That Spirit of Christmas

It’s my favorite Christmas song of all-time, featured in my favorite Christmas movie of all-time.

Ray Charles’ “That Spirit of Christmas” is the perfect anthem for what Christmas should be about. Spending time with family, the amazing feeling of giving, praising Jesus’ birth, all the happiness and joy that the season should bring. If there’s ever been a time to soak in this song, it’s now. As Charles’ sings, “Why can’t it remain; All through the year.”

Christmas is the time of year

For being with the one’s we love
Sharing so much joy and cheer
What a wonderful feelin
Watching the one’s we love
Having so much fun
I’ve always loved Christmas.

I love listening to Christmas music on my way into work (check out my Spotify playlist titled KJ’s Christmas Karols), love taking the family around local neighborhoods checking out Christmas lights. I’ve loved taking my family (and the extended family, whether they like it or not) to Snowflake Lane, or most recently Coeur d’Alene’s Christmas parade, and Christmas fireworks and light show – despite the freezing rain (and sand) coming in from all angles.

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Yes, I’ve become Clark Griswold, always wanting to create the biggest and best memories for the people around me. So what!

This will be a different Christmas for The Johnson Five. For the first time since ever, I will not be spending Christmas with family. It’s hard for all of us as we have created Christmas traditions of spending Christmas Eve at my folks’ watching Christmas movies, eating pizza, and having a White Elephant gift exchange. On Christmas we would wake up early, open what little gifts Santa brought us, and then immediately head back to my parents’ house for Christmas-colored French toast, gift-giving, and time with the family.

I would love to use the excuse that the mountain pass will be too treacherous for us to climb over, or that our vehicles are not well-maintained to make that trek, but … the pass shouldn’t be bad, and we have a new van that we’d love to try out on a road trip.

I would love to use the excuse that we don’t have the money to support the drive, but I’m working two jobs, Lis is working one and well, that’s no excuse.

I would love to use the excuse that I can’t take the time off work, but in reality I’m off from December 23 to the 28th, plenty of time to spend with family.

No, unfortunately, unnecessary (or maybe it was necessary?) family drama has caused Lis and I to make the difficult decision to stay away this holiday season. As much as we’d like to relate to the song, I don’t feel there would be much joy and cheer, at least not genuine joy and cheer. I’m not ready to fake it. I don’t want to spend this season Charles croons about in physical and emotional pain. It’s sad that it’s become this way but … I’ll have more in next week’s Year in Review: 2014.

It’s too bad, because the kids have fond memories of being at Grandma’s house for Christmas. We miss her decorations and 28 days of Santa sweaters.

We’ll continue to do our Christmas Eve pajama party. I’m actually looking forward to it. Christmas Eve service at church, followed by consumption of pizza, and Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.


I was sittin by the fire side
Taking a walk through the snow
Listening to a children’s choir
Singing songs about Jesus
The blessed way that he came to us
Why can’t it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
Yeah, that’s what I wanna hear
Heh heh
It’s truly amazin’
That spirit of Christmas

“Bah humbug!” I dislike this phrase when it comes to Christmas, especially when the “Bah humbug!” is followed by a complaint about the commercialization of Christmas. Can you really blame the stores for going all out the final month of the year to snag your Christmas bonuses? Do you really have to buy (pun intended) into it? Absolutely not!

I hear people complain about how they have to buy for their mom’s cousin’s kid that they see once a year – on Christmas! This person doesn’t care about you, and more than likely they don’t want to buy a present for you. I watch as two people, short on cash, struggle to find a gift for some kid they’ve never met. It will likely end up being a Tonka truck that the kid won’t ever play with because it’s not digitized. If you have a family, draw names! Or maybe, just spend time getting to know your family by playing games.

Relax (easy for me to say, I stress over the smallest of things)! Stay away from the mall, and the big box stores. As mentioned I enjoy listening to Christmas music, I enjoy decorating our house, I enjoy taking my family to see Coeur d’Alene light up the harbor, even in the bitter cold and wind. I enjoy eating the Christmas cookies my wife bakes. I enjoy hopping in the car and going to look a Christmas lights. And I love sitting there on Christmas Eve and watching non-stop Christmas classics. I still can’t sleep Christmas Eve night, because I’m so excited for Santa. If that’s commercialization, fine!

And remember, supposedly we all celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Christ. Try to remember the love He brought us. Even if you don’t believe. Try to remember that the greatest gift of all, no matter the season, is love.

All the kin folk gather round

The lovely Christmas tree
Hearts are glowing full of joy
Sense the gifts that we’re giving
And the love that we’re living
Why can’t it remain
Ohhh all through the year
Each day the same
Heyeah, that’s what I wanna hear
I’ll tell ya
It’s truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas

Not sure who my Secret Santa is but I received one of the most creative and generous gifts I’ve ever received. I won’t go into it too much just because I don’t want someone to take credit for someone else’s big salad (Seinfeld thang), but it came in an unmarked package, about the size of a toilet paper roll, with a little tag that said “Pull”. So I pulled and pulled and pulled and in the end a message said “Merry Christmas. Love, Mr. S. Claus.” I have an idea of who it may be, but am not certain. Either way, it was an awesome gift to receive, and not because of the gift, but because of the thought and creativity behind it. So thank you Secret Santa! You’re awesome!

Speaking of Christmas spirit. This was pretty cool to see.

Let me hear ya
Why can’t it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
That’s what I wanna hear
Listen to me
It’s truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas
Ohhh It’s truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas
Ain’t it so
It’s truly amazin
Yeah, that spirit of Christmas
Oh Christmas
Oh Christmas

Why can’t it remain? Why can’t that spirit of Christmas continue throughout the calendar year? Why can’t we continue to give, and give, and love, and love throughout the year?

Merry Christmas to you all!

Love,
The Johnson Five
P.S.
Here’s a classic from 2007.

All We Need Is Love!

NOTE: It’s hard as a white dude to write about race issues. I’m sure what I write below may offend some people, but again, this is my journal that I’ve decided to share with whoever decides to read it. The crap in our world has been bugging me on the inside, and this is my way of getting it all out of my head and onto some sort of digital paper.

If you haven’t already noticed I’m white. I’ve always been white. I have always grown up in primarily white communities, with little to no black people in those communities. It kind of sucks, because I tend to like the black culture. My favorite baseball player was black (Tony Gwynn), I always chose Magic over Bird (now I am West Coast bias, give me Tupac over BIG all day, every day), I preferred black Michael over white Michael, Taye Diggs is a hunk, my mom sometimes thinks she’s black (and we sometimes think she is also).

Okay, so I may have a slight man crush on Taye Diggs. Admit it! You do too!

Okay, so I may have a slight man crush on Taye Diggs. Admit it! You do too!

I originally had in my mind to write a post about Ferguson, and the conflicting messages I was getting on my Facebook wall. Good cop, bad cop. Black or white. Guns or no guns. My head hurt. How am I going to raise three kids in this world we live in?

I don’t know what it’s like to be a cop. I don’t know what it’s like to be a black man. I can only imagine that both are very difficult.

To me, the real hurt came in two separate occasions that didn’t involve Ferguson. First, the 12-year-old black boy from outside of Cleveland, playing with an air  gun in the park, that was gunned down by a white cop. I’m sorry, I know cops experience a lot of crap, but this is a 12-year-old boy. Sure, the boy reached into his belt, thus giving the officer probable cause to shoot him (?), but if I’m a 12-year-old and two cops draw weapons on me, I’m probably not going to react like a 37-year-old might. My son is 10, the neighbor is 13, they both play with Airsoft guns in the back and front yard. My son wouldn’t know what to do if two cops drew weapons at him. He’d cry and panic. But then again he’s white, so maybe he’d be safe, still … hits home.

The second was when giddy Kevin did the stupid thing of reading the comments immediately after the Star Wars teaser trailer was released. Oh forever more! A black Stormtroooper! Sounds silly, but this really bothered me. Who cares?! It’s a galaxy far, far away! Yes, I believe true Star Wars fans could care less, but the fact that hundreds of people had to point this out, makes me SMH (shake my head, just learned about this in 2014) in disappointment at this world I had hoped had changed. This parenthood thing is going to be incredibly rough.

Stop the press! A black Stormtrooper?! Who cares!

Stop the press! A black Stormtrooper? Who cares?!

 

A friend of mine once called me racist. She was dating a black man at the time and told me that all white men were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. I disagreed. Saying that disrespected the life my dad lived while growing up. My grandma went nuts so my dad was in and out of foster homes, orphanages, spending nights behind packages of bark lined up in front of a grocery store. Silver spoon? Not quite, he had to work – and work hard – for everything he’s ever had. Because I stood up for my dad, I was labeled a racist. That moment, and that label has stuck with me since. Am I really a racist?

On a bus in Seattle two black guys started beating up another black guy. While everyone else darted off the bus, I told my buddy we had to do something (maybe it was the alcohol talking, or the fact that two dudes – no matter the color – should not be beating on one dude). Being two fairly tall dudes (my buddy was a bit broader than I), we stood up and told them to stop. The two said they wanted no problems and rushed off the bus. The dude we helped wanted off as well because they had taken his hat. Um … what?! Still one of my all-time highlights, only because I seemed tough for an instant.

I used to look forward to our annual American Cancer Society Summit, mostly because on Friday night my buddy and I would head up to the nightclub at the top floor of the hotel we stayed. We were the only two white guys in the place. Did that matter to me? Heck no! As I told the bouncer, “They’re playing my jams!” Did I ever feel threatened? Heck no! Even though this funky white boy had some of the better moves on the dance floor. Shake what your mama gave you, that’s my philosophy!

I have one black friend and he lives on the other side of the country. I would love to have more (ask Lis). It sucks, because we both have similar tastes in music, our love of writing, our love of being easily annoyed and stressing over little and big things, but also for caring about everybody. If we had grown up together I would bet we’d be besties! His take on this whole Ferguson thing is here.

I don’t consider myself a racist, but I know that racism exists in every person. We make jokes, we have our stereotypes (NOTE: the black guy isn’t always the best player on the court), we discriminate, heck, nowadays I go out of my way to smile at anyone and everyone that is black, just so they know I’m not racist. Guess you could consider this a type of racism. Busted!

Where am I going with this? I’m not quite sure. As I mentioned I’m confused.

Instead of being angry I try to think of ways how can I help? I guess it goes back to being a parent.

Lukas asks me why New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham as red hair, when the video game says he’s black. I explain that he’s mixed-race, and that it doesn’t matter.

Earlier this year he wanted to watch 42, so Lis, Lukas and I watched it and we explained those were different times. (But are they?) Always treat everyone as equal.

Why do we have to put labels on everything? Especially these days when more-and-more people are coming from mixed races. My kids are labeled white because of their skin color. If we want to get technical we can call them Brazilian-American. If we want to get super technical, Brazil is an America, but South America, so … who cares?! I don’t. Call them what you want, Lord knows I do. Busted again!

Sure, it’s easier to label if you’re looking for something. “Guard the dude in the RED shorts!” “She’s the hottie in the BLUE dress.” “Those two funky WHITE boys on the dance floor!” But why do we have to label when sharing a story that has nothing to do with race? Why do we need to list Jimmy Graham as black on the video game? Why do we have to say Halle Berry is a black actress when her mom is white? Why do we have to blast Stacey Dash because she’s a black Republican?

After all on the inside we are all the same people, it doesn’t matter if we’re black, white, red, brown, or yellow, in the end all we need is love.

I think a group of four WHITE dudes sang about that in the ’60s. And to be honest, lately it’s been feeling like we’re headed back to those times.

But it’s true. Every person no matter wealth, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, male or female, in the end all we really want is to love and be loved.

As a parent (and for myself), this will be my goal. To teach my kids to love everyone – even their siblings.

The Beatles – All You Need Is Love

Instant Reaction: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer

As the rest of my family took off to do some recreational Black Friday shopping, I stayed home with the kids. My Black Friday had arrived, in the form of the much-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII teaser trailer.

It was needed too. Not that Thanksgiving wasn’t disappointing. We had a wonderful time spending time together as a family. Personally, Tony Romo (or his offensive line), Matt Forte (or the “strategy” to not even try to run on Detroit’s defensive line) and Anquan Boldin (or Colin Kaepernick), had horrible starts putting a wrench in a possible No. 2 seed, and my nine-game winning streak.

But it’s only a game. It’s just fun. It’s just fantasy. Blah, blah and blah.

Friday morning I woke up with two things on my mind, did I receive Reggie Wayne off waivers (I did!), and did Star Wars release the trailer.

They did!

My instant reaction included goosebumps, and a little bit of welling up.

If you’ve read my blog long enough you know that I heart Star Wars.

My oldest is named Lukas, and that’s for a reason. My boyhood hero was Luke Skywalker, a character that will make his return – though not in this trailer – in next year’s movie.

I had been looking forward to this trailer for months, and to me it didn’t disappoint.

Note to self (or anyone else that truly loves something): Don’t read the comments from non-fans on the Internet. People are negative. All they want to do is rip apart something that is 88-seconds long, and is meant to be a tease. Plus, you’ll often find a lot of hate comments, which continues to make me more and more disappointed in the world we live in.

Here is this fanboy’s (and his aforementioned son’s) instant reaction and then a mini-breakdown:

I love that they faded in and out of little sequences. I loved the music, first intense and then closing it out with the main theme – and the Millennium Falcon, which brought on the bumps and the tears.I loved that they introduced us to our likely new heroes, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. I loved that they showed us something old: the Falcon, X-Wings, a new look at the Stormtroopers. I loved that they gave us a glimpse at, likely, our new villain. And, they even gave the kids something to get excited about, a robot-soccer ball thing. I loved it!

Now to the breakdown:

The trailer opens with what appears to be the Tatooine desert. My first thought is, “Will we just see the desert for 78 seconds and then see the Falcon fly by?” But no, a voice, “There’s been an awakening … have you felt it?”

Boyega in a Stormtrooper outfit pops up. He looks scared, or startled. Rumors have it that he’s one of our new heroes. Rumor has it he’s a rogue trooper. Has he crashed his ship on Tatooine?

Black screen.

The soccer ball robot cruises across the screen.

Black screen.

Our new look Stormtroopers look as though they are headed into battle.

Black screen.

Ridley, dressed like a simple Tatooine resident, sprints off on some sort of desert speeder bike.

Black screen.

Three X-Wings (my favorite ship in the series) hover over water. A X-Wing fighter, supposedly Oscar Isaac. The effects look great, love that they are near land. It’s something different. No I’m not worried that Star Wars, won’t take place in the stars.

Black screen.

“The Dark Side…” and we see our new villain, with a new look lightsaber. The blade not as clean as the old ones. Two smaller “blades” protect his hand, much like an old knight from King Arthur’s time. My guess is this is Adam Driver. The villain is tall and slender, much like the actor.

Black screen.

“And the light.” The Falcon appears, as do two TIE Fighters. We’re quickly brought back to the 1977 film with the music and the sound of the fighters. Goosebumps again!

Thanks. I needed to get that out. Now to watch it for a 15th time.

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.

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!”

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.”

10686759_10205165433278279_7878956189186470944_n

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!

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!