Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

One of the popular sayings of grandparents is you get to enjoy them, and then you can hand them off when they get hungry, tired or poopy.
Not my Mom. By necessity, she's been in the front lines with us. She stayed with us for more than a month when the twins were born, and she did everything, even the occasional midnight feeding. She had to.
That's why I was excited about her visit this weekend. It was another set of experienced arms to help us with the twins.
She let us go out to eat Friday, by ourselves, which just doesn't happen anymore, and when we came back, she said, "I don't know how you do it." And she had the help of her husband too.
Every time she's out here, I really don't know how we do it alone. It was still chaotic. It was less chaotic but still chaotic.
So I wanted to show Mom what I love about Colorado. She's been to the mountains many times, but she's never been out here in the fall, when the aspen change. That's one of my favorite parts of Colorado.

The leaves were really pretty this year, even offering up some red, a rare sight among the aspen gold.

Mom feeding a twin in the car at Rocky Mountain National Park

We ate at a pizza place that reminded me of 1980s pizza joints, with old-style arcade games in the back and good sausage pizza.

"Papa Pat" does a good job of keeping the girls entertained.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Times LIke These

- "It's times like these you learn to live again"
Foo Fighters

There were times last weekend that I really thought I was going to lose my mind.
A baby's cry is one of the worst sounds out there, almost as bad as a song from Air Supply. At least it's that way for me. When Andie or Allie cries, all I want to do is fix it. Now. Their crying seems to burn through my system, as if someone injected Fire Sauce from Taco Bell into my veins.
So you can probably imagine how I feel when both of them are going at once.
"I only have two hands!" I shouted several times on Friday, when, instead of watching Jayden that day, I had to watch both girls so they could go to the doctor and get shots.
I hate watching my girls get shots, even as I'm glad our health care is so good in this country that we can vaccinate against most diseases (this is just one of the many things in our health care system that we take completely for granted; yes, it's broken, but we're not exactly Africa, either). I hate watching them hurt. Mostly, though, I know how they'll feel later, and I'm going to pay for it.
Shots, even with the medicine they carry, are barely +EV.
I did my best, but there were three times, when both were crying, that I almost started crying myself. The hard thing is, they're both pretty good babies although Andie sometimes attempts to break the sound barrier and just gets angrier and angrier, kind of like me watching the Chiefs offense. I swear as red as her face gets that her little head will just explode like that guy in the movie "Scanners."
It's just that there's two good babies. 2>1.
Kate got home at 4 p.m. and said, brightly, "How did it go?" I looked at her.

I went for a tempo run, and it went well, a run that would be a good foreshadowing to Sunday's last 5K of the year. I played poker that night with my buddies and played in yet another losing effort for our softball team this year. I was OK after that.

Saturday, we had a barbecue with some good friends, and it was a pretty boring day. Boring days are good now. I carried around Allie most of the time. Honestly now I carry a baby around so much that I don't even notice it when she's there, like they're just an especially large mole or something, a mole that occasionally spits up on me.
I sort of dreaded 5 p.m. as much as Kate looked forward to it. It was her night out with the girls, and I knew what was coming, only this time I'd have Jayden as well as the girls.
I tried to be proactive, feeding the girls a little early while Jayden played out in our backyard, but they were having none of it, and my heart sank because I knew what that would mean.
Sure enough, a half hour later, they were both bawling as I lifted Jayden out of the tub and got him dressed so fast his PJs almost stuck to his skin. I sat them both on my lap and stuck a bottle in each mouth.
That works for a while, but Andie started up again, and I knew she was desperately tired and wanted to sleep. My holds, usually packaged with a knee bounce, work fairly well, although Kate's is the best, some weird game of Twister that makes them look like a Pretzel.
I would almost have Andie asleep and Jayden was playing with a book that makes a really annoying sound. I think it's an Air Supply song. Anyway, finally, Andie could not sleep, and after the fifth time of asking Jayden to bring me the book, I grabbed it from him and said "GOD DAMMIT bring it to me!"
He started crying.
Ah, yes, now I felt terrible along with stressed. We do not yell at Jayden at all, even when we've had many reasons to, as he's a sensitive guy and it's not his fault he has a gene that tells him to be a body in motion. But I got the book, I got the twins down, and then Jayden sat me with for a long time while we watched "Happy Feet" (which was a great movie, much better than I expected).

When Kate got home (she did not ask how it went this time), I went downstairs for some video game time. "Black." I knew playing poker would not be good, even if it was on a Saturday. (Monday night I managed to finally beat the damn game after a five hour session that left me up until 2 a.m. Stupid, but the game doesn't let you save its checkpoints, and I wasn't going to go through all that again).

Sunday was the big day. It was my final 5K of the year, and I expected a good day. It was a fast course, mostly downhill, and I was feeling good now that the twins were letting us sleep.
Well, for just a moment, anyway, I broke 22 minutes in a 5K, my long-term goal and something I've wanted to do since I started running seriously three years ago.
I wasn't sure if it was ever going to be possible. That's a 7-minute pace.
I vowed to start the race smart, as I did on Labor Day a couple weeks ago. I enjoyed that 5K, and I told myself I would never be miserable in a 5K again. I almost gave up 5Ks after feeling completely miserable in them until I started to start slow and build up the speed from there.
The first mile was by far the fastest, which complicated things, but I still ran it in 7:05. That's pretty fast for me, but it was all downhill, and in fact the start offered up a sweet, steep downhill portion that you would have to try to run slow. So I actually took my time. I could have run that first mile in 6:15, but that would have killed me the rest of the race.
I did not think I had a shot at under 22 minutes. It seemed I was running at a 7:10 pace most of the time. I was happy with that, given that it would give me my best time in a 5K, previously 22:34 in the Race for the Cure last year. But I didn't think I was running as fast as I actually was.
Yet when I crossed the 3-mile mark, suddenly I had a shot, and I kicked it into high gear. As the clock ticked, I sprinted as hard as I could, but I crossed the line in just over 22 minutes.
I was thrilled and disappointed at the same time. I had just beaten my best time, really a time I only achieved once in my life, by more than 30 seconds, a huge margin for a 5K. But I also missed my life-long goal by just two seconds.
But two days later, I'm still happy about the race. I needed that race after this weekend, and I needed the carry-over, the kind of carry-over we get from a great session at poker, or a good climb, or, now, a great 5K.
Times are tough. But other times, for just a short time, help me live again.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What should the kids be for Halloween?

Jayden, a toddler who thinks resting is for when you're dead, always on the move, a cute kid with sandy blonde hair, likes to climb up things (I have NO idea where he got that).
You have a few choices for a Halloween costume
a) A proton
b) Dash from "The Incredibles"
c) Jim Morrison from "The Doors"
d) O.J. Simpson...actually, no, never mind.
e) A baseball player
f) Your Choice Here

The twins, Allie and Andie, two cute-as-a-button girls with lots of energy, smiles and the know-how for driving Dad crazy when he's trying to watch them without the wife.
a) Q-Q
b) Helium balloons (have you heard them squeal lately? You'd swear they were on the gas)
c) Two sunflowers
d) Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie...actually, no, never mind.
e) Players on the soon-to-be-gold-medal-winning USA World Cup team
f) Your Choice Here

Monday, September 17, 2007

Divided loyalties

Who gets Daddy's love and affection today. Andie or Allie?
What day is it?
The thing that makes twins so great is also one of the most painful aspects of having them: There's more to love.
There's more to love, and only so many minutes in the day, so you have unfair choices. Who gets time with Daddy today?
Jayden gets his time because, well, he's Jayden. He's the world's most active toddler, and if he doesn't get attention, he gets it anyway by acting out, throwing a fit or opening the glass door to the backyard himself (one of his latest talents) and running out and demanding a swing.
So it comes down to the girls.
Lately I've had to develop a system, where one day is Andie day, another day is Allie day. But there have been days when I literally don't hold one for two days in a row.
Such is life with twins. You aren't parents raising children. You are a single parent raising your own baby. You hold, feed, diaper, clothe, bathe, feed, diaper, feed and diaper the baby and rock her to sleep. Then you ask how the other one did that day.
As a result, I don't feel quite as bonded to either one as I did to Jayden. I love my girls more every day, but I don't feel quite as close to them at four months as I did when Jayden was four months.
Kate's told me the same thing, and she also said at least I have Fridays with Jayden. She said she doesn't feel like she ever gets one-on-one time with him anymore.
We rarely get those moments you remember that make you glad you're a parent. Last night was 8 p.m., the lights were off and it was quiet, save for the clocking ticking in the other room. Andie was slowly drifting off to sleep. Kate rocked Allie in the chair. By default, it was an Andie day.
Andie was looking at me during that peaceful time, just looking at me, and smiling and occasionally cooing. Then her eyes would flutter, and she would crank them back open, look at me again and smile.
She seemed to understand, as I do, that she needed to take advantage of the time together and enjoy as much of it as she could while it lasted.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bachelor Party

I was a bachelor for half a day Saturday and then Saturday night.
I had completely forgotten what it was like to sit in the house in the morning and contemplate what I was going to do that day, rather than trying to keep my nose above the rushing tide of chaos. Usually by that time I'm holding a twin or trying to keep Jayden from throwing something through a window.
Friday night, after my buddy decided not to climb Mount Elbert, it occurred to me that my guided hike wasn't going to happen, and the only two people going on the trip was my running partner and her husband. I would have enjoyed a day with them up Colorado's tallest mountain, as my chances to climb this year have been, shall we say, limited.
But then it occurred to me than since Kate was already planning to head down to her parents' house, about an hour away, I could actually spend the day alone.
In the past, before I had children, namely before I had twins, spending the day alone would have been a good excuse to head up to the hills. Why would I spend the day in the house when I could be on a peak?
These days, spending the day in a quiet house, with no one to answer to myself (well, nothing but the lawn, the dog and a pressing need to get groceries), sounds like paradise island. I mean party playing poker with the naked cast of "Sorority Girl 8" doesn't sound as good as that these days.
I did momentarily question my devotion to the mountains. Here was a free chance to head up a peak, without any guilt attached, and I chose to spend some time at home. But I used to beat myself up for taking a weekend off even in a summer when I had already climbed 20 peaks. Having the twins has left with no apologies on how I spend my free time these days because free time only comes in bits and pieces, not the huge chunks I enjoyed in the past. So I do what I want to do, not what I think I should do.
That meant playing a video game for two-and-a-half hours, then mowing the lawn (ah, well, we can't escape everything) and then watching a movie and going to the store (I don't mind those trips as much because I can buy myself treats like Recess Peanut Butter Puffs cereal).
And finally it meant going down to Denver to see my kids.
And playing poker at Black Hawk.
When the movie ended, and the store was behind me, and the lawn was mowed, I realized that I was a little bored. It was 3:30 p.m. Now what? It made me realize how little there was to my life before I had a family.
Now I used to hate it when people said that in the past. A family isn't everything, I would say, and my life was pretty darn fulfilling. Well, I think I was wrong about that, and today I can't even believe I'm saying that. I always thought I would be fine if I lived alone.
I'd still be fine, but my life would not be as full. It's such a cliche, and yet even the lamest cliches sometimes are true.
I did head up to Black Hawk to play some 2/5 limit poker. It was pretty uneventful. I played too tight, but then again, I only lost $11 after getting dealt a bunch of crap most of the night.
Live, $2/5 limit poker, I've found, isn't a very interesting game. It's so much fun to play live, I'll play it, but I'm discovering how boring it actually is. I've only played $3/6 limit live once in my life, but they seem like equal games. All you can do is play good hands, play them hard and hope no one sucks out on you.
That's it. There's no bluffing, there's no trickery since you really just want to get bets in, and yes you can raise, and you should raise, but don't expect that raise to push people off hands.
Given that, I try to pay attention to position and play only the best hands to a raise and many other hands that could turn into big ones with good flops, including connectors and small pairs. It's pretty boring and predictable, but it's also effective. I just didn't get enough hands to make it pay off. My only flaw was folding too many hands I could have played to a raise, but that's a small mistake, and though some hands would have hit, others would have cost me, like A,J.
I haven't played live poker in Black Hawk in a long time, but even that was not the highlight of my day. All I needed was just a little time away to realize it, but the highlight was the hour and a half I spent with Kate getting Sonic burgers, sharing a shake with Jayden, holding Allie and playing "superbaby" with Andie (her current favorite game, she loves to be in the air).
Well, that and beating that next level on my video game. Yes, I'm maturing, but I'm not overdoing it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Let's see just how stupid I was last night...

Details are sketchy given that one of the twins had just started to whimper a bit in her carrier last night:

It's early, blinds are 25/50, you are playing the Mookie, a early position raiser pops you 3xs the BB, and you have K-Q soooted.
I called because I had a few chips, it was double-stacked and it was the Mookie. I don't think it's a bad call.

Flop comes 10,K,Q. Perfect. Initial raiser, a guy who has had success at the Mookie and someone you see as an aggressive player, checks, you bet 295 into the 500-some pot. Third player along for the ride calls and the raiser calls as well.
Hmmm. Still, I don't think the bet is bad here.

The turn comes a harmless...6, I think...and we're all rainbowed now. Raiser checks, I bet 1,000 chips, a little less than the pot. The third guy thinks and folds. The initial raiser raises. You'll have 800 chips left if you call.

I pushed all-in.

Is there ANYONE here who would make that play?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When it's correct to play below your bankroll or ability

Last night totally justified my many efforts to get money back into Bodog, going so far as to beg friendly bloggers to do a transfer with me, only to find out that Bodog doesn't allow transfers.
I finally got some cash on there with a credit card, my first option that was intially rejected and then accepted.
I sat down at Bodog to kill a little time last night while waiting for Kate to get home from her workout. I knew we were going to feed the twins soon and I didn't want to start playing a SnG or a level on "Black" and have to quit in 20 minutes. So cash games on Bodog won out.
I won $40 in 30 minutes.
And I did it playing $10 NL.
(On a side note, there are some video games that just don't take the parents of twins (or any parent) into account. On "Black," an older game that I just started playing because, um, I've been a little busy this summer, there's no way to save your progress through a level without making it throught the whole level. If you quit you lose all your checkpoints. That means unless you have two or three hours to spare playing nonstop video games - something that just doesn't happen anymore wtih twin infants in the house - you inevitably lose all your progress you've made in that level. That's just ghey! I mean that second time goes a lot faster because you know the level, but still...don't they realize that parents play their games?)
I play that $10 NL level more than any other on Bodog. I started when I was clearing a bonus for Poker Source Online. You earned points only if you put money in the pot, so I played that level and played practically every hand.
But I kept it up after the bonus was over because the players are so horrible there.
I mean they are really, really bad. They will shove their whole stack in with a pair. And it doesn't have to be top pair.
I call far more big bets there with hands as basic as top pair than any other level or site. I took one guy's stack with my QQ when he called me with a flush draw and didn't hit. I took another stack when a guy shoved with lower two pair after I got the nut straight on the turn. Another guy shoved all in pre-flop when I had KK and he had...Q,K. A fourth guy called off $5, half his stack, with nothing but King high. He didn't even have a draw.
Granted, I had good cards, but no way, and I mean no way, do I get paid like that on all my hands even at $25 NL on Ultimate Bet, a pretty reliable fishing hole. And shoving a harmless flop with QQ at higher levels will just get you stacked. Players are way too grindy these days, even at the lower levels.
Normally $10 NL is far too low a level for me to play. When I started playing real money two years ago, I didn't start there. But the games are just so darn juicy on Bodog. When I finally pulled money off the site right before Neteller, I was $800 ahead playing strictly $10 NL and a few tournaments in just a few months. That may not be big money to you all, but that money will pay for a trip to Vegas this October when my wife and I celebrate five years together.
If you're wondering, I haven't noticed the $10 NL games being nearly as good on other sites. I don't know why. Maybe the players on Bodog are the worst. I have played $25 NL there too and I'm beginning to wonder if the site truly does have the worst players. It's almost like those players were all transported back in time to 2004 and can't escape the void.
I really don't think, as some of you might, that I'd be making twice as much by playing a higher level. I just can't see that kind of action at higher levels. So my question to you all is when is it OK to play lower than your bankroll and for how long?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is it college basketball season yet?

I really wondered why I just couldn't get pumped for the start of this NFL season.
I really thought it was because Sunday mornings at my house are no longer devoted to nachos, omlets and hours and hours of football. It's more like a long run and then rivers of formula, a diaper change or four and playing the twin hot potato game (whichever one is crying more gets held for the moment) all while trying to prevent the toddler from destroying the house.
But no.
Oh. Yeah. That's why.
The bear says it all.
Not only did my Chiefs look like the worst team in the NFL this season - seriously, did any other team look nearly as pathetic? - my fantasy football squad didn't exactly impress either. That might be because Larry Johnson is my stud back. He was the only guy worth keeping on my team besides Carson Palmer, and I liked Drew Brees better. Well, we all saw how THAT worked out. He did give me a point, so what am I complaining about?
I still like my team. I've got Gates at TE, I've got Jones-Drew and I think Brees will probably get me more than one point a week. My wide receivers are deep and I've got a good kicker and the Pats defense. But, man, it's clear that the Chiefs are gong to be about as much fun as watching a limit Razz tournament (even if they do win a few games, they're going to score about as much as I did when I was 14).
I've won my fantasy league three times in the last six years. Now I'm thinking we're in that slow, inevitable decline that all dynasties go through.
Then again, I knew the twins were a good thing. Maybe I'll be too busy to care. At this point, it's my only hope.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Book Review and bits and pieces

I finally read "Bigger Deal" by Anthony Holden. I know the rest of the 3,567 who got this book for free because you had a poker blog have already read it, so this review may be pretty worthless. But I've had some stuff going on in my life. Scroll down to see.

Overall it's a good book about the new poker craze. But it has its flaws. Holden really doesn't offer anything new. We find out how the World Poker Tour, Chris Moneymaker and online poker all contributed to the poker boom. But most poker fans know all that already, and Holden talks extensively about his poker exploits, so much so that it may bore those who aren't really into poker or even those who enjoy playing once a month and that's it.
So it's hard to know exactly who Holden's audience is for this book.
Yet it felt somewhat universal just because Holden is that good of a writer. He sense of detail, through the eyes of a jaded yet amusing Brit, captures the feel of the poker tournaments he's involved in and loses in. But it's his descriptions of himself that make the book worth reading. Any poker player, the tournament players especially, know what he feels when he continues to bust out of tournament after tournament short of the money. He describes his own play, probably the play of most bloggers (tight/aggressive) and discusses just how lucky you really do have to be to win a big score, along with tidbits of loneliness that most poker players have also felt over time.
His best chapter come when he attends a poker camp. Not only does he point out his own shortcomings, he manages to make us laugh about them, especially when faced with a fiesty Annie Duke. This chapter made me laugh out loud. The rest of the book just made me smile.

If you did get it sent to you, it's worth reading. Otherwise wait for the paperback or pick it up at the library.

Otherwise, life continues to roll on. The twins are basically sleeping through the night, and as a result, I ran under 23 minutes at a 5K for the first time in a year. The pace averaged out to a 7:22-per-mile run. I also have experimented with starting slower and going faster as the race went on. In the past I just ran as hard as I could and tried to survive. But this time I started out at 7:40 and averaged 7-7:15 miles those last two, and those last two miles felt the best I've ever felt in a 5K. I'm doing that from now on.

Poker finally is going well after a mediocre three-month stretch. I'm winning at the cash games lately. I'm still playing mostly cash games just because I still can't count on spending two hours at the tables uninterrupted. I did play a Mookie last week and I hope to get back to that on a regular basis soon.

We went out to dinner the other night. By ourselves.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Twin rule #5; Toddler rule #78 (WW)

Twin rule #5: Twins must ALWAYS wear exactly the same outfit at all times:

(The "are they identical" controversy rages on (at least in our house)). When we put hats on them, we can't see Allie's hair, and then they look a LOT alike. Don't you think? Also Kate noticed that both of them have the exact same crease beneath their left eye. Weird).

And yet here are seperate:



Toddler rule #78: Always keep the toddler busy at all times.

Dad bought us this for the yard. We just set it up Saturday. Jayden had fun and, more importantly, was busy for a while.

The sum of our parts is greater than us

The hardest thing about having twin infants and a toddler is also the most obvious.
It's 3>2.
We're outnumbered.
And unless your a Spartan, it's never good to be outnumbered. Come to think of it, it didn't even work out for them either.
The twins aren't nearly as fussy as they once were. That three month stage is like reaching the top of your last hill in a half marathon: You know it's going to be easier but you also know you have a long way to go before the end.
But Saturday the girls were awake most of the day. They napped for 10 minutes, and then their eyes would pop open again, and they would flash us a big smile. When your infant smiles, two thoughts go through your head:
1) Awwwww
2) Oh, shit
Number two goes through your mind more than you think because a smile almost always means, "Hi Daddy, I'm ready for some attention! Talk to me! Play with me! Pick me up! And do it now before I cry!"
And if it's 5 a.m., you aren't quite ready to do those things.
Twice Saturday we put them in their cribs and savored the sweet, sweet feeling of closing the bedroom door and knowing that you finally have some time to yourself, only to hear, 10 minutes later, the soul-crushing cry of an infant awake and wanting your attention.
If we had one infant and one toddler, this wouldn't be a problem. One of us could take Allie or Andie, whoever got to the egg first, and the other could stop Jayden from climbing into the pack and play, or on the fifth stair from the couch and jumping five feet onto the cushion (this is just a small sampling of the antics).
But with twins, we're handcuffed even if both of us are there. If Kate is by herself, or if I'm there alone, it can be total chaos. The babies, because they're babies, want to held, and unfortunately that's not always possible.
So, usually, the fussier one gets picked up.
That's not necessarily a good thing to teach a young female. Guys (me included) usually smile at memories of old girlfriends, unless the girlfriend was a demanding pain in the ass. Then we either shake our heads or just laugh.
They're learning though. The fussy one used to be Andie, only Allie finally figured out why her sister was getting held all the time and has started to demand it a bit. Are we raising two future Paris Hiltons (without the money)? I worry a bit that we are.
I have learned the art of holding two at once - and that's what I did Saturday, when I watched the girls while Kate went to Wal-Mart - but that limits your options if you want to do anything else at all. Like, say, get a drink of water, answer the phone or pee.
I haven't decided if this will get harder once they start moving on their own.
People say we have our hands full.
People say we're going to have to move from man-to-man and learn how to play zone.
I hate it when cliches are right.