I wish I could say I’ve been cast to the sea of sleep, or among the stacks – pulling apart old stuck together books, or attempting to better myself in someway or another. Truth be told, I have just been playing video games. Self improvement can wait, yeah? Well, I’m attempting to get my swing back. A list then, in small snippets:

  • More beer posts inbound – even though most of what I’ve got caught a lovely pedio infection. Which also means most of what I have has a nice thick pour and a slow souring. Fine, sure. It’s just beer.
  • I’ve got stories to start with a friend that is expecting them in some form or another and we’ll start working on a graphic novel (or series).
  • I’m looking for the right place to grow out from Southport. I love it, but I need to move up.
  • Finn is growing more, saying/doing more every single day. My gaze stops at times – resting on him while he watches TV, examines a car, or other – and I see him not as a child, but as a person. A wave of fear pushes through and I’m left feeling I should always do more for him. Relax, he’s just a dude.

See you Space Cowboy…

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Finn has caught wind of what parents dread. It starts with “I wanna” and quickly escalates to “listen to me” (something I say) to shouting, whining, and recently just crying. I can deal with the whining: “no” “no” and “no” seem to get my point across pretty well, as well as diversion tactics or hunting for the real root of the problem (ie: he’s hungry). The crying though?

I shut down.

My empathy and attempts at making him happy, or more accurately forget about his issue, drops. There must be something about it, the fake tears, the howling, making a scene, is all part of something I don’t want a part of. This then employes my favorite defense against whining: walking away. Won’t come in the gate to our building? Fine, I’ll walk in and close the door behind me. Crying about having to eat pancakes instead of waffles? Heat into the kitchen. Can’t get a truck out of timeout? Start reading in the living room. You get the idea. Public places are harder, more so now because god forbid you leave your child crying the chip aisle while you wait patiently around the endcap. Tears are kryptonite to my wife during the day time (night time is a different story) and she [sometimes] finds herself getting dragged in. I must be differently wired – a gate shuts, I’m closed, come again. Real tears, sure, I’ll get in line to kiss a booboo or two. The over-characterized “waaaaaaahhhhhhh?” I just can’t deal.

He may have picked up some of this in school, but with their hands full there, I know for a fact they don’t put up with it either. It’s all a test, he’s a shark looking for weakness. I’ll admit, sometimes he finds flesh.

I’ve got to put this out there right off the bat: I’m a yeller. I come from a family of yellers. Getting a couple of us in a room for ten minutes will be proof positive enough for anyone’s definition of yelling. It’s what we do. Lis doesn’t. Lis’ family doesn’t. Her being around my family for a while can be jarring, it’s taxing for me, so I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who wasn’t brought up in the cacophony. Now we have Finn – let me clarify, Finn as a toddler.

As anyone with a toddler can attest, it’s hard NOT to yell at them. From throwing a seemingly random fit, sudden aversions to food previously loved, to bullheadedness for the sake of being stubborn – it’s a raging ocean of emotions. Then they hug you and say they love you and it’s all better, but it’s in that between space where you’ve got to get your point across – which becomes a rope bridge across a chasm of bubbling frustration.

For me, it’s a real struggle not to flip the shout-switch and go right into it. I’m bigger, I’m louder, and you are going to listen to me. Even if my child was a primate, in reflective clam I know that approach doesn’t work. I’m trying, desperately, to keep even tones to repeat myself and make my point clear. It’s not always easy and I fail at doing so. It comes back at me, quickly too, when I drop the shield. Sometimes I parry – breathe, repeat myself and we motion though it. Other times, the verbal gloves come off – I raise my voice, he raises his, and the train barrels down the track and away we go. Granted, I know yelling doesn’t change anything, and stokes his passionate toddler reluctance, but sometimes, sometimes I’ve got to let it out. Usually it ends up with me storming off or walking away or him in time out, but sorrys are parsed and the bulls put their horns away.

I’ve got to get better at holding back, it isn’t fair to him to have a guardian, companion, caretaker, fire a shout-fest across his ever confusing world. He’s at an age where he’s putting the pieces together and we’ve got the help him find the right placement to his puzzle. I don’t want him to think dads yell when you are bad, or don’t listen; I’d rather be a compassionate understanding, stoic example. I’m the adult, I’m the example.

Thankfully, each day comes as a way for me to handle it better than yesterday, each bedtime becomes a time of quiet self-reflection – allowing me to evaluate myself. Try harder tomorrow, he’ll forgive you.

I had all intentions of writing a post on beer tonight. I pulled out the original house beer (wild) did from when I was still living in limbo at my mom’s house after we moved back from Maine and version two which has sat for about a year and a half. I took notes, ratings the nine. I did all of this to try to take my mind off my Dr. Jekyll of child and as I sat thinking about what I could say my mind was clouded, a dark storm thunder head, by my wryly son.

The past couple of weeks, he’s been pushing my buttons worse than ever and I’ve put pressure on him to “improve” (ie, no iPad at the table, less sass, etc). That is until Friday when the boat was pushed from the harbor to the murky churning seas of toddler anger. The long and short of it is he’s very much like me – short-tempered, bull-headed, and unwavering will – put two of us in a room and toys will get tossed, tears will be shed, and voices will reach at the very edges of vocal rage. Thursday, he’s sick, needs attention snuggles me all day, doesn’t want me out of arm’s reach. Friday I go to work and we’ve already clocked one time out for hitting. Not ten minutes after I walk through the door he’s in it again. As we move through the weekend it becomes a battle zone where my wife – who had never been at the receiving end of Finn’s rage – found herself at the brink as well. Sunday was spent at Gary’s for a short visit with our return home devolving into a new timeout format (understandably difficult), a couple of hours working to cool heads, and Finn playing in his room by himself for the rest of the evening.

I say all of this not to complain to but to show. Before this weekend I felt we were doing everything right. Finn is (was?) a dream son: fantastically behaved, sweet, and while an instigator – he knew other’s limits (as well as his own). But now, sitting in bed writing this – I feel like I’ve lost. Our relationship crumbled, I feel like I’ve not only failed as a dad, but Finn, myself and it all.

I can only hope this is a spell due to being sick, or turning three in a month, or I’m not sure – to be honest, but I’ve got to hope. I can only hope that he’ll wake up not being a terror. Not pushing my face while putting on jammies or crying about which car seat he’s in or scratching my arms when he’s not listening – I don’t know where it all came in. It’s like a flood and we’re drowning. I soldiered on through the hour of failed 4-min timeouts and felt he was finally getting it, thought that it was sinking in the more we told him he had to play in his room, ate up all his dinner, unaided, and bathtime was a breeze (which is unusual) but when he accidentally poked my face when I put on his jammies and he kept doing it while laughing and then stopping to only pick up a toy to then bang it into my glasses I couldn’t take it anymore. Rudolph went flying.

He went to sleep in a blink, so maybe there will be light. More days ahead and a calmer head must prevail.

Beer next time, cheers.

I haven’t forgotten about the blog – it’s hard to keep up. I’ll be working on another brew update along with a flushed out post on the ‘brewery’ as it’s moving right along now. As a preview, I’ve set up a STC-1000 on Gary’s old fridge, 23-tip NG burner and Gary has laid out a tile backslash. Churning out beers and more experimental goodness. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost sight of the solera – now moving onto its real name: Renard.

Until then.

It wasn’t so long ago that I could futz around for a half hour during Finn’s nap or a rack a beer to a keg at any time I wanted. This helped focus my ‘brew day’ whereas now I’m stuck doing as much as humanly possible before I have to leave to either end up driving in traffic or having my son fall asleep (as in bedtime) in the car. Today my prep-work paid off (and a huge help from Gary) – I brewed and kept focus there but did humdrum tasks (like label, eat lunch, start soaking bottles, organize) between hop additions, sparging, and mash-in. To make things seemingly more astounding – I finished early, had time to hang out, used a candy thermometer (b/c I forgot the thermapen again), protein rest, and generally had a damn nice day. Historically, I’m running around being dumb. So finally, a really nice day.

So, what did I make? The first of the solera.

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Simple enough, save for a mildly irritating hiccups. Smelled wonderful and had iceberg lumps of  protein from the 50% non-barley ingredients. Father-in-law was nice enough to clear out [more] space in the basement solely for this project so it’s got its own home now and everything is great. I had planned to do the 100% white wheat grapefruit saison, but rice hulls were on hold for a spell. Next time – it’ll be a summer beer anyway.

A quick note before getting into more ‘fun’ – I crafted a quick and dirty sparge arm from an old tube and a hose clamp. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

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The good stuff: A stand and more ‘accommodating’ brewery in the garage space is coming. Last week, I asked about the NG line running to the central heat system as an option to replace the LP tanks. Turns out Gary is/was pretty interested in this idea (as he’s pledged to keep the tanks full), and is going to reach out to a neighbor to plumb the line. Fast forward to this afternoon where talking up potentials got interesting. A stainless steel wall covering (for fire protection), operable windows, vent hoods, fans, a brew stand, were all floated and none batted down – hell, he even said “the landlord is responsible [sometimes] for upgrades.” Sweet mary. Homework starts now – ideally: a firewall/backsplash of some sort with a three-tier gravity system, hood and at least one window with the ability to open. Needless to say, I’ve got a bit of homework and reading to do, but open to ideas if you have them.

Good news abound. Well traveled.

First, let’s get a small detail out-of-the-way: All of my brew equipment is about an hour and half west from where I live. The long and short of it is my Father-in-law houses it all and watches my son while I do my thing. It works great.2014-05-09 11.20.14

With that said, making the trek out and forgoing a brew is odd. Driving that far with a toddler in tow forces unorthodox kettle fire times (8am) and ‘forced’ do-everything kind of brew days. Kegging has made transferring easy, but now that I’m ushering it off to my brother-in-law, things will likely change some. As it stands now, I will nearly never set a brew day solo; doing just a brew would be fine but because everything is bookended with a commute, I squeeze every single possible activity in so I’m not feeling as though I could have done more.

Which makes the past couple of visits even more strange. Friday, I spent a day bottling 10 gallons (2x 4gal Amber, 2x 1gal House variants). Then came Tuesday, where we spent just the early afternoon and I bottled 4 gallons and prepped. Of course, I wanted to brew, but forgot to stop for the rice hulls in making a 100% wheat beer, which helps not make one want to pull our hair during the sparge (rinsing of the grain).

So that means the brew-off, impending from the arrival of summer and the group buy is getting stacked: 100% wheat is marrying with two other styles I wanted to make – a session saison and a grapefruit wheat (featuring rind and juice of 4-5 massive family grown fruits), so there is one. Summer Stout is in the mind-cooker, a summer-solstice inspired number, the first of the solara, the… well you get the idea.

Time stops for no man. It’s time to get cooking.

I was rolling through old photos of my son recently.

I felt like I was loosing something. Not that he was growing up so much as I had made him wrong. I lost pieces of him – the always smiling happy giggle factory baby times. I feel guilty taking part of it away for some reason. In my frustrated teeth grinding anger at his inability to listen, or ignoring his passing moments, or “just a second”ing him, or simply not plopping myself in his way all the time. I feel like I’ve lost something looking at the old images of him too. Like I was missing something inside, a feeling of relaxing freedom and happy-go-luckyness that seems to have left after moving back to the city.

I feel mad at myself for some reason.

The kid and I need to adventure more, live dangerously again, release ourselves to the unexpected. Hell, we were going on long walks through blowing winters in new england; now we take in afternoons in the confines of our over-heated apartment building.

I need to do something productive with this hell hole. Sadly, I feel like any time I have to write anymore I can spend making money (blogging for work). So here we are again, leaving this blog dangling in the wind. My wish isn’t to leave this thing grasping wildly at nothing. For the first part of updates, I plan on re-designing the beers section of the site for some sexy clicky-ness that will hopefully not have me reaching for a the power button. Second, actually plot posts, schedule them and draft. Lastly, contemplate if this is a “blog” or homebrew blog or what exactly it is to me – maybe the scale, and net is too wide to catch anything worthwhile.

I don’t really enjoy resolutions, why not choose an arbitrary date plucked from a line up just to force yourself into habit? Either way mine are mostly beer related.

  1. Keep better notes
  2. Read more, beer and novels
  3. Experiment with spices/fruit/yeast
  4. Harvest, grow, share wild yeasts
  5. Stop getting so mad at Finn

Until next time, more beer posts inbound soon. Need to remember to photograph the process more.