinking hot chocolate, and going outside to try out our new skates and scooter. We'll do that on the 27th, so am I being a baby? Maybe. I just know I feel a bit sad today.

How do you all cope with it? Is this feeling just a part of the deal?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dude's Night Out

I was there. If the camera had been pointing a little to the left, I'm about 20 rows up. A buddy of mine has season tickets to the NY Giants and invited me to the game last night. I went primarily because he's a good business contact and a guy I like outside of work, but have to say it was more fun than I thought it would be.

I'm not a big pro sports fan. College, well, that's another issue. It's a product of growing up in an area where there were no pro teams of any kind less than a three hour drive. In my part of the country, college sports is king. Last night though, I have to say was really fun. Most of that was being with my buddy Dave (nicknamed Captain Good Times). He's one of those guys who knows everyone within 30 feet of you in the first 5 minutes. Never a dull moment when that guy is in the vicinity.

The game was particularly important for Giants fans because it was against Philadelphia. For those of you who don't follow, Philly is geographically the closest big city to NYC, thus a huge rival, but also a division opponent. The Giants needed to win this game for playoff purposes. Needless to say, there's a lot of bad blood between the teams and fans, and the games can get pretty heated. So can things in the stands. This game had an added bonus: apparently, a Sunday night game brings out the crazies. Kids usually stay home since the game starts late, so if you're there, you're serious about being there. The fact that it was in the 30's last night and raining meant only die hards (or those like me who felt they couldn't bail on their buddies) made it out. Tons of Philly fans made the trek since they are only a 90 minute drive away. They have the reputation for being the rowdiest fans in the league. One year, they were caught on TV throwing snowballs at Santa at halftime!!! And in the old Veterens' stadium, there used to be a jail in the basement out of necessity. Unreal, right?

Most times though, it's all about fun. There was a lot of good natured talking in the stands and given that the game was close with a few lead changes, a lot to talk back and forth about. While I was having fun watching the game, I became particuarly focused on a Dad and his two sons a few rows below us. The boys couldn't have been older than 10. Dressed in their Giants jerseys, it was cool to see that the three of them were excited to be on a Dudes' Night Out up way past their bedtime on a school night (the game didn't end until almost midnight). What a great thing for those boys and their dad. It made me wonder what type of events Miss M and I will share when she's older. Not sure football will be her thing, but hey, you never know.

As the game went on and remained close, the beers in the stands continued to flow, things started getting a bit rowdy. Fans yelling back and forth in fun turned a bit more serious, a girl behind us drank too much and got sick everywhere (so gross), and the Eagles and Giants fans began throwing things at eachother, namely, their beers. Stupid right? Eight bucks a beer and you throw it at someone. Total waste if you ask me. As it got worse, I started feeling sorry for the guy with his kids: with the amount of F-bombs flying, as well as cups of beer, it was easy to see he was getting uncomfortable. A couple times he looked back as if to say "come on guys, I'm with my kids here." To no avail though not long inot the third quarter, a Philly fan stood up to celebrate a play and a Giants fan hit him with a beer from several rows away. Problem for the Dad and his boys...they were caught in between. The Philly guy and his buddies immediately started making a b-line for the Giants guys, a fight broke out and security had to be called. Of course, this made more beers fly. Crazy.

I'm no prude by any stretch but as I'm watching this I'm thinking, how do you shield your kids from this kind of thing? It got cleaned up and some of the fans got tossed out, but you could tell that Dad was rightfully pissed and the boys, while in total awe of what was going on, were a little scared. What could have been a tremendous game to watch turned out to most likely be a civility lesson for the boys instead. Early in the fourth quarter they ended up leaving early as things began to get rowdy again, missing a down to the wire finish. I felt really bad for the guy.

There are always going to be A-holes around, but most of these people around us last night probably had their own kids as well. How do you act like that and then go home to you children and tell them to behave? Maybe I'm too preachy, maybe it's that I'm over protective with my little girl, but I just wonder, what kind of example do we set for our kids (or other people's kids) with behavior like that. Look, not a huge deal and those boys have some stories to tell at school today that will make them the most popular kids in class, but if they were my boys, I'd much rather they talk about a game where there were 5 touchdowns of over 60+ yards and a ton of points than a puking drunk lady, several fights, and obnoxious grown ups throwing beers at eachother all night.

Get a grip people, the economy sucks, the world is in chaos, we need healthcare reform...this is just a football game! Maybe I'll take my kids to watch a golf tournament. Nothing controversial happens there, right???? Well, maybe not...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On the Band Wagon

What the hell. Everyone else is talking about it, and I've answered enough blogs about it, so why not join the party? Tiger, like it or not, has awakened the world to the topic of marriage infidelity. Is he guilty? Obviously. Was he wrong for doing what he did? That remains unclear.

For me, infidelity in a marriage is unforgivable. I have first hand experience at this as my Ex had an affair with a married man. That affair continues to this day and to my knowledge the married man's wife does not know. She may though. I know who they are and while we don't run in the same social circle, we're only one step removed. Ex refuses to admit her infidelity during our marriage but it has been confirmed to me by two of her friends who were disgusted with her behavior and thought I should know. Should I do the same for this woman? I'm honestly not sure. For now, I choose to stay in my world where most likely I belong.

Here's the thing...in my marriage, infidelity by me or by Ex was wrong because we decided together that it was so. We discussed it and while she did grow up in France where such indiscretions are many times overlooked, we talked about it at length both prior to marriage and during and both agreed that it was off limits. Period. No concept of open marriage, no "just once is okay." Never, not once, completely unforgivable. Our reasoning for this was simple: if I respect my spouse as my life partner and best friend, crossing that line destroys every bit of trust and respect that had been built. My personal reasoning is that I wouldn't be able to do it and live with mysefl and therefore expect that same from my partner. She knew this, did it anyway, and thus, end of story and marriage. For those of you who are wondering, I can't answer the question of if it was only once would I have forgiven it because that's not the way it happened. It was over the course of several months and has continued almost two years later.

With Tiger, we don't know what kinds of boundaries were decided in his marriage. In my eyes using my morals and values, he's an A-hole and she should take him for everything he's worth. Thing is, my morals and values matter squat in this case. It is highly possible that they had an open marriage, even if it was just only Tiger who was allowed to "cheat." We'll never know.

What I can say definitively is that the carelessness with which he did what he did is astounding to me. How was this not revealed sooner? People on the Tour had to know, which implies that this is a widespread thing that is simply accepted. People with that kind of money and power many times have different standards for their behavior. I don't agree with this, but maybe that's why I'm not one of them. :)

I'm no "hitter" by any stretch, but I do work in investment banking in New York: home to the biggest (many times underserving) egos on the planet. I can tell you that I know if several (not a ton but several) instances where the husband cheats and the wife goes along because of the bankroll. Makes me want to puke and while I can't avoid doing business with many of these guys, my motto has always been "if he can't be trusted not to cheat on his wife, he can't be trusted in a business deal either." I tell this to the guys who work for me as well. Doesn't mean I don't do deals with these guys; I have to. I make sure, however, to take everything they say with a grain of salt, compromise very little and smile the whole way while I'm trying to take his shirt (without being dishonest).

My point is this: Tiger is not the only one to do this nor will he be that last. The sad thing is that he has tarnished his legacy, put a blight on the golf and the institution of marriage, and disappointed millions who wanted to believe he was a stand up family man who had his priorities straight. Whether or not he violated the vows of his marriage, however, is beteween Elin and him. No one else. Personally, I'll most likely never be able to root for the guy again. Not because he made a mistake, but because of the seeming entitlement with which he did it. The Ego is a funny thing: it can drive people to huge success and if not well managed, can drive them even faster into ruin.

For their kids' sake, I hope Tiger and Elin manage this well. They are the most unfortunate victims of this whole mess.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Verdict...

I hate to say it, but the verdict on Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" is a big thumbs down. Nevermind the racial stereotypes that are all over the place (white people are wealthy and run society, black people are stuck serving the white aristocracy, black people are less educated than white people, etc.), the movie was downright scary for any kid under that age of 10 or 12. Voodoo, ghosts, demons from hell (literally!), monsters trying to eat the main characters every other minute...the theater was filled with crying kids. After I got Miss M to calm down from the first scare, a second one came no less than 5 minutes later and she started crying "I want go home!" Poor baby. That was all I needed to hear. We left half way through. Luckily she's pretty resilient and we were close to Rockefeller Center so we went to see the big Christmas tree while we waited for the second part of the show to open: The Princess Ball.

This part was SO MUCH fun for her. Disney rented the Roseland Ballroom (around the corner from the theater) and had every princess Disney has ever created there in person for the kids to meet and get their pictures with. She was in AWE and her little mouth was wide open as she met Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and the gang. Was very cool and we got lost of pics.

Daddy had to get in on the action as well. Some of those princesses were pretty damn cute! I'm proud to say that the cutest one in my opinion looked nothing like Barbie as I've discussed in a previous post. Pocahontas won the Hot Princess Award and it was for more than her loin cloth. Beautiful long black hair, olive skin, brown eyes...everything Barbie is not. Who knows folks, maybe I'm growing! :) I didn't ask her for the number to her teepee though. Still seeing Hot Girl so kept my admiration to myself.

After that we jumped in a cab and went to see Santa at Macy's. Again, mouth open, total awe. Being three, she "gets" Christmas now...at least, that she's going to "get" on Christmas. Every morning she wakes up and runs to the tree looking for presents! Funny.

Overall, we had a terrific week and a half together. She's really taken with my family which I'm so happy about. Her mother's family is such a mess and mostly overseas. Having my family show her how families love and support eachother is important to me. It's one of the reasons I decided to divorce her mother: I didn't want Miss M to think that what was going on in our house was how things are supposed to be.

She talked about family all week and has been asking a ton of questions. It did bring up the "why aren't Mommy and Daddy together" subject. Not directly, but at drop off at her mother's she said "Daddy stay here!" and did the same last night when her mother dropped her off. Makes me sad but I guess that's the choice we've made. Lesser of two evils for sure.

It's nice to be back in the Blogworld. Ma and Pa Big City Dad have such an old computer that it was impossible for me to post or even read emails. I'm looking forward to seeing what my cyber friends have been up to.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back Home

So, we're back from my folks. Like I thought, their 1972 computer was so slow that it was impossible for me to post or read any blogs. Was nice to have a break though.

We had a great time playing spending time with family. It makes me sad sometimes that Miss M won't grow up seeing my parents or my sister and her kids regularly. It's so much fun watching them all together and it's really obvious now the Miss M understands the difference between family and "other people." She was so comfortable with her grandparents and is completely enamored with her older cousins. They were so good with her as well. She was in awe watching my oldest nephew skateboard on the halfpipe in his driveway. Got some fantastic video of it too.

Miss M was with me the whole time and will be through the end of the week. We got tickets to the premiere of The Princess and the Frog. One of the perks of living in NYC I guess. We're seeing it tomorrow morning followed by a real live Princess Ball. Miss M is SO excited. Daddy too. I'll post a review of the movie tomorrow night.

For now, Daddy is tired. Off to bed. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.