Waiting for Medical Results and Momento Mori

A few weeks ago I had something of a medical concern. I am usually one to take a wait and see if it goes away approach, but this caught my attention in a way that I thought would be best not to wait and see. I’m sure you’re curious what it was. Don’t worry, it wasn’t something weird or gross. Just some blood in my urine. If it turns out that actually is weird and gross for you to read, imagine how I felt.

Upon noticing this symptom, I naturally immediately assumed I had cancer. Maybe prostate, maybe bladder, maybe kidney, maybe all of the above. Wanting to give myself the opportunity to catch it early, I made a doctor’s appointment. I tried to anyway.

After initially being told it would be several weeks until the doctor could see me, I was told to go get blood work and a urine test done and they would schedule something from there. Clearly the scheduler at the doctor’s office did not have the same sense of urgency to find out why my insides were bleeding that I did. The next day I went and filled the cup and got my blood drawn. They told me the results would be available within a day. The wonders of modern medicine! However, there is a big difference between results being available and results being understandable. The wonders of modern medicine.

As soon as I got the notification email that my results were in I went to my patient portal to see the news. Most of the results were normal, but a few things on the list had a big yellow caution icon next to them. My white blood cells were low, my bilirubin was high, and the specific gravity of my urine was low. I’m no doctor, but I have seen every episode of ER, and know that low white count is bad and high bilirubin means your liver isn’t working. I have no idea what specific gravity of urine means, but having piss that defies gravity actually seems kind of cool.

Even though I knew I shouldn’t, I Googled what that combination of results couldn’t mean. Even though I knew a medical professional is more reliable than WebMD, I was now convinced my liver was failing.

A few hours after the results were available, I got another notification. A message from the doctor – “Call my office to make an appointment so we can discuss the results.” I couldn’t help but notice she didn’t say anything about not having liver cancer. The soonest I could get an appointment was in two weeks. You can sure do a lot of thinking in two weeks.

Naturally, my first thought was how soon would be too soon to take the once in a lifetime trip for my kids to Disney World? Am I too old to qualify for Make-a-Wish? Do I go now while I am still feeling healthy, or wait until I’m more sickly and and use a wheelchair to skip to the front of the line at Space Mountain?

My second thought was I need to be more intentional with the time I spend with my family. Have I been wasting my time? Have I been spending it rather than investing it? Is this whar Tim McGraw was singing about? Should have been living like I was dying for my next thirty years instead of still getting down on the farm? Mostly I thought how strange it is that we only start to look at our time critically once we realize we might not have as much of it as we thought.

Why do we wait for some huge news or some major life event to look more critically at what we do with our time? I get that it seems completely depressing if you were constantly aware of the fact each day of your life is more day closer to your death, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. I am sure on some level our minds purposely block those thoughts for us as a way to keep us happy, and we shouldn’t dwell on the fact we are all going to die someday. However, should thinking about our mortality depress us or motivate us? Deflate us or inspire us? Momento mori the Stoics say – remember you must die. Not to make you sad about dying, but to make you excited about living.

I tried not to dwell on anything until I talked to the doctor, and over the passing days I found myself not thinking about what might be wrong with me, but about what kind of life I want to live. I thought about how to focus on the things that matter (even started reading a book about it), about job fulfillment beyond a paycheck, about about what I really wanted to do with my time, and yes, about how long could it possibly take to tell me what my test results mean.

After waiting slightly less than patiently for my appointment to come, the day arrived and I went to talk to the doctor. Thankfully, the first thing she said was that while some things where high and some things were low, nothing was too far from normal to indicate something serious. No cancer. No liver failure. While it was good to hear that, I feel like that she could have just told me that in the comments she left in the test results. Or at any point in the last two weeks. We can talk about whatever else we need to talk about in the appointment, but leaving a quick voicemail to let somebody know they don’t have cancer should be standard practice. Hell, shoot me a quick text – “No prostate cancer *eggplant emoji*” would have been great.

Turns out my body is breaking down red blood cells faster than my liver can filter them out. It is exercise induced and mostly harmless. Runner’s bladder they call it. I always loved the quote from Steve Prefontaine, “Somebody may beat me, but they’re going to have to bleed to do it,” but I never thought I would take it so literally. I guess that’s the price I pay for the “free” t-shirt that comes with running a 10k.

I can relax my mind and not think about the worse case scenario anymore. Or at least what the worst case scenario was at the time. Now I know the worst thing I can do is waste my time. My talents. My energy. My life. Apologies to Tim McGraw, but I am still not going to live like I was dying. Rather, I’m going to live like I’m living.

Stoic Saturday: Don’t Wait for Another Instant

When you have kids it becomes easy to fall into the trap of planning ahead. It is easy to think of the next milestone or how much easier life will be once they are out of diapers. While planning can be wise and often necessary, the future should not be your focus – this moment should be.

Each of us lives only now. This brief instant.

When I was in my 20’s and childless I thought life was moving fast. I distinctly remember turning 27 and thinking “how can I be this close to 30 already? I was just 17.” Fool. Some say college is the fastest four years of their life. My daughter is four right now, and while I don’t have a calendar in front of me at the moment I am fairly certain she was only born about a week and half ago. This phase, this season of life, this moment you’re in really is an instant. So are you in it, or are you just waiting for it to pass?

While you wait for the next thing, the better thing, the different thing – you’re missing the only thing. I hate to break it to you, but the life you’re living is the only one you’ll get. So what are you waiting for? For more of it to be gone? Look at your kids. This is the only time they will be this little. Is your kid asking for one more book before bedtime a burden, or a passing moment that will never come back? Is a kid insisting to be pushed on the swing more, and more, and more boring? Well maybe, but but in the scope of life it is an instant. Blink your eyes and they won’t need you to push anymore. Blink again and they won’t even want to go to the park with you anymore.

I know I fall into looking ahead too much. When the kids are a little bigger we can go camping. One more year and we won’t have to pay for day care anymore. Three more years and we’ll only have one school to drop our kids off at. It is good to put your mind to creating a plan for what might happen in the future, but it can’t take up residence there. I know I need to work on not just enjoying the moment, but truly being present in the moment. The future will be here. Probably quicker than I think. What matters more is what actually is here now.

Tomorrow isn’t promised to anybody. That is not to say you should live irresponsibly, with no regard for consequences. But rather to live intentionally, with purpose for the present. If you don’t get a tomorrow, and today is your last day, would you be happy with the way you lived the day? With how you lived each day up to this point? Or do you look back at a series of days there spent waiting for them to pass? Time will pass all on its own, it doesn’t need your help. But your life won’t be lived in a way that matters unless you put the effort in to each moment as it comes.

Literally as I was writing this, I stopped to go read a book with my six year-old daughter. She wanted us to take turns reading every other page of “The Pigeon Goes to School.” If there was ever a time to try to rush the moment, it was waiting her to work through the word “alphabet.” But I let her figure it out, I helped her when she needed it, and I was present in the moment. I’m not going to lie, it took effort. But if I can stay present through soft c’s and silent l’s, the rest should be easy. Right?

Working From Home When Kids Go Back to School

Like many people in the modern workforce, I can work from home. Going into the summer, I knew I’d be working from home with at least one of my kids three days a week. My wife’s schedule allowed for her to be home with the kids the other two. Having two “normal” workdays in the office might not seem like much, but it did a nice job breaking up the week and gave me a change of scenery. Sitting at a computer in my basement and sitting at a computer in an office isn’t all that different, but working in a place without kids is very different than sharing a workspace with somebody who is on their summer vacation and always wants a snack.

About half way through summer I started a new job and I now work fully remote. Except for a few hours working from coffee shops, my workdays were filled with the sound of kids in the house. Until today. This morning I dropped of all the kids at school and day care and came back to an empty and silent house. It was stranger than I thought it would be.

I immediately noticed two things – I had gotten used to the noise, and I expected the routine.

When I was working without kids around, I would almost always have music on or be listening to podcast. With kids, the music was still a thing, but it was from High School Musical and there were little voices singing along. Loudly, and with most of the words wrong. Podcasts were out the window. An hour of time to quietly absorb information was in impossibility. What quiet time I could get needed to be reserved for Zoom calls, and could not be squandered. I’d rather miss out on the cast of Boy Meets World getting nostalgic than have the sounds of Pinkalicious on the background of a meeting.

Oddly, without anybody else in the house today I did not immediately jump at the opportunity to choose the music or to catch up on podcasts I’ve missed. Not because I was enjoying the silence, but because I didn’t think to do it. I had gotten used to not being able to. Now here I was sitting in a house that was too quiet. I missed the noise, or more accurately, the noise makers. It dawned on me that this was going to be my first full work week from home without any kids since the days of pandemic shutdowns. Working from home stopped feeling weird a long time ago. Working from home alone will take getting used to.

I needed to break the silence so I told Alexa to play some music. She played “Landslide”, and I skipped it. She played “Fire and Rain” and I suffered thought it. After that, she played Harry freakin’ Chapin, “Cats in the Cradle.” Alexa is a cold-hearted bitch.

In addition to not knowing how to break the silence, I also didn’t quite know what to do with myself. With kids home, we had a set routine built around reading time and snack time and TV time and lunch time and bike ride time. Now I could set my own schedule, but again, I didn’t actually think to do it. I went for a walk around the neighborhood around the same time I used to get the kids out of the house because it felt weird not to. But it never really occurred to me to eat lunch. With nobody asking if it was time to eat, I didn’t. Lunch was replaced by a series of snacks throughout the day whenever I’d realize what time it was and I hadn’t really eaten yet. We had developed a routine for the day to keep the kids busy and not stuck in front of a screen all day while I worked, but it also gave apparently much needed structure to my day, which seemed to fall apart without it.

Now the kids will have the routine of school, and I’ll have to build myself a new routine for the work day. The walks around the neighborhood will stay. The High School Musical soundtrack will be gladly cut out. I’ll even set myself a lunch time and settle into a flow that works. I am sure I’ll get perfectly used to working from home without the kids around just in time for Christmas break. I guess that is what working from home is all about – adjusting and adapting one change at a time.

The solid structure of the 9 to 5 office job is gone, and the price to pay for working from home in comfortable pants is giving up a consistent daily routine. Which, I understand that for some people sounds amazing, but when you have kids your routines are their routines. Without the structure they’ve necessitated, I have to say I feel a bit like Red after he gets out of Shawshank. I can do almost anything now, so what the hell do I do?

Stoic Saturday: Be The Good You Want to See In Your Kids

Parenting essentially comes down to two things: keeping your kids alive, and making sure they grow up to be good people. There is plenty of help available for the keeping them alive part – car seats, baby gates, child-proof everything. Little kids are even designed to so bendy and squishy they are hard to break. However, you can’t put anything on your baby shower registry to assist you in raising a good person.

It would be wrong for anything to stand between you and attaining goodness.

Actually, I take that back. You can register for something that will help you raise a good person, but not too many people register at book stores. Everybody wants to get a jogging stroller, but people would roll their eyes if somebody gave them a copy of Meditations. Though if we are really being intentional on what kind of parent we want to be (and in turn what kind of kid we want to raise), the means by which we instill ideas of courage, justice, temperance, and wisdom are much more important then how we will get a tiny person from point A to point B.

So if resources to teach goodness to our kids are available, what’s stopping us? Personally, I think it is the age-old cliche of all parents (or at least bad parents) – do as I say, not as I do. Unless your kid is Doogie Howser, safe to say your toddler isn’t cracking open Marcus Aurelius or Seneca. But you can. And we know that every kid inevitably mirrors their parents’ actions. To instill the goodness we want in our children, we first have to attain that goodness our selves. Or at least be making an effort.

If everybody waited around until they achieved goodness to become a parent, the human race would have ceased to exist immediately. The pursuit of goodness is a lifelong journey, not an alarm you can set on your biological clock. Knowing the destination could be a lifetime away, why not start the journey now?

Ironically, for myself as a parent, one thing that stands in the way of attaining goodness is actually being a parent. When there is breakfast to make, kids to get dressed, and three places to drop off three kids in the morning, it is hard to start the day intentionally. It’s easier to sleep in than it is to wake up early and give myself time to spend reading. After a workday and dinner, showers, and bed time routines, it’s too easy to sit on the couch and turn my brain off before I go to bed. While it may take more mental effort to engage my mind in reflection and writing than it does to stream a few episodes of something, what is more worth my time? I mean, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is funny, but is it helping my journey to goodness?

Kids take up a lot of my time, but I can’t let that stand in my way. If I have to set my alarm for 5:00 am to give myself time to read and reflect each morning, then that is what I need to do. I can’t let the comfort of my bed stand in my way. In the big picture, an hour or so of sleep seems like a pretty fair trade for being the kind of person I want my kids to pattern themselves after.

So what is standing in your way? A perceived lack of time? Bad habits you can’t seem to kick? The fact that your own parents were poor models of goodness? All of the above? Whatever it is, don’t let it be an excuse. Don’t let the fact that something in your way today stop you from taking steps toward achieving (and modeling) goodness in the future. Easier said than done for sure, but what could be more worth it?

Why Parents Can’t Go to the Bathroom

Kids can go from having a great time to having a terrible time in a split second. Usually it is their own fault. When it’s not their own fault, it is probably their brother or sister’s fault. Sometimes it’s the fault of the color of the cup you gave them. One of the more frustrating things about when kids do melt down is that it can happen any moment, and you never know when that moment will be. With one exception – when you’re in the bathroom.

Without fail, as soon as the bathroom door closes, a tiny mouth opens and out comes a scream. It doesn’t matter if I take 15 minutes to take a shower or 15 seconds to pee, as soon as my kids know I am not immediately available they view that as an open invitation to freak out about something stupid. If anything, their freak outs seem to be proportional to the length of time spent in the bathroom. If I’m just grabbing some floss to get something out of my teeth, one kid will commit the terrible offense of getting a song lyric wrong and the other kid will yell at them. If I got done working out and need a nice long shower, then for sure somebody will end up laying on the floor crying. I sometimes wonder if they remember what I had for dinner the day before and plan the severity of their outbursts accordingly.

What is it about the bathroom? I can leave them alone for periods of time to do other things and they are fine. I’ve never gone to the mailbox and come back with a fist full of political flyers I’ll throw out immediately and a house full of crying kids. When I’m working from home I can sit on Zoom calls for hours and they’ll be fine doing whatever it is they do when I’m in the basement and they are upstairs. While whatever it is they play leaves their room a total mess, it leaves nobody crying. But I go into the bathroom and their bedroom suddenly becomes the island from Lord of the Flies. God forbid I get the stomach flu, somebody would surely get a rock dropped on their head.

What is it about me being behind the bathroom door? They aren’t newborns. They know I continue to exist when I leave the room. At least I think they do. I was average at best when it came to peek-a-boo, so surely they’ve figured it out by now. They know sound can travel through the bathroom door. When they scream for help wiping their butt I come to help them. I don’t pretend I can’t hear them because they are in the bathroom. Though maybe I should. If they think I can’t hear them scream at each other when I’m in there, only fair for me to choose to not hear them.

It’s more likely that they are fully aware I can hear them, but they know that if only for a few seconds there is nothing I can do. In their minds I might as well be on the moon, and when the cat’s away the mice will jump off the bed and land on their little sister. I don’t know if I am more pleased that they’ve learned to respect my privacy when I’m in the bathroom, or more disappointed that they immediately devolve when they think they’re out of my reach. From a young age I trained them to leave me alone when I’m in the bathroom, and they don’t pound on the door when I’m in there and they certainly don’t try to barge in. My wife on the other hand did no such training and is the frequent victim of tiny barging people.

The bright side is that they they learned what I taught them. If only they could apply this beyond bathroom etiquette and into something like cleaning up their toys or staying in their bed at bedtime. Too bad from them neither of those things presents them with the opportunity for unsupervised chaos, then I bet they’d keep the house spotless. Isn’t that really their motivation here? To do whatever they want. They do just enough of what I want them to do to allow themselves the opportunity to do as they please. Then again, isn’t that everybody’s motivation? I mean, why else do adults go to work? Perhaps my kids aren’t out of control, but wise beyond their years? Good for them, but I’d still like to be able to shave without a kid ending up in tears.

So I guess I did this to myself. I made them think that if I am in the bathroom I am totally unreachable, and they’re pushing to see how far that can go. This is why we can’t have nice things. I’ve traded five minutes of privacy for ten minutes of calming down a screaming child. Talk about a shit deal. See what I did there.

Picking Up My Son for the Last Time

When you think of memorable parenting moments, what comes to mind are the firsts. You save first pairs of shoes, sometimes people save locks of hair from first haircuts, the real weirdos save the first teeth kids lose. Baby books are filled with pictures and dates of first steps, smiles, solid foods. First days of school are possibly the most recorded and archived events of a kid’s life. Part of it is because firsts are fun. They are moments of pride, of joy, of major celebration. Also, you can see them coming and can plan accordingly. What you don’t see coming, but are just as important, are the lasts.

My wife and I have decided to take down one of the sides of our two year-old son’s crib and get him used to sleeping in a big boy bed. I think he’ll be fine and it’s the right thing to do for his development, and I am happy for him. But at the same time, I’m a little sad for me. The next time I pick him up out of his crib will be the last.

A cute little boy sleeping in a crib

One of the best parts of my day is getting the little guy out of his crib in the morning. He is always happy to see me (except for the occasions he is specifically asking for his mommy), and unlike other times I pick him up he isn’t fighting it or squirming to get down. In those morning moments all he wants is to get picked up and I am the person he wants to do that for him. From the time he gets up to the time he decides what he wants for breakfast, I am providing everything he needs in his little world. Assuming I get around to taking that crib down tomorrow, that will only happen one more time.

At some point the day will come where I can’t pick him, or any of my kids up at all. My 6 year-old daughter just crossed the 50 pound mark, and while I can still pick her up, I can’t carry her around like I used to. The way I see it I have two options – stop feeding her, or get myself to the gym. I suppose getting myself stronger seems like a more responsible choice than a malnourished child. Also seems like a lot more work. These are the tough parenting choices nobody tells you about before you have kids.

While picking up my kids is a last that I can do my best to delay, it will happen eventually, and I probably won’t know the last time is the last until after it happens. I didn’t know when the last feeding happened, and I won’t know the last adorable mispronunciation when it happens (he calls his sister Evie “wee-wee”), but the last pick up out of the crib is on my timeline now, not his. Maybe I’ll take it down tomorrow, maybe I’ll take it down when he is eleven, who knows.

Now that I know it will be the last time and I”ll be prepared to savor every second of it, of course he’ll have a poopy diaper, or will be screaming, or will want his mommy and not me, or quite possibly all of the above. Makes me think about the hundreds of times I’ve picked him up without even thinking about it. Or any of the other little things throughout the day that are so easy to blow past, or think of as just something you need to do, or maybe even something that feels like an inconvenience. A little thing here and a little thing there as you go about your day, but what is life but a collection of little things with only a few biggies sprinkled in?

There are a handful of holidays to celebrate each year, and only one birthday per kid, but little kids need help wiping their butt every day. One day my daughter will ask for help and I’ll find her in the bathroom waiting patiently with her little butt sticking up in the air for the last time, and I won’t know it until who knows how long goes by. Not as fun or adorable as getting a sleepy-eyed toddler out of a crib, to be sure, but another little moment with my kids that will disappear.

I get it, kids grow up. I was a kid once and I (mostly) grew up. You know going into parenthood that there is impermanence to it, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. But in this case, I’ll look on the bright side of knowing exactly when the last time to get him out of bed will be. So I’ll do three things – savor the moment of getting him out of bed one last time in the morning, take his crib down in the evening, and get to the gym and lift some weights. The kids aren’t getting any smaller, and I’ve still got picking up to do.

UPDATE: I was sitting on the couch when I heard him call out for me this morning. This was it. I told myself to savor the moment, to take it all in. I walked to his room and said good morning. He sat in his crib and pointed to some cars that were sitting on the floor of his room. “Cars,” he said.

“Ready to get up buddy?” I asked.

“Cars!” he responded.

I prepared myself for a good squeeze and bent over and picked him up out of his crib. As soon as I got him up he was squirming to get down. “Cars!” he insisted. I didn’t fight it.

So there you have it. My last time picking up my little guy out of his crib was thwarted by a couple of Matchbox cars on his floor. A cherished memory for dad just can’t compete with a blue Jeep. Little jerk.

Kids In an Airport: Worse Than Kids In an Airplane

A fun part of being a parent is experiencing the first things with your kids – first steps, first words, first time they can get up and get themselves a drink of water. A bad part about being a parent is experiencing the first things with your kids – first teeth, first trip to urgent care, and one I just experienced, first time on an airplane. All things being equal, I think the first trip to urgent care was less painful. For me at least.

Taking your family across the country is as old as the country itself. When the trip was first being planned, my dad assumed we would drive from Michigan to Colorado. He also must have assumed I was crazy. Even if the kids were terrible on the plane, I’d rather put up with a terrible two hours than two days.Actually, the airplane ride itself was not that bad. Given my kids’ ages (Lucy age 6, Evie age 4, and Brooks age 2) they were about as good as they could have been. They were a little loud, a little whiny, and kicked somebody else’s chair a few times, but that is what my wife and I expected out of them and were pretty prepared to handle. Getting off the plane we were probably at a stress level of four. What were were completely unprepared for is the endless hellscape that was the airport.

The airport we departed from in Traverse City, Michigan was tiny – 6 gates in total. We unloaded our bags, checked our car seats, and got through the TSA checks in about 20 minutes. The kids had snacks and were happy, the adults had coffee from the literal only coffee shop in the airport. Everybody was well behaved. Strangers commented on how adorable the kids were. Safe to say we peaked too soon.

As soon as they made the boarding announcement Brooks threw himself on the floor and started crying. We hadn’t even sat down in our close airborne quarters yet and already I could feel every other passenger on the flight beginning to hate my family. I mean, if he cries at the fact that group two is now boarding, what is he going to do when we’re taking off or hit some turbulence? Scream uncontrollably and crap his pants? I mean, he’s still in diapers so the pants crapping is happening one way or another, but hopefully with at least some dignity. Like going off into a corner and grunt and avoid any eye-contact. Not in a fit of rage at 30,000 feet.

Lucky for us, Brooks was fine on the plane. I did have to change his diaper in the airplane bathroom, which had a little fold out changing table that somehow felt more undersized than everything else in the undersized bathroom. Rumor has it that joining Mile High Club is the riskiest thing you can do in an airplane bathroom, but a wrong move there and you’re not getting doodoo all over yourself. At least I hope not. Anyway, we’re all doodoo free when the plane landed in Denver. Little did we know it was about to hit the fan.

Between me, my wife, and the three kids, we had three carry on bags, four personal bags, and because we needed to rent a car while we were there, we checked our three car seats. We’d all wear our own backpacks, my wife and I would take the carry on bags, and after we picked up the car seats we’d get a cart to get them to the car rental. A good plan in theory, but if theories were correct they’d be facts now wouldn’t they. According to research I did just now and definitely not while we were planning the trip, the Denver airport is the largest airport in the U.S. by land area (54 square miles don’t ya know). By my calculations, Brooks walked about fifteen toddler-sized steps worth of that. In our planning, we accounted for how many bags we couldn’t carry on, and who was carrying the bags, but did not plan on carrying kids. Fools.

So we had to carry the 2 year-old, ok, fine. I could carry him, my backpack, and a carry on. The two girls still had their backpacks, my wife could pull the other two wheeled bags. That lasted for about five minutes (or 0.000005% of the distance we needed to cover in this city-sized airport) until we hit our first escalator. I don’t know if it was the weight of her backpack or her complete lack of understanding how an escalator works, but as soon as Evie put her first foot on the first step, she fell down. As I ascended away from her, my first thought was “dear God, I hope she doesn’t get something caught in the steps.” My second thought was “Uuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhh c’mon!” My wife scooped her up and got her up the stairs. At this point, both of them were crying (at no point in this journey was there not at least one person crying), and we are not yet a quarter of the way to where we need to be. Safe to say the stress level had maxed.

A happy family at the airport
Everything about this picture is bullshit.

We pressed on with my wife and I now with a child each, our backpacks, and carry ons. At one point the weight of a person became too much for my wife and I had two kids and a bag scooped up and headed down a concourse walkway like I was Magnus Ver Magnusson doing a stone carry. Lucy was the only kid now pulling her weight, or a carry on bag with wheels as it were. If there was ever an opportune moment for her to ask for a puppy this was it. Couldn’t possibly cost any more than airport food.

Lucy was also the only one keeping her shoes on her feet. The little guy was wearing crocs, which are as easy to fall off a kid’s tiny foot as they are unfashionable. At multiple points he kicked them off on purpose. Not sure if it was for fun or for spite. Travel tip: when you travel with kids only put them in shoes with laces. Who cares how uncomfortable the shoes are if you’re going to carry the kid anyway. They also don’t make kids under 12 take their shoes off at security, so might as well put them in snow boots. Sure, they will be heavier, but you’ll also never have to scoop them up off the airport floor while holding a kid and two bags.

Not only is the Denver airport huge (and quite possibly the 7th circle of hell), it is also under construction and the directions on where things are located are poorly marked. At one point signs for baggage claim were pointing both forward and to the left. After some meandering, we found our baggage claim, and after stopping at two different service desks we found where our car seats actually were. Apparently they count as over-sized luggage and can be picked up at a location several baggage carousels away from the one listed for your flight. This stress level goes to eleven.

After getting the car seats I went to find a baggage cart. I assumed they were like shopping carts, just find where they are and grab one for free. They are actually $6. In that moment they could have cost $100 and it would have been worth it. I piled on the bags and car seats and set off for the rental car. I made it about 50 yards and everything toppled over. I re-stacked, rearranged, and got moving. This time I made it about 15 yards before everything toppled over. Car seats don’t stack well, and despite the fact that all luggage I’ve ever seen has been square or rectangular, somehow, the apparently poorly designed baggage cart narrows at the front making it triangular. $6 piece of crap.

While re-re-stacking the cart, an airport employee took pity on us and asked us if we knew how to get where we were going and pointed us into the right direction of the car rental shuttle. Not the car rentals, but the shuttle to the car rental. Because our half hour trek across the airport wasn’t enough, we need to load our stuff on a bus so we can unload it again so we can load it into our rental car. So whoever designed 54 square miles worth of airport couldn’t squeeze in a couple hundred yards worth of rental car parking lots? In an airport where you need to take an escalator up, another one down, multiple moving walkways, a tram, and an elevator just to get to your gate, why not take a shuttle while we’re at at? Why not find a way to work a boat in there somewhere? Perhaps some kind of luggage barge. Actually, now that I think about it, a gondola would have been super helpful. I would have much rather loaded the kids and bags in a gondola and let the pilot float my family across the airport. I’ve never been to Venice, but I assume that is how their airport is. If it isn’t, did I just have a billion dollar idea?

Without any nautical assistance we got to our shuttle bus and loaded our bags. My wife asked me what we were supposed to do with the baggage cart. “See it in hell,” I replied.

Finally loaded into our rental car and headed into the Rocky Mountains, taking in the scenery of the snow-capped range was absolutely beautiful. Though perhaps not as beautiful as the brewery we stopped at and the foam-capped pint I enjoyed. In the moment, it was really a toss up.

For the flight back home we got to the airport three hours early and prepared to go both painfully slow and slow painfully. Nobody fell and nobody cried. A low bar to be sure, but one I will absolutely consider a win for clearing. The kids were kids on the plane, but this time we were one of three families with little kids. All they had to be was not the most annoying kids on the flight. They were probably the second most annoying. Don’t know if I’ve ever been so proud.

After we got back to Michigan and quickly made our way through the comfortable little 6-gate airport, I realized two things. One, we should have put more effort into preparing for the airport than the airplane. Two, on our next trip, we’re driving.

My Daughter’s Favorite Princess is Herself

As much as I’ve tried to avoid it, my four year-old daughter has gravitated to princesses. I made it a point with both of my daughters to never call them “princess.” I didn’t want them to growing up with any kind of sense of entitlement, and I really didn’t want them to grow up to be girly girls. My daughters will know how to change the oil in their car and appreciate the beauty of scoring a run with small-ball. Chicks may dig the long ball, but women dig moving a runner into scoring position.

Anyway, despite my efforts, the appeal of a princess is apparently too strong for a little girl to fight. My girls live in a world of princess toys, clothes, books, movies, and games. I have come to accept this, and am honestly just grateful they aren’t into Barbie. So while making small talk at breakfast with my daughter Evie, I asked her who her favorite princess is. She is generally pretty shallow and says she likes whichever one she thinks is prettiest, so I wasn’t really expecting some profound response, just making chit-chat over a muffin. However, her answer was striking.

“I am”, she said to me.

I asked again to make sure I heard her right, and she confirmed that she was her own favorite princess.I guess you have to appreciate that kind of self-confidence. She’s the star of her own story, even when its fiction.

Grace Kelly, Princess of Monoco
Has nothing on my daughter.

Personality wise, Evie is about a 60/40 spit between Bingo from Bluey, and Giselle from Enchanted. I’ve always believed that if she told me she wanted to be a princess when she grew up, that she would somehow end up being one. I might be a little biased because she’s my kid, but I think she’d make Grace Kelly look like some kind of hobo.

I was curious to see where her mind was going with this, so I asked her, “Does that make Mommy a queen?”

“Yep,” she replied.

Far be it from me to fish for compliments, but I then asked, “And Daddy is the king?”

“Yes,” she said.

Might as well round out the royal family, so I asked about her sister, “Then what does that make Lucy?” Now, I assumed she would connect the dots and make her a princess too, but apparently she had other plans.

“She’s my helper lady,” she replied.

So Evie makes herself a princess and her sister a lady-in-waiting. Or perhaps servant girl. Either way, definitely not a princess.

As I’ve mentioned before, little siblings love to show up older siblings as a means of overcoming the Luigi Complex. But in the moment, it struck me as going a little too far that fantasizing about being a princess was on equal footing with fantasizing about making your older sister make the fire, fix the breakfast, wash the dishes, do the mopping. Unless her imagination has so thoroughly created this world and she knew all the roles that needed to be cast. I suppose somebody has to be the princess’ helper, and its not like Grandpa fits the part. I’m sure that’s not it though. She was absolutely using her imaginary royal status to put her older sister in her fanciful place. Taken aback by her sister’s royal assignment, I forgot to ask about where her little brother fit into the scenario, but I assume he’s a stable boy.

I wonder if she lays awake at night imagining that she’s in her castle, she’s getting ready for a lavish ball, she’s in a big fancy dress, and she needs her corset tied and her chamber pot emptied. Her escape from reality not complete without an escape from her domineering older sister as well. I assume that’s healthy. I mean, it has to be more healthy than treating her sister like a servant in reality, right? Her little kiddo brain is doing its best to keep peace in the kingdom, and its working with what it has. Keeping in mind I have done zero research into child psychology, that seems pretty advanced to me. Light years beyond stealing her toys for sure. If escaping to her own little magic kingdom keeps her happy and coping with her sister then more power to her – as long as I still get to be king.

Though maybe the big takeaway isn’t how she sees her sister, but how she sees herself. To a a four year-old, a princess is the epitome of awesome, and if she thinks she is the most awesome person in the realm, then good for her. I guess it would be fine with me if she turns out to be a princess who mows her own lawn and understands that defense wins championships. I still won’t call her “princess” though. Even if she does end up being a real princess someday, I’ll still call her anything I want. Let the commoners call her Princess Evie, the king gets to call her Goosey Pants.

Can a Kid Hold a Grudge? Yes, They Can.

I (and I assume most other parents as well) choose to be selective in what I believe my kids will remember later on. When it comes to any kind of trauma – getting hurt, getting in trouble, getting dropped – I think, “oh they are little, they won’t even remember this later.” But when it comes to things like family vacations and celebrating Christmas, we are creating memories that I know they will cherish forever. Surely, the spongy developing minds of toddlers and pre-schoolers can properly sort out the events that need to get safely locked away in their long-term memory and which ones can disappear forever. Of course it doesn’t work that way. If anything, it is the opposite, and nobody holds on a to a bad memory like my 4 year-old daughter, Evie.

We were out taking a little bike ride around the neighborhood, and while having no kind of conversation to prompt the thought, she said to me, “Alexia isn’t my friend anymore.” For context, Alexia is her older cousin who she sees a handful of times a year and who she has not seen at all in at least three months.

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“When we went to get ice cream with Grandpa, she and Lucy (her older sister) just kept talking and interrupting me when I wanted to talk to Alexia.” She explained.

For more context, we live in Michigan and her Grandpa lives in North Dakota most of the year, so I became skeptical of if this actually happened or if this was something that came up in a very elaborate game of pretend she was having with her sister.

“When did that happen?” I asked.

“After your party at the pool when Grandpa took us for ice cream.” she answered.

I knew exactly what she was talking about. We were at a pool party and her Grandpa came and picked up the kids and took them out for ice cream. Ten months ago.

Apparently she had been holding on to that for almost a full year, and to my knowledge had never brought it up before. We have seen her cousin since then, and nothing was said. We have seen her Grandpa since then, and not a word about. She sees her sister every single day, and nothing. But on this pleasant trip around the block, something triggered the memory and she felt so sad about it that she needed to get it off her tiny little chest.

I wonder, was it buried down deep and just now happened to bubble up to the surface? Had it been almost forgotten and then some random occurrence while she rode her bike sparked the memory and re-opened that wound? Where was her train of thought going? “It’s hot out – ice cream would make me not hot – I want ice cream now – I remember getting ice cream with Grandpa – Alexia and Lucy monopolized the conversation – I better tell Dad she’s not my friend anymore.” I guess that isn’t so unreasonable.

But even then, of all the times she has had ice cream there must be some more pleasant frozen treat related memory that she could call to mind. She once ate ice cream shaped like Mickey Mouse, how does that not out rank not being worked into a conversation between other kids? We’ve let the kids build their own sundaes, does that not come more quickly to mind than a hurt feeling? Apparently not.

The other option is that it wasn’t a memory that got shoved down and then popped back up, but that it was rattling around in her mind the whole time. Stewing with each scoop of ice cream. Simmering with every frosty. Boiling up every trip down the frozen food aisle. She clung to that memory and let the burn melt every brain freeze. She wouldn’t let the slightest dessert slight go. She is the Michael Jordan of holding on to ice cream related grudges. Actually, Michael Jordan is probably the Michael Jordan of ice cream related grudges. Wouldn’t be surprised if he has been just waiting for the perfect moment to call out the teenager who was working at Dairy Queen in 1981 who didn’t put enough sprinkles on his cone. Sprinkle related hatred probably fueled the second three-peat. Anyway, you get my point. Unless you’re not a basketball fan, in which case we’ll move on.

So what other minor offenses is my daughter clinging to until she bursts? I now fear that when I’m old and feeble she’ll put me in a home or pull the plug on me because 50-some-odd years ago I said she couldn’t have a cookie. Was making her finish her carrots first signing my death warrant? While possibly detrimental to the health of future me, it is definitely not great for current her. It can’t be healthy for her to be holding on to even the most minor offences for ten months a time. Her personality could be described as “a happy-go-lucky-princess-who-owns-a-unicorn-farm”, but is that just a facade? Is she actually filled with minor hurts that are piling up to create a major problem? Should I make asking her if anything happened last year that she wants to tell me about part of our bedtime routine?

There is a very good chance that some random thing triggered a random thought that called to mind that random memory, but I’ll keep an eye out for other airing of months-old grievances. Might update my will with some kind of clause about how eager she may be to take me off life support too. Just in case.

How Many Dead Kids Is Enough?

We’ve all heard the cliche “freedom isn’t free,” and that is true. Every freedom we enjoy in America comes at a price. Freedom of speech comes with the price of having to hear people say things that you disagree with, that are flat out wrong, or that are said on Fox News. Freedoms provided by our judicial system mean that sometimes former professional football players who murder their wives get away with it. Worst of all, freedom to possess weapons of war means that kids get murdered in school.

Over the last twenty or so years, the price of the gun owners’ freedoms has been firmly established as dead kids. A price that society as a whole continues to pay. Where other countries saw this price and decided that it was too steep a price to pay, America has yet to reach that breaking point. So I ask, how many dead kids will be enough? As I see it, there are three options.

We’ve Already Had Enough Dead Kids

For one group of people, the dead kid price tag was too much to ask for long ago. Columbine was enough dead kids. Sandy Hook was more than enough dead kids. Parkland was plenty of dead kids. This group of people looked at the pros and cons and decided that the con of dead kids outweighed the pro of being able to brag to your friends about how big your gun is. A tough choice to be sure, but they ultimately decided to take a bold anti-dead kid stance.

These people understand that freedom isn’t free, but a child’s life is priceless. They decided that a child’s right to attend school safely is more important that somebody’s right to put in less effort to get an assault rifle than a driver’s license. A reasonable stance to be sure, but this group is actually not a landslide majority because for some, the dead kid price is very reasonable.

Not Enough Dead Kids Yet

The next group of people are still willing to pay for the freedom to pretend they are Rambo with the lives of children, at least for now. To be honest, this is probably a pretty small group, but logic tells me they must exist. They are capable of being moved from their pro-dead kid position, but just haven’t seen a convincing enough argument. They understand that an amendment can be changed, but they really like their Don’t Tread on Me bumper sticker. They don’t love it when the kids get murdered at school, but they do love holding their big ol’ gun. Maybe they can be convinced if the dead kids were murdered in their home town, or at their old school, or if one of the dead kids was their own son or daughter.

Maybe they do have dead kid limit, but it just hasn’t been reached yet. A dozen or so dead kids at a time is a fine price to pay for their freedoms, but maybe 30 dead kids would be the tipping point. If the next mass murder is only 29 kids, then they will fly their Come And Take It flag, but if one extra kid bleeds out in the hallway and it hits an even 30 – that would do it.

There Will Never Be Too Many Dead Kids

Of course there is the third group, who will never see too many dead kids. Their freedom isn’t free, but they are wiling to cash in all the dead kids in the country to keep their high powered weaponry. They understand that the constitution gives them the right to compensate with whatever size gun they can get their hands on, but it doesn’t say shit about a kid’s right to not get shot in the head while hiding under their desk in math class. But don’t blame them, the founding fathers knew exactly what they were doing and could totally comprehend modern man’s capacity for high efficiency murder. They have their rights, they have their freedoms, and if that means a bunch of kids every single school year get murdered, then so be it. We just need to issue guns to every kid on their first day of school. After all, the only thing that can prevent a dead kid without a gun is a dead kid with a gun, right?

Seriously Though – How Many Dead Kids Will It Take?

Really, how many dead kids will be enough? Do you have an answer? If your answer isn’t that there has already been too many, then what is your answer? Are you in the camp of just needing a bigger number, and if so, what is that number? Or do you believe there can never be enough? Every person, parent or not, needs to ask themself that question and feel comfortable with the answer.

I get that change is scary, and that the whole reason you get a gun in the first place is because you’re scared, but change needs to happen. The price of American freedom has always been paid for with somebody’s life. From the revolution to the plantation, from Normandy to Wounded Knee – one person’s freedom meant another person’s death. Enough. I hate to break it to anybody, but your individual freedoms just aren’t that important. Lives matter more than your hobby, and the price we all pay just isn’t worth it.

So please, take a minute and find your answer – how many dead kids is enough?