Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Hero That Brought Our Family Together

Stepfamilies are a unique bunch. Depending on the circumstances, the union of a man and a woman who each have children of their own can be wonderful, mediocre or downright disheartening. My husband and I were very fortunate to have kids who not only get along, but have a genuine love for each other, even though they don’t share the same genes. This is a true blessing, and we consider ourselves very, very lucky.

With times being what they are, however, my husband and I were finding that we weren’t seeing all that much of the kids. Which is actually kind of funny, because most days, the three younger ones are here at the house—my stepdaughter downstairs in her room on her computer, my daughter upstairs on her computer, and my son outside riding bikes with his friends and popping in to raid the refrigerator every half-hour or so. I would love to say that I have the time to take my daughters somewhere every afternoon so that they’re not holed up staring at their monitors, but the sad truth is that I’m really busy. I leave my very active job and pick up my kids from school…and that’s when the second half of my day begins. By the time I finish picking up my kids (one at 2:30, one at 3:10, the other at 4:00 because he has track), running errands (supermarket, post office, bank, etc.), taking them to work, doctor and dentist appointments, supply shopping—you name it—I don’t usually get to start dinner until after 5:00. That’s when the third half (okay, the third third) of my day starts…eating, cleaning up from dinner, perhaps squeezing in a walk, a yoga class or the gym, showering…I don’t have time left over to do much of anything other than collapse into bed.

About two months ago, my husband and I decided that we really needed one night a week where all six of us sat down at a table together and ate dinner, instead of the two, three, or—if we were lucky—four people that usually showed up. We picked a pizzeria in a town close by, and now on Thursdays we all gather and catch up with one another. Since we realized how much we enjoy each other’s company, this has turned into quite the event, especially for the pizzeria owners. They told us that they look forward to our visits (and our antics) every single week! Around Christmas time, we decided to take a family portrait which consisted of the red checker table cloth for a background, and each member’s head atop a different condiment—garlic powder, salt, pepper, cheese, etc.—the owners admired the fun we were having so much that they requested a copy for themselves!



Yes, Thursdays are fun, but there’s still the empty hole that’s left between Friday and Wednesday. Enter “Guitar Hero”. If you’re not familiar with this video game for Playstation 2, let me introduce you. “Guitar Hero” is a game that consists of a mini-guitar (we have two), a disc, and a TV screen. Along the lines of “Dance Dance Revolution”, one has to press the chords (five different colored frets at the neck of the handheld guitar) to famous rock songs as the corresponding color comes down a little “runway” (or guitar neck) on the screen. Here is the history of the game in our family:

Last Christmas, my daughter requested this game from “Santa”. She received it, only to realize afterward that we no longer had “Playstation 2” because it had broken (it helps to note here that my children’s dad gives them his “hand-me-down” game systems…hence the reason that I wasn’t even aware that we didn’t have “Playstation 2” anymore, because they basically had every other game system, so no one ever informed me). A year went by, and “Guitar Hero” sat in my daughter’s very messy closet, totally untouched…perhaps waiting for the day that we relented and spent the $110.00 to buy a used “Playstation 2” so it could finally be used.

On Christmas Eve of 2006, we went to my cousin’s house for the festivities. During the course of the night, my son went into the basement to play video games, and came across “Guitar Hero”. That was it. One game, and he was hooked! After Christmas, he took all of his gift cards and gift money, and went to the game store to buy a used “Playstation 2” so that he could use his sister’s “Guitar Hero” that’s been gathering dust in her closet for the last 12 months. That was December 26th, and he hasn’t put the game down yet (except for his daily visits to school…and he’s actually playing “Freebird” as I write this)!


Before we knew it, “Guitar Hero” had become somewhat of a phenomenon amongst the four kids. Where there used to be the silent clicking of computer keys, there was now the blaring electric strains of Guns N Roses, Boston, and various other artists followed by the screams, moans and belly laughter belonging to none other than—you guessed it—our kids! Most of them skipped over the “easy” and “medium” level, and made it to the “hard” level within a week. My son and daughter took it one step further and didn’t quit until they made “expert”—quite a feat for only having the game for a week! Oh, and did I mention that my husband and I have gotten in on the action as well? Not only do we play with our kids, but just the other night we battled guitars to Cheap Trick’s “Surrender”. Nothing like a little healthy competition between a couple to spice things up…especially when I win!


Okay, I know. I’m exuberant over a video game. Yes, I realize that it may seem like I've finally fallen off the deep end...after all, I am in my 40's. I'm supposed to hate video games and blame the demise of our country on them and MTV. And although there may be some valid reasoning to that, all I can defend myself with is that there is no sound sweeter in this world to me than the hysterical laughter of my four kids, especially when it’s in perfect harmony in my living room. A heroic feat by any means!

21 comments:

Kacey said...

Your Thursdays with the family will be remembered forever. We meet our kids (any who are adult) on Saturday mornings about 11:00 at Panera's Bread Company. We have soup or sandwiches and coffee and catch up on everything that's happening in their lives. The kids are your age and the grands are 15 to 25, so we have a great time. If you are into games --- check out www.netives.com. I'm into playing worksmith (I love words) and we all play speed marbles. If you go there --- my youngest is Stacey_B_143 and she is usually on top. Jack and I try to play it, but cannot come up with a high enough score to make it to the international board. (Stacey was testing us with the 143 thing--- when they were young, we would squeeze hands once, four times three times to say I love you without anyone hearing us.) It still works and she is 46! Have you been able to get into BlankityBlog.blogspot.com? I changed the settings so you can get in. The story there is about my Stacey.

Summer said...

Lisa, whatever brings you together just go ahead with it and do it!! very nice post and i love love love the pictures you added to your blog and to the last post about your dad too...very nice pictures! thanks for sharing. and you have been tagged on my blog too..check it out on:
http://summers57.blogspot.com/2007/01/5-things-you-do-not-know-about-me.html

Lisa said...

Kacey,

I will have to check that site out! I've been extremely pressed for time this week (hence the very late post), and I feel terrible, because I haven't had time to get to everyone's blogs! Hopefully by tomorrow, or even tonight, I will be caught up and I'll visit you on your blankety-blog! I miss reading your posts!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Summer,

I didn't forget about you! As I mentioned to Kacey above, I haven't had much time this week to sit down and read everyone's blogs (which I love to do)! I barely had time to write an article to post! I did get your tag, and I had gotten the same tag from Mattie some time ago and responded on her blog. But when I went back to it, I couldn't find it to copy and paste it onto yours! I just haven't had time to write it, so I apologize.

I'm glad that you enjoyed the pictures and went back to the ones in the post about my dad! I'm doing the same exact thing as when I tried to post them before, but I guess since I switched over to Google, now I can post the pictures (I wasn't able to for some reason, even though I followed the same instructions)!

Take good care,
Lisa

LZ Blogger said...

"to have kids who not only get along, but have a genuine love for each other, even though they don’t share the same genes. This is a true blessing, and we consider ourselves very, very lucky." You are correct! ~ jb///

Lisa said...

LZ,

Thanks for stopping by! Yes, we definitely give a lot of thanks for our situation!

I left you a comment under your beautiful Tahiti post.

Take good care,
Lisa

Desiree said...

Goodness now you have me wanting to try the game!!

Lisa said...

Desiree,

No joke, it is addicting and a lot of fun (and if you love rock music, it's even better)! It also helps build timing skills as well, and a lot of hand (well, finger)/eye coordination! Look at me defending a video game... ;)

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Kacey...if you happen to visit here again...I'm unable to leave comments on "Blankety-blog" due to the fact that once again, I am not a team member...sniff, sniff. You don't love me anymore... ;)

Desiree said...

Yes, well that's just it you mentioned some of my favorite bands and I was sold! Too bad we didn't have a Playstation II (wasn't it?) at my house.

Big Dave T said...

I used to be the Tetris King and my wife the Tetris Queen but my videogame skills have deteriorated with age and disuse. I tried to re-enable my skills with Nintendo tennis, hoping to get good enough to compete with my own boys and my nephews. But never did I get good enough to compete.

Losing though did kind of reveal why my boys didn't make the dean's list at college. They admittedly spent lots of time on Nintendo and Playstation.

Matty said...

Lisa,
You always have wonderful ideas, I'm not a gamer but my grandson is, so I will ask him about Guitar Hero, thats sounds like a lot of fun, and I'm always willing to learn something new.
I think its just great that you can combine 2 families and everyone gets along, but I'm sure that took a lot of work on your part. That proves it can be done when parents make a real effort. Its wonderful to see you making so much effort to be a big part of your family.
A family that plays together stays together.
And Kacey, I'm checking out that site, my granddaughter and I love word games...and speed marbles is something we can all play together.
Love the pics, Lisa, you look like a big happy family!

Lisa said...

Desiree,

Yup, it has lots of bands from the "classic rock" era! I actually like a lot of the songs myself, and even a few new ones from some more recent bands!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Dave,

You might be proof positive that the "family that plays together, stays together"! Alas, my husband and I will never be the "Guitar Hero" king and queen...our kids are WAY more skilled than we are!

I think my homebody son will probably stick around for college, so we'll be able to keep an eye on him. It's my daughter that wants to go away...but I'm sure my son won't let her take the Playstation along!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Matty,

I wish I could take the credit for this one, but the honors go to my kids (actually, it should go to my daughter's friend, who was the person who got the game in the first place that made them all want it)!

I do have to say, our kids always got along, there was never a time that I can recall when they didn't (except for the summer when my son was 13 and my stepdaughter was 12. She was becoming a "girlie-girl", and he was annoyed with everything that she did because she was no longer his "tomboy" partner-in-crime)! That's why I always give thanks for our blessings. This could've been a very different situation. But from my experience, and seeing other families go through what I've been through, I can honestly say that it's the attitude of the parents involved that makes the relationships of the children a success. If there's any resentment on anyone's part, it's not going to work...the kids will sense it, and feel torn. It definitely takes a lot of work, but probably no more effort than "real" families have to put forth as well! I think all parents--step, adoptive or real, and even guardians--find it a challenge to raise kids in these times! It's a crazy world out there.

Take good care,
Lisa

Betty said...

Dear Lisa,

I have never encountered "Guitar Hero," and I'm very curious. Does the game player actually produce sounds on the guitar? I don't understand how it works. So it's not really a game, right? It's actually the playing of a guitar? How can so many people play it? Not everybody is musically gifted?!

Anyway, you've given me a great idea. Even though my family is mighty small (Betty and son) I think it would be meaningful to establish a weekly pizza night at a local restaurant. He needs stability, now more than ever, and this would be a step in the right direction. I know your family has firmly established traditions which make it great, and I'm just going to have to create some of that in my family's life.

Hugs,
Betty

Carine said...

family nights, no matter what the tradition are so important! a mere video game has become so much more! may it continue!
Carine

Lisa said...

Betty,

The controllers are actually plastic guitars, but instead of strings, they have five buttons on the top of the neck (green, red, yellow, blue and orange), and a long, narrow "clicker" thingie (where you would strum the strings on a real guitar) on the base (actually, if you look at the picture of my son and stepdaughter, you'll see the actual guitar for the game...he has a red one, she has a black one)! While you watch the screen, colored dots come toward you, and when they get to a certain spot, you have to hit the corresponding colored "fret" on the neck of the guitar and "strum" the "clicker" thingie at the same time! If you've ever seen people on "Dance Dance Revolution" at the video arcades, it works much the same way as that, except you're "strumming" instead of "stepping"! I kid you not, my son and daughter are playing it right now, hysterical laughing, and my husband's right next to them waiting his turn!

We missed pizza night tonight because my stepson is in California right now, and my son had an emergency jazz band meeting, but it's a great tradition to start. It will always be a way for you to catch up with your son as he continues to get older...really important when they're teens. We don't always do everything perfect, but we really do try to keep harmony any way that we can with our blended family. This is one thing that we've found that we all enjoy. I hope you're doing well and things are looking brighter for you!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Carine,

Thanks for stopping by! I always had a vision in my head of the "perfect" family night, and believe me, it never included a video game!! However, anything that gets them off the computer is fine with me!

Take good care,
Lisa

Teri said...

Dear Lisa...I like your "hero." We had something similar years ago with a game (not computer) called "Guess It." To this day we bring it out on family gatherings and have a new fun while remembering the funny antics and things that occurred when the kids were younger. We wore the first game out and a few years ago found it on the internet. The new game is now getting worn out.

Great post chica...have a great week,

Lisa said...

Teri,

I'll have to look up "Guess It" for our annual trip to Lake George in July. We go up there with family and friends, and usually we'll engage in a game of "Balderdash"...but we're always on the lookout for something new (or in this case, old)!

Thanks for stopping by!

Take good care,
Lisa