Random Updates

My plague hair is long enough to be easily and reliably tied back. I’ve always wanted to donate to Locks of Love, but the last time I went from long hair to short hair, I didn’t tie it up properly, so I wasn’t able to donate. And now, they don’t use gray hair for their wigs. I can either dye it before I get it cut, or I can find another site to donate to.

We had an emote drive over on the Twitch channel, and on Wednesday, we unlocked the final emote for Affiliate level streamers. I was so stoked, and I’m pretty sure it came through stream. It’s a heck of an accomplishment, and my viewers did it all. Thanks to all of you, and I hope you enjoy the emotes!

I’ve had the week off from work, and am feeling absolutely rejuvenated. I feel like I am in a good place, and can whittle away at the infinite To-Do List of life and parenthood. Luckily for me, this feeling has hit me just as the kids are switching to be here with me most of the time. I have ideas, and hopes, but most of all, I’m looking forward to listening and watching and helping along the way.

Fear and kids

Originally written on 19 November 2017.

Terror is built deeply into my firstborn son. I should have made the jump. He had nightmares in the womb. They continue to be his most frequent form of dream. I spent nearly a year convincing him that our home, and especially his room, was safe. I helped him put a toy sword under his pillow every night so that he could sleep. I taught him how to cast mystical baddies out of his room. Now that he’s seven, he scoffs at it as if it were childish.

He swallowed a penny on Thursday, and it got stuck at the valve between his esophagus and his stomach. They sent us to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor to have it removed. When they put the IV in, it took two attempts. On the second attempt, I saw how deep the rabbit hole goes. Wild, darting eyes, panicked screaming, trying to look away, or reason through it, as Nikki kept telling him to, and him getting more panicked because he couldn’t. I tried to help, to comfort, to connect and share the burden. Tears immediately began cascading down my cheeks and wave after wave of core-level terror tore me apart. I had to leave the room.

I thought I was failing my son. I thought I wasn’t strong enough to do what a Dad does.

The doctors thought I was going to pass out.

Does he live with that terror inside him every second of every day? The bravery and strength that it must take him just to get through the day, let alone have all the fun that he tries to pack in (so much like his mother sometimes)… thinking about it leaves me in awe.

He already things that I say how proud I am because I’m his Dad, and I have to. If he only knew how thoroughly he’s already earned it.

Pro-tip for seven-year-olds: Saliva is not the best solvent for cleaning your penny collection. Catsup comes highly recommended.

I’m exhausted, I’m spent, and I’ve accomplished a hell of a lot, considering. Gonna take me a bit to recover from this one. From all of this.

Not my son, though. He’s already back to bowling and playing Skylanders and poking me in the belly and giving his mom a hard time.

That’s my boy.

Video Games & Family

The living room is where both Nikki and I spend a lot of time. Our dual recliner couch thing is there. Our TV is there. When we have people over, due to the 100+ year old floor plan, many of our guests are there. So, when we were moving in and setting up the entertainment center, we put Nikki’s PlayStation 2 there. We knew that she wouldn’t get a ton of use out of it, what with the imminent release of her gestating fetus, but it’d be there when she had a moment or three to rub together.

Hunter would occasionally play it, as well. He’s the ruling gamer of the house, and would regularly want to take a break from his Game Boy Advance SP and play on something hooked up to a larger screen.

Fast forward a bit. Hunter saved up to buy his own used PS2. Mine came out of storage to serve as a DVD player for the bedroom, then went downstairs to my basement nerd cave for use when I was taking time to myself. Hunter upgraded his handheld to a DS, thanks to his Dad, and passed his GBA SP to Aidan. Cian got a Leapster 2. Nikki and I played EverQuest 2 on our laptops. We gamed, as a family, but casually and separately.

As my relationship with Hunter became gradually more strained, he reached out to play video games with me. This was hit and miss, and I realized that all of the games that I own and enjoy are single player games. Yes, this lesson echoes in many other aspects of my life.

I got bored with EQ2, and let my account expire. We had another podling on the way, and we got news that for Christmas, our family was going to be gifted with a Wii from Nikki’s Aunt and Uncle. Nikki and I made grand plans. We got each of the boys their own Wii remote, each with a different LED color, so there wouldn’t be arguing over remotes. I brought up the Super Nintendo from the nerd cave for classic gaming. I kept my eyes peeled for some classic games for the Dreamcast (have the system, but no games). We let all the grandparents and aunts an uncles know about the incoming Wii, in case they wanted to get the kids games. We’d turn the living room into a place where we could game together, as a family.

Yeah.

The SNES and the PS2 still hardly ever get used. The Wii is primarily a Netflix machine. Nikki plays Facebook and Jewel Quest games on her laptop, but hasn’t played EQ2 in forever, because the game outpaced her graphics hardware. Hunter plays his PS2 or DS in his room, Aidan plays his GBA SP in his room, and Cian… Cian is three. We still game casually and separately. Why? Where did the plan fail?

Mostly with me.

The kids’ excitement can get loud, boisterous, and overwhelming. I have problems dealing with all of the movement and the noise and the crazy, especially when I’m already stressed or emotional. So, instead of the living room being a welcome space for gaming and family time, the kids get swept up to their rooms, so that they can be crazy at a distance. The living room has stayed an adult space, unless it’s for something passive, like TV watching.

Off and on, Nikki has mentioned missing EQ2, and I’ve been getting the urge to try again to finish Myst 3. By this time, I had recognized my previous failure on some level, and wanted to fix it. There was only one machine left in the house with the hardware chops to play EQ2, and it was my desktop, which resided in the basement. (Hey, I can do amazing things with old-ass hardware, and hand-me-downs are free, which fits our entertainment budget.) It also had Portal and Myst Online installed. The rusty gears in my skull creaked and ground, and I had an idea.

Last Sunday, for my alone time, Nikki took the kids out of the house. I sprang into action (more or less) and dismantled the half-a-laptop that was serving duty as our media center PC. I took it downstairs, dismantled my desktop, and brought it upstairs. I shifted consoles around in the entertainment center to make room, and made sure that there would be proper air flow. Didn’t want the desktop overheating. Got it hooked up, set up my wireless trackball and solar keyboard, and set up some links to the sites we’d usually access on the media center PC. I got the wires tucked away out of sight, and took a deep breath. It was the moment of truth. I sat in our recliner sofa thing, adjusted the size of the fonts and icons on the TV (OMG resolution!), and then double-clicked on the EQ2 icon.

That shit looks really good on the big screen.

Since then, there’s been a bit more gaming in the living room. Nikki’s tackling the learning curve of all of the updates that she missed. I’ve made it into the Voltaic Age in Myst 3 on the PS2. There’s been some YouTubin’. Searching is a hell of a lot easier when a keyboard is involved, that’s for sure. This weekend, I’ve played some neglected DVDs for the kids, and they’ve been all over some Wall-E and Incredibles. But, in truth, the real test came today. During nap time, Hunter asked if we could do something together. He was respectful about it and wasn’t pushy, so I told him that it depended on my ability to get my chores done. I hustled, got them done, and came to another moment of truth. I sent a txt message to Hunter (What, you want me to risk waking up the baby by going up to the attic? You crazy?):

“Up for some Mario Kart?”

Achievement unlocked – Stepdad.

Family Fun – Part 2

Open, airy beach house. The bath-like warmth and shallow beach of Lake Huron. Kids playing for hours upon hours in the water and sand. Family talks around a bonfire over good beers. Time alone with Nikki in the town – bookstore, coffee house and souvenir shop. Venison burgers and local pizza.

It was only a couple of days, but it felt like a full vacation. It was exactly what I needed.