Wednesday, December 2, 2009

O Canada

I was recently taking the MAX - Portland's fantastic light rail system (you are legally obligated to refer to it as "fantastic" or face a fine - it's in the city code somewhere)returning from a trip to the Supercomputer conference. The conference itself was surprisingly interesting and I, along with my colleagues, got to participate in some fascinating activities including designing our own snowflake - an exercise that produced disastrous results as our snowflake was a rectangle (there might be a metaphor there somewhere) - and riding in a flight simulator and moving buildings around in downtown Stuttgart to study the airflow and other environmental impacts and eating some Purdue popcorn. Anyway, as I returned we passed the Washington Park stop which contains the zoo, Japanese Rose Gardens, the Children's Museum and more. Just as the doors closed a woman rushed over to me and asked if this was the stop for the rose gardens and I said yes it was. I also explained that she could get off at the next stop, go to the other side of the tracks and take the next train back to Washington Park.

This was apparently a more complex conversation than I thought it would be and took a minute or two to complete. We discussed that it was very confusing for Washington Park to not have a label for the rose gardens, the zoo, the children's museum, the arboretum, forest park and all the other items in Washington Park. This also opened the door for a longer conversation in which the woman explained that her husband was in town for the Supercomputer convention and they were from "the capital of Canada." Apparently guidebooks from Canada are missing pertinent information like which stop you should utilize when traveling via public transportation. Maybe if the guidebooks didn't have to be published in both French and English they would have a little extra room for important details like the public transportation stops.
We chatted for a few minutes, I asked her if she enjoyed visiting Portland and she did. Midway through our conversation she accosted me with a question, "what's the capital of Canada?"

Well, I know the answer and I correctly conveyed that it was Ottawa. This precipitated a lecture on how stupid Americans are and how few people knew that Ottawa was the capital and not Toronto or Montreal or Quebec or "some people even thought it was Vancouver!" Really, Canada, if you want to make a good impression on your neighbors to the South, you should consider only allowing those citizens who won't accost others about their geography to obtain passports. I do tend to agree that we Americans should be a little more geographically and politically aware, but let's also agree that not knowing that Canada's capital is Ottawa is roughly akin to Californians not knowing that Oregon's capital is Salem.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Basketball Matters

Editors note: I wrote this originally for a quarterly newsletter for Intel Finance in Oregon. Marc thought I should share it with the rest of you.

There are really only two plays: Romeo and Juliet, and put the darn ball in the basket. -- Abe Lemons

Why Basketball Matters

P.S. Don’t call me a Hoosier, that slur is reserved for the rednecks from the wrong part of the state

I grew up in Indiana and I am tall. My fate was pretty much sealed right there. My wife knew when she married me I would always have a mistress on the basketball court. She patiently indulges my passion – why is anyone’s guess. Basketball has kept me from my wife on Valentine’s Days for most of the 12 years we have been married, including our first six; I left the hospital ten hours after our firstborn to go play basketball; my wife looks forward to her mid-June birthday not because she is excited about another birthday, but because it means the long NBA season is drawing to a close. My wife understands that this is part of the deal. I come with basketball.

When I was a boy, I would race from my house bouncing a lopsided, discolored Voit™ basketball. The ball spinning against my little fingers, I aimed for the chipped, bent hoop at the end of our cul-de-sac. Though the pavement was cracked and sometimes filled with gravel or grass, whenever I passed the Archibald’s house the court transformed itself into a basketball palace. The rim was no longer 9’10” on one side and 10’ on the other, the net was not gray and threadbare. It was a gleaming glass rectangle with a perfectly painted rim and brand new net, the kind that made the authentic swish sound and popped back through the rim like a raindrop on a pond. The Norman’s house transformed into a grandstand filled with adoring fans, the oaks and maples that filled the ravine behind the hoop cheered for me too. I was no longer a marginally coordinated kid heaving jump shots from my hip; I was Magic Johnson spinning down the lane to make a game-winning shot or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar flicking in a skyhook to defeat the hated Boston Celtics. I played in the summer when the Midwestern humidity would leave the ball slick with sweat and I would play in the winter when the snowplows had pushed mounds of snow underneath the hoop that allowed me to make believe I was James Worthy tomahawking the ball through the rim.

I have since played basketball on the sandy blacktops of a Southern California beach on parquet courts in - of all places - Boston and on baskets hung off of barns hidden off of country roads and in glossy college arenas that almost lived up to my childhood dreams and even on courts as far flung as the Arctic Circle in Sweden. I have gone to the gym to shoot away the tension of an uncertain job prospect. I have banged in the low post after a frustrating day of work. I have cut through a 2-3 Zone to forget, for an hour, the pain of a lost parent. I have played basketball to honor the last day of school. I celebrate my annual reunion with my brother with a particularly spirited one-on-one battle, elbows flying and gums flapping.

Basketball hasn’t always treated me kindly. Games have left me with a variety of floor burns, jammed fingers, sore and strained muscles and occasionally with stitches or twisted ankles. Those physical injuries are easier than dealing with a poorly played or lost game. I can still remember vividly the details of an intramural game I lost nearly ten years ago and that’s to say nothing of games from my high school years that I can remember or, perhaps even worse, games from the past couple of years when I should be wise enough to use my limited gray matter more effectively. “I should quit,” I think occasionally. But it is not a real thought – I can’t quit basketball.

I can’t quit basketball because I love making those quintessential basketball plays – the kind seen on highlight shows and the kind even the most casual observer would recognize as a basketball play. I’ve dunked on people (yes, even on regulation rims) and been dunked on. I’ve hit game-winning jumpers and watched other teams hit those game-winning jump shots. There are other moments, though, that only the most ardent fan and player would recognize much less appreciate: the perfectly executed backpick to free a teammate for an open basket; a pass feathered just past the defenders’ outstretched fingertips; outleaping and outwrestling an opponent for a loose rebound; rotating to cover a cutter on defense; the sustained eyeballs-on- belly-buttons, crouching with feet and arms spread wide to turn away to frustrate a good offensive opponent for an entire game. The kind of uncanny closeness that can only be forged on a basketball court, the kind that allows me to throw a pass without looking and know that my teammate will not only catch the pass, but that he was expecting it. These are the moments that have seared basketball to my heart

And so even though I’ve (mostly) outgrown my youthful fantasies about being an NBA player, stepping onto a basketball court remains a transformative experience. As my responsibilities pile up – work, parenting, being a spouse, keeping the house from falling apart, civic and church duties, and so on – it takes longer and longer for those externalities to completely fade away and basketball’s grip to fully overtake me. But as I step onto the court and dribble the basketball, feeling that ball spin against the palm of my hand, I can feel it spread from the tips of my fingers into my shoulders, releasing the tension held there, and into my feet, gently pushing me onto my toes, ready to compete. Ready to play.

When I was a boy and called home to dinner, I would make that slow transformation back into the ungainly boy with the rubber ball. I still make that transformation today when I leave the courts, piling my gear into my car and driving home. I do it knowing that I will be back in a few days to set another screen, hit a driving layup and tip away a pass. And I know the basketball will spin into my hand and give me another hour or two of devotion.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Avery's First Food

Avery tried her first bites of food tonight.  The other kids were much more excited about the dining experience than Avery was.  She may prove very difficult to wean...

In this one, we really like the blocking maneuver she was throwing at Crystal.  It comes at about the 45 second mark.


Here's the whole brood - note the pre-trick-or-treating energy - it fueled a mad sprint up and around our hilly neighborhood.  Gabby again managed to last longer than any of the other kids.  Kellen was the first to run out of steam.  Of course he did so when he was at the absolute farthest point from our house.  Crystal again logged most of the time chasing the kids, but she was grateful, I think, to have an excuse to trade spots with me when Kellen needed to come home and Avery needed to go to bed.  The kids will likely be hiding their candy carefully this year since I gave about 5 pounds of candy away last year at our Christmas party as a White Elephant.
Avery as Tinkerbell - or Averybell as the kids liked to call her.
Kellen as an Army Guy - the costume was inspired by the fact that it came with a new gun.
Hannah Montana - or as I like to call it, the scariest costume any Dad has ever seen.
Cade the Grim Reaper.  I guess we're done with all the cutesy costumes now... Cade's friends were Charlie Brown and a clown, but we got the kids who wanted to go as Death.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

The Final Products

With our ghoulish creations
Cade's Pumpkin - he requested a scary design

So did Gabby . . .

Which meant that Kellen did too...

Avery didn't have a choice so Mom chose a nice one.
At least we managed to avoid our "traditional" vomiting jack-o-lantern this year

Avery Rolls

Avery can now roll from both front to back and back to front - though we only have video of her rolling from her front to her back she is probably most adept at going from her back to her front. Unfortunately she often finds that she isn't very happy when she gets from her tummy and forgets that she can roll onto her back again. 

I also included a video Avery talking and blowing bubbles. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Avery Pictures

Avery is growing up so quickly. She turns 4months old today.  She is still a very cute and very adorable baby - even though she is juicy.  She continues to be the perfect sleeper [knocking on wood] and is always ready to give someone a smile.  I would estimate that she has been held by more than 100 people in her young little life - part of that is her parent's willingness to let anyone and everyone hold her and part of that is because she's so easy to smile at and love.  And she'll happily return those smiles.  

Fall Fashions

Crystal recently took her Girls' Trip to Salt Lake and came back with some new brown ties for Cade and Kellen.  Dad decided to match them with one of his own brown ties and we had a photo shoot in our backyard after church last Sunday.  Thankfully we had one last sunny Sunday this fall to take these pictures.  The first one is a little fuzzy, but my favorite.  Why is it my favorite?  I don't know, I guess I just like Cade's natural smile and Kellen's enthusiasm.

Kellen's First Day of School

Well, and the third day too!
Kellen was more than a little excited to go to school.  He often wakes up early on his school days and is excited to be one of the big kids.  He has had fun coloring the pictures and being with one of his buddies in class.  He likes taking his shoulder bag with him and of course, as soon as he chose that bag, both Cade and Gabby said, "Ohhh, but I wanted to use that one."  You'd think they didn't have their own backpacks.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Day of School

Cade and Gabby ready to head out for the first day of school.  Cade hits third grade and Gabby starts all-day school in first grade.  They are both in 1-2-3 classes and are in adjoining pods so they can keep a lookout for each other.  They both have lots of friends in their classes and like their teachers.

This is the crowd the kids hang with at the busstop in the mornings.  

California Reunion

Since there was a Women's Outing and Men's Outing (the men's outing was significantly cooler, once again, than the women's outing - we nearly killed someone on our outing) the kids decided they deserved an outing of their own.  So with some moderate supervision they walked around the corner and all but the 3 youngest came home with enough ice cream to feed 4x that many kids.  

Here are the adults - and look we're still talking to each other! Even after 7 days and 21 people crammed into one house.  While the digs were a little small, it's hard to complain about the location when the beach is literally less than 100yds from the front door.  Plus there was tons of good food.  We Wilsons are good and dandy so long as we get enough food and sleep.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama Indoctrination

I hope my kids are all indoctrinated today by Pres. Obama

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cade and Gabby's Glasses

Cade and Gabby were so excited to get their glasses this weekend. Little do they know what a lifetime of hassle awaits them. We are also fortunate that the models have evolved quite a bit since we were kids and got the thick brown frames that were most definitely not attractive.

Gabby would like to point out the little flowers on the temples.

Cade would just like to show how happy he is.

Avery's First Smiles

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cade Memorializes Michael Jackson

As I was driving Cade and his friend Nate to a birthday party the other day I overheard them talking about Michael Jackson. It was an interesting discussion.

Cade asked Nate if he had seen all the "People picture" magazines and wasn't he getting sick of all the talk about Michael Jackson. Nate said he had seen all the magazines and agreed that everyone was spending entirely too much time talking about Michael Jackson. They then had a brief discussion about Jackson's career which Cade summed up thusly: "I liked him a lot better when he was black and when he didn't talk like a girl. He looked all weird when he was white and so skinny. You definitely don't want to get the laser surgery." Nate agreed that you didn't want to get the laser surgery, "unless it's laser eye surgery - that's okay."

And I think that sums up the Michael Jackson era - by two kids, 8 & 9, who I doubt had ever heard a Michael Jackson song or even knew who Michael Jackson was three weeks ago - he could sing when he was black and he was creepy when he was white. Apparently in his case it does matter if you're black or white.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Avery's Blessing

Pictures of the Kids

After Gabby's dance recital she got this flower from her Mom & Dad and posed for a few pictures outside the dance hall. This picture was one of the few free items from the proceedings.
This has been Cade & Kellen's habit every morning this summer, they get up and watch a show while the rest of the household slowly comes to life.

Random Avery Pictures

4th of July Celebration

For the past 3 or 4 years we've had a big barbecue and party at our house to celebrate the 4th. After the barbecue we've instituted a traditional Dads v. Kids Whiffle Ball game in our cul-de-sac and then wrap it up with what we call the "Cul-de-sac of Fire." The fireworks pics are definitely our tamest ones from this year.