Monday, December 31, 2012

Postings Post

I am going sort of rogue today, but not really.  I like to blog here about my boys, their antics, my relationship with them, stuff like that.  Today however, I will offer this list of blogs by other "Dad Bloggers."

I can rectify rationalize bullsh*t my way to this by simply stating this:  This many men love their children enough to take the time to write about them.

And that, is very cool...

I am often underwhelmed by social media.  I like that I've caught up with old college pals and co-workers but, I am often flabbergasted by the sheer mendacity of the statuses and such.  However, a really cool dude, Oren, (that's his post at the top of the list) organized a Facebook page for Dad Bloggers and it has changed my perception of what social media can do.  I am not alone in my desire to honor and cherish my children in a public forum, and that makes me feel good.

I can't expect you to find the time to read every post however, but just look at the sheer volume here, feel the love poured out, know that the children are loved and being celebrated. 

Here is the list, in no particular order: 

Looking At My Boy - A Blogger and A Father

Dear Hypothetically Gay Son - Ask Your Dad

Why We Have Kids - DadScribe

Does Our "Elf On The Shelf" Have A Penis? - Kyle of Rather-Be-Shopping

The Upside of Timidity - Ray Colon

May Your Song Always Be Sung - ihopeiwinatoaster

Gays, Muppets, Chicken + Jesus - Designer Daddy

Saying Goodbye To "Campa" - The Real Matt Daddy

Education vs. Intimidation: Why Your Parenting Philosophy Is Not Mine - Fodder 4 Fathers

10 Phrases That Will Reduce A Parent To Tears - DadDoes

Honoring Pearl Harbor - Rob Hatton

Toys Reflect Our Story - Cute Monster

A Daddy's First Miscarriage And The Feelings That Came With It - Keith of Daddy Place

Raising Children Without A Father Of My Own - Canadian Dad

Spiderman, My Kids And The Kissing Episode - Mommy's Busy... Go Ask Daddy!

Biggest Legends Of The West In One Photograph: Fake Or Real?

On Holding Hands: A Meditation On Being A Father - Raised By My Daughter

A Sublime Parenting Moment - Luke, I Am Your Father

The Parenting Wars... Starring Legos - Daddy's In Charge?

Whose Shoes To Fill - Active Duty Dad

Lessons From America - The P Word

The Intro - Ay Yo, Be A Father

Giving  from the Heart - Dad's Roundtable

There are so many more men out there doing this and this list in no way includes all the men out there blogging about parenting.  The list is drawn only from the FB page.

I wondered how I would find a suitable topic for my year-end post...  thanks guys.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Juxtapost (A Future's Perfect Post)

It's the day after Christmas and I am obliged to show Christmasy pictures and wax poetic.  I am not really up for that but I will share a little story, a story I would probably forget in a few years if I didn't write it down here.  A story which by that time might just be a fiction in an old man's imagination.  A story I would like to tell when the boys are older and a fire's burning and their spouses are with them and grandchildren are there and...

The old man sits amid a gaggle of people in a forever too small living room.  A fire burns in the low, loud room and it is warm, but the old man, once heavy and always hot, is small now and feels the years in his shoulders and the cold in his nose.

"Dad, it's your move."

He looks down on the juice-beer-coffee-marker-pen-chicken-popcorn-butter-stained coffee table and sees the chess-set which his family has given him for Christmas the day before.  He smiles inwardly at the mistake in strategy the boy, no man, has always made.  They are forever boys, he thinks to himself, in my mind at least, but now men as well, grown men, with their own families and worries and dreams.  When exactly does that happen, he wonders.

"Well now, Nick, you've gone and made the same mistake you've always made; you don't see the long attacks."  He leans forward and a little boy shape slips in behind him.  Is it a grandchild, a memory, the ghost of a beloved never-forgotten secret snuggle, a comforting arm, a dream?  He isn't sure but the warmth pleases him.

"Sorry," he says as he shoots a rook across the board and takes out a threatening bishop.  The wood of the new chess pieces is unfinished and the design sparse, the board is leather and oak.  The set pieces are ironwood he realizes, difficult to carve, substantial, deep.  He understands that the character of this set is much like his own.  He understands the care taken in the choosing of this particular set and appreciates it.

"Yeah, he was always a sucker for a hidden bishop or queen," another voice comes down from above.

"Zack, no one asked you, buddy."  The old man says.

The ghost of a snuggle behind him makes a noise, a giggle, and then says, "Dad, when did you learn to play chess?"

The bishopless man-boy answers, "I don't know, son.  When did we learn to play, Dad?"

The memories flood all at once as they always do, rich and detailed, although so long forgotten.

The year they learned to play chess as the Furbys looked on.

The old man looks at the two sons.  I'm seventy-seven that makes them thirty-three now, he thinks, and thirty-three years of Christmas memories assault him at once: hugs and a birthday song; oranges and Starbursts in the toes of stockings; tee shirts and sweatshirts; board games and video games; crystal ornaments and J-O-Y  spelled out on a wall above a fireplace, below which the stockings still hang.

They filter through his mind, each one individual yet recalled instantaneously, as though they were one thing; a collage, a montage.  His mind lands on one memory, probably a photo somewhere, of a chess- set, a note from Santa and a brown banana peel.

"It was the year you decided to give Santa a 'healthy snack, because it looks like he needs one,' you said.  Remember, the year we made individual plates for all the Reindeer and put the food out for them on them.  You know, that plan didn't really work out.  I had hoped it would be easier to clean up if we didn't sprinkle it on the..."

"Dad, be cool," the voice from above whispers.

The old man remembers the lump of warmth behind him.

"... ground.  But the reindeer weren't very neat, even from their own plates.  I still had to sweep up the leftovers.  They ate all the miniature marshmallows though.  Even Santa thought that was a great idea."  He finishes with a wink at his chess-mate across the table.

"I remember you teaching us.  It was that board with how the player moves sort of marked on each piece.  I'd forgotten all about that."  The boy, no man, Nick, says, the memories flooding back in his mind as well.   "I remember I couldn't figure out how a pawn, of all things, worked.  I remember you said the pawn marched forward but attacked with a slash move diagonally.  You showed us how it looks.  I still think of you doing that every time I take a piece with a pawn.  Santa brought that board."

"What else did they get that year, Bill?,"  a familiar, comforting voice asks from across the room.

"I remember now, Mom:  Furbys."  The other boy, no man, Zack says as he flops his lanky body down on the couch next to the man.  Their shoulders touch and the old man feels the familiar electricity that only a child's touch can give.

The little ghost of warmth behind him giggles again.

"What's Furbys?" it asks.

"They were these little stuffed animals that kinda came alive, and responded to your voice and touch and moving them around.  God, I'd forgotten all about those.  Sometimes I wonder how much I have forgotten, it's sorta sad."  He puts his hand into the wrinkled, age-spotted hand of his father.  "I remember the Furbys drove you nuts, Dad."

"Oh, in all honesty, I thought they were kind of cute.  I remember the day after Christmas that year, you guys were up early as usual and really wanted to go out into the living room so you could wake up your Furbys and see how they were doing.  I finally said yes but told you I had to take a shower.  When I came out of the shower I looked down the hall and there you were, the four of you, at this very table, the chessboard between the two of you and the black and orange Frurbys looking on."

"Oh yeah, I remember those, mine was the orange one.  I loved those stupid things," the boy named Nick says wistfully.

"I remember thinking at the time what a perfect moment that seemed to me.  I beautiful depiction of who you were then.  On one hand little men learning a game for men, a game of battles and romance, a game of kings; and, on the other hand, little boys buying into, perhaps for one of the last times, the magic of imagination and make-believe those silly little Furbys represented."  The old man is emotional, he has always been so but these days he doesn't seem to cover it as well, and he feels his eyes welling up as that moment comes back to him.

"What's a Furby?"  Another voice, more emphatically this time, asking from seemingly under the Christmas tree.

"It's hard to explain.  I bet there's a picture in our photo albums.  Where's mine Mom?"  Zack, the father of the voice under the tree asks.

"Just where they've been for the last thirty years, Zackers."

Both boys fly up and over to the shelves and begin flipping through the albums.

"Christmas, two-thousand-twelve, boys," the old man says, brushing the tear from his eye, glad the attention has gone away from him.

And then, practically in a whisper, he adds:  "The year you learned to play chess as the Furbys looked on."

"Here it is,"  They say at the same time.

"Jinx, you owe me a soda," they then say at the same time...

"Furbys sound creepy," the boy behind the old man says softly.  And then, after a perfect pause, the pause where love lives, "will you teach me to play chess, too, Grampa?"

Monday, December 24, 2012

O Holy Night

It is intensely important for my readers to understand that my heart is beyond broken by this tragedy.  I mostly write to help my own healing.  I am in no way trying to use this and, if you must know, I am reluctant to press publish for fear I will offend someone in so doing.  Know, gentle readers, that I sobbed uncontrollably tonight as I wrote this.

My Dearest Chase,

Tonight it is Christmas Eve and I wanted to remember to wish you a very merry Christmas.  Tonight at church my boys, you remember them right, sang at the service at four o-clock.  It was crazy this year, lots of kids and parents and kids and, did I say kids?  It was really crazy.  The boys sang Silent Night, which is the best Christmas song ever, and Away in a Manager.  Did you get to sing tonight?  I bet you did.

At school the boys made food for Santa's reindeer.  We decided to put it on plates this year and they wrote the names on each plate.  I took a picture for you:

The big blue one is for Rudolph.  Do you think he'll figure that out?  Yeah, me too.

Oh, hey, they wrote notes to Santa as well:

Sometimes, I sort of tell people what the notes say but, I am pretty sure you read little boy, don't you?  Nick's seems a little pushy, "I hope you git me good presents this year," but, he's really a very good boy.  Zack's is nice, I like the "hope you have a nice ride" part.  I like how he signed "Your Friend," that's a nice touch.

Well, it's time for me to go to...

Wait, what on earth is that noise?  It's sort of a jingly-jangly noise and something is thumping on the roof...  I better go check it out...

DUDE!  It was Santa!  Here!  I saw him in the living room.  I really, really saw him!  I tried to hide, but he caught me, man, I was so nervous.  He said "Ho, Ho, Hello Coach Bill!"  Sort of excited but quiet at the same time.  I said "Ho, Ho, Hello Santa" back at him and he laughed really hard.

Since I'd never seen him before I sort of just stood there in awe and stared at him as he put stuff in the stockings and laid out some presents.  I couldn't understand why I could see him, I mean, I never had before, so I asked him why I could see him this time.

"Well, Coach, when a grownup sees me it usually means he has something he wants to ask me.  Do you have something to ask me?"  He said.

Well, you know what, I did, but I was afraid to...

"Go ahead, Billy" he said so tenderly and quietly.  I knew then that he knew what I needed to ask.

"Santa," I began, "a little while back a little boy I know and some of his friends had to leave and, well, I am worried about them and I wonder if they'll get presents and stockings and stuff.  I just hope they will be happy..."

"Yes, Chase, right, and some of his school friends," Santa said.

"Yes,"  I said

"Well, Coach, here's the thing.  Christmas is about something that happened, in the past, the birth of a baby.  It's about a family, and a boy who grew up to be a great man, perhaps the greatest.  Christmas is about memories and love; yours, your boys, your brothers, everyone's really.  Altogether those memories are what makes Christmas happen.  Christmas is all that love coming back and starting over."

I said, "Well, I get that, I guess.  But I am still worried about him being happy."

"Bill," Santa said, "that's not really the point.  Let me put it this way:  He is Loved.  He is loved by you, by his family, by his friends, and by me.  Love is bigger than happiness, bigger than presents and cookies and reindeer and stockings.  It's bigger than me and I am very round.  Love is bigger than everything; love is everything, my child."

"Thanks, Santa, I guess that helps.  I have been so sad for him, but I guess...  Santa, will you visit him this Eve?"  I asked him.

He looked around, he peered down the hall, and then he winked and said, "Where he lives is always my last stop.  And all the little boys and girls gather around me and I tell them about all the people who love and miss them."

"And do they seem happy Santa?"

"Yes, Coach, they do."

"Santa, before you leave will you give Chase a special message for me?  Tell him my heart still needs some healing.  He'll know what I mean.  And tell him that I love him..."

Well, and here's the amazing part, he gave me a hug and he smelled like cookies and reindeer and hot chocolate and joy and tenderness and leather and hope.  He looked me in the eyes and I felt his love, felt his peace and his goodness.  And that's when I knew...

"I certainly will Coach, but you know what?  I never leave where he is," and a silent tear fell down his weathered old face. "It's where I live as well."

And then he put his finger on the side of his nose and flew up the chimney and was gone.

So, goodnight, Chase.  I feel a little better now, knowing that you'll see Santa and that he has wonderful presents for you.

Your Pal,

Coach Bill

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fresh Off The Wire

I wouldn't have believed it, but both the AP and the UPI are rolling this story, Snopes even verified it.

"The day that santa got stuck  One day, the day before christmas I herd a thump santa is stuck! I went to the chimney to help santa and I got him down. But he dident have enough time to give all the presents to everyone.  So I had to help him!  I had so much fun and I got home in time for christmas.  I love Christmas."

"If santa was stuk in my cimney I wold...  First:  I wold sneak out of the hause and git a lader  Next:  I wold climb The lader and go to the cimney.  Then:  I would jump on santa.  Finly: he wold fall thro the chimny and he wold still have time to give us a presents.  I wold go back to bed and go to sleap."

Santa's a dumbass...

(That second reporter needs to get his spellcheck on.)

From Marci's "...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat... "  Facebook page:

Nick was unscrambling letters for homework and the BIG word was duckling.
Trying to help him figure it out, I did what any mom would do - I make wings and started quacking.
"Duck," he guessed.
"Yes ... and ... " I said and made myself shorter and repeated the sound (get it? small + duck = duckling).
"Quack?" he guessed.
"Not quite," I quacked.
He smiled triumphantly, "I know! Onomatopoeia!"

fail - BUT *Love that my kid knows what onomatopoeia is!*

I witnessed this and fell out...

(In less than seventy-two hours the post about my new pal Chase Kowalski shot to the top of my popular posts list.  I could not be more pleased.  Thanks to all who gave it a look.  I will be keeping in touch with him in future posts.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chase Kowalski

I got a new pen-pal today.  His name is Chase.  He chose me, really.  There was a far-too-long list of names and he was the only boy who was seven on the list.  I guess I seemed like a good match to him.

He had to go away Friday.  I am still going to write him anyway, writing to people and about them can help them never really go away.

Hey Chase,

I'll start out by saying I love you, yeah, I know, that's kinda weird for me to say that, me not knowing you and all, but...  You see, I have twins, boys, seven years old, they're in Second Grade now, and I love them a lot - they're children - I love children - so, I love you.  A lot a lot a lot and a lot of people love you, buddy.

I am not really that interesting, I am a Dad.  I help out at the school library and in the computer lab, pretty boring.

I would think that perhaps my boys will be interesting to you.  Let's see, one is named Zack, the other Nick, I told you they were in Second Grade, but they were in first last year.  I guess that's obvious.  You know what?  I use a lot of biggish words when I talk to kids, that's because I respect you, I hope you don't mind.  Anyway, they are pretty terrific kids.

 Here's a picture of each of them:

I know, they are pretty funny-lookin' kids, aren't they?  And what's up with those "I heart me shirts?"  Ha, ha, I tricked ya, that's not really them, these are really pictures they drew of themselves, you know, selfportraits.  They drew them in first grade last year, same as you.  I'll bet you draw pictures of yourself, too.

Let's see, that's Zack there at the bottom, he's a happy kid.  He dances and does kick-moves, all the time.  All. The. Time.  He's funny and creative and goofy.  I'll bet you are, too.  He was sad when he heard you had to go and he's been thinking about you.

Standing there on top of Zack's head is Nick.  He is SILLY!  You see how crazy and busy that picture looks?  That's how he is.  He really likes to read and sing and play with LEGOs.  I'll bet you do, too.

You know how I said I like to use big words with kids, well, sometimes I use big ideas with kids, too.  That's because I know kids can handle big ideas.  Well, Nick is very sad you had to go, but, he is also afraid for himself and his friends and family.  I'll bet you are, too.  It may be hard to understand, but, he misses you.

Hey, is your birthday on Halloween?  How cool is that!  This year the boys went as wizards and they made these really cool sticks, like big wands, magical wands.  My boys L-O-V-E Halloween.  I'll bet you do to.

Remember how I told you Nick was really silly.  Well, on Friday, he brought this home from school:

Seriously, he's crazy... I mean, what the heck is going on here?  There's a surfboard and a shark and trees and flowers and, and, a lawn gnome.  He's loves to draw and that sun , up near the top, he always makes his suns like that.  I like them.  I'll bet you create some wacky stuff, too.

Zack made this at school, too.  It's one of his favorite stuffed animals, Wolffy.  That's him standing next to Wolffy.  He really doesn't have white pants trimmed in blue.  Oh, and he really does have feet, really cute feet, he just always forgets about them when he draws.  I'll bet you have cute feet, all little boys do.

Do you know we have over two-hundred stuffed animals around here?  I am working on a little movie about them.  Hey, when I get it done, I'll show it to you; it's gonna be epic, little dude.

I heard you like to run.  Boys like to run, don't they?  It makes you feel so free and happy.  You know, that's how I imagine you now, free and happy, running, jumping, laughing.  Just keep doing that.

Oh, I just thought of something you might find interesting about me, I coach the boys baseball team.  I love coaching little boys about your age.  You are all so good and eager and you all try so hard.  You are my heroes on the baseball field.  Do you like baseball?  I bet you do.  Here's a couple of photos of the boys playing baseball:

I told you they were goofy looking kids.  No, I did it again, ha-ha.  They drew these pictures, too.  Our team name was The Angels.  I'll bet you're an Angel, too.

Well, buddy, I gotta take care of some errands and stuff.  I am sorry you had to go, I'm sure your family is, too.  Hey, would it be alright if I kept writing you now and again?  I'd like that.  Maybe I could introduce the boys to you and they could give me ideas about what you might like to hear about.  Cool?  It's a promise then. 

Chase, you know how I said I use big words and ideas with kids?  Well sometimes I ask big favors, too.  You see, something is broken in me and only a little boy from Connecticut can fix it, it's my heart.  Could you help it heal?  Thanks, man.

I'll be talking to you, little man.  I'll be thinking about you.  I promise to see you in every smile and swirly sunset; I'll hear you in every giggle and whisper and crack of a bat; I'll love you between every breath I take.

Much love,

Mr. Peebles, (but you can call me Coach Bill, a lot of kids do.)

P.S.  Sleep in heavenly peace, little dude, sleep in heavenly peace...

Friday, December 14, 2012

See Zack City!

The Zack City Chamber of Commerce invites you to visit, relax and take advantage of their unparallelled range of services and amenities:

I don't need the decoder ring here.  "Zack city is a big place.  It has a big Zoo with lots of animals, a Beach that is very sunny and a public pool and lots of people come every year.  The Library has lots of Books.  The Zoo has lots of Animals.  Santas entrance is a big help to santa.  The park is a very Big place for the kids to play.  the car store is a good place for people that need cars.  The BaseBall Dimond Is for BaseBall players to go.  Zack city is a very fun place you'll want to come back each year"

Wow!  A zoo with animals, a library with books, a pool and a beach, a car dealership, and nothing but baseball on the baseball fields.  And an entrance for Santa.  No wonder I'll want to come back.

The brochure came with a map:

With a legend:

 Look at all this stuff.  There's a crosswalk, a news studio, a park, a radio station, a dance studio, the car store (Ford, no doubt), Baseball diamonds, a freakin' museum.  Nestled in with the basketball, football and field hockey venues is a "Buter-fly court", which I think is a real nice touch.

The key for Santa's entrance is his hat; a heart for the hospital; a spraying hose rake for the garden store; the "pestraunt" (restaurant I assume, unless it's an eatery for you and your pets) sells clams and/or burgers judging from its key; and the "grosry" (grocery) sells cones of food from the looks of its key.

There is a President's office.  I am not sure if this means the president returns each year to Zack City or if there is a president of Zack City.  (I've tried but I can't make out the key for that one; a phone, a cartoon dynamite plunger thinge, a podium?)

Finally there is a the school, some towers, a house, the town square, the aforementioned Zoo (with animals!), the beach, the pool, the pet store.  A river runs through it and, if you don't like to dine with your pets, a pizza place.

Imagination.  Savor it, nurture it, encourage it.  It is how bridges are built, moons are reached, hearts are transplanted, wounds are healed.  It is the place where Literature begins and Art grows and Songs are first heard.  It is where love and righteousness bloom, where happiness and joy are safe, where dreams begin.  It is ours and ours alone, we humans, we sons and daughters of God.  It is our right, our legacy and our honor.

You show me your Zack City and I'll show you mine...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Repurposing Santa

All the other kids are blogging about Christmas; heartfelt posts about the power of gifts; snarky ones about cookie exchanges and white elephant gifts (whatever the hell those are); poignant ones about memories of Christmases long, long ago; magical shelves full elves and battery illuminated candles (if it ain't burning, it ain't a candle); traditions secular and  nonsecular, drunken and sober; being alone or being with family, which is worse; oh, and Santa.

Christmas is, by it's very nature, you know, anticipating and celebrating a Savior's birth and all that, a showy holiday.  All those carols and traditions and gifts and lights and shows... and  Santa.

Basically if you have kids you are forced to perpetrate two, and here I am going to get in trouble, difficult to explain and possibly antithetical... myths, lies, stories uh, imaginings.  I have many very Faithful readers and I don't want to get into any theological stuff here... suffice to say when a kid asks if Santa was Jesus' dad, you're in trouble.

Okay, in the interest on focusing on the story that serves as a better reminder of our humility; the story that ends in redemption; the story that is about love and justice; I think we should repurpose Santa.


I've given it some thought and I don't think Thanksgiving is a good fit for Santa, although turkeys down chimneys and the first sightings of Santa by Pilgrims is tempting.  The Fourth of July already has Uncle Sam, that's cool, he's underrated, and Santa would get mighty hot in that fur suit in the middle of Summer.

I gotta admit I like him for Arbor Day; he's cheery, outdoorsy, robust, but I don't know if you can die ermine green.  Veterans' Day is also a temptation.  We could add some blue to his jumpsuit, sort of militarize his look... no.

Easter is already owned by that domineering Easter Bunny and in a throwdown I don't think old Kris would have a snowball's chance in hell, although that would be an epic battle, the story of which could be told through the ages.

That leaves... Halloween.  Think about...  I know, it's a perfect fit.  He's creepy, always in costume, gregarious, creepy and mysterious.  He'd probably gladly go around just giving candy I'd bet.  After all these years of 'naughty and nice' lists, perfect gifts and impossibly high expectations, he'd probably love throwing Smarties and Twizzlers down chimneys.  Hell, we could make up some sort of nonsense about the reindeer being so wonderful they poop Snickers bars and instead of cookies we could leave the old guy something he really wants, like apples and sausages.

I am willing to create a whole new mythology around him.  I figure Elves could make candy, right.  I mean they're already indentured servants, what do they care what they make.  Actually, they would probably love it - candy-making is fun and, a little dangerous. 

I don't think we'd have to relocate him, he'd need a place to store the candy and the North Pole is a great natural refrigerator.  We could give him solar panels and wind units and say how green and wonderfully kind to the earth he is.

I guess we'd have to sort of make him scarier, but, he already knows what we are thinking, sneaks into homes and smokes for goodness sake, he's already pretty creepers.

Or we could force him into retirement, call him a CEO or something, put him in charge of shipping or manufacturing, and let this guy take over:

I know, you're right, he's not as creepy as Santa.

Maybe, and I'm just thinkin' out loud here, maybe, he could replace the Tooth Fairy...

Friday, December 7, 2012


I don't normally do the "craft" thing here, but I saw this on Pinterest and it seems easy enough, and topical:

Z's ornament

 There's even some simple instructions on how to make your very own:

And, of course, y'all know how Pinterest is so I saw this other one and couldn't resist sharing it as well:

N's ornament

Here's the simple steps to make this one as well:

Well, there ya go.  I gotta stay off that damn Pinterest, it's a serious timesuck, and everything looks so nice, and easy.

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

"I like your nostrils."

Best pick-up line EVA...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Trading Card Post

"Being silly is like a present we give each other," I said the other night, at dinner, as I was making faces, and talking in an outrageous French accent, with a napkin on my head, brandishing a teeny spoon as a weapon.  Yeah, I need to work on my dinner table behavior.

I have noticed that three of my last four posts have been on the more serious side.  I mentioned once, I'll look it up here in a sec twice, once in a post called Daddy Dooby from last Christmas season and again, most recently, in one called Turn-Around-Bob, that my posts here at ihopeiwinatoaster often reflect my mood and I am, well, moody.

Some people are able to change their moods, at will, themselves... not me.  But, I try.  I utilize all the traditional tools like The Serenity Prayer and gratitude lists; affirmations and daily devotions; beer and wine; weeping and yelling.  Recently however, on a rather obscure and new blog which I'll link up for you some other time, 'cause it's serious and I don't want to be serious today, I was challenged to "raise my thoughts, not my voice."

I like that.  It really seems to help.  So I am trying to be more cheery and less dreary and, as a consequence I will make you suffer through some stoopid stuff my kids do.  It's either that or put stuff on my head and take pictures of it and post them, which wouldn't serve the mission of my little bloggy thing here.  (I wonder if the domain name is taken?)

I mentioned just the other day that the boys like Pokemon cards.  I had nothing to do with it.  They traded perfectly good baseball cards and football cards for them, on the bus, with bigger kids, thugs.  Anyway, what you need to know is that they do not understand how to play Pokemon.  Seriously, clueless.  Also, they play a game called Wizards101 on the computer.  A.  Lot.  Too much?  That has not been determined.  In that game they are pretty up to speed, honestly, they get it and play it fast and hard.

Bothy games score similarly and health and food and speed and spells and such are determined in both by cards.

So naturally this is what has happened:

Yep, they make their own cards and play some sort of mashup of the two games and there are hundreds of these, everywhere.  The above is just a bunch of little ones I made a collage of on the scanner.  I could have done that four, at least, more times.

I am pretty sure this was a prototype but it'll still shock the shit out of you:

Some are eerily similar, maybe the same dude in different stuff, "sometimes they revolve, Dad, from what they were, before... They usually get better or something like that."  Right, Darwin's Theory of Revolution, Natural, uh, Direction...

Sometimes they're in color, special editions, no doubt:

Sometimes they are really, really odd:

My secret kid-to-grownup decoder ring translates this as "Sam in rain storm."  I thing it needs an upgrade because I know for a fact that there is no Sam in this game; Rekingball, yep; Zaneoktgongy, yep; Spinner, Spik, a Zooose, a Plattapud, yep, a Plattapoop, yep.  No Sams.  This card puts the "game in a minion storm."  Good Lord, how awful is that, a minion storm?

Sometimes they are very detailed and sophisticated:

Sometimes, not-so-much:

However, AX here is the title character in what is perhaps a new game in development.  It's nicely packaged:

And it comes with thirty-plus cards:

There are many more of these, scattered no doubt under things, mixed in with other toys, in notebooks and sketch books (as a matter fact there are several in their sketchbooks in the truck), and honestly there are probably a lot of them in the landfill.  The output of these has been, and is still, enormous; weight-worthy.

As always, I want to remember this little phase of their life, which is why I put this together, but in so doing I have reached a deeper, more profound conclusion:

Nicholas Oilbreth is gonna get his her ass whupped by Zachary Wildsinger.  I mean, he's  oddly, she is only a level twelve and Wildsinger there is a level seventy-seven for chrissakes.  It's not even a fair fight.  And if life and health are the same stat, then Wildsinger has 3,032 versus 980 for Oilbreth, she's doomed.

Well, now, look at that, I forgot one image.

Sometimes they are named Nork and they steal your heart away:

Thanks for playing.

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

"ARGH! Gravity beat me again!"

Oh, I hate that...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Storytime 1.0

It is not unsavory or uncomfortable subject matter that makes this story hard to tell, in fact it's nearly frivolous at face value.  That being said, it is still difficult to write because it has scope, implications, depth.  It is difficult to write because it isn't very linear, it is contingent on knowing what came before, it's complicated.  Yeah, I am gonna try to tell it anyway.

(Oh, and what I'm hinting at  is it may take a while to read, like maybe nine minutes.  In pursuance of The Laws of Literary Decency, consider yourself forearmed.)

It is all basically Marci's doing, sort of, well she was out of town and I felt sorry because the boys were sad and...  No, that's no way to start a story.

There are many things in the in the great story of growing up that are difficult for grownups to understand, to remember.  We may see our beloved mini Tonka trucks and smile at the sweet melancholy they evoke, but we don't remember the devotion and satisfaction those toys brought us...  Well that's thick, and dull.

I don't think anything the boys make around here isn't seen by me.  I read wadded up papers, I look in notebooks, I have even taken something out of the trash to read.  So when I noticed this behind the wood basket, I wondered:

I have to tell you I had a vague notion on this one because Nick had sort of been furtively working on something and I asked him what, we said it was nothing and I went back in the kitchen.  When I returned, it was gone and he looked, well, sorta smug.  So when I saw it there I thought I might know what it was.  I was right:

I think it is a preliminary list, but, it's really not much is it?  It seems like happy kids don't want so much, sometimes, except, they don't want things to change.  That's the one thing I can't give them, to promise stability is to promise falsely; things will change.

Anyway, I scanned it and put it back, maybe he'll forget about it or maybe he's planning an addendum.

I guess there is a little more backstory here, Mom was out of town at a convention over the weekend and the boys, especially N were taking it hard this time.  In the interest of their happiness, and we needed milk and meat, I took them to the store -  Meijer, sort of a super-store chain.  After I got the meat and milk I let them go to the toy aisles.  The passed those up and headed to the area where the Wii games are.  After some discussion we decided there wasn't anything we couldn't live without for now and headed towards the checkout

In front of the self checkout is a display with Pokemon cards.  They stopped.  I continued to a checkout lane.  I went back to see what they were up to and found them deciding what ones they would get if they could.  I told them not today and said we had to get moving.  They reluctantly hung up their choices and mumbled off.

There is this thing that our twins do, they stick their heads nearly together and speak quietly.  It infuriates me, mostly because I feel left out.  Well they did that all the way out to the truck.  I opened up the back to secure the meat and milk and, as I put things away, the plot thickened like gravy.

"Hey Dad, remember the other week when we helped paint the playset?  And you gave us five dollars?  Well, not five dollars for both, well, we both got five, I mean we didn't have to split it, and you gave us..." Nick sort of spews all at once.

"We each got five dollars."  Zack clears things up.  "Go on, Nick."

(Now don't think I don't know what's going on, I feign ignorance sometimes.  Besides, I wanted them to ask, it's part of life.)

"Yeah, I remember something like that.  Why?"  I ask.

Zack this time, "Well, we were wondering, and you can say no, but we were wondering..."

"Hoping, actually,"  Nick qualifies.  (Using the hope card so early, well played little Word Ninja, well played.)

"... if maybe we could use that money to buy those packs of Pokemon cards," Zack finishes.

"We have at least five dollars and the cards are only four dollars and seventeen cents, that's with tax,"  (wait how does he know that?) "so we know we have enough and you said we could, that we could use it to get what we wanted you said so we..."  He trails off.

Zack takes up the cause.

"Dad, I know we have enough and we could just go home and then come back and, you know, get them?"

"Well my goodness, you guys have given this some thought."

"That's what we were talking about on the way out to the car," Nick points out unnecessarily.

Now during this time I have been rummaging through my purse and have located a ten dollar bill.

"I'll tell you what boys, that seems like a pretty good idea but, I have here a ten dollar bill, we'll use it to get the cards and you can give me the five dollar bills you have when we get home."

"Four dollars and seventeen cents, Dad," Nick points out, again.

"I get it, that ten for our two fives," thank you Mr. Math.

They begin to get into the truck.  "What are you doing?" I ask.

"What? Wait, you mean now?"

"Yeah."  (Jeeze guys, catch up.)

Now improvise in your mind, hugs, effusive thank-yous and odd sort of Irishy-jig dancing and you'll get the picture.

Well, we headed back in and the boys find the cards they wanted and also point out to me the big decks that are eleven ninety-nine (without tax).  Now I'm thinking this whole scene has been really cute, they've been sweet and seem very excited about the prospect of new cards.  I also remember that the first thing on Nick's list, as you may remember, was 'Pokemon.'  The more expensive packs have a lot more cards in them and have a game board and coins and tokens and all kinds of fun-sounding stuff.

"Alright, I'll tell you what, you can get the big pack and I'll make up the difference," I tell them.

And right here is where it gets a little complicated, convoluted, wonky even.  Nick put away his small pack, grabbed the big one.  Zack has his in his hand.  Nick then says that he wants the smaller pack and Zack seems to agree.  We purchase the smaller ones and go on out.  In the parking lot I tell the boys that they don't have to give me their five dollars, that I will treat them to the cards.  They excitedly tear them open and the conversation no longer makes any sense to me.

Flash forward about three hours, I am starting dinner and Nick is watching TV and Zack is on a computer game.  Nick looks up at me as I walk in on them and he has an odd look on his face.  I ask him what's wrong and he says he just misses Mommy.

I turn to leave and he says:  "I'm sorry Zack, I didn't know."

He goes over to the couch and whispers something.  I ask him what he said and he mumbles it was nothing.  Oddly, Zack doesn't seem to know what's going on either.  I turn to leave and then turn back.

"Is there something I need to know, Nick?"  More mumbling and head-shaking.

A few minutes later I come in to tell them to finish up and get ready for dinner.  There is a sadness in the room and Nick's eyes are rimmed in red.  Zack looks a little shocked.

"Nick, if something is bothering you then I need to know," I say as I kneel in front of him.  "Is there something bothering you?  What about you Zack?"

"No, it's okay, Dad."  Nick says between sniffles.

I finish getting dinner on the table, a favorite of the boys, mac and cheese and hot dogs with carrot sticks and some little tomatoes.  I call them and they file in like they'd lost the big game.  Honestly, at this point I am baffled and I pride myself in sensing what's going on with them.  Nick sort of half sobs through grace and Zack is actually sitting in his chair, which is rare.

Insert pregnant pause here...


"Yes, Nick?"

"Remember when we were at the store and we were getting the little packs of cards, the four seventeen ones, and you said that we could get the big packs and you'd make the difference and we got the small pack?  Well," full sob, "I didn't get it, I didn't know we could get the big one, and I thought you wanted us to get the little one and I didn't understand that you would have got the big ones and that is why I said I'm sorry to Zack."  Full tears and sobbing.

"You just now figured that out?  Oh, honey, I'm sorry..." I say to him feeling his pain.

"Yeah, I just didn't get what you meant."

"So, you chose the little ones because you didn't understand that I was saying you could get the big ones?"

I tear splashes in the mac and cheese, "Yeah... I really wanted the big pack."

Regret.  Buyer's remorse.  The familiar pang of life's unfairness.  To me at least.  But not for them; not on my watch.

"Well," I say, "that doesn't seem too fair does it?  I'll tell you what, we'll go back and get the big packs.  It's not your fault you misunderstood me, you shouldn't have to be so sad over a simple mistake."

Looks of understanding begin to show through the faces of sadness.

"When?"  they ask simultaneously.

"Right now," dinner was being generally ignored and Nick was in no shape to eat.  "Let's finish up here and then we'll go back."

Remember the little imagining you did before, jiggy dancing, hugs, thank-yous?  Square it and you might begin to understand what happened next.

And then, they actually went on to eat a little more dinner, happy and relieved.

Now there is a little more to this story, the true part (that makes it sound like I've been making all this up) the pure center of the thing; its essence.

"Dad, if you want we'll give you our five dollars... well... each, like both of us give you our own five dollars and... you get it, right?"  Nick offers.

Zack looks at Nick a bit annoyed.

"Nick, listen to me, that's a nice idea, but I don't think that would be fair, or right.  Just like I don't think it's fair that you got the cards you got over a misunderstanding, a mistake.  And since I'm talking about it, you know, things being right and all, I am proud of you for telling me what was wrong, telling me the truth.  What I don't understand is why Zack didn't say anything in the store?  Did you understand what I meant?"

Zack answers, "Yeah, I just got the one's Nick wanted to get.  He was sad about Mom and I didn't want him sadder."

"I see.  And what did you say to Nick when he said he was sorry?  You don't have to tell me, I'm just curious."

"I didn't really mind really, at least we got something."  Good old Zack, pointing out the happy obvious.

Nick sits, thinking and then says, "Dad, I still don't get why we can get the packs and not pay you."

"Well, I wasn't gonna make you pay for the four dollar and seventeen cents ones was I?"

Heads shake.

"Well, it doesn't seem fair to make you pay when in the store I said I'd buy the more expensive cards.  You shouldn't always have to pay for misunderstanding things.  That's basically a sort of accident," I tell them.

"So, I get it.  Nick, it wasn't really your fault," Zack, once more, nailing it.

Nick visibly is relieved, his face lights up, the dark clouds lift and, a look of recognition flushes his face.  I've been trying to get him to understand this for ten minutes now and, finally, recognizing the feeble seedling of the tree that is justice, he seems, well, stronger.

Seeds, seedlings.

"Thanks, Dad."  Nick whispers through a smile.

Sometimes, rarely really, we get to see the seedlings of the ideas we so carefully sow in our children and yet, in this conversation I see so many of them .

The inexplicable pain that is Empathy.

The tears that are Sympathy.

The calming salve of Righteousness.

The faith that is Decency.

The nudge at the heart that is Honesty.

The brothers of strength; Integrity and Character.

The strange power that is Courage.

You see these ideas, ideals really, grow in your children.  You think about how they came to them and, at first, it occurs to you that you taught them these things, as if that were possible.

And then you begin to think that you showed them these things, which is what I thought I'd done, and maybe, when they were little, I did that, modeled for them, showed them.

But now I realize what I think I have been doing:

I have been mirroring them.

Showing them themselves.

The end result: 

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Catplot & Abstracts

I found the cat, Paige, not Baily, Baily loves her Zack, dragging this piece of paper across the floor in the livingroom:

It is not a handwriting I recognize and why is there tape on it?

I am pretty sure I thwarted some evil feline plan.

I'm telling you, the number of unexplainable things here outnumbers the things that make sense.

These two have me pretty baffled as well:

Nick's Abstract

Zack's Abstract

On a side note, thanks to everyone who shared and read my post from the other day, The Future's Still Perfect Post.  It shot right up the favorites list and is now my fifth fourth third most popular post.

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

"Well, beat me with a chicken."
"Ow! Not literally!"

Try to work it into your conversations, is surprisingly satisfying...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Future's Still Perfect Post

The old man sits this time at an old, round, pedestal table.  Though tired and worn down, both he and it are still strong enough to take the weight of the time, meals, work, tears, laughter and joy that life so freely wields against tables, and men.

He looks long and hard at the other three chairs, empty now.  He remembers the parade of boys who sat in them; the little babies, eating the mush so eagerly shoved into their waiting mouths, the toddlers wrangling food with their own fingers, awkwardly, happily.  He hears the giggle of slurping noodles and forgotten, silly jokes.  He hears the mumbles of disagreement and discontent as the years go by.

He remembers all the crayons and pencils and markers and paint; the Play-Doh, the LEGOs, the models, the paper airplanes; he remembers cutting, smushing, glittering, wrapping, singing, yelling with joy and without.  He remembers the books, the writing journals, the laptops and tablets and all those damned phones, the years of homework.

He watches as the morphing memories in the seats change from boys to men and wonders when exactly that happens.  He remembers first seeing the whiskers on the bigger boy on a winter's evening as the light came through that window from behind him, golden and perfect, and realizing that boys need to be taught how to shave.  How had he missed that?

But memories dance and float and fly like ghosts for him sometimes now.  One replaces another so quickly and randomly and come at him like a summer storm, seeming so real, so palpable, he has to stand up, wipe a tear from his wrinkled face, and refocus on them one at a time.

He sees two little heads, firmly, intentionally, pressed against one another, peering in to a bowl of month-old Halloween candy, lamenting the loss of the good stuff.  He sees those same two heads bent over Christmas thank-yous, science projects and senior yearbooks.  He sees the frustration at a clay sculpture gone bad, a project exploded, a computer crashed, a girl gotten away, a place on a team or in a show not realized.

He seemingly remembers it all at once.

He hears a noise, the long rambling rumble of an air vent hit hard, intentionally.  He focuses on the sound.  Years of quietly standing in the hallway, listening to toddlers talk of God, tweens talk of girls, boys talk of life; years of listening closely when the quiet got too quiet, actually recognizing the soft sound of crayon on paper; years of squinting his ears to focus on the tone of the argument in the backyard or in the basement waiting to hear if it gets too angry; all those years of listening so carefully have made him expert at determining what a sound is.

Tick, tick, tick!  The sounds of sticks smacking against one another, medium velocity.  Previous to that, the vent noise.  Previous to that, the sending of two grown men into the basement to switch out a non-functioning power outlet, the one the lights for the boys' Christmas tree always were plugged into.

He shakes the memory of so many trees and ornaments and half working light strands.

"I have five-hundred health."

"Well. I have five-thousand!"

He hears laughter and he knows, he knows like you'd know an earthquake, and he feels the memory like one as well.  He laughs out loud and chokes up simultaneously...

The fall they were wizards and still believed in Santa.

He can still see them in his mind's eye, they were wizards for Halloween, inspired by an online computer game, the name of which escapes him, and there they are again, so young and beautiful, dripping with hope and playfulness, swinging long scepter-like wands at each other in mock battle, declaring their health and battle status.  Two-thousand-twelve he remembers for some reason.

Here is what he knows has happened:  He sent his thirty-three-year-old twin boys downstairs to change the outlet.  The outlet is on the ceiling.  They looked around, flashlight in hand, and found them, the old sticks, on top of the air vent.  Their dad, now that tired old man, had stashed them up there that November so long ago, unable to just trash them.  He knew then how much time and energy and joy they put into them and could not desert them. When he found them, laying criss-crossed, abandoned to the wind and rain on the porch he knew he had to save them, so, he hid them away and... forgot about them.

Until just now.

He knows they are smacking at each other with those long-forgotten sticks, reliving their youth, finding the fire that had fueled those scepters so very long ago again.

"Put down those wizard-wands and change that damned outlet, boys," he yells, focusing his voice towards the heater vents as he always did.

He smiles knowing how much the have always hated how he seemed to know what they were thinking and doing.  He told them there was something magical in his powers but, it was admittedly just sheer deduction and maybe a little inspiration.

He turns to walk over to the steps that lead to the basement, happy to have this particular memory come up, so real and so unremembered for too long.  He starts down the steps slowly, carefully, feeling the weight of his seventy-seven years bear down on his knees as it had his memories.

"Hey Dad, how'd'ya know we found this old stuff," the darker, more serious of the two asks.

"I always knew what you guys were up to."

Nearing the bottom of the steps now, he looks over where they are standing.  He stumbles a little and sits down on the steps.  He puts his face in his hands and begins to cry.

They had remembered where their old costumes were, in a chest full of silly stuff for "dress-up" and...

They are standing there in their full wizard regalia, gowns too short, hoods too tight, giggling like the seven-year-olds they once were, and are, once again.

"Zack, what'd you say?  Are you all right, Dad," the fair son asks.

"What's wrong," Zack asks.

"I miss the little guys you once were, boys.  I really do," the man says, into his hands, slightly ashamed at his emotions.

"So do we, Dad," they say at the same time and then immediately, "Jinx, you owe me a soda..."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thangsgiving Daily

I don't have much time, the boys are watching the Macy's Parade thingee.  I wanted to show you these quickly before things get too busy around here:

There at the top is a lovely drawing Nick did at school.  I often wonder what the schools would do without the deep and moving canon of heartwarming turkey iconography.  Do they ever make the connection that we, uh, well, er... slay them, pluck them, eviscerate them and then eat them?  I hope not.

That second image is from Zack and is, obviously, The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving.  At least that's all I can figure.  I think it's a rogue turkey on steroids.

Thanksgiving is easy to understand, essentially.  Things get a little mixed up when kids begin to study it, what with the Pilgrims and Native Americans and all that.  Honestly, they seem to get it, at its simplest level, and that's fine with me.  Here's the story they understand:  Dudes names Pilgrims came here, Natives accepted them and helped them and they had turkey and pie to celebrate.  Basically a party.

The other night I watched a Frontline producion on PBS called 'Poor Kids' which tells the story of hunger and need from the perspective of kids in actual poverty.  It was very difficult to watch and it wounded me in my  most vulnerable place; that place where love and honor and decency, hope and charity and duty all meet to form the walls that protect our children.  Sometimes those walls aren't built with enough integrity to stay up, sometimes they are not secured correctly and, sometimes, they have simply been forgotten.

The night after I watched it, I was doing laundry around here and was bitching in my head about how much there was to wash, eight friggin' loads to be exact.  One of the kids in the documentary said:  "If it wouldn't fit in my bookbag, I couldn't take it to the shelter."

Today Everyday I should be thankful for abundance, and pray for a day where I don't complain about it.

One of the kids on the show said he missed his cellphone because "we move all the time so it's the only way I can keep up with my friends."  I complain about how slow one of our computers is and I often wish I had a slick new iPad or a better scanner.  We actually have three working computers and yet I feel the need to want more and better.

Today Everyday I should be thankful for connections; the connectivity that computers and the internet and phones give us, thankful for the amelioration of loneliness and homesickness and sadness things like Facbook and even this blog might offer.

I watched as a Dad crouched in the cold, barehandedly working on his car, tried to decide what part of his car's brakes to fix, and what could last another few weeks, wondering what would be safest for his family.  I sometimes wish I had a better truck or a slick SUV or a new mini-van.

Today Everyday I should be thankful for safety; the relative security of knowing our two working late-model vehicles are reliable and, should they become not so, we can afford to get them fixed.

One boy, nearly a man really, marveled at the irony of sometimes having cereal and no milk and other times, having milk and no cereal.  Another girl spoke through tears about how sometimes she didn't want to get up in the morning because there was no breakfast.  Sometimes, I wish we could eat more expensive steaks and fish and such; I wish we could go out more often or order carryout.

Today Everyday I should be thankful for a full pantry and the two gallons of milk in the fridge.

A newly homeless mother walked into a rented motel room and, although apparantly promised, there was no mini-fridge or microwave, and she wept in worry about that.  The other day I went on a huge rant about how much I hated my stove and needed a new one, the very stove which was baking corn bread and cooking a nice pile of pork cutlets.

Today Everyday I should be thankful for the appliances and modern wonders which literally surround me and, honestly, embarrassingly, I take for granted.

One little girl, the same one who didn't want to get up in the morning, spoke excitedly about how much she loved to dance and hoped someday to be a dancer or a cheerleader, all on an empty stomach.  They showed some eerily moving footage of her practicing dance moves and tricks using the railroad tracks in her backyard as a makeshift balance beam.  I complain we have to many toys and the boys complain they have too few.

Today Everyday I should be thankful for the opportunity my children have to dream... with a full belly and a houseful of toys.

I am not trying to bring you down with this, it's actually an attempt to lift you up, to lift us all up.  I love Thanksgiving, not because of the turkey or the family, the memories or traditions, the pies or the Brussel sprouts.  Although I love all those things, I love even more the face slap that is the weight and responsibility we all have to give thanks, not just today but, on a daily basis.

I was talking to Zack the other day about today and he said this.  "The best part about Thanksgiving is that it reminds you what to do."

Yeah... it sure should.