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Our household’s been hit

…Ugh, with this stupid virus, sickness, whatever you want to call it. Blame the kids. Blame day care. Blame New England for forcing us all inside in stuffy little homes that were built centuries ago. Blame Al Gore. Blame Obama. Blame Trump. Ugh, we’re all miserable.

Son has a fever and wants to be held; Daughter is jealous of her brother and acts wild to get my attention; Dog — she’s not even sick! — got into leftovers I didn’t even know we had; And there are no days off for parents. Mom is at work. Dad is at home, stuffed up, achy. I’m a bit of a baby. I could use a shower, but I’m terrified that a shower will wake one of them up. I need this silence.

That’s about all I got right now. Invoices sent out. Deadlines approaching end of the week. I feel like I did a great job of getting invoices out this year, but December is about administrative stuff: invoices, billing, receipts. It was a good year. Not a very good year, but a good year: Atlantic, Smithsonian, Slate…

Room to improve, as always. Upwards. Maybe a book in 2017? I hope so.

Sorry everyone. That’s all I got today.

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Picking them up; Putting them down

My daughter, two years old, has always been on the smaller side. In her first two years, she consistently ranked amongst the lower percentages of children her age with regard to height and weight. We’re talking >5%. We took some pride in this when she began crawling and moving around earlier than many of her peers, and showing a fearlessness. She was climbing up steps around 7-months. She was walking before she turned one. She’d throw herself from the window seat onto our couch.

And so many of these things remain true. Still small, still fearless.

I learned the other day, though, that she’s getting older. She makes us laugh on a daily basis.

“Get your booty over here,” she said playfully to me, coaxing me into the adjacent room for a “check up.”

“I not like the boys in my class,” she said, to my delight, preferring her friends Zoey and McKayla, the latter whom she refers to as “Ms. Kayla.”

She recited Humpty Dumpty from memory.

It was bed time and we did our daily reading. That night’s choice was, “If You Decide to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!” She loves it. She loves to emphasize the, “Don’t!” We said our goodnights. Hug and a kiss for Gabby the dog first. A hug and kiss for her little brother, who was eating with mom; A hug and a kiss for mom.

“I want to go to bed by myself, Daddy,” she tells me.

“Okay,” I reply as she walks off into some abstract independence.

I followed her up the stairs, down the hallway, and into her pink and purple bedroom. She climbed the crib bars and propelled herself into bed. She laid herself onto her pillow and pulled her covers up to her chin.

“Goodnight, I love you,” she says. I kissed my hand and put it onto her forehead.

“I love you too. See you in the morning.”

“See you in the morning [two syllables at a time: see-you (pause) in-the (pause) mor-ning], Daddy.”

There will be a day when I put her down and never pick her up again. She’ll be too big, too old to need her dad’s help down some set of stairs or across a parking lot; She won’t need my assistance to reach the countertop to smell a pot of simmering marinara. This realization happens with all parents. We never know when we’ll put our child down for the very last time because they simply don’t need our help anymore.

It’s not a mournful piece, as such it sounds. It’s a reflection upon the passage of time. There’s no reason to think otherwise, but I find myself hoping I’ll be there for all the major events of my children’s life, like my parents were for mine. Having kids has made me reflect on these selfish desires more than I ever thought that I would.

Being home all day long makes it easy to wallow in many different depths of despair, particularly if work is slow or the weather is bad or it’s just one of those days. It’s easy to worry about the future with regard to our kids (especially when the President-elect doesn’t believe in things like climate change). But, in the midst of it all, I am constantly reminded of how good life is: when my son smiles and charges toward me; when my daughter strings together a hilarious combination of phrases. And most of all, when I put them to bed, snugly wrapped in a blanket “burrito,” knowing that they still need me sometimes. Even if it’s just once a day.

 

Apropos of Nada

On the Barstool Sports network of podcasts, there is a podcast called The Podfather, which is three of their staff writers, who have children discussing what I think to be an under-represented form of media: fatherhood.

Don’t get me wrong. Dads get their say. Plenty of fathers have written, blogged, been recorded talking about being a dad. Today’s society demands it. It’s a good thing. Yet, it’s still under-represented. We ceded that neighborhood of media to the women and rightfully so. Our lives as fathers are changed, but not nearly as close to how the lives of the women we love are changed.

That said, on the podcast, they were talking about the nine and a half months of pregnancy. They hit the usual topics: no drinking, what to say/not to say, no caffeine, etc. They didn’t talk about one part, though, which my wife and I were discussing the other day without prompting from the podcast.

The BEST part of the nine months of pregnancy, at least for the first child, is the complete ability to do nothing at all. My wife sat on the couch and watched Netflix for months and it was awesome. We had a complete excuse to sit around and do nothing. We didn’t have to fulfill social obligations; We didn’t have to call people back; We didn’t have to feel bad when that Netflix screen pops up and asks if we’re still watching and then four hours later asks again. It was incredible!

That changes when number two comes around. Child number one doesn’t stop being a child to acquiesce to our decision to have another kid. We can’t sit around eating popcorn, making fake drinks for wifey, real drinks for me and hanging out. The child wants to keep playing, getting into cabinets, needing to be fed. It’s horrible. Completely changes the dynamic.

After the first kid, you’re like, “Hell yea, I can do that again.” Then you do it again and think, “What the F was I thinking? This is NOTHING like the last time. Where are the chips? Where is the sleeping in? Where is the AppleTV remote?”

Oh, and they’re not kidding about the sleeping. Don’t expect to ever wake up after 7 am ever again. Ever. Again.

I was never a headline writer

Let’s first acknowledge my dedication to the lunch time posts because I’m doing some brainstorming for a much more important story right now in Pages. Mark Twain, I think it was, said you gotta eat the ugly frog first, or something along those lines. What he meant was that the day was filled with tasks small and large, unimportant and important, and that you should always complete the most important tasks — the uglier frog — first. Alas, here I am.

I remember being in college (kind of) and being in the offices of the school newspaper and having the advisor say to me, “Try to give your article a headline” and being totally stumped. I’m the type of person who writes “whats up” as the title of an e-mail. I’m terrible at naming articles because I’m always inclined to write something pun-ny and awful. So coming up with titles for these posts is excruciating, even when I know what I want to write about.

I thought about going with the old “Lunch Time Thoughts: (and then the date)” but that’s boring. Here is what’s on my mind this afternoon:

  • My MacBook Pro (purchased in 2011) has been awful w/r/t battery life. In the course of this writing, it went from 19% to 10%. There’s no way I’m finishing this blog post before it runs out. Does anyone know why?
  • My son is ridiculous. I took him today to get his sixth month shots. He’s constantly smiling. He loves everyone and has a great personality. Then you take him to get needles stuck in his legs and he cries. It’s awful. Right? Oh wait. He doesn’t cry? He just quivers for a second and then wants to stand and smile again? I’m 34 and if I get a shot, I’m down for the count. I’m sore and cranky. Not Jack. He’s the man.
  • How much of Carolina’s Super Bowl run was a product of a shitty schedule? I’d say a good percentage of it. They’re awful. Cam Newton seems human. They can’t beat anyone. The argument was that they beat a couple teams in the playoffs, but look at who they beat: Seattle in one of their worst games (and they almost came back to win) and Arizona who seemed to peak the week prior. I never bought into the hype and I’m now sure I was right.
  • Dak Prescott is 5-1 and just beat Green Bay at Lambeau. There’s a bye week and then Romo could be ready to return. However, I feel like this much is true: There’s no QB controversy in Dallas. Prescott has to be their guy.
  • I’m not a baseball guy, but at least one friend and my wife always gives me shit come October when I suddenly care. Playoff baseball is great because the pitching is what drives a championship run. I don’t care about watching a three-game series in July when each team scores eight runs a night. I care about 2-1 games when each team has a combined seven hits. That’s baseball to me. That’s the type of game I want to watch, regardless of sport: a game played at the highest level and the stars step up like Kershaw did last night.
  • That said, I get why they’re putting the ALCS and NLCS on TBS and FS1, respectively. No wait, I don’t. Are that many people bummed about missing The Simpsons or re-runs of Burn Notice for a couple weeks in October? Jesus Christ, you can’t put these games on basic cable? I’m poor. I don’t have more than basic cable. I have to rely on unreliable streaming services. There are so many great, singular performances in playoff baseball that people like me miss out on because there’s a bottom line to be met. It sucks.
  • Ha! Made it. 5% battery life left. Back to the ugly frog.

Thinking about Mother Goose

I’m not totally sure that I grew up correctly. Sure, I was given adequate freedom, I love loved, and I was fed. We went on vacations and my brothers and I all became relatively well-thought of members of our own communities. That’s not what I mean.

I take our daughter and son to a lot of activities, some of which take place at the library. During such stints in circles of moms who dote over their own kids and take up too much space of their own, we sing songs and recite nursery rhymes.

(Side note really quickly: If you’re a mom who set her shit down, double wide, and parks yourself down on the carpet at these things, never moving aside even a smidge for someone else, f*** you. When I go to these things, I’m going with a diaper bag and two kid, one of whom is mobile, the other stationary in a car seat. We take up as little room as possible and then we scoot aside for people as they come in. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a dad no one moves for me, but it’s bullshit. There are some wonderful, caring, and thoughtful moms out there, but there are an awful lot of selfish moms who are assholes and their kids are going to grow up to be assholes too. These moms are rude and terrible people who don’t hold doors and don’t say “thank you” or “excuse me” because “ohmygod i’m a mom and my hands are so full.” No one’s hands are too full to be considerate; no one is too overwhelmed to acknowledge someone doing something helpful. The end.)

We do these nursery rhymes by Mother Goose and I know NONE of them. Holy shit what are these rhymes. Secondly, they’re really outdated and stupid. Why do we teach them? There are many ways to teach language and cadence and rhymes. Think about it:

“The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker …” What the FUCK is a candlestick maker?

“All the kings horses, all the kings men …” Our kids don’t know kings and their men. What year were these things written, 1845? This isn’t the Constitution. We can change things. (Yes, that’s a dig on people who think we should still strictly adhere to a 250 year old document)

“Tuffet … eating curds and whey?” What is a tuffet? I don’t even know what curds and whey are. What a stupid fucking nursery rhyme.

“Jack and Jill went up this hill to fetch a pale of water …” Who goes up a hill to get water? Who uses a bucket? Use the hose. Doesn’t your refrigerator have a water faucet? Jesus these things are dumb.

There’s gotta be a better way to do this, right? We can’t update rhymes to reflect our society? Drives me nuts.

A parenting win

It was my wife’s birthday this weekend. In lieu of gifts, we’ve always decided that going out to dinner was a better option. “Let’s go somewhere that will be a little more lavish than we’re used to,” we seemed to tacitly agree. That’s what we’ve been doing. We get dressed up. We spend a little more. Gifts are great, but an evening with the two of us together eating great food and (perhaps) overindulging on wine is much better.

Now that we have two kids, my wife wanted to spend her birthday with the entire family. This means she wanted them to come along. I sure would have said, “screw them” and never given it a second thought, but my wife is nicer than I am. We delayed our own birthday celebration so that she could spend the night with her kids and husband. She’s nuts.

Going out is a risky proposition with two kids, ages two and six months. There’s a 75% chance that one — or both — will cause some kind of a row at a restaurant. She’ll want to sit on someone’s lap. He’ll cry or need to be fed. She’ll want to run around the restaurant; Neither will eat. There’s a very slim chance to get two kids to relax and just eat some food.

As parents, we literally don’t even care if we taste the food we order for ourselves. We don’t care if we say one thing to each other. We can just glance in each other’s directions and nod appreciatively. That’s it. Just make us look like we know what we’re doing here. Hint: We don’t. No clue. Every day is another 24 hours of survival. But the kids don’t know this. Not yet, at least.

We went for Japanese. We gave the two year old a sushi order sheet to draw on. The six month old just sat in his car seat. We ordered. My wife and daughter split a Shirley Temple.  I drank alone. Our son wanted to sit with me as I ate sushi. The girls split some pad thai.

We looked at each other nervously, but never said a word. You know how when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, you’re not allowed to talk about it in case you jinx it? It was like that.

45 minutes later, it was over. No tears or tantrums. We won. We couldn’t sign the bill fast enough. We may not earn many victories. Some days pass without any at all. We don’t do birthday gifts (though the kids “bought” her a cake). Maybe a dinner, if we were forced to include them, where everyone got along was gift enough.

Happy 6 Months, Jack; Read & Drink

First off, my baby boy celebrated six months yesterday. Not much in way of a celebration. For our daughter, we had these stickers that you placed on a white onesie that said the month. We diligently took series of photographs for her; Not for him, however. Apparently that happens to your second child. Alas ..

Jack looks like me, but acts like his mom. He’s always smiling and he’s never in a bad mood, unless he needs to eat, of course. He’s flying around the house, picking up stray dog hairs and dirt from the various shoes that traverse are hardwood floors. It was easy to clear the way of obstacles for Avery when she was that age because it was just us playing two-on-one. A nice zone defense. Now that it’s evened out, we’re typically outmatched and outwitted.

Six months sure does fly by especially when it coincides with the warmer months. We can’t wait to see who you turn out to be, our little buddy. We’ve got so much growing and so much fun ahead of us. We already miss the days of your immobility, of the days when you’d casually fall asleep in someone’s arms or in a rocker. Now? Your on the go at all time. You nap just once a day. You wake up a dozen times a night some times. Sometimes not at all. You’re a wild card. But you’re always smiling. And we love you.

***

The way I’m going to day Fridays is going to be an idea that I simultaneously jacked from Peter King and a beer website I like called Good Beer Hunting. In essence, it’s this: I’m going to recommend something to read and something to drink. I’m not much of a television-watcher, nor are movies really something I’m into, so I have no grasp of what to recommend. Though, I suppose I will occasionally suggest a show. Mostly, though, I’ll share something I’ve read in the past week and something I drank in the past week that I think are worthy of your consideration.

Read: “The First Family in Focus” by Michael Fletcher 

Few long-form series have been better than The Undefeated’s Fletcher’s on the Obama legacy as his second term comes to a close. I think what inspired a generation about our current president is how human he seemed to us, how flawed, and how he seemed to occupy the same world we do. He wasn’t above us the way some presidents seemed, those who grew up rich and attended private schools. I’ve been really pleased a writer of Fletcher’s caliber is putting this man’s challenges, successes, and family in focus.

Drink: Modern Times Fortunate Islands

Fortunate Island is labelled as a hoppy wheat ale, which does it a disservice in a craft beer culture that values high-ABV juicy, fruit-forward IPA’s and double IPA’s. Modern Times is a San Diego brewery that may be my favorite brewery right now. Everything they do — from an amber to a coffee stout — are top-notch. Fortunate Island drinks softly, a delicate and low ABV beer with tropical fruit up front and no lingering bitterness at the end. Find it. Drink it.