Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Mom's Video Game Games

I am having a great time with Nick's new video game.

No, I'm not playing. I haven't played a video game since the last time Nick was sick.

"Mom, will you play a game with me?"

"Honey, I'm terrible at those games, but if you don't mind how terrible I am, then I'll play."

So, we had a good time setting me up in pink and purple armor and got going. Then, right there at the beginning, it started to go wrong, oh so wrong.

"Mom, you need to look up. It's the toggle on the left. No, your other left. Now, just point your gun at the hive and shoot. There, with the target. No. Look down and aim. Behind you. Follow me. I'm over here. No, the other way. No, mom, you have to move the left toggle down so you can see where you're going. The right one moves you around. Then, when you get the hive in the cross-hairs, you shoot. Use the right trigger. You just changed guns, Mom. Mom. No, press the X button. You're shooting straight up, mom. That's... No....Stop..... Hide behind..... Aw, now you have to wait to respawn."

Meanwhile, he had eliminated about fifteen of the hive and was battling against the big guy somewhere and I couldn't find him. I died, respawned, hid, tried to catch up, tried to look up but not straight up at the sky, tried to shoot and run at the same time, tried to run and see where I was going at the same time, tried to avoid the purple streaks that were killing me, and wait patiently every time I had to respawn. I finally found that if I gave up trying to shoot anything, I could almost look around and run at the same time and keep up with Nick.

In the meantime, Nick got bored and frustrated, switched the mode of the game, and started shooting right at me while I was still trying to figure out where I was after I died and woke up in another place.

"Hey, you're spawnkilling. No fair!" I said. Nobody likes a spawnkiller.

"Mom, you stand there for an hour before you take a step. That's not spawnkilling."

"Yes it is. I wake up and there you are shooting at me."

"It's not waking up. It's spawning."

"Exactly. I spawn awake and there you are, shooting at me. You don't even give me a chance."

"Okay, I'll give you more time."

"Good. I need more time." I respawn and almost have my bearings. I'm running toward where Nick's character is standing and then he starts shooting at me again.

"I'm not having any fun. You keep shooting at me right after I figure out which way I'm going."

And that was the last time I played video games with Nick.

So now, I have a new game to play with him. I think it should be a Seth Rogan movie. Were you around the other day when I complained that Mike and Nick were watching YouTube videos of people playing video games?

Basically, these people think their banter is funny, so they play the video game with their cameras set to their faces and the rest of us in the world have the ultimate privilege of watching them sit on their asses talking to the TV while they play stupid video games. And that's somehow supposed to be entertainment. I think it is for video game nerds.

And as I watched Nick and Mike watching this YouTube video, Seth Rogan's face popped into my mind. He's got the camera set to his face. He's using his entire vocal range to narrate this game. He's cool. He's funny. There's a pile of candy wrappers, pizza boxes and beer cans tossed around him but he doesn't think that shows up on camera. He's wearing his pajama bottoms under a cool T-shirt and doesn't realize that viewers can see them too. The movie moves back and forth between his impression of himself over the Internet and the conversation between video game nerds about him in an entirely different home where they are playing his YouTube video.

Today, Nick is wearing his bluetooth ear set thingy. I picture him in our living room as the Seth Rogan character, capturing video of himself to be played later by other video game geeks.

I just got home from church. I'm played by someone like Melissa McCarthy, only older since she's not old enough to have a teenaged or twenty-something kid like Seth Rogan playing video games.

"Hi! I'm home," I shouted as I came up the stairs.

"Shhhh!" Mike said. "He's on Bluetooth."

"Oh, that thingy in his ear that keeps blinking? Okay."


"Oh, sorry." And I walked back through to the kitchen. Mike quietly sat on the couch.

I carried my groceries around in the kitchen and forgot myself.

"Hon, do you want brisket for dinner tonight? I bought a brisket if you want brisket," I yelled from the other room.


"Oh, sorry."

And I went back to unloading groceries and chatting to Mike and Nick in my head as I put stuff away.

"Sweetie, I bought you two bags of raisin bran. They didn't have the Maltomeal stuff at QFC, so whenever I'm at the Farmhouse Market, I have to get extra so it'll last you for a couple of weeks."

"Mom! I'm on a mission!"

"Right. Sorry, hon," I said, but by then my mind went around some kind of corner. You know the corner I mean. Those days when nothing is going right and something breaks in your mind and suddenly you're driving seriously slowly because of the tailgater behind you. Your you pick your nose and wipe it on the counter the day you're really sick and after waiting for a half an hour to talk to the pharmacist about an over-the-counter prescription, he's condescending and all he'll say is that what you want is in aisle four on the left.

Yes, I am ashamed to say my mind careened around a corner at that moment and I was an older version of Melissa McCarthy. I walked into the room and held out a glass of liquid toward Nick.

"You are ultra, dude," Nick said, but not to me.

"This is my favorite gun. See, isn't it a good gun." He's still not talking to me. I wait for just the right moment. It's coming.

"Did you see that nube?" he said a bit too loudly.

"Honey, here's your laxative. You should take it now so you don't get constipated later." Spawnkill number one.

Now, Nick mouthed an emphatic 'NO' at me. Finally, eye contact. He can't kill me with those eyes. He can't kill me with those eyes. I walked back into my kitchen. Another plus is that he was trapped in front of the TV and can't get up and get into my face either. In fact, he couldn't say anything rude at all because it might have hindered his view of himself on this mission. I almost finished loading the dishwasher and there was slimy goo on my fingers from a bowl that someone didn't rinse out. I walked out into the living room, still holding the bowl and looked at the TV.

"Dance! You're at the dance pavillion. Dance!"

"Mom! Stop!" He whispers fiercely as he tries to cover the microphone. Spawnkill number two.

I walked casually back into the kitchen and dropped a tablet onto the little door of the dishwasher. I didn't shut the little door thingy because it never springs open and I always have to run the dishwasher again. I thought about my next attack.

"Honey," I yell to Mike from where I stand. I am at full volume. "Did you schedule that colonoscopy yet? You're past due."

And I peek out of the kitchen. Nick has sunk down into the leather chair, his face four shades of pink. Nailed it. Spawnkill number three. I considered walking in front of the TV again and farting loudly, but even around that crazy corner, I had my limits.

And that is my favorite way to play video games.

Yes, Melissa McCarthy, you have permission to play me in the movie even though you're way too young and you're prettier than me and way funnier too. You could probably blow me out of the water with what you yell from the kitchen at someone like Seth Rogan playing video games and recording himself for YouTube. But please pick someone younger than Seth Rogan so he'd be young enough to be your kid. I hate when casting gets that stuff wrong and I'd never believe that old person is her kid. That's the problem with all the Botox and pouty collagen lips and shit. I never believe that face has lived for five minutes let alone borne a child and nagged for fourteen years straight. After fourteen years of continuous nagging, I deserve to have some wrinkles and if you're going to play me in the movies, you'd damned-well better have some wrinkles too.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tepid Showers and Unused Couches

Nick just used all the hot water. We leave in a half hour, just enough time to regenerate hot water. Not fair. I'm either going to have a cool shower - he never uses it all - or I'll go grunge. I've never been a big fan of grunge, but it's better as music than it is as a state of cleanliness.

There's a fad out there not to wash your hair for weeks at a time. While canoe trekking, I've gone four days without washing my hair and I don't like to think of the state of my fingernails after washing that. Especially out in the woods, my nails end up with black stuff under them and it feels absolutely divine to have a clean scalp when I scrub in some shampoo and toss a bucket of cold water over my head.

No, I'm not a fan of not washing my hair either. It's happening in New York. I guess it works for them. They're so cool, they could make pink mold on vegetables the next new thing.

Oh, I'm not a clean freak either. There are people who barely let their families exist in their homes for the cleaning that has to go on. I was raised in a house where we weren't allowed to sit on our couch. It was for company. It was so bad that when I moved away and came back to visit, the ban still existed. The house would be bursting at the seams and not a soul sat on the couch. When my mother got rid of that couch, it was barely used. There were no worn spots, no butt prints, no marks of any kind. The edges of the cushions still looked crisp.

Why even bother? It wasn't as if it were a large house either. About a fourth of the house was never used. Why does our culture do that? Why do people set up museum spaces in their homes so that it 'looks good?'

Does it really look good? It looks inhospitable, unfriendly, sterile. There are no books on the tables, no blankets thrown across an arm, nothing.

Just saying.

I'm going to go take a tepid shower.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I had some crabby material here, but I deleted it. It just wasn't nice. I suppose you're here for the intrigue and the feelings I create that go against the grain, but I'm just not here to lambast anyone. Last night, I was rude. I was. So, I'm deleting it.

Sure, I was mad. Sure, I had a right to be mad, but I'm as mad at myself as anything. I'm fifty-five years old. I know how to get past that point where people who casually judge my life make me feel stupid, right?

I guess not. I still feel stupid and that makes me mad. I'm not stupid.

Today, It's cloudy. Thankfully. I'm ready for rain, but I don't think we'll be so lucky.

What else can I complain about? People keep chatting to me about this wonderful weather. It's not wonderful. It's dry as a bone. It's sunny and the plants I like best are suffering. I want to tell them that the river is as low as it usually is in August. If this keeps up, it'll be dry in August. I don't want to see the dry riverbed. I just don't. I want that dripping rain that makes the sword ferns and Western red cedars happy.

There. Did I distract you from what used to be sitting here waiting to be read? Did I?

Should I complain about the spiders, the early-morning sunshine glaring in my windows at 3:30 in the morning, the cat waking me up, the dead dry grass in the spot where the canoe laid for two months, the number of people on the trails. early morning pee on the floor? I could go on.

I do go on, and on and on and on.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Faking It at Being a Football Mom

Mike used to study kung fu. I used to practice tai chi, but love watching any of it, karate, kung fu, tai chi.  And Mike and I were river rats. We've paddled canoes, rafts, and kayaks. I still consider myself to be a river rat, just an old dried out one. We were never team sports people. We don't really watch sports on TV unless you count curling and the Olympics. So, it is with some regret that I'm telling you that Nick has joined a football team.

I'm trying to be enthusiastic. To the outside world, I'm talking to new coaches and fellow parents with pride. I described my uninitiated son to the new coach as a novice, but a very strong kid. The man was genuinely enthusiastic when I described his build. Then, I went on to talk about his history in karate.

"He's a second degree brown belt," I told him.

"He's very good at sparring and grappling," I said. I love watching Nick practicing in his karate uniform. It suits him. He's been training since he was six, eight years ago. I would have told the coach about how lethal he looks using his nun chuks if I could have found a way to tie it into football. I couldn't.

I would have told the man how he looked paddling a canoe, how his J-stroke is coming along and we're thinking of taking him down a simple stretch of the river in the bow soon to get him started reading the river. I would have told him how Nick said he loved our canoe, that we were planning a three day family trip this summer with two of his best friends. I wanted to find a way to work the river into the football story I was telling the coach. I couldn't.

"He doesn't have to know anything. We'll train him right from the beginning," the coach said and my eyes began to glaze over.

I'm going to have to go watch football games. I'll do it. I'll cheer. I'll be proud of my boy, always. See, I've already taken some pictures of him out on the field. I've looked at the faces of the other parents who are also snapping photos of their boys.

Do they really think their sons are going to be the stars of the team? Do they dream of a high school career, college, or even the NFL for their children?

I don't. Not really. The only reason I want Nick to play is that I want him to get some new form of exercise to keep him moving. I want him to meet some people from his new school. And I want him to have fun.

That's it.

Is it bad that I don't really want Nick to play football for the next four years? Is it wrong that I would dread college or professional football the way I'd dread if Nick took up cage fighting? I'm not hoping he'll be a star. I don't exactly see that popularity as being good for a kid. It might be a relief to some parents. The other day, I ran into a friend and her son in the grocery store. He was so cute and personable. I was sure he was among the top-tier of the popular kids. I could tell that she was proud of that. But not being popular builds resilience. What was this boy going to do when something went wrong? How would he tell the difference between people who genuinely liked him and those who liked him for his looks alone? What if things didn't go his way after high school and he ended up stuck in that high-school zone? I saw the most popular girl in my high school stuck in that zone ten years after we graduated. She worked at K-Mart as a cashier and still had the audacity to look down on me though I'd graduated from college as an engineer and was doing well at my aerospace company.

No, I'd rather Nick not be in the popular crowd. Oh, I don't wish him to be a pariah either, but he's always been too social for that. He has a few good friends. What else does a kid need?

So today, I sat in the stands, clicking photos of Nick in a futile attempt to get something worthy of Facebook, and I secretly hoped that Nick would have fun at football but decide to go back to karate when the season is over. I hoped that he'd plan more time on the water next summer. I hoped that football would give him strength and agility and that he'd be able to bring all that back to karate and paddling our canoe and exploring the wilderness.

I just hope I cheer at the right times from the stands.

Thank you for listening, jules