A Better Way

The consumer nightmare of Black Friday is not something I enjoy, participate in, or really, condone. From the perspective of the kids’ mom, it’s an opportunity to get the kids Christmas/Yule gifts that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Heck, it’s a way to get stuff for the house that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. And for a long time, we were living so very paycheck-to-paycheck, that I couldn’t argue that.

Cup from Halo Burger

This year, I had the opportunity to head up north, and spend the weekend with my parents and my brother, instead. I jumped on that like Captain America on a live grenade. I spent the drive listening to my still-way-too-far-behind podcast list, and stopped for Halo Burger on the way. It had been WAY too long. They put actual olive slices on their olive burgers, and not some mostly-mayo might-be-one-piece-of-olive-in-it sauce. AND they will swap out any beef patty with turkey! So I had an olive turkey burger with a side of tater tots, and it was all of the yums!

(Just a quick note here, I am fully vaccinated and wear a mask at all times when I’m in public, unless actively eating or drinking. COVID-19 is still out there, so there is still reason to be safe. At the time of this trip, Michigan had the most cases of any state in the U.S., so you bet your butt I was being as safe as possible.)

Grill in snow

When I arrived, the catching up began immediately. We swapped stories, complained about nonsensical TV commercials, talked a little bit of tech, and groused a bit about our various medical conditions.

The next day involved a trip to Suzie’s Brews, some writing, some hanging out with my brother, my sister-in-law, and nephew, and most of all, a birthday dinner for my mom!

Steaks on the grill

My Dad had purchased some truly ridiculous steaks, and we grilled them out in the snow. 1.5 inches thick of tender, marbled steak goodness. We slowly cooked it to medium while Dad and Brother quietly disagreed about flipping often or flipping sparingly. I sipped coffee, breathed in the smell of cooking steak, and just relaxed.

If you know me, you know that relaxing is a challenge to me. Hilariously ironic.

Dad left his on the grill for a bit longer while we let the others rest to somewhere near medium-well. They were AMAZING. Just as good as the conversation, the times spent with my nephew, and the family history that was all around us. The drive back the next day was a little harrowing, as there was some snow and ice, but I made it back okay.

What’s the lesson here? Is it that if you skip Black Friday, you can have great relaxation time with family and high quality steaks?

Maybe.

I’m Thankful

I got to spend Turkey Day with all of four of my kids, and their mom. It was, without a doubt, a treasure. I regret not taking any photos, but I was having a blast just being IN the moment, you know?

My oldest was there, and we talked about his ridiculous work shifts, and his dog, and politics, and philosophy. He was handing me words when I was struggling to find them, and talking about how far he’d come in forming his own views on things. I was bubbling over with pride, and was so happy to be able to just talk with him.

My second-oldest was there, and while he mostly hid in his room and played with his new Switch, he and I shared some memories about him growing up, and he mentioned that I was still sort of one of his Dads. It came from him without prompting, and took me completely off guard in the best of ways.

My youngest son was there, helping out in the kitchen, and with the pets, and sliding in a snarky comment here and there. He landed several good roasts, and helped me assure his mom that the food was, in fact, going to be just fine, even if there were a few hiccups along the way.

My daughter was there, cuddling with the puppies, cuddling with me, making jokes and talking about the Switch she wants for Yule. She insisted on tickles, and showing me some of the gymnastics moves that she could still do, despite no longer being in class.

We all ate together, most of us way more than we should have. We barely scratched the surface of what had been cooked. Some leftovers came home with me, because no one loves marinated mushrooms as much as I do. Or stuffing. Seriously, I will fight you for stuffing.

The drive home was filled with both the warm glow of everything I’d experienced, and the dull ache of not having the kids coming with me. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it, and I kind of hope I don’t. As after-school-special as it sounds, I’ll let the ache remind me how precious every moment that I spend with my kids is.

Oh, and the smell of the leftovers. That was there in the drive home, too. Mmmm, leftovers.

Random Updates

My plague hair is long enough to be easily and reliably tied back. I’ve always wanted to donate to Locks of Love, but the last time I went from long hair to short hair, I didn’t tie it up properly, so I wasn’t able to donate. And now, they don’t use gray hair for their wigs. I can either dye it before I get it cut, or I can find another site to donate to.

We had an emote drive over on the Twitch channel, and on Wednesday, we unlocked the final emote for Affiliate level streamers. I was so stoked, and I’m pretty sure it came through stream. It’s a heck of an accomplishment, and my viewers did it all. Thanks to all of you, and I hope you enjoy the emotes!

I’ve had the week off from work, and am feeling absolutely rejuvenated. I feel like I am in a good place, and can whittle away at the infinite To-Do List of life and parenthood. Luckily for me, this feeling has hit me just as the kids are switching to be here with me most of the time. I have ideas, and hopes, but most of all, I’m looking forward to listening and watching and helping along the way.

Fear and kids

Originally written on 19 November 2017.

Terror is built deeply into my firstborn son. I should have made the jump. He had nightmares in the womb. They continue to be his most frequent form of dream. I spent nearly a year convincing him that our home, and especially his room, was safe. I helped him put a toy sword under his pillow every night so that he could sleep. I taught him how to cast mystical baddies out of his room. Now that he’s seven, he scoffs at it as if it were childish.

He swallowed a penny on Thursday, and it got stuck at the valve between his esophagus and his stomach. They sent us to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor to have it removed. When they put the IV in, it took two attempts. On the second attempt, I saw how deep the rabbit hole goes. Wild, darting eyes, panicked screaming, trying to look away, or reason through it, as Nikki kept telling him to, and him getting more panicked because he couldn’t. I tried to help, to comfort, to connect and share the burden. Tears immediately began cascading down my cheeks and wave after wave of core-level terror tore me apart. I had to leave the room.

I thought I was failing my son. I thought I wasn’t strong enough to do what a Dad does.

The doctors thought I was going to pass out.

Does he live with that terror inside him every second of every day? The bravery and strength that it must take him just to get through the day, let alone have all the fun that he tries to pack in (so much like his mother sometimes)… thinking about it leaves me in awe.

He already things that I say how proud I am because I’m his Dad, and I have to. If he only knew how thoroughly he’s already earned it.

Pro-tip for seven-year-olds: Saliva is not the best solvent for cleaning your penny collection. Catsup comes highly recommended.

I’m exhausted, I’m spent, and I’ve accomplished a hell of a lot, considering. Gonna take me a bit to recover from this one. From all of this.

Not my son, though. He’s already back to bowling and playing Skylanders and poking me in the belly and giving his mom a hard time.

That’s my boy.

Daddy’s Little Girl

IMG_20130607_085233My little girl can soak up attention like a sponge. We had her second birthday party yesterday, and it went off unbelievably well. Family and friends came by to celebrate and to spoil her with amazing presents and fun. She played with cousins that she hadn’t seen in a long time, was hugged by aunts, uncles, grandparents, and pretty much everyone else. The cute level was off the charts.

Two years ago today, my daughter was born, and it changed my life forever. Happy Birthday, Acelyn Elizabeth Crampton. I love you.

Proud StepDad

Hunter is on the honor roll, and I’m taking work off tomorrow to attend the awards ceremony. He worked his butt off to get to this point, and I am incredibly proud.

Tonight is his parent-teacher conference, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for Good Things(tm) there as well.

Any time now…

Cian is four years old, as of this past Saturday. Four. Out of his Terrible Twos, making his way out of the obnoxious boundary-pushing of the Tribulation Threes. I may be verging on melodramatic, but after Aidan and now Cian, I can verify, with certainty, that three is worse than two.

His birthday party was Sunday, and he made out like a bandit. Two-tier Avengers cake, Avengers toys, the new Optimus Prime from Transformer Prime (everything’s so spiky, now that they’re being hunted by Predaking!), some monster truck Hot Wheels, books, clothes, Raphael of the TMNT, and punching balloons. The party was great. It feels better each time that our friends and family gather together like that, even if a couple of them only came it out of spite. ;)

Cian, of course, loved being the center of attention for the cake, the presents, and the playtime upstairs. Acelyn loved being the center of adult attention. Getting her to give Kia space will need some work. Ace treated her like she was the coolest teddy bear EVAR.

It still boggles my mind that all upcoming birthday parties, family gatherings, and shindigs will be at a different house, with a different vibe, and different ways of doing what we do. Here’s to hoping that Cian’s birthdays in the new house, may they be many, will be even better than this one.