Category Archives: Adventures of a Geeky Dad

When Your Kids Choose a Fandom

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My oldest getting his letter from Hogwarts. Yer a wizard, Johnny!

When my first child was born, it was boy, and I rejoiced. Having a boy meant that I could buy all the cool toys I really wanted and pretend they were for him. I remember one of the first toys we got him was a Spider-Man teether. It was a little Spider-Man figure and his hands were flat and rubbery for chewing on. He loved it, and I loved that it was something geeky. I have always wanted my kids to be geeks like me, and chances are they will be, at least in the beginning. It was important to me that I could pass on some level of appreciation for these kinds of things. It was also important that they chose what they would be into, and I wouldn’t force them into liking any one show or franchise or character. I felt like I was just there to expose them to this stuff, and I could let them decide what they liked, and we could see what…ok, this is not entirely true. In the beginning, I really tried to shape them and mold them into little versions of me.

Isn’t that what being a parent is about? Or at least the perception of being a parent is about that. The stereotypical dad who forces his kid into sports so he can relive his glory days through his child. Or maybe the musician who “encourages” their children to play an instrument and learn music and be just like them. Or the math teacher who tortures his children by teaching them math. That is no fun for anyone. Ever. (I’m sorry to the people who have been brainwashed into thinking math is fun. I don’t mean to offend you). It seems like all sorts of people do this with their kids when they become parents. Normal, easy-going people become overbearing, controlling parents. It’s just the way of things.

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Going back to school in style (yes, the R2D2 lights up and makes sound.

I really wanted my first son to be into Thor. We have Scandinavian roots, and my son was blond-haired and blue-eyed, so I thought Thor would be perfect. He disagreed. Never really got into Thor. Never really liked him. Instead he went through a couple of different stages of superheroes, starting with Batman (who I think is everywhere, so a lot of little boys start there), then moved on to Green Lantern, before finally settling on the Flash. I have no idea why, except he thought the Flash was really cool because he could run so fast. I tried the Thor thing next with my second son. Still no luck. Instead, he latched onto Superman, and he hasn’t let go. I couldn’t argue with his choice. Superman has always been my favorite, so I let it go. I tried to show my girls some of the strong female characters out there superhero wise, like Wonder Woman and Batgirl. My oldest daughter loves Wonder Woman, and my youngest daughter loves Batgirl. She even thinks she’s Batgirl, which is usually fine, except she’s two, so sneaking out in the middle of the night to fight crime makes me a little nervous, but
she’s pretty good at it. My middle girl, on the other hand? Well, she likes Thor. Likes may not be a strong enough word. We are talking an obsession with Thor that has not been seen since the days of Adventures in Babysitting. The point is, in the end, I couldn’t control what any of my kids liked. They picked their superheroes all on their own. And it has been that way with everything. I tried to talk my oldest into watching Star Wars 100 times, and it never worked. One day, he decided he needed to watch the movies on his own, and he liked them quite a bit. The same thin happened with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. One day this summer, he decided he wanted to check them out, and now they are his favorite movies.

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I’m Batgirl!

In the end, I have learned that nothing can be forced. Your kids are going to like what they like, and it is out of your control, for the most part. I think all we can really do as parents is find really good stuff to expose them to, try to limit some of the crap, and then support and encourage the stuff they end up liking. They’re going to enjoy the stuff you enjoy a lot more if they don’t feel forced into it. They’ll feel like it was their choice.

The most important thing I have learned as a parent is finding out what your kids enjoy and then enjoying it with them. There really is nothing that matters more than that. I didn’t always have that as a kid, for various reasons. I don’t blame my parents. They were doing the best they knew how. Mostly, as I got into some of the things I got into, they just thought I was weird, and they didn’t get it. I wish they had tried to, and I don’t want my kids to feel that way. As they grow up and develop their own personalities and things come out, they will start getting into things I don’t know, like Skylanders. I look forward to taking the time to get to know that stuff. That will count for a lot, I think. Being a geeky parent, I know what it’s like not fitting in. Every geek has experienced it, and many of us have experienced it within our own families. I have family members that think this blog I write is just weird and a waste of time. I don’t want my kids to ever feel that way in my house. Whether it’s flying the Millennium Falcon or riding their Firebolt broomstick, it’s all allowed at my house, and they will probably find a mom or a dad who are willing to join them in the run on the Deathstar or in the Quidditch match.

Tell us what you think. What things have your kids gotten into? How have you been able to bond over geeky stuff? Leave us a comment below or send me your feedback directly to thegeekymormon@yahoo.com.

My 10 Disneyland Favorites

 

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This may be a little bit of a departure in the geeky category. Disneyland may not be overly “geeky,” or at least mainstream geeky, if there is such a thing. However, I would argue that Disney fans are some of the biggest geeks around. You will not find a fan base that is more passionate about their franchise, and that’s what being a geek is all about. I happen to count myself among the Disney faithful, but more specifically, I love Disneyland. Some may call it the happiest place on Earth. I don’t know about that, but I do know it is my favorite place to go on vacation, especially with the family. It’s been my favorite place for a long time. We were never a family that went every year, or every other year, but when we did go, it was awesome. Those were the best years and the best vacations. Both of my parents have always had a love for the Magic  Kingdom, and they passed that down to each of us.

This month, Disneyland turns 60. It is pretty amazing that it has not only lasted 60 years, but that it is still as popular as it is. After the grand opening, it was miracle that the park lasted longer than two weeks. The fact that it has, and that it has become an example of customer service and organization, is a testament to Walt Disney, who always found a way to keep going, even when he failed. There is just something special about Disneyland. If given the choice to go to the land or the World, I would choose Disneyland every time. There is just a great feeling in the park and the history is everywhere, and I love history. Plus, the magic. You can’t overlook the magic. My wife had only been to Disneyland once before our trip in 2011. She wasn’t convinced that the trip was going to be worth the money when we went. It is expensive, for sure. On the last day, though, as we were riding the parking tram from the garage to the park, she mentioned to me that we needed to come back sooner than later. Why? Because of Magic. She saw how much the kids enjoyed it, and she enjoyed watching the enjoy it. I wish I could say we have been back, but we are planning on going next year, and it is going to be epic.

In honor of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my Disneyland favorites. A couple of rules for this list. Rule number one is that it has to be something currently in the park that I have experienced before. It has been almost 5 years since I was there, so a lot has changed in that amount of time. There is a lot of new things that i haven’t seen, like the new Star Tours. I can’t count those things as my favorite, since I have never experienced them. Rule number two is that it has to be something in Disneyland. Disney’s California Adventure doesn’t count. That park is not turning 60 this year, so I’m not going to take any of my favorites from there. When DCA turns 60, I will write another post and list my DCA favorites. Rule number three is that these are my favorites. I am not trying g to say they are the best, but they are the things I enjoy the most. Your favorites may be different from mine. That’s fine. After all, Walt Disney said Disneyland is your land, meaning it is for everyone. So, let’s get to my favorites.

Favorite Land: New Orleans Square

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If I had been asked which land was my favorite as a kid, it would have been Tomorrow Land. I would not have even hesitated. My wife suggested this category for this post, and I had to think about it. Tomorrow Land is not that great anymore. I like all the other lands just fine, but it was hard to pick a favorite, until I realized that three of my favorites for other categories are in New Orleans Square, plus Club 33, which I will get into someday. For grown-up Jake, New Orleans Square can’t be beat.

Favorite Snack: Churros

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I know, I know, this is an easy choice, and I should have tried to think of something more original. The truth is, I really like the churros. I never go to the park without having at least one. I mean, one per day while I’m there. Maybe two. I have a sister who loves these even more than I do. She once spent $100 just on churros during one trip to Disneyland. She definitely had her fill on that trip, and she earned my undying respect.

Favorite Walk Up Restaurant: Hungry Bear

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When I think of hungry Bear, an old favorite phrase of mine comes to mind: “There’s some good eating’ there.” It is just straight up good food, and the atmosphere can’t be beat. Sit and enjoy your meal along the coast of the Rivers of America. This isn’t a fancy restaurant. It’s pretty plain and simple, and sometimes that is perfect. Don’t let that fool you, though, because the food is great. In my opinion, it is the best place to get a burger in the park.

Favorite Sit Down Restaurant: The Blue Bayou

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Sometimes we pick a favorite based solely on high quality and other times we pick a favorite based on other things completely. The Blue Bayou has a bad reputation as of late, although I hear that the food has gotten better. For me, it was never completely about the food. The atmosphere is great. How often do you get to eat inside an iconic attraction? I know it was a highlight for the kids as well. This was one of our favorite memories from our last trip, so Blue bayou gets a bump for that reason. The food was good enough. By the way, that’s my boy, Johnny, in the pirate’s hat, hamming it up for the camera.

Favorite Show: The Jedi Academy

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Start the emails now. I know that this is probably not at the top of anyone’s list of great shows at Disneyland. I told my wife I was picking this, and she questioned whether this was even considered a show. I admit it, this “show” doesn’t compare to Fantastic of the nightly fireworks. It isn’t designed to even compete with those spectacles, but see that little boy with the blue lightsaber? That’s my son, Johnny, and he just defeated Darth Vader, and to this day he still believes he’s a Jedi. All thanks to the magic of Disney.  Jedi Academy wins, your argument is invalid.

Favorite Kids’ Ride: It’s a Small World

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Besides being a reason for me to include this incredibly awesome picture of me at Disneyland with my two boys, It’s a Small World was one of our favorite rides with little kids. The biggest reason why is the boy in the red hooded jacket. Jak. He loved it. Yes, it is overstimulating with all the colors and lights, and the song is so obnoxious that it has been considered torture in some countries, but the kid loved it, so we went like 4 times. To this day, Jak says that It’s a Small World is his favorite ride. Also, looking at this picture he may have been breaking some rules by having no shoes on. What a rebel!

Favorite Family Ride: Pirates of the Caribbean

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So, the song is all about drinking rum, pillaging and plundering, and the ride features an auction selling off women, but I stand by my classification of this ride as a family ride. This was probably our second favorite ride to go on all together. I think our whole family fit on one bench when we went, so we all could to experience the fun together. It’s a little more thrilling than It’s a Small World, but not too much that the little ones can’t go.

Favorite Dark Ride: The Haunted Mansion

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It may be at this point in reading this post that you are thinking that I am just coming up with different ride classifications so I can include or sneak in a list of some of my favorite rides. To that thought I would respond that this is my blog. When you write a post like this on your blog, you may write however you would like. I have always loved the Haunted Mansion. It is a must experience for me every time I go to the park. I loved going on this with my oldest who was 4 at the time. He thought it was great, and wanted to go again. I was so proud of him. My nephew, who was the same age, survived his experience, but decided once was enough for him.

Favorite Thrill Ride: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

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Yes, another ride category. Spoiler: the last thing will be another ride as well. I really enjoy this ride. It is newer, so I didn’t grow up with it, but I did grow up with Indiana Jones, and this ride puts you right in the middle of one of his adventures. The music is authentic, or feels authentic, the action is similar to the original three movies and the queue is one of the best out there. Yes, without a fast pass you will wait, but the wait is almost as much fun as the ride itself. Plenty of thrills. This is one of my wife’s favorites as well, although that might be because this was one of the few rides where we got away from the kids for a minute.

Favorite Ride: The Matterhorn Bobsleds

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Ever since my dad told me this was his favorite ride, it has been my favorite ride. You can say what you want about the jerkiness of the sleds and that the ride system should be smoother, but I still love this ride. I can’t wait to see it since Harold has gotten a makeover. One of my happiest moments recently was when I asked my son, Johnny, what his favorite ride at Disneyland was, and he said it was Matterhorn. The tradition lives on! Now he just needs to pass it down to his son.

All of those things are some of my favorite things at Disneyland, but by far, my absolute favorite thing is just the magic the kids experience when they are there. One thing that demonstrates this more than almost anything else is the way the kids get to interact with their favorite characters. My kids had no fear when they went and they met all their favorites. It was during these experiences that we discovered that Eliza is a champion hugger. Don’t believe me? Check out these pics:

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We weren’t sure if she was ever going to let go of the Fairy Godmother, who even commented on how good a hugger Eliza was, and I figure she has seen a lot of huggers.

Whatever your favorite things about Disneyland might be, I hope you have the opportunity to experience its magic. Here’s to the next 60 years!

What are some of your Disneyland favorites? Let us know in the comments, or you can email me directly at thegeekymormon@yahoo.com, or visit our Facebook page and comment there, or tweet me @thegeekymormon or find me on Google +. All those buttons are found under the “Let’s Get Social” section. Thanks for reading.

Sunday Night Flicks: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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It’s summer time, which means the kids will not be going to bed as early as they normally would, which means it will be easier to get in some good Sunday Night Flicks. This last week we decided to start the eight film journey covering the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends. I have been wanting to share these stories with my kids for a long time, and my oldest finally showed a little bit of interest after playing the Harry Potter Lego games. We started where everyone should start such a journey; at the beginning.

It was pretty interesting to go back to the beginning of this saga. It had been quite a while since I had watched either of the first two Harry Potter films, and it was kind of strange to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione so young, and know what was lying ahead for them. The three of them seem wide-eyed through out this movie, like they are just as amazed and astonished by this wizarding as we were. In this film, and the next installment, Chris Columbus begins to bring to life the hidden magical world that David Yates would later perfect starting with Order of the Phoenix.

The Sorcerer’s Stone for me, is fun because we see Harry Potter come to life for the first time. These characters I had always imagined in my head were there, on the screen. I wasn’t sold on Daniel Radcliffe as Harry at first, but he grew into the role, and it would be hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Rupert Grint, on the other hand, was brilliant from the start, as was Emma Watson. I remember being somewhat disappointed with this film when I saw it for the first time, which was at home on DVD since it came out while I was spending two years in Germany. It is still probably my least favorite of all the films.

Watching it for the first time with my little ones changed my perspective a little bit. I got to experience the magic again but through my kids’ eyes. The only thing I could compare it with is when we took our kids to Disneyland for the first time. I had always loved Disneyland, but seeing them experience for the first time brought the magic to life in a whole new way. That’s kind of how this felt. My son was so excited about the movie, that he wanted us to immediately put in the second film. We are making him wait until at least next week.

Overall, this film was ok. As much as I enjoyed watching the kids enjoy this movie, I couldn’t get past how much I disliked this compared to the other movies. The child actors aren’t great right away, and their chemistry is good, but still awkward, not like it is by the end of the films. That makes sense, since by the eighth movie they had all grown up together. I guess for me it is like watching the first season of Seinfeld. You can tell it has a lot of potential, but it’s not there yet. However, the world the film is set in is fantastic and rich in detail.

The fun factor is what really counts here. The kids love this Harry Potter movie, and in a lot of ways, it feels like a kids’ movie, kind of like how the first book feels more like a children’s book. I had no problem with all of my kids sitting down to watch this movie, but I am not sure how I feel about some of the younger ones watching the films as they go on. They may have to head off to bed before we watch Order of the Phoenix.

I guess, in the end, watching this with my kids, I had a lot of mixed feelings. In some ways, it was still hard to get through this whole movie and to look past the acting in some cases, knowing it would get better. In other ways, it was a lot of fun to experience Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley with my little ones. It was like they were there, in Diagon Alley, with Harry and Hagrid. Maybe that experience made me appreciate this film on a new level.

What about you? What did you think about this first installment of the Harry Potter films? Where does this one rank compared to the others? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Night Flicks: The Princess Bride

Some of my fondest memories growing up revolve around our old tube TV and VCR and sitting down with my family to enjoy a great movie. In fact, almost all of my favorite memories growing revolve around good movies and good company. There was something special about going on a Friday night to the local Video store to pick out a movie or two and then coming home and watching it. Staying up late, bringing out all the blankets from your bedroom and making a big pile of blankets and pillows on the floor, lying on your stomach, head perched on your hands, kicking your feet back and forth and watching those opening credits. It was almost always magical. In some ways, kids today will never experience that kind of magic. Their idea of movie night is sitting down with the iPad and selecting a show to watch on Netflix, and their movie night happens every night, and is rarely together. They will never know the joys of going to the video store, spending an hour at least trying to find the perfect film. I remember browsing for so long  thinking about trying something new, but often times, I would settle for an old favorite. My favorite movies were like good friends. I know that sounds sad, but I don’t think I minded.

Sunday Night Flicks is my attempt to get some of that magic back. I think part of the magic was more than just the experience. Part of the magic were the great films we watched. I want my kids to experience those films. I want my kids to be the kids who look down on other kids who don’t know classic films. I want my kids to appreciate a good film for being a good film, and not just the latest and greatest. In short, I want my kids to be geeks like me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

The Princess Bride was one of those old favorites for me. If I couldn’t find something new at the video store, I would pick this film. Eventually, we owned it on VHS (ahhh, the glory of VHS), and the case quickly became battered and well worn as we watched it over and over again. I could recite almost the whole film from start to finish. I would run through the house with anything I could find that resembled a sword and yell, “Hello, you killed my father, prepare to die!” It was just such a big part of my childhood, that I felt it was an appropriate place to start with my kids. And, we had just bought it on iTunes and watched it for Valentine’s. Let’s be honest, there is nothing wrong with watching The Princess Bride two days in a row.

The key was finding a way to entice the kids to watch it. My kids rarely agree on anything when it comes to watching a movie. Plus, they rarely want to watch something not animated. We can talk about all the ways I have obviously failed as a parent later. I’m working on it. I started with my oldest daughter, Eliza. She was going to be the easiest sell. I asked her if she wanted to watch a princess movie. Before I could say anything else, she was on board. No problem. She loves all things princess, and I like to show her princess stuff that isn’t Disney. Like Star Wars (wait…well it didn’t start out as Disney).

Next, I had to convince my oldest child, Johnny. I wasn’t sure how to do it. I knew he would love the movie, but he had to get past all the kissing and stupid stuff like that.  Then I remembered the way the Grandpa in the film convinced the Grandson to listen to the book. I asked Johnny if he wanted watch a movie with sword fighting, and giants, and a fire swamp, and pirates. He just kept getting more and more excited as I added more things to what was in the film. He was sold. The other kids would fall in line as long as the oldest 2 were on board.

Then we started the film. At first, I think Johnny agreed with the Grandson. He thought I had tricked him. Eliza loved the whole “As you wish” thing and started repeating it over and over. Except when I asked her to do something for me. Then she only remembered how to say no. Apparently she doesn’t love me. Johnny was about to be bored and ready to walk away, about the time that Buttercup runs into the 3 kidnappers. Now, i am going to assume that most of you have seen this film, so I am going to be pretty free with any spoilers. Anyway, as they kidnapped the princess, Johnny was suddenly interested again. When she jumped overboard and the eels started circling her, both Johnny and Eliza were on the edge of their seats.

Johnny thought the Man-in-Black was pretty much the coolest guy ever as he beat Inigo in their awesome sword fight, and then when he beat Fezzik. Johnny thought he was pretty much a superhero at that point. Eliza was thrilled when he turned out to be Westley, because she thought he had died. I thought that was funny, because I always thought that it was pretty obvious that he was Wesley from the beginning. I guess not when you’re a kid and this is the first time you have seen the show. They enjoyed every minute of the film, and something fun happened as we watched it. We all started out in different spots on our sectional, but by the end, we were all cuddled up together.

As I sat there with my kids all around me and my wife and I only separated by a two-year old, I thought about how good movies always did this when I was I kid. They brought us closer together. They gave us inside jokes to enjoy together, they gave us laugh and tear together and all-around gave us a common experience that brought our family together. That was what was happening now with my young family. It gave me a thrill to see that they were enjoying this movie as much as I did as a kid. After the movie, I asked they liked it. Eliza said yes right away. Johnny kind of shrugged his shoulders, like he didn’t care or he was too cool for it, but the smile on his face gave it away. The best indicator was that they wanted to watch it again tonight.

I can’t wait to show them more great movies. Each week will be anew experience and hopefully it will bring us closer together as a family. Hopefully, it will help my kids to appreciate really good movies with really good stories. Hopefully, it will make them want to tell really good stories. Who knows. Mostly, I hope it will be fun, and someday, maybe they will have blogs of their own where they write about stupid little stuff like this that always seems to mean so much more than the big stuff.

Sunday Night Flicks: Back to the Future

In a continuing effort to expose my children to more than just the stuff that’s on today, we are choosing a different movie each week that we think they might kind of enjoy. This week was Back to the Future. I would like to take full credit for selecting this movie and making my kids sit down and watch. This was an absolute favorite when I was a kid. It was just so cool. I wanted to be Marty McFly when I grew up. Who wouldn’t want to be him? He was just so cool. In fact, I distinctly remember a period of my life where I was slightly angry with my parents because they did not name me something cool like Marty. Or maybe Jason, but that’s not related to this at all, so I probably shunt have mentioned it. Not only was the premise to the film cool- Kid gets accidentally sent back to the past, where he runs into his parents and has to find a way to get the two of them together and find a way to get back to the future- but the way he went back in time was awesome. He was trying to get away from Libyan terrorists in a DeLorean that is also a time machine. I was convinced that the DeLorean was the coolest car ever when I was a kid. When Doc mentions something about if you’re going back in time, you might as well go back in style, he wasn’t lying. I loved all three BTTF movies. They really were such a big part of my growing up. For all of those reasons, I wish I had thought of this movie being our second attempt at Sunday Night Flicks, but it was my wife’s idea. And of course it was, because, well, my wife is cooler than yours. When she suggested it, I was totally on board with the idea.

My kids loved last week’s Sunday Night Flick, so when I suggested doing it again, they were totally stoked. This time, they didn’t care what the movie was. I told them anyway. Johnny thought it sounded awesome, while Eliza just asked if it was funny. I told her it was, and then hoped at least some of the jokes wouldn’t be over her head. Fortunately for me, anytime someone falls over while trying to put pants on, and they have purple underwear, she thinks it’s hilarious (it happens more often than you’d think). Overall, the kids liked the movie, although it took them a little bit to get the concept of time travel, which was surprising since they have watched so much Doctor Who with me. Maybe I should have explained that the car was like Marty’s TARDIS. Maybe that would have caught them on to it more quickly.

I wish I could say that this week went as smoothly as last week, but unfortunately, it didn’t. Jak was not interested at all in the movie, which is fine. He usually isn’t, and we don’t try to force him. That wasn’t why it didn’t go as smoothly. No, the problem this time was equipment. I think our Blu ray player is getting older and had been well used. I mean it is going on 5 years, which for cheap tech nowadays, is more than a life time. It had a hard time reading the disc. We would get a little bit into the film, and then it would just freeze. We tried cleaning the disc and starting it from where we left off, and then it would just freeze again. Now, if you have ever been in a similar situation as this, with 5 children, then you’ll know how well kids remain patient. I mean my kids just sat there quietly while we tried to get it to work and politely asked to help. And then monkeys began flying out of my posterior (Garth). What really happened is that the kids were so excited about the whole thing, that when the movie stopped working, they had not choice but begin running around the family room and jump on our sectional and start our very own version of the latest WWE pay per view. That’s what kids do when they are expecting to be entertained, and all of a sudden the entertainment stops working. The good news is that I actually find all of that chaos very therapeutic and calming so it really helped me work through trying to get the Blu ray player to work without getting frustrated at all. After messing with it for 20 minutes, and just before the kids’ main event, which was going to have Johnny facing off against Jak for the Dietz Family Heavyweight Championship, I decided to just download the movie from iTunes. Which worked like a charm.

This is how good Back to the Future is: I started the movie off where we had left off, the kids immediately sat down and were quiet and glued again to the TV. That is being written, by the way, with no sarcasm. That is honestly what happened. That is the mark of an exceptional film, at least by our standards. It’s like this: I would give that movie 2 out of 5 kids- in other words it got 2 of my 5 kids to sit down and watch it. Forget stars, that’s how I rank movies. How many of my children will the movie hold captivated for the length of the movie? If it’s less than 3, it’s not worth my time. This movie got 4 out of 5 kids sitting and watching it. We have only come across a few 5 kid movies: My Neighbor Totoro, Frozen, and Hal’s Moving Castle. Those are truly magical films because they keep the other kids sitting and watching, and Jak is even interested. 4 out of 5 isn’t bad, though. Even my little 2 year-old was just sitting on my lap for the whole movie and was glued to it. So, despite the 20 minute forced intermission, it worked out well.

Now how’s this for a truly geeky moment: As I was watching the movie, we had just had Stake Conference and one of the speakers had spoken about Family History. So, as I was watching BTTF, I kept thinking, this a really good endorsement for the importance of Family History. Marty had a whole new respect for his parents as he got to know them. It made me want to go out and do my own Family History. I just have to remember where I parked my time machine…

JAK-isms: Just Be Yourself

I love my kids.  Little kids just have a different way of looking at life than we do as adults.  It’s refreshing to every once in a while take a look at the world through their eyes.  Our little boy Jak (short for Jakob, pronounced Jack) seems to see the world in an even more different light.  He has his quirks and we love him for them, most of the time.  Sometimes, he says things that really make me think, enough that I want to write them down from time to time and share them with the world.  He doesn’t know it, but Jak is about to enlighten the Internet.  His stuff is typically pretty inspirational, so I would recommend sharing this post with everyone you know, because someone you know might need it.

The other day, Jak and I were talking.  Jak doesn’t always do well with pretending.  He doesn’t like to pretend that he is someone or something else.  he is always just Jak.  He might be Jak in a Captain America costume or Jak in a Wolverine costume or a Ninja Turtle costume, but always still Jak.  So we were talking and I told him that he was pretty great, and that we were like Batman and Robin.  I could be like Batman and he would be like Robin.  He didn’t like that one, so I said I could be Superman and he could be Superboy.  Still no good.  So I asked him, “Jak, which heroes do you want to be, then?”  He looked at me and gave the first JAK-ism that I really wanted to write down. He said:

“Daddy, you don’t have to be a super hero to do good stuff.  You just have to be yourself  to do good stuff.”

Wow.  I couldn’t help but smile when he said that.  I gave him a big hug and told him, “You’re right, buddy, what was I thinking.”

It’s a true statement.  Within each of us is the capacity to do good.  We don’t need to wear tights (thankfully), or a cape to help others and do good stuff.  I didn’t press, but I wonder what Jak thinks of as good stuff that I do or that he does, but chances are it’s probably everyday kind of stuff like playing with him or helping with dinner or taking him out for ice cream.  It made me really stop and think.  To our kids, we are already super heroes.  And if we’re not parents yet, we can still do good stuff.  We don’t have to wait to get some cosmic power ring or get struck by lightning while standing in some chemicals or anything like that.  We can start today.  How?  That was Jak’s real wisdom.  Just being ourselves.  Nothing “extraordinary,” except I think on some level, we could say that each of us extraordinary and special and have something to add to our communities, our families, our workplace, our school or wherever we are.  Jak realized that each of us is special and that being ourselves is enough to do good stuff.

Jak-isms: I don’t do Well with Change

Jak was facing a real challenge at the beginning of this year. He had just finished his first year in primary, and he was loving life as a Sunbeam. He even loved the Sunbeam theme song and would often pick it for our family home evenings. When he did, and we sang it, it was always with vigor. He loved his teachers in his Sunbeams class and he loved his classmates. After a year, he finally had this whole primary thing down. He was finally comfortable. This was both good and bad, and ultimately what was leading to his challenge. Jak likes being comfortable. He likes a routine. He likes when what happens this Sunday is the same thing that happens every Sunday. He does not like when it all changes. We know this about Jak, so we began to prepare him in November for the change that we knew was coming in January, hoping that having knowledge beforehand would help to begin to cope with it all now, and be ready for the change, and maybe even embrace it.

The week leading up to the big change, we really pushed it hard. We reminded him everyday that the change was coming, but that it was a good change, an exciting change. About Thursday or Friday, Jak had had enough. He was tired of hearing about his new class and how great it would be, and he just cracked. He got angry at me when I brought it up again. I asked him what was wrong, and at first he wouldn’t look at me. If I tried to position myself so he was looking at me, he would just rotate himself so he wasn’t. Finally, I asked him again what was wrong, and he answered. In his quiet little Jak voice, he mumbled, while looking at the floor, “Daddy, I just don’t do well with change.” That may have been an understatement, and something we all knew. The important thing, though, was that he knew. He recognized in himself that he doesn’t do well with change.

When I say he doesn’t like when things are different, when things change up all of a sudden, you’re probably thinking, well duh! Who does like constant change? No one really enjoys it when things change, but we all learn to adapt, and sometimes we even appreciate it. That’s not Jak. One might argue that he’s still a kid, so it’s pretty typical, and maybe that’s true too, but I have four other kids, and they all deal with change a lot better than Jak does. Let me give you some examples of how Jak copes with change, or doesn’t.

Jack goes to bed at pretty much the same time every night. We don’t have to put him in bed, he just goes. He walks into his bedroom and climbs under his Superman blanket, the only one he will sleep with, and lays his head down on his pillow pet, the only pillow he will use, and goes to sleep. Jak also gets up at the same time each morning. Unfortunately for us, that time is 5:00. Well, I should say, unfortunately for my wife, because Jak won’t let anyone else get him a drink, or help him get dressed or do anything. Only Mom. Jak only likes to wear Superman shirts. No other superheroes, especially not Batman. And the examples go on and on. He doesn’t just not like change, he lives in a world where change doesn’t happen. Or at least he would like to think he does.

The truth is, none of us lives in a world where change does not happen. We all live in a world where change happens constantly. There is no way around it. Jak has to learn how to adjust, but how do we help him learn that? When he is faced with change, especially sudden change, it isn’t just a grumpy reaction, it can be an all out temper tantrum. He goes into this mode where he almost forgets that the rest of the world exists, maybe even that he exists. He just cries and moans, and he doesn’t stop until, well he stops. You can’t distract him from it or really do anything to make it better. You just have to wait and ride it out. That’s all you can do. That makes it tough.

If we know the change is coming then we can help him prepare for the change, but sometimes we don’t know when the change is coming. Besides that, Jak can’t keep throwing a fit every time something happens. I think on some level he knows this. That’s why he recognizes that he doesn’t do well with change, and he needs to change that. We just get stuck on how.  I guess the only thing we can do is just be patient with him and keep helping him through the changes.

Once he accepts whatever is new, he is fine. It’s just getting him to that point. When he mentioned the other day that he didn’t do well with change, it reminded me how special this little boy really is. Sometimes, we as parents forget how special each of our kids are when we find ourselves in moments like temper tantrums. I know I do. But this was a little thing that reminded me that Jak doesn’t quite see the world the same way most people do. And that makes him pretty fantastic.