Before the Nintendo Entertainment System blessed the world with its introduction, and completely blew me away with its advanced graphics and sounds, I spent my gaming time on the Atari 2600. Before I played the Atari, I watched people play the Atari. I watched as my big brother mastered Fast Eddie and Circus Atari. I watched as my big sister played Pitfall and Defender. Before that, I watched my parents play Kaboom.

Kaboom. A game that didn’t use the joystick. Instead, you plugged in the “paddles,” a steering wheel-like controller. The premise was simple. You were a stack of three tubs of water. Above you, a criminal dropped bombs. You steer the dial on the paddle left and right to catch the bombs. The criminal dropped ten bombs in the first round, twenty in the second, thirty in the third, and so on for ten rounds. You received one point per bomb caught in the first round, 2 each for the second, and so on up to 10 points per bomb in round ten. To make the game even more challenging, bombs were dropped faster and faster as the rounds progressed, becoming nearly blinding around the eighth round. Miss even a single bomb and you lose a barrel and go back one round.

It was my favorite game to watch. Not for the graphics nor for the premise of the game. Instead, I was hypnotized with the scoring. I don’t remember how young I was (maybe my mom will weigh in with a comment), but I would sit on the floor and try to race the scoring system. It was my goal to yell out score updates just before my parents caught the next bomb.

“1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. 7.. 8.. 9.. 10″

“12. 14. 16. 18. 20,” continuing to 50.

“53 56 59…”

You get the picture. Now that I’m a gamer myself, I realize that this had to play hell with my parents’ concentration. Of all the games my parents had (Space Invaders, Combat, Night Driver (we never owned Joust. Why would we not have Joust?)), my favorite game to “play” was called Atari Math. An equation appeared on the screen and the player had a limited amount of time – 10 to 20 seconds, if I remember correctly, depending on which setting you choose – to correctly display the answer using the joystick and the single red button.

And I loved it. Knowing that I could take two numbers and make a third by adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing awed me. I don’t mean to brag, but I kicked ass at that game. I could even figure out remainder on the division problems. The timer was usually just an afterthought. It buzzed me a few times when a particularly difficult equation got the best of me though.

Twenty years later, plus some change, Sarah and my step-dad are playing a game (secret targets???) on the Nintendo Wii. It astounds me how much has changed. The Atari could display sixteen colors on the screen at any given time, and had a total palette of 128 colors, whereas current systems are capable of millions. Tyler will likely never know what an 8-bit or 16-bit system is. My step-dad is holding the controller like a bow, and pulling his arm back. A sensor captures every movement and displays a bow and arrow on the screen for him to aim at a target. *swish… THWAP*

“Seven,” the game voice-over announces.

Sarah steps up and takes aim, the screen mirroring even the most delicate movements of Sarah’s arm. While I reminisce about a system that had a controller with five inputs (up, down, left, right, and a button), Sarah’s motions are being tracked, wirelessly, on three different axes. *swish… THWAP*

The screen flashes to an instant replay of her near bulls-eye as the announcer shouts her score. “Nine.”

“Ninnne,” Tyler replies with enthusiasm.

My boy, I think. That’s my boy. If this doesn’t prove that he truly is his father’s son, I don’t know what does.

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Some of the things that Tyler does amazes me.

I’ve blogged previously about Tyler BONKing me on the head, and how much fun it is for both of us. This game that Tyler created has evolved into a game of chase. The BONK game started with Tyler putting his head down – like a bull – and charging into me. The morph began with me crawling into Tyler and BONKing him on the head. I would then crawl away and hide around he corner. Tyler came to look for me an would BONK me back. He would then crawl away squealing and laughing. I gave chase, saying "I’m gonna get it." Over time, Tyler has stopped BONKing me, much to my dismay. Instead, he crawls halfway to me, or until he’s in my view, and stops.

"I’m gonna get it."

Tyler then turns around, squealing and laughing as he runs crawls away from me. Although I know I am drastically reducing the effective life of my jeans, I am having way too much fun to care.

When Sarah and I started dating, our idea of fun was drinking all night, jumping out of airplanes (my first dive) (three times for each of us), hang-gliding (pics), and hitting triple-digit speeds on a motorcycle. Not all on the same night though; we aren’t crazy! It’s funny how perceptions change over time. I have a blast chasing Tyler around the house and have been flirting with possibly selling the crotch rocket.

Another development that has awed me is Tyler’s recent attachment to a stuffed monkey, given to him as a gift from Sarah’s friends, Rachael and Trisha.

Two weekends ago, we all went and visited Sarah’s Aunt Karla and Uncle Curt. Since I want to talk about the monkey, I won’t tell you of all the card games I lost, the delicious food, or the fact that Karla and I Euchred Curt’s and Sarah’s smug selves to finish a game that was tied at nine points each. I won’t tell you that, so just forget about the last couple sentences.

They have a bucket full of the really large Lego blocks. I couldn’t tell you who had more fun playing with them between and adults and Tyler. I constructed a skyscraper that utilized all 75 pieces of the Lego set. This thing was tall; easily thirty-six inches. Tyler was eating breakfast with Sarah, so I kept playing. I posed the monkey halfway up the structure, à la King Kong – a character of which Tyler has no knowledge of. To finish the stage, and really sell the scene, I set a truck on its side and placed a firetruck nearby. Upon finishing his meal and seeing the danger that monkey was in, Tyler rushed to the scene, saved monkey, pushed the skyscraper over and onto the firetruck (killing everyone inside), and hugged monkey. Hugged it! On Sunday, he kept hugging it, kissing it and cuddling with it. Sarah said that he was "showing" his toys to monkey recently as well. He LOVES that thing!

 
I don’t know if I ever had a security blanket or a security toy, but I think it’s cute that Tyler is forming such a strong attachment to the monkey. I wondered for a moment if it is "healthy" for a baby to have a security item. In yesterday’s mail, Sarah received something with baby information inside. We signed up for all sorts of newsletters and parenting magazines when Sarah was pregnant, so something is always showing up in the mail or in our email.

"Next time your baby takes his teddy bear along, take it as a compliment.

Okay, so that little stuffed bear or cozy blanket is starting to look worse for the wear. But all that love your baby is showering on it is actually good for him, as well as a good reflection of you as a parent.

Surprised? Here’s why: stuffed animals or blankets play an important part in your baby’s emotional support system. Since they’re comforting and help him feel at ease, he wants to take them wherever he goes. And contrary to being a sign of insecurity, it shows that your baby is loved and nurtured and is able to comfort himself; a step towards independence. And that’s something to feel good about.”
[www.StrongMoms.com]

I guess we’re doing something right.

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I’ve never played charades before. To get me to list and discuss the myriad reasons why this is the case, I’d need to be lying on a leather couch, talking to a guy whose name is suffixed with the letters PhD. Instead, I’ll simply say that it just isn’t my “thing”. I understand the basics of the game. A person will stand in front of everyone else and start acting like a fool, flapping their arms, hopping on one foot, and pointing at their nose. This is all done in pantomime, because the “actor” is not allowed to speak. The audience then shouts out what they think the phrase is. The actor grows increasingly frustrated that the audience can’t see that the answer is – OBVIOUSLY – Chuck Norris. Wash, rinse, repeat.

There are certain signals that the actor can make to help the audience along. If he touches his nose and points at someone, that person correctly guessed the word that the actor was working on. Tugging on your ear means “sounds like”. So, if he were to pull his ear and jump in the air, the audience would start shouting “dump”, and “bump”, and “hump”. I only know this because I’m pretty sure I saw an episode of The Cosby Show, or Full House when I was younger where the family played charades.

Here in the Gearhart household, we’ve been playing charades for the past three or four days. We made the mistake of having Tyler start the game as the actor. He’s only 7 months old, so we didn’t set high expectations for him. But he was horrible at it. Maybe we didn’t explain the game to him well enough (or at all), but Sarah and I have been yelling out our guesses over and over again, and Tyler hasn’t once touched his nose and pointed at us. Needless to say, we’re still in the first round of the game.

First, Tyler would grab and tug on his ear. “Sounds like”, I thought. No problem. Then Tyler would yell and scream. Sarah and I thought of every rhyming word we could think of. Steam, team, cream, deem, slipstream. Nothing. Bell, cell, tell, oyster shell. Zilch. After a few days of guessing, we decided that either he sucks at charades, or we suck at parenting, so we took him to our family doctor. I had to work, so Sarah took him in.

The diagnosis: Sounds like Bubble Smear Chinflection.

Tyler is now taking Baby Motrin for pain (berry flavored), and amoxicillin for the infection.

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Double ear infection. *sigh*

To top it all off, we just (last week) took Delilah to the vet to get her ears flushed. She’s had ear problems and allergies since the day we got her. We have to put medicine in her ears everyday and give her an antibiotic pill with her food.

DOUBLE double ear infection. *double sigh*

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Do you mind if I do a non-Tyler, non-parenthood post today?

I had to fly to Nashville, TN on Tuesday. With the work that I do, I don’t necessarily have co-workers. I work alone 99% of the time. So do all the other reps around the country. So, our region has quarterly meetings where we all get together, go over numbers, and hang out. This quarterly meeting was in Tennessee. All in all, it was a good time.

I get there Tuesday around 11am. After getting hotel rooms figured out (what a FUBAR situation that was), we all had lunch. Pulled pork, grilled chicken, beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and some type of apple dessert. Yum yum. After lunch, we had a couple meetings, then a friendly competition. I threw the competition. I feel bad in hindsight. I didn’t want to win, but I also didn’t want to lose. We placed dead last because of my sand-bagging. Whoops! Then we had one-on-one meetings with our managers to go over our individual numbers/performance.

Once this was out of the way, we headed to our rooms, changed into casual clothing and waited for dinner time. A few of us went to the Applebees that was in the hotel. I had one drink. This was at 5:30pm.

At 6p, we all hopped in taxis and drove to a restaurant called “The Aquarium”. Obviously, it was a seafood restaurant. I’m not a fan of seafood. Sometimes, Sarah makes telapia which I find quite tasty. Aside from that, I steer clear of seafood. I just don’t like it. I decided that I was going to take a chance this day though. Whenever I find myself at a seafood restaurant, I get chicken, or a salad. This day, I got the Sirloin and Shrimp dinner (sometimes called a surf-n-turf).

The appetizers came out first. I couldn’t even begin to name what all was there. I had bruschetta bread with some type of crab/cheese dip. Man it was good! When the food came out, I ate my Sirloin because it was delicious! I only ate about 4 shrimp though, because I just don’t find it as tasty. I had 2 drinks at the restaurant.

I should mention that my “drinks” are Captain Morgan & Coke, with a splash of grenadine (for a cherry coke taste).

After “The Aquarium” we all head over to Dave & Busters. I’d never heard of Dave & Busters before. So, if you’re like me, you need an explanation. Dave & Busters is an arcade for adults. They’ve got a ton of arcade games (video games, racing games, crane games, skiball, etc), but in a bar setting. I had 3 drinks here. I spent most of the night playing Daytona USA with 7 other guys. It turned out to be more of a demolition derby than actual racing, but it was a great time.

We left around 11p, because we used up all the credits that our managers gave us. The plan was to head back to the hotel. Those of us that wanted to crash could head up to their rooms, the rest would head back to Applebees.

The taxi ride (mini-van with about 5 of us in each taxi) is about 10 minutes long. On the way back to the hotel, my right cheek started itching. I didn’t think anything of it. About the time that we’re pulling up to the hotel, I rub my palm along my cheek and notice that it feels bumpy. When we got out of the cab and into the lobby of the hotel, I ask one of the guys if my face looks funny. His facial expression said enough, but he must not have realized that because, in addition to the look of horror on his face, he says, “HOLY S**T!!”

What followed was a bunch of pointing and commenting by the rest of my taxi-mates.

Physically, I felt fine. I had a slight buzz going. I only had 6 drinks over the course of 6 hours, so I was doing just fine. On the advice of my manager, I got two Benadryl pills from the front desk and took them. Aside from my less than appealing appearance, and some itching, I felt great, so I went to Applebees. I only had water while here. About 10 minutes in, the itching was much, much worse. And I noticed that there was some swelling at the corners of my mouth. The word “hospital” was mentioned a few times. Sometimes to my face, other times as part of another conversation (about me) that I wasn’t involved in. One of the people there was scared to be near me. Another guy said my face looked like a tomato, but covered in bumps.

I decided to check out the damage. A look of sheer terror washed over my face when I looked in the mirror. I only wish I would have had the presence of thought to have a camera nearby. My face was COVERED in bumps, and completely red. My neck was also covered. COVERED! I didn’t check below the waist, because I didn’t want to drop my trousers in front of a mirror in a hotel bathroom. I did lift my shirt though. My back was rather nasty and riddled with bumps, and my front side had about 10 or so. My face and neck were the worst though. There were some bumps on my arms as well.

My manager, and the manager of our sister region met me just outside of the bathroom. I’d never had anything like this happen to be before, so I was open to suggestions. They both said “hospital”. I still felt pretty good, so we (me and my manager) decided against calling an ambulance, and opted for a taxi instead. We went to the local hospital’s Emergency department. I filled out the information and waited. As I’m sitting in the waiting room, I noticed that I was starting to have difficulty swallowing. I immediately concentrated on my breathing and noticed it was a little raspy and wasn’t as easy to do anymore.

I mentioned to the very nice lady at the desk that my throat was starting to swell a bit. Within about, oh, 2 seconds, I was being taken to Emergency. A guy comes in with some pills and needles. We tell him that I’d already taken 25mg of Benedryl beforehand. He says “Well, you’re about to get some more then.” He gives me a Prednisone pill, and 2 Pepcid (because the Prednisone is hard on the stomach). He is then having a conversation with my manager about the stretchers at the hospital (we work for the company that makes them). I’m listening, but not really participating, because I’m not feeling so hot. Suddenly, and without warning, the guy (without ever even taking his eyes off my manager) stabs the needle into my shoulder.

It’s hard to explain the feeling. It wasn’t pain, exactly, but it sure as heck wasn’t peaches and lollipops either. It felt like someone punched me real good in the arm. Then, a crampy feeling started moving its way down my arm, all the way to my finger tips. It was extremely uncomfortable. Within seconds, I was a zombie. At one point, I am certain that I was sleeping with my eyes open. But the itching disappeared within about 1 second of getting the shot. The swelling in my throat and lips was gone within seconds as well. The bumps stuck around for a bit, but were noticeably better. I couldn’t walk straight when I stood up, and found myself wondering if it was dangerous to have had 6 alcoholic drinks, then following that up with a bunch of make-you-drowsy Benedryl.

Thinks were pretty fuzzy after that. I don’t know how much longer we were at the hospital. I know we got back to the hotel around 2:40am. My manager told me that I didn’t need to be at the first couple meetings and to just sleep in. I couldn’t tell you why I set the alarm on my phone anyway.

I got to my room, and my key wouldn’t work. I had to stand outside of the room, catatonic, for about 10 minutes, waiting for security to let me in. The last thing I remember was taking my shoes off. After that, everything was black. I was dog tired, but feeling great otherwise at 7am, when the alarm went off. I made it to the meetings just fine.

Before Tuesday, I had no known allergies. I still don’t know for sure what it was that triggered that reaction in me. My guess would be the crab dip stuff. From what I hear, shellfish is a common allergy for people to have, and crab is a shellfish. So… maybe. I’d only had crab one other time in my life. Sarah had some at Red Lobster, and I tried a bite. Nothing happened at the time, so… I just don’t know.

I played it off at the time, but once I felt the swelling in my throat, I was scared. Genuinely scared. I can 100% guarantee you that I will never touch seafood again (except for Sarah’s tilapia).

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