Monday, June 29, 2009

A shot of confidence

I'd never really wished I had more than two arms until the twins were born. Then, for a while, that's all I wanted.
Sure, there would be drawbacks. That'd be kind of awkward in airplane seats. I'd have to get a tailor. And I don't know what I'd do with the third arm while I was running. Maybe it could hold a water bottle or something.
The last few days we've gotten the next best thing.
Mom was in town.
You don't really appreciate your mother until you go to college. But you don't really really really (I'd add more but you get the idea) appreciate your mother until she becomes Grandma.
Man. Someone to help with the dishes, do laundry and pick up the house is huge. Imagine if you invited someone over to your house and the only person's job was to pull things off your counters and your shelfs and dig around in a toy box and leave stuff on the floor. We have three of those. Except we have to feed them too and get them juice 50 times a day. Each. I wouldn't do that for an adult pulling stuff off my bookshelf.
Housekeeping is maybe the hardest part of having kids for me. At the end of the day, I'm so exhausted, all I want to do is watch a show (currently addicted to Battlestar Galactica, do not spoil my fun or I will send a cylon all over your ass and not the good looking ones either), read or maybe even play poker. I don't want to pick up, wash out juice cups or clean the kitchen.
Mom did a lot of that. Makes me wonder if I should sell a little dope in order to pay for a housekeeper.
Anyway, Mom also helped pick up the kids and love them, and that's also something we don't have enough hands for all the time.
But the most important thing Mom did was something she said to me right before she left.
She said, "You two are doing a great job."
I have always doubted my ability as a parent. I think I do OK, but I tend to focus on what I'm not doing. It's what I do. I don't play with them enough or love them enough. I don't talk to them enough. I'm not patient enough.
Mom told me that not only would she be pulling her hair out half the time, that she thought we were doing great.
I know. Mom's say those things. But I could tell she meant it.
I need those boosts. Maybe one day I'll believe them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The performer, the legend, the pariah

I always thought Michael Jackson would have been better off dying young.
I said it to anyone who would give me five minutes. Had Jackson died after "Thriller," or even after "Bad," he'd be a legend, a God, almost, the way people think of John Lennon or Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix. Jackson was a perfect example of an artist who's legacy would have benefited from an early death. Let's look at it another way: What if Morrison was still alive today? The guy would be a freak, a joke, a blithering idiot, probably. Hell, Hendrix might be the same way, as much as it pains me to say that.
But now? Well, it seems cruel that Jackson dies now, when he was planning a comeback that might
have made people think about his music again rather than his plastic surgery or skin color or kids or, of course, the sexual abuse charges that were proven unfounded but unfortunately seemed to fit.
I was pleased to see most of the coverage I saw last night focused on exactly that, his killer music, his
groundbreaking videos, his incredible dancing, his aura. It's always funny about death: Jackson was
vilified in the media in the last few years, many times rightly so, and his music or his legacy never
seemed to come up, but now all people can do is say nice things about him. Why do we do that
when they're no longer around to hear those things?
I said he'd be better off dead because I got tired of defending Jackson the artist and trying to get
others to separate his amazing music from the freak show that he'd become. For one night, the night of his death, it was easy to do. People talked about "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" and "Thriller" and "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough."
Sad thing is, his death comes too late for the adulation to last.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is there any hope?

I was asking Kate who's side she was on. 
"You have to pick a side," I said.
OK, I'll admit it. I was trying to get her fired up, and lately, nothing got her quite as fired up as "Jon and Kate Plus 8." Nothing insignificant anyway. I have this thing about arguing. I kinda like it. It's a sport to me. But I try to choose things like "Jon and Kate" to argue about with Kate because that way, if it ever gets too heated, we can pause and remind ourselves that we're arguing about something completely stupid, like whether "The Notebook" is a good movie (Kate's view) or a crap-fest (my view).
Kate just looked at me and said, "I think it's kinda sad."
I don't really get into celebrity gossip. I am a serious journalist, people, and so I don't really care about who Megan Fox is dating, lucky bastard that he is. But I found myself scouring the Web searching for any news on Jon or Kate as soon as the news broke about his affair. This was, after all, kind of personal.
Kate and I started watching the show for reasons other than, "OMGtheyhave8kidshowdotheydoitIwannasee!" We watched it for therapy.
It was more than a reminder that things could be worse, though, at that time, we were both carrying around a baby at all hours, so that was part of it. It was a way to deal with our situation as well. Some of things Kate said really resounded with us. When she talked about the two snapping at each other, she said the situation they faced was so stressful that sometimes it was your partner's job to be a sounding board. Kate eventually took that way too far, of course, one reason it's hard for me to blame Jon for straying if in fact he did, but that stuck with us and made us understand each other's bad moments.
The show was a blueprint, in a way, on how to survive multiples. And I know that sounds harsh, but I'm sorry, those first couple of years of raising twins or triplets or a litter can really damage your relationship if you let it. As stupid as it sounds now, "Jon and Kate" was part of the solution to prevent that.
Now? Well, now I have to admit it makes me wonder, though it seems to me that the two are splitting up for celebrity and entertainment reasons. It strikes me that their kids don't seem to be listed as a reason any longer. They're stars now, and stars break up. Kate's pretty wrapped up in the  spotlight and Jon would rather shun it so he can focus on 23-year-olds.
I hope they remember to be parents. I wish they would just stop the show. I'm no longer watching it. I don't want to see snippy comments, evil looks and frightened children. 
That's the thing here. Now what's left is a bunch of scared and worried kids who won't get to see their parents together any longer. 
Kate's right. It's kinda sad.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


When I think of today's garage sale - our first as a married couple, so you know you've arrived - two pop culture icons come to mind.
The first is George Carlin for his brilliant monologue on "Stuff." It's a darkly accurate take on how our lives are ruled by accumulating
stuff. And the second, of course, is from last year's Pixar classic "WALL-E." OK, so we know I'm a Pixarfan, and that's not just because I'm surrounded by it (mostly "Cars"). There are messages in those cute little cartoons, and Wall-E's was another dark comment on all our crap. In fact, the crap DID overtake our lives, as Carlin seemed to suggest it would.
Today I got a taste of what that life would be like, as most of our weekend was consumed with our crap. We dropped the kids off Friday at Kate's parents, had dinner at Red Lobster (well, come on, days without the kids are as rare as a drink of cold water in a desert) and then attacked the crap.
In fairness to us, crap is unavoidable as a parent. In fact, you're not really a parent unless you've got truckloads of toys, bottles, tiny toys, trucks and garbage bags full of clothes. And as the kids got older, the crap flowed downhill, as it always does, to the basement.
Now when we were looking for a new house a couple years ago - we needed a larger place, and that was BEFORE we knew Kate was going to have TWO sisters for Jayden, not just one - I secretly wanted a finished basement. I wanted a place for myself. And before the girls were born, that's exactly what I had, a room and a place where I could go late at night and chill. That changed after they were born. I had to stay upstairs even late at night to listen for their cries while playing online poker, and every smidge of space downstairs was swallowed by old kid crap.
So I was grinning from ear to ear, even if it took hours to gather up all our crap to sell at the garage sale. We literally had a shitload of it - it took up all our garage - and not all of it was kid crap, I'm sorry to say. There was a foot spa. An old Game Boy. An old Walkman. Videotapes. Old movies. A couple VCRs. An old fan. A printer for our digital camera. All crap we thought we really needed but didn't use very much.
There really is nothing like a garage sale, and yet they all seem to be alike.
We got up at 6 a.m. - yes, the one day we didn't have kids, we still had to get up with the sunrise - and sure enough, people showed up at our house around 6:45 a.m., or an hour before we were scheduled to start.
I felt a bit violated watching all these people go through all our old crap and even a little more insulted when they turned up their nose at it or, as so many did, just drove by our house. I couldn't believe others didn't want our crap, even as I was trying to get rid of it.
Yet I was quick to bargain with anyone because I also wanted to feel good about the fact that
our crap was going to a good home, kind of the thing people tell themselves when they're
giving up a dog or cat.
I had several of these conversations:
"How much is this?"
" about $2?"
"What about $1.75?"
"Um, OK."
A quarter?
By the end, after our sale ended, we still had some crap left. And so I marked a table and an old, small bookshelf FREE. Those were snapped up. Then Kate marked another box full of crap FREE and a woman came by to claim that. People love free crap, even if that's exactly what it is.
As I was shopping at Target the day before our sale, I kept thinking about Wall-E as he scooped up all the crap people left behind. Then I saw a snow cone maker for only $29.99. The kids would like that, I thought, and I could have a low calorie dessert at night. I was close to buying it.
And then it hit me. This is exactly the kind of crap that people buy all the time. It's exactly the kind of thing that we'd probably sell at our next garage sale after using it only a couple times.
And for now, after this weekend's efforts, the basement is reasonably clear of crap.
It felt good. I'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible.
I left the snow-cone maker on the shelf.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why the Dungeons and Dragons get up?

You know I love metal, I mean really love it. It's by far my favorite form of music.
It's badass music. It helps me through races. It pumps me up when I need it. It's helped me work out a lot of frustration with the kids. I KNOW I run faster and lift harder when I listen to it.
But, man, what's with those videos?
I mean, really guys? Why MUST so many of you wear those Medieval outfits and pretend you're in the winter holding off the Vikings or whatever? I mean, come on. I get that your music is all tough and all that but to me, those outfits don't exactly say "tough" to me. "Gay" really is the word that comes to mind.
Sure, I can appreciate a good sword fight like the next guy. "Kill Bill?" Loved it.
But I can't help but think about Dungeons and Dragons and those strange Renaissance festivals where people eat turkey legs and dress up like maidens or queens and kings or whores and there's always a guy named puke or snot who acts like he wants all his teeth knocked out by an angry punch.
If you are one of those people, hey, I don't mean to offend you. They're kinda cool. But I also can't help but giggle when I see that.
And I'm not supposed to giggle when I'm hearing a metal song, no?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A conversation with a 2-year-old

Here's what it's like to talk to a 2-year-old. I use Andie because, for now, she's the more loquacious one of the two right now. Plus Allie's been screaming a lot. Like, a lot. For things such as wanting a cup of juice and me failing to solve how to make a faster-than-light warp jump on foot and therefore actually taking seconds to respond to her request. 
So, quite frankly, Andie deserves the publicity more than Allie right now.

Andie: "Whazzat?"
Me: "That's my shaving cream."
Andie: "Huh?"
Me: "I use it to shave."
Andie: "Shave?"
Me: "Yep. Shave my face."
Andie: "Like Mommy?"
Me: "Well, sorta like Mommy. Mommy shaves her legs."
Andie: "Mommy shaves her legs?"
Me: "Yep."
Andie: "Daddy shaves his legs?"
Me: "Um, no."
Andie: "Whazzat?"
Me: "I told you, that's my shaving cream on my face."
Andie: "Shave?"
Me: "Yes"
Andie: "Legs?"
Me: "No. Face."
Andie: "Mommy?"
Me: "She's downstairs."
Andie: "Is that your shirt?"
Me: "Yep."
Andie: "Your shirt?"
Me: "Yes."
Andie: "Whazzat?"
Me: "What? This? This is my razor. I'm done with it now."
Andie: "Whazzat?"
Me: "I just told you. Razor."
Andie: "Razor?"
Me: "Oh yeah."
Andie: "See my shoes."
Me: "I do. They're cute."
Andie: "Cute?"
Me: "Yep."
Andie: "Cute?"
Andie: "Mommy?'
Me: "Yep."
Me: "She's downstairs."
Andie: "Your shirt?"
Me: "No, your shoes?"
Andie: "My shoes?"
Me: "Yep."
Andie: "My shoes?"
Me: "Yes."
Andie: "Brush! Brush!"
Me: "No, we've brushed your teeth already."
Andie: "Mommy?"
Me: "She's downstairs. Why don't you go find her?"

Friday, June 12, 2009

It WAS important

Kate called me twice yesterday, once during work and the other time right before my softball game.
Why would she call me then, when she knows I'm busy and just talked to me like a half hour ago?
Well, Andie and Allie peed in the potty for the first time yesterday.
And then, during the game, Andie pooped in the potty.
"At least it was something important," one of my teammates said.
I agree.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Home Sweet Home

"Don't know what you got 'till it's gone."

Aside from being an absolutely great hair metal song, it's a tired cliché. But it's tired and true, and perhaps it's no truer when you're talking about food.

Kansas City is my hometown, and it's where we spent last week. My parents still live there, and so we visit once a year. I tell myself it's to give my kids the chance to see their grandparents, and that's true.

I also need to see home once a year.

However, home's changed. My parents live in separate houses now. My Dad's with his family in Overland Park, Kan. and my mother's in Belton, Mo. Neither one are within a half hour of our old house. Nostalgia, therefore, is hard to come by. I won't even see the old neighborhood this year. I won't see my high school, the steep hills, the lake where we used to fish, the pizza joint where we'd wolf down $1 slices during lunch or our old sledding hill.

But the food's still there.

Most importantly, so's the barbecue.

Nothing gives me the hometown smiles and shivers like a plate of Kansas City barbecue. I still like the humid nights, the wild storms and the lightning bugs, things we just don't get in Colorado. But oh, how I love the barbecue.

I wasn't a fan nearly as much when I lived here. Now I can't get enough of it. I miss it that much. 

Kansas City isn't known for much. Jazz, sure, but more for its history, not its current club scene. The Royals? They ruled the 80s but have sucked since. The Chiefs? They ruled the 90s - sorta - but have sucked since. My Jayhawks are more of a statewide passion. So our barbecue is almost it. But it's good. It's really good.

It's so good, we're loyal to it, almost in the way the British love the Queen. People go nose to nose over what joint's better - and there are at least five that warrant consideration - and as much as I love barbecue, I won't eat it much the rest of the year. It just isn't the same in Colorado. I'm always disappointed when I do have it. Imagine going to a concert thinking you're going to see Metallica and Danger Danger walks out instead.

Vacations for parents of young children aren't what they used to be. They don't really feel like vacations anymore. They're certainly not relaxing. We took the kids to a huge farm-like amusement park, shot photos in a park, took them to a pool twice, went to the Kansas City zoo, brought them to a city park and generally did many other things to keep them entertained and energy-free by the end of the day. The only thing we've done for ourselves is go to a movie in an actual movie theater for an afternoon. 

(On a side note, I saw "Up" while Kate saw "Angels and Demons." Pixar is, without a doubt, is the best moviemaker in the industry. Every movie the company makes is not only good, it's GREAT. As great as almost any movie I've seen. "Up" was no exception. Whenever I get a little tired of Pixar tempting my son with yet licensed product - I saw Lightning McQueen shaped bars of soap the other day - I remind myself that I'm supporting brilliant, talented storytellers in a world that badly needs them).

So food is really the only carrot - ha, good pun - that you get as an adult when your vacations are so stuffed with things you're doing for your kids. I think every adult thinks this way. When I once visited Sterling with one of my best friends for his annual return to where he grew up in the small town about an hour east of Greeley (my home now) the first thing we did was visit a trashy taco stand. It was nothing special, but he said he HAS to go there every time he visits Sterling. The place, of course, was packed. I understood why right away.

Sterling means Taco Shack. Kansas City means barbecue.

Barbecue is not healthy, of course, but I've already had it twice. I've run practically every day I've been out there. Short runs, of course, even if one of them was five miles, with the first two under 14 minutes (sea level is wonderful). But there's a chance the gluttony I've already displayed will ruin my 5K on the Fourth of July. 

I don't care. At least, not right now. My sated mind is savoring the aroma of smoked meat, the spice of hot sauce and, of course, the slightly bittersweet, happy taste of home.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A confession

I haven't posted much about poker here lately. Mostly that's because I don't have much to add to the field that hasn't already been written. I save my best hands for Pokerworks, I'm still learning Omaha and with the World Series of Poker going on, it's a little insignificant for me to write about $50 NLHE.

But I do need to write what I'm about to say. It's time.

Hi, my name is Pokerpeaker. And I'm a losing player for 2009.

I'm on an extended, painful and frustrating losing streak, the first one of my four-year career in poker. I've had three winning months, but the take was small, and the losses in the bad months, like this one, have been much larger.

I'm hardly in danger of losing my bankroll, but it's taken a significant dent.

What's worse - or maybe better, depending on how you look at it - is it's almost killed my love of poker. I have no desire to play it right now. Losing, I suppose, will do that to you. 

I feel like a big wuss about that. I've approached many other challenges in life with fortitude and determination, but in this case, taking a pretty significant break seems like the right thing to do, and I can't muster up the urge to fight. I've been fighting. It's not working.

I'll spare many bad beats before this post turns really whiny, but I will tell you a story about last Friday, and you might see why my passion for the game has dwindled. It's a bit of a tale so be patient.

All right, we all know how I play, and that's tight. Really tight, in fact. In the past, it's always won me money, as so many others just could not resist making stupid plays against me, plays that I easily picked off or called down. 

Poker's tougher now, as so many know how to play NLHE with at least some competency, and whether that's because the fish aren't online any longer or the game's just been too popular for too long I'm not sure. Live games are looser but aren't what they once were either. Maybe this economy's killing the action. 

Whatever it is, I realized this year I needed to change things up a bit. Tight was not always right any longer. And as I did that, I began to feel like a golf pro who suddenly changes his swing and can't find his old groove.

Playing tight was not an incredibly effective style, but it WAS a style. It was a game plan. And switching that up meant I had no game plan any longer. I would play tight, then suddenly make a stupid move that cost me half my chips.

I was, in a sense, one of the donks.

So Friday I decided to take what I've learned about playing aggressively and use it but only very sparingly. For the most part, I would play like I always have and see if it's effective at all anymore.

And you know what, it was. For one night, it was incredibly effective. I got all-in at least seven times as a huge favorite, at least 70/30. Three times I had my opponent down to a two-outer - twice it was my Aces versus my opponent's Kings.

And I dropped six buy-ins.

That's an all-time record.

I didn't win one of those hands. 

In fact, the only pot of any significance I actually won was when I sucked out against a short stack with my Queens versus his Kings. I chuckled darkly at his chat box rant.

So I played well, with my old style, and lost a shit ton of money.

That will dampen your enthusiasm for the game.

So when I could think again, that night I came up with a three-part game plan.

I withdrew a huge chunk of my money off online. That leaves me with a small amount to play cash games with at my comfort zone, .25/.50 NL. That will force me to play carefully, within my game, and if I just can't win anymore, then it's gone and that's it.

I broke out my Nintendo 64. Yep. That's right. I'm going Old School baby. It still works beautifully, and it's been a trip to play games I hadn't touched in eight years. My life was just a tad different back then. Right now I'm tackling "Perfect Dark." Remember that one? Sure you do. I gotta tell you, it's still hard.

Finally, I will continue to play The Mookie, but I may not join many other games right now. I took a break from The Mookie for the BBT and also dropped Mondays and Tuesdays, and to be honest I enjoyed the break. My Netflix queue is now whittled. I've also written more and read a few books. Poker's no longer a major chunk of my life. It's merely a pastime.

More and more, I'm thinking that's where it belongs.