Archive | November, 2012

Santa Through The Years

29 Nov

Santa looks more scared than she does.

had the rare treat yesterday of giving a lecture to 150 first year dental students. I worked on the powerpoint presentation for a solid week, filling it with pictures of Optimus Prime and my adorable children to spice up the otherwise dry-as-matzo material (for those of you who aren’t into public speaking, the rules say if you have a captive audience you must force adorable pictures of your children on them as often as you can).

Now everyone’s happy.

I like to start most of my lectures by bragging about that which I’m most proud of – my family. So the first slide was of Episode IV’s very first picture with Santa Claus. The picture was taken at a shopping center near where we lived at the time. We have since moved 40 miles away, but we make a point of returning to that same shopping center for Santa pictures every year. When you look at all the Santa pictures over the years you get the nice effect of watching my family grow, year by year, set against the same background.

Best. Santa. Ever.

Years in front of a classroom have made me a veteran of public speaking. My train doesn’t get derailed easily. But yesterday something strange struck me. As the powerpoint animation scrolled through sequential Santa photos, year after year, and came to rest on this year’s picture (from just this past weekend) I was suddenly taken by how *big* my son, Episode V looks. Standing there in front of 150 dental students it was enough to steal my focus entirely away for just one moment. Certainly all the kids are bigger than they were last year (in fact Episode VI wasn’t even born for last year’s photo), but between last year and this, in the span of 12 months, Episode V seemed to go from “little boy” to “big boy” just like that. I composed myself and moved on with the lecture, but the thought stuck with me.

Best. Santa. Ever. Again.

Then this morning, as my first patient was numbing up and I was preparing for the first procedure of the day, a picture of Episode V came up on the screensaver. He couldn’t have been more than 2 in the picture. He was sitting on a merry-go-round horse, eyes wide, cherubic cheeks, face round and full of babyness. Again I was pulled completely out of the moment, fixated this time not on an image of what my son is growing into, but what he used to be and how different it is from who he is today.

Best. Santa. Ever. Again. Again.

Maybe it’s my daughter recently learning to ride her bike. Maybe it’s my dear friend’s son coming home from college for the first time. Maybe it’s my son trying like mad to learn how to read and write. Maybe it’s my baby threatening at any moment to start crawling. Whatever it is, I have been acutely aware lately of how my children are growing out from under me. The cliché is so true – it happens too fast.

Ep. VI was on his way.

Being a DorkDaddy isn’t always about light sabers and superhero t-shirts. Sometimes it’s about driving 40 miles to take your Santa pictures in the same spot every year. Sometimes it’s about misting up in front of your patient and staff, and not being ashamed to love your family fiercely, deeply and openly. There is no shame in a tear shed for the memory of that sweet, sweet child that will never be again. Keep the love flowing, and look forward to many, many more Santa pictures to come.

Happy holidays. From Ep. IV-VI

-Dork Dad

I love you, son.

My Time Machine – Star Wars Arcade From 1983

27 Nov

his weekend I finally did it. I’ve had my eye on it for the better part of 20 years. I went looking for it the very first day I signed on to the internet through AOL back in 1993. I promised myself I would have it when I was 10 visiting my grandmother and her next door neighbor invited us to come over and see the new “Galaga” arcade machine he bought and put in his living room.

Until now the planets have never lined up just right. But quite unexpectedly this weekend, they did. Contact was made. Terms were agreed on, and within 36 hours of seeing the listing on Craigslist, my father and I were in a U-Haul driving 2 hours away to pick up and bring home this:

My Precious

Countless quarters – innumerable cycles through the same levels – the smell of stale Chuck*E*Cheese pizza and the din of DigDug, Donkey Kong and Pac Man in the background. These experiences are inextricably written into my DNA and that of so many of my generation. And for me, all of it – *ALL* of it comes flooding back to that sweet, sweet music from the original 1983, vector graphics, stand-up Star Wars arcade machine.

Careful negotiation with UnDorkMommy was necessary (alas, for now it will have to live in the garage… emphasis on “for now”). But finally, after the better part two decades, I have it all for my very own (my precious). It’s in absolute *pristine* condition. The monitor is bright and vibrant. The sound is clear and crisp. The yoke is firm and sturdy. It’s like it just rolled off the assembly line.

Naturally, when we got it home the whole family wanted to give it a try. BooBoo was first (in her pajamas). She was the mom who took held the NES controller over her head and leaned it violently to the right to try to make Mario jump and move through the level. Video games do not come instinctively to her. But she’s all about fun so she gave it a go. She came across a little like Red 7, “Wait! What?! I have no idea what I’m… AAAAAAAAH!!” /explosiongameover

Hardcore gamers

My dad was next. He wasn’t much better, and his arcade experience ended with pinball machines in the 60’s, but I did notice that special little glimmer in his eye as he worked through the trench-run. Later he confided in me “Man, that thing is fun. I could pump quarters into it all day.” Then on the phone yesterday he asked “When can I come over and play that thing again?”

At long last it was time for my kids to play. As a father who has pledged to raise healthy, well-adjusted kids within the culture of all-things-geek, I see significant exposure to classic (retro?) arcade culture as part of that equation. I laid down the ground rules about taking care of the 30-year-old machine, showed them how the game works, and then turned them loose to take turns on free-play mode while I got started cleaning out the garage (part of the negotiated terms with UnDorkMommy). As much as I love video games, everyone agrees that you can’t let kids spend all day in front of a monitor. My wife and I worked out a great strategy for moderation. Although they were playing on free-play mode that day, in the future if they wanted to play they would have to pay a quarter per game just like DorkDaddy did way back when, with the proceeds going to a worthy cause to be determined later.

Gamers in training.

Episodes IV and V gorged themselves for the evening on Star Wars vector graphics yumminess, with the understanding that future installments were going to cost them. With the hook baited and set and the addiction initiated, I felt a little bit like a crack dealer “The first taste is free, after that it’ll cost you.” As they played and I cleaned out the garage, the sweet familiar sounds of a classic 80’s arcade spilled out the garage, onto the street and into the neighborhood. Within minutes, like moths to a flame, the neighborhood kids were lining up for a hit at the machine. I stepped back and watched them for a moment, cheering for each other, remembering lining up for that very same game more than 20 years ago, a row of quarters lined up on the monitor marking your place in line, and for one glorious moment I was completely transported through time.

Like moths to a flame.

As Ron Mattocks so eloquently put it, “Forget X-box, Playstation, Wii and everything else. This holiday season retro-gaming is the way to go.”

-Dork Dad

A Technicality

20 Nov

his weekend Episodes IV and V were being a little poky getting out of the house. It was a rainy day and I was trying to take them to the theater to see “Wreck It Ralph”. I’m a stickler for getting good seats and catching the previews at any movie, so I wasn’t about to let them make us late. As the frustration level rose I envoked the holiday season and made them an offer to help motivate them.

“OK kids. If you can get in the car and in your seatbelts by the time I count to 20, while we’re out we can go take a picture with you-know-who. You know, the very old, very large man with a long white beard.”

Bam! They were buckled up before I got to 10. Continue reading

And Off She Goes

18 Nov

e had a banner day yesterday – one of those days you remember forever. But first a little backstory:

It was the early 80’s. I was in first grade and a good percentage of my friends were scooting around the neighborhood on their bikes without training wheels. I wasn’t. My training wheels were off, but I still couldn’t ride under my own power. My friend Daniel H came over after school with his bike (he’d been off training wheels for a long time) and wanted to go riding, but he was stymied by my “still  in training” status. So he and I went out in front of my house together and 30 minutes later triumphantly went back inside to report to my mother that Daniel had taught me how to ride my bike.

I’ve often wondered who was going to be my kids’ “Daniel H”.

For her fourth birthday we bought Episode IV a shiny new bike, because every 4-year-old needs a bike to practice on. Between then and now it went largely under utilized. For the longest time the kids seemed more excited about wearing the helmets than mounting up and riding. Our hilly neighborhood isn’t particularly conducive to learning to ride a bike. It has to be a deliberate act where you pack up the kid and the bike into the car, drive to the right place and commence with the formal lesson. No spontinaity. Episode IV and I have been out a couple of times without the training wheels, but the realities of soccer games and birthday parties and multiple children in the house meant those formal lessons were few and far between, and always they were initiated by me.

Episode IV’s IVth birthday.

Yesterday, out of nowhere, Episode IV came up to me and said “Daddy, can we go to the park and practice riding my bike?” I was tired and grumpy from dealing with the mostly rainy day, but when your 6-year-old asks you to help her ride her bike, a good father never turns that down. So we packed the bike up into the car, searched all over the house, garage and backyard for her helmet, and drove to the park to give it another try.

This is what happened:

Just like when she learned to walk and learned to read there was absolutely no lead-up. One day she just decided she was going to do it… and she did it. Pure moxy.

When you’re a blogger all sorts of themes go through your head at a moment like this: the balance between holding on and letting go, watching your child ride away all on her own (litterally into the sunset), but those themes are low-hanging fruit so I’ll spare you the cliche’s. Just as she was riding off on her bike for the very first time, my very dear friend hot-young-married-housewife-school-teacher-co-worker-10 years my senior was heading to the airport to welcome her son home from college for the first time. She and I shared a few happy parenting tears via text-message along with thoughts about our kids taking that “next step.” We went around and around the track thrilled with her new skills, celebrating her victory, she and I sharing the same adrenaline-high.

Grandparents, aunts and uncles all cheered with a flurry of text messages over the next hour. We celebrated by letting Episode IV pick the place to go out to dinner.

That night, exhausted, Episode IV fell asleep instantly. Later, when I was in bed I scrolled through the momentous day’s text messages. My mother hit the nail on the head.

“You are her Daniel H.”

I sure am, and I’m so glad.

-Dork Daddy

High Chair Danger Zones

16 Nov

e prepared. Before your infant’s next meal, know your “High Chair Danger Zones”

 

 

 

 

Be informed. Know your danger zones.

1. THE SATURATION ZONE

bullseye

Zero margin for error here. You must hit the bullseye every time. Stray just a little and whatever doesn’t hit the mark will be evenly distributed (painted) on anything and everything within the zone.

Let the saturation begin.

2. THE GALLIGHER ZONE

Those sitting in this zone should prepare to get wet. Management recommends full-length rain coats, scotch-guarding, or at bare minimum a garbage bag with holes cut out for your arms and head. Management will not replace any articles of clothing ruined in this zone.

3. THE SHRAPNEL ZONE

The shrapnel zone! Don’t bother trying to figure out how.

Resembling post-invasion Baghdad, or post-blitz London, the signs of battle are everywhere. Those walking through the shrapnel zone might think to themselves, “Holy cow. How do you get pear-mango all the way over there? How do you get plums way up there?” Best not to try and understand. War is hell.

 

 

-Dork Dad

Star Wars Angry Birds!

10 Nov

he conversation around the house this morning:

Episode V: “Daddy, I’m better than you at Star Wars Angry Birds.”

UnDorkMommy: “Oooh. Them’s fightin’ words.”

Dork Daddy: “Nah. Them words mak a father proud.”

Episode IV: “Daddy, I just beat your high score.”

Episode IV is gunning for an Artist position at Rovio.

 

-Dork Dad

Wasted Opportunity

5 Nov

his weekend we had a family event planned that required maximum cooperation from all three children. Since the event was planned for the end of the day at the end of the weekend it was in everyone’s interest that all three children were as rested as possible. The kids were already frayed around the edges from the exhausting Halloween week, so UnDorkMommy and I launched our strategy to get all three kids a nap. The baby wasn’t going to be a problem. The challenge was with the two older kids.

“OK, you two.” I said, looking both of them in the eye with my most serious face. “If BOTH of you take a good nap — and I mean a real eyes-shut-lights-out-all-the-way-asleep-having-a-dream kind of nap — when you wake up Mommy and I will give each of you not one, but *TWO* pieces of Halloween candy.”

That was enough. With little resistance both Episode IV and V were nestled under the covers, Jellycat and Bobo tucked under their arms, with the lights out. I quietly closed Episode IV’s door just as UnDorkMommy finished getting the baby down.

…and for one glorious moment in time all three of my children were asleep in their beds, at the exact same time in the middle of the day.

At first neither UnDorkMommy nor I knew what to do with ourselves. But we figured it out pretty quick. I put on my best “come hither” face and said to my beautiful wife,

“So, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah,” she said with an excited sparkle in her eye. “You empty the dishwasher, I’ll rotate the laundry.”

Oh yeah, baby. You know how I like it.

45 minutes later Episode IV was up and the moment was lost.

/epicfail

-Dork Dad

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