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 SFGate.com 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 SFGate.com 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: