Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fire And Rain

Our plans for a Saturday morning yard sale were upended by a rain storm. Not just a drizzle, or mist. But a real storm, with thunder and lightning. I can probably count on my hands the number of those I've seen those in the 10 years I've lived in the Bay Area. And so, we were in full improvisation mode.

Kalian, always the curious one, wanted to go for a walk around the block just to see what it was like to walk in the rain under an umbrella. (see picture above).

When we got back, I needed to find something to amuse them. Fortunately, I came across a listing for an open house at The Crucible. I had always wanted to visit and what could be better than a free open house? The Crucible is a big, industrial art studio where artists forge big metal sculptures, blow fantastic glass objects, and in general build all sorts of inspiring, funky things. It's one of the great Bay Area-Burning Man type places that makes me appreciate living here.

So I took Liam and Kalian down for a few hours and it was as good as I'd hoped. Liam walked right in and exclaimed, "This place is awesome." There were some people blowing glass in a big furnace when we first entered.

Liam and Kalian both spent about 30 minutes making picture frames and magnets out of glass fragments:

Then it was on to making etchings in sand plates:

And then clay:

Liam made an elaborate clay sculpture involving an alien and a swimming pool with diving board:

It's great to see Liam so engaged. For so long, he was the kid who refused to do any art-related activities. I never wanted to press him to hard, but I remember being so disappointed any time I tried to nudge him to try a craft of some kind and he ran screaming in the other direction. He's always been very creative and it's great to seem him finally developing the patience to create the things in his mind. Earlier in the day, he staged a whole play behind the couch using action figures and playmobile people.

So the Crucible was a hit, and from there we drove the Berkeley Y for an hour of swimming before heading home to watch (gulp) Tinkerbelle. It was Kalian's turn to pick for movie night, and she had been dying to watch this godawful DVD that someone gave her. And yes, it was horrific.

But as days without a plan go, this was a great one. Tomorrow, we've got a regular family meditation gathering which will fill most of the day.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Kalian Rides!

Tonight, Kalian officially left behind the running bike and rode her pedal bike around the block. We may not have done much right as parents, but we've done pretty well with the whole bike riding thing. Both kids learned to ride first on a running bike, rather than using training wheels. I had a hunch that Kalian was ready about a month ago. Tonight, after a rough evening with tantrums galore, Kalian asked if I'd take her out on the pedal bike because, "It had been, a long, long, long time since we rode the pedal bike."

Sure enough, she hopped right on, scooted a few feet, and then pedaled away. Of course, she had to stop every few feet to offer up commentary on what she was doing. But that was just her way of being excited. And she was beaming.

At one point, she needed help to get started. I was holding the seat and giving her a push. When she was ready for me to let go she shouted, "Daddy, I don't need you any more!" And it made me smile and wince at the same time.

It was just the latest, obvious sign of how quickly she's growing up, and changing. I just noticed the other night, as she was falling asleep, that she's barely blonde any more. She was a redhead until she was about two, and then went sharply blonde. Now her hair has turned brown with only some blonde streaks remaining. She'll soon have Jen's brownish-blonde hair. But the curls are only getting more intense. My lone contribution to her genetic structure, I think.

Here she was at the dentist a couple weeks ago, already a pro who was proud she knew the ropes:

And because she's only going to pre-school four days this year, we hang out Friday mornings. She requested we stop by Nomad's for a bagel. And I couldn't help but notice that she looked like a teenager curled up in the big lounge chair, snacking away:

For now, though, she shows no sign of leaving behind is her princess obsession. But who knows how much longer that will last? Okay, who are we kidding. That will probably be around for a few more years. Until the Hannah Montana years start.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Old Friends And New Ones At The End Of Summer

Just returning from a wonderful afternoon spent at Dolores Park watching the fantastic SF Mime Troupe, a real Bay Area treasure. The musical this year, "Too Big To Fail." Not their best, but still spot on political satire.

Even better, though, we spent the afternoon with Doug and Karen, two new friends we've met through Liam's elementary school. It's taken awhile for us to really gel with anyone there. I think it's natural. But I was definitely overwhelmed last year with all the new faces. We had the 20 new families from his kindergarten room. And then there were the 25 new families at Kalian's new pre-school (her third school in three years, poor thing). I barely felt I had time for all the people in our lives already. And now we had another 45 families with which to mingle.

Back when we lived in Cambridge, it took almost the whole year before I felt like we were just become a part of some people's lives when we left. It's not easy, given that everyone comes to the table with their own friends, their own complicated lives.

For the past year, that's meant a lot of work arranging play-dates for Liam, who demands them constantly. As most parents know, this can feel like a full-time job, adding another layer of scheduling.

As such, we tend to be the ultimate last-minute people. This weekend, that paid off. We had old friends Lori and Ori, and daughters Hannah and Ruby, over for a BBQ on Saturday, responding to an email I sent out Friday night. We met through our midwife, initially worried that Hannah and Liam would be born too close together for us both to use her. Hannah and Liam went to pre-school together. And when we returned form Cambridge, we very nearly decided to move into their house (a duplex) and do the group house thing. Our blooming fruit trees in the back yard convinced us to stay put. (Though as a side note, had we sold our house, we would hit the very top of the housing market back in 2007. Ah, well).

Still, Lori and Ori are the kind of folks we worry about loosing touch with as the kids move to different schools. And so far, to our relief, it hasn't happened.

And on Sunday, also in a last minute invite, Karen and Doug met us at Dolores Park and then we grabbed burritos before riding Bart back together. Oddly, Liam's classmates Vera pals around with Kalian, while her younger brother Roy buddies up with Liam. I guess gender trumps age. But when our two have playmates, it makes all the difference. One hates to be mercenary, but there it is.

It was a great ending to summer. And I'm again promising myself that this Fall, I'll become a better planner.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A New School Year Begins

I posted that shortly after returning home from dropping the Liam off for his first day as a first grader. That's amazing to even write. And it brings on a flood of memories from a summer that was alternately stressful and wonderful. And there's that small pang that Liam is taking one more step toward growing up, and inevitably, away.

The morning started off with his usual grumbling about school, even as I tried to play up the fact that he would get to see all of his friends. And he missed his friends terribly over the summer. He couldn't get enough play dates to satisfy his constant hunger for companionship.

When we arrived at school, Liam gave Ms. G, the director, a High 5, and walked straight into class. His school puts two grades in each class, so he's still in a K/1 class. Having the same teacher for the second year made the start almost a non-event for him. He found his new table, and immediately began making his name tag without anyone explaining to him what he ought to be doing. That's a big deal for him.

Then he turned to the new Kindergartner next to him and began explaining everything about NOCCS and, of course, Star Wars. That taken care of, he went in search of his buddy, Kai. And lo, Kai was wearing the exact same Lego Star Wars shirt that Liam had under his jacket.

I watched as the new teaching assistant, Oscar, watched the comparison of Star Wars shirts and I thought, "Oscar, that's everything you need to know about these two. Good luck." Later, Liam came home with his first light saber drawing of the year. Probably the first of 180 we'll see this year. Sigh.

Still, I couldn't help but notice how independent he seemed. Such a contrast to last year. Grown up, but not completely. When I got home, Liam wanted to play Caillou and Rosie. And he wanted to read a Thomas The Train book for bed. Still a bit of that little boy left inside there.

Still a little bit of the boy who doesn't feel any embarrassment about putting on the Pink Power Ranger costume when his cousins came to visit:

Jen took Kalian to pre-school and true to form, Kalian was giddy and couldn't get there soon enough. Such stereotypes, these children of mine. She has a new teacher, who I have yet to meet. But there was very little drama, I'm told.

So closes another summer. I'll remember our big trip to Yosemite. Our fabulous trip to Family Camp. And how both taught me that the key to any happy vacation is to make sure my children have friends with them.

I'll remember Liam's fixation with wanting to sell everything he owns to get money to buy more stuff. And how Kalian seemed to become more precocious by the day.

We survived our first round of summer camps and the extreme juggling skills that required.

We limped through a final week where Jen threw her back out just as her sister came for a visit from Korea with two cousins. The same cousins who apparently managed to convert our two kids to God-fearing Christians during their brief visit. (Liam spent one evening crying that mommy and daddy were going to a bad place because we didn't believe in God).

But we made it. Across the finnish line. And so I'm ready for Fall, and some calm.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back from Yosemite

Well, we actually got back more than a week ago. But what a week it's been.

Just as I was about to leave for work last Monday, Jen threw her back out while doing Yoga. I stayed home on sick leave the whole week to take care of her and the kids. And on top of that, her sister who lives in South Korea came to visit for two days. So stress levels were high and exhaustion was felt by all.

But I finally found some time to put together some of our photos and videos from the trip:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back From Yosemite

We returned from Yosemite late, late Friday night. I'm going to wade through photos and gather some thoughts. But first, going with my recent fascination with maps, I wanted to play with the GPS in my BlackBerry. Along with regular pictures and some video, I took occasional photos with the BB which automatically geotagged them using the GPS. It took some doing, but here's a basic map of 21 photos:

View Yosemite in a larger map

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Off To Yosemite

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Marketing Firm Nails Our Princess-Superhero Vibe

During a play date over the weekend, a random catalog for Halloween costumes slipped into our mailbox. Somehow, a marketing firm absolutely hit its target demographic right on the money. On the cover was this:

The photo is a little grainy, but it's a ninja warrior and a couple of Transformer type costumes. Inside, pages of Star Wars related costumes, superheroes and all sorts of fun stuff. Liam's friend, Kai, was over when it arrived and they must have spent an hour on the floor flipping through it.

Of course, once you got halfway through, the themes changed:

This caught Kalian's eye, naturally. The second from the right is "Belle" (of "Beauty and the Beast"). Kalian is completely obsessed with Belle, though I can find no record of her ever watching the movie. When Jen got home the other night, Kalian showed her the picture and explained that she needed a Belle costume for Halloween, and listed all the accessories that would need to go with it.

Jen calmly explained that we wouldn't buy all that stuff, but might see if we could make some, or maybe find some on Craigslist.

And then, because he loves his sister so (most of the time, though not all..), Liam chimed in that we could use all his money to buy his sister a Belle costume for Halloween.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Few Of My Favorite Toys

In a short email asking for some new photos of the kids, my mom ended by writing, "I bet you're excited about that new G.I. Joe movie coming out!"

Well, no, actually. But that note, more than the incessant movie trailers suddenly jarred me into remembering that G.I. Joe had once been my absolutely favorite toy. Strange that I had somehow forgotten. Of course, like so many "classic" toys, G.I. Joe has evolved into something far more sophisticated and violent. The movie looks ultraviolent.

The G.I. Joes I had were from the early 1970s. And I can remember the thrill of getting a G.I. Joe with a "kung-fu action grip."

This gentleman was my constant companion:

Too bad, of course, that I didn't hang on to them because I'm sure they're valuable collectors items.

This also got me thinking about my other favorite toys.

Naturally, there were Legos. In fact, the giant bucket of Legos that Liam plays with six hours a day are mostly my Legos that my mom had the wisdom to save. Because boy, are they expensive!

The other big one was "Micronauts." These have all but vanished, having been discontinued in 1980. But my parents must have spent a few hundred, if not a thousand, dollars buying me Micronaut-related action figures and accessories. Micronauts were what came before Transformers, but were a similar idea. Because all the pieces of the figures and accessories had similar connectors, everything could be taken apart and re-constructed in infinite configurations:

And I remember this Micronauts Rocket Tube being one of my greatest Christmas presents ever:

Of course, it's total hypocrisy that I would never buy any of these things for Liam (excluding Legos). We've tried to steer away from his budding Transformer curiosity. And we worry constantly about his attachment to consumer goods and violent videos.

(Me: "Liam, what do you want to watch?" Liam: "Just something with violence.")

But I do miss those toys. And even though it drives me crazy at times, I'm still glad that he's so passionate about Legos.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Technology, The Future, And My Children

As someone who makes a living writing about technology and innovation, I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about the future. While I'm not a gadget obsessive like so many in Silicon Valley, I do embrace my inner geek and am always glad to see some of that rubbing off on my kids.

This summer, Liam has been attending several sessions of what is popularly known as "Sarah's Science Camp." (Officially: "This Land Is Our Land.") As is typical, Liam complains on a daily basis about having to go. But it's been clear over the weeks that he's tremendously excited about the projects they get to build. Each week has a theme (circuits, gravity, etc.). In the past few weeks, Liam has built a flashlight, a catapult, a metal detector, and all sorts of cool, nerdy stuff. I think it's so important because the way our society is evolving, we're so much more disconnected from the way things are made, from our cars to our food. I wrote about that theme and the joy of creating after we visited the Maker Faire.

I had less of that as a kid, though I did go to computer camp the summer after eighth grade. Which may tell you all you need to know about what my adolescence was like. Rather than hanging out at the pool and finding a girl to "go steady" with, I was learning how to plot a pixel and save it to a floppy disk.

It's staggering to look back at the immense technological change I've experienced since that computer camp. When I was unpacking some stuff I brought home from the office today, I pulled out a plastic baggy full of diskettes:

Liam looked at them and asked, "Daddy, what are those?" I explained, but he will never, ever use one. That got me thinking of all the other things he'll never probably use when he's an adult. Desktop PCs will probably look ridiculous. And wires? Very possibly our kids will laugh that we had this spaghetti-like mess of wires under out desks.

At the same time, our family has been pretty conservative about a lot of technology. We don't have a video game player, though Liam has recently discovered the existence of the Wii and is dying to get one. So far, the answer is no, but that'll change at some point.

I think this is one of the things that I appreciate, though, about being a parent. How these little moments cause me to re-experience parts of my own childhood, how seeing things through their eyes forces me to see the present in a different light, and how thinking about them growing up leaves me a little envious about the world they'll inherit.

I guess that means that on the whole, I'm optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future we'll leave them.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The End Of The Innocence

I posted that to Twitter in the middle of a playdate-palooza this afternoon. Liam's buddy Kai, was over at our house. Both are founding members of the NOCCS Star Wars club. This was the first chance Liam had to display the lightsaber that the Tooth Fairy had left for him.

Kai, 6, wandered into the kitchen, looking a bit baffled. He looked at me and said, "Liam said the Tooth Fairy gave him that lightsaber."

Since he looked confused, I explained, "Well, some people believe the Tooth Fairy leaves you money or presents under your pillow after you lose a tooth. Have you heard of the Tooth Fairy?"

Kai: "I think that things like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are just made up to hide that it's really your parents leaving you presents."

Gulp. Liam didn't hear. But he will, soon enough. There will be tears. And that will also mean Kalian will learn soon after, getting a couple years less to enjoy the fantasy.

It just hit me that a special part of childhood is ending, or about to. And I worry that I'm not doing enough to savor it.

This past week was particularly hectic. Jen is crunching to finish a presentation and paper for a conference next week. I had an unexpected project fall into my lap, which had me staying up until 2 a.m. every night for a week (and I'm still not done). That meant that in the morning, I was tired and bitchy, and in the evening, mostly focused on steering them to bed.

Today I forced myself to slowdown. I wrangled a total of five friends to come over at the last minute. Given my tendency to procrastinate, I'm usually running through a phone list of friends on a Saturday morning as both kids are begging for playdates. Jen, on the other hand, organizes these weeks in advance. Last weekend, my last-minutetendencies meant zero playdates. This weekend, a full slate. So, I'm a hero. For now.

But such victories are, of course, short-lived in the eyes of my "what have done for me lately" children. Tomorrow, the battle begins anew.

Friday, July 24, 2009

For Real Life: The Lexicon Of Kalian

Kalian's favorite phrase these days is: "For real life..."

As in: "I'm having a playdate with Pearl, for real life." Meaning, in these cases, "for real" or "really."

It of course came from the most important cultural source in the kids' lives: YouTube. In particular, from this:

Last Day of Hearts Leap (in crazy hi-def video!)

Thursday marked the last day of pre-school for Kalian this session. First, off, check out the video above, but be warned: I shot it in high-definition using a Flip HD camera the company loaned out to me. This was my first time shooting hi-def and boy, is it shaky. So you may get quickly dizzy. The HD really picks up every single movement. Jen couldn't even watch it. Clearly I'm going to have to re-learn everything to make use of this thing. But beyond that, in terms of the video quality, I have to say, "Wow." You can blow the Web version up to full screen and it's still very crisp. Just disorienting, too.

In any case, this was Kalian's first year at Heart's Leap. She's been a real trooper when it comes to school. She's attended three in three years: Kid's Coop in Cambridge, Happy Baby last year, and now Heart's Leap. She's got one more year at Happy Baby, and then at long last, she'll be at the same school as Liam. I've been praying for that day for four years now, and it can't come fast enough.

The day was particularly sad because Kalian's main teacher, Tara, is moving back to Wisconsin. I'm sure they'll have a great group this fall, but she was special and Kalian loved her.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Letting It All Hang Out

Kalian in heavy princess/ballerina mode. I try to enjoy moments like this, knowing that one day, Liam will no longer be willing to rush into his room, grab his own tutu, and twirl his sister around the living room. 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friends And The Guys Weekend

This is a photo from one of those wonderful playdates. I picked up Liam after his last day of NOCCS camp on Friday. We had a playdate scheduled with Kai (right). But at the last minute, I offered to take Eli (center) home as well. This constituted almost half of the NOCCS Star Wars club. Note that each kid separately wore a Star Wars shirt to camp that day. 

This might be something that most parents would take for granted. But not me. Not that long ago, having a playdate with more than one kid at a time was a challenge for Liam. As a kid diagnosed with high functioning autism, Liam's primary challenge remains his social skills. In a playdate with one kid, he does fine. But add one more to the mix, and he tends to fall out of sync and withdraw. 

So it was great to see the three of them really groove together. They came home, at the gluten-free cupcakes they baked at camp, and then dug right into the Lego box for two hours to build all sorts of Star Wars related ships. And naturally, at the end, I was called into to film yet another Star Wars Lego Movie Adventure. (see our YouTube channel for several choice episodes in this ongoing saga).

On the most fundamental level, it's simply wonderful to see that Liam has friends, real friends. I suppose that every parent worries that their kid won't have friends. But this has been heightened for us, given Liam's long-time social issues. It's not that he doesn't still have challenges, but it's still a wonderful site. 

The playdate was the start of our guys' weekend. Jen took Kalian out of town for the weekend to a music festival. Liam and I hung out, watched The Incredible Hulk on Friday, and Indiana Jones on Saturday. We built our own version of the board game Battleship and played several rounds. And in general, had a nice, mellow time together. I only wish that life could always been this easygoing. 

Warning to those with sons under the age of 6: Prepare for the onslaught of Star Wars/Comic book mania that hits at the start of kindergarten. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Liam Deals With Emotions

Like so many things about parenting, watching Liam learn to handle his increasingly complex emotions has been a mixed bag for me. Lately, when he gets upset, he retreats to his room, gets out some paper, and writes me an elaborate note with illustrations to express his anger with me. So that's healthy, I think. He recognizes he has strong feelings, and wants to express them. He's still just learning to write, so he tries to sound out the words, though the actual note is impossible to read unless he reads it too me.

Unfortunately, the notes usually explain in some fashion why he wants to kill me. And the illustration includes some drawing of him stabbing me (see above) or some such thing. So, not so good, right?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome To Oakland

Comedy troupe Killing My Lobster recently posted this fake travel promotional video for Oakland. Hey, I love Oakland, but sadly (and sometimes hysterically), much of this is true. And worse: we live near the fabled Temescal District mentioned near the end. But no, we are not hipsters in the least.

Back From Family Camp

This just might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Liam. He usually hates having his picture taken. But he spent several days at Berkeley Family Camp hanging out with his friend, Ben. They've known each other for five years, but during out time at Family Camp, he and Ben really bonded. As we were heading back to our tent cabin, Liam put his arm around Ben, and asked me to take their picture. Wow. That has never happened.

In recent months, Liam has become often sullen, moody, and grumpy. I can barely remember the infant and toddler who almost never stopped smiling and laughing, and just seemed joyous all the time. I'm sure it's natural as he gets older that his emotions become a challenge to balance. But still, he gets so morose at times that it breaks my heart.

Which was why it was so amazing to see him having so much fun at Family Camp. He was constantly asking to go do stuff like fishing, swimming, or going to play with Ben. They made up a game called "Miniature Ping-Pong Golf" which involved building an obstacle course in the dirt and then using the camp's ping pong paddles to knock a ball through it.

In general, we all had a great time at Camp Tuolome, even better than last year. I'm going to post more later in the week, including a slideshow. But I'll just share this one for now. One of the great things about Family Camp are the meals, which are served family style in a dining hall with the camp counselors singing. But here's how you know that you're at Berkeley Family Camp: Dinner the first night was sushi.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kalian's Musical Taste

During the morning scramble of drop-offs, I left Liam at his camp and then jumped back in the car with Kalian to drive to her pre-school. I popped in a CD of Bob Dylan's "Good As I Been To You." The first track, "Frankie & Albert" kicked in, and from the back, I heard Kalian giggling.

"Daddy, he's singing funny," Kalian said.

Ooof. Thus I must step up my efforts to indoctrinate my children into my mania for all things Dylan.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Liam and Marriage

Liam is wonderfully focused on getting married. For about two years, he's been engaged to his friend Naomi, who was born the same day. She seems on board with this plan, at least as much as any six-year-old can be. But more recently, Liam has said he also wants to marry his buddy, Kai, a sweet boy who is his best friend at school. This would allow them to indulge a lifetime of Star Wars role playing.

But now there's a new twist: Liam has announced he wants to marry his sister, Kalian. Hmmm...How to explain? We tried to explain that you can't marry your sister. "But I love her," Liam replied. Um, yes, but then there's the matter of having children.

"But we just wouldn't have children," Liam replied.


What happened to summer?

I find myself eyeing the calendar, counting the days until after Labor Day. And I feel incredibly guilty about it. This is summer. And instead of lazy days, we find the whirlwind of chaos kicking up several notches. How did this happen? How do I get it to stop?

First off, we are in a whole new world when it comes to our schedules. One of the great things about living in California is that pre-schools are open year-round. That means that up until last year, the kids were in school through early August. And up until two years ago, either Jen and I were home full-time. (Jen here; me in Cambridge). That changed when we got back in the summer of 2007. That fall, Jen started grad school, and we had a whole new life of juggling duel full-time schedules. But we adjusted eventually.

But this is the first summer that Liam doesn't have school. He just finished his first year of Kindergarten at NOCCS. And so we have a patchwork of camps, playdate swapping, and schedule roulette. Jen and I are pulling our hair out, and working like mad. And again, I feel terribly guilty about all of this.

My summers, as a kid, were spent in total leisure. Of course, my mom stayed home full time until I was probably about 8 or 9 (when I became one of those strange new breeds called "Latch Key Kids!"). Still, I remember playing in baseball leagues, going to the local swimming pool every day, and playing tennis. I randomly connected with other kids in the neighborhood to play at each other's houses.

Of course, some of that will get easier when the kids are older and more independent. But right now, I fell bad that we can't just let them chill out, enjoy the weather, throw them into the car and head to the pool. Or, whatever. And the outlook is for more juggling through the rest of the summer. Sigh.

The good news is that tomorrow we get a break when we head to Berkeley Family Camp! We went last year, and had a great time. This time we're meeting some close friends who are already up there. Family Camp is a real throw back, where we eat every meal in a dining hall, there are kids' activities all day, and camp counselors who sing goofy songs during the meals. It's all very 1950s. Probably just what the doctor ordered about now. A few days off the grid. Someone else cooking every meal. And some good friends sharing it.

View Heading to Berkeley Family Camp in a larger map

My Favorite Classic Video Games

This is cross-posted from my Silicon Beat blog at the Mercury News:

I am no longer an avid video game player. The whole Nintendo, Xbox, Playstation competition has completely passed me by. It was only just this past weekend, while visiting some relatives in Scotts Valley, that I tried the Wii for the first time (bowling, of course, see the end of this post for why that's fitting). I have a feeling that some kind of gaming console will be in my near future because my 6-year-old spent the day playing the Wii with his cousin and he is now obsessed with getting a Wii. ("Daddy, is it too early to write to Santa Claus and ask him to bring me a Wii?")

Here's the little guy in action over the weekend, via Qik:

But I stopped playing video games sometime in the mid-1980s. Which is why this column on the Top 9 Classic Arcade Games on got me so excited. The story is pegged to the the California Extreme Classic Arcade Games Show returns in Santa Clara this weekend. And if I weren't headed out of town already, I'd drop everything and head over there myself.

In the story, three reporters compiled their nine favorite "classic" arcade games. My own defininsion of "classic" stops a lot sooner than theirs (mine is mid-1980s; theirs goes early 90s). But still, these were the games I loved. Once video games started becoming far more complex, and striving for more realism, I stopped playing. I just wasn't as interested. I felt in some way, these simpler games left far more to the imagination, and were more accessible. As games became more complex, I was going to have to invest a lot of quarters just to learn the basics before I could start having fun.

So the SFGate story hit me with plenty of nostalgia. And I agreed with a few of their choices: Tron (1982); Star Wars (1983); Battlezone (1980). But they left a few of my essential games off the list. I purposely avoided reading the comments on the SFGate story, because I wanted to go with the ones that stuck out in my mind from reading the original piece:

Monday, July 06, 2009

Return To Blogging Here (No, really, this time I mean it!)

Well, by the looks of my last post, it's been about a year since I posted anything here. I'm working on updating some of the sidebars. But a couple things have pulled me back here.

First, I was in Cambridge last month, which triggered major bouts of nostalgia. It's funny, because when I pick it apart, I have all sorts of mixed feelings about our time there. I loved, and truly miss, the time I got to spend with the kids. But it was difficult in many ways. Liam struggled quite a bit, and Kalian was coming into her own diva-hood. So it's not like I look back at our year there as some kind of Paradise Lost. And yet, when I was there in mid-June for an MIT conference, I was struck by how much I missed the place and so many of the people we met there.

Of course, I was so busy at the conference, I barely had time to leave the three-block area around the hotel and MIT campus. But on Friday afternoon, after the conference ended, I took a cab over to our old neighborhood near Inman Square. I walked past our apartment on Leonard Avenue:

And Darwin's, where I got a memorial Robert's sandwhich. And then around the corner to Cambridge-Ellis, the pre-school Liam attended and which was a huge part of our lives there:

I was a bit misty-eyed, and I still can't explain why. But I really do miss it there.

But when I got back, I started reading through this blog, and I really appreciated all the little details that I had recorded over the year in Cambridge. Things the kids did or said, that seem epic and wonderful at the time, but are usually forgotten days or weeks later. Like how Kalian used to call raisins "ree-ree" when she was first learning to talk. I realized that there are all these things they are doing now that if I don't record them, they'll slip right by to be forgotten forever. Things like Liam's current obsession with setting up his "Maker Faire" store every day after dinner in the driveway to sell his toys and the plums growing in our back yard:

This is one of those childhood things that is wonderful and sweet, and at times a bit worrisome. Liam is constantly wanting to sell or giveaway his toys. Mostly he wants to do it to get money to buy more toys. So it's sweet that he wants to get rid of stuff, and troubling that he's so focused on getting new stuff rather than being content with what he has. But there's been another side benefit: His store has forced us to spend far more time hanging out in the front yard, and so we've been far more social with our neighbors than we typically are. Folks come over, check out the plums, and stay and chat. So the little guy is really building community, a totally unexpected benefit.

So I want to make sure that I keep track of all these little moments of wonder, as well as thinking more about my experiences of parenting. So, fingers crossed, I hope this will again become a regular blogging habit for me.

Finally, I'll end with a little sllideshow I made of our weekend hike to Ano Nuevo State Park. Jen's sister, Cindy, lives near Santa Cruz with her husband Ingemar, and daughter Annika. Older cousin Mikael was visiting from So. Cal where he's starting his fourth year of colllege. Liam and Kalian dearly love their cousins, and after we left, I was thinking this was probably one of our best visits with them ever. Mikael was totally into hanging with Liam, building motorized Lego stuff and playing the Wii. And Annika and Kalian played non-stop princess games (that's a whole 'nother post).

Here's a slideshow I made. I'm still learning iPhoto on the Mac, so this is just a little playing around: