Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cubey Horse


I can’t really be sure what this is exactly, but I am going to ride off into the sunset on it this year.




As best I can determine it is a smiling horse rendered out of the cubes we just taught them, I think he is kind of cute, with his happy face and his raised eyebrows.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"That's why you need a head-butt." 

Always true...
 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bear-Bear and Kitty

I found this on N's camera the other day.  I cannot impart to you the importance of these two little guys:


We got Bear-Bear with another, darker bear named, well, Bear.  He never was as popular with N as Bear-Bear is with Z.  Kitty was sort of a whim buy for their stockings, I think he came when they were like, one-and-a-half or so.  Unbeknownst to N, this actually the second Kitty, the first was lost permanently in the house about two years ago.  He was finally found under the guest bed, so now, I think there is a spare.

It's amazing how these things become so important to kids.  I think they are called 'significant objects' whether they be blankets or stuffed animals or whatever.  I once drove Bear-Bear, strapped in with a seatbelt, all the way to Columbus because Z forgot him and they were going to be there a few days.  I didn't mind, actually, he's pretty good company.  Kitty has been restuffed with beads from another less popular beanbag animal (who did have an organ donor card) and Bear-Bear has had several stitches and has had some new stuffing.

It's one of those things you don't really thing about until you have kids, and then, these loveys, these real and enduring friends become very, very important.


From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Ow... (pause) ...and now I know why not to do that." 


Live and learn, little guys, live and learn...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blue Thunder and '2'

These were everywhere after just one-and-a-half hours of watching 'Monster Truck Challenge.'  I'm talking a couple dozen or more:



They were really very enthralled with the monster truck races.  We probably could have real enthusiasts if we followed up on it, found some videos on YouTube maybe, watched a few more races (or whatever they are called), found some website, googled images of some of the trucks and drivers, or if we decided to go to a race, rally, jamboree, challenge, oh I don't know... thingee.

Uh, we won't...

However the creative output was pretty phenomenal, I especially liked these two.  That's clearly Blue Thunder by Z there on the right.  (I can only guess there was not a blue marker or crayon or pen or colored pencil or water color or paint or dye anywhere in the house so he rendered it in black and white.)  He cut it out neatly with scissors and his name is on the back.  It's really pretty accurate.

And then there is '2.'  Typical N, sort of cartoony, torn, not cut, the colors all sort of blended.  It looks as though you're looking at it through a smoke-filled arena. It's very action packed and stylized.

And that is one of the many reasons why it is so fun to have twins. As you see how different they are you begin to realize that those who seem different than us really aren't, they are just seeing things in a different way.  I mean these guys eat the same food, share the same room, get the same amount of love and respect; they weigh nearly the same and are the same height  get the same amount of sleep and are pretty much as equal in their nurture as two kids could be.  And yet, they are so different by their very nature, so different in their thoughts and priorities, in their opinions and favorites.  It's weird and wonderful at the same time.


From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

N:  "I love Mother Nature."
Z:  "Me, too."
N:  "I kissed her once."
Z:  "No you didn't, you don't even know her!"

I kissed her once too and she slapped me upside the head...

 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Daddy Dooby


I am trying to make this as much fun for myself as possible.  It's coming up on nine and I still didn't know what to post about.  I have ideas up to my ankles, that's not the problem, it's finding the right one for the very right moment.  This is all, it occurs to me, rather mood dependent, my mood that is.  That strikes me as more than a little selfish.  I am feeling a little melancholy and somewhat silly, perhaps whimsical, Christmas has that affect on me.  Let's try this on for size:


Yeah, the sixties called and they want their Summer of Love hippie poster design back.  It lists, in a groovy kind of way, all the family names on that inner spiral and, it does indeed say "Daddy Dooby.'  I know, I know many of you are snickering, and, it is really funny.  It's a Christmas present from Z to me.  Bet your gifts suck now that you've seen mine.  I want to think too much about it, the odd palette choice, the non-hierarchical flow chart.  And Daddy Dooby clearly keeping the whole thing together, like the kind of Hippie God I tend to favor.

Oh, and N was at the same family Christmas party, here are a couple images he laid down with his own camera:



I call the top one 'Phasartree' and the bottom one 'Wonkeytree.'

Marci recently turned me on to where the pictures the boys have taken with their own cameras ended up.  Serious fodder for this blog, which I had feared I'd shot in its metaphorical foot by giving the boys a Wii for Christmas.  Other family folks hooked us up with some great games so, soon, the games begin.  Which worries me, I am afraid they will loose their innocence, thier joie de vivre, or worse, their "raised in Mayberry" status.  How much of a Siren song will paper and tape and words and spiral suns and huggy guys have when they meet and begin to conquer the Wii?

We'll figure it out, I imagine myself making them sit at the dining room table to create.  "Create something, dammit, and make it poignant and cute and a little absurd if you could.  Hurry, hurry I've got a hungry blog to feed."  And then I'd add  "Fansy what!"

See, I knew I wasn't feeling very deep today, but I do wonder if I'll look back to this day as the 'end of innocence' if you will.  N and Z's first day in the twenty-first century, the one they will live in all their lives, the century they will own, I guess I better figure it out soon.  Next thing you know I'll get them an ipod. 

From Marci's  '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'  

Priest:  "...and Jesus said to his apostles..."  

Zack:  "Jesus had an opossum?!"

A holy boy and his opossum...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"snickerboobles"

My wife and I try not to get too carried away with Santa, but, I guess it's just a part of the whole big thing.  Here are the letters they wrote tonight:



"Thank you for all the things that you do.  So here are some cookies for you and the carits are for the randeer.  thanks!  Love Nick"


"bear santa Clause thand you for delivering presants to the good doys and girls. I hope you like snickerboobles."

Zack, all guys like "snickerboobles."

I have promised myself that I would never do more than three images on this blog, but, I really want to includes these two tonight as well:



There you go.  "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Why does St. Nicholas deliver all the presents when it's Jesus' birthday?"


I got some 'xplaining to do...

Friday, December 23, 2011

The LEGO Votive

It's not that hard, and, it's actually, sort of, fun:


Yeah, they are indeed LEGO votive candle holders.  We made them last year for Gramma and she likes them.  Here's all you need to have to make these:  red and green LEGOs, patience, Crazy Glue, patience, a battery votive candle and patience.

It's pretty easy getting the kids to figure out out to make the votive, that's Z's on the left and N's on the right, the parameters are fairly explainable and the size is self-evident, however, what we didn't think about was the fact that we needed to glue them to make them permanent.  Well, actually, that's not true, we knew we had to  glue them we just didn't have a solid plan to make that happen.  Basically we built them and then reverse-engineered them and then put them back together with the glue.  This is where the patience comes into play, the kids will get antsy as you endeavor the impossible and you will go nearly crazy trying to figure out how the hell they put this together.  All the while a child will be saying "that's not how I had it," or "this might be better."

Okay, maybe not my best Idea ever, but, you know what?  They are pretty cool.

Marci's been sick so this evening she went to bed a little early and the boys and I sat in front of the fire eating apples and snickerdoodles, talking religion and philosophy as we are want to do. Actually it all started because we'd been singing carols earlier and they were asking about the words to some of the songs.

'Silent Night' came up and N asked about "...radiant beams from Thy Holy face, with the dawn of redeeming Grace."

"My," I said trying to buy some time.  I did the best I could, the words aren't hard to explain, but the idea behind them is very complicated.  Or so I thought.  Basically, I went on and on, as I am want to do, blathering on about the physics of light and the many sides of Grace.  When I finished N said:

"Jesus' face is so bright because He'll always love us.  No matter what we do."

That about sums it up, I'll shut up now.

(This from the kid who thought we couldn't see God because The Pledge of Allegiance says "...one nation, under God, invisible with Justin for all."  That took some explaining.  I don't think he yet understands that the Pledge has nothing to do with Justin Beiber.)

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Sometimes I think about my tongue."

Been there, little dude, been there...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Angel Therapy


I am sad tonight, Christmas can be that way for a lot of reasons, we all know that.  Sometimes it is because we so deeply miss those who are no longer with us, sometimes it is because we wish for better presents for our kids, sometimes it is because the days are short and rainy, sometimes it is because we hurt so truly for someone else, sometimes it's all those things.

Sometimes we forget, don't we.  Well, N didn't.  One day not long ago, he came up to me and handed me this:



"Here's your Angel, Daddy," was all he said.

Isn't she great? With her golden hair and happy face, her halo on stilts (which I initially thought was a chef's hat), her pointy, simple wings and those three stars on her jersey as though she plays wide receiver for The Holy Trinity.  I immediately liked her and, I instantly felt better.  In fact I feel better now, seeing her there in all her stellar glory.

I forgot I ordered one.  I forgot I had one.  I forgot I needed one.


From Marci's '... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

Z:  "I don't think God ever ignores."
N:  "He is just shy about talking sometimes."


If you need an Angel, you can borrow one of mine, I've got two asleep upstairs...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"fansy what"

I kid around about not knowing what these things are, although I usually have a hint or a notion.  Not today:

















They both say "fansy what."  Okay...  They both have a clock face, a question mark, and what is, I'm  guessing, a bulls eye.  There are three icons with which I am uneducated, although they seem eerily familiar.  One is what I would call an atomic symbol, a cartoon rendering of the "danger radiation" symbol we grew up with in the fifties and sixties (or is it a representation of the galaxy these little aliens came from?).  The second, clearly stolen from The Masons is, I'm going with my gut here, a stylized sunrise (or is it a headless spider from Zorg?).  The third, that squiggly thing, is of course the universal symbol for carbon-based life (or fuel, I always get them mixed up?).

Why!?  Why this very deliberate arbtrariness?  I am truly and wholly baffled.  I feel like there is something very important here, some thing worth while, worth knowing.  What was trying to be communicated here?

You want to know the truth?  I asked them.  "Cool," was Z's response, as though he'd never seen them before and N said:  "I think they had something to do with time."  Yeah thanks boys, now we'll never know.

I think I'll make it our new catch phrase, 'fansy what.'  Works for me.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the back seat...'  


N:  "I think the best word in the world is love."
Z:  "Or help."
N:  "Or friend."
Z:  "Or poop."
N:  "Yes, poop is a really good word."

Yep, we are so proud...

Fansy what! 

 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Quirky Little Math Piece (or Move Over Einstein)


The other day I promised  this.  First we'll look at what I think is the first attempt to find the "Theory of Everything" answer using simple math:


Obviously, the answer is a definitive six-hundred-and-seventy-seven, in left-handed, mirror-math.  Notice there are seven little dots leading up to the left-handed seven up there on the right.  Interesting, I am sure it is significant.

On the flip side of this same piece of paper is another, more theoretical attempt to solve the "Theory of Everything."


Oh yeah, booya baby...  Bazinga!

Now, I am no Physicist, theoretical or otherwise, but I am sure this is the proof for which they have all been waiting.  The circled 'e' I believe is the secret to the whole mind-blowing equation, and, I also think that thing at the top, which at first looks like a "scribbleout" (a word N coined), isn't.  I believe it is a new symbol integral to the solution of the "Theory of Everything."  Circled 'e' equals everything.  Cool, huh?

Anyone who knows me, or follows this blog, knows that I keep my tongue permanently in my cheek and, conversely, I wear my heart permanently on my sleeve.  Case in point, I feel compelled to make sure that it is understood that I am not making fun of Z here, in fact there's a little more to the story.

One evening I am reading the not-sports section of the paper when Z comes up and hands me the above.

"Look Dad I did some math," he says hopefully.  "There's more on the other side."

"My!" I manage.

And he asks, and here's the kicker:  "Is it right?"

"My,"  I barely manage this time as I carefully inspect the paper, mumbling and pretending to do calculations as I scrintch up my face in deep thought, because even if I was pretending, I was in deep thought.  I didn't know what to say, how to answer his simple question.  Should I ask him more, determine what he was trying to do, correct his mirror-math, ask about the symbols, take on the significant challenge of understanding what he was trying to do?  Sometimes these little guys seem like natives in a strange land, aliens, and here everything that they know, everything that makes sense to them, falls to the wayside as they struggle to grasp the real rules and the real facts that will apply for the rest of their lives.

So I answer the only answer I can, "Yes, son, it's right, in fact it's perfect.  It seems to cover everything doesn't it?"

"Thanks, Daddy, I wasn't sure if it was right or not."

For now, it's always going to be right...


From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Silly Omnivore!"


If I only had a nickel for every time I've heard that... I'd have five cents.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Precious Cargo

Last week I was that guy you hate to be behind driving; I was taking corners carefully and was accelerating and braking very slowly.  Why?  I had some very important things in the backseat:




I know, they are brilliant.  I spent a couple hours at the school making these with the boys' class.  Chaos is the first word that comes to mind.  You've have never seen such concentration and mayhem mixed at equal pitch.  We started with milk cartons and used frosting glue to stick on graham crackers and then added candies to decorate them.  These, N on top there and Z on the bottom, were actually mild compared to some of the other offerings, which pretty much amounted to a pile of suger in every shape and color imaginable.

N's landscaper got a little carried away and ended up putting in a path to the side wall, which was remedied by another path that leads to the candycane portico there on the right.  The object to the left of the house at the top, that thing made out of three starburst mints, two Smartees and a piece of a candycane is, of course, a lawnmower.

Z's has a sweet covered front porch with seating for six I think he said.  You can't really tell but his walls all line up with great precision, it was important to him that the milk carton didn't show.  He also really liked using those pull-apart Twizzlers, they make super piping and window frames.

Now here's the thing; most of these kids, first-graders, had to carry these home on the bus.  Can you imagine what they looked like when they got home?  Hell, most looked like they'd been dropped twice before they were even done making them.  I can imagine Mom or Dad looking and thinking: "What is that supposed to be?"

So I took theirs home with me, and drove very carefully all the way because N said as I left:  "Dad, pleeeeeease don't mess them up."  Gingerbread houses made with the all the love and imagination two six-and-a-half-year-olds could muster.

Precious cargo indeed.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"AHH! Plaid! Plaid will kill me!"

I added a YouTube link today to a song I wrote called "The Nick and Zack Song."  You'll see it there to the right.  I suggest a right click and opening it in a new window or tab, then you can stay here and read some more posts while you listen to it.  I'm not really much to look at, although the words to the song do crawl there on the bottom of the clip.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Antisanta

You know, honestly, I had a quirky little math piece all worked up for today.  Remind me tomorrow.

For now, however, I offer this:



You really are going to have to take the twelve (I timed it) seconds it takes to click on the image above to really take in the whole scene.

From whose demented mind was this image conjured?  Let's break it down.  The sleigh looks like a Viking war vessel painted by some ancient Egyptian potter.  Santa has some off-brand polyester running suit on and his boots tie, for heaven's sake.  His beard is like an infested, comic, bee's nest tornado and his hat is ridiculously small.  His nose is flattened, the sad legacy of a short, forgettable career as a heavyweight boxer and he is smirking.  I don't even want to know how he got that horrendous scar on his left arm.

And those eyes, I mean, is this a rendering rejected from the studio of Tim Burton, even he found this character too freaky?  It's like one of those pope paintings where his eyes follow you.  He looks like Jack Nicholson on crack.  This guy is so woebegotten he can only manage one  "Ho."

And, dear God, what, in the name of all that's holy, happened to the reindeer?  Look, stare, gawk...  no, don't let your mind go there.  They're gone and Santa looks like he just secured his thirty-ought-six.  Oh, the reindeermanity.

So that's it, just try to let the sugerplums come tonight.

(Sorry, Nick, I know there has to be a legitimate story behind this drawing.  Please, son, tell me there is a reason you did this, please...)


From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Eat your own elbow."


Them's fightin' words where I come from...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Interoffice Memo

These are supposed to get shredded:


I'm pretty sure this is a memo to N from Z, as you can see there at the top.  I believe the subject line is "Hospitil Wirk" and looks as though "John, Joe, Jam, Tom and Nick" were copied on it.

I get the feeling it is a reprimand of some sort because it says, in no uncertain terms:  "Nick, pleas git mor people on the tem (team)."

I am a bit baffled by the arrow that leads to the popup box there on the top right which seems to say, and I am using the decoder ring here, "Joe, how about Bape, Bae, Bee, Blo, Blde."  Maybe code for something, perhaps an inside joke.  My guess is, since Joe is clearly already on the team, Z is suggesting some names to add to the team.

Well, it is a lot clearer than most interoffice memos I must give them that.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Why have we never seen 'Nester the Long-eared Donkey' before this?"

Because it has some worth and is, horrors, religious, so the Networks can't show it.  We saw it on DVD.  If you have kids, find it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Share Day

Fridays are "share day" (what you and I probably grew up calling "show and tell," which really does sound kind of ominous in retrospect) at the public school where the boys attend first grade.  Today the assignment was, and I quote:  "Family Traditions-Draw a picture or write about one of your family's traditions."  Of course this is written in what I call 'unspeak;' that nonspecific, unicultural, nondenominational  correctspeak used in public schools these days. (Yes, credit to Orwell.)  Needless to say both boys quickly grasped that they meant Holiday Traditions, even, dare I say it, Christmas Traditions.

Holiday traditions are nice, however, these little dudes are only six-and-a-half and their memories of traditions only goes back, what, two years.  Anyway, I thought we might get a picture of  driving around looking at lights, a fireplace,  singing carols, making cookies, leaving "magic dust" out for Rudolph and his posse, opening presents Christmas morning, that sort of thing.

Here is what they spent about a half hour drawing last night:




lemme get out the decoder

You know what, we don't need the secret decoder ring here, do we?

I think they said it all right there, the joyful anticipation inherit in the Advent Wreath, and the birth of a Savior right there in that perfect stable.  All from our wild, wide-eyed, sweet,  unpredictable little caveboys.

This tenderness, this understanding, this reverence, this... belief.  Where does it come from and why is it so hard for me to remember?

There is a little story I have heard told in a bunch of different ways, that, to paraphrase, goes something like this:  I little boy meets his newborn baby sister, and in his excitement, asks if he can talk to the infant alone.  The parents say yes and wait outside the door, eavesdropping.  The little boy walks up to the crib, looks at the baby and whispers:  "Tell me about God, baby sister, I'm forgetting."  And then he stands there quietly, clearly listening for a while.  Then he sighs happily and leaves the room.  His parents can see the radiance beaming from their son's holy face.

Tell me about God, my sons, please...  I'm forgetting.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"If you cannot cooperate in the tent, then you will have to live in the box."

True at six, true at fifty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Caveman Only"

This I found on a small piece of paper maybe four by three inches:




"Caveman Only."  I don't really know where to start, I mean this cracks me up and is yet so profound in so many ways.  Here are the top ten reasons I included this here today:

10.  It is simple and little and things here have been getting a bit too complicated and busy.
9.  I have no idea where the notion came from.
8.  The spelling errors are as good as they get.
7.  I think it is hilarious that it is designed like a placard to be carried, or a sign in front of a cave.
6.  At times my little guys are truly caveboys, if you will, and when they are, it's best to leave them alone.
5.  In one of those weird cosmic coincidences, I had this very sign (a little bigger) on my freshman dorm room door.
4.  Originally it was taped to their bedroom door, towards the bottom, at their eye level.
3.  It speaks of the natural wildness in boys that we so often forget and suppress and stifle.
2.  Have you seen my boys eat ribs?

And the number one reason I included it here tonight?

I think it's one of the funniest damn things I have ever seen.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

Nick:  "Well... I think nature's really good 'cause there's a place for me in it."
Zack:  "...and it has rocks."

N is sort of a deep thinker, Z usually goes with the more obvious.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"...about baseball and boys, poetry and dreams..."

The title of today's post is from the one yesterday in which I said "I had a big sweeping, heartfelt piece about baseball and  boys, poetry and dreams, but..."  Well, I guess there are no buts today.  Let's go to the pictures:


 Z did this one, and I am not sure if it is a particular player or not, those loyalties are fickle.  I love his old-timey hat and he's got his eye protection on.  There is a slight irregularity here in that he has his glove on and he is holding a bat and the ball's coming in, looks like a sinker.  The home team is winning through four and there is a good crowd at the old ball park today.




Here's one from N.   This is a game between the Reds and the Pirates.  Looks like the Pirates have the bases loaded but I think Drew's about to snag a popup for the final out



And finally this is the same game from the Blimp.  Pretty good representation of Great American, on the right is the walkway with that wonderful statue of the battery.


I grew up in rural Ohio in the late sixties and early seventies.  In the school district I went to there were three sports: football, football and football, and it is that I sport I grew up playing and internalizing.  I mean we played two-on-two with my neighbors nearly everyday after school until Christmas at least.  I played from Pee-Wee through my Junior year of high school.  I never really loved football, though.  Football is, and I may get in trouble here, a good game for boys.  There is hitting and running and lots of rough action, the breaks are frequent and short and the goals are easy to discern, assessable. It's an obvious game.

At the time The Big Red Machine was ruling Cincinnati and of course I knew how good they were, saw a couple games as a kid, and in general knew enough to get through a sandlot game.  But it wasn't until I was much older, probably in my thirties, that I began to really see baseball.  It is a sport of subtlety and intrigue, power and stealth, rhythmic in meter and without a doubt, poetic.  It is a game you never come to know fully and that's why I keep watching, keep wondering, and keep rooting for the home team.

We play a lot of baseball around here, a day hardly goes by from Spring to late Fall that we don't throw a little in the backyard or go to the park for some BP.  I coached their team last Spring (signups are soon for next season) and we make a few Reds games every year.  I think my boys are beginning to internalize the sport, make it their own.  I guess I did that, and, I would have to say I did it consciously, deciding to make baseball the sport of choice for them.

Of course the consequence of that decision is the wistful wishing all boys go through; dreaming of becoming a professional ball-player.  Dream on boys, I say with some reluctance, but when, when, when should I tell them that dreams don't always come true, that God may have other plans, that they may not be good enough?

Dreams are a difficult subject for me.  The other day N and I had a conversation.  He asked me if I went to college, I said that I had.  He asked me what I did there and I told him I studied acting.  He asked me if I ever did "that."  Meaning, acting, I assumed.  "No son, not really."  (Honestly I do call them 'son.')

"Why didn't you, ever, I mean, get to do that thing?  Acting?"  he asked.

"Because, if I had I wouldn't ever have met you."  I answered with a whisper of a tear in my eye.

If my dreams would have come true, their dreams would never have been.  That's a lot to think about and damned difficult to explain.


From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Mom can I have salami as a side dish?"

That's my boy, now pass me the Crestor...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"aLisuBath"


I had something all worked up in my head for today.  I had a big sweeping, heartfelt piece about baseball and  boys, poetry and dreams, but... (I'm whispering) she keeps staring at me.

I'm not really sure who she is, I think she might be one of those new pop stars I can't keep up with, I mean she looks as surreal as Lady GaGa.  'aLisuBath' could definitely be the name of a pop star or band.  Maybe she raps.

No, I don't think that's it, N did this and he's got some curious friends so maybe I should take a closer look here.  I thinks she is outside, that's a swirly-sun there setting down behind the house.  I am not really sure what that is on the peak of the roof, but upon closer inspection, it's a bird.  Yes definitely a bird... or a spider.  She clearly just got that perm she'd been so hoping for and she has a bow in her hair, or a bat who's friends with the spider/bird.

She's happy, or is she sinister?  Frankly, she's starting to freak me out.  I mean what the hell does she have on, is that a checkered house coat over yoga pants with Baby Janes that tie?  Who wears that out?

And why, dear God, is she levitating?

Oh!  I remember who she is, she went out with Tana, N's imaginary friend which is weird because Tana is already married to Aly,  Z's imaginary friend.  Or is it the other way around.  Anyhow, I guess it didn't work out because I found this picture abandoned in the pile of retired huggy people.  I'm glad, she didn't seem right for  Tana who, I thought was a girl.  No that's not right...  Maybe aLisuBath was on a date with a teddy bear named Pinkie, yeah... now I remember...

I need a life.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

Dad:  "You guys have lost five socks this week"
Zack  "Pretty impressive."

He really was impressed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Arbitrary Anecdotes

Perhaps I have been philosophizing here a bit too much.  This one is pretty straight forward.  I'd say Z was probably five and a half.  It's really odd:




Activate decoder ring:  'We were about to sing.  I play the trumpet. We were about to sing our song when Dad came in for a surprise.  We couldn't wait.  The end.'

We get a lot of these weird stories, action packed, eh?  I am still not sure who surprised whom.  I guess that's N in front of the mic stand and Z wailin' on the horn.  I presume that other dude is me, the plump one.

(I still laugh at these.)

from Marci's '...things you don't expesct to hear from the backseat...'

"I cannot see my elbow."

Dammit, I was thirty before I knew that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"A Negklis With A Ancre On It..."


I really don't think we'll need the decoder ring here, but, 'Neckles' is necklace. Now that is one straightforward Dear Santa letter.  A necklace, some candy, a hat and a ball.  To be honest it's sort of, well, sad I guess.  I mean come on Z, dream big; here's your big chance.  The thing is, he's not that guy.  He's cool with what he's got and whatever he gets is good enough.  There is one thing I know for certain, he will get everything on that list.  Santa likes pictures and, he likes humility.



This one will require the decoder ring, it's from the not-neat kid.  (You always say you won't put your kids in categories but you always do.)  Let's see:

1.  A bug book all about bugs. 
2.  A bug necklace.
3.  A new Teddy Bear.
 4. 2.  Legos 
 3. A pretend bug that moves.
5.  A necklace with a anchor on it
     I really wil...
 5.  A necklace with a anchor on it  and for the string I want a chain.

Phew!  N really had to sweat that one out didn't he.  (You know, the spelling errors at their age are so cute:  adowt=about,  Lagoes=Legos, ancre=anchor, and, my favorite, negklis=necklace.  What's funny is spell-check didn't get any of them right.)  A necklace with an anchor on it, who knew?  A bug book about, bugs, not the bug book about Aristotle.  At least he's been a little more specific a little bolder, and, well, he's that kid.  He likes what he dreams up, and he imagines very specifically, and, Santa will get him what he asked for as well because Santa likes messy kids with wicked good imaginations.  Hell, he might even go the Teddy Bear.

I wish I had every letter to Santa and every Christmas wish list I ever wrote.  I guess, if I did, the first thing I'd wonder would be; did I get what I wanted, you know, my batting average, the percentages?  The second thing I might wonder would be; how much of it do I still have, or even remember?  Finally I would ask myself; did I make any good choices?

I remember looking at the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, with their glossy, full color pages, dog-eared and crinkled by the time I, the youngest of three brothers, got to them, and just wishing.  Imagining what it would be like to have that thing, that bike, or that BB gun, or that unicycle or beginner's guitar, that magic set, chemistry set, badminton set, ping pong table or that spinny rock polisher thing.  That Etch-A-Sketch or that Game of Life, that pair of boots just like Joe's or a new football.  Man, oh, man that all brings it back, thinking about what I had so wanted.

What's on your wish list this year, are you specific or general?  Are you dreaming big, or are you, like me, keeping it stupidly simple?  My wish?  My wish is in their eyes, in their hearts, in their minds, in their imaginations and, in their hopeful, innocent dreams.


from Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Never scare a woman with socks."


That's very, very good advice, just trust me on this...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Wight House"

I have been trying very hard here to remain apolitical, but I can no longer restrain myself:


I don't think it's "Falling Waters" by Frank Lloyd 'Wight' I am pretty sure it is the one in 'Woshingtin, dc' the one "where the president and all the other people in the that place live."  That's how N sees it.  I suppose he thinks that everyone, meaning politicians, live under the dome.  I think that would probably help, don't you?

Personally, I think it's great that there is a doctor's office and a vet and a school so close.  Oh, and I think that's a shop there above the Vet's office that sells poles, for, uh, flags, I can only assume.  Only in D.C. right.

from Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"I am a knight in shining armor.  I have a plum-thrower, but it's broken... it's only throwing apples today."

My plum-thrower never works right either, hasn't since the Middle Ages.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sports Allegiances

We are not really a sporty household.  My boys might argue that and my wife might argue that but, believe me, in comparison to some, it's pretty mild around here.  I mean sure I watch a couple  few several, oh alright dozens of Reds Games, and the World series, most of the Football playoffs, the NCAA Men's, and the World Cup, but that's all.  Anyway, I wouldn't say we had any sort of specific sports affiliation if you will.  So I was sort of surprised when Z came up to me and asked when the Xavier/UC basketball game was.  A little thing we call "The Crosstown Shootout."

I was doubly surprised because, A: I didn't know and, B: since when is he paying attention.

I said what I always say when I am disconcerted and caught of guard, "My!"

He gave me the one-eyebrow Spock thing he does and said, "That doesn't even make any sense."  (I had to concede his point.)

So I grabbed the sports page, which I never look at, and told him tomorrow at noon.

"J at school says that UC is better this year, and they're gonna beat Xavier."

I didn't say, "Well, I'm gonna kick J's ass."  What I did say was, "I think Xavier will win."

And, I have proof:




Clearly the 2011 Championship Trophy. 

So, there you have it.  I still don't know how these sports favorites are decided, heck my kids could be Yankee fans for all I care (grrrrrr....).

But X-A-V-I-E-R, what's up with that?



Oh yeah, I forgot about that (they were maybe two and a half.)

from Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"I could kick you and it would hurt like death"
"Well, the principal said he heard you, and if you do, everything will explode."

Principals are like that. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"uoy"


This is either the most nonsensical thing I've ever seen or else it is the meaning of life.  As usual I don't really know what I've got here and, as usual, I prefer to stay in the dark, it's well, just funner that way.

That's "uoy" (you when written in left-handed) there in the middle and I think you you need to get to that door, that small door.  I can only assume you can do it directly, or through others but, anyway you do it, you need to get to that door.  I wish I knew metaphorically what is behind the door; is it success, is it God, is it freedom or hope or love?  Is it something scary, is it even attainable?

I wish I knew.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"We really should get rid of some of our flamingos."


Not all of them, mind you, not all of them...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"2 Electrik Boxes"

"Dad, Dad, Dad, Daddy, Daddy, Dad, Daddy, Daddy! Today at school A (I refuse to implicate any other kids in my kid's shenanigans) and I decided to make a play and either he'll come over here or we can go there, I think he lives in the neighborhood behind us, or the other one, and we are going to PUT ON A PLAY.  Here are the plans we worked on today at inside recess, because it was too cold and rainy...  Do we have any tissue boxes and tape, lots of tape I think?  We need a list of the stuff we need and Z is going to make the guitars and when the end comes there's a crash."

That's pretty much verbatim what N told me between the school bus and the door.  I think he did it in one breath.  And that's all I know.

This is the plan as it came home from school:



Well now, there is a lot to work with here.  Clearly there are five chairs there and I am pretty sure those are the electric boxes there on the bottom.  I don't know why there are only three people in the drawing, perhaps that is the star of the show there in the middle and those sort of less carefully rendered dudes are his posse.  I can only assume that the fourth person needed is the...


...stagemanager.

So, before his coat was even off, before any pretzels or juice, he produced this:



We are going to need the secret child to adult decoder ring for this one:  "3 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 3 heads (?), 6 hands, (crossed out) 2 tishuoo (sic) box, 3 buttons, 6 eyes, 6 legs, 3 nose, 1 bench, 3 mouths, 6 shoes and (the previously mentioned) 5 chairs."

It seemed obvious to me that three people would already have, six hands and 3 noses, so I pointed this out.

"Dad, it's a puppet show."  Z says condescendingly.

Oh, well, no one mentioned that.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Oh no!  My emergency teapot keeps falling!  I need to protect my belly!"  (Hence the plastic teapot strapped to him with his backpack straps... and probably the spatulas sticking out of his pantlegs... sometimes it is just best to not ask.)


It was really a great look for him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Calendars And Schedules

My boys are intrigued, dare I say obsessed, with all things time.  Honestly, as I am not a child psychologist, I don't know if this is good or bad.  I found this on the floor the other day:


Here is what I feel N got right here:  there is a discernible pattern, 'football' is spelled correctly, and, uh... well, in the interest of consistency, every 'k' is backwards.

I'm just gonna let the flip side of that thought speak for itself.

I find these little schedules and calendars all the time.  Sometimes they are about school, other times countdowns to a big event.  Z even had it in his mind to do a whole yearlong calendar with a page for each day (I had to quickly nix that plan, we already go through reams of paper).  They both have their own little day planners, some dates full of multicolored plans and rescheduled events like dates with imaginary friends, a trip to Mexico or Greenland (which for some reason they find hilarious), and even doctor and dentist visits.

I am not even that busy.

I think I know why they have this interest.  I don't think they are bored, I don't think they want to do all those things and I don't think they really feel they need to remember these things.  I think they need to control something, even if it is only in their imagination.  Don't get me wrong, my wife and I are not by anyone's definition, control freaks, but a lot of these guys life is out of their control.

A funny shift has happened recently in the way I see the boys:  suddenly I have come to the realization that I can remember being their age.  And one thing I  recall is that I felt I didn't have a say in anything when I was a kid, and I didn't.  I mean they'd have pasta and apricots for dinner every night, they'd stay up until ten giggling and climbing on the bunks like monkeys, they would be awash in a six-inch deep sea of Legos, there would be room dedicated to the saving and archiving of every drawing and craft ever created in this household, and they would never have their hair or fingernails cut.  (I know, those guys lived down the hall from you in your freshman dorm, didn't they?  They were kind of creepy as I recall.)  You see it just wouldn't do, would it?  At least that's how I see it...

The interesting, and perhaps more significant, other side of this observation is that they will probably remember this time of their life as well.  No more "oh they won't remember that" from the "big guys," as N calls us parental units sometimes; no more lazy "oh we'll do that later so they'll remember it."  No, I can safely say we are now in the business of creating memories and that is a big responsibility.

Now, which do I have, football or baskitball?


From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear fro the backseat...'

"Zack and I are on a new basketball team.  Our colors are black and grey.  We are the Colorado Sea Lions."

I'm thinking that's just odd.  Maybe I should get out the map... 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Postcards From Paris

The boys went on a trip to Paris, recently.  They packed all the necessities;  a tape measure (because, no one knows how long a meter is), a stuffed turkey (one should always bring a long some of your native fare), a nerf gun with the suction cup tips (Jerry Lewis approved), several books (including one on tsunamis, perhaps a day trip to the coast is planned), a compass (sure, especially if you don't have a GPS), several small basketballs (I think they are trying to get to French fired up about the game), several non-essential silly bands (in the interest of cross-culturalization) and a pair of scissors (to cut French things I can only assume).

Not long after they let, these "postcards" arrived for me, delivered by a backwards-walking postman who just chucked them over his shoulder, weird:




"We just got here and we are having fun."  "Hi dad It is aLLmost diwner (the "w" is silent) here in paris."


It's nice that they write when they are on vacation.  I guess the point here is simply the power of imagination.  What's important to realize is that this all transpired in the most serious and natural way you can imagine, I mean they really were in Paris.  Honestly I have known adults who were less talented improvisationalists.  When do we lose that?  When do we lose that ease of imagination, that sense of fun and silliness?  And why?

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

Z:  "Look, I made butter."
N:  "No, actually, that is fertilizer."
Z:  "Oh.  I made fertilizer."


When you're in an improv, adjust quickly.  That's just good advice for you right there.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Technicolor Nightmares

This from a couple years back but it's always been a favorite.





Oh yeah, happy sock-eared, spiral-nosed, rainbow-robot dude just riding on his rocket.  Classic.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"Every robot needs a butt."


Well, duh...


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cherish Is The Word

I've been thinking a lot about where I am going with this thing, considering who the audience might be, wondering what they might take away from this, wondering what I might take from this, asking myself why I am going to the trouble?  I came up with some good answers: 

1.  I wanted a place to sort of archive some of this stuff, you know, in case of fire or, in case something gets... thrown away (like that ever happens).
2.  I really think this stuff is interesting and, frankly I laugh out loud at some of the absurdities around this house.
3.  My kids are cute and smart and clever and...  witty and insouciant and precocious and...  well you get it.
4.  I thought it might force me to write a few hundred words a day, think about my life, which it has.
5.  "thestupidassshitmykidsdo" was taken and, honestly, it doesn't have the tone I was going for.

Of course then the whole thing exploded in my head (as thoughts are apt to do in my hyper mind) why do we do this, we parents, we teachers, we shapers of the ones to come, we "big guys?"

And then I remembered this:

"Thank you Mom for everything you do.  You have the warmest smile and heart. Nick"  (I used my special child to adult decoder ring I got several years back with boxtops from pullups, I think it was.  Handy gadget.)


And I remembered this:



Happy, ain't it?

There are two observations here;  I don't count for diddly and, that's why we do it.  That's why we work so hard and love so completely; why we sacrifice so much, why we cherish so very, very deeply.  You know what I mean don't you?

I hope I don't come off as disrespectful to them in any way, that's been an axiom for me from the start: respect your kids.  I hope I don't embarrass them, well, too much, to like necessitate therapy or anything.  Nor do I wish to reveal to much about them or my family, but, that is a line I have yet to determine.

But I will, and do, and shall always, cherish them too much.  That what we "big guys" do.



From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'


"Officer Dan just arrested Chef for not having a lobster license."

Typical chef, but Officer Dan has always been a hardass.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Haha Backwards (or What The Cat Said)



Honestly, as God is my witness, I do not know what's going on here, and I am afraid to ask.  I usually know which of the dynamic duo is responsible for these things but not this time.

You're right, I could just ask, and normally I do, but this, this...

I can't even explain what I see.  Here is what I am pretty certain of;  that's a cat (or a reindeer) and the cat is saying "haha" (or "ahah" in a maniacal movie madman sort of way), that's a spray bottle (or hot cup of coffee) in the man's (troglodyte's) hands.  I think that we could all agree that he has a Cincinnati Reds (U.C. Bearcats) jersey on and he is clearly levitating.

His facial expression is a little more difficult to discern, is that a happy smile or do I detect a hint of a sardonic smirk there?  In a way he looks resigned to his act of seeming aggression, a sense of grim duty lines his face.

And what of the cat (reindeer)?  What is so freaking funny?  What has it gotten away with, what has it done to merit a spritz from the spray bottle (cup of steaming hot Joe)?  Will it get away, that man (troglodyte) seems to have pretty good aim?

Oh, and why do I get the sense that that this should have a big red circle and a slash, as in: DON"T DO THIS!?


Recently the boys have started showing more movement in their drawings and such.  Slowly, as they move away from the pastorals and portraits of their early years, a new epoch begins, full of action and animation, ninjas and jet planes.  I'll miss the rainbows and the golden happy suns and the clouds and the mountains and the smiles, all the smiles.  I'll miss the outstretched arms and the over-sized hands and freakishly round faces.  These are a lot harder to figure out sometimes, as the above illustrates, and sometimes they're downright freaky. 

You know, maybe you are right, really, I should ask...

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"When you are fishing from the moon you need a really long line."

Can't argue with that.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Joye"




I love this little guy. Could he be any happier, floating in his sea of blue?  With no sense of perspective I am not sure what he represents, is it a massive, happy sun or a pleasant paramecium?  I am not sure, but he is definitely happy.

I think the thing that always ends up impressing me the most when I come across this sort of thing is the unmitigated joy that so often pervades the drawing or whatever it might be.  I never get dark, scary monsters or spurting blood or guns or fighting, nope, I get a bunch of happy people.  This is something the psychologists will say is a good thing, there is no hidden angst, no oedipal thoughts, just good.

I guess were lucky (I could say blessed but I hate how that word has become so overused in our society today) to have two happy, healthy, smart kids, but, at what cost, I sometimes wonder?  The world isn't always nice, the people in it aren't always kind and real life is often messy.  N is often afraid of even the least scariest movies, he doesn't like the bad guys.  He once ran from the living room, ears covered, eyes squinched shut yelling:  "I only like the endings!"  meaning the happily ever after part, the wrapping up where all the bad guys are rounded up and all the feelings are sorted out and all the sweetness and light shines through as the credits roll and the music plays.

For now I'll let them hold on to that allusion, but, when, I ask, do I start reminding them that life don't always work out?

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

N:  "Look it's Tom Bergeron; and he's got a gun."


Alright, I guess that negates everything I just said.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yesterday's Math


"Here is the math you needed yesterday."  What part of yesterday don't I understand?  Nothing stinks more than yesterday's math.  What I could really use is tomorrow's math.

I keep looking up at this and it cracks me up every time.  I love how there is nothing at the apex of the arrows; all things start here, at nothing, this random spot.  In N's defense, the math is pretty good, in fact a good solid 'C' I would have to say, seventy-five percent, right?

I am trying to keep it short today because I am introducing a new feature here on 'ihopeiwinatoaster.'  My wife, Marci, uses little things she overhears the boys say as updates on her Facebook page.  She calls it:  '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...' and they are usually very entertaining.  She just sends them out there, usually with no explanations.  I am going to try to include one at the end of my daily posts.
From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'
Nick: " Have you ever done something you did not think you were able to do?'
Zack (thoughtfully): "2010."
Yeah, that's how it works.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inexplicable Instructions and Flow Charts

Jan Fogy seems to be in charge.

"for arrow on"
"off arrow on"
"no arrow off"

I personally have seen charts and instructions and computer bluescreen requests and toy assembly instructions and video cameras and workplace handbooks that have made less sense than the above.  I love the rectangle with the arrows every which way towards the top right.  It reminds of those little icons you see on computers and gadgets and stuff that you don't really know what means.

Here is one from N.  It's a little more straightforward.


"No taking the menus home.  No going into the kitchen.  Try to be clean."

I have seen forty page employee manuals that basically just said this.  Seriously, that covers about everything:  Don't take our stuff, keep out of the Chef's way, and keep it clean in every way.  That's all you really need to know.

Do you remember that old children's song, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream?"  I've always thought that everything I ever needed to know was in that little song.  Think about it.

It's "Row, row, row your boat," not one, but three rows there.  Life is hard work and takes not a double effort but a triple effort. Also, it says your boat.  Man, is that good advice (which I personally have trouble heeding).  Row, row, row your own damn boat and stay away from trying to right the boats around you.  They already have a captain and a bilge pump, they'll be fine.

"Gently down the stream."  Two things here.  Gently, yes, gently.  It's a ginger planet and the souls around us are fragile, the minds we shape are vulnerable and the hearts so breakable so, in all things we must be gentle.  And remember, don't ask too much of yourself.  Row down  the stream, it's so much nicer and it's easier to stay on course if you're not forcing yourself into the oncoming rapids and twisting eddies we face in an upstream battle.

And finally, "Merrily" four times.   Four times!  Do this thing festively, happily, the people in the other boats are watching.  "Life is but a dream."  I could spend a lifetime and never come up with word so simple and poetic.

So, whether obfuscated or simple, life's instructions are everywhere.  We just need to recognize them.  And a good place to look is in the hearts and through the eyes of our children.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"All Hail" (or What Did The Clown Do?)



I never really got the story on this one just nearly tripped over it one day.  It sort of creeps me out with its blatant absurdity, if Camus had Legos, you know.

I mean what did the clown do?  Who slayed him and what appears to be the ice cream man?  Is this a joyless god to whom they are praying?  Is it a birthday party gone horribly wrong?  Why does that woman have the golden chalice?  Why are they all so stiff and formal and expressionless?  What does the machine thingee do?  Why is this happening?

But most troubling to me, the real question is... who came in the car?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dumbf**kery

You know where I am going with this, right? 





As I previously mentioned 'hairbrainage' is defined as  'the results of misguided or flawed thinking which are inexplicable  to those uninvolved in their making. (see bower bird).'  'Dumbf**kery' takes that one step further by introducing the element of imminent physical harm.  This video shows it at it's best, we were "chunkin' punkins'" in the back yard using a giant slingshot strapped between the two maples in my backyard.

Yeah, the ways we all could have been hurt are innumerable.  I also wanted to show that my boys come by it naturally, all boys do.  There is something inherently thrilling about being a part of something that could quickly turn wrong, and children, especially boys, are always waiting for the explosion, or the slip-up, or the accident.  It is their way of learning that life is not perfect, dads aren't perfect, plans aren't perfect.

Dumbf**kery is standing on the roof of your playset for the first time, climbing a ladder as your dad spots you, hoping he'll catch you if you slip (and you're two and a half).  It can be as simple as trying to stand on a soccer ball or as complex as spinning in a hanging hammock, swinging a stick, chanting "boradoraboradora" as your brother ducks each time the stick comes around.

Perhaps it is this type of asinine behavior that steels us for the long journey of calculated risks we must all take as we navigate our way through this thing called life.  Those small early risks get more complicated and exponentially more dangerous, and, increasingly, the danger is to our souls and not just our bodies.  Hearts will be broken, dreams will be shattered, minds will explode and there is nothing we can do about it, but, somehow the risks seem worth the taking.

On the other hand, maybe it's just fun to do stupid stuff.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hairbrainage

 This is what I rushed down to see the other day after Z yelled, in his 'emergency' voice:  "Dad, you gotta come see this!"  (Of course I'm thinking should I dial 9-1- or at least grab a towel for the blood.)






Yeah, WTF would be the appropriate response.  This is what I have come to call 'hairbrainage,' not to be confused with 'dumbf***ery' which I will get to in another post.  'Hairbrainage' is defined as:  'the results of misguided or flawed thinking which are inexplicable  to those uninvolved in their making. (see bower bird)'  It's a real thing, that I , well, made up...

The first pic is N's creation, play plates and Hot Wheels and a stray can and a piece of track arranged, in my opinion, very artistically with a great sense of color.  The second is Z who has broken into the third dimension using those ubiquitous cardboard blocks and the even more ever-present Hot Wheels.

They were so excited by these odd creations into which so much energy and passion had been put.  I stood in silent awe and said, "My."  A word I save for when I am truly rendered dumbstruck.  I took the pictures (or they would have had to stay up until hell freezes) and they pushed them down and stomped through them Godzilla-style (although they are without that antecedent) and found some other windmills to slay.

Later, as I sat looking at these pictures, reflecting, I was struck by the significance of their insignificance.  I can't tell you how many times I have come upon these sorts of utterly baffling presentations and displays, marveling at the energy, time and intellect they've taken, and simply wonder, "why?"  This time an answer revealed itself as I looked closely at the details, the precision of their work, the obvious choices they had so carefully made.  The answer wasn't: 'Because we could.'  The answer was 'Because we had to.'  These things have an imperity that I don't understand, which is a way of saying, that I've forgotten.

I sometimes wish that something, anything, could have that sort of native, naive importance.