Category: family

Sixteen Years of Marriage

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I was terrified of getting married. It’s something I think I’ve discussed here on the blog before, but it bears repeating. My parents had divorced when I was young, and it really threw me for a loop. It was no fun at all, and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure I spared my kids from having to go through that. But how in the world could I know the person I was marrying was the *right* person?

I’m a planner, and so I had come up with lots of different plans to be certain. I would have to know the girl for at least a year. Probably more like five. We’d date for a long time, and I’d want to get to know her in all sorts of situations. I’d want to meet her parents. See where she grew up. Have many long conversations about everything under the sun. I’d want to date widely, so that I had as much experience with different personalities that I could. What if I met someone after I got married that I ended up being better matched with?

There was just no way to know. I was convinced of that. It’s why I went on so many dates after I got back from the Jerusalem Center. There was one girl I thought I’d end up marrying. That had been the plan, at least. I’d known her for years. All the dates were just there to make 100% sure I knew what I was doing.

And then I went on the first date Denisa, and all those plans went out the window.

Our first date was November 4, 2000. We were secretly engaged by New Years. We eloped April 25, 2001, less than 6 months after that first date. I hadn’t met her family. I hadn’t even been to her home country before, let alone her home city. We’d had plenty of discussions, but as for knowing and seeing her in tons of different situations? I didn’t have any of that.

Anyone who’s met Denisa obviously knows why that all got forgotten. When you meet someone like that and discover she’s actually in love with you back, you’d be certifiably insane to let her get away. And when I look back at 16 years of marriage, I realize how little all my planning really would have come to.

So much of marriage is about adaptation. Encountering surprises and changing. Parenting adds a whole new dimension. The big takeaway is you aren’t marrying that person for eternity. That person will change. You will change. Marrying, in my experience, turns you and your spouse into something else. You are no longer the single version of you. You’re a team. I don’t mean that in any sort of creepy way. I don’t mean you give up your individuality or anything like that. But your priorities change. Your definition of success changes. You could plan for all the different situations that might come up in life, but in the end, all those plans don’t amount to much, because you realize how little you knew at the time.

I was 22 when I got married. I had no idea the sort of challenges that would end up facing us. Family passing away. Career plans drastically changing. Figuring out that whole “parenting” thing. Moving states. I get a real kick out of the thought that I could plan for all of that when I was that young. I don’t think I could plan for all of it now, even with 16 years of experience under my belt. And as time goes on and I see how much still lies in store for us, it would be even more daunting. As I see my parents and friends deal with changes and tragedies and blessings and more, it just shows me how little I know, even now.

If I knew what being married was really like, I think the younger version of me would have been even more terrified. Overwhelmed. But even knowing all of that, I think that younger version of me would still have jumped at the chance to marry Denisa. Sometimes great ideas just glow with how wonderful they are. By far the best decision I have ever made in my life was to ask Denisa on that first date. Everything else changed because of that.

Happy anniversary, Denisa. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Tomas!

It’s finally happened. I’m the parent of a teenager. Tomas turned 13 yesterday. Write a blog long enough, and you start to run out of new material to cover. I’ve written multiple posts on his birthday over the years. (For the record, here are my posts when he turned five, six, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve. Somehow I skipped seven.) Looking back over them, it’s interesting to see how he’s changed and how my posts about him have changed. I’ve tried to chronicle what he’s interested in from year to year, so I’ll keep that up now.

Many things haven’t changed from recent years. He’s still a big Doctor Who fan, loves watching Star Wars and Marvel movies, has a great time playing Magic and other board games, and loves to read. But like me, his particular focus from time to time changes and morphs. He had his BeyBlade stage years ago. There was his Cars stage. Pokemon. Transformers. 3DS.

These days, his two main passions are his Minecraft YouTube channel and his Nerf guns. He will happily tell you all the many tweaks he wants to make to his current pride and joy: a Nerf Stryfe he purchased a few weeks ago. He’s planning on upping the motor, swapping out the trigger lock, and repainting it eventually. He did a ton of research to figure out which Nerf would be the best for him, eventually settling on the no-longer-manufactured Stryfe, and buying it when he could find a new one on sale. He got some add-ons for it yesterday for his birthday, and he was very pleased.

But the Minecraft YouTube channel gets even more of his attention. One of the first things he did yesterday was set up a Patreon account for himself, since they have a rule limiting accounts to those age 13 and up. So the very second he could get on the computer (he had to wait until 4pm, which is when we let electronics start being used on Sundays in our house), he went straight to Patreon and registered. He takes these videos very seriously, doing his best to come out with a new one every Wednesday. To make that happen, he has to record the video, edit it, compose music if he needs to, and then find a time to upload it to YouTube. He tracks his views and his subscribers like a hawk, and he’s always doing whatever he can to make his subscribers happy.

So if you’re looking for something to get Tomas for his birthday, the thing he would probably love would be for you to subscribe to his channel (free!) or (better yet, he would say) support him on Patreon. After much deliberation, he decided to base his support tiers on a monthly basis. In other words, you can sign up to give him $1, $5, or $10 each month. At $1, you get behind-the-scenes info on what he’s up to. $5 gets you an exclusive video, and $10 gets you all of that, plus a shout out in his videos and your name in the credits. (He had made abut $1.50 through YouTube ads up until a few weeks ago, when YouTube changed its rules so that only people with 10,000 views can monetize their videos.) So Patreon is his only hope of bringing in money for now. (He’s had about 1,000 views so far. 9,000 more to go!)

In any case, it seems like he had a good birthday. We watched the first part of Iron Man 2, played some Magic, had boxed mac and cheese for dinner and chocolate chip cookie pie for dessert. He’s definitely growing up: becoming more serious about school and his responsibilities around the house, and holding his own in any game he plays on the planet.

Happy birthday, Tomas. Here’s hoping your Patreon just explodes with success.

Our Latest Four Year Old

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It’s always fun to see how excited kids get for birthdays. The younger they are, the more excited. (Well, up to a point. They have to have a concept of “birthday” to really get into it. One year olds? Not so much.)

I think MC is at the “Peak Birthday Excitement” age. She’s turning four, and she’s off the charts hyped for it. Some of that is no doubt that she’s also had the chance to see other people have birthdays in the family so often. People her age. I remember it took Tomas a while to catch the “True Spirit of Birthdays,” meaning realize it gets to be a day all about him, where people bring him presents, and he gets to have a party and pick the food. But it wasn’t like he had examples to check. Parent birthdays are different beasts, really. MC has been able to see Tomas and DC get birthday parties, and so she knows what to look forward to.

What does she want out of the day? “Bags of presents,” she said. I think it’s because DC had some presents that were in gift bags, rather than “Garbage bag-sized bags of presents.” But you never know. We’ve been trying to manage her expectations on that one. She also wants a chocolate cake with strawberries and raspberries on it, going in the vein of DC’s birthday cakes. So Denisa’s taking care of that. Beyond that, I think she’s just looking forward to people singing her the happy birthday song.

So a few presents, a chocolate cake, and people singing to her. Maybe we all could learn a thing or two from how excited four year olds can get for relatively little investment, and how pleased they can be by it.

Really, she’s a fantastic little girl. I still remember how calm and quiet she was right after she was born. No crying at all. She was just looking around, interested to see where she’d ended up. Four years later, and she still(!) takes a two hour or more nap each day. The girl prioritizes sleep, and I fully support that. She has a strong independent streak in her. but she’s also very happy to know her place in the family and to fill it.

Her idea of a perfect day right now would probably be waking up, having sweet cereal for breakfast, watching Netflix, and playing games. (She’s on an Octonauts binge at the moment. She also loves Little Einsteins.) She’s both sad the snow has gone (meaning she can’t ski) and through the roof hyped for flowers incoming. She loves dressing up as a princess, and loves Disney princess movies. Cinderella is her favorite, probably because it doesn’t really have anything scary in it other than a mean woman who’s handily dealt with by some mice.

Hard to believe Denisa and I were wondering if we wanted to have a third child. The family feels perfect with her addition. Happy birthday, MC! You’re awesome.

Proud Parent Moment

You might recall we signed Tomas up to take the SAT this past January as part of the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) program. My brother and I had both done this back when we were Tomas’s age, and I thought it would help him to be prepared to take the test later on, when it really counted.

From what I remembered, I’d done a fair bit of practice and preparation for the test, back when I was in seventh grade. We had a teacher who went over tips and tricks of the test for weeks? Months? (Time always seems longer in hindsight. For all I know, we had a single after school prep session, and that was it.) Either way, Tomas didn’t have much of that. Instead, he and I used Khan Academy’s practice tests to make sure he had an idea what to expect. Beyond that, it was me just basically telling him how to approach the test.

But there’s a difference between knowing the theory and actually applying it. Case in point: I discovered this was the first scantron test he was going to take. So the night before we went over how that worked. How to fill in bubbles. How to follow the directions. Good times. And then when we actually went and I dropped him off at the test, it was intimidating. He was there with a whole bunch of older students, of course. A few of his friends who were doing the same thing he was, but by and large it was high school Juniors or Seniors. You could tell Tomas was worried about it all. Who wouldn’t be?

I tried to do everything a good parent should do. Remind him to try his hardest. Remind him that this was just practice, and that for now, the grade he got really didn’t matter. He came out of the test feeling good about things, and we really thought no more of it. Project successful.

Yesterday he finally got his grades back. The SAT has gone through changes over the years since I took it. Back in the day, the best you could get was a 1600. Then that became a 2400, and now it’s back to a 1600. The average score a BYU accepted student gets is a 1280. The average score to get into the university where I work is a 1050.

Tomas got an 1130.

Denisa and I were, of course, very proud of him. But it was even more rewarding to see him be proud of himself. Not that I want to raise little stuck up humans who think they’re all that and a bag of chips, but I think it’s important to be able to know you did a good job. Tomas beat my score from back when I took it. (I think I got around a 900.) In fact, he even earned “High Honors” through the CTY program, which means he did better than 70% of the other CTY students who took the test. Middle School can be tough times. There are many reasons to feel down about yourself. It’s great to have tangible things you can look at that help you feel good, instead.

Anyway. He qualified for any CTY program he’d care to enter. Of course, the question now is if he wants to go to one, and if Denisa and I can afford it. The answer to the first is probably, and to the second is probably not. It costs about $5,000 to do a summer camp. That’s a lot of dollars. On the other hand, his scores also make him eligible to take AP classes through CTY, and those AP classes just cost about $1500, which is much more doable. I’m not honestly sure what AP classes our local high school offers, but it’s nice to know that if Tomas wants to, he’ll be able to end up supplementing his education with additional content.

In any case, it was a great day in the Bryce household yesterday. Thanks for letting me share, and go Tomas!

Daddy Daughter Dance 2017

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Saturday was the yearly Daddy Daughter Dance, and this time I took both the girls with me. MC had been looking forward to it for months. She was ecstatic at the thought of getting dressed up like a princess and going dancing. It was fun to see her and DC talk about it ahead of time, with DC filling in her little sister about everything that was going to happen. This was my fifth year going, if that can be believed. (Here’s my report back on my first time, if you want a stroll down memory lane.)

As we have in years past, we went out to dinner with a group before hand. Having two daughters to keep track of made things a bit trickier, mainly because they both wanted a different experience out of the meal. DC was having fun being in a nice restaurant. MC wanted to run around and play. Splitting my attention made it so neither got exactly what they wanted, though I think they still had fun. DC graduated to ordering pizza this time instead of chicken fingers. MC was all chicken fingers all the way. They both had dessert: lava cake for DC, and a scoop of ice cream for MC, who only had a bit and then decided she didn’t want more.

On the way to the actual dance, MC started complaining that her stomach was hurting. Probably from all the fries, bread, chicken fingers, lemonade, water, and ice cream she’d downed before running around the private room our group had reserved. DC sagely suggested this might be the case, and MC was much more ready to listen to her wise words of experience. MC did say it was a “long day” to get to the dance. (Anytime she gets impatient for something, she says it’s a long day. I’m not sure why.)

It was way cold and windy, which the girls were not fond of. But the dance itself was great. We took pictures, the girls got glow sticks, and then there was dancing and cake and grapes and punch. I tried dancing some with MC, but she really just wanted to dance by herself, twirling around in place, recreating princess moves in her head. DC was much more up for dancing with me, as she had much more experience with it.

Around 8:30, MC tapped my leg. I had to get down on my knees to hear her (because for some reason there’s this unspoken rule that dances have to be about 3,000 decibels too loud.) “I’m done with this dance,” she said. DC agreed, so we headed home, another successful outing in the record books.

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