Friday, March 30, 2012

MacGyver It

MacGyver v. 1. To use ingenuity to fix or remedy a problem using only the tools and materials readily available.  2. Jury-rig, often the precursor to hairbrainage.

N gets this concept and, when the invented item need only to 'pretend' to work, he's a frickin' genius at it.  Case in point:

I have to tell you I can't remember the actual day he made it, I do remember laughing and knowing I had to take a picture of it (at the time I was not doing this blog, either).

He carried it around for a while and kept improvising things to do with it.  It was a "spyer" at one point, a phone with a "secret partment" (why bother with com-partment when you don't really need the com?), it was a "hand-bomb" which I intercepted just before it hit the window, it was nearly a boat and it was a pet robot.

It was as though he made it in anticipation of needing it.  That's ballsy.

Really, it is whatever you can make of it, Johnny.

There is a profundity to creativity and a courage that goes unsaid.  I think about his mind process as he conjured this magical machine.  What made him decide that little yellow box needed to go onto that look-around-the-corner-thingee?  Did he choose the "coaches against cancer" wristband on purpose, had the Loveland Tigers one already been commandeered for some other state-of-the art counter-intelligence stealth device?  And why, I wonder, is the box secured by a strap from his Handy Manny tool backpack as well as the wristband?  That must be a pretty damned important box.

I truly believe that in failure lies success.  In experimentation, try and fail, we find what we need to find.  I should have the courage to look around me, use the resources at hand and amuse my self and others.  I think I have lost that ability, or, as I have mentioned before, forgotten it.  My boys always remind me how far I have gotten away from the simple, truthful, clever, divine soul we all come with.

I always think I need more stuff.  I don't. I need more courage, the courage to brilliantly, gloriously, extravagantly... fail.

You know, come to think of it I don't think the boys have ever seen a hand-grenade before.  Cool, my kid would have invented it.  They would have invented the wheel, too.

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

"How do you spell eight?"
"I have a little brain so tell me slowly."

I am having t-shirts made... 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

On Asparagus

The Cincinnati Enquirer, our dying, nearly defunct dinosaur of a newspaper here in The Queen City has two excellent writers; Paul Daugherty, an award-winning sports writer with a heart of gold, and Krista Ramsey, a beat writer who covers religion and community.  A recent article by her, 'Parenting's Beautiful, Terrible Risks' really touched me, one sentence in particular:

"A parent's job, from the beginning, is to basically put himself out of a job."

I think that really nails it, doesn't it?  It distills everything into one succinct point.

It made me think of this picture:

They are about twenty-one months old and looking out into the big old world outside their living-room window with such wonder, excitement and, how should I say it... purpose.

And we, the parents, the "big guys" as N always calls groups of parents, are the ones entrusted with showing them they way, preparing them for what lies ahead, smoothing the road, padding the corners, and, sometimes hiding the truth.

What has this got to do with asparagus?  Nothing.  Everything.  I am not sure.  The other night I made asparagus and the boys loved it.  They also love spinach.  I think I forgot to tell them they weren't supposed to like these things.

I know I have so much to tell them, and a lot of I don't want to.  I really wonder sometimes about how they see the world unfolding in front of them.  I said to N the other day, I think maybe for the first time:  "Well, life's not always fair."  He looked at me with an incredulous face and said, "Well, why not?"

I didn't have an answer.

In frustration the other day, I said to Z, "Everything's not always fun and games, you know."  He got his Spock eyebrow up and said, "Well, why not?"

I still didn't have an answer.

Life should be fair and everything should be fun and games all the time.  What can we do, we Big Guys, to make that so?

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

"There is no Mercy Rule in Connect Four."

I wish there was because the boys always spank me at that stupid game...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


My fourth blog post in November, 2011, was titled "You Should Try The Purge".  In it I describe the goings-on in one of three pretend restaurants we have at our house.  On the menu, besides "The Purge," was an item listed as "hand brger," or Hamburger.

Sometimes what children think they hear makes more sense than what we actually say.

Here is a lovingly rendered Hand Burger:

Looks pretty good doesn't it?  When I was a kid we had Hamburgers every Saturday night without fail.  In the winter my dad cooked them in the fireplace on a grill specially made for fireplaces, I always thought that was pretty cool.

When the boys were younger I started them out on burgers but they didn't really like them.  Of course they were pretty big (I am a famous carnivore), so I split one between the two of them.  They would eat a little but they never showed the enthusiasm I think grilled meat on a bun deserves.

Finally, I came upon a solution.  I usually (now, with advent of "pink slime," almost exclusively) grind my own meat for my ground beef needs, so I knew the beef was tasty and wholesome.  I always had fresh 'fixins,' as we grew up calling the lettuce, tomato and onions.  So I realized I really couldn't really make a better product.  About the same time, the restaurant I worked at started serving steak sliders, sliced steak on a small bun with sauce and onion.  And then, one day in Kroger's, I saw slider buns for sale.

So, I grabbed a pack, scaled down the size of the burgers, served them on those little buns.  The "Hand Burger" was born.  They loved them.  The other night they had two each.

What happened, in my mind, was 'ownership.'  Have the kids get involved and they will gobble up what you serve.  They had their own burger, dressed it the way they wanted and they really enjoy them.

Oh, and I can have three or four and not feel guilty because they are smaller, right?

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

"Dogs and cats don't speak the same language as us."

Wait, they don't?  Well who have I been talking to all these years?  Nevermind...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"What Shood I Do?"

I really wasn't going to post today, baseball practice, the weekend, etc.  But just now, as I was checking my e-mail for practice updates, I flipped over a piece of paper and this is what I found:

It's just crazy and wild and...  well, axes seem to be the weapon of choice today, and...

Good God, what have I created?

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

"We are going faster than a rotting egg."

I am unfamiliar with the saying, but it works for me...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Magnetic Dog

I am still mining the blog-fodder gold of the schoolwork folders:

Creativity often borders on, or crosses over into, the absurd.

This goes above and beyond.  They do these pretty often, take a printed picture and add their own art to it and then write a few sentences to tell the story of what they did.

You know what, I like sentences and that opening one is as great as I've ever seen or created:  "My dog is magnetic, not to metal or steel, but to people and food."  The meter is lovely and it is so well balanced.  Frankly, I'd be proud of it if I'd written it myself.

As a writer and a lover of words, one of the most interesting things about kids is watching their language skills develop.  At first they babble and you nod (I used to make up the story they were telling me as they blahbidy-blahed, mostly for my own amusement), and then they start to make a little more sense, words get invented and incorrectly used, but it seems coherent.

Recently, however, I find myself in awe of the little stories they tell, peppered with asides and go-backs and restarts and essential elements forgotten and... well, I love to hear them.  Words will always be my window in their souls.

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

"Is there anything you want me to kill?"

Naw, I'm good, for now...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's, Like... or It's Like...

Nick spent about twenty tongue-wrenching minutes on this before school the other day:

I asked him what it was as he struggled to zip his Osh-Gosh hoodie.  I got the grownups-are-idiots look and all he said was, "It's like math, Dad!"  (Children often wonder how adults have made it as long as we have.)

I can't really figure out how to punctuate the sentence because I am not positive of the intent of the 'like.'  I remember the first time N used the word 'like' incorrectly in a sentence.  "...and it was, like, really green"  is what I remember, they were in their first year of preschool at the time.

I could easily surmise that that was his intent; "It's, like (duh, eyes rolling), math"  It sort of didn't sound that way to me.  What it sounded like was; "It's like math, Dad."  Not actual, regular, ordinary math, but like that.

There is a third option here as well.  What he meant was; "It's Likemath, Dad."  Yes, a previously theoretical math that, once decoded and unleashed, will change the very core of our understanding of everything.

I know, that's, like, ridiculous, Dad.

(After looking at it a while I see what he did here.  It's sort of the Rube Goldberg of multiplication tables, I think.)

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

Mommy:  "That is the plan, boys.  What do you think?  I think it's a pretty good plan."

Nick:  "That's because it is your plan..."

Well played, ninja-boy, well played...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Three Pats

I have to be honest, here.  Lately I've been down on myself, mostly, I would guess, because of my stupid injury to my stupid shoulder which is making it very difficult to do all the things I need to do.  Oh sure, it could have been worse; it could have been my right shoulder, I could need surgery, I could have busted my head, I could...  I get that point.  However, my arm still hurts and is messed up!

The other night I was flipping around on the TV with a bag of peas on my shoulder.

On PBS I saw a man who lovingly crafts guitars; it was amazing.

On a sports network I watched, a nineteen year old warrior drive through traffic, down the paint, juke left, up, and a dunk; the athleticism was astonishing.

On another PBS station (hey I get five) there were three teenage tenors blasting out on a lavish set with a full orchestra; it was sort of mesmerizing, albeit a bit comic.

Then to another station where Sheldon "bazingaed" the moment I got there, it was hilarious.

I turned the TV off.

I was struck at how good people are at stuff; the craftsmen, the artists, the athletes, the comedians every one is good at what they do.  I couldn't help but think that I wasn't really good at much.  I am capable in many things, but not an expert.  I don't really know how to do anything.

And then I heard a voice inside my head, or heard a thought, or sensed a voice or whatever that thing is that happens to us at times.  It only manifested these five words:

"You know how to love."  The emphasis was definitively on the 'know.'

Here is a card Z got me for my birthday:

He chose this card for me at the store, I wasn't there obviously, but I'd like to think he agonized over the decision and found this one to be perfect.  He likes me as a Dad.

N wanted to make me one:

There at the end he writes "happy Birthday my Dad."  He claimed me and that makes me feel pretty damn good.

Sometimes N just comes up to me, gives me a squeeze, and says "I love you, Dad."  And just the other day Z said "Dad, you know I love you, right?"  An echo of the hundreds of times I have asked it of him.

I have two little secret codes (not so much anymore) between the boys and me.  The first is simply 'three pats,' sometimes spoken but more often three gentles pats on their heads or back or wherever.  It signifies, of course, 'I love you."  The other, when I am close to them, mid-hug, reading or just cuddling, I whisper "always and forever."

They always nod, or smile or say "I know" or wink or ignore me.  I know they hear it, they've both said it to me, unprompted, on more than one occasion.

You know what?  I do know how to love, in fact I am pretty good at it.

I'll bet you do, too, and I know you are good at it.  We all have to be.  I think, ultimately, it alone is what separates us from the other animals on this earth.  Well, that and brewing.

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

"Do bellybuttons suck things in?'

You know what, I've never been clear on that either...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hairbrainage, The Early Years

I turn fifty-one today.  There are a lot of years between our boys and me.  So many things have changed; technology has exploded, medicine has advanced, everything is so much safer now.  Even the little things like crayons and colored pencils and markers are all so much better and user friendly.  Sometimes it seems like everything has changed beyond recognition.

One thing hasn't changed much though, kids will always be silly:

Yeah, that's me talking on a carrot.

And that's N with a bucket on his head.

The nuts never fall far from the tree do they?

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

"Let me get an elephant so I can play the giraffe game, too"

Uhm, right...

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Paper Arts

This stuff is everywhere:

Do you remember this stuff?  "Fortune Tellers" and there are several "Chompers" in the bottom two pictures, Z is particularly fond of making those.  N is more free-form, he does little houses and vignettes, baskets and the like.

One last one:

Home made computers.  You can see more of these in a previous post called 'Com(paper)puters' from January of this year.

It all makes me think I need too much.  These little dudes are making a lot of stuff with paper, scissors and tape (tape is essential).  I am all flustered here sometimes because I think I need a better format for this blog.  I wish I had a new Go-Pro digital camera and an i-Pad and a new guitar and, well... you get the point.

As long as my imagination remains intact, the paper and scissors I have right now are perfectly fine.

Pass me the tape, please.

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

"My knees don't work today."


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dr. Goo -V- Drunkard

I have pulled up lame here in the last few days.  I fell rollerskating and fully dislocated my shoulder.  For now I am trying to do most everything one-handed, fortunately it was my left shoulder.  You know, the worst part of all of it was that we were having a lot of fun when I fell.  After much discussion, they still want to go again, when one of the girls in their class is having a birthday party at the rink.  I probably will stay off the skates... for now.

On to the business at hand.

N had this to offer the other day, with the full story:

There on the right, under the moon is the evil (I think) Dr. Goo.  In an epic, nighttime rooftop battle he is taking on (could I make this up?) The Drunkard.  He holds a "flinger" which throws, er, flings, "glowing light bombs," one of which is heading right towards Dr. Goo.

I asked who that was on the far left and N informed me casually that he was one of The Drunkard's "not-evil minions."

Imagination.  I can't really say I have taught it to these guys, I can truly say that within any child under the age of ninety, it lurks.  I have mentioned before that I think N has a constant story running through his mind and I suffer the same disability.  I have always called it Cartoonland, a wondrous place where every silly little thing imaginable becomes a cartoon in my mind.

For instance, as painful and as frustrating as this shoulder dislocation is and has been, there is still a part of me that sees that moment, just before I fell, in surprisingly cartoon-like clarity.  There I am skating innocently along, I am not being stupid, I just get a little off balance, and for a few milliseconds, I go into a full blown Looney Toons mode; arms and legs akimbo, little action lines around my legs as I fall.  I imagine a big "POP' above my head as the shoulder comes out of place and I land, on my back, and the skates wheels continue to roll as the realization that agony will soon ensue shows on my overly animated face.

Somehow it helps.

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

N:  "I imagine Heaven as a big bouncy world."

Well, who doesn't... ?