Santa ’14

Author’s note: As has happened multiple times in the past, WordPress has neither saved nor published an entire post. Before I publish anything, I always “view” it first, so I can see how it will look after it’s posted (which is not to say I catch all the typos I might have made). This particular piece was fine. When I viewed it later, however, it was completely cut off after the second photo, and wasn’t saved at all after that. Full piece – to the best of my memory – is below.


To be clear, I know how it works. Santa’s busy, so the guys at the malls are just his helpers, but God bless ‘em. No, seriously; these guys get covered in who knows what substances, have to listen to screaming babies, and maintain a jolly attitude all day just so that your kid can have 60 seconds of Christmas joy. Or adorable Christmas terror.

Pictured: "F*ck Christmas terror."

Pictured: “F*ck Christmas terror.”

This year is the boys’ first Christmas, so naturally we took them to see Santa(‘s helper). At eight months old, they have absolutely no idea what anything in the world around them is, so there is a bit of silliness to standing in line (outside in the freezing cold in our case) to pay for a picture of confused or scared babies sitting with Santa when they don’t care and won’t remember.

The Santa we saw was at an open-air shopping center in nearby Kent, WA. The line was long (to me) and outside during an especially cold morning (I can’t stress that enough), but it moved fairly quickly.

And why is there always a kid in an aviator helmet in line?

And why is there always a kid in an aviator helmet in line?

The longest part was kids being unbundled (from being in the cold) and then rebundled (to return to the cold). Santa(‘s helper) was a good one, fat, real beard, jolly, pretty much all that I ask of my Santas(‘ helpers). The photography was provided by Styron’s Photography; I’d never heard of them, but they were nice to work with and we ended up liking the picture they picked as the “best”.

"We find the noises you are making at us interesting. We are looking at the camera as requested. We are good boys for you, mother."

“We find the noises you are making at us interesting. We are looking at the camera as requested. We are good boys for you, mother.”

The best, in our case, was our boys’ standard photo face, stoic and intrigued more by the photographer and camera than happy or interested in what’s going on around them. Even at home, they start doing something cute, we get a camera or phone, and they look at us like they’re posing for a Victorian oil portrait and not an iPhone photo of them gnawing on the cat’s tail.

A couple of weeks after our photo shoot, I was with the boys at M’s weekly physical therapy when I noticed that the medical building we were at was hosting a free photo op with Santa(‘s helper), so I figured we might as well make it a twofer.

We went through the very short (and inside, and warm) line, and as they were used to dealing with children with sensory processing disorders and what have you, they were very careful to have me back up with the boys and we all used nice calm voices. The boys were, as always, good public babies.

As soon as I backed away, the three teenage girls in elf costumes and the two adult women who seemed to be running the show dispensed with all that sensory sensitivity b.s. and began making goo-goo noises and shaking leather strips of giant jingle bells in an attempt to get the boys to look at the camera.

The stranger’s lap and the five – no kidding, five – strange adults making lots of new, odd, loud noises resulted in two babies who were not very happy. The good news is that we got the classic “crying baby” picture, they got to keep those stuffed polar bears, and it was the first time one of them (M) reached out in a “save me Daddy” manner, so I’m chalking it up as a win.

"That's easy for you to say."

“That’s easy for you to say.”

Although I knew we were going to do the pictures no matter what, I went into the Santa(‘s helper) thing with out much interest. Like I said, the babies don’t even get any enjoyment out of it, so why go through the hassle? In the end though, I’m glad we followed the herd and got the “infant with Santa(‘s helper)” picture. Like a lot of the “they’re just babies so who cares” stuff K likes to do, I imagine that I’ll enjoy it in hindsight more and more the further away I get from it.

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Quotes

Quotes I’ve liked and accumulated on my FB page over the years, shared here for no reason other than the sake of sharing them:

“The smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry.” – Khawaja Asif

“It’s never too early to start beefing up your obituary.” – The Most Interesting Man in the World

“Every day holds the possibility of a miracle.” – Elizabeth David

“Fine. Go. Find whatever it is you want from her. Vengeance. Peace. Babies. Hate.” – Andy Botwin, “Weeds”

“You laugh at his dumb jokes. He tell you your bad dinner taste good. That what make marriage work.” – Mah Mah, “American Dad”
“You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.” – Ugarte

” Look, lady. I just got my coffee the perfect color. It’s the only thing I’ve got going for me tonight.” – Art Ridzik, “Red Heat”

“Women are made to be loved, not understood. ” — Oscar Wilde

“It’s not an addiction. It’s just an overwhelming need that controls my life.” – Pickles Oblong

“My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.” – Cary Grant

”You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”—C. S. Lewisa

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”—Tom Davin

“Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.” – Lauren Bacall

“I used to hate all those teachers. Then I found out what they were paid and realized they weren’t mean; they were just hungry.” – Fibber McGee

“I just wish my income would catch up with my taste.” – Fibber McGee

“A word to the wise ain’t necessary; it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.” – Bill Cosby

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Winston Churchill

“I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave.” – Joseph Campbell

“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long.” – Leonard Bernstein

“It’s as sterile as my milkman trusting father.” – Professor Hubert Farnsworth, “Futurama”

“What’s so great about Bing Crosby? All he ever sings is ‘White Christmas.’ If they ever change the color of Christmas he’s through.” – Gracie Allen

“Codeine…bourbon…” – Tallulah Bankhead’s last words

“Essentially, we have a system where wealthy farmers feed the poor crap and poor farmers feed the wealthy high-quality food.” – Michael Pollan

“We invoke the sacrifices of our fallen heroes in the abstract, but we seldom take time to thank them individually.” – Rahm Emanuel

“You can safely assume you have created God in your image when it turns out He hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

“My wife Mary and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.” – Jack Benny

“Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman – or a bad woman; it depends on how much happiness you can handle.” –
George Burns

“Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor – over each other.” – Thomas Jefferson

“I honestly believe it is better to be a failure at something you love than a success at something you hate.” – George Burns

Letting Go

One thing that has been surprising/not surprising since even before the boys were born is the massive influx of “stuff” that a new baby – let alone two – causes. Seats. Bouncers. Toys. Diapers. Swings. Cribs. Stuff for the walls. Dishes. Food. About five minutes after the first positive pregnancy test our house began filling up with more things to keep babies warm, cool, entertained, fed, safe, clean, stimulated, relaxed, awake, asleep…

Naturally, the “butterfly effect” kicked in. Bit by bit, our stuff started to get displaced. The office and guest bedroom became one. Closets were emptied. Kitchen cabinets were consolidated. Bags and boxes were taken to Goodwill. Closet contents went into the garage.

Still, we had too much stuff. It seems like every nook and cranny is filled, so much so that some of that new baby stuff is in cardboard boxes taking up floor space. There have just been too many things we “couldn’t” get rid of. “We’ll need that someday. That has sentimental value. It’s just too cool to get rid of. If we get rid of it and decide we want it again, we won’t be able to replace it.” We (read: 90% I) couldn’t stand to get rid of enough stuff.

Now, eight months in, I realized that I am more or less over any attachment I had to a large percentage of our stuff.* I think it happened when I suddenly and without trying made peace with the fact that with babies in our lives, I needed to be ready to lose things, and to practice patience and forgiveness when it happens.

Once that had settles in, it wasn’t long before I realized “hey, if I can be OK with a baby breaking something I care about, why have I been lugging some of this crap that we never use from house to house?” I’ve finally started to see what K sees, cabinets and closets and what have you overflowing with stuff we can easily do without. I’m keeping a mental list for whenever we have the time and wherewithal to put together a garage sale. If it doesn’t happen before our next move, the thrift shop is going to get quite a load of stuff.

I’ll probably shop for more baby stuff while I’m there.

*calm down, K

Coming Back to Christmas

I think it’s been a combination of factors that have led me to what at best can be called a disinterest in and at worst a loathing of Christmas and its entire affiliated season.

First and foremost, I have been working some form of customer service/retail job for the last…well, every day I’ve ever been employed for my entire life. In particular, for the last – oh my God – seven years, I have been employed with a high-end grocery store. Something about having wealthy people get pissy because you’re sold out of organic mulling spice packs can really chip away at my holiday spirit. Add to that year after year of looping Christmas music (courtesy Muzac) bombarding me for 8+ hours a day, lack of time with family, and first-hand experience with people at a level of holiday narcissism and gluttony that would make Linus vomit into his blanket.

On top of this you can stack age, a growing lack of disinterest in holidays in general, and the shadow of depression looming over me even darker when I’d rather be enjoying the season with my family. It has all added up to what amounts more or less to a resentment of holidays in general and Christmas in particular.

A robust and sincere tip of the hat to my brothers and sisters in retail, food service, hospitality, and other service jobs who don’t flinch during holiday times and especially to those who enjoy them. Kudos, and I even get it. The holidays are more intense, seem to fly by, can be exciting, and even I get a sense of enjoyment when I contribute to making someone else’s holiday/s great. What I particularly dislike, though, is the disregard with which one in our profession is often treated, a disregard that increases during the periods surrounding the various holidays.

I might as well be an Amazon page for all the consideration I get.

This is part and parcel of the service industry, and one typically becomes numb to or at least used to it. What I’ve never been able to reconcile, though, is the increased disregard and even contempt leveled at employees in various customer service jobs.

I’m sorry your family is stressing you out and that you forgot to order your turkey until it was too late and that your credit card bill is growing and that I have offended you with my inability to help you in these or any other matters. Truly.

As the years have passed, and my displeasure with what I do in general growing, I have lost more and more interest in, concern over, and enthusiasm for the holidays. They (all of them) have become just more work challenges to get through, no more fun or exciting than inventory or budget meetings or Weasel Stomping Day. Grab your bootstraps and get through it.

My real problem with this is that it’s really an area of work I can’t help but bring home. I deal with holiday stuff – music, food, etc. – at work all day. Coming home to more holiday music and food isn’t a lot of fun anymore. Placing my own holiday stress second to that of total strangers makes my stress that much tougher to tolerate. I largely dislike Christmas music anymore, or at least any of the common stuff. I look forward to Christmas morning and Halloween night like I look forward to doctor appointments. I’m too frazzled to pick good gifts for people, and although I always plan big holiday meals, I wind up regretting the choice about 30 seconds into taking food from the fridge.

For the first time in ever, I have something really, truly exciting to look forward to this Christmas: a couple of babies.

Last year, when K was pregnant, I actually had some serious optimism about this. I want these boys to renew my excitement in holidays. I need them to.

I know that’s a lot to dump on babies. Asking my children to restore my enjoyment of holidays? They are not real life Rankin/Bass characters.

I don’t care. This year might not make much of a difference, and even next year might be a little tepid.

At some point, though, I will watch these two little terrors start to actively enjoy Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and the rest.

Fireworks?! Eggs?! Turkey?! PRESENTS?!” I want my babies to look forward to and enjoy holidays the way I used to, and I’m praying that they bring me back to at the very least optimism about them. I admit it; I plan on living vicariously through these guys. I’m not even sorry.

I think that at a certain age, you accept that the bulk of holiday fun is for kids. So you let the little ones have their fun. That, in itself, brings more than enough happiness to many adults, and I’m eagerly looking forward to being one of those adults.

I know pinning the enjoyment of holidays – especially Christmas – on our little boys seems a bit unfair. My justification is that they brighten up my regular days so much that I can only imagine what they’re going to on Christmas.

 

This is M's "official" first crawl. All it took was a singing, light-up novelty Christmas decoration from Hallmark.

This is M’s “official” first crawl. All it took was a singing, light-up novelty Christmas decoration from Hallmark.

Winter time!

Winter time!

OK, Santa didn't scare them; it was the three grumpy teen girls in elf costumes and the other two women helping shaking jingle bells and cajoling the boys to face the camera. Fun, but a bit intense. Oh well. It was free (at P.T.'s office building) and they got to keep those bears!

OK, Santa didn’t scare them; it was the three grumpy teen girls in elf costumes and the other two women helping shaking jingle bells and cajoling the boys to face the camera. Fun, but a bit intense. Oh well. It was free (at P.T.’s office building) and they got to keep those bears!

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Awesome Santa in Kent, WA.

 

Daddy needs Christmas cheer too.

Daddy needs Christmas cheer too.

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GQ pose!

GQ pose!

First Christmas, first pile of electrified strangulation hazard studded with gass.

First Christmas, first pile of electrified strangulation hazard studded with gass.

8 months old!

8 months old!

8 months!

8 months!

Catching You Up On the Adorableness

Nothing to see here, only

RIDICULOUSLY CUTE BABY PICTURES!!!

 

On our hike down to Dash Point State Park Beach.

On a recent hike down to Dash Point State Park Beach.

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

Dash Point Beach

C used to have trouble falling back asleep in the mornings. Solution? Snuggle with daddy.

C used to have trouble falling back asleep in the mornings. Solution? Snuggle with daddy.

I *was* asleep when she started to snap this. I think it still counts as a "napping dad" pic.

I *was* asleep when she started to snap this. I think it still counts as a “napping dad” pic.

Speaking of napping...

Speaking of napping…

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Purchased: A bunch of toys and this seat/tray. Best toy? The tray

Purchased: A bunch of toys and this seat/tray. Best toy? The tray.

Yup. Tray.

Yup. Tray.

Never say they have nothing in common.

Never say they have nothing in common.

Three studs.

A stud trifecta.

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We're being stern today.

We’re being stern today.

Because literature.

Because literature.

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"I haz teeth!"

“I haz teeth!”

Yes, he's really biting my nose. Yes, it really hurts.

Yes, he’s really biting my nose. Yes, it really hurts.

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"Kitteh?"

“Kitteh?”

The cat's actually a pretty good sport.

The cat’s actually a pretty good sport.

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Cartoon puppy cute.

Cartoon puppy cute.

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The day he learned to pull himself up in his crib.

The day he learned to pull himself up in his crib.

First time riding in a shopping cart like a grownup.

First time riding in a shopping cart like a grownup.

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Grocery shopping is a serious affair...

Grocery shopping is a serious affair…

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M holding himself up (mostly) on the Jumperoo while baby bro tries to jump.

M holding himself up (mostly) on the Jumperoo while baby bro tries to jump.

M, my little Seahawk.

M, my little Seahawk.

"Batman" for story time. Again.

“Batman” for story time. Again.

Not C in a roller-coaster. Just C having fun.

Not C in a roller-coaster. Just C having fun.

C is pretty proud of himself, learning to stand with the couch.

C is pretty proud of himself, learning to stand with the couch.

And what's on the couch?

And what’s on the couch?

Kitteh!

Kitteh!!!

Again: Alike.

Again: Alike.

Grinny and Smiley, the Polar Bear Boys.

Grinny and Smiley, the Polar Bear Boys.

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Pictured: milk coma

Pictured: milk coma

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He learned to crawl backwards first, taking the fence with him.

He learned to crawl backwards first, taking the fence with him.

"Well, I took care of that drawer you wanted pulled out."

“Well, I took care of that drawer you wanted pulled out.”

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Sometimes jumping makes us tired...

Sometimes jumping makes us tired…

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They were thrilled with their Halloween costumes.

They were thrilled with their Halloween costumes.

The spirit of Halloween lives in our house...

The spirit of Halloween lives at our house…

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Aviator scarves and headgear knit by a friend.

Aviator scarves and headgear knit by a friend.

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Amazon Review*: BumGenius Cloth Diapers & Sprayer

Before our boys arrived, we decided that we wanted to use cloth diapers as much as possible. This prevents some obvious logistical problems, as well as the debate over whether the electricity/water/cleaning chemicals totaled are still better for the environment and our budget than disposables. We tried a few different brands to start off, but the only diapers that met with our satisfaction at all were bumGenius. We have a few years of diapering to go, so who knows what will fit the bill (and the bums) in the future, but for now, this is our brand.

And how does one clean the, um, “bulk” from a cloth diaper? The easiest way id to spray it with water. You could use the sprayer in your sink, but the diaper sprayer from bumGenius has been working pretty well for us.

*NOT sponsored

Amazon Review*: Keter Bath Ring Infant Bath Seat

Our boys had gotten a bit too big/agile/strong/smart/slippery/downright mean to continue bath times in their infant tubs, so we looked into seats that would do a better job of holding them in place. Turns out there aren’t a lot of options, which  I guess means you don’t need to knock yourself out trying to achieve greatness when you sell them.

We wound up with the Keter Bath Ring infant bath seat from Amazon…

 

*NOT sponsored 

If I Knew Then…

Surprisingly, after all we went through with IVF, I was not the stereotypical “Hollywood” dad in the delivery room. I was emotional and everything, but – like I detail here – I didn’t feel like I had that instant papa-bear epiphany of new-fatherhood. I didn’t instantly become Ward Cleaver* blended with RoboCop…

Dispensing sage advice...and street justice!

Dispensing sage advice…and street justice!

…immediately fusing wisdom with a fiercely protective nature.

And cranking out little RoboBeavers.

And cranking out little RoboBeavers.

Between the stress, exhaustion, and other variables, it took me some time to bond with the twins. That may sound heartless, and in a way it sometimes feels that way to me. I feel a lot of guilt over not receiving the babies, cutting the cords, sobbing, handing out cigars, and arriving home to a begin a series of wacky, new-father shenanigans.

One of the great things I’ve found since becoming a dad is the existence online of an educational, helpful, and supportive community of fathers (and mothers) of every stripe. Linking in with other parents around the world – reading their stories and sharing mine – has been indescribably helpful to me.

One of the sites I discovered was dads.co, a relatively new site that saw fit to publish my thoughts/concerns/stress/relief during my early days of fatherhood; I’m looking forward to some follow-up content between us.

Spoiler alert: Being with and doing things for my boys is all I want now.

And a crossbow. I also want a crossbow.

*I was originally going to use Heathcliff Huxtable. I hate this new world.

Hospital Bag for Twins

Pretty thorough list from Twiniversity of the things you should pack in the bag you’ll be taking to the hospital to deliver your twins. This list goes more or less for parents of singletons too, so don’t feel left out.

Side note: If you don’t look like the picture of the woman who’s pumping, there must be something wrong with you. That’s pretty much a textbook post-pregnancy body.

A few tips for the partners:

If you stay overnight, you will likely be sleeping on a Korean War surplus cot with a mattress that’s slightly thicker than the uncomfortable linen service blanket they give you. I recommend a camping bedroll or yoga mat or something. And take your own pillow! Someone might have died on the one they give you. So just think about that.

Take junk food. You can take Larabars and bananas and…OK, those are the only healthy foods I know. Anyway, you’ll both be stressed, and feeling a little sorry for yourselves, and if you don’t normally eat Double Stuf Oreos and Cheez-Its and Slim Jims, now’s your chance. No one will judge you if they come in and find you weeping gently and cramming handfuls of Trix into your mouth. Also (moms), eat whenever they tell you you can. Things can get pushed back, and you don’t want to wait for hours only to find out you could have been eating the whole time. – The author of the list on Twiniversity makes this point as well, but it’s worth making twice.

Bring your phone charger! You will be expected to keep family up to speed and take pictures, and the building you’re in will likely have your phone straining to find a signal.

Bring the car seats and make sure any bases are properly installed!!! If you need help the NTSB and other agencies have good info, and there are also professionals who will install them for a fee. Google it or check Facebook; there is a car seat installation group there.

Some other things to keep in mind:

The hospital ward where you go after delivery will likely be locked down in case any kidnappers decide to go shopping or any of the babies turn out to be Stewie Griffin. You’ll have to get buzzed in and out any time you leave, so for your convenience, try to minimize your trips.

Mom is going to be the center of attention. You probably know this already, but in the excitement you could forget. Stay out of the way. It’s easy at first, but after delivery nurses are going to swarm mom. Get in a corner and stay there. It’ll save you being told to go to the corner, which is embarrassing, so I hear.

Lastly partners, if you haven’t yet, you need to brace for things you’re going to see. Don’t wait until zero hour. You know what zero hour is? It’s a cross between Our Bodies Ourselves and Nightmare on Elm Street.

"Visualize a beautiful flower opening in the sun..."

“Visualize a beautiful flower opening in the sun…”