Tag Archives: Family

A Son Is Born! Collect Presents.

Drink:  Jefferson’s Rye

Two months ago our son was born.  We were at a routine, scheduled appointment with the OB when, suddenly, labor!  Off to the hospital we went, Buttercup in tow, and worked together to welcome Seth to Earth.  Everything was routine and normal except for the unusually short labor for a first-time mom (under six hours).  After two days at the hospital, we brought him home.

Life has since been a haze of sleepless nights, exhaustion, general disarray, family visits, take out food, and joy.  For the first few weeks I didn’t even know what day it was.  Hours would pass stealthily by.  The kitchen wasn’t getting cleaned (it’s the one room that I like to keep mostly tidy because it’s the room where messes grow most rapidly).  The living room and our bedroom decreased in size very quickly.  We were (and, to an extent, still are) on autopilot.

Wake up, shuffle through a quick morning routine, throw a lunch together, grab a Clif bar for breakfast, head to work.  Hope all day that I don’t absentmindedly screw something up.  Come home, shower (after up to an hour of distraction), get dinner ready if Wife hasn’t (which is usually the case; newborns need lots of attention).  Give Buttercup at least a few minutes of undivided attention.  Feed Buttercup, eat dinner (hurriedly, there’s still plenty to do before bed).  Give Wife at least a few minutes of undivided attention.  Try to empty the dishwasher if Wife hasn’t so we can fill it back up again.  Laundry.  Buttercup to bed.  Clear and clean kitchen counters.  Us to bed (after much deliberation and distraction, significantly later than we should).  Repeat.

I thought we were slow getting out of the house with one child.  If there were an emergency – say, the apocalypse, for instance – we wouldn’t make it.  We’d forget most of the essentials, have to run in and out of the house several times, chase after runaway children (though, in her defense, Buttercup is very good about staying where we ask her to – unless she’s feeling playful). If we plan to leave by 9, we might be out by 11 but that’s probably wishful thinking.  A breast feeding child who soils his diaper every 23 minutes adds a significant amount of lag to everything.

I like things efficient and streamlined.  A few weeks ago I was able to make a trip to Target on my own.  I felt like The Flash.  I was gone, in, out, and back in less time than it takes us to get everyone and everything ready and in the car.  It was amazing!  I had forgotten how efficient I am alone.

But, amazingly, I’m willing and excited to trade in efficiency for lag again.  I’m loving two children but it’s not enough.  I want more.

I worked at a daycare for four years and was generally with at least ten children at a time.  Three year olds, fours and fives, or kindergarten through second grade.  I absolutely loved it!  Every day was different.  It was challenging and often stressful but a complete joy.  For me, two children is too quiet.

Wife and I have both agreed that four is a great number.  Whether we have more biologically or through adoption, we’ll see.  Wife wasn’t too fond if being pregnant, but adoption is no walk in the park either.  Each comes with its own challenges and rewards.

Life is beginning to move into a more stable routine, and each family member is discovering their new role and rhythm.  Buttercup is a great big sister and Seth’s little smiles light us all up.  More of this will be excellent.

In the mean time, I’ll cherish all the sleep I can get, and enjoy whiskey when I’m able (I still haven’t opened my celebratory bottle of Hedonism; I’ll get to it eventually).

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Media Blackout

Drink:  Canadian Club Classic

This past February my wife and I decided to “fast” from certain forms of media for a week.  No Facebook, movies, TV or video games (including on our iPods).  We hit a point where we realized that these forms of entertainment and social media were consuming far larger quantities of time than they should have been.  We were neglecting certain responsibilities, spending little time connecting with each other, becoming less concerned with the growing messes around the house.

Our default for the end of the day had become the TV.  While Good Eats and Downton Abbey are great shows, spending our limited, evening, the-kids-are-finally-asleep time learning two or more meals a night we’re unlikely to ever cook, or watching early twentieth century events affect the fictional staff of an English manor, seems irresponsible.  And if we aren’t doing that, we’re checking Facebook for the latest real-time status updates or writing emails that simply can’t wait (no, seriously, I have to do this now!).  

So we decided to put up a temporary barrier.  A boundary.  A guardrail.

For one whole week, Facebook, TV, movies, and video games (I play the GTA franchise almost exclusively and together we play Behemoth releases; first Castle Crashers and now Battleblock Theater), had no place in our home.  It’s not like we put our TV in the garage for the week, we just left it off.  We had a penciled in plan for what to do with all of the time that was now free to spend on other things, but nothing concrete.  We just knew that these forms of media were sucking the lives out of our relationships with each other, with our family, and with our friends, because we let them.

My wife and I are typically enablers of each other.  If one of us is stays up too late, we both do.  If one of us is eating way too much dessert, we both are.  If one of us doesn’t feel like walking the twenty feet to the car to get that thing we left inside it, that thing stays there until the next time we go out or until we absolutely need it.  So it was imperative that we both resolve to see this media fast through lest we both give in and render it ineffective.  Fortunately, our ability to enable is outmatched by our ability to spur each other on through difficult challenges (at least when we’re determined to do so).

And with this, we were determined.

The first day was the most difficult as we both didn’t know what to do.  Our defaults weren’t an option and we had never really established secondaries.  We made it through doing something trivial just to help pass the gobs of extra time we had.  Conversation, I think.  Or maybe it was a board game we feigned enjoyment through.  Anything to deal with the sheer boredom.

That, of course, is sarcasm (just in case you thought we really feigned enjoyment).  It was difficult to determine a good use of our time, but it was thoroughly refreshing to have our evening back.  We talked.  I mean we really talked, like we hadn’t done in a while.  We did play a game, which we really did enjoy.  We laughed so much more, and not at some scripted line an actor delivered, but at the jokes and fun of our own making.  We enjoyed some private marital activities as well.  And when we thought we’d had enough fun and perhaps we should be responsible and get to bed, we did.  And it was only 8:45!  A new family record!  And we were happy about it.

It was relaxing.  After a normal night in our house spent glued to a screen we would wonder where the time had gone.  How can three hours just disappear?  How?!?  But after the evenings during our media fast, not only did we know where the time had gone, but we had spent it on worthwhile activities.  Intentionally.  Dishes were done, toys were put away, and the kitchen was reset to zero.  We had time for each other.  All of the day’s events we found worthy or necessary to share, instead of becoming a mental backlog (because finding out what happens to John Bates is clearly more important right now), were brought out into the open to be processed.  We connected and were able to go to bed unstressed.  And, to top it off, we didn’t spend an additional hour in bed on our iPods playing more games or just perusing the internet (me refreshing my favorite whiskey blogs to see if, just maybe, the author posted in the last five minutes).  We actually got a good night’s sleep.

As the benefits of our media fast were piling up, and there were no downsides in sight, I began to wonder if returning to our previous lifestyle at week’s end was even in question.  Maybe we should just leave the TV shut off for good.

We didn’t, of course.  Downton Abbey resumed, Good Eats taught us more about barley, and Facebook was just as disinteresting and addictive as ever.

But as Lent approached and the subject of fasting and “giving up” various vices and white addictions (you know, like white lies; they don’t seem so bad) arose, we began to wonder if we should reinstate that temporary boundary and fast from media again.

Forty days is a long time to go without something you’re used to (in my case, desserts).  We weren’t convinced that was the best course of action.  But we knew that a boundary had to be set up or we would allow media to consume our family and we were firmly set against that.  We don’t think TV is evil or that Facebook will rot your brain (though it does plenty with your personal information).  We just didn’t want to look back in fifty years and think, “My gosh, why did we waste all that time?”  Because no one on their death bed says, “I really should’ve spent more time on Facebook,” or watching TV, or you  name it.

So, after determining our need for this media boundary once again, we decided that for one week (Monday through Sunday) every month for the rest of the year, and perhaps for a very long time after that, we were going to do what we’re calling our Media Blackout.  

This is that week.

Before we logged off of Facebook for the week we changed our banners to something my very talented wife designed.  It was an image of an unplugged electrical cord and text letting our “friends” know, in brief terms, that we were off for the week.  We also changed our profile pictures to match the theme.

The other thing we did before we logged off, which I will do with you now, was to encourage our friends and family to join us for the week.  So here it is:

I encourage you to put down the forms of media that you spend most of your time with.  Movies.  TV.  Social media.  Texting even.  You know yours best.  But don’t simply put them down for the week.  In their place, pick up things that are important that perhaps you’ve forgotten or neglected.  Spend some quality time with your significant other, your friends, your family, even your pets (but mostly other humans, please).  Just be together.  Talk.  Play a board game.  Go for a walk.  You decide.  The ultimate guiding principal to this exercise is to remove the distractions for a week of relationship building and self reflection.  One week.  You can do it.

If you do, I’d like to know how it went and what you learned about yourself.

Maturation

Drink:  Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage (2002: barreled 4/18/02, barrel #1028, bottled 11/13/12)

My wife and I are expecting a baby in July.  Among the many gifts we look forward to from friends and family will be a couple from ourselves.

Most presents for children are designed to be utilized and enjoyed in the here and now.  Onesies that will be outgrown within weeks.  Newborn car seats useless after not even a single year.  Toys that will break or become so drool covered that they may as well be broken.  Stuffed animals that will be mutilated and disfigured by affection.  And then they’re gone.  Done.  Put away to be handed down, thrown out, or forgotten.

These things are all certainly worth having.  Most of them help with development in one form or another.  Colors, sounds, numbers.  How to take something out and then how to put it back in.  The latter seems to take much too long to master.  For their short span of usefulness they will be appreciated and loved by parent and child alike as they teach and learn together.  (If you’re not learning from your child at the same time that you’re teaching, you’re probably not paying enough attention.)

But the gifts that we plan on giving are intended to teach over the long term.

Oh, you mean like a daddy’s instruction and mommy’s love?  Not that they can’t be given in the converse as well…

Yes, but no.  The first gift is money set aside in an account where it can grow until our son or daughter is faced with a choice on their 18th birthday.  They can either take it out and use it toward college or leave it alone for another four or more years to grow even more.  At this point they will have seen it, Lord willing, grow beyond its original amount as it has responded to the environment it has been sitting in.  The bank or firm that has handled it, the rise and fall of the economy, national and global events.  And they’ll know this because we will check on it every year for at least 18 years.  Patience is practiced and learned.  And if we’ve waited this long for it, and it’s grown as it has, would it be best to delay gratification for four more years or utilize it immediately?  The answer will have to wait until then.  And it will depend on who our child has listened to, the rise and fall of our family’s budget, national and global events.  I look forward to the life lesson myself.

The second gift will be a bottle (or case) of wine, likely Port (I’m not a wine guy so feel free to suggest something else).  It would be good to open it and enjoy it now (not for baby), but in 21 years it will be even better.  We’ll walk down into the basement every year on their birthday, observe the bottle on the shelf and marvel at the slow changes happening inside that are, over the years, transforming this from a good wine into a great wine.  The two, our child and the wine, will mature together.  On a financial note, we could let the winery, distributor, or store bottle mature it for us, but we would be paying a significant rental fee to take up one bottle of space on their shelf instead of ours.  So we’ll pay less now and reap the reward of patiently aging it in-house later.

I’m a whiskey guy and while I could do this with a bottle of scotch or bourbon, the end result of leaving the bottle undisturbed for 21 years won’t be the same.  While bottle maturation is known and understood with wine, it’s a debated topic in the whiskey world.  Most people are skeptical about it at best, myself included.  But, regardless, the object lesson still exists for bottles purchased later.

What begins as a young, often harsh spirit is placed in a barrel to mature for as long as it takes for the Master Distiller to call it ready.  Through varying temperatures and seasons, the alcohol is pushed and pulled in and out of the staves enveloping it where it takes on some of the oak’s character, picking up aromas and flavors like vanilla, maple syrup, and baking spices.  Sometimes the Master Distiller will determine that a barrel must be moved to another location in the warehouse where it can mature slower or faster.  Sometimes the alcohol is moved from one type of barrel to another to impart more complex flavors.  The time spent in the oak softens a single minded, self centered whiskey and helps to balance it.  Where it once betrayed an obvious youth it now displays the character of a well matured spirit.

I look forward with anticipation to the conditions that our children will mature in.  The comfortable climate of a loving home, a supportive community, endless childhood summers, drives through Christmas lit neighborhoods, cherished relationships.  The heat of life’s trials, broken hearts, loss, the sting of the death of someone close, grieving inevitable changes.  Perhaps they’ll be moved from one type of barrel into another to gain a more complex character.  Maybe they’ll be moved to a place of more extreme change where they’ll mature faster.  I’ll have to trust the Master Distiller to make those determinations.

Whatever the future may bring, I look forward to the day I can share a drink with my children and talk about the conditions we’ve all matured in together.