Proud StepDad

Hunter is on the honor roll, and I’m taking work off tomorrow to attend the awards ceremony. He worked his butt off to get to this point, and I am incredibly proud.

Tonight is his parent-teacher conference, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for Good Things(tm) there as well.

Any time now…

Cian is four years old, as of this past Saturday. Four. Out of his Terrible Twos, making his way out of the obnoxious boundary-pushing of the Tribulation Threes. I may be verging on melodramatic, but after Aidan and now Cian, I can verify, with certainty, that three is worse than two.

His birthday party was Sunday, and he made out like a bandit. Two-tier Avengers cake, Avengers toys, the new Optimus Prime from Transformer Prime (everything’s so spiky, now that they’re being hunted by Predaking!), some monster truck Hot Wheels, books, clothes, Raphael of the TMNT, and punching balloons. The party was great. It feels better each time that our friends and family gather together like that, even if a couple of them only came it out of spite. ;)

Cian, of course, loved being the center of attention for the cake, the presents, and the playtime upstairs. Acelyn loved being the center of adult attention. Getting her to give Kia space will need some work. Ace treated her like she was the coolest teddy bear EVAR.

It still boggles my mind that all upcoming birthday parties, family gatherings, and shindigs will be at a different house, with a different vibe, and different ways of doing what we do. Here’s to hoping that Cian’s birthdays in the new house, may they be many, will be even better than this one.

Randomness

  • We had two Halloweens, one Trunk-or-Treat in Pinkney with the sister-in-law, and the usual Trick-or-Treat on the 31st, this year in Owosso. The kids were excellent, had a great time, and took home an enormous amount of loot.
  • Rewrite of The Remembrance has begun in earnest, and I am surprisingly excited about making it a better book. Make no mistake, if what the wife and I are doing now is any indication, it will be a more cohesive, connected telling.
  • Chapter 11 of the Glass Crown first draft is done. Once I’ve gotten it typed up, it’ll be on its way to the alpha readers.
  • Kids have been sick and not, off and on. That’s to be expected with the severity of the weather change and being on the far periphery of Sandy. I’m still hoping that we get a little more Autumn before Winter settles in.

Daddy Power

This post was partially inspired by this blog entry, as well as this one.

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts, news articles, social media freakouts, and the like about what this election means to women. I’m ashamed to admit this, but it means more to me than it has in the past. I have a daughter now.

Sure, these issues mattered to me in the past. I have a mother, a wife, a might-as-well-be-genetically-related sister, and female friends. We’ve talked about the issues that single them out, that take away their control over their health and bodies, that reduce their pay, that can push them into a life of fear. This has been important to me since I began to understand that I wasn’t the center of the universe (not as far back in my youth as I’d like, mind you).

At that point, I was only back-up. My Mom can vote. My wife can vote. So can my sister, and so on. Whether or not they chose to go to the polls, they had a voice. A say. So, my voice, my vote, was cast in support.

My daughter is sixteen months old, and there are people in our government that say that she should not be in control of her body. They want her to be paid less than her brothers for the same work. They want to control not just her, but all women. They want to put women, my daughter included, back in their place.

Acelyn doesn’t have a say about what rights will be left to her when she comes of age. She doesn’t have a voice, or a vote. I will be damned if I let her rights and her control over her own body be taken away from her without a fight.

This Daddy votes. And in this election, he votes for his daughter.

EDIT: Also, this blog post.

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.

Family Fun – Part 1

A weekend back, I had an experience that I’ve been longing for, but wasn’t quite sure that I would ever actually enjoy.  But enjoy it I did.  Cue the sitcom music, because we had a mini family vacation and I loved it.

For the second year in a row, my parents rented a house in Caseville, right on Lake Huron, for a week.  Last year, we weren’t able to make it out.  This year, they rented the same house and despite Hunter’s school year extension, we made it a priority to get our butts out there.  I’m pretty sure that if we hadn’t, grandkid withdrawal would have kicked in and things would have gotten ugly.  Needless to say, we made it.

I took a half day off from work on that Friday, and picked Hunter up from school early.  We went and grabbed gas for the Pacifica, and then headed home to meet up with the rest of the family.  They’d been packing and getting ready all morning, so the loading up went fairly smoothly.  We left later than Nikki would have liked, and inevitably forgot some things, but as my Dad said, we were on fluid vacation time.

Google called it a 3-hour trip (Gilligan?), but we made it in about two and a half.  The two youngest kids were out cold minutes after we hit the highway, and I think Hunter zonked out about halfway there.  The trip started to get exciting when we got off of I-75 in Bay City.  That gradual feeling of excitement and squee began to build, and I can’t remember how many years it’s been since I’ve felt that.  We went down Center Ave, OOOHing and AHHHing at the beautiful houses.  We went through Unionville and Sebewaing and Bay Port, home of the Fish Sandwich Festival.  Finally, at long last, we approached Caseville, home of the Cheeseburger Festival.  It took a bit of looking to find the house’s driveway/parking lot, but we found it!  Just in time to zip into a spot at a rate that would have had the minivan rocking on its shocks.  Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be bragging about that, but I was excited!

To be continued…

Dad’s Day

I got to have a bunch of Father’s Days. You’re jealous. It’s ok. No one will know.

Hunter left to spend most of the summer with his Dad, but wanted to celebrate with me before he went. So, Nikki and I saved our quarters and I took Hunter to the same place we visited on our first Father’s Day together. We went to Pinball Pete’s. Quarters were inserted into slots, fighting and driving games were played, skee balls were rolled (and rolled and rolled and rolled), and tickets were collected. We got over 425 tickets between us, which Hunter spent on things that make a Hunter happy. (Yes, there was a sword.) On the way home, when we babbled about how much fun that had been, he decided that I needed a souveneir. He handed me the 8 ball keychain that he’d bought, and it’s been on my keychain since.

The Thursday before Father’s Day, Aidan, Cian, Acelyn, and Nikki came parading through my office shouting Happy Father’s Day at the top of their lungs and carrying a large foil covered plate. They had spent the morning baking me peanut butter and apple cinnamon cookies together. Many of my coworkers ate yummy cookies that day, I can tell you. That evening, we all went to MSU Dairy for some delicious ice cream. And it was. Delicious. DELICIOUS!

On the morning of Father’s Day proper, Cian, Acelyn, Nikki, and I went to the Fork in the Road diner. It was a good sign when I noticed the meat smoker going as we walked up. We got there just as they were opening, and there was already a line to the door. By the time that we were seated, the line had gone out the door. And I tell you what, the food was worth every penny (not a cheap place to eat). Cian had the American Breakfast, and shared his potatoes with Acelyn. Nikki had the biscuits and gravy. I had the smoked pork belly hash. Yeah, smoked right out in the parking lot. When we left, to quote my good friend Peter, I was fat, dumb, and happy.

Soon after that, we were on the road to the TWP to celebrate with my parents. “Uncle Joe Awesome” was there, there were burgers and brats fresh off of the grill, and there was much grandkid doting. I hope Dad has gotten some mileage out of his gift, because he was all smiles when he opened it.

This Father’s Day really brought home how lucky I am, and how amazing the gifts I’ve received are. They didn’t come in any form close to what I expected, but maybe that’s part of why.