VikingDad – Minecraft Blues #16 – Creeper

So, no kidding, there I was…

Just with any different media delivery systems of a particular game (whether PC, Console or Tablet) each one has its own idiosyncrasies.  We have Minecraft for the Xbox 360 edition as well as for the Tablet (called Pocket Edition).  I’ve tried to work it on my PC, but I have an outdated and sorely in need of being replaced desktop computer and it is horribly slow, to the point of generating a lag-induced coma.

That’s not the point of today’s story, however.  The point is that different versions have different methods of game parameters, say, like how to turn Mobs (aka hostile creatures) on and off. So, when you, say, play a game in the wee hours of the morning with Mobs on and then your daughter decides to start up your profile so that the two of you can play together that same evening, (but doesn’t pay attention to whether or not Mobs were on or off) it shouldn’t surprise you to find, as you’re headed to fetch a bucket of lava for your furnace in your previously saved “Peaceful” game (aka Mobs are turned off) so that you can continue the arduous task of creating a sky bridge to high above the world for ease of monster free access for when you DO turn monsters back on, a creeper waiting for you around the corner of your water elevator (aka a waterfall that you can ride up and down)… and yet it did… To deadly effect.

So, those 8 blocks (a block contains 64 of an item) of glass I was carrying (that wasn’t destroyed in the explosion), which, granted, is not that hard (but time consuming) to make, fell into the lava pit below and was destroyed.

Now granted, I was a bit upset and I felt justifiably so, since it took a lot of time to craft the glass blocks (from smelting sand in a furnace), not to mention both the large number of blocks of Netherrack (a red flammable stone that I used to line either side of the sky bridge, with the glass cubes in the middle so you can see down) and iron buckets I was carrying were lost as well.  Still, I remembered the advice I later gave to my sister to give to my niece, Sadie, who is an expert Minecrafter.   You can remake it better.  Sadie, who made a beautiful three story wooden lodge in Minecraft recently tried to make an addition of a sauna, using lava.  Unfortunately, the lava caught the wood on fire and utterly devastated both the house and her.  Hang in there, Sadie, I feel your pain. Keep calm and keep on building!

In any case, instead of turning the evening into a ragequit and horrid pity party for my lost resources, we decided to give back as good as we got.  Well, OK, not even as close as we got since I died like five times that night, but it was a bit therapeutic to beat the heck out of some zombies, skeletons, and, of course, creepers (VENGENCE IS MINE!!!!!! HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES MR. CREEPER!?!?!?!?!?!?!)

 

Tssssssssurprise!
Tssssssssurprise!

Also, since we’ve just downloaded the Skyrim mash-up pack for the Xbox 360 Minecraft, we’ve not returned to that world and been busy exploring the new one. I’ll keep you posted, though, on our progress.

VikingDad Pro-Tip #6 (Popcorn Trick)

OK, so if you have an infant/toddler who can eat popcorn but isn’t old enough to know not to eat the kernels, this is a bit more important, however, this trick is handy for those who don’t like to deal with the kernels at the bottom of the bowl when you make microwave popcorn.

Here’s the trick I learned.  Pop the bag as normal, but when you pull it out, don’t tear it open right away… open the bag just a little bit.  This may be a bit tricky since the bag is hot and may already be partially opened. See the picture below:

Open the bag just a bit, enough for the kernels to get out, but not the popped corn.
Open the bag just a bit, enough for the kernels to get out, but not the popped corn.

This bag was already partially opened, but like the instructions on the side of the bag say (who reads those anyway, right?), gently tug on opposing corners if it’s not open at all.  You want to make sure it’s big enough to let out kernels but not too big to let all the popcorn fall out.  You then shake it over a bowl like in the picture below:

Shake the bag over the bowl, occasionally tilting to get the ones that gather in the corners.
Shake the bag over the bowl, occasionally tilting to get the ones that gather in the corners.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Do NOT shake the bag of popcorn directly over your garbage can.  While this may seem like a good idea to skip a seemingly pointless step, trust me, it’s not pointless.  What happens if you DO shake the bag of steaming hot popcorn and those steaming hot kernels go into your garbage is that they end up melting a bunch of little holes in your garbage bag (thus severely weakening the structural integrity of the flimsy plastic garbage bag) that makes garbage day at your house a bit more interesting when you try to pull it out (and it inevitably falls apart in mid air).  I speak from experience here.

So, shake the bag vigorously over the bowl tilting once in a while to either side to get the kernels that fall in those corners.  Once the kernels stop flowing while you shake (and have tilted) then you should be nearly kernel free and are able to enjoy a bowl of hot popcorn without worry that you’ll break a tooth when you’re watching your favorite movie and not really paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth.

Enjoy!

VikingDad – Minecraft Blues #89 – The Nether (aka Hot Hot Lava)

So, up until our second controller for the Xbox360 broke, Charlotte and I would play together and worked to build a safe, secure village: one with a fence to keep out nasty mobs, and plenty of doors to generate a good population of villagers.  We’ve done quite well with it, have a huge farm,  a chest full of food (including over 640 baked potatoes) and have secured a nice, lava and obsidian rich ravine. It is on that note that brings us to the next step.  Exploring the Nether.

Up until this point, I had never played in the Nether (it doesn’t really exist as such in the Pocket Edition, though I have utilized my fair share of nether reactors, but that’s for another post)  and it looked like fun… until I went there.

My first comment was, “Wow, this Nether Quartz sure is plentiful…” to which Charlotte replied, “Well yeah, it’s like what the world is made from…” in that “duh” tone of voice.   The snark is strong with this one.   As with anything, however, I’ve learned that patience and stamina outlast blustery snark every time.

It was not long after our original foray into the Nether that, loaded down with Nether Quartz and Netherrack, that we spotted in the distance (over the ubiquitous sea of lava) the tell-tale signs of a Nether Fortress.  Excited, we started looking for a way to get there.

I discovered that Steve (or in this case, Boba Fett, as I’ve downloaded the Star Wars skin pack), however resilient he is (able to punch down trees and the like) he is certainly not fireproof.  I was mining (with my Unbreaking I Diamond Pick) my way to a lower level when I opened up the bottom of a hidden lava pool.  Yeah, I caught on fire. I panicked.  I couldn’t get up the makeshift staircase fast enough.  Fortunately I wasn’t on fire forever and didn’t end up dying, but I did take some serious damage.  So I went back to my old fallback… the term Ben likes to call, “Sneaky-mode”.  This way, you don’t actually fall off blocks and can build physics-defying bridges.

I set to work building one while Charlotte looked for another way (or harvested more Nether Quartz or Nether Wart, or Soul Sand…) around.

Well, five minutes and two Oola deaths later (that’s the skin she was playing with). We made it.  Not much of one, but it was something and we got a ton of Nether Brick (which made for a great addition to my house in the Overworld).

So, after two deaths (by falling into lava), her snark wasn’t as strong. Still, though, she maintained it throughout.

Yeah… I’m proud.

Viking Dad: Snippets of Ragnarok #1 – Wrecking Ball

There are few moments in parenthood where we actually have joyful control of a situation involving our kids. Such as at six A.M. when the children aren’t awake yet and you’ve already got breakfast on the table.  There’s nothing quite like the joy you feel when you burst through their bedroom door, and bellow out “I came in like a wrecking ball” from that song by Miley Cyrus.

Yeah, it’s moments like these I cherish.

Keeping Busy

So, I’ve been keeping pretty busy lately with trying my hand at a few new things and recently discovered that I’m pretty good at chainmail jewelry.  This is also why Pintrest is both awesome and horrible at the same time.  I found a few patterns and items I really liked, studied the pictures of it and then made it myself.  Here’s one below of a recent commission.

Aluminum chain mandala pendant with silver primary color and green secondary color.
Aluminum chain mandala pendant with silver primary color and green secondary color.

These seem to be pretty popular and I’ve made some adaptations as well, to include a fifth set of secondary (the small colored) rings and then suspend a bead or something in the middle. Once I get a few of those made, I’ll update here with pictures.  Below, though, are the current secondary colors I offer:

These are the colors I currently have for secondary in the mandala pendants. Adding four more soon.
These are the colors I currently have for secondary in the mandala pendants. Adding four more soon.

In any case, I’m still doing the runes, though will probably be ringing them with copper, but below you can see the non-copper ringed ones.

This is the Elder Futhark, made from maple.
This is the Elder Futhark, made from maple.

I’ve taken (and will some more) full advantage of the awesome light box the shield-maiden made to make the pictures I take with my phone of the stuff I make look a lot more professional.

So, in case you were wondering, that’s what I’ve been doing (alongside the duties of SAHD).  Soon, you will also see a new category from me, “Snippets of Ragnarok”.

Beneficial Interaction with your Kids

Being part of several Stay-at-Home Dad groups, I get to see a very different side of raising children than the environment I was raised in, particularly many different individuals telling their story or asking for assistance, or just plain making fun of their situation.  Laughter, shared with a group, is a healthy thing.

This post is inspired by one of them, a journalist who writes about fatherhood (among other things, but mainly about being a dad) called DadScribe (www.facebook.com/DadScribe).  He brought up an interesting comment about Minecraft (Pocket Edition, since he references iPads) which of course pulled me in.  It was simple and quite humorous and to paraphrase: he didn’t know anything about Minecraft, but if he did, he’d leave signs from the mobs to his kids like, “Eat your carrots. Love, the Creepers” or other things along those lines.

Not only did it give me a good laugh, but it also got me thinking.  This is a two birds with one stone moment. I mean, I’m writing from the perspective of someone who actually likes and knows a bit about Minecraft.  I wouldn’t have had that if it weren’t for my daughter’s love of it.  There are nights where the two of us will settle in for an hour of Xbox Minecrafting (http://idiorhythmic.com/vikingdad-minecraft-blues-74-tools-lava-death/) and have a great time.

The ‘a-HA!’ moment came when I thought to myself, “Sure, there are things that Charlotte likes that I’m not really into, but it’s really great that we have Minecraft (and other stuff, like RPG’s, Archery, Boffer weapons) to do together.”  It’s like I’m able to be a cool Dad AND I get to do something I like.  I’m pretty lucky, but the point I’m getting at here is that there are things that aren’t as cool or as fun, or that we just simply don’t have the time to learn, but there are still ways to get involved and be that cool parent.

There may be things your kids really enjoy that they can just go on for hours about that mean nothing to you, because either it’s not your thing or you just don’t have the time to learn.  That’s OK.  We don’t have to be involved in every facet of our kids’ lives. In fact, it’s probably good that we’re not. Anyroad, just because we don’t know how or that it isn’t really our thing doesn’t mean we can’t get involved.  If nothing else, it shows your kid that you really care and can be a good laughing point in the future, “remember that one time when Dad tried to play Minecraft and got pushed off a cliff by a cow?”

So, with that in mind, if your kids like Minecraft and you know nothing about it, I’ve included the below tutorial (though please forgive the less than professional screenshots)where you can have a little bit of fun pranking your kids with signs(for the Pocket Edition, meaning the one the tablet):

 

 

VikingDad Pro-Tip #56 (Fitness from Home)

Being a stay-at-home viking requires a lot of energy and requires you to stay healthy.  Keeping in shape isn’t always easy, particularly in the middle of winter when no one really wants to leave the comfort of their own home. Fortunately, there are many ways around that to get you through the cold winter months.

There is this fitness site that has a ton of visual workouts for the geek in everyone (on top of other great fitness and wellness advice):  http://neilarey.com/

These are great, require no equipment you don’t already have around the house (like chairs and towels) and can be done pretty much anywhere you have enough room to lie down (aside from your bed).

The Shield-Maiden and I alternate times in the workshop since they take about half an hour each.  But doing these 5-7 times a week really helps.

I’ve also started to do 50 push-ups and a one minute plank before each meal.

Like I said, it’s not easy, but there are solutions out there to help you!  Here are the workouts I’m currently doing (alternating between them so I usually do only one or two of these a week):

http://neilarey.com/workouts/sao-survivor-workout.html

http://neilarey.com/workouts/hulk-workout.html

http://neilarey.com/workouts/thor-workout.html

http://neilarey.com/workouts/captain-america-workout.html

Being human… and a stay-at-home parent

So, given recent events on our website and some recent questions regarding how to deal with filling a non-stereotypical role on various stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) groups I’m a part of, I thought it appropriate to write about those topics.  My hope is that this will help raise awareness and increase consideration when dealing with those dads who are taking a more supportive role in the household, but the reality of it is that those that read this are probably already aware and considerate.

First things first, there will always be ‘haters’ and the decisions you will make will more than likely upset someone. Knowing that helps increase the level of resolve in making some choices particularly where your family is concerned, but sometimes even that level of resolute awareness isn’t enough.  Especially with choices that are emotionally charged and/or deeply rooted in a sense of self.

Choices that revolve around becoming a SAHD and not being the person who provides the paycheck for the family may seem easy to deal with on the surface (like hearing someone in the line at the grocery store say, “Man, I’d love to not have to go to work”) but they’re not.

We’ve been raised in a patriarchal society where the man is the person who brings home the money (and even then is judged on how much he brings in and his position at where he goes to bring that money in) and the woman is the person who stays at home with the kid(s) and is the caretaker of the house. We’ve seen just how our society reacts to those that break from those stereotypes.  While times are changing and considerate awareness is growing (in aspects of more than just SAHDs), there are still those situations of intolerance and ignorance.

We’ve all, by now, heard the statement that when dads are alone with their children, they’re ‘babysitting’. While it may have been said in a joking manner, it’s not.  It’s derogatory and demeaning. It’s a thought process that belittles and invalidates the efforts those fathers spend with their child.

We are all people, encountering other people in a single moment, and placing assumptions on motivations of actions in that moment is just plain ignorant.  Most people I meet are not Sherlock Holmes, so they should stop acting the part.  We do not know what led that person to that moment, we do not know their motivations for doing what they are doing and certainly can’t read their thoughts to discover who they are.  Even friends and family we’ve spent significant time with aren’t open books or 100% predictable.

There is an easy way to help curb this behavior, that, unfortunately requires a level of awareness that people tend to ignore:  Ask yourself, before you speak, what it is you expect to receive by saying what you are about to say.  We may not be able to read the thoughts of others, but our own thoughts are right there.  Listen to them. Talk to them.  Have a conversation with them about this situation.  In other words, think before you speak. Sometimes this is an epiphany to some, particularly when a father, who was the ‘bread-winner’ is now the one at home.  For me, it opened up a whole new level of respect for those parents who stayed at home.

Given the new path being forged by the SAHD, it can be difficult to be resolute in the face of confrontation with what has always been viewed before as inadequacy. Especially when it’s new to the particular SAHD or when there are issues of self-worth being worked through in accepting the new role. To those who are, new and veteran alike, I have some things to say (and I’ll keep saying them):

You are awesome!  You are doing what’s right for your family, your child(ren) and yourself. You are setting an example of the wonderful diversity inherent in humankind. You are courageous enough to face the potential societal slings and arrows. You are showing your love to your partner and to your children.  They see you being present and they see how you deal with those obstacles that breaking from the normal parameters can bring. You are not only their parent, but also their teacher.  You are their window into how to cope with a world who doesn’t always accept things that break from stereotypes.  They also see that you are human, imperfect and emotional.  What they see, they become.

Show your children what it means to be human.  What it means to be a parent.  What it means to put forth that effort in a way you’re not used to and a way that breaks from the norm.

Show others respect, for we don’t know what brought them to this moment or why they would say hurtful things (whether intentional or not) but have the courage to call them out on it, with the faith that your child will see you, and will follow suit when they’re older and able.

You are their example of what they can become. Be you, so that they can be them.

So, if you see a stay-at-home parent, whatever role, be considerate and understanding.  They work hard on more than just physical chores.

Who is Viking Dad? (in about 750 words)

Well, I can start by saying that I’m not the guy in the YouTube video of the same name. That’s a start.  I was adopted, raised in Michigan, spending the school year in the lower peninsula and the summers in the upper peninsula.  I also, with this blog as a record, am living for and through my family.

Born in 1970, I displayed signs of Alopecia Totalis (meaning I have no body hair at all) starting when I was two years old.  It made elementary school a bit rough, as even those children in the minority still had each other, where I was the only one with that condition.  I found the wonderful worlds of Gary Gygax (Dungeons and Dragons) in the summer of 1980 (I was 9) and embraced it whole-heartedly.

I also went through an awkward (just like everyone else) time in that social circus we call junior and high school.  I was not the average kid. I didn’t like or play sports, I didn’t have an affinity for anything other than escapism by not really being present in my own world and substituted by living in a fantasy world.  Thanks to R.A. Salvatore, in the mid to late 1980’s I had a realm to escape to.

I had anger management issues. Having been picked on and made fun of my entire childhood and adolescence (and not having a solid sense of self at all, nor any confidence to be able to shrug it off as I desperately wanted to be a part of a group, to feel like I belonged), I repressed all that hurt and anger.  I then found an outlet for it, though it was unhealthy and hurtful.  I worked out lifting weights (not all that bad), trained a bit as a boxer (still not all that bad) and then started picking fights (bad).   Being beaten within an inch of my life (maybe a little bit less than) by several people put things into perspective for me.

I turned to theatre.  I got a scholarship at the local community college and started succeeding. I transferred to a four year university and at the direction of everyone other than myself, I failed. I moved around, got married, got divorced, moved some more, tried again and this time got my B.A. in Theatre and started feeling really good.

Then I went to graduate school and it all went downhill again. I moved around some more, got married again.  I found solace in escapism once more, in the worlds of darkness presented by the NPO (then) called the Camarilla, now known as the Mind’s Eye Society.  Things went downhill once more and I got divorced… again.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  I met the shield-maiden in the Cam/MES and it has lead to the happiest, healthiest, most fun relationship I’ve ever been in (going on seven years now, married for five of them).

In 2008 I moved to the Chicagoland area, in 2009 I married the shield-maiden and in 2011, our son, Benjamin (aka Benvolio, Viking in Training) was born.  He has an older half-sister from the shield-maiden’s previous marriage.

Together the four of us work to not just survive, but thrive and live in this world.  We are trying to live creatively, choosing happiness over struggle.  We are in debt, always. We have struggles, perpetually.  We have bills, things breaking down, issues and obstacles from both of us having previous marriages.

Despite all that, we choose to embrace the moments of happiness instead of dwelling on the struggles.  The moments shared playing and working together:  Bonding over Minecraft and Nachos; Planning for the future of training with swords and archery.  In the process of teaching, I am learning the real life issues of helping my children grow up in a world that is nothing like the one I grew up in.

My children see me working on tasks that break stereotypes.  I cook, I bake, I do dishes, I do laundry. I make their lunches, and help with the homework.  I bake bread for our family two to three times a week.  I make sure the kids have a decent breakfast.  I play with them and involve myself in their creativeness.  I say, “Yes, and…” (most of the time).

Today, Ben turns 4.  Today celebrates over 1200 days of successfully raising our son and helping him survive (despite our setbacks and failures during that time).

Today, we have birthday cake for breakfast.  Happiness.

Find your moment of happiness and embrace it!

 

VikingDad Pro-Tip #15: The Power of Nachos

If things are going rough, make a snack and bond over it. I’ve yet to see two people be angry at each other while eating a plate of nachos.  Kids are no different. They get angry and frustrated, particularly easily when hungry, so take a few minutes, sprinkle some shredded cheese over some tortilla chips, pop it in the microwave for a minute or so and then voila, you have a plate of instant bonding. Never underestimate the power of nachos.