Beer & Diapers

Memoirs of a millennial dad

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The Leftovers Finale

All Summer my secret guilty pleasure has been the Leftovers. Ok it’s my second guilty pleasure behind the so bad it’s good the Strain. The series is written by Tom Perrotta, one of my fav modern authors. His book Little Children I thought captured a lot of the frustrations and heartache of being a parent of young children, but in the end lacked emotional weight. I therefore wasn’t sure how the Leftovers would end as most of the season was super depressing. The premise is that a Rapture style event has occurred with many people simply disappearing. The main character Kevin Garvey was struggling in his marriage before the happening. He has a spontaneous hook-up across town while his wife watches their unborn child disappear on the ultrasound. Things deteriorate quickly in the following years – his wife Laurie leaves Kevin to join a cult where all the members wear white and have given up on life. His oldest son joins another crazy messiah who is being hunted by the Feds. And his sweet youngest daughter Jill becomes a hard-partying troubled teen. Kevin does find a little bit of comfort with Nora, a woman who lost her entire family in the event. But except for some humorous moments there was little hope in a story about people struggling with loss and major mistakes.

All that changed in the season finale. I won’t ruin the ending for those who haven’t seen it, but it involves a tear-jerking redemption for the Garvey family. Kevin gets a chance to show his love and devotion to those he loves, even though he has caused so much pain in the past. And a family that seems to have nothing left to live finds new reason to hope. It was one of the most emotionally satisfying finale I’ve seen in a long time and I’m looking forward to season 2.

On Loss

This weekend the DeWeese family had a great time at the Pierce County kite festival. The brilliant August sky over Chambers Bay was filled with sparkling kites of every color and description. Veteran kite performers and little tykes like Daniel stood side by side, pulling the strings to make their kites dance in the cool beach breeze. Our little guy even got the chance to make a new kite in his favorite color – all green with bright green trailings.  A big thanks to the Pierce County Kitefliers Association for helping him build a kite that was actually sturdier than the $9 Angry Birds kite we had originally bought.

But overshadowing the happiness was a profound sense of loss. Two nights before some stupid kid or addled methhead had broken into Kate’s car and stolen her iPod Touch. If it was a kid, then i forgive him though he crossed a big line that I would have never crossed in my most impish teenage moments. If it was a methhead, then I hope the sores on his face begin to ooze and his teeth all rot out. Now, the device itself isn’t worth more than $75 at the most. But what was locked inside was several months worth of video and photo memories that our now lost forever. Pictures from my “Pirate Looks at 40 birthday,” our trip to Leavenworth, Daniel’s first day at the ocean – all gone. We can’t help but to feel in  violated about what happened. It’s so tragic that in our world people see the opportunity to make a handful of cash as worthy of wiping out the record of some big milestones for Kate, Daniel and I.

I guess I should feel comforted that we didn’t lose all our photo albums or my back-up discs of all the family photos. And while we’re on the subject of First World Problems, my wife and kid are safe from being blown to bits in or tortured and raped by extremists, which is more than a lot of people living in Gaza or Iraq can say. And my loss is so minor compared to the light of Robin Williams leaving the world. But that story just opens greater wounds as  I reflect on all the people close to me who have been claimed by depression. It seems that in times like this all we can do is to keep our heads down as troubles come not singly but in battalions (sorry English grads for butchering Shakespeare there). Easier said then done.

Facing my Stark terror

Catelyn-Stark-killing-Walder-Freys-wife-at-the-Red-Wedding-Game-Of-Thrones-Season-3-Episode-9

It took me a couple days to compose my thoughts about the Game of Thrones Red Wedding shocker. I know many fans are enraged that some of their favorite characters were brutally murdered in an act of unexpected betrayal. I had read the book so I knew what was coming, but actually watching Catelyn Stark beg for her son’s life while her daughter-and-law and unborn grand baby bleed out was still a roundhouse kick to the groin. Part of the shock came from the fact that I read Storm of Swords as a young college student, but watched the episode as a father and husband. I could sympathize with the characters before, even root for them despite all their mistakes and short-comings. But this time around I could actually imagine myself in their shoes.

It also made me realize that there had to be something deeper beyond simply the fact that the good guys weren’t making it out alive. I don’t remember this much nerd rage backlash when say Lori from the Walking Dead died or even when Dumbledore dies in Harry Potter. For me, the episode tapped into my greatest fear – watching the ones I love die around me without warning. If this fear seems completely unfounded, think for a moment what has happened in the past few months. I imagine what it was like for the parents of the children who died in the Boston bombings or the Oklahoma tornados. So while I know I’ll never be betrayed by my bannermen, I cannot with 100 percent certainty say my family and I will never be caught in the path of a deranged gunman, terrorist blast zone, earthquake, or drunk driver.  I can easily put myself in the shoes of either Robb Stark or  Catelyn, knowing that in my last moments my whole world had turned to ash.

What made it even worse was the fact it happened just as everything seemed to be improving. The Starks finally looked like they had a chance to win the war. Robb and his wife were happily discussing baby names right before all hell breaks loose.  This too feeds into another fear Kate and I share – we worry disaster is about to strike when things are going too well. And in the past few years that unfortunately has been the reality in our lives. I get accepted to a prestigious professional program and one of my favorite uncle dies. My career takes off and Kate and I settle into our marriage just around the time her mother suddenly goes into the hospital Friday night for an excruciating headache and is brain dead by mid-day Saturday. Our son is born and a few months later I am both out of a job and my father-in-law is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The fact that things are very stable now both at work and home feels less like success and more like foreshadowing.

And so I want to praise George RR Martin for being able to make me face these fears and come out the other side stronger. The samurai supposedly spent a certain amount of time every day contemplating their own death so that they could show great courage when it finally arrived. In that way, the Red Wedding is helping me to do the same, albeit by proxy. Which is probably for the best, as I was born not in feudal Japan but modern America. Death is something I learned to avoid talking or thinking about at all costs. His story has also reminded me that life is for the living and that every moment counts. Some of the articles I’ve read about the episode describe Robb and Talisa as fools trying to hold on to outdated notions of love and chivalry in an unforgiving time. But they held true to what’s most important even in the face of certain death, and that they dared to love deeply and fearlessly. In many ways, it’s Catelyn who is the more tragic figure. She holds on to sorrow and worry for her family so tightly that she never has a chance to live until it’s too late. If there’s a final lesson from Season 3, it’s not that Martin is an uncaring asshole or that modern storytelling has to emphasize the tragic instead of goodness and love conquering all. It’s that if I am not destined for a fairy tale life, I’d rather be Robb Stark than his mum.

Dan’s cutest moment

There are times that your kid just blows you away with just how sweet he can be. The other day Kate, Dan and I were at the Fircrest tot lot when a little girl named Dorothy came up to look at his Thomas trike. Now normally, Danny would get super defensive about anyone touching his ride, but in this case he let Dorothy hop on instead. He then got behind her and began to push her around the tot lot track. At one point, he wandered off and she looked very pouty, calling for Daniel to come back and help her. Then Daniel lifts his hand into the air and proclaims “I am super Daniel and I’m here to help.” With that he pushes her all the way around.

I certainly got a lesson in just how wonderful your kids can act when they don’t think you’re closely watching. And I think Daniel got his first lesson in how to impress girls.

A boy and his raccoon minipet

What’s that Daddy?” my three-year-old asks as he cuddles up next to me and peers at my laptop. I’d been sneaking a look at the Hall of Monuments calculator for Guild Wars 2 while Daniel watched Curious George.  My son immediately lights up as I mouse over one reward item in particular – the rockfur raccoon minipet.

“It’s Maskie!” Daniel squeals in delight, thinking the digital raccoon looks just like one of his favorite stuffed animals.

“Yes, it’s Maskie,” I reply. “He’s part of daddy’s game.”

“Oh, so we can play with him like the Angry Birds?” Daniel asks. Playing Angry Birds on the plane was the highlight of our family trip to see granddad this summer. In fact, he can barely remember that we all went out in 90-degree weather for freaking Thomas the Tank Engine day. But how he can remember playing Angry Birds.

“Sure son. When Daddy’s game comes out, I’ll let you play with Maskie.”

What I didn’t tell Daniel is that I still haven’t technically unlocked the Rockfur Raccoon.  You see, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I never finished the Eye of the North campaign.  The fact that I was also once a Guild Wars 1 fanatic is a testament to how ArenaNet created such a compelling online world as Tyria. I’ve spent countless hours exploring the frozen expanses of the Shiverpeaks, the haunted Jade Sea, and the floating palatial gardens of Vabbi. There’s never been a game that I think quite captures the magical quality of dreams as well as Guild Wars.

Guild Wars offered a seemingly endless gaming smorgasbord of fun things to do, and I was in no hurry to unlock everything in my Hall of Monuments. I played through my favorite missions first in normal mode, then seeing if I could beat them perfectly in hard mode.  I had the perfect solo necromancer build for venturing into the Underworld, and joined my guildmates as we battled our way into the Deep and across the Realm of Torment. And of course I remember epic battles during Alliance Battle weekends, when from Friday night to Sunday afternoon I would help push the front line forward deep into Luxon territory.

But somewhere along the way, the responsibilities of adulthood began to claim more and more of my time. I went from a series of part-time jobs to a “career” with all the extra hours and early morning commute that entailed. And then I embarked on the greatest hero’s journey of all when my son was born. I vaguely remembered my epic times in Guild Wars 1 and the excitement I had once felt when the sequel was announced. But Guild Wars 1 had long since become a game I dabbled in, usually around Wintersday or the Canthan New Year.

I’m sure there are plenty of players like me scrambling to unlock as many heritage items they can by playing the original Guild Wars. Five years ago, I’m sure I would be among those players gunning for the Champion of the Gods title.  But at this time in my life, I only have one major goal before Guild Wars 2 launches – I need to earn Maskie’s online alter ego. If only for the chance to see Daniel’s beaming face as he watches the rockfur raccoon scurry behind my hulking Norn.

Baby combat survival guide

So I just found out one of my buddy’s wife went into labor today. I also watched Saving Private Ryan last night, so I’m going to deliver the following advice to new dads in the style of a gruff Army sergeant.*

Welcome to the frontlines, recruit. So, you’ve got your crib and car seat in place, and you think you’re ready to take on baby Fritz. Well you’re not. So listen up and you just might make it through the next few days.

1. DO NOT PANIC. Babies are tough suckers, and won’t break from you changing a diaper or normal handling. So while there’s a ton to learn and lots to worry about, you’re going to come out of this just fine.

2. FORGET THE CRIB. You’re going to need to be Johnny-on-the-spot with the ammo, I mean milk. That nursery’s going to seem like it’s a hundred miles away when it’s 3 am and feeding time. Recommend setting up a bassinet in your room. If you haven’t got a bassinet yet, go down to Babies R Us and requisition one.

3. THE CO WILL PROBABLY GO INSANE ANY MINUTE NOW. No, not “I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor” Apocalypse Now insane. But sleep deprivation + needy newborn + raging hormones will temporarily push your lovely and normally lucid wife into psycho hose beast territory. She may even end up on the floor in a ball crying her eyes out. (This is just a common combat scenario – I can neither confirm nor deny that I witnessed this personally). It’s up to you to keep your head under fire, shake her firmly, and say “We’ve got zips in the wire! You’ve got to snap out of it!” Or maybe just hold her and say, “it’s ok honey. You’re an awesome mom and I’m here for you.”**

4. SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS: I can’t stress this enough. The good news is newborns sleep A LOT. The bad news is they like to be awake around o dark thirty. So DVR the Daily Show and Breaking Bad and grab a few zzzs whenever you can.

5. WORK IS NOW YOUR HAPPY VACATION PLACE: Or at least that’s how the missus will see it while she’s home on maternity leave. Never mind that your boss may be an even bigger baby than your newborn, and you just can’t stick a pacifier in his face and put him down for a nap. Going to the office is seen as an escape, so don’t expect a chance to pop a brewsky and  kick your feet up for a few minutes when you come in the door. You’re now on baby patrol.

6. IT GETS BETTER: Yes, newborns are cute but they also have a too close resemblance to Winston Churchill and all the awareness and personality of a retarded puppy. Eventually, they will start to recognize your face and their smiles won’t just be from gas. The night they sleep 8 hours will feel like the most glorious night of your life, on par with your wedding night and that one night in Amsterdam/Vegas/Bangkok.

Good luck son! I think I smell a poopy diaper – move out and draw fire!

*Yes, I’m a former Army sergeant. Also, since this is a family oriented post, I’ve refrained from authentic language such as calling new parents “cherries” or using the term FUBAR in every other sentence.

** I am quoting Platoon. Please do not actually shake your wife and scream racist  comments like “zips in the wire.”

Guild Wars 2 launch date announced!

Amazing! The game I’ve been waiting for patiently for the past 5 years finally has a launch date. August 28 – just in time for Labor Day weekend and the cruddy Seattle fall weather!

A dad’s take on breastfeeding toddlers

Son, this world is rough and if a man’s going to make it he’s gotta be tough.

A Boy Named Sue, Johnny Cash

So Kate and I have been talking about the new Times article about attachment parenting and moms who breastfeed until their kid is practically pre-school age.

http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/jamie-lynne-grumet-defends-her-time-magazine-breastfeeding-180300346.html

First of all, I recognize that this kind of manufactured controversy is a perfect way to sell magazines right before Mother’s Day. You take some pretty mothers who do extreme stuff like breastfeeding toddlers or letting their kids sleep in their beds every night and put them on a pedestal as “ideal moms.” Then you beat regular mommys over the head about how the fact that they don’t do the same means deep down inside they don’t love their children enough and are full of fail.

I think I have a special appreciation on this topic, as my Mom was a very protective  middle class teacher, whereas my Dad had grown up in hardscrabble rural Kentucky and fought in Vietnam. I certainly learned a great deal from both of them, but I’m not sure that if my Mom had been the sole inspiration in my life that I would have learned to take as many chances or face certain situations with quiet determination. The lessons my Mom taught me helped me graduate from college with honors, marry a wonderful woman and take good care of my little boy. The lessons my Dad taught me helped me get through six years in the army, three years working the police beat as a reporter, and through a really tough time of unemployment and severe depression. That’s because my Dad taught me that as a man it’s not all about you, that your needs don’t always come first, and that like Johnny Cash said sometimes you gotta be tough. That’s why he would always push me to stop acting like a little kid and start practicing to be an adult, whether that meant doing your best at school or working hard at chores or trying your hardest at sports even when you’re not a natural athlete.

Now, I don’t want to give wrong impressions here – my Mom was certainly a tough lady and my Dad wasn’t mean or abusive. Nor am I going to pick on Jaime Lynne Grumet  – the mom in the story. She seems like a really nice lady and nowhere near as crazy as the Time cover insinuates.

But I can’t help but to think back at how my Mom at times was crazy protective of me or how she indulge me when I was being a little brat. If extreme attachment parenting was in vogue back in the late ’70s, I can’t say for certain that my Mom wouldn’t have been there with bells on. And overall I don’t think that would have been good for my development.

Of course, it could also be that I’m just creeped out by a pre-schooler still having access to mommy’s boob.

Game of Throne Training

I’ve really been enjoying the second season of Game of Thrones, but what’s been driving me crazy lately is Daniel refuses to use the potty.

I think I’ve figured out the problem. I see the toilet like this:

 

However, Daniel sees the toilet like this:

Beer tasting weekend

(Note – I had to edit this post after the fact cause I was rather liquored up when I first wrote it)

This afternoon I had an awesome experience tasting Belgian beers with my brother-in-laws and some of my best friends. We all headed up to Oldtown Alehouse for a crash course in what makes Belgian beers unique from your standard Budweiser. Our host Tim started with the best Belgian microbrews from the US/Canada, then proceeded to introduce beers that had been brewed by Trappist monks for centuries. We talked about how lambics were traditionally fermented in giant open troughs, and that the monks would open the roof of the brewery so that the beer could capture naturally occuring yeast and some of the flavors of nearby fruit trees. We also talked European history, covering such topics as medieval monasteries, the French Revolution, and World War 2.

Overall, the beers we tasted had some intense and unique flavor that were very different from what I’m used to the beers I normally like – mostly American style microbrews, English/Irish ales, and German beers. I really liked some of the smoother beers like Maredsous and Orval, but I’m not sure anyone at our table prticularly liked some of the most sour beers. What I would compare the experience to was going to see some European art film – you feel smugly superior that your horizons have been broadened, but the experience wasn’t particularly enjoyable.

Oldtown Alehouse also served us a delicious lunch of bruschetta, onion rings, garlic-seasoned fries, and an assortment of deli sandwiches. I think everyone was in a good mood after the initial tasting, but at the end of the official presentation there were several bottles that needed to be polished off. To quote Thomas the Tank Engine, “then there was trouble.” Sure, most of the open bottles were the sour beers nobody really wanted to drink, but hey I’ve never been one to let expensive beer go to waste. By the time we left the Alehouse, I was feeling no pain. My friends later told me that I said “well, I’m drunk guys and I don’t think Kate will like it. But she’s going to have to deal.”

When I got home, Kate was trying to get Daniel to go potty. By some miracle, Daniel was actually going pee pee, even if half ended up on the floor. At that point I started laughing uncontrollably. Kate looked at me and asked what was so funny. “Don’t worry Daniel,” I said. “Sometimes Daddy goes pee pee on the floor too. Especially after too much beer.”

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