Everything I learned about parenting, I learned at the card tables

Before my children were born, we spent a good amount of time in the casinos.  I prefer poker.  But I also spent my fair share of time at the black jack and Paigow tables.

Sadly, our gambling escapades are few and far between nowadays.

But while I’m still figuring out this whole parenting thing on a daily basis, I have found that the tips I gleaned from my card playing days have come in handy over the past few years.   In reality, there are a lot of random parallels between parenting and playing cards.

You can’t win unless you put your money into the pot.  This is especially true for us.  We were married for seven years before we had kids.  We had always planned on having children, but the timing was never absolutely perfect.  Finally, we just decided to push all in.  And, looking back, I can’t believe it took us that long to get in the game.

Sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot.  You’ll have the days chock full of you’re-the-best-mommy-ever’s, i-love-you’s and this-is-the-best-dinner-i-ever-had’s.

And other days, you’ll feel like you’re getting the bad beat in the parenthood department.  Those are the days rife with the you’re-soooo-mean’s, i-want-daddy-instead’s and this-dinner-smells-like-zebra-poop’s.

When the bad beats come, you’ll feel like walking away from the game.  Quitting.  And then you’ll feel awful for ever thinking that.  Because you love poker your kids with all of your heart.  So you ante up for another round.

The free cocktails can make you play a little looser.  And enjoy the game a little more.

The free cocktails can lead to other things as well.  (See also: “What happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas.”)  Maybe not immediately, but 9 or 10 months down the road.  Just sayin’.

There’s always going to be another player at the table who criticizes the way you play.  In poker, you can just ignore them, and gloat in the fact that your chip stack is bigger than theirs.  In the game of parenthood, the criticism stings a littler harder.  Just remember you’re holding a different set of cards then they are.  You play your hand, and they play theirs.  In the end, you’re both on the same side of the table.

You’ll make mistakes.  Lots of ’em.  Don’t dwell on them.  ‘Cause if you do, you’ll start playing on tilt, which is never a good thing.  Mistakes can be learning experiences.  How else would you figure out that feeding your child blueberries before doing airplane rides around the living room was a very, very bad idea?

As soon as you think you’ve got parenthood figured out, you may decide to double down.  And, if you’re lucky, you may get dealt another kiddo.  If this happens?  Rest assured, everything you ever thought you learned from the first go-around will promptly be thrown out the window… because no two hands of cards ever play out exactly the same way.

You’ll pick and choose your battles.  You’ll find yourself compromising in areas you never thought you would. As Kenny Rogers said so eloquently, you’ll learn when to hold ’em… as well as when to fold ’em.  Sometimes you’ll walk away from a battle with your children.  And, sometimes, you’ll run.

Sometimes you’ll feel like the pit boss, standing off to the side while watching other people gamble and get sloshed while you have to work.  You’ll feel left out, and a little envious of the life you used to live pre-kids.

You’ll also have those days when you wonder why you chose the job in the first place.  But at the end of the day, you get paid.  In more ways than you can possibly imagine.

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Ah, Vegas.  The happiest place on earth.

How to (not) party like a rockstar

A couple of weeks ago, Jay and I went on our annual pilgrimage to our own little Mecca, otherwise known as Vegas.

My favorite activity while we’re down there is to lounge by the pool, baking in the 110 degree sun.

A close second would be poker.  Texas Hold ‘Em, to be exact.  We played quite a bit before we had the kids but, obviously, don’t have the occasion to do much of that nowadays.  So, when we’re in Vegas, we definitely get our fill of Hold ‘Em.

One morning, after I had sufficiently roasted by the poolside, we decided to hit the tables a little earlier than usual and play poker in an afternoon tournament.

Enter Mistake #1.  As the tournament director yelled “Shuffle up and deal” (which is a fancy way of saying, “Let’s get this ball rolling!”), I answered back with a huge yawn.  I was baked (sunwise, that is), and I realized too late that instead of sitting down for hours of poker, what I desperately needed was a nap.

The grizzled old player in the seat next to me noticed my near-narcolepsy (which, as you can imagine, is kind of a faux pas in poker), and gestured towards the drink the cocktail waitress had just brought him. 

“Rockstar,” he said.  “You should try it.”

And so I ordered one.  Even though I had never tried an energy drink before. 

Enter Mistake #2.

After that first sip, I was hooked.  It tasted fruity, refreshing and zingy.  I might even describe it as effervescent.

I was instantly awake.  And wired like you wouldn’t believe.

Fast forward four hours, two measly potty breaks (tournament schedules were not designed for women who have been pregnant), and three additional  Mistakes (aka Rockstars) later.  Somehow, I’ve miraculously found myself playing one-on-one at the final table.

I don’t remember the final few hands, or how I won the tournament.  To be honest, I was too amped up on my new favorite beverage to concentrate much on what cards I held.  I’d like to think it was my stellar playing that drove me to victory.  According to bystanders (aka my husband), it was more likely my effervescent personality nonstop, 100 mph chatter that drove the other player from the table.

And, as the laws of physics dictate, what goes up… must come down.  I spent the entire next day of our vacation feeling like a miserable wretch.  I didn’t know it was possible to O.D. on Rockstar, but I’m quite sure I did.  The next day, I was the antithesis of effervescent:  deflated, flat, and very un-zingy.

But… the moral of this story?  If you see me drinking this at a poker table:

Be forewarned that I might end up looking like this:

And I will probably beat you.

Either that, or I will talk you into submission.

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They don’t call it Sin City for nothin’

10th Anniversary

Three cheers for vacations!

Jay and I are headed off for a few days away, sans kids, to celebrate 11 years of him putting up with me (In the legally binding sort of way, at least.  Altogether, he’s actually put up with me far longer than that.)

Our destination?  Las Vegas, baby!  (Thus, the retro Vegas look for this month’s theme.)

Las Vegas is, without a doubt, one of my favorite places… ever.  Before we had kids, we used to jet off to Vegas 3 or 4 times a year.  While that habit has obviously gone by the wayside since the munchkins came along, every year, we still manage to make an annual pilgrimage (usually coinciding with our anniversary) to Sin City.

Speaking of which… I’ve often wondered where the term “Sin City” came from.  I could probably Google it, but I’m just too lazy.  Personally, I’m thinking it has something to do with the seven deadly sins.  ‘Cause Vegas pretty much covers them all.

Here’s my take on why I think they call it “Sin City”:

Pride, otherwise known as Vanity

I know it’s not good for you, but I love getting a tan.  There’s also something to be said about returning from vacation bronzed and glowing, and making my co-workers jealous.

Unfortunately, I tend to forget about the fact that I live in Oregon and, even with my naturally darker complexion, my poor skin hasn’t seen the light of day for months.  That and the fact that it doesn’t take long to fry while sunbathing in 110 degree weather.

And so, my efforts to get a good tan in Vegas often produce something like this:

Not exactly the summer glow I was going for.

Envy

Vegas always reminds me of our carefree pre-child days.  It also makes me a tad bit envious of the time in our lives when sleeping in until noon, flying off to Vegas on a whim, or staying out late without regard for a babysitter was the norm.

Of course, after about 24 hours, I usually start to really miss the kids and we begin talking about them non-stop.  And then, I start to envy all of the families I see walking around on the strip.

Gluttony

Five words for you:  All-you-can-eat-buffet.

Also?  You are the devil, shrimp cocktail.  The devil.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

Lust

You know that saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”?  Well, it is simply not true.  I know, because I have two kids to disprove that little slogan.

Our anniversary is in July.  Both of my kids’ due dates were in March.  You do the math.

Anger

Slot machines are my nemesis.  They beckon to me, with their flashy lights, catchy jingles and allure of winning a few nickles.

Damn you, one-armed-bandits.   And that’s all I have to say about that.

Avarice, aka Greed or Covetousness

I’m not greedy.  As much as I love the slot machines, I’m not expecting or looking to win big when I play them.  Granted, winning a million bucks in one pull would be absolutely gravy, but I’m not kidding myself.

If I get my money back, I feel like I’ve won.  In actuality, this rarely happens.

And still, I can’t help by feel a little covetousness when I see someone winning a big jackpot.  Especially when it’s at a machine I just got up from.

Sloth

Sleeping in until 8 (yes, for us, that is sleeping in).  Drinking margaritas by the pool.  Eating quiet, leisurely dinners without having to cut up someone else’s food.

Sounds pretty sloth-like to me.  And heavenly.

I can’t wait.

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