Category archive: Parenthood

Baby Steps

I have become a FitBit. The most important thing in my life right now is counting the number of steps El Matador takes each day. Some days that number is two, or zero, or like the other day, seven. I can’t express how exciting this seemingly mundane task is to me. I know one day he’ll be running circles around me, but right now, this is amazing to watch, and honestly, I had no clue it would be.

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The Dark Place

One of the things “they” don’t tell you about parenthood is that at some point, you may feel like a prisoner in your own home. Your wonderful bundle of joy becomes a tether, and the outside world takes on a magical, limitless quality that makes you yearn for freedom. Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to combat this feeling is to invite people over, feed them pizza, and let them regale you with stories of a mystical, faraway land called “outside.” They may leave at the end of the night, but their stories will stay with you and make you happy, that is, of course, unless your husband (acclaimed Science Fiction author Daniel Verastiqui) hijacks the conversation and steers it towards The Dark Place.

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What I’m Playing This Month

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Every so often, I see a post on Kotaku titled What are you playing this weekend? And I never answer because A) I don’t comment on the Internet and B) the game I’m playing is one of sadness and unrequited desire. Please direct your attention to the photo of PS4 games above. It might be hard to see because of the image quality, but the last two games on the right are still wrapped. Every day, I tell myself I’m going to open one of those games and play them. But I don’t. Every day is a fight to even start playing… and it’s a fight I always lose.

This month, I’m playing Parent Gamer 2018. I recommend it for anyone who likes playing games in 5-minute increments.

Speaking of which, what I’ve actually been playing is They Are Billions. I’ve always been scared that one day age would make it impossible for me to play games anymore. My dad never Nintendo’d. I assume it was because he was too old. Snapchat makes me feel old, but games never did. Until now.

According to Steam, I’ve played 13.1 hours of They Are Billions, and I’ve still yet to win a single round. The zombies–those goddamn dirty zombies–just keep getting me. And every time I start a new game, I know I’m going to lose, and I still start it anyway. It’s the kind of game that you need to sit and play for hours, not five minutes here, five minutes there.

Speaking of Steam, there are so many games I purchased during the sales that I haven’t played. Prey. The Dying Light expansion. Etc.

As a parent, you have no time for gaming. Until the kid grows up, I guess. Then we can play together.

How soon is too soon to introduce your child to Minecraft?

My 10 Greatest Achievements / Failures of 2017

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As each year comes to a close, it’s important to look back on everything you’ve done in the last 365 days and tell yourself either good job or you suck. Because what is life without judgment, either internal or external? If you don’t grade yourself, how do you know if you’re #hashtag winning? Exactly. So here you go, 10 of my proudest achievements and 10 of my darkest moments of 2017.

10 Greatest Achievements

  1. Got my son to sleep on 5.29.17.
  2. Got my son to sleep on 8.12.17.
  3. Got my son to sleep on 12.30.17.
  4. Got my son to sleep on 7.01.17.
  5. Got my son to sleep on 11.26.17.
  6. Got my son to sleep on 11.25.17.
  7. Published my 4th novel, Por Vida, in April.
  8. Got my son to sleep on 11.27.17.
  9. Got my son to sleep on 9.18.17.
  10. Completed the zero draft of Book 5 on 12.31.17.

10 Greatest Failures

  1. Did not get my son to sleep on 12.31.17.
  2. Did not get my son to sleep on 8.22.17.
  3. Did not get my son to sleep on 11.28.17.
  4. Purchased the Dark Tower movie instead of waiting for it to show up for free on Hulu.
  5. Did not get my son to sleep on 6.19.17.
  6. Did not get my son to sleep on 7.31.17.
  7. Did not get my son to sleep on 12.25.17.
  8. Drew First Blood from my son on 12.18.2017.
  9. Did not get my son to sleep on 11.29.17.
  10. Did not convince Richard Linklater to make a movie out of Veneer.

Honestly, nothing really compares to the pride I feel when I get El Matador to sleep. It’s literally the best thing I can possibly do with my time. And, conversely, when he continues to wail and his momma has to come take over, I feel like a failure.

Oh well! Here’s hoping I get better at it in 2018!

Enjoy all your free time, people without kids!

Growing Up With Alexa – 6 months

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El Matador has never known a house (or world) without Alexa. By the time he was born, Alexa was almost two years old, and in his first half-year of life, she has been a constant companion, assistant, and soothing voice. Although he can’t interact with Alexa directly, he does hear her voice, and he hears us talking to her, which leads me to wonder how his relationship with this technology will progress.

From the day we brought Matador home, we’ve asked Alexa for help. It was simple stuff at first:

  • Alexa, turn on the bedroom. (via Hue bulbs)
  • Alexa, turn on the noise machine. (via Belkin wemo)
  • Alexa, set the AC to 73 degrees (via Nest thermostat)

Unsurprisingly, Alexa’s real contribution was allowing us to do things hands-free, since our hands are either covered in baby or holding a poop. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

At six months, we still make use of the home automation, but now we’ve added other skills to the mix:

  • Alexa, play Caspar Babypants (via Music Unlimited)
  • Alexa, set the nursery to 20 percent (via Hue bulbs)
  • Alexa, play Paper Planes by M.I.A. (to time diaper changes)
  • Alexa, how’s the weather?
  • Alexa, pause the TV.

For the longest time, I didn’t consider how aware Matador was of Alexa, until one day about a month ago, I asked her to play Run, Baby, Run, which is Matador’s favorite song. As soon as I said the words, a mild look a recognition came over his face, but it was nothing compared to when Alexa said:

Playing Run, Baby, Run by Caspar Babypants…

Just hearing Alexa speaking causes Matador to smile. He recognizes her. He looks in her direction, which is probably confusing, since there’s no face there. Maybe I should put a face there. Huh.

He hears her name so often, I wonder if his first word will be Alexa. Babies can start psuedo-talking at six months… how long before he’s able to talk to her directly?

I love technology, but I love the fact that my son will grow up in a world where he simply has to ask for something, and the audio recording of his voice will be sent to Amazon via the FBI where it will be converted into words, evaluated, and responded to.

As a child, I spent the better half of a day rigging up a pulley system that enabled me to turn on the lights in my room without getting out of bed (because monsters). Matador will simply ask Alexa to do it.

Unlike when you introduced Alexa to your kids, she won’t be a novelty to him. She will have always been there–an integrated part of his life that he will assume is natural.

I’ll be keeping an eye on how this relationship progresses. Alexa is getting smarter every day, but so is Matador. Just yesterday, he learned what a cold is. And his parents learned that babies can’t blow their noses on their own.

Alexa, suck the snot out of my baby’s nose with this tube apparatus.

Sorry. I didn’t understand the question.

Sure you didn’t, Alexa. Sure you didn’t.

 


Photo by Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash

On Sharing El Matador

As parents, Dom and I have years and years of decisions to make for our little Matador, but one thing we both agreed on months before his birth was that we weren’t going to be those people who saturate their social media feeds with pictures of their kids. You guys know what babies look like; you don’t need us cluttering up your feed. Instead, I told her I’d find a way for us to share photos and videos with the family and close friends that didn’t involve Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

That way turned out to be an app called Tiny Beans.

2017-06-01 07.50.48.jpgNaturally, I tried WordPress, Squarespace, Tumblr, and even Google Photos first, but nothing matched the simplicity and single-minded purpose like Tiny Beans. I created an account, downloaded the app (you can use the web version too), and then began inviting people. Now everyone in the family gets a digest email every day (or week, if they prefer) with all the updates we’ve posted. The interface on the iPhone app shows you a month at-a-glance, and fills each square with the latest pic. At the end of each month, you get yourself a little keepsake that you can print and put on your wall if you’re so inclined.

If you noticed, there are some pictures of Matador on Instagram, but you’ll never (?) get to see his face on there. At least not until after the birth announcement. Until then (or some arbitrary time in the future), it’s fun keeping a secret with Dom. El Matador is our son, and we’re keeping him to ourselves for the most part. It’s not that we don’t want our Facebook friends or Instagram followers to see him, it’s just that some things in the world are just for us.

Does that sound selfish? Well, too bad.

We keep hearing that this newborn phase goes by very quickly, and though we take a moment to snap a picture once or twice a day, we find ourselves having to make a considerable effort to do so. I don’t want to think about whether my latest Facebook post of Matador is getting enough likes; I don’t want to use him that way.

Instead, we’re just going to keep updating this little app, creating a living history of the latest Verastiqui to join the world. If you’re thinking about taking your child’s life a little more private, I wholeheartedly endorse Tiny Beans. It’s $50/yr for premium, but I’ve seen them run specials a few times since we signed up. I think they had their lifetime membership down to $75, so keep your eyes open.

(The “people who saturate social media with pics of their kids” thing was a little harsh, yeah? Don’t worry; we don’t judge. And even if we did, who cares? You’ve got kids to worry about, not the opinions of two late 30-somethings who are often too tired to form a coherent thought. Man, why can’t all the time be nap time? Seriously.)