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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Filed under Birthday, Lia, Life With Three Kids

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
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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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Filed under Baseball, Life With Three Kids

I Like It!

Who had the UNDER on the Johnson Five returning “back home” within two years?

I know it’s only been a month, but I’ll have to admit that unless something drastic happens, the UNDER looks like a bad bet.

“Oh you just wait until you have six inches of snow to shovel off your driveway!”

“Wait until the dreaded winter comes along and your commute becomes a crawl.”

“Wait until the new friends you are making get to know you, and start to tire from your goofiness, wannabe expertise in sports, Star Wars, and Boyz II Men. Wait until you get involved in the community and ask them to be a part of something you’re involved in.”

I know, I know, it’s not always going to be Pleasantville or The Truman Show (two movies from the ’90s that more than a couple of people have compared our new little town to), but …

I LIKE IT!

When we left the Sky Valley I assumed there would be some remorse, some non-pizza induced heartache, some restless nights when I laid awake tossing and turning, worried about the goings on in the little town of Sultan, missing the non-responsive attempts to get the family together for a Sunday afternoon BBQ, or miss inviting myself over to my parents’ house to watch sports. I thought the kids might miss asking Lis over and over again if she could text our neighbors to see if their kids could come out and play.

A little over a month into uprooting my family from the west side of Washington to about three miles east of Idaho, the Johnson Five are realizing it that we may really like our new home.

A little over a month into uprooting my family and what’s not to like?

The weather has been nice. Sure the winds pick up quite a bit, and we get the occasional thunderstorm, but overall it’s been clear days and warm nights where the temperatures don’t drop much and we’re able to enjoy a post-dinner walk, bike ride, or football toss in the park.

When we moved here we vowed to take advantage of the perks our new town had to offer, like bike trails, summer events in the park and a close proximity to everything.

IMAG2830

9.4 miles to McDonald’s, makes the McDouble easier to handle.

In the past we weren’t able to jump on our bike and ride that far without driving alongside speeding vehicles on a two-lane highway, or without borrowing a truck to transport our bikes to a trail that we can ride long distance on. In the last two weeks we rode our bikes to Post Falls, Idaho (19 miles round trip) and the Spokane Valley Mall (15 miles round trip), crossing just one major intersection, and leaving directly from our driveway. Sure, we may have committed child abuse by letting Lukas and Lia peddle 34 miles, but it’s all in good fun, and something we couldn’t do where we used to live.

Lia singing "Let It Go" with the Spokane Symphony - and a bunch of random kids.

Lia singing “Let It Go” with the Spokane Symphony – and a bunch of random kids.

Another perk is having three beautiful parks within walking distance from our house. One Sunday we went to church, came home for lunch, went to the lake, came home for dinner, and finished it up with a walk to the park. Minor league baseball is a 15-minute drive from home, and the surprisingly, gorgeous resort town of Coeur d’Alene is just 20 minutes from our home.

The neighbor kids (and there are at least four that are regulars) do the extremely odd thing of knocking on our door to see if the kids can play, and just tonight, I got to walk 15 steps to the neighbors to watch Monday Night Football.

I’m sorry but … hmm, not really.

Remember how I liked getting involved with too many things? Well, I couldn’t let that streak end!

I went to a Relay For Life meeting, spewed my RFL experience and knowledge, and just like that I may be one of the chairs for next year’s event! It’s actually given me a new energy towards my favorite FUN-draiser, as this is an event that had just 11 teams, 10 that were corporate teams, and is in a community that is primed for this event. Can I get a, “What! What!”

I’ve also volunteered to teach the 4th and 5th graders in Sunday School! That’s right church folks, we wanted to tour a few churches to find one that had things we were looking for: a need for service, small groups, young families, youth and a youth program. The first church we visited was, like us, getting a fresh start with a fairly new pastor, very new youth minister and new ideas. We figured this was the perfect time to come in. The church had plenty of young families, a ton of kids, an importance placed on small groups, and, when someone overheard me talking about my past work with the youth, they let me know about the opportunity to help out with Sunday School. Hmm…I think God led us to the right place.

We have since joined a small group, which for Lis and I, being a part of a small group was a turning point in our faith (thanks Plates!), and love it. There are four kids Lukas’ age, six girls Lia’s age, and a boy Levi’s age. It’s awesome (dare I use the word blessing?) to see how excited they all are to attend church and our small group. Levi, usually a chill lil’ fella, continues to smile when he talks about his new friend. He’s never had a friend before. Kinda precious.

Lukas is slowly adapting to school. It’s been kind of a struggle for him as it’s a new school, with new people, but the aforementioned small group kids have welcomed him into their lunch table, and he rides his bike to and from school with a neighbor friend.

IMG_20140902_212319The one down part about this area is that it’s very hard to get into a basketball program. They love their sports (especially basketball), so getting him into a competitive league has been difficult. In that aspect we do miss our Sultan Youth Basketball program.

Lia has entered Kindergarten, and well, as she’s always done, she’s rocking it. She’s so excited to learn, rumor has it she pulls the old paper out of the recycle bin so she can come home and do it again. She’s always been a quick to learn, so we worried that maybe, just maybe, she may be more social than focused. So far, so good. She gets to ride the bus to school, which she was excited about, and has already made a bus buddy.

IMG_20140916_090406As mentioned Levi has made a buddy through our small group. He loves sharing a room with his brother, and having a downstairs where he can escape to, so that nobody knows he’s playing with LEGOs, Ninja Turtles, or dressing Stormtroopers up in doll clothes.

I’m not the only person that admits, “I like it!” Lis is very fond of our new surroundings, loving the fact that she can ride her bike anywhere. Sure it’s a little odd having only Levi around, but we’re both excited that Lia is in school for a couple of hours.

Me? Well thanks for asking. Work is … work. At least I get to interact with humans and not cardboard cutouts of Danica Patrick. TGIF means something again, and I actually look forward to wearing jeans on Friday. My wedding ring fits onto my ring finger for the first time in seven months (dislocated it playing basketball and haven’t been able to slide it over my swollen knuckle), and personally, I feel the happiest I’ve felt in years.

Call me Truman, or call this Pleasantville, either way I like it!

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Filed under Levi, Lia, Life With Three Kids, Lis, Lukas, Work

Rebranding A Blog … and Myself!

As November nears, so does the ninth anniversary of Lis’ remission.

We often take the fact that she’s still here for granted, using the seventh of April (the anniversary date of her diagnosis), and our annual American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life fundraising event, as the only days to reflect on how her cancer battle changed our lives for the better.

This blog has become a reflection of both her victory and the fact that we overlook this life-changing event.

I started typing a journal back in April 2005, found out about these weblog things a month later, and began posting Lis’ journey as a way to tell family and friends about how she was doing without answering numerous emails asking, “How is she doing?”

All of a sudden people from around the world were sending prayers and well wishes our way, inspired by our story. It was pretty incredible.

In the years since we’ve talked less about that cancer diagnosis and more about Star Wars, my love/hate relationship with sports, and our little family. What do you expect it’s been nine years since she was considered in remission, and since then a lot has happened with us.

That’s why, after nine years of being “Lisy’s Battle with Leukemia” I’m changing my blog to “Life with Three Kids.” Call it the rebranding of a blog!

(Heck, thanks to my PopBlerd! buddy, I was even able to nail down the domain name and hosting privileges for this site. Thanks Mikey! You’re awesome! The rest of you go follow PopBlerd! right now! The dude knows his music!)

Why the change? Well lifewiththreekids.com is easier to remember than mylisy.wordpress.com. Plus, life with three kids has become my favorite thing in life. It seems to be the one thing I’m passionate about, enjoy doing (the majority of the time), and am okay at (again, some of the time).

That insurance thing … eh. The sports thing … everyone does that. The fantasy sports thing … everyone seems to do that too. The writing thing … again, with the Internet isn’t everyone a writer these days? Life with three kids? Now that takes some serious hard work and dedication!

I also hoped prayed thought there’s an off-chance that someone may stumble across my dad blog and think, “This guy seems alright! Let’s sign him to a multi-year, double-digit dollar-per-hour contract for our website.” I wish!

I have stumbled across numerous Mom or Dad blogs (there’s even a Disney show that the kids like called Dog with a Blog), that give insight, stories and opinions about parenthood. Why not me? I like poking fun at myself and my kids on the World Wide Web.

I want to be like Stan … but with less hair.

The rebranding of my blog came at a time when I was focusing on “rebranding” myself as well. When people ask me what I do I want to tell them that first and foremost, I’m a father of three and a husband of one. I mean, who wants to meet another lowly insurance agent? Next time you see your insurance agent, give them an embrace. After all they are people too, you know. Except underwriters.

Our move to the other side of the mountains (I’ve learned that people over here call the west side of the mountains The Soggy Side. The people on The Soggy Side, call our side Idaho), has helped with this “rebranding” a fresh start filled with new people and surroundings. I’ll tell you more about that in the upcoming days. Aren’t you excited?

What does all this mean for my blog? Not much.

Again, lifewiththreekids.com is easier to search for, type into your URL bar (the official name of that space is escaping me right now), and may allow non-family and friends to accidentally come across it while searching for things like, “Why did I have three kids?”, “I hate my life with three kids!”, “Why don’t my only child friends appreciate my life with three kids?” or “I have no life with three kids.”

I’ve also restarted my Twitter account and started a Facebook page (though through Lis’ account since I’m still fighting the Facebook urge – and doing darn well I thank you very much!) that is focused on Life With Three Kids!

IMAG2829If you’ve read my blog long enough you know that what our family does, and what I write about, is usually focused on my life with three kids. I like spending time with my family. We like to spend time together. I like to have them included in everything I do. Heck, Lukas even gave his NFL predictions in my annual NFL prediction post a few weeks back. (Lia, Levi and Lis chose theirs by using the table mat from McDonald’s picking their NFC and AFC champions based on the helmet design. Levi took the Chargers over the NY Giants, I’m thinking he took the Chargers because of the lightning bolt that resembles Lightning McQueen. He did admit taking the Giants because “THE BLUE ONE!” Lis took the fleur-de-lis design of the Saints over the Colts. And after typing fleur-de-LIS I realized the coincidence in her name and fleur-de-lis. Fleur is flower in French, which would mean Lis’ flower, and I’ll stop there before we get into dirty jokes. Meanwhile, Lia continued her curious infatuation with Native Americans. She picked the “Indians!” also known as the Redskins, though I think they prefer … I don’t even know anymore, over “my dad’s favorite team” the Colts.)

Where was I?

What I hope to accomplish with my blog is combining updates for my family and friends on The Soggy Side about what and how we are doing over here, with stories about parenthood, being a father of three kids, being a husband of a mom with three kids, raising three kids in this crazy world we live in, and being a Christian father attempting to raise Christian kids in this crazy world we live in. Yes, I’ve poo-poo’d about religion quite a bit, but for the first time in my life I’ve totally been “Whatever you want God, I’m on your magical ride!” and you know what? I’ve been consistently happy, like for a month straight, for the first time since – I’m going to go with when Lis and I were first hitched. That’d be 11 years for those scoring at home. Seriously, I sit in traffic on the way home with a smile on my face. It’s pretty awesome.

So yes, I will include stories of my faith, and how I’m a continuously struggling, yet growing Christian man overgrown boy, and father.

These four people (the three kids and the one wife) are the most important people in my life, and after spending too much time attempting to include everyone else into our world (what the *be strong* was I thinking?!) I’ve realized, my sole focus needs to be on leading them.

Okay, so this blog may be inviting you into our world now, but … whatever it’s different!

Let’s have fun!

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Sports, Society and Kids

If you’ve read my blog for more than a few months you know that there are few things I love more than sports. My wife and kids being one of them. And actually, that might be it.

As my eldest, Lukas, has gotten older he’s become more and more interested in everything sports. He loves playing competitive basketball (and actually was born with a decent shot), wants to get back into soccer, likes to toss the football, and he and I have gotten into some intense Wiffle ball games in the backyard. Not to mention his “imaginary” football, basketball and baseball tournaments he plays out in the front or backyard of our house. Funny how something as silly as “imaginary” sports and tournament brackets are hereditary. Without going too far off the rabbit trail, for five to six years – when I was a kid – I had an imaginary baseball league with imaginary players (and some of my friends, both real and stuffed), stat sheets, transaction reports, a postseason and more. If I find both the paperwork and courage to post them, I’ll definitely link them to this post.

130926_askbryan_insideThanks to my too-much-nonsense-knowledge of most sports, and his subscription to SI for Kids, he’s also gotten to know the players, teams and positions they play for, which makes me proud when he can look at a Carolina Panther Madden ’15 toy at McDonald’s and assume that the nondescript toy represents reigning Defensive Player of the Year Luke Keuchly.

This year I trained him in the nuances of fantasy football. He did multiple mock drafts, learned that kickers are always taken last, and don’t snag a defense before the next-to-last round, unless it’s one of the top five and you’ve already taken care of your core roster.

Now that the season is starting I’m trying to train him on the fact that nobody is going to trade Trent Richardson for Calvin Johnson. Sorry buddy!

And now that he’s more acute in following the NFL and certain players, I’ve had to introduce him to the reality of football, both on and especially off the field. There are some dumb dudes out there (SEE: Wes Welker, LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell) and there are some bad dudes out there (SEE: Ray Rice).

Which sucks.

These days drugs and abuse suspensions are mixed in with injury reports and box scores.

I’ve had to talk to him about the drugs that players like to sneak into their body, in hopes of making them indestructible, to “recreational” drugs that are frowned upon in football, but yet society seems to celebrate the use of it. (Have you watched a movie lately? Smoking pot has become the norm, it’s either used in a very amusing way, or used as a way for people to just “hang out”. It’s legal in Washington State, so it can’t be that bad right?)

And now Ray Rice.

Thankfully in fantasy land I told him to stay away from Rice. He’s old and will miss the first two games. He hasn’t asked too many questions – yet, but now I’ll have to explain to him that a player he once liked as a running back is no longer in the league because he decided to knock out his at-the-time, soon-to-be wife, and drag her limp body out of an elevator. The dude didn’t even have an “Oh crap!” moment after KO’ing her. He just stood over her, then dragged her out of the elevator.

As it always has, sport seems to mirror society, or in some cases, like of Brooklyn Dodger great, Jackie Robinson, changes society.

We introduced him to Robinson by watching 42 together, telling him if he had any questions, please ask. It was weird for him to see a time when blacks weren’t allowed to play sports, thankfully times have changed for the better, but unfortunately we still have to hear about ex-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and most recently Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson, making stupid comments about race. C’mon now! Just treat everyone the same, it’s pretty easy. Dad loves Peyton Manning because he’s fun to watch, he loves Boyz II Men because he loves their voices, he married your mom because we love each other and have a great time together, not because Manning is white, Boyz II Men are black and your mom is Brazilian … okay, maybe the latter.

Recently Lukas started asking questions about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player, mostly because Sam’s every move has been all over the news. They were all football related questions, thankfully, because I’m not ready to explain sexuality with him. And not just Michael Sam’s sexuality, but sexuality overall.

His good buddy talked about all the girlfriends he had in third grade – THIRD GRADE! – and Lukas just laughed it off saying he doesn’t ever want to have a girlfriend. His other buddy asked him if he’d rather kiss a girl or a boy. Lukas answered correctly by saying, “None!” It wasn’t until the fifth grade that I had my first crush, in eighth grade my buddies and I made the comment, “I’m glad I don’t have a girlfriend. Then we’d have to do what they want to do.” This was after we lost our lunch buddy to a girl. And it wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I actually kissed and dated a girl. Things turned out alright – I think.

I guess I should look at these opportunities as a way to open conversation with my son about drugs, abuse and sexuality. Sure Lukas is entering the double-digits in his age (he’ll be 10 in mid-October), and his eyes will be open to things like drugs, alcohol, abuse, and dare I say, girls and sex?! NO! But I wanted to keep my son pure and innocent for as long as possible, unfortunately the world seems to be moving too fast for me.

The questions about sexuality – when they come – may be more difficult to answer, but the answer about Ray Rice is much, much easier.

Remember never, ever hit a girl. And nothing good ever happens after 1am.

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