Friday, June 29, 2012

The Birthday Non-Party Adventure

We've got a lot of big days between the end of May and the end of June.  My birthday, Father's Day, our wedding anniversary, and then, two days after that, our kids' birthday.

That happened on Monday.  The girls turned three.  Three!

As momentous as this landmark may seem, and as prematurely as it seems to have arrived, I just can't muster up a lot of gooey sentimentality for the occasion.  I love the girls on their birthday just the same as I did the day before (which is a really really lot.) 

They're growing up, and I'm ambivalent about that.  And I'm constantly amazed at the process.  I guess that's why the birthday doesn't make me all weepy: because part of me is a little weepy every day when the increments of their growth sneak up on me.  Especially now that they're in school a couple days a week, and they know more things when I pick them up in the afternoon than they did when I dropped them off in the morning.  I've understood what the word "bittersweet" means for a long time, and I've recognized the feeling in books and movies; but I don't know if I had ever experienced it firsthand before having kids.

The fact that they clicked past the 1,095-day mark didn't really freak me out or make me reflect any more than usual on how they've grown, since I reflect on it pretty much continuously.  But it was a great excuse to celebrate with a big adventure.

We decided not to have a birthday party this year, for all the reasons any sane person might be reluctant to do so.  Instead, we just spent the day pretending to be tourists in our city.  And it was one of the best days ever.

First, we jumped on the trolley, and went downtown to the waterfront.  Despite Cobra covering her ears for the duration of her first trolley experience, she claimed that she "loved" it.


Cobra didn't like the noise in the station

Nor did she like the noise inside the trolley car.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Big Fat Vietnamese Wedding

My Grandfather-in-law at the pre-wedding ceremony, giving his blessing. The white folks in the background are my parents.



On Saturday morning, sometime between feeding the kids breakfast and going to the gym, I said to my wife, "Hey, it's our anniversary!"

"Oh, yeah," she said.

We said "Happy Anniversary" to one another, and had a quick kiss.  I may have pawed at her.  I probably did.  Later, after our workout, we collected the kids from the gym's childcare, got sandwiches from the new sub shop around the corner, and ate them on the secret terrace on the roof of the gym building.  That was the romantic part of the day.  After that, it was all about the kids.

We weren't really surprised that it was our anniversary.  We had talked about it a week before, discussed doing something special, but decided that it wasn't necessary.

We've been married for eleven years.  We were together for nine before that.*  I'm not gonna lie to you like every other dad blogger who writes the obligatory anniversary post about his romantical feelings for his hawt wife: We're not as lovey-dovey as we once were.  Between the kids, and all the time we've spent together, it's a different dynamic now than it was, say fifteen years ago.  We're like one of those old couples who communicates by grunting.  Too much talk can lead to bickering.  When the kids and other business is taken care of, we tend to look at our separate infotainment screens until we lose consciousness.

I know, I know.  We're supposed to be getting babysitters and having date nights to keep the ember aglow or whatever.  But that's expensive and exhausting.  Besides, do you have any idea how many dates we've had?  After seventeen childless years together?  I think we're good in that department until the kids are in college.

Anyway, I'm not worried that during these first three years of our kids' lives, we haven't been taking time to focus on our relationship rather than devoting all our energy to our children, or whatever we're supposed to be doing according to current conventional parent wisdom.  Our relationship has its phases, and we're in the new parents phase right now.  We have a lot of history together, and a little thing like a couple of kids isn't going to be much of an obstacle.

How am I so confident that this kid-centrism isn't a threat to our marriage?

Our survival of the wedding, lo those many years ago, proves that we can weather any storm.

********

I've written a bit about the early years of our relationship, here, here, here and especially here

But if you don't feel like spending all day reading, you should just know that when I met my future wife in college, she wasn't allowed to date anyone.  Nor was she allowed to date while in med school.  Or ever, really.  And had her parents allowed her to date at all, I would not have been a viable candidate, being non-Vietnamese, non-Catholic, and a non-lawyer/doctor/engineer.  So from the time we met, until the day, eight years later, when we approached her parents about getting married, those were the conditions we operated under.  The situation generated hijinks aplenty, which I can never chronicle publicly lest I bring shame upon my wife's family's name.

As tricky as the first eight years were, the pressure just ratcheted up even higher once we miraculously obtained permission to get married.  What follows is a brief(ish) chronological(ish) description of the year leading up to our wedding day.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"I Hate Miami": Does Sports Teach Hostility?

 
In my travels on the internet yesterday, I stumbled upon this video in a couple different locations.  It features a six-year old boy completely falling apart as he watches his favorite NBA team lose an important game.  Playoffs or something, I guess.  I don’t know.  One thing is for sure, though.  This kid really, really, really does not like Miami.


There are some things about the video that are cute, mostly in the way that kids are adorable when they act like tiny, comical caricatures of grownups.  The boy wrings his hands and contorts his face with anxiety as the clock runs down.  He calls out the players’ names and shows an understanding of the game that seems beyond his years.  And it’s cute the way he’s clearly bonding with his dad over this shared involvement in the fortunes of their basketball team.

But when the little man starts ranting about how he hates a bunch of specific players, and how he hates Miami sooooooo much?  Not very cute.

It’s one of the many spectacles I’ve witnessed that makes me shake my head and say, “Sports is weird.” 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Making Father's Day my Bitch

Pardon the title.  I've been watching a lot of Eastbound and Down lately.  And thinking about how to compose catchy titles that will generate all kinds of blog traffic.

Because it's Father's Day Month!  The best time of the year for dad bloggers!  It's like Easter for Catholics.  "Ordinary Time" for dad bloggers is pretty much spent just pining for the run-up, the magical day itself, and denouement and debriefing from the one time of year when there's a chance that someone might pay attention to us. 

Ugh. Now I'm depressed thinking about when it's all over.

Okay.  Now I've snapped out of it.

The only new thing I wrote specifically (well, kind of ) for Father's Day was an article for the Headline News website called Father's Day: A holiday for the "other" parent.  The editor over there came up with the title, which is maybe a little overstated, but really not too bad.  I really need to take a class on coming up with catchy titles.  Oh--and then I went on the tee vee again!  I hope that they will have embedded the video in the article by the time you read this.  If not, check back.  I'll update it if and when I get a link.

********

Aside from the Headline News stuff, the posts I ran on the previous two Father's Days are appearing over at The Good Men Project.  You might remember the one I wrote two years ago, about my dad, where I make him look like The Most Interesting Man in the World.  Well, that's currently up at The Good Men Project, and you can click here to see it.  Or, if you don't want to go that far away, you can just read it right here at Beta Dad.  I revised it a little bit, but the main difference in the GMP version is this amazing photo (which they formatted so it's almost life-sized for some reason), of my dad earning his Airborne wings as a young Army officer in 1965.

    

********

The other Father's Day post that GMP is going to feature is the incredible piece my dad himself wrote about my grandpa, Harold "Tex" Hinds.  GMP is very stoked about this piece because it's fodder for their favorite theme: evolving conceptions of masculinity and manliness.  If you read the post last year, you know that Ol' Tex was an icon of traditional manliness to an almost mythological extent. 

That post is supposed to run on Good Man Project on Father's Day and it should be featured on the front page of their site.  Just look for this, possibly even more amazing picture, of my grandpa: 

Grandpa saddle-breaking his horse, Bucky, in 1965, at age 60.  When I was 10, Bucky threw my cousin and me (at the reins) off and I ended up with a broken wrist and a face full gravel road-rash.  Somehow my cousin was unscathed.  Grandpa had told us never to try to ride double on Bucky, and we should have listened. 

 I'll post a direct link to the GMP version of this post when it's live, or you can just read it on Beta Dad.  It might be fun to check it out on GMP, because the commenters there tend to be very, um, passionate.




Have a great weekend, everybody, and to all you dads out there, from the cockles of my heart, in the largest, boldest font I have:


Happy Father's Day !

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Back to Work

I'm in a bit of a fucking funk right now, and probably should not be writing at all, lest readers think I'm the type who gets into funks and then they get concerned/annoyed and everything gets uncomfortable.

Maybe I should temper this grumble in advance with the news that I'm very happy about my latest haircut, which is a uniform 1/8" long and has liberated me from worrying that people are looking at my patchy hair and saying, "Why doesn't that old bastard just shave his stupid head?  He's not fooling anyone."  It's not that it "looks good" or anything--It's just that I don't have the option of wasting time futzing with the few remaining strands.  As much as I sincerely loathe this expression, finally, it is what it is.

Anyway, the thing I'm being funky about has to do with my kiddos unexpectedly being invited to enroll in their dream preschool, right now or never.  It's good news for them, but the implications for me are more mixed.

Essentially, I'm now in a position where I have to go out and make some money.  To which eventuality I respond, "Fuck."  I wish I loved chasing dollars as much as some people do; but frankly I don't have much passion or aptitude for it. 

For two days a week, now that the kids are in school, I have a bunch of hours on my hands with no kids around.  These "free" hours don't come cheap, unfortunately.

I've written here and elsewhere about how my wife and I don't base our family roles on societal norms, but rather on practicality.  We do whatever we're in the best position to do, respectively, in order to meet the needs of the family in an equitable way.  My wife makes a lot more money than I ever have, so she's been in charge of doing that for a while.  But she works reasonable hours and does tons of "unpaid family work" whenever she's home, rather than being a female version of a fifties sitcom dad, living at the office and kicking back while her mate serves her hand and foot once she gets home.

We like this arrangement.  It suits us.  So it's only fair that, since there are now fewer hours where I need to do the unpaid family work, and since the family now has more expenses (preschool tuition), I should go out and get some paid work to help hold up my end of the unspoken bargain.

But BD, you're probably thinking.  You're a blogging superstar and media darling.  Why not just do more of that shit?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vomit, Blood, and Winds of Fire: Our Weekend Getaway to the Desert

"You know where we're going?" I asked my wife.  It was Thursday evening.  She had just gotten off of work, and I had been preparing for the trip all day in fits and starts, between attending to the demands of the little tyrants. 

"Just head up the 15," she said, pecking at her iPhone.

I dropped it into drive and pulled out.

Six people in the minivan, and so much gear that even with the rooftop carrier fully loaded, there were tote bags, pool toys, and coolers crammed between the seats.  Three of the passengers were toddlers, and the rest of us were old enough to know better.

We drove on the freeway for an hour, and our friend, who asked that I call her Francesca since that's what she calls herself when she drinks a lot of cocktails and dances inappropriately with strangers (I mean, when she used to do that stuff before she became a mom and totally gave it all up), kept her daughter and our twins entertained with songs and stories from her seat in the very back of the van.

We got off at our exit and started winding up the San Bernardino Mountains.  The van did well considering its payload, and I pushed it pretty hard through the turns.  Francesca's husband, who would be joining us on Saturday, drives a BMW M5, usually too fast, and Francesca herself has a reputation for being a leadfoot.  I thought that she would be impressed by my driving skills and the power of the sweet Sienna.

As we hairpinned our way down the other side of the range into the Coachella Valley, I cranked the AC all the way up, but the van still felt like a can of baked beans over a campfire.  It was 9:30 pm by then, and all the passengers besides my wife were silent and, we assumed, asleep.

We cruised Palm Desert's well-lit, palm-lined main drag, looking at the opulent entrances to the massive resorts and imagining that we would enjoy similar accommodations when we arrived at our condo, which we had only seen on the timeshare website.

Then, for the next ten miles, we seemed to get stuck in a low-speed version of a Flintstones chase scene--you know, when Fred and Barney are running blurry-legged and the same background keeps flashing by them in a loop?  It was like that, but instead of of stone furniture and appliances made of live animals, it was Panera and Chipotle and Del Taco.

After that, the backdrop got less glamorous: Food 4 Less, Dollar Store, Checks Cashed Here.

Finally we were in Indio, our destination. And on the outskirts of that little desert outpost was our condo.

I took the sweeping turn into the condo's driveway, and as I did, I heard it:

SPLAT!

The unmistakeable sound of vomit hitting carpet.

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