Monday, January 8, 2018

The Dark Months

The holidays are over.  It only seems like life is over.

There is a solid three month period where holidays of various degrees are hitting you one-two-three style.  You have Halloween, which takes some of the sting out of the cooling temperatures and the disappearance of summer.  You have Thanksgiving, with rare foods and the promise of Christmas. 

Then you have a month of prepping and joy for Christmas.  You are so busy, you hardly notice how cold it has gotten.  And this year it got pretty darn cold.  And then Christmas itself.  My wife and I take a week off between Christmas and New Years, so we have that. 

Its a period so full of life.  And then the aforementioned NYE - when the cold decided to take it up a notch.

With triplets, its a little like being shot out of a cannon and taking three months to land.

But when you land, you land firmly in what I call the Dark Months.

There are no more holidays.  Yes, I realize MLK and Presidents Day are in January and February, and yes, I know some people get those days off.  But those aren't holidays in the same way the above mentioned ones are.

Further, its cold now.  And dark. While the days are a hair longer than just before Christmas, its still dark by dinner.  And have I mentioned its cold.  Like 19 as a high cold right now.  So, even if you could hypothetically go outside, you don't want to.  Even a trip out on the weekend doesn't seem so nice when it requires risking hypothermia.

So, lets tick off where we are:
1) its dark, like, all the time
2) its cold, and when it isn't, its just really cold
3) there is literally nothing going on

That is a recipe for bleh.  And bleh we have.  For, oh, three months until things start to warm up and you can  come out from under the rock where you have been residing and go outside.

This is all made worse when you have kids. The kids can't go out.  Not for long periods in this cold.  And they pretty much can't go out at all at night, given the, you know, darkness.  So its all inside.  And it shows.

The kids are antsy and constantly in the business of the other ones.  Conflict is increased.  Its a little like a radioactive isotope being kept in a very small box.  The particles being thrown off are going to collide and explode, its just a matter of when.

And as a result, January - March are probably my worst months as a Dad.  I'm locked inside.  I work from home, I'm home most evenings, I'm home most weekends.  It isn't until March when we can get out and play outdoors, stretch our legs a little, and get in a bike ride or walk.

So, as these next few Dark Months pass, keep me and my miserable self in your thoughts until life can return.

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Really Should...

... write an ode to Yunnan jig tea. It's great, honestly.  Smooth and delightful with just the right amount of punchy flavor.  Not coffee, but nicely caffeinated.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, find some loose leaf Yunnan jig and brew away.  May I suggest something from

... creatively write more.  I have a few story ideas.  At least 3, including the one I've already written and desperately need to edit and round out.  But its such a ... chore.  I really like reading, and I don't mind writing.  I actually enjoy writing one-off stuff like I do here.  But putting together 75k-100k in a complete order that makes sense and completes a story arc?  Ugh. Its all ... so much.  Blame my years in journalism, where I write tons of one-off stuff where the narrative is kind of half written for

(Speaking of this blog and writing)

... post more here.  As with all things, I guess, time is hard to find, whilst being a poor excuse.

... think before I agree to stuff.  I love Nala, and in the last few months she has become a much better dog.  But boy how my life would be easier without her.  Even though it would be a less full life.  Hey - dogs are like kids that way!!

... figure out what the hell I'm doing with the next 5 years before those years are gone.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parenting As A Two-Edged Sword

A) The other day I took time out of my schedule to play dolls with my daughter.

B) The other day, I took time away from playing dolls with my daughter to cook dinner.

Which really happened? A, or B?

From a certain perspective, both are true. As Obi wan Kenobi warned:

What I told you was true… from a certain point of view

In the moment, I considered myself a heroic Dad. Here I was, valiantly cooking dinner for the kids and their Mom while also managing to get in some one-on-one time with one of the kids. And playing one of her favorite things, too boot. That is perspective A. 

But it occurred to me that from her perspective (B), what I was saying might not be true. 

Instead of a Dad demonstrating superpowers of multi-tasking, she might simply be seeing me as too busy to really give her my full attention. 

When I look back in 10 years I might well remember the hectic but great times when I played dolls with her while cooking.

And as a teen, she may well look back as at a Dad too consumed with doing other things to give her full attention. 

Does that make me a bad Dad? Is there anything I can do about it? To some extent, sure, I guess there is. I could make more time for her. Maybe plan better.

But to some extent there isn't. Because parenting is a two-edged sword where almost every decision subjects you to an alternative interpretation in which you are the bad guy.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Saying Goodbye

No, not to blogging; though you'd be excused for thinking that, based on my posting rate lately.

Instead, I'm talking about saying goodbye to a long-time friend: our dog Duke. We had known the decision to put him down was coming. It was no surprise. At somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 years, he had already lived a longer life than was probably normal for a dog of his size and assorted minor health issues.

Add to that the fact that his health slowly faded over the last year, and then took a nose dive over the summer. By the time August rolled around he was not doing well. We managed to make him a little peppier, and more comfortable, but there is only so much you can do for a 15-year-old dog with what I'll paraphrase the vet as describing as "either 1 big problem, or 10 little ones."

I had honestly hoped I would just walk down one morning and he would be lifeless. As bad as that would suck, at least I wouldn't have to make the call. But no. Man in the sky love him, the dog who was beside me for three-quarters of my adult life and pretty much 90 percent of my time with my wife, the dog who took countless walks with me and played seemingly endless games of fetch (until they ended) was stayed with us right until the end. He wouldn't be the one to abandon us; we would have to let him go.

So we knew the day was coming. I had already teared up and cried over the decision and situation a couple times. The knowledge was supposed to make it easier. The inevitability supposed to smooth the emotions. At least in my mind. So much for that.

I'll probably never forget the day for a couple reasons. I woke up to my wife informing me that Donald Trump was our next president. So with that bit a joy already percolating, I headed downstairs to let Duke out. By this point in time he had needed help getting up off the floor for about 6 months, maybe longer. So I went over and hoisted him up. He took two steps, collapsed, and pee ran everywhere. So while half our electorate was mourning the election of Donald Trump, I was mourning a different loss.

I made the call I dreaded and took him to the vet later that morning. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried a bunch. Heaping bunches of crying occurred. When I brought him in and the receptionist cheerfully greeted me, during the procedure, afterwards, in my truck. Countless times after that.

The house was quiet for the next month. I'd catch some movement out of the corner of my eye and think it was Duke. I'd watch the yard for him.

Life was a lot empty.

I'm not saying Duke was a lap dog, but...
The crazy part was I kind of expected it to be rough on the kids. As much as Duke has been a part of my life, he has been around their entire life. And its really their first experience with death or the loss of a beloved living thing. So I kind of expected tears, sadness ... something.

But nope. They handled with no problems what so ever. Zilch. The kids are amazing. And sometimes they surprise you. Like when they handle something that seems so monstrous and overwhelming to you with the air and ease of a summer breeze.

I had Duke cremated, because why not? Except it took me approximately two months to even go get his ashes, despite the fact that I was in the area constantly and actually took a couple trips in that direction where the vet was one of my destinations.

But eventually I made it - cried some more - dumped his ashes at the park he loved so much in his younger years. And I cried some more.

An aside here: I'm not a huge crier. Never have been. Now I cry at This Is Us and other sappy things. I blame the kids.

Anyway, I think that is out of my system. I think. Since I teared up writing this damn thing, who knows. But one thing I know: we won't be getting a dog any time soon (or will we?).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

One Thing You Should Stop Doing In 2017

Its January, which means we've turned the page on another year. Usually, that means new leaves overturned and resolutions. I did that last year. I did awful. Some of that is events that transpired in November that I think impacted my writing (No, not the election, but its a story for a different time), but honestly, the failing failed fully before that; likely

*checks stats* Yep; probably before that.

So this year, I'm not doing Better Bryan. Call it a Better Bryan Break. This year, instead, I'm going to make all of YOU better.

How, you ask? Good question.

There is one thing that really bugs as a parent that a LOT of you are doing. And I realize, you are doing this as a kind act. You think this makes you a sweet and nice person and you probably pat yourself on the back a little when it happens. I'm here to tell you, you are secretly impeding the ability to raise safe kids while making my job as parent harder.

Let me set the scene:

I'm crossing the street. With my kids. Its hard enough as I have only two hands and three kids. They are fiveish. Them holding each other's hands, while possible, still isn't really a good option. So I'm stuck usually having two on one hand. Luckily, unlike our current president, I have biggish hands. Hypothesize away about what that means.

So its a journey any way you slice it.

I get the kids situated around me, which requires some orchestra conductor-like work with the patience of a monk and the foresight of a prophet. Who goes where, are they facing the proper direction (no, one is always facing the opposite direction for some reason), and are they going to trip over each other and fall face down during our trip across 2 lanes.

We look left, we look right. Oh look kids, a car is close. Do we cross?

Kids: No Dad.

Dad: Of course we don't because a car is comi...

Except thanks to you, you honest, good-intention having loving, doer of good deeds, we do. Because you just waved me past. Which is fine. I get it. You see a Dad with lots of kids trying to cross an otherwise empty parking lot road and you think, "let me do that guy a solid and let him pass."

I'll ignore/pretend you aren't doing it in a sexist way simply because I'm a Dad and you think I'm overwhelmed. That's a different column.

But what you have done is essentially force me to teach my kids that its OK to cross the street with a car bearing down on them, because it will stop and let them pass. Except they have no idea you waved me on. They don't know to look for that. They can't possibly see it. Or even know to look for it. They don't have the power to look behind you and make sure some idiot isn't going around you.

And I can't wave you past, because my hands are currently tied up with fingers and hand holding. Untying three kids and leaving them anchorless near a street doesn't appeal to me. Partly for danger, and partly because somehow, someway, they will end up unable to reattach and one will inevitably be facing backwards. Sometimes I'll jerk my head for you to pass, but mostly I'll go. Because standing there jerking my head while you do whatever the hell it is your doing is mostly not helping me.

So I beg of you. I know you think you are doing a good thing, but please, just drive past me and let me cross the street after you.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pregnancy Changes Your Brain

So says this study mentioned at webmd. Your brain evolves to handle the new threat... er... little one.

Ho hum, right? I know. But two things kind of caught my eye.

The first: 
According to study co-director Oscar Vilarroya: "The findings point to an adaptive process related to the benefits of better detecting the needs of the child, such as identifying the newborn's emotional state.
It occurs to me, having had triplets, that "detecting the needs of a child" and its "emotional state" are relatively easy. Early on, the child is either hungry, has pooped, is generally angry, or is content. Generally, if the child is screaming its upset. If the child isn't screaming, its content.

Determining a newborn's emotional state is as simple as reading their face. Is the newborn crying? Its upset. Is it cooing? Newborn is happy. Later, the second one goes away, but the rest generally remain.

Its about that simple with newborns.

At least now my theory that having kids made me a super hero has some serious scientific backing.

I noticed one other thing. And I like how they tack this on at the end. Apparently, if you get pregnant through fertility your brain experiences the same changes. Ground breaking, I know. But its right there:
The changes were similar whether women got pregnant naturally or through fertility treatments.

I get that its two different methods of conceiving. But this type of thinking is why we parents of multiples get questions about whether we conceived "naturally." Hell yeah it was natural. Why would fertility make one iota of difference? Because the egg and sperm met in a petri dish instead of a Fallopian tube? Because conception was given an scientific assist? Scientists might as well study whether conceiving on a couch, bed, or kitchen counter makes a difference. Honestly.

Monday, November 21, 2016

How Do You Raise Your Daughter In Trump's United States


So we moved on and accepted that Trump is president elect (not king).

What now? We can't change the election. So what do we do? For this exercise, lets assume Trump's rhetoric stokes the fire of hatred in the country and his policy proposals are to 1) try to build a wall, 2) imprison Hillary Clinton, 3) deport Mexicans and 4) put Muslims internment camps. For the record, I think 1, 2 and 4 are never going to even get proposed, but lets say they do.

What do we do? We fight those proposals.

Democrats who have been deporting people at record numbers under Obama are going to have to object. Democrats who hated gridlock are going to have to be that gridlock for 2 years, after which structural realities of our politics mean that that Congress will likely fall to the Dems.

And they are going to have to work with Trump. Not every policy of his is bad. He was a Democrat for years and diverges from Republicans on a number of issues.

And we focus on the local. We raise good kids who are nice people. Kids who will grow up to reject this kind of nonesense. Because our future isn't with Trump, its with the kids. Nothing Trump does in his 4 years will have the kind of impact our kids will have.

Which reminds me of a quote from the movie Bad Moms that I'm going to paraphrase: We should be trying to raise nice kids. Our job as parents isn't to raise math geniuses or science whizzes. The reality is that if you when your kid is born, whether they Albert Einstein or a Rufus Dufus is already set. When you brag on Facebook about how your kid is so talented at math you aren't really saying how great a kid he/she is or how great a parent you are. What you are really saying is something like "we got really lucky with genetics." Or maybe "we got a really lucky roll of the dice."

Whether your kid can speak, or add, or do complex theoretical physics is a function of genes and luck. Pretty much every kid learns to speak. Whether they are poetic about it or not is a function of genetics. You can practice and practice and practice, drill and drill and drill, but no amount of work will make your kid Stephen Hawking or Robert Frost.

Nature chooses to bestow those gifts or it doesn't.

As a parent you can help draw it out, sure. But its not like if my parents had just tried a little harder, pushed me a little more, I could do theoretical physics.

I'm just not genetically able to.

But you can make your kid a good person. You can teach them what is right and wrong. To care about people (within reason). You can give them a frame work. You can make sure that the next person with charisma and the ability to impress a crowd with a speech isn't the type of person who makes blanket statements about people who don't look or think like them. The kind of person who won't say insane things simply to get power.

So what do we do? As adults, we fight the good fight, whatever you think that fight is. And as parents you raise good kids. Ones who are caring and insightful.

I'm not going to tell you how to do that. I'm not sure I can. I'm not sure anybody can. But I strongly believe that it starts with not being afraid. If we turn the election of a Donald Trump into a parade of hate, if we pretend his idea for a wall at the Mexican border is something odd and racist in and of itself* we only serve to make our kids afraid of different ideas and different people. If we teach our kids to that we should appreciate the unique thoughts and differences in people, but not those deplorable redneck idiots, we aren't doing our jobs. Replacing racism with xenophobia accomplishes nothing in real terms. And indeed, there is evidence that this country is more xenophobic than racist. Name calling and blanket statements are what must oppose and if that is goal, simply replacing one group with another won't move the ball forward.

That just replaces one type of fear for another.

That isn't the way forward.

* which it isn't, because again, we already have a wall, and a wall for which Hillary Clinton voted in favor. We should be able to have policy discussions about immigration and walls without it being racist.