Feeling the Brunt of a Joke!

I feel like a brunt of a joke.

I’m the dude that moves across the state, frets about real snow, is teased about how on the other side of the state we close down when an inch of snow hits our pavements, and is teased because I don’t know how to drive in real snow.

But I’m confident. Confident because I’ve driven in the snow and in a snow “storm.” Confident because I lived on a two-lane highway that wasn’t always the first to get cleared. Confident because I’ve never had an incident with my current vehicle. Confident because my little Tracker has always been an animal in the snow, especially when 4-wheel drive is rolling.

Still I’m teased. My co-workers tell me to pack a sleeping bag, candy bars, a survival kit for when the snow hits. I live a straight Interstate shot from home to work and back. Why would I need this? There is nothing but concrete barriers from here to my house. I’ll bounce off medians or semi-trucks, but no ditches.

Except that the first day it’s expected to snow I’m headed 76 miles south to a little town called Colfax. Fifty-five straight miles of two-lane, unplowed, iced roads with nothing but frozen farmland and white knuckles to keep me occupied.

Why Colfax? The company I work for has an unmanned office there, and from Monday to Thursday each week our Spokane office voluntarily (for the most part) sends an employee to fill in at this remote location. The Colfax calls are forwarded to our office in Spokane. Still we need a warm body to make the rent feel like it’s worth it. Last week I volunteered, not expecting the freezing temperatures to continue (a week straight of 20-degree temperatures), and snow to breeze in.

When I awake in the morning there is a dusting of snow. I’m not too concerned. I check WSDOT for the road conditions. It’s clear on I-90, perfect if I was headed to where I’m normally headed. I check the two-lane I-195. It doesn’t put a twinkle in my eye. I text my manager and she gives me the, “ah…you’re good to go!” response.

I head out with no issues.

You win canyon wall, you win!

You win canyon wall, you win!

Then five miles after I turn onto I-195 my car does something it hasn’t done since we’ve been together. It fishtails. I correct it, take a deep breath, and try to calm the pounding in my heart. I have it on 4-wheel drive, at least that’s what the green light on my dashboard says. A few cars pass me as I cruise at about 40 mph. Then it happens again. I’m confused. This road must be extremely icy because I’ve never had issues with fishtailing on the freeway while in 4-wheel drive. Cars fly by me, I slow down just a bit and the second I raise my foot off the gas pedal I go into another fishtail. I spin hard left, I correct and then start to spin hard right, I correct and once again I start spinning hard left and this time there’s no correcting. I’m face-to-face with a rock embankment and all I can do is wiggle the Tracker so that I’m not headed headfirst into the canyon wall. With two hands holding tightly on the wheel I hit the embankment doing, my guess is, 20 mph. Everything in my back seat is now in my front seat.

My chest pounds, I’m ticked, I’m confused. Why did I head this way? Why did my car do this? I’m going to take heat from my co-workers who jokingly told me about how I was going to end up in a ditch because I moved from the west side, where nobody knows how to drive in the snow. I call Lis and told her what happened. At first she doesn’t believe me. We had joked about it beforehand. Oops!

I watch as a van does a 360 on the Interstate in front of me. I don’t feel as dumb.

I turn my car back on, push in the 4-wheel drive and with ease back out of the rock and the small ditch. No issues with fishtailing. My guess is that the Tracker didn’t lock into 4-wheel drive. Stupid me, I had always pulled over when I plugged into 4-wheel drive, but read last night in my manual that if going less than 60 mph, you’re cool with switching to 4-wheel drive while on the go. Uh … no.

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Well that sucks!

After snapping a couple of pictures and allowing myself to calm down a bit, I decide I’m not headed to Colfax. I’ll turn around and head back to our main office. That one possible walk-in (seriously I’ve had one in three days there) can wait.

A phone call to my dad confirms that it’s likely I wasn’t locked into 4-wheel drive. He says that if I was in 4-wheel drive low I wouldn’t have fishtailed so much.

On the way back to Spokane I laugh.

All the teasing that was thrown at me was warranted. Maybe they jinxed me. Maybe there was just too much pressure on me to successfully drive 76 miles in the snow and ice.

But no excuses, I’m the brunt of the joke. The answer to the joke about how people from the west side come over to the east side and cause ruckus with just a trace of snow.

Idiot!

UPDATE: Four days later and I’m still a little irked, both at myself and at my work. Once again this is not an office that I normally would head to. It’s an unmanned office that we take turns volunteering to fill in for. The total damage from my first, and only, estimate is over $2,200. Yes, I’m an insurance person, however, I didn’t have the funds to tack on, what I felt, would be an unnecessary coverage on my vehicle. I would have paid premium for collision ($500 deductible) for 10 years, which would’ve been about $1,200 (plus you have to have comprehensive to have collision so add another $500). My car is valued at maybe $3,000. It’s not worth it … until you slide into a rock embankment and realize you don’t have $2,200 to fix your vehicle. Oh well.

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Concern Level: Zero!

We aren’t the type of people who like to create nonsense drama. Despite how some may feel or think, we don’t search out issues with our family and friends, in hopes of creating a disturbance in the force. We leave that to others in the family, who seem to be professionals at it, doing an excellent job of wreaking havoc where havoc doesn’t need to be wreaked. We didn’t put leukemia into Lis’ body so that I can participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, or kickstart a blog. Nor did we move to Spokane so that we can stir up attention. It was actually quite the opposite. Still, drama seems to search us out, whether it be issues like cancer, losing a house, or the possibility of cancer again.

Note: Even though I had basal cell carcinoma, a cancerous skin cancer, I don’t consider it a high level issue, as my kid’s won’t need to share with the doctors that their dad had basal cell carcinoma, like they’ll need to tell their doctors – forever – that their mom had leukemia.

Okay, so the C-Word (not that one!) may not have returned into our lives, however in the last two weeks there were concerns that made us think, maybe it was knocking on our door.

I was keeping updates as this was happening, so part of this may sound a bit like a journal. Um kay?

Two weeks ago Lis was picking on her breasts (don’t ask, she does a lot of picking and I’ve told her numerous times to stop picking), when she noticed a drip of blood, sprinkle out of her left nipple. She was concerned, and using what we’ve learned from her previous diagnosis, decided not to wait it out, so she made an appointment with a doctor. Concern Level: 1 (out of 10)

Her first mammogram went superbly. However, the physician’s assistant ordered her an ultrasound. The ultrasound went well, except for a few black spots that seemed to cause concern. So the Girl Doctor ordered Lis to get a biopsy, to see what the black spots may be. Concern Level: 4

It’s Saturday, November 1 and Lis doesn’t seem concerned. I was. Months prior she had complained about soreness, and lumpiness, but I’m learning as I write, that the lumpiness was in the right boob, and this issue is in the left. I feel a bit better now, except that I’m sharing all this stuff about my wife’s boobs, some of her best assets. Learning this makes me less concerned. This is where I’ll use my humor in an attempt to make an uncomfortable situation even more uncomfortable. I’ve told Lis for years that the “Girls” needed a little more attention. She prefers that I concentrate my attention in other areas. But still … maybe they need just a little more lovin’. What?! I’m just sayin’!

Still, it’s hard not to be concerned considering her prior diagnosis. Plus, we did a Google image search (hard to ignore the advice they gave us back in the leukemia days that said, “Don’t read what you find on the Internet?!”) and, like picking a criminal out of a lineup, the black ultrasound photos that matched the ones she peeked at in her appointment, were of the cancerous variety, and the address of the place she goes to for her biopsy is at the Rockwood Cancer Treatment Center. Concern Level: 7.

You’d understand why we – okay, me, though secretly I think she’s concerned, but knows that I worry more, so lets me do the worrying on the outside. Make sense? – are a little anxious about Wednesday’s biopsy appointment.

So no, we’re not trying to create drama, if we did I’d post some sort of Facebook post that said, “Black spot? A little concerned. Guess we’ll wait until Wednesday.”

Right now I’m a mixture of anxious (I don’t do well with anxiety; stupid chest issues!), a bit worried, find it all a little humorous, and bewildered.

Since we moved here we’ve settled into a wonderful church, and a wonderful small group, filled with couples our age, with lots of kids our kids ages, so on Sunday we broke the silence and decided to share with our small group. Heck, we could use some prayers. I know what’s done is done, but shoot, I tend to put a lot of stress on my heart, so I was just hoping for a little help from above with calming my nerves. Prayers answered! It’s been two days and I feel fine. Not too concerned. I think it will go well, and if it doesn’t…bring it! Concern Level: 3.

It’s Tuesday and Lis tells me that her girl doctor called to check in with her, and let her know that even though the spots that they found may not be causing the bleeding, she’s glad Lis came in to see her. That’s nice of her! But what does that mean? Concern Level: About a 4.

The biopsy that was supposed to happen on Wednesday changes to Friday, as Lis just as a consultation, feel you up, appointment with a breast surgeon. There’s some discharge of blood, but the doctor doesn’t give Lis any indication it’s something she should be worried about. Of course they won’t until the results are in (next Wednesday, 2 p.m.), but the leader in the clubhouse is now Papilloma. What’s a Papilloma? Click here to read what Wikipedia says about it. Concern Level: 2.

Frustration Level: 8. I had to take 1-1/2 hours off of work for her to get a talking to. On Friday I’ll have to take another hour or so from work so she can have her supposed biopsy. On Wednesday … well Lis is on her own. She’s bounced back from one doctor to the next to the next. Let’s get this figured out so we can move on.

Biopsy day has arrived! Lis explains to me that after today she would have had about six ladies feel her up. What does that mean to me? That the physicians are getting more action than me. After the biopsy she warns me that no, her boob is not bigger (darn!) it just has an ice-pack strapped to it. That’s right she’s strapping! She’s also just had 15 needles to the boob! Um…ouch! We will find out the results on Wednesday. In the meantime … Concern Level: 1.

After a weekend of some serious Broobs (bruises on the boobs), Lis receives a call from her doctor. She can skip her appointment. All is okay. Can I get an Amen! Thank you! The doc just wants a follow-up in three months. No problem! Even though our Concern Level was at a 1, we are still relieved that we don’t have to wonder.

Sure some think that drama can be kind of fun. It’s a conversation starter, it allows people to talk, and give their not-always-bright opinions on your issue. It can sometimes make a boring life, interesting. But still, drama causes pain, mostly emotional, and sometimes physical. It creates worry, anxiety, stress, frustration and nightmares. I’m perfectly okay with having that boring life. Perfectly fine with answering the, “What’s new?” question with, “Nothing.”

So what’s new?

Well since you asked …

Fixed both Lis’ windshield wiper problem, and since I was feeling handy, my windshield spray. That’s the third car issue I’ve fixed since we moved here three months ago. You know how many car issues I fixed when I lived elsewhere? None. It’s amazing how moving away from an easy remedy makes me actually grow up.

Lia is learning to read, and there’s not much more that brings me joy than watching the kids learn how to read. It’s an incredible thing. Lia loves school, and loves to learn. She doesn’t get frustrated, she sounds out each letter, and if she gets it wrong she’s receptive and has it corrected. I have to remind myself to not get annoyed when she asks me to tell her what every word she reads EVERYWHERE means. This girl has continued to amaze me since the day she was born. I love it!

The Johnson Five made a trip across the mountains this past weekend. My good buddy annually snags Seahawks tickets to one game, and invited me to come over. I was hesitant because we’re strapped for cash. Thankfully our house sold, they were willing to give us a “Relocation Fee” and we get to stop paying utilities for a house we no longer live in, so convincing Lis was easier to do. That and my buddies agreed on helping me with some of the travel costs. Much love Middletons!

10398023_10152585915998922_1572912281174063488_nWe left early Saturday morning, visited with Josh and his new baby (Josh and “his new baby” in the same sentence?! You bet!), visited with our twin family the Schaubles Saturday afternoon (kids had a blast!), had a wiener at Big Dog’s (thanks buddy!), and then spent time with my family before our double-date, plus-Dennis, with the Schaubles to see Interstellar. Still trying to figure it out. I’m giving it a solid 8 on IMDB though. Christopher Nolan is amazing.

Sunday was a blast as Dennis, Josh, and his brother Geoff, took the train to the game. Did our pre-funk at Safeco Field, had a great time watching the Seahawks defeat the New York Giants, and just a wonderful time spending time with friends I’ve had for 21-plus years. The weekend exceeded expectations. Lis and the kids had a great time hanging out with my parents, grandparents, Uncle and Auntie on Sunday (and Lukas’s buddy, “Big” Levi), and Erik went even as far as telling me via text that, “It was a perfect Sunday!”

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Filed under Cancer, Football, Friends, Life With Three Kids, Lis

Same Strokes, Different Folks

WARNING: The following is a completely random post. You’ll find a lot of rambling, opinions, nonsense, and cutesy kid garbage. Be prepared.

Don’t Tell Mom!
Commercials are dumb! Unfortunately when we decided to end our five-year sentence of no cable, I mistakenly bought the package that didn’t come with the DVR, so now commercials are what we occasionally have to sit through. Every once in a while a commercial will pop on that will make me chuckle, and that I can relate to. During the World Cup Hyundai produced a commercial called “World Cup Spoilers” that showed a man attempting not to see or hear any of the World Cup game because he’s recording it. This one hit home for me. Earlier this year Hyundai (hmm…maybe I should get a Hyundai) produced a commercial called “Don’t Tell Mom!”, which again hit the spot.

This morning that commercial welcomed itself back into my life as Lis had to leave for work (more on that in a bit) early and would be gone the entire Saturday. That left me and the trio to fend for ourselves. Let me straighten this out real quick – I don’t watch or babysit my kids. I’ve had to correct my friends in the past when they mentioned, “Are you watching your kids?” I even had to correct Lia on that earlier this evening when she said, “Next time you babysit us…” They are my kids and we all hang out, or spend time together.

Like the “Don’t Tell Mom!” Hyundai commercial there are moments during the day when I may drop a “Don’t Tell Mom!” Well Lukas thought he would tally those up, and here are the few we remembered:

Don’t tell Mom…I put too much butter in the eggs
What it makes the eggs a little fluffier, and flavorful!

Don’t tell Mom…I used an extra egg
I don’t know if I’m being wasteful. Heck, I don’t even know if I’m making them properly.

Don’t tell Mom…I had tacos at Jack in the Box.
Lis worked at Jack in the Box for a few months. She knows what went into those tacos. I don’t care.

Tragedy Hits Close to Home
How do I transition from Jack in the Box tacos to the tragic news that hit close to home yesterday. I guess I’ll attempt to transition by saying, my role as a parent is to love, support, discipline, and really have a strong, solid relationship with my kids. Yesterday’s shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, WA proved – to me – that there are a lot of us that just aren’t doing enough of that.

How did the event hit close to home? Okay, so I know we moved across the mountains, so close in this instance doesn’t necessarily mean distance. What it means is that in the six years I worked for the Everett Herald, I became extremely familiar with the Marysville-Pilchuck High School and its campus. I covered dozens and dozens of basketball and volleyball tournaments, swim meets, and football games. It was hard seeing pictures of gun-drawn police officers roaming the hallways that I once sprinted down, late in the evening, in an attempt to find the closest WiFi spot to send my story. I have friends that were graduates of that school, and friends that lived blocks from that school.

I also was a youth leader at my church in Snohomish, a town just a few miles from Marysville, and a few of the kids that I hung out with were teenagers at a neighboring high school, Lake Stevens.

I’m also a parent, and the more and more I hear about these incidents, and the more and more they become closer to home, the more and more I get frightened. Our future leaders already frighten me. Actually it’s not so much them as it’s the people who claim to be raising these future leaders that will be going to school with mine.

But let’s not blame the parents, let’s blame guns. Lis and I are split on that decision. She comes from Brazil where only the criminals have guns and I, well, ‘Merica right? I don’t own a gun and never will. Not because I side on the anti-guns issue, I’m pretty conservative, and once again, ‘Merica right? However, I know how I’ve raged in the past, and though I’ve gotten better, I know it’s best for me and my family that there is not a firearm anywhere near me. That’s just me knowing me.

We both agree that we’re totally confused on why these kids have such easy access to their parents’ weapons. Why do they? This kid didn’t shoot his friends with the hunting rifle his parents bought him for his birthday. He used his dad’s “high-capacity” handgun.

Still, I don’t blame the guns, because it took this kid time and thoughts to plan out his attack. So let’s blame mental illness.

Though from all indications this kid was a “good guy,” the Homecoming king for the freshman class, of course, to do something like this takes a demented mind, but was he mentally ill? Um…can’t we all be, at least a little bit? So let’s blame video games.

My co-worker mentioned the types of video games the kids play these days. Yes, tons of kids spend tons of times playing tons of first person shooter games. But blaming these video games on them crossing the stupid line is like blaming Eminem and Marilyn Manson in the ’90s. I play video games, I listen to rap music, and especially like Eminem’s. That never made me want to create havoc. So let’s blame social media.

Um … I have nothing, so I’m going to blame parenting.

As mentioned above it’s my role in life to love, support, discipline (yes, we must discipline), and have a solid, strong relationship with my kids. That means knowing who their friends are, what they do on their lunch break, following them on Twitter and Instagram, friending them on Facebook (Note to Future Kevin: Do your best to refrain from allowing them onto social media, you know why), checking up on the sites they may visit on the Internet, or on their phone. This shooter used Twitter as a way to complain about life. If that was my kid, I’d be asking a ton of questions. Heck, last week Lukas wrote a story that ended with the protagonist burning down the house of the bad guy, and burning up the bad guy. Before I got a phone call from his teacher, I asked a lot of questions. I think I’ll do okay with keeping track of my kids on social media. I’m on all of those sites already, and when I worked with the youth, I made sure to know what was the “in” thing at the time.

This also means sitting down as a family and spending time together. I have relatives that don’t eat dinner together. Two eat in their rooms, one eats in front of the television, how does that help build a strong bond in a family? One of my highlights is sitting down at the dinner table and working my way around it asking how school was, what is something new they learned, and what did they do. Lia loves to share. Lukas doesn’t, so I ask him about new friends, or what he did during recess, which usually opens him up a bit. We even listen to Levi tell us about wrestling imaginary friends, or his bike rides with his mom.

And like I said, I don’t watch my kids, we hang out. Lis and I don’t have separate “Yours” and “Mine” days. We make it a point to do something together. Sure, I’m still their dad, but I’m also someone they should feel comfortable around, and enjoy being around. In my opinion, so far, so good.

I’m not an expert, and a publicly joke that as I grow up I’ll have a drug abuser, teenage pregnancy, and a high school dropout (not in any order), but we’re doing what we think is right, and trying the best we can.

Oh, and I promised to throw more Christianity in my work so … you may or may not want to believe what the Bible says, okay fine, but true or not, it was written thousands of years ago and deals with much of the same crap we’re dealing with nowadays. It’s a history book, and it proves that humankind is exactly the same now as it was back then (with less goat sacrificing). The only thing is, they didn’t have the Internet back then so they couldn’t tell how many school clubbings there were in the town next to them. Point being, don’t think the world is getting any worse, we just find this crap out easier than they did when they were passing scrolls. I wonder what they blamed back then? The shepherds? I’d blame the shepherds.

Still, if you choose to not believe the Bible, still understand that it’s a book full of wisdom, and history, and really if you and your kids read through Proverbs you might learn a few life lessons that were written a few thousand years ago, and can still be applied to this day. It doesn’t even mention the name Jesus, so you don’t have to worry about your child becoming a Christian, God forbid. Looking for that next self-help book that Oprah recommends? Try picking up one of the first self-help books ever written – the Bible. Just sayin’.

Peyton Man-Crush-ning!
Speaking of shepherds, how about that Peyton Manning eh? He sure does a good job of tending his flock. I’d like to congratulate him once again on breaking the record for career touchdowns. It’s been an odd year for me and Manning. I think after the emotional stress that the Super Bowl loss caused me, I just don’t feel the same about him anymore. It’s not you, it’s me. Okay, so it’s sort of you. I still love you, but sometimes you have to see other people, and this year I’m definitely seeing someone else. As mentioned in my football preview I’ve decided to go all-in on Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts (“One Team, One Heartbreak”) that I haven’t followed Manning or the Broncos season as closely as I did the past two years. Sure I still root for him and the Broncos, but when it comes to watching the standings I’m focused solely on where the Colts are going to end up.

By the way, nice to see Seahawks (4-3)  fans humbled, and nice to see the Colts (5-2) be the best team nobody is talking about.

Still, this whole Best Quarterback Ever crap that pundits continue to argue about is goofy. Yes, you want Super Bowl wins, but isn’t that a team thing? After all Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have two Super Bowl victories each. Plus, I’d like to think their teams were pretty dominant on defense during their Super Bowl runs (though both had some clutch tosses in their Super Bowl victories). Last year’s Seahawks team was largely successful because of the way their defense hit, and let’s not forget Trent Dilfer’s Baltimore Ravens team from 2000.

Manning holds numerous NFL records (including MVP wins), he’ll pass Favre next year in total wins, his winning percentage is behind that not-to-be-named Patriots quarterback, Roger Staubach and Joe Montana (though if Manning keeps up what he’s doing in Denver he’ll surpass Montana this season). What clinches theBest Ever debate for me is what he’s done the last three years, at an older age, on a new team, with a wobbly ball, and an I-don’t-want-to-call-it-weak-but-it’s-not-strong arm. Two straight seasons of 13-3 (and well on pace for a third), 114 TDs, an AFC Divisional loss that is still painful to think about, and a Super Bowl loss that is still painful to think about. That’s not easy to do, and it’s actually impressive (not the latter two), and why I consider him the best EVER. At least until Andrew Luck starts threaten all of the aforementioned records. Yes, the new crush continues to grow (get your mind out of the gutter boy!).

#Collide2014
Speaking of records, Boyz II Men released a new record (do they still call them records?) called Collide on Tuesday. As I have done with all 11 of their studio released albums (and four of their compilation albums), I bought it on the day it was released. I still can’t get a retweet or Instagram share from them, but whatever, I’m a dude, a dude that may arguably be their biggest fan, but it’s cool.

After one week I’m diggin’ about six of the 14 tracks on the album. The others will need to grow on me. Still love my Boyz though! I am honestly thinking about coming up with a database for dudes, that allows them to look up a Boyz II Men song based on a situation in their love life, that will help them explain themselves to their lady, in hopes they better understand how we’re feeling. Does that make sense?

The Johnson Five
IMG_1877Speaking of making sense, this entry sure isn’t. We had a nice time with my family (folks, and Erik and Stephanie) last weekend as they rolled into town for Lukas’s 10th birthday. We went bowling, drove bumper cars, and played miniature golf, before returning home for Stevanato Pizza and some Lukas Jeopardy. It was fun, different from the birthday parties we usually throw, and something we’ll probably look into doing on an annual basis.

10-18-2014-10-18 13.36.53 (10)Lia continues to both impress and surprise us. We had high hopes for her when she entered kindergarten, especially since we felt she was ready two years ago, so it was nice to receive an email from her teacher saying, “Just wanted you to know how awesome I think your daughter is. She is always kind and a good listener. Whenever we get a new students, I put them next to Lia because I know she will be a great help to them.  Thanks for sending such a terrific girl.”

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Kindergarten at last!

We couldn’t believe it. One thing we worried about with Lia starting school, was the listening part. Once she’s settled in she loves to be social, so the “good listener” part surprised us. The rest impressed us and we’re extremely proud of her.

Levi … he’s three, and though he’s speaking really clearly now, there’s not much more to report, other than he makes us laugh, is occasionally, extremely bossy (especially in the morning), but also extremely chill. He just needs to wrestle with someone.

As mentioned above, Lis started working part-time for Staff Pro, a staffing agency for events. Today she took a shuttle to Pullman for the Washington State Cougars’ football game. Something to do for the much-needed extra cash.

I nearly forgot about the title of my post called “Same Strokes, Different Folks”. What did I mean by that?

We may be in a new town, new region, new environment, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop doing what I like to do (or get suckered into doing).

I began coaching Lukas’s YMCA basketball squad, mostly because they needed someone to coach. It’s only one day a week for eight weeks, but it’s been fun. Last year was a great learning experience for me, so I come into practice with confidence of what the kids need to get out of me and the weekly practice. I will say if there is one thing I miss, and one thing that is better about where we came from, it’s the Sultan Youth Basketball program. Well run, organized, inexpensive, but you know the kids and the coaches are learning a lot, and together. I do miss the SYB.

On Wednesday night our church has a program for the little ones (our kids), the adults, and the regular youth group. Well, rather than hang out with the adults I’ve been hanging out with the teenagers. Good group of kids, and a well ran program, thanks to our new youth pastor (and a new friend of mine). It’s been fun!

I also just started working for the Spokesman-Review in their sports department. Working part-time for the third largest newspaper in the state, I’ll be taking high school game scores from incoming phone calls, and possibly patching together the preps roundup. It’s nice to be back in the sports department, taking phone calls, doing some writing and just hanging out in a newsroom.

So yah, same strokes, different folks.Darth Vader EPVII

I’ll spare you the talk on the leaked Star Wars concept art that has made me even more giddy about December 18, 2015. I won’t bother you with the turnaround season I’m having in fantasy football, and how Lukas has put together a couple of nice squads.

I will tell you that the following is What The Johnson Five’s watching: The Amazing Race (our family’s Friday fix, helps the kids learn about the world in an entertaining sort of way), The Middle (us in TV format), Star Wars Rebels (goes without saying), Dog With a Blog (that’s mostly the kids), Gotham (I’m a Batman fan, but this seems a little too dramatic for me, I’ll stick around for a bit), Criminal Minds (that’s all Lis), and Tosh.0 (sometimes you need to laugh at how dumb people are).

Party on!

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Filed under Family, Life With Three Kids

Happy Birthday Lukas! with Kenny Rogers’ “The Greatest”

Sorry Mikey I’m borrowing the “Songs in the Key of Life” idea again!

If you’re not familiar with Mikey, or the “Songs in the Key of Life” idea, well slide on over to PopBlerd! Just wait until you’ve read my post, okay?

“Songs in the Key of Life” was a PopBlerd! favorite of mine, a column that uses the title of Stevie Wonder’s epic album from 1976, and allows us, the wannabe writer, to compare a song in our life to a moment in our life. In the past I used Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella” to cry about my sweet daughter, and I used Rascal Flatt’s “Skin (Sara Beth)” to talk about my wife’s battle with leukemia.

Today, in honor of my oldest son’s 10th birthday, I’m using Kenny Rogers’ “The Greatest”.

“The Greatest” was released in 1999, and tells the story of a little boy out in his backyard playing baseball by his lonesome – except to him he’s not alone. Back in ’99 a friend of mine said that the song reminded her of me. I could actually see that, as I had opened up to her about my 10-team imaginary baseball league I had during the mid-to-late ’80s (Oh who am I kidding, it lasted until about ’94 and then the Imaginary Strike of ’94 occurred and well, so did the start of my senior year of high school, so it was time to retire).

Like the boy in the song, I was in the backyard playing baseball by myself recreating box scores that featured myself, some of my friends (without their written consent), and my stuffed toys (some of them signed off on it – thanks Dapper Dan!). Don’t judge me! My grandma on my dad’s side was loony, so there!

There are certain hereditary things you notice more easily than others (excluding that aforementioned looniness). My eldest has his mother’s mouth, my freckles, and my sensitivity. My daughter has her mom’s brown eyes, my family’s little mouth, her dad’s knack for being deathly afraid of the dark and needing her younger brother to sit outside the toilet while she goes No. 2. My youngest son has his mom’s demeanor, my body shape. Poor dude!

You wouldn’t think something like imaginary baseball and scorekeeping for your imaginary tournament, would be hereditary. But it most certainly is!  Unless I’m wrong and your 9-year-old recreates a 16-team bracket and then plays out the contests in his backyard much like his father did some 28 years earlier. Didn’t think so.

It’s not like I taught him this either. I didn’t go outside and show him how to swing at an imaginary curveball, or sink a fadeway against an imaginary defender. I also didn’t catch imaginary touchdown passes from a quarterback that looks just like me. Nope, I wasn’t even into football back then.

Which brings us to Rogers’ song:

“The Greatest”

Little Boy, in a baseball hat
Stands in the field with his ball and bat
Says I am the greatest player of them all
Puts his bat on his shoulder and he tosses up his ball

And the ball goes up and the ball comes down
Swings his bat all the way around
The world’s so still you can hear the sound
The baseball falls to the ground

Ten years. Time flies when you’re raising three kids, battling cancer, attempting to figure out where you want your career to go, and every other imaginary curve life throws at you.

I’ll never forget the camping trip my parents coaxed us into joining them on. It was Saturday, October 16, 2004 and a nearly 40-week pregnant Lis was walking the streets of the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. Afterwards my parents’ would drive their motorhome into the middle of some campsite, in the middle of nowhere, for a night of supposed relaxation. After all, she still had about nine days before her real due date. Little did we know that (close your eyes all two of you men that read this) the doctor had stripped the membranes the day before, and all that walking and wiggling was enough to make an in utero Lukas realize he was ready to see the light of day.

Shortly after midnight the contractions started, shortly after 3 a.m. I’m pleading with my parents that I think Lis is actually in labor, and shortly after 3:01 a.m. my mom is behind the motorhome, using a flashlight to wave my dad through pine trees, like an airport runway worker guiding a loaded 747 for take-off.

We entered the hospital in the late-morning, and tried to get her checked in, but thanks to Lis’ calm and cool demeanor, the nurses didn’t believe Lis was actually in labor. They tried to persuade us to go home and comeback later but we chose the “Let’s Just See” option. The nurses hooked Lis up to some sort of seismometer and realized, “Holy smoke! You really are going to burst!”

Dad's first walk with BabyHours later we were introduced to low platelet counts, the chance of Lis bleeding out if having the baby naturally, and the chance of death for her, and possibly Baby Lukas. Deciding that we’d like her to survive, we chose the C-section, and months later wondered if all this was a precursor to what would later be known as Lisy’s Battle with Leukemia.

We watched as Lukas sucked up too much fluid, thus causing us to freak when he stopped breathing and they had to suck goop from his lungs, then wondered, along with the nurses, if he was okay because he had this low, barely audible, scratchy cry. Years later and he still has that quiet, scratchy cry. We were so blessed through those baby years. Unfortuntely, blessed is not what I’d call still hearing that barely audible cry on a regular basis 10 years later.

I had the honor or walking Lukas from the operation room to our hospital room and introducing him to his grandparents and his uncles. Perhaps the greatest moment of my life.

Now the little boy doesn’t say a word
Picks up his ball, he is undeterred
Says I am the greatest there has ever been
And he grits his teeth and he tries it again

And the ball goes up and the ball comes down
Swings his bat all the way around
The world’s so still you can hear the sound
The baseball falls to the ground

I was extremely tough on Lukas through the way-too-early-to-be-tough-on-him years. I tried to be the perfect father and instead ended up being the worst possible father I could be. Not only was I attempting to be that perfect father, I was dealing with stress from work, and the inability to control my anger and patience. Oh, to be dumb, angry, and 27 again. No thanks!

As first-time parents we tend to do, and put, too much on ourselves and our kids. We’re harder on that first child, because we think we’re supposed to be, when in reality we have no idea what we’re doing. I guess that’s why the first child usually ends up being the responsible one. What?! Look it up!

I battled through some rough times. Lis was patient with me. She and Lukas forgave me A LOT! I went through classes to help control it, but ultimately what has helped the most has been my faith in God, continuing to ask Jesus for forgiveness, and continuing to pray and work on my attitude, using scripture and older age to guide me.

It makes me cringe thinking about how I reacted to some silly things. I still remember the first time I watched him, when Lis returned back to work. I freaked out! He wouldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know what to do. Was he hungry? I fed him. Did he need to be changed? I changed him. I ended up rolling the stroller around in circles in the garage for hours until he finally fell asleep.

He makes no excuses, He shows no fears
He just closes his eyes and listens to the cheers

Hard to lose a battle with cancer when you have a little guy like this inspiring you!

Hard to lose a battle with cancer when you have a little guy like this inspiring you!

Flash forward a few months, and all of a sudden it’s just me and him. I’m forced to take care of him every night for 30 days, as his mom lay sick in a hospital bed 25 minutes away. When we leave the hospital that first night I tell him that we’re going to have to step up our game. That I’m going to need him more than ever. From the back seat of our car, as if he knew what the heck I was saying, he gives his dad a smile. Cementing what will forever be one of my favorite moments that we will ever share.

Flash forward a few years. I have a six-year-old, two-year-old, and a newborn. And I’m handling it like a champ. While Mom is at work the two older kids and I make crafts, or play games, while the newborn lies next to us watching, before falling asleep on the floor. Kid can still sleep anywhere, anytime (that’s also a hereditary thing, but from his uncle). Makes me laugh at Young Stupid Kevin. He tried so hard, thought he knew what he was doing, and ended up losing his patience, and mind.

We all learn from our mistakes – most of the time.

Little boy, he adjusts his hat
Picks up his ball, stares at his bat
Says I am the greatest the game is on the line
And he gives his all one last time

Lukas’ first few years were nearly perfect. Always smiling, always laughing, easy to take places (high school basketball games, fantasy football drafts, etc.). He was a good sport (I still remember the clueless excitement when he won his AWANA Grand Prix at age 5 – video below), and a good older brother. Then he turned five and became a bit of a pain…or what we call, a boy.

At around age 7 Lukas became a sports fan. What I thought was going to be a nasty trick God was playing on me, turned out to be an awesome blessing. Sure I’d be happy if he didn’t like sports, but if you’ve read my blog long enough you know that I love sports, and I have no one that rivals my infatuation with it in my family.

IMG_20140914_130903Every Sunday we sit on the couch and watch football. I can take him to a baseball game and he’ll sit and watch the entire game with interest. No more trips to the playground, or walks around the stadium to past the time. This summer he joined me in his first live fantasy football draft, and he did well, with his cheatsheets and highlighter, looking like he stole a page from his dad’s handbook. His team is 2-3 in the 16-team league we’re a part of (he’s battled injuries), but in our little 6-team league we joined with some Youth Group friends, he’s still undefeated, 6-0, recently crushing his father, and moving two games ahead in the standings. It’s been fun, and I look forward to future days attending games together, talking sports, and life together.

And the ball goes up like the moon so bright
Swings his bat with all his might
And the world’s so still as still can be
And the baseball falls, and that’s strike three

He’s a good kid. Sensitive (every year either we warn the teacher, or they warn us about his sensitivity in class. Weird, I remember being picked by my peers as the class representative in fifth grade, then crying to my teacher because I didn’t think I could handle it. Sometimes I look back and think, “Wow, how cool for them to choose me!” and wonder where my life would’ve gone had I chosen to continue to be the class rep. Overthinking? Maybe. Hereditary? Unfortunately.), intelligent, caring, competitive, loves to pick on his sister (ARGH!), creative in both constructing LEGO creations, and – my favorite – writing stories. He seems to have a knack for writing, his words are descriptive, and he throws in amusing sentences that keep his readers both entertained and involved. As someone that grew up wanting to write, but never had the motivation or push to do so, I look forward to helping him with his writing. Don’t make the mistakes I made. Heck, you’d rather write than sell insurance, that’s what I tell him.

I look back at the time I was too tough on him (and myself), but remember the time he helped Lis and I get through her cancer fight. I remember the time he slammed his sister’s finger in the door, but remember the time he sat and read to his newborn sister. I remember the time he fumes at his younger brother for smashing his newly constructed LEGO set, but I remember all the hugs, and how much his little brother looks up to him.

I remember the time he had no idea what he was doing on the soccer field (see video), and the time he did his best to will his basketball team to their first victory (they lost by one!).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our love for Star Wars. After all, we named him after my boyhood hero, Luke Skywalker. I’m proud that Lukas says his three favorite Star Wars characters – Han Solo, Boba Fett and Chewbacca – are all from the original trilogy. We’re already looking forward to the midnight showing of next year’s Episode VII.

And now 10. Double-digits! Just years away from becoming a teenager and passing his mom up in height. Ten years later and he’s still my best bud, and I am his. I think about that day when he’ll have a real best friend, and his dad is just the old dude that he talks sports with. I think about the day he may have a girlfriend, and he’ll have no need for his dad. I hope that he is open with me about his life. That we can continue to have that strong relationship, strong communication, something unfortunately I don’t feel I’ve had with my father. I had a friend of mine tell me about how his son asked him to be his best man and I thought, “How friggin’ cool is that?!” That’s my goal. Maybe not to be his best man, but to be someone he feels comfortable coming to for advice or just chatter on school, girls, religion, and fantasy sports.

Ten years! It’s been a learning experience, a lot of fun, some ups and downs, but to this day, if someone asks me what my greatest accomplishment is, the answer is simple: I’m a committed, involved, loving and funny (added that one for effect) father of three. Happy birthday buddy!

Now it’s supper time and his mama calls
Little boy starts home with his bat and ball
Says I am the greatest that is a fact
But even I didn’t know I could pitch like that

Okay, now go check out Mikey and his site PopBlerd! My bro from another area code is wicked smart in the ways of music, and he hilariously sent me a black belt after reading my last post. Thanks Mike!

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Filed under Birthday, Kids, Life With Three Kids, Lukas, Popblerd!

Overthinking 37 (AKA Closing in on 40!)

I tend to think about things too much. Hmm…maybe thinking isn’t the right word. Let me think…dwell, worry, stress, overthink? Crap! I’m doing it right now!

It’s not that I’m overly bright, I just want to make sure I’m doing things correctly, and that the people around me are satisfied. Rather than just going with the flow (like my wife), I’ll over think things like fantasy football, parenthood, life, boom-boom, and my upcoming birthday (excluding my birthday, the most important things in my life – but not in that exact order).

We just had a discussion with a 22-year-old in our small group who teased us 30-somethings about not knowing how old we were. We joked that after you turn 30 you don’t really know or care about how old you are because, well, you’re over-30.

For me it was all about 35. Once I turned 35 I could run for president. Remember my short-lived “Married Kevin” campaign? If not click here. Now when people ask me how old I am I have to think, “Wait, I’m not 35, I’m 37, but I’m not 37, Lis is 37, which means I’m still 36 until October when I turn 37!” See what I mean, overthinking! Vote Kevin

Even this week when at work we had to fill in our medical benefits form I circled “Age 35,” until I realized I was turning 37 in less than a week.

Thirty-seven! Two of my favorite numbers, two important numbers when it comes to Christianity, my favorite number (3), coupled with Lis’ favorite number (7). Hmm … maybe this will be an important year for me! Overthinking!

The scary part about turning 37 is that you’re that much closer to 40. In our early 30’s Lis and I were excited about turning 40. After all 40 is the new 22 right?! The kids will be older, and hopefully a little easier to handle (longer legs means longer bike rides; a better understanding of life, with less focus on needing that afternoon snack), and by the time I’m 40 I should be making enough money that will allow us to do more than just get by.

I don’t want to complain about lack of money. EVERYONE complains about lack of money. EVERYONE is just getting by, whether you’re a single person, married couple with no kids, single parent, family of five, or retired couple, EVERYONE is struggling. My situation isn’t worse than others, heck we have a roof over our head and can afford ramen, rice and beans. I don’t like to complain about money (or lack thereof) because listening to people in a better situation complain about how awful their situation is drives me nuts. It’s all about the lifestyle we lead. Some people need new cars, 300 channels in HD, a newer home, new clothes every couple of weeks, to dine out at an actual restaurant weekly, or puffing on that cancer stick daily.

Where am I headed with this? Oh, that’s right. I’m not going to complain about how we’re barely getting by (who am I kidding, that lead up paragraph was basically telling you I probably will), but I will say that when I was in my early to mid-30’s I thought I’d be doing better than I was when I was in my mid-20’s. Yes, I have three kids now, but I’m talking rate of pay, money saved, medical benefits for me and my family, the opportunity to walk into the local Wal-Mart and buy myself a new black belt when I need it without having to wait for Lis to do the budget and give me the greenlight. Still waiting…

“Need it” … I shouldn’t use that word need. It bothers us when Lukas says he needs that video game console (though we’re almost to the need part on that since I’m still rocking the GameCube and haven’t bought a game since 2008), after all, I don’t really need a new black belt, the duct tape that is holding the last few threads of the belt together is doing just fine.

Sure Lis’ fight with cancer taught us – in a hurry – how to financially survive, but please God, we’ve fought hard this last decade and would love to have just a little cushion. Fine we’ll start giving at church again.

Which brings me to the point of this story – nevermind, there really isn’t a point. It’s time to start overthinking about my life and where I want it to be in three years, when the dreaded 4-oh comes calling.

As mentioned above I need to get settled into a job; one that pays enough for us to get by, but offers the opportunity at not just financial growth, but growth within the company, plus retirement and medical benefits.

Gone are the days where I felt I deserved a certain amount of pay because of my 11-years of experience in this industry. Seriously, I’ve been turned down by two jobs that would’ve paid me over the barely-getting-by amount because of my lack of experience! I’ve done everything in this industry but claims (and succeed, but that doesn’t count)! Now I just want to start at the bottom, scrap by, and hope that I find a position that I can move up in. Guess I should’ve finished community college after all.

Second, I’m tired of consistently going to bed with a nagging chest pain. It’s GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). I know it. I’ve had it for a decade now (oh, probably longer just never told my a real doctor that’s what it was), but it’s finally time to seriously crack down on it before the GERD causes damage to my insides (if it hasn’t already). After my last 12-hour battle with intense heartburn, I cut pop out, which dropped my weight 10-pounds. I have the occasional Pepsi, but never at night, and never more than one glass. It’s helped, but still it’s not just the soda, it’s the ice cream, the deliciously greasy burger with a side of French fries. It’s the buffalo wings, chocolate and dumping salad dressing over my salad. Thankfully, most of our Lis-made meals don’t consist of these things (they are the special occasion, once a month type of meals), but Lis and I love snacking after the kids are in bed and when we’re just relaxing, watching television at night. Unfortunately, a bowl of cookie dough ice cream before I lay down on the sofa, doesn’t help my GERD. Lame!

So as I embark on my 37th year I’ll be keeping a “Food Diary”. A list of items that will list what I’ve eaten every day, with results of how I felt that evening, or throughout the day. Last night was a trial, and I went to bed with minimal pain in my chest. I know, I know, hearing “chest pain” sounds awful, and really it’s sometimes scary, especially when it happens nightly, but from what I understand it’s not entirely scary until it becomes esophageal cancer. So we’re cool for now!

Finally, the chest pain isn’t always solely based on binge eating, while binge watching The League. As I do with overthinking, I tend to stress over little things, like work, life, and even sports – both real and fantasy. I’ve done well this year, as I mentioned, my focus is solely on the Colts and not the Broncos (though that game against the Seahawks was both exciting and frustrating).

Sidebar: I know Russell Wilson led the ‘Hawks to victory in overtime but can we stop talking about how clutch he was, and how he outplayed Peyton Manning down the stretch?! With the ‘Hawks leading 17-3 Wilson (3-for-7 for 36 yards) not only was sacked (plus he fumbled, but recovered it himself), but he was also intercepted allowing the Broncos to cut the lead to 17-13. Sure the OT drive was great – thanks in part to Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson’s ability to run not throw – but Manning never got the ball in OT, so how could he beat him at his own game? Plus, he’s a horrible actor.

Sorry … back to the Colts, I didn’t even watch the second half of their opener against Denver, choosing to attend our first small group, in the hopes that we might make friends, and in the Colts disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, I didn’t get riled up despite Indianapolis getting robbed twice in the closing minutes, allowing the Eagles to come back and win. I’m getting better, right?

What I’m trying to say is that I need to control my stress levels. I need to not fret about things outside of my control. I need to not worry about unexpected workloads, take a deep breath and realize I’m one person and I can’t do 48 things at once, despite what our outside producer and clients may think.

I recently went though a Bible devotional that was called “Ten Things to Abandon for Spiritual Growth”. They were: materialism, competition, jealousy, drama, gossip, negative thinking, anger, violence, fear of man, and laziness.

Pretty convicting list, as I battle with at least eight of the ten items on that list.

I don’t even know why I shared that. On second thought, I think I was wanting to write it down so I jotted it down here so I remember it. I’ll leave it here for now.

As I close in on 37, and that much closer to 40, it’s time to figure out these three things: Set myself up to be financially stable, stop having achy chest pains, and fart less. Sorry, Lis added that last one.

Second Sidebar: October is here! My favorite month of the year! Not only is it mine and Lukas’ birthday (Oct. 17, and yes, yours too Jerry), but it’s also the beginning of the baseball postseason! Since I have cable now, I will be able to watch most of the postseason. I’m excited! So excited that I decided to make my predictions for this year’s Quest for a World Series Championship! Very unique name eh?

AL Wild Card: Kansas City Royals over Oakland A’s
I’m picking the Royals solely on the fact that they are the only team I’ve never seen play in the postseason. They were last in the postseason in 1985, I became a baseball fan in June 1986. Go Royals! Though I think the A’s could finally get their crap straight and ruin the Royals fun!

NL Wild Card: San Francisco Giants over Pittsburgh Pirates
I’m rooting for the Pirates. I like Andrew McCutchen. I like that the Pirates (much like the Royals, who suffered through postseason depression), are in the postseason for the second straight year after 21 years of futility. However, the Giants won a World Series in 2010 and 2012, and well, it’s 2014 so … see a pattern.

AL Division Series:
Anaheim Angels over Kansas City Royals
Detroit Tigers over Baltimore Orioles
I like the Angels and the combination of Mike Trout – Albert Pujols in a great series over the Royals. I’m thinking the Detroit Tigers get their pitching staff in order, and the trio of Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander outlast the heavy hitters of the Orioles. Plus, the Tigers’ hitters aren’t too shabby either, ‘member that Miguel Cabrera guy? He, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and JD Martinez, aren’t slouches either.

NL Division Series:
Washington Nationals over San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals
It’s hard picking against the steady Cardinals, and the every-other-year Giants. I don’t like picking the Dodgers (thanks the Patriots, now my second least favorite sports team) but can you pick against the year Clayton Kershaw had? And the Nationals? Wow, loaded on offense and pitching.   

AL Championship Series: Detroit Tigers over Anaheim Angels
I’ll take the pitching of the Tigers over the bats of the Angels.

NL Championship Series: Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Dodgers
Ditto here … I think the Nats have four aces in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzales (despite his early season struggles). I also think they have a lineup that can counter the Dodgers pitchers. Should be an exciting series, one that showcases the excitement that both Yasiel Puig, and Bryce Harper bring to the sport.

World Series: Washington Nationals over Detroit Tigers
Pitching wins games, and I think the Nationals have one more ace than the Tigers. Doug Fister will be the key here. Congratulations to the Nationals/Expos on their first title (counting their Montreal days), and DC’s first baseball title since 1924!

What a fun postseason it will be with the new wave of players being introduced on the big stage! Kershaw, Strasburg, Trout, Harper, Puig, McCutchen! It’s a bummer us M’s fans couldn’t showcase the second best pitcher in the game, “King Felix” Hernandez!

Eh, maybe next year!

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Filed under Life With Three Kids

Six Ways My 6-Year-Old Puts a Smile on My Face!

It’s secretly a parent’s favorite thing to do.

The kids are playing, it’s awfully quiet, and instead of taking a moment to relax – by yourself – upstairs, you decide to venture downstairs to see what mischief they might be getting into.

Like a burglar in the dark, you creep your way towards the room hoping to catch them red-handed, either drawing on the wall, or destroying their brother’s LEGO set, built the night before.

Instead what you witness causes an immediate glow to your face. What you expected to be a scowl, has turned into a huge grin. You try to hold back your laughter as you watch your child playing toys, engulfed in their own imaginary world or Stormtroopers, Hot Wheels, ninja turtles, or whatever Barbie’s do.

The moment unfortunately doesn’t last too long before they look over their shoulder, yell “STOP!” or “HEY!” and usually come out you with said-toy.

But it’s this moment, often hard to catch on video (though I’ve managed a few times but for a matter of seconds) that brings me great, great joy.

I’ve tried to figure out how to capture these moments. You can’t videotape everything (though some people try to), but you want to remember all of these times your face was lit up. You want to be able to look back 10, 20 or even 40 years from now and laugh about those innocent times, before they were teenagers, young adults, dare I say, parents.

My blog has always been about sharing our stories with ourselves (and whomever else that travels alongside of us) – a so-called history book for The Johnson Five.

With Lia’s sixth birthday today, I tried to figure out how to “celebrate” her in words. Last year I wrote about the song “Cinderella” and how it will forever remind me of my daughter, and in the past I’ve written about five things I’ve liked about her, and the day she was born.

This year I thought I’d write six ways Lia puts a smile on my face, without her knowing she’s putting a smile on my face.

Note: These aren’t the only six ways, there are probably six hundred ways, but since she’s turning six, so I’m writing six. Here are the six:

Allowing Me To Let It Go:
I’ve had a stressful last few months. Frustrated with everything life was throwing at me, I needed something that allowed my mind to get away, or should I say, allowed myself to “Let It Go”. If I’m feeling down and out, and need a quick pick me up, this video will do that for me every time, all the time.

Up, Up and Away!
There’s just an innocence with watching a lone person on a swing set swaying back and forth, back and forth, wind in their hair, smile on their face, their feet kicking in and out. Lia loves to get on a swing set and go, and go, and go. She’ll swing for chunks of time, and I’ll be watching from inside the house, peeking from a corner of a window, watching her, realizing that right now she’s free, she’s innocent, she’s content, she knows nothing about what lies ahead of her in life. It’s free, and makes me relaxed.

IMG_7050

Al-guh-rith-uhm
This one might sound silly, but for me there is something so special, and that makes me light up, when Lia talks. I know, I know, I’m probably over-exaggerating a bit, or maybe bragging a bit, but she has a gift of language that I haven’t found in another (now) 6-year-old. I used the word “algorithm” as an example, because the other night Lukas had trouble saying this not-that-easy word. I turned to Lia and said “algorithm”. She repeated it exactly as its enunciated – and then again, and then again. She has always been quick to enunciate words properly, words that she shouldn’t be able to enunciate. Even when she speaks Portuguese her dialect is perfect. Unlike Lukas, who has that Gringo dialect, she enunciates every Portuguese word the correct way. I wish I could say she got that from me, but her mother was a quick learner when it came to learning the English language, and even now people are amazed that English is not Lis’ native language, as she has just a hint of an accent, unless she’s ticked or excited, then we know we’re in trouble – or doing something right. ;)

I’m On a Bike Yo!
She learned to ride a bike when she was 4-years old, though it seemed like it took forever because of her fear of taking off the training wheels. Then we took the training wheels off and ZOOM! She hasn’t stopped yet! She’s had no fear on a bike, peddling and cruising, weaving in and out of other bike riders. She’s never had a fall, and even recently, when she was on her new 7-speed, zig-zagging on the trail near our house she remained in control. This after her bike tire got caught in the gravel, she swerved to cut it loose, but held on to her handlebars, taking control of her bike, her butt bouncing on her back tire, slowing her down so she wouldn’t crash. Once she was okay, we all had a nice laugh, as Lia jumped off the bike crying, “I’m okay! I’m okay!” But the fact she had control of her bike the entire time was impressive. 

IMG_20131026_113140 IMG_20140816_184441

The Imaginary World of Lia
As mentioned in the intro, there is something so peaceful, and innocent, when you’re watching kids play by themselves. I’m sure my mom felt the same way when I was playing baseball in the backyard with my league full of imaginary baseball players. Okay, so she thought I was crazy, but whatever. I can relate when Lia is outside singing and talking with her friends.

She’s Funny … and Not Just for a Girl
I’m not going to list one-liners she’s said around the dinner table, mostly because I don’t remember them. Since she was little she always had a witty sense of humor, the kind that combined with cuteness, could end up being a dangerous competition as she gets into young adulthood. It’s hard to sit still at the table, or when we’re playing UNO, when she’s reeling off jokes. What I love most is that she makes her older brother laugh, the one that usually annoys her (and vice versa). Lukas has an infectious laugh, and it often ends in tears, so seeing her make him fall over in his chair, brings great joy to a dad that often has to peel her slapping hands away from him.

That’s it! Six simple things that Lia does, that she doesn’t know she does, that makes me smile!

Happy Birthday Princess Lia!

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My Oh My Magical Mariner Moments!

It’s Friday in mid-September and for the fourth night in a row I’m watching baseball.

Sure, it was hard to watch baseball when I either didn’t have cable and/or the channels that produced those games for the past five years, but the real reason I’m sitting here watching baseball in mid-September is that for the first time since 2001 the Seattle Mariners are in postseason contention with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.

For the first time in recent memory, I have a vested interest in the pennant race. I’m checking scores and standings wondering how the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s, all teams just a game or so ahead of the Mariners with a dozen or so contests remaining, are performing.

2023273112Do I think the Mariners have a realistic shot at making the World Series? Not really. They lack a heavy hitter, the kind that I hoped they would get to supplement the signing of All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano. I had hoped for the signing of ex-Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who Cano publicly said he wanted, but they sat back, and Cruz has gone on to knock in 104 runs and smack 39 home runs for the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles.

And for those of you that complained about the signing of Cano, sure $240 million for 10 years is a lot to spend on a second baseman, but he’s been a leader since the first day of Spring Training, and though it seems like every time I watch him he grounds into a double play, he’s a superb fielder, is hitting .321, driving in 78. More importantly, I’ve noticed that he’s the first to console a pitcher after a wild at-bat, he’s the first one out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates after a score, a true clubhouse leader for a team that has lacked one since the days of Edgar Martinez (remember Ichiro’s knock? He just wanted to play, not lead). Yahoo! recently posted a nice piece complimenting my thoughts, you can find that here.

Braves Mariners Baseball-4Now, do I think this Mariners team could wreak havoc in the playoffs? Absolutely. Especially when you have an anchor like “King” Felix Hernandez. What was that that slogan from that Lake City “club” that always caught our eyes? Hundreds of beautiful ones and one ugly one? In reference to the Mariners and their pitching it’s “Hundreds of young ones and one old one?” My apologies to the revitalized 35-year-old Chris Young. If you have the kind of arms the Mariners have, you’ve got a good chance to win not just the Wild Card but possibly even a series.

After last year’s Super Bowl confusion caused some to wonder, “Why don’t you root for the Seahawks, you live near Seattle?” I thought it was best to explain my love for the Seattle Mariners, before everyone jumps on their bandwagon (though the ‘Hawks bandwagon is so full, I’m not even sure Seattleites realize the M’s are this close to a postseason berth) and start to think I am a latecomer to this party.

I will always be a San Diego Padres fan (established June 6, 1986), and if for some miraculous reason the two teams were to meet in the World Series, I would root for the Padres. But considering both teams have only reached the postseason nine times (five for San Diego; four for Seattle), and that only the Padres (twice, 1984 and 1998) have reached the World Series, there are probably better odds that Levi makes a World Series before either of the Padres or Mariners.

I moved to Seattle in 1992, and was followed in ’93 by “Sweet Lou” Pinella, and the current logo and colors. My first love had always been baseball, and since I moved from the professional baseball-less state of Hawaii, it was easy to get excited rooting for the Mariners, and be back attending baseball games.

I have fond memories of attending those Mariner games, both from the Kingdome and Safeco Field. I took pictures of the ‘Dome’, just days before they imploded it, and I attended both the first time they allowed fans to view Safeco Field (I remember walking through the tunnels of the 300-level and then viewing from high above, the beautiful fresh grass of the stadium; A friend of mine commenting that I looked like a kid in a candy store.), and Safeco Field’s opening series in July 1999, versus my Padres.

I remember screaming at the TV in excitement as Ken Griffey Jr. scored from first on what is now simply called “The Double” in the clinching Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series. And since it continues to give me goosebumps, I’ll post it here.

I remember listening to the radio on my drive home during the disappointing 1997 postseason, when the M’s won the AL West with arguably the best player (Griffey, who won the AL Most Valuable Player), shortstop (Alex Rodriguez), pitcher (Randy Johnson) and designated hitter (Edgar Martinez), and set a record for home runs, but lost to the Baltimore Orioles three games to one, with Johnson losing twice. Ugh!

I remember sitting on the wrong side of a Red Robin bar when Carlos Guillen squeeze bunted home the go-ahead run in the Mariners’ 2000 ALDS sweep of the Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately, our side of the bar was on a delay, so I heard an eruption while Guillen dropped the bunt down and then Rickey Henderson trotting across the plate. I had my own mini-eruption.

And then the 2001 116-win season … Double Ugh!

Alright Kevin we get it. You like the Mariners, but where are you going with this?

In honor of the Mariners push for the postseason I thought I would post my top 10 My Oh My Mariner Moments. These are games I physically attended. These are games that stick out in my mind, that hold both on and off-the-field memories for me. I’m sure there are some that I’m leaving off. I’ve had the privilege of sitting up in the Safeco suite and getting free food and drinks. I’ve rode the Sound Transit train to many of Sunday ballgames. I was there when Griffey returned, heck, I learned about Michael Jackson’s death while sitting in the Diamond Club during an afternoon game versus the Padres. And I’ve spent many of fun times with many of friends at baseball games. My apologies to those that may read this that think, “He didn’t mention the game that … ” If I forgot something please remind me.

And now here are my top 10 Mariner Moments …

No. 10 – All-Star Scalpers!
This first one isn’t quite a Mariner highlight, but back in 2001 the M’s and Safeco Field, hosted baseball’s annual All-Star festivities. My brother, a couple of our buddies and myself decided we wanted to not just attend FanFest, but the actual Home Run Derby. Problem was we didn’t have tickets, and we didn’t have a lot of money. Luckily we sweet talked a scalper, paid less than ticket value (the Derby had already started) for tickets scattered all over the stadium and snuck our way into the centerfield beer garden so we can watch Sammy Sosa and Jason Giambi hit mammoth home runs (oh, the pre-drug testing days). After further review Luis Gonzalez (another rumored steroid user), actually won the competition but I’ll remember Sosa hitting one out of the stadium, and Giambi trying to break the windows of the Hit it Here Café.

Kevin 007No. 9 – You’re Out (and You Have the Right to Remain Silent …)
Since we’re no longer on speaking terms, I wasn’t excited to give Youngest Brother that much chatter in my blog. But when he’s 11-years-old, is influenced by my dad’s business partner to jump over the rail pregame to snag a loose baseball that’s sitting yards away from (speaking of steroids) Jose Canseco, is then arrested, viciously handcuffed, loses the ball in the “scuffle”, and I’m standing there shocked, screaming for my parents, and watching my dad, with his wannabe Tom Selleck mustache, pulling his best Carl Lewis impression by hurdling aisles of Kingdome seats, sprinting towards us … it probably deserves to make the top 10 (and maybe higher now that it’s bringing back memories). Youngest Brother was detained for a bit, before both the Sheriff, the Kingdome security office and my livid father were able to realize it was a simple, and possibly stupid, mistake. In these overbearing times of more and more security, it’s weird to look back and think that we actually thought it was okay for him to do that, but we had seen it the night before (and the dude got away with it) and thought … let Youngest Brother do it, he’ll do anything.

Rally TimeNo. 8 – The Post-Wedding, Pre-Reception Bachelor(ette) Party!
Lis and I were hitched in Brazil. No ceremony. No rehearsal dinner. No pomp and circumstance. And unfortunately no bachelor party. It was nice, but looking back, we probably should’ve done a better job of planning it. Either way, when we returned from Brazil my mom had planned a nice wedding reception for us. But something was missing, that bachelor(ette) party that we never got to have. The one that I had dreamed about – taking a limo with my pals to a baseball game. In my dreams there was a suite, however in my dreams my mom, aunt, brother’s girlfriend and MY WIFE were not part of it! Well dreams don’t often come true for me, and this was one that turned out better than expected. I remember wearing our rally caps (and looking back the caps worked as the M’s scored three runs in the ninth to defeat the Orioles 3-2), I remember my mom dishing out hot dogs, microwaved at home and wrapped in tin foil, but most of all I remember hanging with some of my best buddies, my parents, my uncle and aunt, my late uncle, and my wife and having a darn good time.

No. 7 – Pretty In Pink M’s Hat
IMG_3855
As a baseball fan it’s always an extra special moment when I get to take my kids to their first professional baseball game. It took me a few years to convince myself to take Lia to her first game. She’s always been a little busy, which translates to less easy to handle for a length of a baseball game. When Lia was three (okay, that’s younger than I expected) I took her to her first M’s game. We played at the playground, we walked around the stadium, we watched maybe an inning of baseball, and I bought her a pink M’s hat that she wears, and still reminds her of her first Mariners game with Dad.

No. 6 – The Kid
Lukas attended his first game when he was eight months old. Since then he’s attended more than a dozen games. As I have mentioned, I’m a dad before anything else, meaning I’d rather take my son to a ballgame than take some of my best friends. The first few years he was not very interested. We would spend most of our time wandering the ballpark, and hanging out inside the playground in centerfield. Occasionally on a Sunday after a game, he’d get to run the bases and I would get the opportunity to walk the actual field. Then he turned seven and became a sports fan. It’s been enjoyable going to ballgames the last couple of years. He asks questions, knows the players, pays attention to the games, out of town scoreboard, the ball, strikes and outs. Last year my buddy Ian, gifted us with tickets to an afternoon game, where Lukas and I sat 10 rows behind home plate. We felt like we were catching King Felix. This year Ian invited us to an event through the Volunteers of America where Lukas was able to visit, get pictures and autographs, and even ask a question to a few of the players. “Who’s your favorite Star Wars character?” And the past few days when I’ve been planted in front of the TV hoping for them to bite into the A’s Wild Card lead, he’s been there with me, watching and rooting alongside me. He’s come a long way since he was two and fell asleep in his Caillou chair. Thank you God!

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No. 5 – You’ve Been Zito’d!
IMAG2874Lis has never been a baseball fan, but when you’re temporarily living in this strange country, friends with a strange man, that wants to take you to a strange sport, you’ll try it out. Lis’ baseball debut was a memorable one. We were watching pregame warm-ups, standing along the railing on the left field side, watching the Oakland A’s pitchers throw long toss. One minute they are throwing back and forth, the next the ball is spiraling toward us, faster than a change up. I flinched. Lis, staring off to wherever she may have been staring, didn’t see it coming, and just like that SMACK! The ball had hit the hand holding her camera (they weren’t digital back then, so the film came flying out), and her thigh. She had stitch marks on her finger, ended up having a huge bruise on the side of her thigh. The camera was busted, ruining any shot we had at a photo op (where were you camera phones?). We retrieved the ball, she told the player, in her broken English, “Hey! You hit me!” And then Barry Zito apologized, signed her ball, and ended up winning the 2002 Cy Young award. The oddest coincidence, the game took place on April 7, 2002, three years to the day that Lis was diagnosed with leukemia.

No. 4 – Welcome Back Baseball; Welcome Back Life!
I had no idea when I had purchased tickets to the September 18, 2001 Anaheim Angels versus Seattle Mariners contest, that I’d be attending the most emotional baseball game of my life. It was a week after the September 11 attacks, and like everything else, baseball had been shutdown, taking a week to remember, honor, reflect, weep, and clear out the absolute confusion of what had happened to the country we love. Major League Baseball resumed play on September 18, and my parents, Youngest Brother and me, were in attendance. During that week, anytime I heard President Bush mention the word “resolve” I had chills down my spine. I found myself confused, frustrated, and often emotional, at just watching the images from that day. Well, the M’s game took all those bottled emotions, put them with 45,000 other fans that were experiencing the same emotion, creating a spout that allowed a week long build of tears to just flow. The M’s handed out little American flags, there was an emotional pregame ceremony and moment of silence, EVERYONE belted out the Star Spangled Banner, we waved our flags throughout the game, and then they played Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful” during seventh inning stretch and well … DONE! Youngest Brother said, “If I ever need to think about crying, I can just remember this game.” Oh, and the Mariners won 4-0, their 105th win of the season, clinching a tie for the American League West, a title they would earn the following day, en route to tying a major league record with 116 wins.

No. 3 – “Just Move the Cone”
Not sure why I always volunteered to drive. Hmm…maybe I didn’t volunteer maybe I was forced to, after all I had a ’95 Acura Integra that fit maybe 3-1/2 people comfortably. It was October 15, 2001 and Ian, Wes, Aaron and I were headed to the pivotal Game 5 of the American League Division Series. The Mariners had won 116 games in the regular season, and were supposed to cruise in their first round series against the Cleveland Indians. Except they stumbled. Shut out in Game 1 by Chuck Finley, bounced back in Game 2, got slammed 17-2 in Game 3, in Game 4 they used a little “Two Outs, So What?!” comeback magic forcing a Game 5 at Safeco Field. I had been to a few games during that magical 2001 season, but I had never seen the crowd so tense. We were quiet, we were nervous, we were anxious, we were scared. Ian and Wes attempted to bring their own “SoDo Mojo” to the game, saying they would stand up the entire game, I think it worked for an inning or two, or at least until the M’s put the first two runs on the board in the second inning. Thankfully this allowed the crowd time to relax, and by the end of the game, the M’s had clinched their second trip to the ALCS. Now to get the car … parking was crazy, but we noticed a spot that was loosely coned and (it’s debated on who actually) suggested “Why don’t we just move the cone over?” Just enough to allow my little car to squeeze in. We debated, took a vote and, moving the cone won. Except that it lost, because when we returned my car was no where to be found. After calling the tow company we realized that their office was across town, near the Space Needle. We walked a few miles to a bus route, took a bus through downtown, walked up a residential hill on the backside of the Needle, across the Seattle Center, and finally to the tow company where we realized the bill was $300-plus, oh, and the car is actually in a storage near Safeco Field. That’s right, on the other side of town. Livid, I borrowed money from my folks, paid their outstanding bill, told them they were jerks, and thankfully met nice enough people that were also ticked at the tow company (is anyone ever not ticked at a tow company?), that would let the four of us cram into their buddies’ truck and make the trek back to the lot. We learned a valuable lesson that day: Never, EVER move the cone!

No. 2 – Last Minute SoDo Mojo!
IMG_20140409_194055Those pesky Yankees. There is a reason so many didn’t like them, especially during the late ’90s and early ’00s. Before they did it to us in 2001, they did it to us in 2000. Ian and I scored tickets to Game 5 of the ALCS, the Mariners trailing 3-1, I can only assume that the person that scored the tickets didn’t want to watch the M’s lose a fourth straight, and watch the Yankees celebrate on our home field. It was October 15, 2000 (funny, No. 3 on this list also took place that day), and the tickets we scored sounded too good to be true. Turns out they were true. Game 5 of the ALCS and we’re sitting 10 rows behind home plate. The M’s scored one early before the Yankees bounced back with two in the fourth. Things didn’t look promising, the Yankees bullpen had been lights out, so the later in the contest, the less our chances looked. In the fifth inning the M’s struck, Alex Rodriguez singled off of ex-Mariner Jeff Nelson, giving the M’s a 3-2 lead, and Edgar Martinez and John Olerud followed A-Rod with back-to-back home runs. The crowd erupted. We were hugging each other, we were hugging the ladies behind us, it was an amazing comeback, victory and experience. Ian’s always been my M’s buddy (at least pre-Lukas), and he and I were able to celebrate an incredible game, at a stadium we so cutely have our names engraved on a brick.

No. 1 – More Like Sojo Mojo!
In what may forever be the most thrilling sporting event I’ve ever attended, No. 1 on this list is the school-skipping, early birthday present, stadium shaking, ear drum bursting, one-game playoff between the Los Angeles Angels and our Seattle Mariners. Down 12-1/2 games on August 20, the Mariners made comeback after improbable comeback, thus the slogan “Refuse to Lose”, en route to tying the Angels and forcing a one-game playoff on October 2 (a day before birthday No. 18) for the American League West championship, and a chance at the M’s first postseason series in it’s 19 year history. The M’s broke first, scoring one run in the fifth inning. They would nearly tear the roof off the Kingdome, when Luis Sojo’s bases loaded double, combined with throwing error, allowed him and three others to score, giving the M’s a 5-0 lead. The Mariners would end up winning 9-1, with Randy Johnson tossing a complete game, including the game-clinching strikeout, and Hall of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus’ famously saying, “Randy looks to the sky that is covered by the dome and bedlam!” It was complete bedlam! I had never, and have since never, been a part of that kind of atmosphere. My parents, friend and I celebrated with everyone. We were hugging the people next to us, behind us and in front of us. People were running onto the field, leaping from the outfield bleachers (see below video), all to scoop up some dirt from the mound, and become a part of Mariners history. It was history, the most important moment in M’s history … until “The Double” trumped it days later.

Go M’s!

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