If you're just starting in Wii Fit, there are a few things that must be completed before you're allowed to play games where you flap your arms like a chicken or awkwardly swing your hips to support virtual hula hoops. You must enter your birth date and height. Then the balance board weighs you. The board checks your ability to balance evenly through a series of tests and mini-games. Once this is completed, the game makes a few snaky remarks before giving you you're weight, BMI, and Wii-Fit age (a hypothetical number based on your real age compared to how poorly you performed in the preceding tests).
Christian's first day with the Wii Fit was today. Age and shortness given, tests taken, results received. After completing the tests, the game told Christian that he was unbalanced. No surprise. I read the game's sarcastic dialog aloud to Christian.
"It says: 'Balance isn't your thing, is it. Do you find yourself tripping over things?'"
Christian answered, "No..."
A benefit for parents of kids with aspergers, they're horrible liars. After a brief pause, Christian admitted the truth about tripping. He looked at the TV, back at me, then back at the TV. He hung is head in the closest thing to embarrassment that an aspie kid will ever know.
"Yeah. I do." He said.
And if you want to know what all different movies were used, you can find a chronological list from the video's creator HERE.
But there is a difference between what we're doing and how my parents operated. Bekah and I pick out sensible undergarments for Zu and Christian. My folks were more adventurous. The boxers my parents picked out always had an element of silliness. Like a billiards theme, or a Christmassy pattern.
There is one pair of boxers that stand out in memory. It wasn't that crazy with first inspection. On Christmas morning I found nothing unusual about the blue and white checked pattern covered with miniature bunches of bananas. I wore them just like any other boxers with no reason for concern.
Summer arrived and I was commuting from Everett to Marysville for a 3pm to midnight shift at Albertsons. After a hard day pulling freight off trucks and stocking the dairy cooler, I drove back south and collapsed into my bed. It was a humid night and warmer than typical for the Seattle area, so I cracked the window and laid in bed reading for a while, wearing nothing but my boxers. When I finished reading, I turned the lights off and climbed back onto my bed. I had no use for blankets as it was still warm in the apartment and the breeze from the open window was helping me relax.
Not only was it warmer than normal in my bedroom, it was also brighter than normal. The lights were all off. The TV wasn't on. The street lamp in the parking lot below our apartment wasn't shining. No candles burning. Sunrise was still a few hours away, yet there was something noticeably luminous in the room - almost lit up enough to read. I could not figure out why it was so vividly brilliant in there.
Then I noticed it. My boxers were glowing. Months had expired since pulling them out from my stocking. Any other gift I got that Christmas was probably forgotten or taken for granted. Those boxers had been worn dozens of times without any recognition of abnormalities. Yet, on that warm summer night, I found myself standing in the middle of my bedroom with the fabric around my waist being the sole source of luster.
But if you think it couldn't get worse, you're wrong. On closer inspection, I discovered new details that had been previously unnoticed.
The bananas were located on the blue squares in the checkered pattern. The white squares contained words visible only when glowing: "BITE HERE."
I'm not sure if my parents knew of this hidden message. Part of me wants to believe that they never would have bought them for me if they knew those words would appear when the lights went out. But the possibility that they had full knowledge of (and failed to disclose) what those boxers would do is disturbing.
While you're here, enjoy A Social Network Christmas.
Other versions have been recorded by Lady Antebellum, Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, and Face to Face. The best (in my opinion) came from indie rocker Bright Eyes.
3. Happy X-Mas (War Is Over): Written by John Lennon and recorded by Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band. While this remains both one of my favorite Christmas tunes and my favorite Lennon song, I feel compelled to admit I like the various other versions by other artists better.
So whether you're celebrating a savior of men or a savior of retail profits, whether your family lights a menorah or gather's around a decorated tree, whether you're opening presents or performing feats of strength, there is a tie that binds. We should be united in an effort to create enjoyable memories for our loved ones.
I keep waiting for Ke$ha to admit that her auto-tuned singing, atrocious rapping, dumpster diving fashion, and raunchy lyrics are all a big prank for some mockumentary (ala Spinal Tap or Joaquin Phoenix's fake mental breakdown). I know this will never happen, but inside I want it to be an act because I find it hard to believe anyone could truly be that horrible.
Wii bowling. Surprisingly, I'm just as good bowling on the Wii as I am bowling in a traditional alley. Simply put - I suck. My son, however, he Wii bowls like a pro. He's six.
My wonderful wife found 2 liter bottles of holy water (aka Mt Dew) on sale for 78 cents each. She's stocking up. This is why I love her.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The tree went up last Sunday along with our nativity and the rest of the decorations. The stocking have been hung and the scents of cinnamon clove candles are filling the air. Two weeks to go, I think we're ready. What about the shopping? Oh, wait... we haven't started that yet.
But my wife has a problem. No, she doesn't drink too much. I jest about her her being a coffee addict, but I know people whose java addiction is a serious issue that makes Bekah look like a recreational user. Bekah's complication is not the rate of her consumption.
Her dilemma is the quantity of mugs used during the course of a day. She'll brew a pot, start sipping her first cup and set it down somewhere to carry on with the rest of her day. An end table, the kitchen counter, the bathroom, window sills, on top of the TV in our bedroom - she's fairly indiscriminate in where she abandons her cup of coffee.
One of two things happen: either it's lost its warmth or she forgets it's existence. Either way, she pulls a new mug out of the cabinet and pours a second round (or third... maybe fourth).
Some nights I've come home to find several mugs filled to varying depths littered through out the house. Other nights I've discovered a collection of mugs by the sink, waiting for me to load them into the dishwasher, each filled with some quantity of room temperature coffee stewing inside. And, on rare occasions, I've found mugs filled almost to the point of overflowing and cold - poured but not a single sip taken.
I'll admit, Bekah is improving. She's down to one or two mugs used on any given day. And to her credit she is a busy mommy. If you've read her facebook status updates, you may have experienced second-hand weariness in realization that she accomplishes more in a day than should be humanly possible. She keeps our kids safe and alive. If a pot or two of coffee is required to make all of that possible, I won't complain. Even if it means I have to scavenge the house to make sure there aren't any mugs left lingering in places they best not stay, I won't complain.
Our dogs are hyperactive. Spastic freakazoids. If autism could be diagnosed in canines, both George and Nita would be worthy candidates. They're cute, adorable, and quirky with raw cookie dough for brains.
What do two mentally impaired dogs have to do with Bekah's coffee problem?
Bekah is at work, the kids are in bed, and I'm sitting at my computer to watch an old episode of Glee. The dogs are running around the living room behind me, wresting and doing whatever it is skittish dogs do when they're restless. They've been fed, they're happy, and occupied.
That is when I heard some lapping. I didn't leave any water dishes out for the dogs, but even if I had, they would be in the kitchen. This sound? It was closer. Much closer. I swiveled my chair around to confront the suspicious sound to find a sheepish looking Nita. Back legs on the arm of a couch, two paws on the end table, head positioned above a tall brown mug, furry muzzle dripping with a dark liquid.
Bekah left a half full mug out today. Nita found it and indulged.
Nita spent the next dozen minutes chasing ghosts from the living room to the kitchen to the dining room to the living room to the kitchen to the... Around and around in hurried circles. Then she wandered around for a few minutes like a drunken sailor while George watched with curious amazement. Finally Nita plopped down at my feet and looked at me as if waiting for some form of compliment.
Good news: caffeine has no long term detrimental effect on schnoodles. Hopefully, Nita doesn't develop a problem.
Rare is the suggested song that I don't care for and have to give a thumbs down rating. But there are some songs that work their way into playlists that leave me in puzzlement. But it works. It is radio that lets me dictate the music it plays.
Yet in all its curiosities, Pandora is not a perfect system.
There is one artist that Pandora seems to treat as an omnipresent figure of the music kingdom. Jack Johnson.
The first playlist I created was intended to be upbeat, happy, summertime music. Reggae, hip-hop, and ska. I created the custom station with the following seeds: Wyclef Jean, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Five Iron Frenzy, Cake, Toby Mac, Flobots, 311, and the Long Beach Dub Allstars. When Pandora slipped in a Jack Johnson song, I thought nothing of it. Jack's neo-hippy/coffee-shop vibe fit in with the beach-side variety of tunes that I programed into the the virtual brain that controls Pandora's stream of music.
For my second station, I wanted something mellow that was safe for work in case i wanted to listen to Pandora at work without my headphones. The seeds: Switchfoot, Coldplay, The Fray, OneRepublic, Fountains of Wayne, Need to Breathe, and Jason Mraz. Yet again, Pandora seemed to find Jack Johnson as a suitable suggestion for this list. I can see how one might see some logic there - even I would argue Mraz and Johnson are contemporaries - but Jack wasn't the type of artist I was hoping to hear.
The third station is where it got weird. I only gave Pandora two seeds to work with: Smashing Pumpkins and Our Lady Peace. Something heavier. More kick. More bite. A few songs in and what do I hear? A Jack Johnson song. This is where I first began to think there is a grievous error in the way Pandora filters its song selection.
My fourth custom station has an electronic bent station. Music that will keep me awake and focused. Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim, Timbaland, Justice, Benny Benassi, The Crystal Method. And (according to Pandora) Jack Johnson. Really? Is there any way to escape the sounds of Johnson's hapless strumming and high-as-a-kite vocal style?
Now that the Christmas season is upon us, I've attempted to create a holiday music station. Songs of glad tidings and great joy. And... Jack Johnson (Pandora's choice - not mine).
I have a theory - that Pandora and Jack Johnson have some shady agreement that guarantees a Jack Johnson is suggested to every Pandora subscriber regardless of their musical interest.
Next Friday, I'll post a list for Bekah and the kids. Hopefully, my wife won't spoil any surprises by reading that post.
For me, that type of surprise would happen with one of these five options. This is my last Christmas wish list: the unbelievable.
1. The Beatles Rock Band: I'm a fan of the Beatles' music, this is an easy and fun way to introduce my kids to their catalog. Actually, it could get them interested in music in general (beyond the theme songs to Superhero Squad or Scooby Doo)
2. Donkey Kong Country Returns: Back in the days of the SNES, I used to play Donkey Kong Country for hours. I think it's the first video game I ever beat on my own. You might call it nostalgia, I call it fun times.
3. GoldenEye 007: When I moved out of my parent's house and got my first apartment with a couple of friends, there were two consoles in our pad, my Playstation and Shane's N64. Out of our combined collection of games, the original GoldenEye 007 was easily the biggest time sucker. It's the game Shane and I spent Halloween night playing. Many consider the original as one of the greatest games of all time. The new version features new content and expanded game play. It might even be better than the first.)
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops: At this present moment, the games we have available consist of Mario Cart, a Go Diego Go game (for Christian), and Disney's Cars. I'm in desperate need for some grown up games. The COD titles are as good as it gets on the Wii in that arena.
5. Disney Epic Mickey: This might be a kid (ish) centric game, but the game play and concept is unique enough to make it worth the notice. Looks like something that I can enjoy with the kids and possibly use to lure Bekah into the virtual world.
honorable mention: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11: Ignoring Tiger's personal issues over the past year, EA's annual game with his name is easily the best golf game you'll find on any platform. Bekah and I killed an obscene amount of time on the X-Box trying to outplay/outdo each other during our first few years of marriage. She's got a competitive streak in her, and if we're going to compete against eachother - Tiger Woods Golf is better for our marital health than a game of RISK.
6am - Awake. #possiblycrazy
7am - Axe mint shampoo: smells like you're rubbing toothpaste in your hair. But I kinda like it.
7am - Speaking of which, I'm out of the shower and every one is still asleep. Zu is usually up by now.
7:15 - Mmmm. Peanut butter cookie for breakfast. #yum
7:20 - Attempt number 2 to wake my wife. Bribing her with coffee.
7:21 - And she's awake (daughter not wife). Sending Zu in to wake up her momma.
7:30 - Bekah waking attempt number 4.
8:30 - Snow: shoveled. Kids: dressed (mostly). Dogs: pottied and on their way to the sitter in Rathdrum.
8:30 - Ps: Bekah woke up on the fifth attempt.
8:35 - @msforster aren't you supposed to be working?
8:36 - (from @msforster) @niccasey I got off way early! Which is good cause we haven't packed yet... #oops
8:40 - Christian is in time out until we leave #goodstart
8:55 - Father-in-law: "Ack! It's snowing." Should I tell him it's been snowing all morning?
9:15 - Last chance to potty.
9:30 - Leaving a half hour behind schedule. #normal
9:30 - (from @msforster) @niccasey I'll bet Bekah totally looked like this this morning:
9:40 - I've got my Nos, Bekah is getting her Starbucks latte #humanfuel #fortheroad
9:55 - TSO's Carol of the Bells - awesome driving music.
10:10 - Cause for concern: we're following a car with California plates. #Californiadrivers
10:45 - Worley
10:55 - Muppets 12 Days of Xmas. We're laughing every time Piggy sings "5 golden rings"
Noon - Plummer to Moscow - difficult to tell where the ground ends and sky begins.
12:10 - Finally in Moscow.
12:15 - Picking up the sister & brother-in-law. While we're here... Pit stop.
12:16 - And change JJ's bootie. He pooped in Plummer and we've been breathing the fumes ever since.
12:20 - And it's snowing in Moscow.
12:45 - We're off. Again.
12:55 - Pray for the car. Please no engine failures.
1:30 - Road conditions on the Lewiston grade: much better than expected. Hopefully it stays that way until after we've left town.
1:40 - Directions from Cd'A to Lewiston: drive south til you smell it.
2:20 - Sign of the apocalypse: a Geo Tracker with a snowplow attachment.
2:35 - Just finished mashing the thickest batch of mashed potatoes in human history. #stickypotatoes
3:15 - Bekah's grandma has a bookshelf full of books on Idaho history. Fascinating.
3:25 - I've been hungry all day. Now that it's dinner time, I'm no longer hungry. Weird.
3:45 - "No, Momma. Don't tell. Don't be thankful." things my daughter says.
5pm - Having an after-dinner tickle fight with my daughter. This is how we celebrate holidays. #guesswhoiswinnig
6:15 - I'm 20% into The Passage. The kids are settling down for a bed-time movie. Bekah's older sis has crashed for a nap (possibly for the night).
7:10 - It's Wii time.
7:30 - Wii bowling says "nice spare." Wife says "nice spare tire."
8:05 - Mom-in-law to my wife "let me try (Wii golf) I can't make your score worse."
8:15 - I beat Bekah at bowling by 2. Beat her at golf by a lot. We should play video games together more often.
8:25 - Now my mother-in-law us Wii bowling. Epic. Wish I had a video camera.
8:45 - Black flyday: what Bekah's mom calls black Friday.
9pm - Back to reading. Then I think I'll call it a day.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
But there was much I didn't know. I didn't know what it was like for him to grow up in the 50s, or to be a teenager in the 60s. I knew very little of what kind of parents his parents were to him and his sisters.
Sure, I did hear a few "I was your age once" talks. But the end result was less "I know what you're going through" and more "don't repeat my mistakes." As little as I knew the childhood version of my father, my understanding of the younger version of his father was unsubstantial.
Realistically, my vision of Grandpa Casey is more myth than man. With my grandparents living in Oklahoma and my family in Seattle, I didn't often get to see them. I know he served in the military, but he didn't talk much about his days in the war. He was a mechanic and a trucker who had driven every mile of interstate highway in the continental 48 states. He would stop and visit every time he had a delivery in western Washington and I remember staring up in wonder at the size of the tires on his big-rig. He wore a cowboy hat, had a handlebar mustache, and grew chops that could make Elvis jealous. As a seventy year old man, he was in better physical shape than I was at twenty. Even in his retirement Grandpa continued to work out of his garage, fixing engines, welding metal art projects and iron gates.
With my limited grasp on my grandfather the person, I've created a superman image in my head. That he was a man's man - the definition of manliness. That he was made of steel, could bend iron bars with his bare hands, and knock down brick walls.
Of course, this mythological construct was fueled by the one and only story my dad told of life with Grandpa.
My dad was about the age my son is now. Grandpa was napping on the couch in their home. My dad thought his dad was invincible and wanted to test that theory. So, dad took a clothes pin, crept up to his sleeping father, and stabbed Grandpa's arm with the clothes pin.
This story and my rare interactions with Grandpa made him Superman in my eyes. Then I found out he had cancer.
Radiation seemed to be helping. He was strong; I was sure he'd be a survivor. A year passed. He was fragile but still with us. He continued to make efforts in his garage workshop.
Before starting his treatment, Grandpa and Grandma celebrated their 60th anniversary. Bekah and I packed up the kids and traveled out to Yukon Oklahoma to celebrate with them. Grandpa drove us to the airport to drop us off when it was time for us to go home. He helped us unload our bags and get everything to the ticket counter.
Zu (who was almost 2 at the time) interrupted his walk back to his car. "Gampa," she shouted, "WAIT!" Grandpa stopped and turned around. Zu ran from the ticket counter, across the airport lobby, out the doors to the passenger drop off area where Grandpa was waiting by his parked car. He squatted down in time to receive her embrace. Zu wrapped her arms around Grandpa and had one thing to say: "I love you."
I walked up behind her to carry her back to get our tickets and head through security. As I picked her up, I said one last goodbye to Grandpa and I could see he was choking back tears - trying not to show his emotions.
We were back in Oklahoma four weeks ago to say goodbye one last time. He recently he went into the hospital for surgery on some benign masses. One surgery turned into two surgeries and instead of going back home, he stayed at the hospital with complications.
I don't want to complain about his fight with cancer being unfair. Fairness is such a subjective ideal. Sickness is a matter that plagues the noble and the corrupt. For me, Grandpa's battle with cancer didn't make sense. This strong man - this manliest of mankind - succumbing to sickness, now laying weak in a hospital bed. I never imagined his last days would be like this. It may be irational, but I always thought Grandpa would go in a car crash or some improbable accident. My logical mind couldn't rationalize how this superman could fall to such irreparable frailness.
We went to visit him at the hospital three times while we were in Oklahoma. The first night, Bekah and I went to see him with my cousin. We stayed for a while, holding his hand while he drifted in and out of sleep. When awake, he kept staring at me, tears in his eyes, and the closest thing to a smile his diminished strength would allow.
"That little girl of yours..." he told me. He recounted the story of Zu's emotional farewell at the Will Rogers World Airport two years earlier. The one thing he needed to tell me was how much he loved my daughter. Not the time I lost a sock in his semi cab somewhere on the roads between Cheyenne and Yukon. Not his visit to Seattle for my high school graduation. Not the drive up White Bird Pass in the snow two days before my wedding. No marital advice. No life lessons. Just the knowledge that my daughter was important in his life.
And the peace given - intentional or not - that if my daughter's life held such an impact in the one time he had ever seen her, then how important was my life in the few times he had seen me?
While in Oklahoma, my dad and I stood by the Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and had what is possibly one of the realest conversations I've ever had with my father. He acknowledged that Grandpa was going soon. Dad said that we take pictures to remember what must never be forgotten. Between the two of us, we got some valuable pictures. Of Grandpa holding JJ's hand. Of Zu giving Grandpa a kiss. Of my niece playing her cello in a private concert for Grandpa. Of the family together to remember Grandpa's life and to bid him farewell.
This morning, Grandpa's fight ended. Superman went home.
One of my aunts worked at JC Penny. Because of her employment, my parents' rules for my wish list was that every item had to be available in the annual JC Penny Christmas Catalog. As much as I dreaded the prospect of putting pen to paper, thumbing through the catalog was one of my favorite holiday traditions.
I'm not sure if it was the crisp feel of the new glossy pages, the smell of ink, or the pipe-dream wonder of all the toys that could (but likely would not) be mine. Clothes, toys, video games, random swag... all of it cooler than what I all ready possessed. It was the candy store of my childhood imagination. By junior high, I realized that I had (roughly) a 2.7% chance of finding something from that list wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning. Yet my parents continued to subject me to the ritual of writing that list with the same arbitrary regulations until I moved away.
As special as that catalog might be considered, it had one flaw: no books. That is where part 2 of my grown-up Christmas list is headed: the readable. Books I long to read and would love to add to my book shelves. (ps: This list was too epic for my typical Five for Friday posts, so you get it on a Saturday.)
4. The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting with the Movement Shaping Our Culture by Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson
A look at how hip-hop has impacted the modern church and what the church can do to engage hip-hop culture
6. The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons
A challenge for Christians to be "provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; and countercultural, not relevant"
The financial lessons of Dave Ramsey told through the satirical wit of the author of Stuff Christians Like
She is empathetic to a degree not found in many adults. She feels the pain of others. When you’re sad, she’s sad. She is the girl going out of her way to brighten the world around her. Yet you add that insight to the other feelings endured by typical three year olds (temper tantrums, testing boundaries, feeling picked on by older siblings, impulses to eat things that are not edible), what you find is a girl struggling to express her emotions.
Along with the empathy, there is a deep bond with Bekah and me. I treasure this attachment, but it bellies Zu’s battle with insecurity. We cuddle with her, but she always begs for more time cuddling. She longs to be wherever we (the adults) are located. Zu she dreads the time of day where we leave for work or drop her off for school and she celebrates our return as we walk through the front door.
The mornings have become routine enough to be predictable. Zu is an early riser and is often awake before my alarm buzzes. She will greet me in the hall or the living room as I slog out of my bedroom. While I am preparing to leave for work (usually at the moment I get on my shoes or or pull my coat around my shoulders) we have the same conversation - nearly identical word-for-word - every morning.
“Daddy, where are you going today?”
“Please don’t go.”
“I have to, baby.”
“But I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, love.”
This concept of missing me (or missing Bekah) is a common theme for Zu. I get home from work and "I missed you" are the first words I hear. She will tell Bekah “I missed you” when Zu gets home from school. Bekah and I will go out for dinner or a movie, leaving the kids with their grandparents, and Zu will let us know she missed us when we return. I always thought of this as how Zu expresses love or that it was her showing tenderness for the people that she cares about. That is sweet and endearing. But there is another cause for her concern: fear.
It was recently brought to our attention that she is scared of losing us. We never thought about it, but now that we know… it makes sense.
Since returning from Oklahoma, her insecurities have become more noticeable. She follows me around the house as I’m getting ready for work in the mornings and she cries when Bekah drops her off for school. She acts out if we leave the house - even if it is to run to the grocery store, or take out the trash. Whatever behaviors existed before our trip are now more pronounced. She’s acting out of fear.
When we were told that she is afraid of Bekah and/or me dying, my heart broke. The way Zu described it, she doesn't like it when we leave her somewhere because she is scared that we will die and not ever come back for her. This beautiful and wonderful child constantly living in fear; something about it feels wrong. No preschooler should be so equally adorable and somber. No kid should have to worry about such heavy topics like death and grievous emotional loss.
I'm not exactly sure how to help her. I'm not even sure I possess enough compassion to heal those wounds. In most moments, she is a normal, hyper, lovable, and playful little girl. But it's in those seconds as I open the front door, the instant that I must go, it is then that she needs me the most.