Monday, December 8, 2008

I've moved

All future posts will go on my new domain www.jeffwenker.com.

jeffreyleonard was just an alias, a nom du plume, what my mom called me when I was in trouble.

Said, with lips pursed against teeth, as I now speak when irked by kid, usually with a raised finger and a stern look, "Jeffrey Leonard!"

I'm 41. She may have more opportunities.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Spoonful of Sugar...

I speak metaphorically...in the Mary Poppins sense.

What I'm really talking about is cash.

Well, credit.

The getting ready in the AM, teeth brushed, breakfast eaten, clothes on, and out the door in time to make the bus every day was proving darn near impossible. Lots of screaming, and threats of physical violence and "consequences" such as the rescinding of "privileges".

All to no avail.

There were still occasions when we had to drive to school, throwing the finely-tuned morning schedule into turmoil.

Remembering my mother's axiom that you catch more flies with sugar than vinegar, and knowing well my 7-year-old's greed and competitive spirit (he's the only kid who could turn the watching of Tom and Jerry into a competition sport); I made the process into a game.

December 19th begins the Holiday Break, there were 15 school days left until then. I told him if he could make the bus 8 times he'd get $5, 10 times $10, 12 times $15 dollars, and all 15 times $20.

He's 5 for 5.

We keep track on a scorecard.

My wife thinks I'm bribing him.

She sleeps in.

NPR Marketplace Money update

Well, the NPR Marketplace Money piece aired, I had a brief moment at the end of the story. The whole thing is here:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/12/05/underemployed/

This is the entirety of my bit:

Then there are those left out of the official underemployment figures because they're working for themselves. Like Jeff Wenker. He was laid off from his PR job in Seattle two months ago and is now self-employed, getting small jobs here and there. And that's on top of his other responsibilities.

Jeff Wenker: If you're underemployed and you're looking for full-time employment, you are always working. You're working to find a job, you're working to take care of the kids...

Wenker says as time goes on he's willing to take any full-time job just to get the benefits. But until he lands that opportunity, he's trying to look on the bright side of underemployment and indulge his creative dreams. He says he's sleeping just four and half hours a night so he can write a series of blogs and a screenplay.

I'm Rachel Dornhelm for Marketplace Money.


Yeah, I'd return punts naked for the Seahawks if they'd give me benefits.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Ranks of Stay-at-Home Dads Grows

This isn't a good sign:
Unemployment rises to 6.3 percent, inching toward dot-com bust era
John Cook:
http://tinyurl.com/5dkgfz

It does mean that there will be many more Stay-at-Home Dads, which means more people should be coming to this site for tips, links to resources, and other helpful posts.

I am like the posterboy for the under-employed, having spent nearly half of my adult career not in a traditional job. I also have many years of experience caring for kids, and living on the cheap. (I've been published in Cheapskates Monthly [and I never paid for a subscription]).

When I was freelancing in San Francisco I finagled an apartment in the Marina District (well, East Cow Hollow) for $400, and I had a parking spot. The place was a dive, we called it the Chateau du Fromage, but I had roommates (who worked [Nic "Buys-the-Beer" Howell being the most generous]) and was fresh out of college where any domicile free from gnats circling puddles of beer was a step up.

In short, I know from whence I speak and hope y'all will come back again and again with comments, suggestions and other helpful tips for those of us in the under-employed boat.

Not to mix metaphors, but a quote from Dory in "Finding Nemo" frequently runs through my head: "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...'

Try it.

It's my favorite mantra.

NPR's Marketplace Money, personal PR

I was interviewed for Marketplace Money which will air this weekend (1:00 PM Sunday on KUOW).

It was very fun, went into KUOW's studio, put on headphones, spoke into a big mic and talked about using time not employed by someone else to explore your creative side, do the things you love, spend time with family, and work on finding the right job.

Who knows what they'll use, but hopefully they'll mention this Stay-at-Home Dad Survival Guide.

It might go on their website.

Local air times are here: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/stations/index.php

Audio file will be posted here:
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/episodes/show_rundown.php?show_id=8

Please listen and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prunes

I'm a regular guy.

That doesn't happen by accident (see oatmeal below).

For years people have mocked me for eating prunes, but they rank up there with bananas, oatmeal, and pork in the pantheon of perfect foods.

Buy them, eat them, teach your kids to eat them. Nature's candy. Kids on refined sugar are a nightmare.

This post brought to you by Sun-Maid, my preferred provider of Dried Pitted Plums http://www.sun-maid.com/en/products/products_apricots.html#plums_1

I just can't get started in the morning without a piping-hot pot of coffee and a handful of prunes. I've tried other enemas they just don't seem to work.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tip 5: Breakfasting

The most important meal of the day, yet also the most difficult to execute with the clock ticking.

WARNING: This is the beginning of the shameless marketing portion of the program, look for links to products I endorse.

1. Oatmeal. Not just any oatmeal, Quaker Old Fashioned Original http://tinyurl.com/5nktwq
Five minutes versus one...really, does it make such a difference. True, time is of the essence, so in the race to get ready, oatmeal is like the starting gun. Boil water, insert oatmeal (you'll get the portioning down with practice, hint use more water, when the oatmeal sits and softens it will get too thick otherwise).

The flavored instant stuff is a luxury you don't require (buy brown sugar http://www.chsugar.com/, you know...Pure cane sugar...from Hawaii...growin' in the Sun...C&H pure cane sugar...it's the one...) At the bare minimum cooking oatmeal gives you plausible deniability when the wife asks "did you make them breakfast?" You did, did they eat it, well...some things are best left unsaid. (If left uneaten, eat the stuff yourself, it's the right thing to do and the tasty way to do it [God bless Wilford Brimley http://tinyurl.com/5eekxr]).

2. Agree upon a weekly menu. It sounds like I'm pampering the kid, but it helps to have their buy off on what they'll eat before I lay a bowl of oatmeal in front of them. Saves some frustration in the morning, although there always exists the risk of the fickle addled brains of your splendid youth changing his/her mind(s) by Friday. Review menu as needed and stock fridge accordingly. (See Upcoming Tip "fulfill promises").

3. Make Nothing for Yourself. Trust me there are always leftovers and you can survive (indeed, grow large) eating only what's left on your kid(s[']) plates. This takes a strong stomach and the essential component of parenting, loss of self. You are no longer the 20-something happy-go-lucky man-about-town. You are a father, and that means, every once in a while you'll be eating regurgitated oatmeal. Consider yourself like the mommy bird who eats the worm, returns to the nest and then expels the food from her stomach into her chick's mouth. It's like that, but in reverse.

Tip 4: Listen

Newsflash, our children learn from us. This is why we are so disappointed when they go to jail for inciting riots,or feel pride, as the case may be.

They are a reflection of us and as such not only share our genes, they follow our examples. "Do as I say not as I do" doesn't fly. So, if you want your kids to listen to you, you have to listen to them. Don't sit there at the computer typing some silly blog or Facebook status when the guy is in the kitchen asking for more juice. If you ignore him, he'll just learn to ignore you.

Now, gotta go, as frycook, waitress, busboy I don't have many moments to spare before 7 am, the bus, the bus, we're gonna be late for the bus!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Which Ones Are Cedars? - Chapter 1 of a novel I wrote while my oldest boy slept (and at other odd hours). Avoid reading it and crap like it

The first time I was a Stay-at-Home Dad and had more time on my hands, I started writing crap. At first it was just observations I thought were funny, then I got bored and turned it into a novel, a political thriller centered around the secession of The Western States of America. I've adapted the idea since and am publishing it here: http://rantdigseek.blogspot.com/.

Parenting and Revolution should not mix, but sometimes they do anyway...


The crappy first version is going here: http://themoonshakes.blogspot.com/

The lesson: Don't get distracted by crap. If you're ignoring the kid, sitting at the computer reading political blog crap or writing crap, the kid will start thinking the computer is more important to you than he is.

He will not like this and will act out in various ways to get your attention. This is not good, it is the beginning of his education in manipulating you. It will never end, you cannot stop it, all you can hope to do is contain it.

So, don't read my old crap. I'm gonna post it anyway cuz it helps me see how I can improve my writing and/or parenting. That was 2002-2005. This is 2008. I'm a different person, the world is a different place.

Kids...still kids...

Pay attention to them.

Think about what you want to read, write, do while you're engaged with the kid, then use your time wisely when they sleep or are being cared for by someone else.

In the long run you'll be more productive and the kid will be happier, better behaved. This, of course, is hopeful, if not downright wishful thinking, but at least you won't have a three-year old hitting the delete button while you spout nonsense.

Did I mention kids are wicked smart?

Through the Night (a poem)

Toddler awoken at 1:15

not unheard, not unseen

back to bed, close the door

a visit again at quarter to four

kicked in the back, sleep off track

remove his toe from my ass crack

this phase must stop, and soon I hope

exhausted, unrested, the end of my rope

reached beseeched cogency leeched

my mind's fertile soil

nocturnal interruptions roil

peaceful nights he does spoil

staggering off, my daily toil

hazy crazy mental mazy

this quest for rest I do my best

not much you can do

when your tormentor's two

seemless sleep, my daily dream

my kid it seems ain't on my team

Tip 3: Foster, Nourish and Cherish The Nap

Nothing is better than a good sleep. As parents of young children no one knows this better than you. It is vitally important to get the kid to go down during the day, at the same time every day, in the same way every day. I cannot stress enough how important routine is to the little buggers.

With the first one I would try to go out in the morning, a park, a playgroup, the library, anywhere different that would stimulate his senses and tire him out. Then I'd come home, make lunch and give him an hour of TV. Quesadillas, Dora the Explorer and by the closing credits of Blue's Clues I had the boy in my arms, stuffed lamb in his, and the crib waiting invitingly.

The post-meal food coma happens to them, too. Do this. The more they sleep the better, for them and for you. I'd try to take advantage of that time to write, look for a job or get some exercise (in the house [see reference to Child Welfare Services above] no mountain biking during nap-time). They will be better behaved, more cogent, and easier to get down at bedtime if they have a consistent sleep schedule. This ain't rocket surgery, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to slip up and give them some sugar or a Red Bull or simply lose track of time and miss the window. When they get out of rhythm they will be on their way to eschewing the siesta altogether, and that is a sad, sad day indeed.

Oh, and buy a pair of velvet slippers. Practice tip-toe-ing. Pretend you're hunting rabbit.

You're Alone at Home with the Kid(s) - egads!

OK, so I'm gonna try to make this easy for you guys as well as provide some insights for the working mom. This concept isn't new (see Michael Keaton in "Mr. Mom" - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085970/), but that doesn't mean it's any easier. Vacuum cleaners still attack treasured playthings, washing machines still explode, and gas-powered gardening tools are occasionally the best way to clean house.

Tip 1: Don't Panic
Children can smell fear.
This is one of the many reasons tigers eat their young. Remember (this is very important) do not, I repeat do NOT eat your offspring. Yours is not the House of Atreus (I hope. http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/myths/tp/080707Cannibalism.htm), and, regardless of the infraction physical violence is not the answer. Go to the Child Welfare Services website http://www.hwcws.cahwnet.gov/, it will provide you some good guidelines on what is appropriate (quick takeaway: waterboarding, prolonged stress positions, definite no-no's; sensory deprivation...the jury's still out, consider it case by case).

Yelling, screaming, or otherwise losing one's cool signifies weakness, and the average child will pounce on such opportunities. Trust me these little monsters are smart, they know what they're doing. We can try to stay one step ahead of them, but remember: this is ALL they do. They are kids full-time, they don't have to make dinner or pay the bills or wipe their own sphincters. You are responsible for all of that and more, so think, think, think. Otherwise you'll be playing checkers in a chess match and just when you say king me the little bugger's gonna say checkmate and you'll be left wiping yogurt off the ceiling.

This leads me to Tip 2: Find a Job
You do not want to do this for any extended period of time. They will eat your dreams. Your dreams may be the only thing you don't have to force down their finicky throats. Take every opportunity to network, talk to other people, anyone. Do not be afraid to tell people you're a house-husband, the stigma is gone. Women understand how hard it is and will respect you for it. Men will pity you and help in any way they can.

It takes a Village Idiot, ahem, I mean this in the good way. While I just finished saying kids are smart, I must add this caveat, kids are stupid. They are stupid in the ways of societal norms. They do not understand you cannot point at the woman in line in front of you at the supermarket and say, "Look daddy, that woman's boobies are bigger than mommy's!" (Look for my upcoming companion piece, How to Hit on MILFs: A step-by-step guide to making yourself a DILF).

All this adds up to one important goal, get out of the house. By that I mean, go to the park, the zoo, anywhere that will stimulate their senses and tire them out. But, I also mean get a job - fast! Taking care of children is the hardest job in the world. You cannot quit. You will always be their father, so work hard to train them now, or, better yet, find someone who is more qualified than you to do it so you can go back to an office, attend boring meetings, surf the 'net, and falsify status reports like the modern American was meant to do.

Tips 3, 4, 5, etc...will have to wait as my youngest is screaming "dinosaur coming to eat you" and pounding on my office door. More later.