So, I love games. I mean, I love them. Always have. And not just video games, although that’s certainly the easiest route for me to get a fix these days. I’m a fan of board games, card games, dice games, role-playing games, miniatures games, and variants of any & all of the above.
I spend unseemly amounts of time not just playing games, but talking about them, reading about them, thinking about them, buying add-ons, reviewing my strategies/misplays, watching tournaments, etc. I am, unquestionably, a “gamer.”
So, a little over a month ago, Jen and I went to PAX South in San Antonio which, if you don’t know, is a huge convention highlighting games of all kinds. You’d think this would be like a trip to Mecca for me. Alas, we…well, we had a decent enough time, I guess.
I say this because neither of us were all that blown away by the experience, and I could even have been classified as “a little disappointed” by Saturday evening. There were very few well-known games being demoed, and those that were there weren’t exactly my thing.
I was much more interested in sitting in on the panels, where I’d be able to listen to some very intelligent people talk about life and gaming for an hour at a time. Sadly, it was nigh impossible to get into any of them unless you showed up an hour in advance.
We did, however, manage to get into the “Gamer Parenting Strategy Guide,” which was rather interesting. Aside from the “gamify all the things!” and “monitor their content!” advice, they also mentioned a few awesome companies with games for children. Like StoryBots, where kids get to add their likeness to online animated stories. And, of course, TocaBoca, who create awesome learning app-games. The panelists also advised us to turn on subtitles in all games, so kids get used to reading along with things. (Which I think is a fantastic idea.)
The trade floor itself wasn’t bad, but it had definitely lost its luster by the afternoon of day two.
Honestly, the most fun we had all weekend was when we checked out games from their “library” and learned how to play them on the “Free Play Tables.” Speaking of which, the absolute best of these was the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, which we purchased shortly after PAX and have played a bit since. (We’re actually planning on running the second adventure this weekend.)
So, for the more gaming-inclined among you, here’s the rest of my “Best of PAX” list:
All of these look quite good.
But the absolute best part of PAX? That one’s easy.
It was simply getting out of town with my wife and doing something that’s odd and interesting together. All the more important since the days of being able to just drop everything and take off for a weekend are rapidly coming to a close. (For a little while, anyway.)
Actually, that’s not true at all. These were the best part of PAX:
Those are Jen’s VERY FIRST set of multi-sided dice.
**beams with pride**
I’d like to talk to you for a moment about window blinds. And while this isn’t exactly baby-related, it does have relevance to our house which, obviously, the baby will live in someday. It’s also a bit of a rant, and probably not a very interesting one at that. Forewarned is forearmed.
So last October, Jen and I decided it might be time to finally have blinds put on our windows. (After all, we’d only been living in our house for 3 years without them.) And so we went to Home Depot to pick them out and have them installed.
Now a little-known fact about me is that I am the King of the “Same-as-Cash” finance plan, which is why we chose a big box store to begin with. I break the whole purchase down while I’m still in the store, and set my bank account to auto-deduct the proper amount every month. I have never once missed a payment on these, *knock on wood* and honestly, I’m not sure how stores can allow this to be a thing and remain profitable. I guess there’s a whole lot of people out there who haven’t branched out on their Fiscal Responsibility skill tree.
Anyway, first we schedule the Home Depot guy to come out and measure the entire house. The kid is over 4 hours late, citing “truck problems.” Eventually he arrives and does the measuring, and I set up a time to go to Home Depot to pick out the blinds themselves.
At our blinds appointment, the woman we worked with was so distracted by her cell phone that she called me two days later to ask when we were going to come in to pick out our blinds. She’d completely forgotten that we’d spent two hours sitting with her while she futzed with a computer and answered calls from her mother.
3 weeks later, we’re given notice that our blinds have arrived and have been scheduled to be installed. So I stay home to oversee the installation and to corral Alex into the bathroom, as per OSHA standards. The very same “truck problems” kid calls me up at about 9am.
“Uh, Mr. Shaw? We’re missing some blinds.”
“Well, you’re supposed to have 15 blinds and I only have 11.”
“I see. And…?”
“Well, do you want me to come out and install the other 11 or wait until all of them are in?”
“I’ve already taken the day off of work, so let’s get what we can installed and go from there.”
“Oh. [dejected] Okay.”
So he comes out and starts doing his thing. And as he does so, I notice he’s fiddling with the blinds a lot and shaking his head. After an hour, he comes to me and explains that two of the sets were cut incorrectly, but that it really doesn’t matter since all of the ones he just hung are warped/bent and he’ll have to come back to replace them anyway.
Jump forward a month, and this time it’s Jen who’s babysitting the installer. Once again, the same two blinds have been mis-cut, and only half of the total window treatments are warped. So we start the replacement process again. Although this time the installer left all the old boxes in my foyer because reasons?
We move into the holiday season, and I’ve still heard nothing at all. So I submit a complaint on the Home Depot website and *wham!* activity begins anew. The same people call me and begin the process of re-ordering the blinds (which means they hadn’t done a damn thing in a month), and they send the installer kid over immediately to pick up the boxes that he’d left behind.
Another month passes, and I get a call that all the blinds are in again and when would I like them to come out? To which I explain that I’m all done taking days off of work in the vain hopes that they might actually have gotten their poop in a group, and isn’t there some way to check the blinds for warpitude before they send someone out to install them? You would’ve thought I’d explained the schematics of a perpetual motion machine to this woman.
“You know…I CAN do that! I can do that right in the store! I’ll make something to do it! I’m going to do it! Okay, I call you back!”
And, about 4 hours later, she does.
“Yeah, Mr. Shaw? These blinds warped. Maybe you want go with 2″ blinds and not 2 1/4″?”
I sigh, and explain that we already have half the house done in 2 1/4″ blinds (“ohhh…yeah, you right“), and that if we’d wanted that size we would’ve ordered them at the outset. No. Do it again. Do it better. And we’ll keep doing it until you get it right.
At least this time neither Jen nor I had to miss a day of work…
As we rounded into February, three months after we purchased the blinds, I lost all patience with the process. I filed a Better Business Bureau report, and was fielding bi-weekly phone calls from their Customer Response Team in Atlanta who regularly assured me they’re staying on top of the situation. Doing a bang up job so far, folks. Thanks!
Eventually, they do call and say they have the blinds, have checked them, and are ready to finish the install.
So out comes the exact same kid on this past Saturday morning.
He finishes the install. I do a celebratory Snoopy dance.
He then informs me that he doesn’t have a “return slip” for the old blinds, and so he’ll have to leave yet another stack of boxes in my foyer until he can figure out what to do with them.
“Can’t you just put them in your truck and get the slip later?”
“Oh no, sir. I can’t do that. I don’t have the return slip.”
“And that matters why, exactly?”
“Because…I don’t have a return slip. I, er, wouldn’t know what to do with them. Besides, they’ll hafta pay me to come out and pick them up later!”
I get a follow-up call from the customer service team and they’re as incredulous as I am that he didn’t take the boxes with him. I explain to them, calmly, that I’m now going to put all the boxes out in my driveway. And they can either come pick them up, or they’re going out with the trash on Wednesday. And I’m happy to say that they did, indeed, pick the damn things up at some point yesterday and all this nonsense is finally finis.
This morning, I received a call thanking me for my patience throughout the 4-month ordeal. But when I ask if there’s a possibility for a refund on the installation costs I get an, “Oh, no. We don’t really do that. But how about a $50 Home Depot gift card instead?”
And so, let this be a clarion signal to anyone considering purchasing blinds for your home. Do NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to do so with Home Depot.
Here endeth the lesson.
Jen’s parents kept her original crib in storage, with the wonderful assumption that someday her kids would use it. We took it from them after our house was built, and it’s been in our storage room until last month. Naturally, I quite liked the idea of using it for Daphne because it has the dual effect of being both nostalgic and, well, gratis. (Bebes be ‘spensive, yo.)
Alas, it would seem that things have changed slightly in the past decade, and drop-side cribs are no longer en vogue and I don’t mean that in an MTV kind of way. They actually ceased selling them in 2011, because of countless injuries (and over 30 deaths), caused by the hardware that holds the sides up. Apparently it can give way and drop suddenly, sometimes with baby parts caught in it. Essentially becoming a cribbotine. /shudder
We weighed the pros and cons of this, and came to the easy realization that it wasn’t worth the risk, despite how awesome it would’ve been to have two generations of girls that had slept in the same crib. So we folded the Crib of Damocles back up, and retired it to the attic.
Which meant that my brother and I had to make yet another trek across the freeway to Babies-R-Us during our lunch break, where we shook, pulled, kicked, lifted, and generally tried to break every single crib they had on their showroom floor, just in case Daphne is born with the power of two large men. (We actually did the same thing a month ago when we were researching stroller/car seat combos.)
Now normally I’d feel bad about behaving in such a manner. However we started off as personae non gratae over there (apparently it’s socially acceptable to treat men like helpless plebes if they dare to attempt baby shopping without a woman present), and so we feel fine about ignoring all their glaring employees and their choleric protestations of, “are you SURE you guys don’t need any help?”
After an hour of cribbly wigglin’, we decided on the following:
I feel it swaddles the line between sturdiness and femininity quite well, and apparently others have agreed with me as it’s already been blasted off our registry. Now I just need to find something clever to do with the old crib. Let me know if you have any ideas.
Maybe I should check MTV…
T-66 to D-Day
66 Days to go, and all seems to be well. I’ve been poring over the minutiae of the items on our baby registry and rampaging with my Orks on the weekends. Jen is rather tired from her two jobs, but is hanging in there. She’s also been having
Higgs Boson Braxton Hicks contractions, which are apparently completely normal at this stage. And finally, Daphne is, as far as we know, gestating quite nicely. We’ll be back for another ultrasound next week to check on her progress.
So I’ve a rather random question for you parents out there. Did any of you have dreams involving your child before they were born?
Because I haven’t had a single dream about Daphne yet. Jen has had a pregnancy nightmare, but not anything about Daphne herself or about being a parent.
You would think that, given all the time spent thinking, planning, talking and reading about your first child, your subconscious would build scenarios about this little thing that you’re so focused on. I mean, when I was in a hardcore raiding guild in WoW, half of my dreams had an Xperl unit frame around them. But not a single dream about our baby yet.
I’ve been taking an informal poll today, and so far it would seem that I’m not alone in this. Not a single person I’ve talked to has dreamt about their kid before her/his birth.
So, Internet, has anyone out there had prenatal dreams about their child?
Freeplay Friday is where all the random thoughts, strange happenings, and other nonsense that might not be entirely dad-oriented are going to end up. Back off me man, it’s been a long week.
So despite the fact that Episcopalians don’t have actual “days of obligation,” I feel strongly about going to the Ash Wednesday service every year. Ask why if you like, but I really don’t have an answer; I just feel compelled to go. So after work on Wednesday, I sped over to my old church in the Heights for an evening service.
To make a long story short, when it was my turn to be marked with ashes, the elderly lady reached down to draw the cross on my forehead just as I lifted my head up to meet her gaze. This in turn causes most of the ashes to knocked off of her hand and to cascade down all over my face. I could actually feel them patter across my nose and cheeks. This elicits an, “er, oh…” from the old lady, she pauses for a moment to consider what to do, and then quickly steps to my left, presumably to cover the next poor soul in ashes.
At this point I’m tempted to go to the restroom to wash it off (because I’m envisioning that I look like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins), but that seems a little perfidious. So instead I turn around and simply head back to my pew, where I try to wipe my nose and eyebrows off as best I can.
The rest of the service proceeds without incident, and afterward I head home. I did, however, have to make a pit stop at Babies-R-Us to add a crib to our registry. (I’ll tell you that story next week.) While there, I noticed that the employees were looking at me rather strangely. But I assumed that either they didn’t know what the cross on my head was for (Texas is Baptist country, after all), or that I’d just missed some of the ashes that had been spilled on me and I was still a bit of a mess.
Fast-forward to when I get home and go to the bathroom, where I can actually look into a well-lit mirror.
And there, on my forehead, clear as day, is a black swastika.
The woman didn’t just give me palm frond blackface, her shaky thumb drew a whole damn swastika on my forehead. Which means I didn’t look at all like Dick Van Dyke; I looked like ‘effing Charles Manson.
And I was walking around the cribs in Babies-R-Us looking like that…
“What lovely small cages you have here. I’ll take a dozen.”
I’ve been getting this question a lot lately. Along with the, “are you nervous yet?”
And between you and me, Internet? I’ve no idea how I’m supposed to answer. Because if I’m being totally honest here, the answer is no.
No, I’m not excited.
And I’m not excited because I have absolutely no idea what any of this means. I’ve no idea what to do with an infant. I’ve no idea what it means to be a father. I’ve no idea if I’m going to like it. I’ve no idea if I’ll be good at it. I’ve no idea what it’s going to do to my life. I’ve no idea how to approach any of this.
And if I don’t know how something is going to affect me, how can I truly be excited about it?
I’ve heard various versions of, “oh…the first time you hold your child, something just changes.” And I believe it. I have zero doubt that the guy I become the second my daughter is born will be very different than the guy who stood in that spot one second earlier. Thing is, I don’t know that guy yet. I don’t know what’s important to that guy yet. I know the various responsibilities that he already has, but I don’t know how having a child will reorganize those priorities. I merely know that it will.
Now, this being said, I certainly don’t dread having a child. Far, far, from it. I’m having a great time learning about all the bizarre accoutrements that are involved with babydom. Things like stroller turning radii, the internal machinations of a Diaper Genie, and the structural differences between a “swaddler” and a “cruiser.”
I’m probably more studious and quizzical about the whole thing because it simply isn’t as real to me as it is to Jen.
By this, I mean having a child is less of a “concept” for mothers-to-be, as they’re already physically connected to the baby. Millions of years of successful hormone production are churning through a pregnant woman’s body, readying her for motherhood. While the father is standing there with a not-so-bright look on his face, asking things like, “Are all crib mattresses uniform in length, or are there proprietary sizing schemes, per brand?” (You should’ve seen the glazed expression I received from the poor kid I asked that to in Babies-R-Us.)
And as I wrap this up, it occurs to me that perhaps people just ask this in an effort to be polite, or to simply have something to say. The problem there is, I don’t do that. And when I’m asked any question I typically like to think a bit before answering, so I can respond with assurance and honesty. I don’t fill the air with talk.
Actually I think I’ll write more about that particular facet of my life, and how it might pertain to being a dad, in a forthcoming post.
So we have these dogs…
The white one is Alex. Aka “Albino Dire Wolf,” aka “Lobo, Duke of the Fulshear Wilds,” aka “Goddammit Alex, Shut UP!”
Alex is, well, Alex is special.
Remember the animated movie “Bolt?” The one with the little white dog with the “Super Bark?” Yeah, there’s a reason why they chose an Eski for that film. Alex’s bark is one of the most piercing things this world has ever suffered. It’s so loud that it actually blinds you for a split second as all of your senses recoil. So loud there’s a ringing aftershock after each bark. Ethel Merman singing the Cranberries “Zombie” into a bullhorn would be a dulcet tympanic shiatsu by comparison. It effing hurts.
Now this would be fine under normal circumstances. After all, you do want a dog with a loud, alerting bark.
The problem is, Alex barks all the time.
Kids playing on the street? BARKBARKBARK!
Trash guys? BARKBARKBARK!
Commercial with a doorbell in it? BARKBARKBARK!
Someone actually rang the doorbell? DESTROY!
He also has a thing about anyone touching Jen. Touching is forbidden. Doubly so for me. My wife and I have been together for 7 years, and Alex has never stopped attempting to punch me in the balls every time I move within arm’s length of her. And yes, he’s aiming. You see, over time, hitting that particular area has proven to elicit the strongest response in ceasing the unwanted behavior, i.e. me touching Jen. And so now he really does, “sic balls.” (Pavlov’s got nothing on me.)
So add these two lovely personality flaws together, and then multiply.
How do you have a baby in the house with a dog like that?
It’ll be nappus interruptus every time Alex feels he needs to repel the marauding horde of invaders (read as: children playing in the street), from the sanctified borders of our home. Which means Daphne will get woken up about every 30 minutes or so.
And what will happen when Jen reaches down to pick our child up? Will he recognize that little thing as another human and attempt a
Falcon Canine Punch?
These are things I worry about. And we’re not going to know one way or another until we get Daphne home and see how he responds.
And then there’s Jib.
Jib is gentle. Jib is even-tempered. Jib is obedient. Jib is an incredibly sweet and loving dog. I’m certain that Jib is going to love Daphne, and be extraordinarily protective of her.
The thing is, Jib also loves toys. And, all your toy are belong to Jib.
Again, this would be fine by itself. Alas, Jib has a penchant for tearing open these toys and swallowing all the stuffing/plastic bits that lie inside them. To him, they’re like little fuzzy Gobstoppers. And these delicious plastic parts subsequently get caught in Jib’s intestines, thus necessitating thousands of dollars worth of invasive doggy surgery at GCVS.
And so I’m going to have to screen all of Daphne’s toys for contraband squeaky bits, in an effort to keep Jib from tearing them apart and happily destroying his own innards.
Jib, like most dogs, also very much likes his routines. They help him make sense of, and derive comfort from, an otherwise confusing human world. Breakfast is served the same way each day. Followed by the morning walk. Followed by dad leaving for work. But all is okay because dad says, “okayIloveyoubegood!” over and over, and that means he will be back. These things make Jib a happy dog.
But! Woe betide a messed with bedtime.
Jib sleeps in the bed with us. Or, more to the point, we sleep in Jib’s bed with him. He languorously stretches out in the center of our expensive memory foam mattress, and Jen and I fight to keep about 18″ of space on either side of him. And, if I happen to wake up, or roll over, or talk in my sleep, all are met with quick and strong kicks to my side. These send a very clear message.
“No. Stop. Jib is sleeping.”
And since Daphne will be with us at night (in her bassinet) for a while, and given that infants are notoriously poor sleepers, I’ve no doubt Jib is going to get testy about his lack of beauty sleep. Which means I’m going to get kicked. A lot.
Now please don’t misconstrue this. I absolutely adore our dogs, and I’d do just about anything to ensure sure they’re healthy and happy. Which means that we’re all going to find a way to make this thing work. There’s just going to be a learning curve…for everyone involved.
I was listening to my iPhone playlist as I drove to work today, head bobbing beneath a Reverend Horton Heat beanie that I’d purchased at a show over 20 years ago, and I began to wonder at what point it’s safe to move your baby from soft lullabies to solid music.
Now I realize that my taste in music might be construed as rather…cacophonous. And, as such, I don’t want to frighten my poor girl. Read as: No JSBX in the nursery. (Man, I can already feel my wife narrowing her eyes at me for that one…)
Not to mention I don’t want to inadvertently burrow corruptive lyrics into her still forming little mind. You know, seditious things like, “Ob-la-di. Ob-la-da.” Or, “His name was ‘Rico.’ He wore a diamond.” Or “Life is demanding, without understanding.”
There’s also the consideration that she might grow up to shun artists like Sleater-Kinney and Rilo Kiley simply because, “ugh, that’s dad’s music.”
My God. She could even rebel against such paternal pressure and start listening to things like pop radio. Or… [*dry heave*] country.
So I ask you, where is the line between encouraging a broad spectrum within your child’s musical palate, and simply pushing them to like your stuff? I mean, when I was 8-years-old I listened to Phil Collins “No Jacket Required” and Peter Gabriel’s “So” on a Walkman while riding my bike around the neighborhood. In retrospect, both of these are fantastic albums. Yet they weren’t my choices, they were what my father was listening to at the time. So that’s all I knew. It wasn’t until about 6th or 7th grade where I started to develop my own musical preferences, much to his chagrin. Bruce Hornsby and Paul Simon were replaced by Beastie Boys and the Dead Milkmen.
Will I have the 2026 equivalent of LL Cool J to look forward to when my daughter turns 11? And a better question is, will I mind?
Hmm… Guess I’ll windmill strum that bridge when I get to it.
Until then, I’ll just sing her things like the lullaby version of “Enjoy the Silence” and hope it sticks.
So I’ve started the process of cleaning out what will become Daphne’s nursery on Sunday, and step one was removing the serious amount of stuff that’s been accumulating in there over the past 3 years.
10 large boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards, a stereo, a small box of DVDs and a trash bag filled with old t-shirts that my wife wouldn’t allow me to throw away* all made their exodus. (*Apparently “t-shirt quilts” are a thing?)
Mrs. Bumble, however, is a teacher. And as such there were mountains of manila folders with old grading assignments, hundreds of soft-cover treatises on proper grammar, boxes of various school supplies/desk ornaments, and dozens of giant (and very heavy), hardback textbooks cataloging countless ways to cajole children into reading.
But whining about lifting heavy objects is not the purpose of this post; it’s just a husband quota thing that had to be filled. I’m done now.
So, now that all the detritus has been moved into the game room for sorting/filing/deleting, what I’m left with is a relatively empty space.
As such I’ve been reading a bit about nursery colors, and their effects on infants. Which means that I have both a degree in aesthetics and too much time on my hands.
It seems red can cause fiery emotional outbursts, but orange is friendly and cozy.
Yellow agitates babies, but green is soothing and calming.
Blue causes melancholy, but purple promotes
Grey causes introspection, black is authoritative, brown evokes poop (that one’s definitely out), white is secretive, etc. etc.
This information is currently effecting what I assume is that most common of cognitive dissonance in first time parents-to-be.
“This seems completely ridiculous. But…I don’t know…maybe it isn’t?”
Anyway, I’m still not sure of the color palette of the walls, but I have already purchased prints. They were done by a young lady named Liz Nugent, and were intended as Magic card sleeves for Star City Games.
Yes, they’re adorable. And the manager over at Star City Games seemed to agree with me, as he’s now planning to put them up in his own kid’s nursery.
Now, given the colors used in these prints, I think some variant on a buttery-yellow is where I’m going with the walls. And hopefully Señor Rokkit Pengvin will help keep all baby agitation down to a minimum.
Today I thought we might talk about the sacrifices you make for your kids.
As such, I’d like to introduce you to the first of what I’m sure will be many in my life:
Last week, after hearing for the umpteenth time about all the costs involved in babying, I came to the realization that I hadn’t quite made room in our monthly budget for diapers, dentists and daycare. (And, to be entirely honest, we were already running pretty close to break even.) So I began to look for places where we could scale back some luxury spending. And the first one came like a clarion call…
Ever since I was old enough to understand that I could have things of my own, I’ve wanted a boat. A small spot on the water that’s mine. Nothing ostentatious. Nothing gaudy. Certainly nothing you could ski behind. Just a simple boat with sails and a place for me to sleep.
I stood on the docks in Wickford, RI and came up with adventures involving the dinghies that were made fast to the pier. I worked on other people’s catamarans and schooners all over the east coast, dreaming of the day I’d be the captain of my own. I towed 12-footers behind my Mitsubishi Eclipse up to Bear Lake, Utah to teach university sailing classes in the summers. And I’ve sat at restaurant tables in Kemah with my wife, jealously watching Js and Beneteaus drift by, on their way out for an afternoon sail.
Last April, after 35 years, this dream finally came true. I sold off a number of Magic: the Gathering cards to Star City Games, bought a 1978 30′ Hunter, and sailed her to my very own slip in Seabrook. We took her out only a few times (summers in Texas aren’t conducive to these things), but the knowledge that I had a boat of my own, there for me anytime I wanted to take her out, made me happy.
But that was before there was a Daphne to think about. And last week I added the annual cost of slip fees + insurance + maintenance + registration + gas for the trips down and back. The total wasn’t a small one, and it became clear that I couldn’t afford to keep my boat.
I’d finally gotten the thing I’ve always wanted, and I was going to have to watch her sail away without me.
This was a very bad day.
But, as in all things, there’s silver lining to be found here.
I did fulfill a lifelong dream and get that one thing that I’ve always wanted. I hope that all of you can know what that feels like, even if it’s just for a little while. And there’s nothing stopping me from getting another boat someday. Someday…
And, of course, I’ve a daughter on the way. One who will be (hopefully) healthy and strong and brilliant and generally a wonderful little human being to be around. And maybe I won’t dwell on the things that I gave up for her, because they’ll pale in comparison to how amazing she is. I hope that’s what will happen.
But I know that, on some clear spring days, the eidolons of my past will whisper to me on the wind. And, for just a moment, it will break my heart.