By John Jericiau
At the moment, I’m sporting a deep dull ache in my low back. It came to me one morning, quite out of the blue. I don’t recall any incident or event that would bring this pain on, except last week I did act as ball boy during my sons’ tennis lesson. I pay good money for the session and I didn’t want time wasted while they themselves retrieved balls in the middle of their session, so I darted around the court catching a ball here and reaching down for a ball there, just like you see the boys 40 years my junior do during Wimbledon.
This pain hasn’t reared its ugly head since my last smart move years ago while washing the white picket fence in the front of our house. Both boys were around two years old and had just started their midday three-hour nap, allowing me to pick a project each day and attempt to complete it in the allotted time. To save time on this particular day, I got into a good rhythm of plunging my sponge into a large bucket of soapy water, scrubbing a slat with said soapy sponge, and then lifting and moving the bucket to the next slat, where I would repeat the cycle of plunging, scrubbing, and moving. It was an efficient way to get the job done – unfortunately, I chose to perform this job while remaining in the bent-over position for close to the three-hour mark. Upon hearing one of the boys cry out from inside the house, thereby marking the end of my allotted time, I tried but was unable to get erect (my body), or retrieve from the crib two important individuals (my sons.)
The pain eventually subsided – I think it was a week later – and now this current pain feels like a less intense reminder of that crippling incident. Luckily, I am a physical therapist, so I at least know what to do to soothe the pain (in general use ice, anti-inflammatories, and a good massage, but bag the useless Ben Gay, the TENS unit, and too much time on the heating pad.) I can help you to reduce your pain level, but as a knowledgeable PT I pride myself in being able to give information to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some of this info is definitely applicable to us parents.
For one, think before you act. Don’t try to wash a fence in the bent-over position for three hours. Duh. Don’t just hop out of bed in the morning and start your Yoga routine, just because you’re worried that little Dustin will wake up at the sound of your first om. Get warmed up first. Walk around a little.
Don’t hold your baby over one hip while cooking, walking, or talking on the phone. That baby has grown right before your eyes into a 25-pound sack of potatoes. I doubt you would hold a 25-poung sack of potatoes for any period of time like this. You’d get on the floor or sit in a good chair and put said sack right in the middle of your lap, where your spine will remain protected and balanced.
Speaking of good chairs, your comfy cozy sofa is not one of them. Good low back support is crucial to maintaining the normal arch in the lumbar spine, and most sofas are notorious for forcing you to sit in a slumped position. Be sure to grab at least a couple of throw pillows and place them behind your back before you sit, so you can maintain what we call “lumbar lordosis” while feeding your baby and catching up on shows from your DVR.
When lifting or transporting your baby or toddler, be sure to remember these few tidbits: Keep breathing while lifting, so as not to increase the pressure between your vertebrae. Get your child as close to your body as possible before doing any lifting. It’s pure physics that having the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible reduces the strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is exactly why you’ll see a fireman carrying a victim out of a burning fire slung over his shoulders instead of in his arms. And always ask your child to hang on to your neck/shoulders during the lift. Splitting the work with them makes everyone happy and healthy.
Easier said than done, but try to get some good sleep each night. A tired body means a tired back, and a tired back is more easily injured. Eat nutritious foods; what you put in your mouth directly affects your body’s ability to perform. Try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Stressed muscles lose a large amount of their normal flexibility, which means that simply reaching down to the floor for a fallen diaper can be met with disastrous results. Herniated discs have been known to occur simply by reaching for a pencil.
Any exercise routine would be beneficial to keeping your body in good condition, but if you only had time to focus on one body part I’d suggest your six-pack. It’s there (somewhere), and by performing a few crunches here and a couple of sit-ups there, you are keeping strong the natural “girdle” of your trunk. Act like you have strong abs at all times, keeping them squeezed in the “set” position during all activities. Do not protrude your stomach out and allow it to act as a shelf for your child to sit on while you carry him.
Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual. It’s up to us to use the knowledge we gain in order to break some of our life-long habits. And don’t be afraid to share this knowledge with your own children. Forming good postural habits at an early age (e.g. lift with your legs, not your back) will lead to a lifetime of good health.
It looks like my partying days are over. This weekend my neighbors, who also have a son in my oldest son’s first grade class, celebrated a 40th birthday. We’ve gotten close to them since we carpool to the school with them, they are both runners, and they are just fun awesome people.
We quickly accepted the invite to the surprise party, which was planned as more of an event than a party. A stretch limo would pick us up at our house at 7pm. Five pairs of strangers (to us) would meet at our house just before 7, and I would get some help stocking the limo with the neighbor’s booze that I had stashed in my refrigerator for safe keeping the night before. Beer, vodka, champagne – you name it. I laughed to myself as I thought about the three margaritas I have consumed in the last year, and how I am such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, and my husband only slightly less of a lightweight.
Our neighbor was indeed surprised as we picked her and her husband up at what she thought was just going to be early dinner at a beachfront hotel. Most of us had already begun the celebration with champagne. Surely I can handle a glass of champagne. Immediately I felt the sensation of alcohol coursing through my veins, and almost immediately I saw my husband with a crooked smile across his face. I sensed trouble brewing.
The thirty-minute ride to downtown was half screaming and half getting to know each other, with the requisite disco music blasting in the background. The other partygoers ended up being really really nice people. Almost all the couples had children right around the ages of our three sons, and a number of iPhones were whipped out throughout the night with pictures and videos to share.
The night was somewhat of an A-list club crawl, as the limousine dropped us off and picked us back up from three different hip clubs. The first was Perch, an “elevated resting place” on the 15th floor of a downtown skyscraper. It’s website calls it “a French inspired rooftop bistro that offers unobstructed views of Downtown Los Angeles that makes it feel as though you are floating at the skyline.” Checking IDs at the door, I could swear that I saw the bouncer chuckling to himself as he saw the year of my birth. I put some swagger in my walk as I moved through the door, and everyone headed directly for the bar. Since this place was pretty much a bar on a roof, I chose to gaze at the views as Alen got me something I might like (it was sweet, so I did).
Next we hit Ebanos Crossing, a “revelry of sexiness and culture” where, according to the website, “within our walls you will enjoy an award winning artisanal cocktail program coupled with delectable, vibrant cuisine, where the cultures of the journey are reflected all around you.” It was loud, it was dark, it was crowded, and worst of all it was closed. Yes, closed, but somehow someone in the party had connections and we were let in to a Black Eyed Peas party. Many drinks were ordered, and I knew by this time that I needed to cut myself off at two drinks, and I needed to gently cut my husband off as well. I just needed to find my husband, who at some point simply disappeared from our group of tables. I hit the restroom, and then searched far and wide for him, Will I. Am, or Fergie. I finally found Alen dancing a nondescript dance in the middle of the dance floor with two of Will I. Am’s most voluptuous groupies. I returned to our tables to give him time to work off the alcohol and minimize the hangover that I was sure was going to crush him the next day.
We made a quick swing through The Standard, a boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown LA with a rooftop pool and plenty of eye candy. In my younger days I would sunbathe poolside with friends. Now I was just praying for something to eat, but it was not meant to be, as the limo clock was ticking and we had to be home by 1am.
We arrived in front of my house fifteen minutes early, so we sat in front of my house blasting the music in the limo and having our last celebratory shots. I was imagining my head on my pillow just a few feet away from the limo, where I was being forced to fill and refill my glass. Luckily nobody was noticing me as I dumped my drinks out over and over again, raising my empty glass in the air and singing happy birthday just one more time.
It’s fun to meet new people, especially other parents who have great stories about their family and are very supportive of mine. It’s fun to take a limo around Los Angeles, to places you’d never pick on your own to go. I don’t need the alcohol to have a good time, but I do need better hearing to converse with loud music and more energy to make it past 1am. Oh, and a handful of Advil for my husband.
This week is my middle son’s 6th birthday. For the next four months I will have two 6-year olds in the house until my oldest turns 7 in May, which means the time of year has arrived when I will be explaining to strangers why I have two 6-year olds but they are not twins. I actually start by telling the stranger that they are indeed twins, even though my oldest is African-American and my middle son is the blonde surfer type. Perplexed looks follow.
I have just started to notice a distinct change in my soon-to-be 6-year old boy. He is starting to control his emotions, thankfully. Oh, he still has his occasional meltdowns, but even with those he is able to bring himself out of it faster. He is starting to try new foods, although in his life he has yet to try a slice of bread.
He is in love with Lego, which may not raise an eyebrow in your home but in ours is definitely noteworthy. Let’s just say that Dylan’s taste of toys has evolved. It started with matchbox cars, trucks and soccer until he turned about 2 years old. Then for these last 4 years it’s been anything pink and purple that is girlish in nature. It’s been dressing up like a princess at home, with tiara and high heels and tutu. It wasn’t every day, but it could have been. We supported him with as much of the accouterments as possible, searching Ross and Marshall’s sales rack for dresses and oversized shirts, yet cringing when he’d suggest wearing the outfit outside of the house. He has outright refused gifts that are too boyish, and will not partake in roughhousing with other boys in his class. He has a full collection of My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and every Disney Princess. He was very attached to his baby Tweet-Tweet (he chose that name), a life-sized baby that he can dress up and keep in the bassinette we put next to his bed for her. He also loves his Smurfs collection, which is a bit puzzling, but then again blue IS the warmest color.
All this has given my husband worry lines. He is 100% sure that Dylan is gay. I on the other hand am 100% sure that he is not. Either way, of course, we love our son. It’s just that life is a little (or a lot) tougher being gay (first hand experience here!). Some of the world hates you and your family – even wants you dead – without ever having met you. You have to struggle just to be treated equally in your own country. We want to give our son every advantage in life, but being gay is not always an advantage. I’m sure that however things turn out, he will be a confident, happy individual that is able to protect himself (luckily he is the biggest kindergartener in his school.)
But as I’ve said his tastes are evolving. He hasn’t touched Tweet-Tweet in months. He no longer dresses up, but he still likes it if his clothes or shoes have a decent percentage of pink on them. He is focusing on his Lego skills, although for right now it must be from the Lego Friends collection (generally for girls.) He absolutely knows that all of this pinkness is frowned upon by many of his male schoolmates, and my husband insists that his “evolving” is actually him suppressing his real desires and tendencies in order to conform with his normal male counterparts now that he is in big boy school.
I’m excited to see how it all turns out. Dylan is a beautiful, caring boy with a heart of gold, but I know he wishes it were pink. And that’s okay with me. Happy Birthday, my son!
Do you do anything else besides stay at home with the kids? That question was posed to me recently, and my quick reply “Oh, if you only knew” didn’t do justice to the facts. I am Dad to three boys and proud of it. I just wonder if the world (especially the people of the world who are not stay-at-home-parents) has any idea what goes on in my life on a daily basis. I play so many different roles in a single day that it would be difficult for me to devise a job description. I think that’s why it was so much easier in the pre-children days, when I arrived at work at 8 am, worked my eight hours as a physical therapist, and left at 4 pm. Then from 4 pm all the way until 8am the next morning, for a grand total of 16 hours, I did not even have to think about my job. That sounds almost ludicrous now that I’m 6 ½ years into my present 24/7 stint as stay-at-home Dad. And to focus on one job for the entire 8 hour workday sounds so cush compared to the many hats I have to wear in a typical day. Here are some that come to mind.
Chauffer – Commuting to school, and transporting the boys to their many activities & play dates, all while fielding questions, breaking up fights, feeding snacks, and avoiding oncoming traffic, all without the pleasure of screaming and cursing at the awful Los Angeles drivers.
Cook – It’s important to keep an ongoing dialogue going in your head about what the next meal is going to consist of, unless you want your kids to eat pizza or pasta again. Preparing the food takes some thought too, like how each child likes his nuggets or how chocolaty he likes his milk.
Dishwasher – I have the benefit of the actual appliance, but it’s pure drudgery to wake up each morning to a full dishwasher that needs to be emptied, with a keen eye on the dishes and utensils that don’t make the cut and need to be washed by hand because the oatmeal had hardened and became one with the bowl.
Launderer – Thankfully we live in modern times and passing laundry from the hamper to the washing machine and then the dryer is not the worst thing. But I’m begging the innovators of tomorrow to come up with a third machine to fold the laundry.
Housekeeper – Who knew that floors get dirty so quickly? Do my boys purposely fill their pockets and hems with sand in order to dump them onto my sofa and their beds? Walls need wiping down where hands lean for support, and with young boys with bad aims, the toilet and everything within a 12 inch radius of it needs a good cleaning. Plus the seat. Plus the lid. Plus the trash can next to the toilet.
Shopper – I keep a running list on my iPhone of food needs, but without fail I’m always low on milk. Forget getting a dog, kids, we’re getting a cow as our next pet. There’s also household supplies, school supplies, clothes, plus presents for each and every birthday party.
Event Planner – Going places, whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, requires forethought and planning, and that’s on me too. I need to secure plane tickets, accommodations, do the packing, and then the dreaded unpacking upon returning. Local activities involve scanning the newspapers, checking the internet (Red Tricycle), or relying on the network of friendly parents for suggestions.
Teacher – Whether it’s quizzing the kids, helping them with their homework, or reading to them in the library or bedtime, everything becomes a teachable moment.
Disciplinarian – Boys will be boys, but they do get out of hand and need to be disciplined. Currently, the threat of taking away something that they fancy seems to be doing the trick. Previously, yelling seemed to be the discipline du jour, but that just did not feel right to Daddy, so he put that in his back pocket for extreme situations. Believe me, that pocket gets open a lot.
Doctor – I hurt here. I itch there. I can’t poop. My bones hurt. My teeth hurt. I swallowed a tooth. I’m not hungry. I’m so hungry. I’m so tired. I can’t sleep. I’m sad. I’m nervous.
Fashion Designer – You want your child looking presentable. I try to make sure things match, midriffs are not exposed, and that there are no holes in their clothes. Beyond that I don’t particularly worry about impressing anyone with my child’s attire. They’ll be plenty of time for that in high school.
Accountant – Paying the bills, the gardener, and the taxman is a full time job in itself, but I’m left to try to fit it all in my free time.
Husband – Oh yeah, I am someone’s partner. Someone who requires attention, sex, and most of the other things on this list. Thankfully mine helps me with some of the other things on this list too, so it kind of evens out.
Coach – Being an athlete myself, I’m inclined to get involved in their physical fitness and athletic endeavors such as karate, swimming, running, gymnastics and basketball. They need instruction (above and beyond what their team coach gives) but most of all they need encouragement.
And there’s more. Entertainer, mediator, handyman, IT guy, fact finder, and magician … the list goes on and on. I’m proud to be wearing all these hats, but I’m most proud just being called Dad.
It wasn’t until 3:11pm this afternoon when I plopped into a chair behind a booth at my boys’ school fundraising carnival that I realized that it was the first time I had sat down all day. Up since a 6am nudge in my bed as my middle son crawled under the covers, interrupting a perfectly good dream with lots of REM, I’ve been going and going and going. But it’s Saturday, so what do I expect?
My spouse was missing the annual Halloween Carnival as he filled his head with spreadsheets and expense reports at his almost brand new MBA curriculum halfway across the country. Hence the empty spot in my bed in which my middle son could invade. I hold no grudges against my husband whatsoever. I encouraged him to go for yet another advanced degree. I really truly am super proud of him. But it does leave me alone with our three boys at times. I’d go ahead and miss a carnival here and there, if I could. But I can’t. As the room parent (think teacher’s pet) for my kindergartener’s class, and an active parent for my first grade class, it is my duty (along with many other parents) to make sure that this event goes off without a hitch. Our childrens’ futures depend on it – or at least their music and art classes.
We had prepared since the beginning of the school year for this day, or at least it feels like it. Emails, signups, meetings, and more emails. The PTA royalty would send me the information and ask me to forward it to the parents in my class, “but add your own spin on it, something that complements your personality.” I PUT IT ALL IN CAPS.
The carnival started at 10am, and we wanted to get there early, but a last minute birthday party invitation thwarted our plans. The invitation wasn’t actually sent last minute – I just accepted it last minute. A Mad Science birthday party trumps the start of any carnival. We even had to bag the weekly gymnastics class in the park across the street due to the triple schedule conflict that we faced. Even the calendar of my iPhone didn’t know how to deal with the three events. Life is one big constant exercise in prioritizing.
While the boys were fixated on the slime-making scientist at the party, I had my almost one-year old in my arms feeding him different solids that are age-appropriate, and he was doing really well. Bits of strawberry, pieces of watermelon, and some crackers. He was doing really well – I thought so anyway, as did the moms in the room who would as usual keep one eye trained on me to follow what I was doing. “I’ve got this”, I thought. I decided to try the smallest piece of broccoli, and that’s when it all unraveled. After a couple of gags, my son proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach onto the floor, table, and each of us, and I immediately thought this would cause a delay in our rush to the carnival. I ran us to the restroom and managed to rid us both of the vomitus that was on us. Back at the party, I cleaned up the floor where I had been standing, and got us back on schedule.
Finally at the carnival, it really was a beautiful day and an awesome event. Due to the hard work put in by many in the weeks prior to the event, it practically ran itself. This carnival has been going on since at least the ‘70s, and they’ve got it down to a science. And due to the location of this public school in a community of affluence, lots of entertainment types and lots of paparazzi littered the area.
The boys had a fabulous time, using up every one of the $100 worth of tickets I purchased for the rides and attractions at the carnival. But Daddy was getting tired. Really tired. So when I plopped on the above-mentioned chair at 3:11pm in the afternoon, no one was surprised when I blurted out THANK YOU JESUS. That’s just who I am.
This parenting gig is incredible. As a stay-at-home dad, my life is filled with so many milestones and memories and happiness and joy. Each day our three boys amaze us with new words and deep thoughts and unconditional love. The experiences that my husband and I are sharing are at times so profound that they bring us closer and closer together as the fabulous years go by. We are getting close to hitting ten of those fabulous years.
With all that being said, it’s time to set the record straight. Parts of this job really suck. And I’m not talking about the obvious. Not the poop you find on your forearm after a diaper change. Not the sleep deprivation that comes with the newborn months. No, I’m talking about the less obvious ones. The ones that parents from past generations don’t speak about, but would chuckle knowingly when they are brought up in conversation by new parents. Here are four of these unspeakables, in no particular order.
The boys might be at the park with Papa, or sound asleep in their beds in the dead of the night, but no matter. It’s always the same. Right around the time that I have started letting the water run through my hair after the shampoo, the screams of pain start. The cries for help commence. The sounds of muffled suffocation sear through the air. I used to turn off the water and listen, but I have learned that it’s just a curse. My mind is playing tricks on me. I stick my head out of the shower and listen to the silence for a second of two before returning to my asylum that used to be so enjoyable and relaxing but now is nothing but a quick soaping and a rushed rinse.
Dining in restaurants
We might as well take the meal money and flush it down the toilet; it’s almost the same as trying to eat out. We’ve tried toys and crayons and iPads and iPhones, but inevitably an individual of short stature will scream bloody hell about the shape of his pancake or the inequality of fries on his plate compared to his brother. Forget about reading the Sunday paper or glancing at email. Others demand your full attention. Even eating your meal becomes a challenge and a balancing act, as without fail someone will want to sit on your lap just as your piping hot food arrives. I’ve gotten used to eating cold eggs.
These three hours used to be good times. Working out at the gym after work, catching up with friends at an impromptu meal, or even just sitting and watching some mindless Jeopardy or Entertainment Tonight while digesting my pasta with my feet up on the coffee table. Now they have become a frantic three hours of homework, meal preparation for boys of starkly different tastes and meal requirements, baths, reading, and then finally pleading for everyone to stay in bed and go to sleep. We don’t even try to feed ourselves until at least 9:30pm, if we have still have the energy to raise a utensil to our mouth.
Three boys, two men, and a friend/surrogate who spends half her time at our house – we all make a lot of dirty laundry, I get it. And throw in washing sheets (some more frequently due to bedwetting), the throw rugs that surround our toilets (boys have bad aim), and the uniforms from twice-weekly swim lessons, twice-weekly basketball, twice-weekly gymnastics, and a weekly Crossfit class – and we’ve got an always-running washer/dryer. Each day as the laundry finishes drying it gets piled on my bed as high as the ceiling fan, and each night I have to stand there and fold it, sort it into piles by owner, and restock it in the appropriate location. If I don’t get to the restocking part due to time constraints or a boy or two waking up unexpectedly for water or a pee or a cry, then the sorted clothes have to wait. They quickly start to pile up on our dresser until they teeter-totter and finally collapse, necessitating a refold.
As bad as these things sound, it’s really a small price to pay for the opportunity to raise our sons and get them ready to go out in the world on their own. And before they start making their own families, I will be sure and let them in on these good times. Or maybe not. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.
When you have kids, I think you become even more sappy and sentimental than your ordinary sappy and sentimental self. I’ve been touched lately, at times to the point of crying, and here are some examples.
• When my son’s kindergarten teacher holds his face in her hands, looks in his eyes, and tells him how proud she is of the way he is trying to do his best in class, and how well he treats his classmates.
• When I see a Mom from school (who reads my blogs!) standing in the checkout line at Costco, and I sneak up behind her and jokingly ask her in a disguised voice if I can cut in line because I’m in a big rush. Without hesitation, and without yet seeing that it is I, she sings a cheerful “of course” and starts to selflessly step aside.
• When before going upstairs my guy kisses me good night, and I mean really kisses me, as if we will never see each other again, or as if it’s the first time we’ve ever kissed. Take your pick.
• When I overhear my oldest son, with his friend in the back seat of our minivan, say to his friend “My Dad is the fastest runner in the world. Isn’t that awesome!”
• When my nearly 11-month old son rolls onto his back and smiles from ear to ear when he sees me enter his room
• When our friend/surrogate, driving home with me after a particularly challenging excursion with the boys where my parenting skills were put to the test, tells me that she would do anything to carry one more child for us “because you’re that good of a dad”.
Isn’t life great?
I had a horrifying experience the other day. I picked up my son from his kindergarten class, and as we walked past the door of one of the five other kindergarten classes in the school, a guy caught my eye. I’m not blind; in fact, I’m fairly aware of my surroundings, so a guy catching my eye is not unusual. My boys’ school is in a great part of town with lots of power parents and celebrities. Pretty people and toned people. Well dressed and well off.
What was different about this guy, walking out with who I assumed was his son but possibly his grandson, was that he looked like someone I used to know. Actually, I thought right away that he was the father of the person I used to know. A heavier, more wrinkled, less hairy version of the guy I used to know. Just like the friend I remember, except that he has just gone through a course of prednisone, or has just woken up from a long long nap.
I quickly calculated that it had been 12 years since we had seen each other as coworkers, but when our eyes locked it was confirmed. It was definitely my friend!
We went through the usual oh-my-gods and how-long-has-it-beens, and I’m hoping so hard that I am concealing the surprise … er, horror … that I am feeling. Finally he was looking at me, taking in my entire body from head to toe, and I thought to myself, “Here it comes. He is going to go on and on about my youthfulness and how I haven’t changed a bit, and how my waist still looks nearly a 29, etc etc etc. I hope he doesn’t leave our reunion feeling terrible about himself”.
The words came out of his mouth and I had no time to deflect them.
“John, you look so …. so different! I hardly recognize you, but then again that’s you in there, for sure dude. I guess we are all getting old.”
What? I don’t feel old. Okay, it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, but I blame whichever of the boys woke me up the night before for that. I can’t run 100 miles per week like I used to, but I am running at least 10 miles every other day. I seem to catch guys’ eyes now and then, but I admit it is more then than now. There was a time when not a day went by without some kind of flirtation from someone. Like the guy who quickly wrote “YOUR ADORABLE!” on a piece of paper and plastered it against his driver’s side window as we randomly waited at a red light together during the commute to work. Back then I even found the misspelling of “YOUR” endearing. Or the long list of guys who followed me out of the gym or Albertsons or the pool. When friends would say that maybe I should carry a fly swatter to keep them all away (or most of them), I would chuckle because sometimes it was nearly that bad (or good, depending on how you look at it.)
But life is different now. I drive a minivan, for God’s sake. I push a stroller with a 9-month old. I hang out with parents of my boys’ friends. And I don’t give off that “come and get me” vibe that I used to, because I got the man I want and couldn’t be happier.
Still, it’s a blow to the ego when you’re told in so many words that you look older. It happens to everyone, of course. We are all getting older. But I do not like it. So much of it is out of my control. No matter how much I exercise, my hair continues to thin. No matter how much I groom and loofa and exfoliate, my ears still sprout hair. No matter how many vegetables I consume, my eyesight continues to worsen.
We’re supposed to age gracefully, but when you meet someone from your past who hasn’t seen you in a while, it’s just awkward. And this is just the beginning, now that I’m in my (very) early 50s. How am I going to deal with this? There are those people that seem to defy the laws of gravity and age flawlessly, but apparently my body has not gotten the memo. So I’m just going to focus on my husband and my three boys and the love that they shower me with every day. I will try not to take it to heart when my husband reminds me not to overeat. And I will shrug off comments from my sons such as the doozie I got the other day: “Daddy, please don’t lose any more hair. You look so scary and it makes me cry.”
Me too, son. Me too.
By: John Jericiau
I’m going to warn you right now: don’t try this game. My saga started the day I ignored this sage advice from close friends. In a moment of wanting some junk food for my brain, I clicked on the colorful app that had been calling my name from the display of my iPhone 5. Life has not been the same since. It’s been two weeks of living hell.
My husband has been bringing his iPad to bed every night, staring at the brightly lit screen in an otherwise dimly lit bedroom. As I tried to fall asleep I couldn’t help notice his blank stare into the screen, with an occasional swipe of his index finger followed by a burst of multicolor fireworks. I refused to look any closer, however. My life is so incredibly full and I have no time for another recreation. Plus, my fingers are really really tired by the time we crawl into bed around 10pm.
He and our surrogate/friend would have occasional conversations about saving each other or hitting a tough level or desperately needing a life, but I would show no interest in the conversation nor ask for any explanations. My top talk topics these days are more like back-to-school shopping, five-year old bedwetters, and tonsillectomies. My mother-in-law, who is barely computer savvy, jumped on the bandwagon, as did her sister and her sister’s daughter-in-law. I would get an errant posting on my Facebook newsfeed about how one of them reached a certain level in the game, but I had no idea that Facebook was to blame for this nationwide addiction.
For those two or three of you out there who don’t know about Candy Crush Saga, this game is a variation of match-three games such as Bejeweled. Each level has a game board filled with differently colored candies, and might contain obstacles. The basic move of this game is horizontally or vertically swapping the positions of two adjacent candies, to create sets of three (or more) candies of the same color. It was released over a year ago for Facebook, and then released for smartphones on November 14th, 2012, just three days after our youngest son was born. Maybe that’s why I personally never got the memo, but certainly plenty of people did. As of March 2013, this game became the most popular one on Facebook (sorry, Farmville), with an astounding 45.6 million average monthly addicts – I mean users.
In contrast, there are roughly 1.2 million crack addicts in the USA, but that’s where the differences end. Just like crack, Candy Crush Saga is so addictive that it sinks its poisonous teeth into your cerebrum after the first use.
Addiction specialists describe the effects of crack in this way:
Addiction hits hard and fast, usually acting on the brain within eight seconds of the time it’s used. However, the length of a high is relatively short, lasting under 10 minutes in most cases. With even one use, it can become incredibly physically addictive, largely due to its intense effect on one of the brain’s vital chemical messengers called dopamine. This rush of dopamine causes users to immediately feel happy and high and then depressed and restless, causing many users to immediately re-dose. This cycle can continue for days, leaving users feeling simultaneously exhausted and wired.
Crack is the poor man’s cocaine; Candy Crush Saga is even more available. It costs nothing out of your pocket (the app is free), unless you get so desperate that you want to prolong your high by paying $0.99 for just one more hit even after you failed to progress to the next level. Embarrassing to admit, but one late night I paid $4.95 (through my iTunes account) because I got so close to completing a level that I was sure I would find success with one more try.
So after two weeks I must bid adieu to this pitiful pastime. No more cries for help from all my Facebook friends that need lives to keep them playing the game. No more draining my iTunes reserves. No more sneaking into the bathroom so I can get in another game without being disturbed. No more constantly checking my watch because I was notified by the game god that I had to wait 12:33 until I was allowed to resume playing. My three boys need me. My husband wants me. But recovery is a life long process. I think – no, I KNOW I can do it. I just need to take it one day at a time.
By: John Jericiau
Okay son number 3, it’s time for you to receive your first letter from your Daddy. I’ve done the same for your two older brothers. I hope when you finally read this (or have this read to you) you will realize what a special and unique person you are.
Happy birthday! You’re 9 months old today! We will continue to celebrate your birthday monthly, or at least refer to your age in terms of months, until you’re between 20-22 months of age, when we will start saying you’re almost 2 years old. I have no idea why this change happens then; it just does. Your Daddy and Papa prefer to celebrate monthly anyway, which is how we celebrate the anniversary of our first date, which was 110 months ago today.
Yes, you have two fathers, both who love you very very much. I pray that by the time you are able to read your letter, the fact that you have two dads will be met with an “oh cool” or a “yeah, so?” by your classmates. Right now the momentum in our country is pushing toward marriage equality for all, including your two dads (who got hitched back in 2008 after both your brothers were born). I hope that this momentum will continue – so much so that you will be stunned to learn that there was a time when this country did not think your Daddy and Papa should share their love and lives with each other, just as I was stunned to learn when I was growing up that there was a time in this world when our black friends would have separate bathrooms, water fountains, and schools.
Speaking of your brothers, one of whom happens to be black and one white, they love you very much. Don’t let their actions fool you, like today when your oldest brother tried to dump you out of the door frame jumping contraption but your Daddy came just in time to catch you before your head made contact with the hardwood floor. Or like lately when your other brother will not let you play with any toys because they suddenly became toys that he wasn’t done playing with. No, your brothers, just like your two fathers and four grandparents and eight aunts and uncles, are infatuated with the very person that you are, and could not wait for you to arrive.
Your Daddy and Papa worked hard to get you here, with the help of an angel who you already look at in a very special way. She kept you safe and warm in her body for us, so that you would enter this world in a healthy, happy way. And you did. You were born in Los Angeles (whereas your oldest brother was born in Santa Monica, and your other brother in Hollywood) at 6:10am and we were there to welcome you with open arms. Some day if you want to hear the E Hollywood True Story edition of your journey from before conception until after birth, we will be more than happy to tell you.
You are an extremely happy baby with forever a smile on your face, except when you’re crying, which is not often, which is a good thing because it’s loud. You get tons of admiration for your charm and good looks, both which come either from your Daddy or your Papa. To us it matters not from where your DNA is from, but if it does to you, then one day you can find out. Right now it feels as if you came from the union of your Daddy and Papa’s love, and that’s good enough for us.
You are sitting up very well, and eating some baby food that we have either bought or made in a blender. Today you had a concoction of apple and banana that Papa and the boys made for you, and you absolutely loved it. You weigh between 20-24 pounds (your weigh-in is tomorrow at your doctor’s appointment), and you fit into clothes for a 12-month old. You’re saying Dada to me and everyone else, and lately when I walk out of the room you cry, and when I return you greet me with the greatest smile. Even your eyes smile, eyes that have not yet settled on a color but seem to be somewhere between hazel and green at the moment.
You appear to show absolutely no interest in crawling at this time, and you’ve done only a little bit of rolling, mainly to get to these little stuffed giraffes that you’ve seemed to take a liking to. Yesterday you stood in your crib while grasping the railing for nearly a minute, so you may be one of those babies who bypasses the crawling and goes right to the walking. Your oldest brother walked at 11 months and 1 day, but no pressure!
Dustin, I’m so happy that you are in our family. When you arrived our family felt complete, and you’re everything we could ever hope for in a son. Maybe the magic of our family birth dates reflects your unique, special quality. Daddy 12/22, Papa 6/22, Devin 5/22, Dylan 1/22, and Dustin 11/11. You still made it 22 but in your own way. Here’s to keeping that going your entire beautiful life. I love you.