10 Games to Play During Quarantine

If the shoe fits…

Note: Although these games are geared towards children, with a bit of imagination, they can be played by the most immature of adults.

As a family, we learned a tremendous amount during the quarantine. We learned things like how many different games you can play with Alexa (even she gets cabin fever), how precious a single square of toilet paper can be (count your blessings, count them one by one), and how viruses can only really spread in small businesses but you’re okay in giant, multi-billion dollar department stores. But to pass the time, we also came up with some of our own games. So, here’s a list of 10 games (minus a few because I was going to do a list of 10 to make a nice, even list, but then I started making the list and I was like, 10 is way too many things to think about!) to preoccupy your family in the case of any future lock downs.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoe! – One day, my three-year-old came up to me and said, “Let’s play a game!” She held out one little palm and put her other fist on top saying, “Rock, paper, scissors, shoe! Umm… Daddy, how to make the shoe?” Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock, and shoe beats… cockroach?

Will It Hat? – Our one year old son, loves to put things on his Benjamin Button, bald head. Gotta cheese puff? Put it on your head. Will it hat? Gotta dead leaf? Put it on your head. Will it hat? Gotta shoe? A book? A cup full of water? An actual hat? Put ‘em on your head, and see: will it hat? The answer is always: most certainly, yes it will.

Dress Up – I used to think one shirt was enough for one day. But why only wear one outfit when you can change multiple times a day, and do loads of laundry everyday? Baby spit up, toddler nail polish, slime, boogers, the options and opportunities are endless to have a reason to change again. Or you could just not wear anything. It is quarantine after all.

No Mess Finger Paint – The game is that while you had a momentary lapse in sanity, you allowed your toddler to play with paint, and now, while she has fun painting, you spend the entire time just trying to clean and keep paint off of everything in the house.

Sharing is Caring – No matter how many toys you give to each child, even if they’re identical, they only want to play with what the other one has. I just keep telling myself that the screams and tears are watering the little seeds of maturity in their souls so they won’t covet their neighbor’s new deck and jacuzzi.

Sleep Over – The best part about a sleep over is getting to stay up late. Having young children is kinda like that except instead of staying up late to eat junk food or play video games, you stay up late to put one kid to bed just so you can then get the other back in bed who woke up because of a feral cat outside, so that you can then wake up early for the other one who seems to have no concept of a lazy weekend morning.

Hide the Biscuit – The biscuit can be anything. Cereal puffs, green beans, carrots, crackers, cheese, or even biscuits. Where do you hide them? Well, our son hides them in his chair, under his chair, in his pockets, in his diaper, in his armpit, on his head (refer back to Game #2), behind his ears, in his ears, up his nose, under his bum and around the corner, and within black hole-like interdimensional portals that confound the known laws of space and time in which you thought you found and cleaned up all those puffs just for them to reemerge later either fall from the ceiling, be stuck to an elbow, or be stepped on.

Hide ‘n’ Seek – No. Just no. Never play this.

Naturally Gifted

(Like Father, Like Son)

As an incredibly blessed parent, I try not to brag. I don’t want to be one of those parents who vicariously lives through their children, attempting in vain to supplant past failures, and overly boasts of their accomplishments as if they were their own. (Did I use enough ambiguous antecedents in that last sentence? I’m sure you can figure out who the unclear pronouns refer to. I’m not going to spend time rewriting sentences for clarity when that’s not what this is about. Do you realize how much time I could waste just going on and on and on about every little word and sentence. I could take at least some 87 words talking about it. Look, I’m just not going to overthink these blog posts. Okay? Hmm, maybe I should…)

Anyways, as I was saying before being rudely interrupted by the grammar sheriff, as a proud father, I try not to brag. But my son, soon to be one, is gifted at eating. Quite remarkable acutally.

It’s like we didn’t even have to teach him. He just figured it all out with almost no direction. Finger foods? Check. Fruit pouches with little slurp spouts? Check. Sippy cups? Check. Beverages with straws—obviously the decomposable, plant-based, non-marine-life-harrasing kind? Check. He just gets it.

But of course, greatest strength, greatest weakness.

With his prodigious penchant for food consumption also comes a few unsavory habits (see what I did there? “unsavory”). We’re currently trying to wean our kiddo off these shady lifestyle choices:

Eating leftovers.

By leftovers, I mean the food that has fallen off the table and onto the floor. Some people have a dog. We have a baby. He’s like a weird, squishy little vacuum cleaner. One of his favorite after-dinner pastimes is to try and crawl under the table and sample the variety platter of crumbs and collateral. When eating in his highchair, he often eats one, and then throws one down on the floor. I believe this is all part of his master plan to have readily accessible, self-selected hors d’oeuvres for later.

Eating dirt.

It’s not that he necessarily “loves” the taste of dirt and sand, but they’re also not really good deterrents either. The other day when we went to the beach, he tried a generous handful of sand, and then made the face of confused trepidation that you would expect. So, he was good, he wasn’t going to just eat more sand for the kicks and giggles of it. But then it was also the day he first tried potato chips. I personally have a weakness for those crispy, golden, fried spuds of nirvana myself. Perhaps it’s genetic. Either way, if a chip were to fall in the sand, he would do a quick cost-risk-benefit analysis and then determine that the right course of action was to push through and munch on. The chip was totally worth a little garnishment of sand.

Eating garbage.

By garbage, I mean basically anything and everything he can get his grimy, little paws on. Paper of all assortments and colors. Sticks, mulch, and grass. Carpet fibers. His sister’s polyester princess dress frills. Seriously little dude, you gotta stop doing that. Sometimes, opening up his diaper is like unwrapping one of those dollar store mystery bags. We’re really trying to set realistic goals for our children. Keep it simple ya know: try to stop eating random trash. We’re totally setting them up for success!

Eating people.

There’s always that one kid at the preschool who’s a biter. Look, we’ve really made some progress here so don’t worry too, too much. I’m sure by the time our son is ready for school he’s not going to want to gnaw on your offspring. But just in case, I’d send your child with some extra snacks. Think the “Sandlot” movie when the kids need to try and bribe the guard dog with a tasty beef treat. Did something like that happen in that movie? I don’t know; sounds about right.

Scars are there to remind us of the love.

At Home All These Past Years

(On Our Anniversary Today)

If home is where your story begins,
Then I don’t recall a chapter before you.

There must have been no prologue;
At least not one worth mentioning.
Perhaps, the editor removed it for clarity.
All the better,
For the story worth telling
Must be the one that starts with you.

So, if home is where your story begins,
Then my story began here with you.

And if home is where the heart is,
Then my heart was stuck far too long
In the pages of the lonely flyleaf and the dull copyright.

Was I homeless before my heart found you?
I can’t remember. I don’t want to.
Perhaps, the realtor was banking on a better market.
All the better,
For the home worth sharing
Must be the one that’s here with you.

So, if home is where the heart is,
Then my home is forever with you.

5 Joys of Covenant Marriage

(or Five Things I Love About You)

(also or Happy Birthday)

1. Sharing

Food—I’m mostly talking about food. I love going out to new places and trying new things to eat. But what I love even more is being able to order TWO different things and being able to try some of both. Before being married, I felt like I was only living half of a life because it’s socially frowned upon to order two entire entrees for yourself alone. Don’t bother checking my math on that. You have completed me in so many ways—especially in allowing me to indulge in my foodie lifestyle; now our sharing is caring, and a happy tummy makes two lifestyle.

2. Synergy

You are my synergistic soul partner. I’m not even talking about the tax benefits of filing jointly. Well, maybe that is something to talk about. But really, I love that we accomplish more together than the sum of our individual efforts. It’s like if you tried to make a sandwich using whole peanuts and churned butter. Just doesn’t make sense or taste very good for that matter. But when you put it together: peanut butter! Wait, I don’t think that’s how it works… my metaphor is falling apart here…

3. Creating

And making a baby is like the jelly! Now we got a PB&J. There, totally saved it. But seriously, this whole making one from two phenomenon is wild. I love creating a new family, a new breath, a new existence with you. At the altar, two became one in spirit and in love. Now with our children, two have literally and physically become one. Mind blown. I have not recovered.

4. Unconditional Love

Total acceptance. Flaws and all. You see me like no other ever has. You see me at my worst and most shameful. I only get older and uglier every day. Yet, you still love me and choose to love me daily. Our love is not fragile. It is faithful. It is unconditional. We take each other as we are and choose to be bonded so that life is no longer life without the other. Not you or me, but us.

5. Kissing

It’s nice and fun. And other stuff too.

I love you Carmen Ruth Walker. Always and forever.

On Your Birthday

When you first opened your eyes,
The moment before I blinked
With vista full of tears,
I thought I saw
The galaxy swirling.
That a universe so incomprehensibly vast
Could be confined to such small vessels.

As hopes and
Dreams and
Wishes and
Prayers
All shot by at over eleven million miles per minute.

As you became,
I became something new under sun and moon.

Hope fulfilled.
More than dreams imagined.
Wishes turned truth.
Prayers answered
With a soft cry pushed into being by tiny lungs.

Miracles.

I thought I saw the galaxy be born.
I believe I heard the voice of God.

How To Keep Loving You More

Or what I’ve learned in seven years.

When I first fell in love with you
I thought my chest would explode.

Surely a heart cannot hold more.

But then it did hold more it seems.
Or perhaps better said:
It grew in capacity as time waltzed on.

When we first tied ourselves
Together in that
Beautiful,
Unbreakable
Knot.
My cup was full and
Overflowing
That it seemed to make an embarrassing mess.

Are not there limits even to this?

But then a larger cup was bestowed
And continued to be filled
Beyond what I can pretend to
Understand.

I loved you before to the point of bursting,
And I could not love you more.
But now I do love you more.
And tomorrow I shall love you more still.

And now,

As if the one
No longer able—or content—to grow and contain alone,
Determined to breathe into existence another that the
Love may be given yet over again;

As if there were no other way
To keep loving and stay sane
We have created another life
To love
And
To be loved.

So that if this heart has loved to its full,
Then here,
Here is another heart
I have helped to create to love more fully too.

The Most Important Meal?

Sometimes I think about food. Okay, so oftentimes I think about food. Anyways, sometimes I wonder to myself, “How did we get away with this? Fried dough for breakfast?” It’s called a doughnut, but I really don’t think there are any nuts in it. You might be nuts to think it’s a nutritious way to start your day. Come on, it’s basically dessert. I might as well eat ice cream. Sometimes I do.

But usually, I don’t eat breakfast at all. I know they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But seriously, who is “they” anyway? I’ll tell you who: the sugar industry—BIG Sugar. I’m pretty much convinced that pastry and cereal companies invented breakfast. The cereal cartel. Oh yes, yes, breakfast is so important, that’s why we gorge ourselves on sweet glazed carb puffs and high fructose corn syrup flakes.

Breakfast is obviously important. That must be why I always want to take a nap after eating it. I thought it was supposed to give you energy, but it always feels like it required maximum effort just to consume it. Let’s just consider a few other “breakfast” items:

Biscuits and gravy. Let’s take this bleached, refined cinder block and pour the remnants of the grease trap on top. What in the world is gravy? Can we really consider this food? I imagine that gravy is the gelatinous innards of the Pillsbury Doughboy. Like if you stabbed the Doughboy in the gut, then gooey, gummy guts and viscous viscera would pour out. But hey, if you like a little extra jelly in your belly then that’s fine. Go for it.

Pancakes and waffles. More fried batter. At a carnival, they call it funnel cake. Maybe we just want to pretend that every day is our birthday. Deep down inside, we’re singing that comforting, nostalgic tune to ourselves, reassuring ourselves that “I deserve this. It was a long, tiresome night of sleeping.”

French toast. No, just no. Just because you dipped that Texas toast into an egg doesn’t mean that it’s now all sophisticated and healthy. That’s like dipping an apple into caramel or chocolate at the fair and pretending like it’s not basically candy now. Or putting a bowtie on a strip of bacon and calling it hors d’oeuvre. Also, French. That’s like taking a cowboy’s hat away and giving him a beret instead. Just wrong.

Other assorted pastries. Hey, you know what would be really great with all these carb cakes? What if we filled them with like 10,000 calories worth of jam, frosting, and custard? It all turns to cement in your stomach five minutes later.

The only thing that makes breakfast more indulgent is eating it in bed. That’s the American dream. Breakfast is so important for starting your day that you shouldn’t even get out of bed until you’ve eaten. Also, that way I just go ahead and take my post-breakfast nap with minimal exertion. Man, getting a good start to the day is hard work. But you know what “they” say: the early bird gets the worm. That’s disgusting. I don’t want a worm. Give me a dozen more doughnuts, hold the nuts.

So, however you choose to start your day, I do recommend taking some time to breathe and reflect. Meditate. Pray. Fill your mind and soul before you fill your gut. You may just find it to be the most important part of your day.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Homage to My Mom

My mother visited us this past Christmas. It’s great, I love it when she visits because she’s always so incredibly helpful at pointing out all the things that I can improve. It’s like having a permanent free life coach. You know, like one year I’m too skinny, another year I’m too fat; last year I needed to change my hairstyle, this year I need to shave. Like many, I would be totally lost without my mom’s constant advice and “constructive” criticism. Now I’m the perfect weight with flawless hair and skin, just ask my wife.

Besides her impeccable tastes, however, I love when my mom visits us because she is famous for bringing exotic gifts.

For example, a few Decembers ago, my mom brought a super useful set of items that I didn’t realize we so desperately needed. When I picked up her luggage I was taken aback and sarcastically asked, “Mom, what do you have in these bags, rocks‽” Well, I came home from work the next day to find the floor in our largest room completely covered with chestnuts. So, not rocks this time. It looked like some kind of weird Home Alone booby-trap scenario. My mom said that she was drying them out. Of course, how foolish of me to be confused. It makes perfect sense to fill an entire suitcase with 50 pounds worth of chestnuts, fly them across the country, and then lay them out to dry in your son’s sunroom.

Back to this last visit. This time…

It was rocks.

My mom brought a valise filled with rocks, ceramics, and bamboo. Because, as you know, we don’t have rocks here in Florida so it’s only natural that she would think it prudent to pack enough rocks for us to complete our interior home garden.

When I was a kid, I was sort of annoyed/embarrassed by these eccentric gifts. Shocking I know. But now: I love it. And I can hardly wait to see what she brings next.

So, thank you, mom. You’re the best, and I love you. I only hope that one day I can repay you in some small measure with equally pragmatic portmanteau products.

Also, remember children, never leave your mothers at home alone unless you want your entire living area turned into a makeshift hydroponics system.

Why Nebula is the Best Character in “Avengers: Endgame”

*SPOILERS*

Well, at least one of the best characters but that doesn’t make as good of a headline. Does anyone read anything online that doesn’t use extreme, absolute terms like “best,” “worst,” or “Trump?” Maybe I should title this blog post: “What Trump Really Thinks About the New Nebula-Russian Oil Hack Deal in North Korea.” Would that get more views?

Obviously, there’s a lot of great character work in Avengers Endgame. Each main hero has their shining moments. But by the end of the movie, Nebula was surprisingly the character that I found most compelling. About the only thing I could have asked is that Nebula should have been used more in the final battle. A video essayist who goes by the moniker Nando v Movies has done a fantastic job of exploring that concept so I’ll leave it him to tell you more about Nebula needing a closing confrontation with Thanos.

Nevertheless, I believe she has perhaps the most meaningful and powerful story arc of all the characters. And this is why:

Where is Nebula?

When we first meet Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy she appears to be a fairly simple villain as a henchperson of her adoptive and abusive father Thanos. She seems more machine than woman—cold, calculating, compassionless. But throughout the movies, we learn about the suffering she’s endured. Thanos would horrifically replace a part of Nebula with advanced biomachinery every time she failed in some way. All this, in his warped mind, to improve her—make her stronger, faster, better. In spite of all the trauma, Nebula, like most children, was willing to do anything to please her father, desperate for his approval. So this is where we first find Nebula, a person torn apart and reassembled, constantly reminded of how she’s not good enough.

Who is Nebula?

But: by the time Endgame rolls around we’ve seen tremendous growth from Nebula. We get to learn who she truly is. Like everyone else, she yearns for connection, belonging, and purpose; for a family. I loved all of the smaller, quieter character moments in Endgame like towards the beginning when Nebula is playing paper football with Tony Stark. As with all of Thanos’ children, we see how her life, childhood, and innocence were all stolen. She’s never really had fun. But she has grown and is growing past her past.

This newer Nebula taking shape is clearly juxtaposed in the movie against the former version of herself. Her past self, both literally and metaphorically, comes back to haunt her—tormenting her, torturing her, and even cannibalizing herself for parts. Reminding her of who she was: nobody. The two Nebula’s, old and new, struggle against each other. The stakes: her very identity.

I’ll do you one better, why is Nebula?

We see even more clearly how far Nebula has come when presented face to face with her old self. It’s like when I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror: not a pretty sight, sometimes I frighten myself. The old Nebula is still a prisoner to an abusive cycle. The new Nebula, despite being captured and imprisoned by Thanos, is actually free. This is why Nebula is so great.

Her life was stolen, her body objectified, and her humanity stripped. But the whole time her limbs were being replaced, it seems, she was slowly replacing the parts of her that really matter: her heart and her soul. Through the friendships she’d make and the purpose she’d find, Nebula became far greater than Thanos’ intent. She became better—not a better machine or warrior—but a better person, eventually even a hero. An Avenger. It was the relationships she formed with others like her sister Gamora that helped bring healing and redemption.

And at the end, the endgame of Nebula’s arc, to complete her transformation, she must kill her past self (again, both figuratively and literally). Dead to the old self. Alive to the new. It’s a powerful image and an even more powerful concept. Just like an actual astronomical nebula—a beautiful, shining, colorful space cloud—Nebula becomes truly radiant. Like a gallant parade of unicorn flatulence stretching out across the vast expanse of reality after interstellar taco night.

Here’s the lesson we can learn from Nebula: we are not just our past pains or past mistakes; we are who we choose to be. Neither trauma nor failure have to define us, control us, enslave us. We can grow. We can be better. It is the voice of lies that tells us we’ll never be good enough as we are. But the truth is, who we are is breathtaking, and who we can be is even more. We need not be prisoners to the past any longer. We can become new. My, oh my, look at your fine nimbus and blush. Your light is brilliant, so shine. You too can be a massive, gorgeous unicorn fart floating among the heavens.

“…[she] is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)