Friday, October 13, 2017

Toxic Air and Tacky Shoes: Getting By During the Nor-Cal Fires

Monday morning was a rude awakening. The sky simply wasn't right. Too dark. Too sooty. Too much like we were stuck in a sepia photograph. We quickly learned that our neighbors only thirty minutes to the north were suffering through what would become California's worst wildfire in nearly a century. A wildfire that, now on Friday, has not abated.

Thankfully, we have not been threatened by the fires down here in Marin, save for the abysmal air quality. The kids still had school this week, but they were not allowed to go outside for either lunch or recess. Here's the sky at 8:00am on Tuesday.
Normally the sky would be bright blue and I'd been scurrying back inside to hunt down my sunglasses. But each morning this week it's been so hazy with the smoke drifting south that we have almost perpetual dusk save for about four hours during midday.

Each morning our cars look as if a horde of teenagers camped on top of them and smoked several packs of Marlboro Reds. 
Today, Friday, school was cancelled. The air quality was just too toxic and the kids (and teachers) were suffering from an entire week confined to the small boxes of their classrooms only. By 11:00 o'clock today, I knew I needed to get the kids out. Movies were an option, but absolutely nothing worthwhile for kids is currently playing. And I certainly didn't want to stroll around a mall. With the air quality so bad (even in buildings it's a bit sketchy), we'd have to do something with minimal physical exertion. And that meant one thing: bowling.

It was a welcome surprise for Mimi and Kuri, who absolutely adore Country Club Lanes here in Marin (the only bowling alley left in the entire county). Kuri was so excited to get going that he did a celebratory dance. 
Mimi bowled quite well, making full use of the gutter guards to ping-pong the bowling ball into the most pins. In her second game, she was able to top 100!
Kuri made full use of the ball ramps they provide. Gutter fences, ball ramps, six pound balls...they really have made bowling much more accessible (and enjoyable) for kids since I was one. I remember a good game for me at this age was when I cleared 30.
Kuri, in comparison, managed several strikes and picked up a few spares. His first game was a remarkable 114, and then a very respectable 96. Perhaps his papa was taking less time to set up the ramp just-so. 
I even managed to bowl fairly well my second game. My wife beats me nine times out of ten on the rare occasions when we bowl, so I wish she could have been there. Well, if she had been, she probably still would've found a way to beat me. 
I amazingly managed to avoid the arcade and claw games (thankfully our lane was on the other side of the bowling alley) and we made our way to the little pizza parlor where Kuri proclaimed, "I'm liking this cheese pizza!"
Now we're back home, taking it easy, and praying that tomorrow morning finds more of the fire contained and a brighter outlook for the weather. From what we've seen, the damage has been absolutely devastating. So many places we know and love threatened and some, sadly, completely wiped out. Our hearts go out to all those fighting these fires on the front lines, the families who have evacuated or, even worse, lost their homes, and the people in the wonderfully welcoming communities in Napa, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Calistoga... hell, pretty much everywhere in the north bay. If any of you reading this need help, or know of someone who needs it, please don't hesitate to let us know. We have an extra room and plenty of toys.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Three Weeks Out the Door, Never to Return

One of the most challenging, and often overlooked, aspects of juggling multiple children is just how long it takes to get them out the door, into the car, and buckled up. Now, with three kids, we have it pretty much down to a science, but it is still a massive time suck.

I started thinking about what makes it so hard to simply leave the house with people 1/10th your own age. Before shoes and jackets can go on, sometimes you have to break up a toddler pile-up...
...or you might have to remove a baby from a lunchbox. 
There's the occasional lost tooth...
 ...and the time it takes to label it so that it isn't accidentally thrown away when doing dishes (again).
And every once in a while, you have to wrap up a massive adventure of Little People in Japan Town.
But thinking this "out the door" issue through, everything outlined above is just regular parenting, whether you're heading to the car or not. So, I decided to look only at the time it takes for kids to get their shoes on, get their stuff, stumble out the door, jump in the car, and buckle-up. 

"C'mon." you might be saying, "Even with three kids, that's no time at all! What's the big deal?" Well, as is occasionally my wont, I've been running some numbers.

Let's assume that the average trip consists of getting shoes on, heading out the door, getting into the car, and then completing the process upon return (travel time in the car not included). We'll refer to this as a "complete trip."  On average, there are at least three "complete trips" per day with kids, each day of the week.

To calculate the total time, I made the following assumptions:
  • 1 Kid: 5 minutes per trip
  • 2 Kids: 7 minutes per trip
  • 3 Kids: 8 minutes per trip (You get more efficient. You can't help it.)
In addition to these average "complete trip" times there are bonus minutes!
  • Baby Bonus: An extra 2 minutes per trip whenever you have a child under 2
  • WTF Bonus: A weekly bonus of 10 minutes per week for meltdowns, car seat issues, food explosions, forgotten backpacks, it goes on and on
This structure in hand, I set out to calculate the total time spent simply getting out the door and then back in. For reference, I considered a full day as 17 hours (giving myself a leisurely 7 hours to sleep).

The First 3.5 Years: 1 Kid
  • 9,665 minutes; 161 hours; 9.5 days
The Next 2.5 Years: 2 Kids
  • 9,147 minutes; 152 hours; 9 days
The Last 1.5 Years: 3 Kids
  • 6,255 minutes; 104 hours; 6 days
The Grand Total for the Last 7 Years:
  • 25,067 minutes; 418 hours; 24.5 days
Yup, well over three weeks of my life so far have been devoted to simply getting kids into a car and back out again. Not that I'm complaining, just kind of amazed. There's so much hidden time devoted to kids that we never really consider, but maybe that's the best part about it. You don't really truly begrudge the time you've lost (though, sometimes, you wish it were still there). It's all part of the job. All part of putting together a family. And yes, while I'd love a three week vacation if I could magically convert my "out the door" time into "quiet time," I still end up spending it with these three.