Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Perfect Star and Something Else

There has been much sickness around here of the stomachy viral type, I'll spare you the details.  Consequently, I don't really have much time here today so I offer these two little nuggets:

The star is so wrong it is absolutely precious, isn't it?  And I do not know what that other thing is, honest, no clue.

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

"Don't praying mantises seem kinda wise?"

I've always thought that...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"It Goes the Other Way, Daddy"

I been rotating this thing for the better part of an hour here, and I'll be damned if I know which way it's gonna land.  (You'll see what I mean her in a sec.)  Here are my favorite two:

The first one is a pair of top-of-the-line blacksmith's coveralls, straight out of the Monkey Ward's catalog of nineteen-hundred-and-twelve.  You can see that it has two handy attached buckets, shoulder protection, the optional brush there on the left, and that snazzy firebrand belt buckle. The image is lovingly rendered on a vellum-like parchment. 

Whoa, I know.  Just like that it's the Tazmanian Devil in high-heels carrying not one, but two, purses, one with the optional brush, and he has a paper bag over his head.  Obviously sketched on the scene.

I can't emphasize enough the necessity of going through your children's schoolwork together with them.  For all the right reasons mind you; like knowing what the math assignments have been lately, catching up on the latest Weekly Reader, seeing their reading levels soar and showing them your are vested in their lives and cherish everything they do, oh... and there's some really funny stuff there, too.

I found this tucked in N's folder.  He made it during the dreaded "Inside Recess."

Me:  "Well this is pretty cool here.  What is it?"

N:  "It goes the other way, Daddy.  Jeesh."

"Oh, sorry Little Dude."  What exactly is the other way? I flip it uncertainly.  "What is it?"  I ask again.


And yet he knew it needed to go the other way.

So, I keep rotating it and trying to find which way it goes.  Parenting is like that, there must be a right way but we have to spend a lot of time flipping around the picture to get there.

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

Nick (wistfully):  "I love sausages."

That's my boy, that's my boy...

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Dr. Mat our bentist" or "Nick in the dentist care"

So, share day was 'write or draw about a trip to the dentist':

Yeah, it's pretty creepy at our dentist's office.  Dr. Matt, there at the top, really does have a smoldering skull and a penchant for Charlie Brown shirts.  And N's hygienist does where freakish large clown buttons on her scrubs, smile demonically and keep her cell phone in the zipper of her pants.  I know, weird, huh.

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

"There has to be crying... it is opera."

True that...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

To Mount Destiny and Beyond

This came home in Z's schoolwork folder today:

 Here's a detail, "...going sledding on a huge hill there that we call Mount Destiny." 

You never know as a parent what is going to stick, whether it's a nickname or a tradition, spaghetti on the wall, or a flip comment like the one I made once during a walk in Symmes Park, one of many great local parks around here.  As we came around the corner of a trail, there was, on our right, looming menacingly, a ginormous hill.  I knew that in the winter local kids sled down that hill and I had it in my mind that it held some vague destiny for them.

As we looked up it I said aloud:  "Wow, boys, it's Mount Destiny!"  Just a casual , stream-of-consciousness sort of comment.  Today at school I overheard N talking to another boy about sledding:

"We like to go sledding at Symmes when it snows a lot."

"Yeah," said the other boy, "We go there, too.  There's a great big hill there, near the basketball courts."

"Yeah, that's the one,"  N said excitedly, "Mount Destiny!"

"It's called Mount Destiny?"

"Yeah," N answers.

"Cool..." said the other kid.

It is my hope that in eight or nine years, when the boys are getting together for sled riding with their peeps, that every kid in the whole district knows which hill is Mount Destiny.  They will.  And I will know that a throwaway, goofy-assed, self entertaining, offhand remark started the whole thing.

Here are a couple of pictures to lend some verisimilitude to the whole thing:

There's one more iconic (in my mind) picture, taken on the day we took Mount Destiny as our own:

 Well, I broke one of my own rules today and posted more than three (or was it four) pictures in one post.  Oh well, a story has to tell itself sometimes.

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

"Swim like the wind."

Best mixed metaphor, ever...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Cat and a Baseball Guy

Z is a minimalist sometimes, clean, classic lines in pencil or ink.  Here is a cat:

It could be Mittens who you might remember from "Catfestation" a few days back.  He's a cute little stumpy tailed thing isn't he?

Here's another simple drawing from Z:

Well, he just couldn't be happier about having no feet, hands, buttons, number, glove nor bat, teeth, pupils, corporeal perspective or knees, ...oh and his ears have wandered off as well.  It's funny that with all that missing we still know he is a baseball guy and, somehow, we can also feel the joy and anticipation pouring out of a little guy as the season approaches.  And, although the cat is simply rendered, we still sense Z's love of cats, his appreciation of the grace and beauty inherent in the feline form.

Guy Clark, a singer-songwriter I fancy, was once asked about writing strong lyrics and he said, essentially, to leave something out, leave holes in the story for your audience to fill in, and that's what Z has done instinctively.

(Yeah, whatever Bill, that's about the one-millionth cat he's drawn and he had probably just started the baseball guy when he was called to dinner, or arms, by his Dad, or brother.)

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

N:  "Let's go to Mexico."

Z:  "We always go to Mexico... let's go to Canada."

N:  (pause)  "Why?"

Yeah, it's that easy to make fun of Canada, I don't know why that is, but...

Monday, January 23, 2012

"I Mosle Play Rook and Roul"

Introducing... Willis!

This is part of the press packet I think:

I'll use the ring.  "Hi!  My name is Willis.  I am a part of the Mapits (Muppets).  I play the proms (drums).The shoe (show) is all was (always) a hit.  I am a Baboon.  I mosle (mostly) play rook and roul (rock and roll).  It is fun to play with a band.  And to be with the Mapits (Muppets).  Most people think I am a chimpans (chimpanzee) but I am not!  My croow (crew) think I am good at plaing (playing) the droms (drums).

I love that he's got a crew and most baboons are a little touchy about being called chimps.

I think this is the official fan photo:

N mounted it on a piece of cardboard, pretty fancy, eh?  I think it's cool how the images are very similar, even the kit is the same.  Fine rendering there, I'd say.

 So, on it goes here at 'ihopeiwinatoaster.'  I have pretty much come to the realization that I am more an archivist than a blogger, I am pretty sure blogs are supposed to be read by others and I don't know that many people are reading this.  Do I care?  Not really.

When I was a kid maybe nine or ten, I spent a lot of time learning to play guitar.  I was determined I wanted to be the guy who could sing a song and play along with it (so many people I knew were just learning leads and snippets of songs) so, I needed to practice.  And I learned that there is a certain pleasure in practicing, in working towards a goal, in getting it right.  The first time I got through 'The Times They Are A'changing' without botching it I was alone in a basement.

Right now, I am alone in a basement.  Still practicing, still trying to get it right.  I didn't mind forty years ago and I really don't mind now.  I figure I'll know what I am doing by the time this reaches an audience, like say when the boys are fifty and I am long gone.

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

"Dad is Zack's cough courageous?"

"No, Nick, it is not contagious."

Around here you get points for just trying new words...

Saturday, January 21, 2012


The boys  creative output is always tremendous, but, somedays it's a veritable thinktank around here.  Case in point:

It's made from a regular sheet of paper, folded in half.  This may seem small to you and I, but, and  here's the clever insight, it's "little guy size."  You and I might think it's a netbook, but, to Z it's full-sized.  Brilliant.

Let's check it's features.  Most noticeable right off, it is ultra-light, like no pounds, no ounces, man technology these days.  It says "file," "bookmarks" (with backward 'k's, we're working on that), and "home page."  I'm thinking it's got a fairly standard OS. 

The keyboard is where things get really innovative.  Since it is indeed for "little guys," the design team has eschewed the standard qwerty keyboard and gone with a never before seen alphabetically ordered one, but, for technical and cosmetic reasons I can't claim to understand, the s, t, u, v and w, are all missing.  Interesting.  There is a minus, a plus and a multiplication key (screw that division crap) and again bucking tradition, the numbers are along the bottom.  Wow.

There are also a few new icons on the keys with which I am as yet unfamiliar.  That row there on the right, I feel certain that that is a "home" or "new message" key there next to the 9.  Under that is the new, ultra-hip "dude" key, with that Otl Aicher inspired stick-man pictogram (all the cool kids have one).  Next, the inexplicable "volcano" key (which I am understandably afraid to press) and, what appears to be the "electrocardiogram" key, handy.  And, the key I am so excited to see, the "instant happy" key, why has this been so long in coming?

And, finally how about that, delicious glacial blue monochromatic look it's sporting, too cool.  (I do think they're gonna have to design those missing letters back in, though.)

And there you have it, the new "Little Guy" line of notebooks from ZNova (see what I did there), they're hip, light, iconoclastic and I've got a deep inventory of them right now.  Order now!

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

N:  "Ow!  why did you throw that at my face?"

 Z:  "I didn't aim..."

Well, that clears that up...  wait, huh?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Prepare to be dazzled:

Yes, thank you, he is brilliant.  See how he worked the 'Z' in there and then mirrored it to sustain the overall balance of the piece.  Note the subdued palette, the use of line and I think there was a sponge involved (actually I know there was a sponge involved because one came home in his bookbag, still wet, loose).  I really like it.

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

"Zacky, can I have your skunk?"

I'm fine with the one I've got...


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Life Simplified

The boys like to make pretend items out of paper.  This all started with cell phones, the flippy kind.  They have made numerous laptops (I've got a couple of prototypes I'll show you in a future post), and what I assumed were smartphones, an occasional iPad and, although they have never held one, what I think are gametoy, hand-held thingees.  N made this one:

Obviously a screencap of a game in action.  There are directionals up there near the top, the obigitory + and - signs, an okay button, you get it.   It's clearly a two-cat game and home is right there center screen.  And, if you look carefully you will see these:

Yeah, it's that simple folks.  I have been through "not git to"on my way to "git to" and it's not a pretty place.  (Interestingly, and I just noticed it as I was editing this, there is another "git to" just under "not git to."  It even seems to be on the same island.  Well ain't that profound?)

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

Z:  "I love the game Pig Launcher... it is like basketball, but with pigs."

"N:  "Oh yeah, that is a great one!"

Well... I do love all things pig.  I'm in...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Ah, dear sweet Mittens:

She's such a good cat, even after the incident which partially severed her head and permanently smeared her countenance.  She's an orange tabby, as you can well see, and, wait... that's not our cat, these are.


The talkative one in front there is Bailey, aka 'Crack-head Cat,' and the one in back is Paige, the quiet, evil one who recently tried to pull a cookie off the counter in the kitchen as Crackhead goaded her on.  I don't know who the hell Mittens is.

Truth be told, over the years the boys have drawn cats regularly, beginning as stick animals with whiskers and now with these, again, photo-realistic renderings.  I wonder why we have seen so many cat drawings?  I suppose it's because there has always been a cat in the house, and, when our first cat, Scout, died, we got the family kittens.  It's also fairly easy to render a reasonably recognizable feline, even I can draw a cat.  I think it's more than that though.

There's something about sharing your home with another animal that makes our being a bit  more understandable.  For instance, sometimes when I am up late at night and TV is so mind-numbingly inane, I find myself watching the kittens fight, wrestle and in general torment each other and then snuggle up together on top of the heater vent.  It is very easy to make the jump and see the same behavior from my little mammals.  I feel that this is very important; not only must we be aware of the emotional, human journey our children walk, we must also remember that they are just little beasties, baby primates.  This helps me when the fights break out and the tempers flare up and the competition reaches a crescendo of yelling and tears.

On top of the maddening array of emotions they must tame, the near cacophony of language they hear which must be deciphered, the social understandings to be sorted and all the other complex human stuff they face daily; they must also hear, and try to grapple with, the wild thing inside them.  I am very hesitant to try to weed that out of them, for they must know it, listen to it, feel their own blood racing through them, feel their cheeks redden, feel primitive fear and primal joy.  All these things must be understood and savored with our animal hearts, not our human heats.  It's difficult for me to explain it, it must be difficult for them to understand.  Personally, I like knowing I am an animal, I find it easier to forgive others and to forgive myself.

So, we have cats. 

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

"You are not the Prettiest Princess of Beautiful."

Actually, I am...

Monday, January 16, 2012


This is from when N was about four-and-a-half:

I feel confident that it is portrait of the whole family.  We actually do look like that, frighteningly similar, especially in our faces.  Even our then cat, Scout, looks the same, just add whiskers. And, yes, we do have a garden of Happy Flowers in our backyard.

I am afraid to admit my limited knowledge of the iconography used by four-year-olds, I can only say that those are indeed angels above us and there is a traced hand in yellow up towards the top, either a symbol of God's omnipresence in our lives or he had just learned to trace his hand.

I remember one time finding some drawings of mine in a box from when I was a kid , the paper yellowed and dogeared and the crayon fading, and feeling sort of sad at the realization of temporariness of this sort of thing.  I, of course, have saved a lot of the boys' stuff and am glad for that, but, I fear it won't last.  I am very glad that we took photos of quite a bit of  it.  It is nice to watch how they have grown in style, watch as arms get added to the stick dudes, then hands, and now those creepy noses and more expressive mouths.  Watch as the once blank skies fill with suns and moons, airplanes and clouds, and even an occasional blimp.  Watch houses become more three-dimensional with more logical placement of windows and doors.  Watch as the flowers loose their smiles and the trees gain their branches.

So, in the saving of all this crap, perhaps I will give them great memories as they get older; perhaps some of it will be seen by prospective girlfriends and close friends, much to their embarrassment; perhaps, when they are someday famous in whatever fields they may choose, there will be drawings and the like from their childhood to be used in their biographies...  oh hell, I don't really care, I just know I've got a lot of blog fodder.

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

"How do you spell WANT? ...I think there is a silent K."

Ahh, the elusive 'silent K'...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Creepy Clown Circus

Good God am I going to have nightmares tonight:

As you can see there on the wall of the tent, they are an award-winning group.  Pretty nice ladder there on the left and how about that elephant riding guy?  Still, they are very creepy, I've always had a problem with clowns, it's that painted on smile, I think.

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

"Now it's my turn to irritate you."

At least they are taking turns...

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Return of "rney" and a "Glimmering Jewell"

I thought he had gone:

But, here is is making a rare cameo.  I've missed him and his buddy Bert. In fact I've missed all the cool folks at Sesame Street.  There is a lot of that sort of melancholy sense of loss when you have kids, and it makes me sad.  It doesn't necessarily make them sad, just me.

There are so many things that were so very important to them that just fall to the wayside, never, really to be considered again.  Recently the boys were looking for something on PBS to watch, they found Sesame Street and said that it was for "little kids" (somewhat cavalierly I thought) and moved on.  However, it was a Bert and Ernie skit and here, a few days later, the brief reprise of his role.  Still teaching I see, you can count on those Sesame Street characters to do their job.

Sometimes as the pictures scroll by on my screen saver here, I remeber the things we've laid aside; sippy cups, soothies, onesies, overalls, the Old Navy jumpers I loved, those suctiony plates and those filthy bibs.  The little clown girl on Disney whose name escapes me, The Mickey Mouse Playhouse, Bob (of builder fame) and so many other shows.  Books, oh man, all those little beginner books so cute and earnest, Z loved a book that made a rainbow out of ribbons so much he used to hug it, and N used to mouth the words of Goodnight Moon when he was maybe two.  Even the beginner Dr. Suess books sit on the shelf collecting dust, although the biggies still remain favorites.

All this makes me sad, but, as I said, not them so much.  They are making new TV friends on Word Girl and Wild Kratz, Geronimo Stilton and Cam Janson are now household words, replacing the 'Do You Know How Much I Love You' mouse and Winnie the Pooh.  And man, they rock their new jeans and school spiritwear.  So it all moves forward, new discoveries, new places, new challenges... and I suppose it's hard for them, too.

Here's an arbitrary "glimmering jewel" that Z was very proud of the other day:

It is pretty cool, isn't it?

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

"Are there dinosaurs in heaven?'

That's a very good question...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Lies of Omission

"Dad, Dad, Dad, Daddy... Dad?!"
 "Yes, son."
 "Does this look like the Statue of Liberty?"

"My,"  as you know this is my way of buying time, "Well, yes Zack, it does look like the Statue of Liberty."

Well, it does have that greenish coppery patina, there is a door, and a torch.  It is either the Statue of Liberty or the crossing guard at my first elementary school, a shell-shocked WWII vet who always smiled creepily.  But Z has never seen him so, it must be the Statue of Liberty.

I could not begin to list the ways this does not look like Lady Liberty.  Just as I could never explain how wrong some of their knock-knock jokes are, or how not the melody and words of  'The Twelve Days of Christmas' that was, or how so few snowflakes look like huge cubes.  Or how unfrightening  that look to throw off the pitcher is, particularly with that ridiculously large batting helmet perched on your head.  Or how bad that Frisbee throw was, or how that looks more like rabbit stew than the Easter Bunny.  Or how cute you look when you are mad, or how I never want you to grow up.

I'll just leave all that out for now.  I do it all the time.

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

"Do we have a pretend submarine?"

We do now...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Self Portraits

That's Z on the top there, and N mugging (it's a genetic thing.)

I mentioned in a previous post that I now had access to all the pictures the boys have taken with their Fisher-Price cameras.  (Well, that's not really true, when Marci downloads them to the computer she deletes some things, like say forty-four pictures of a Clifford episode on PBS, or N mugging for Z, both equally disarming I might add.)

Amidst the astonishingly eclectic array of subject matter, two recurring themes become evident; portraits and the things they cherish.  Besides that it's mostly just really weird shit.

I don't endorse or recommend things very often, but, I will say this to parents of toddlers and beyond:  get them a camera.  It is a fantastic lens outward for them and inward for you.  It's gives you a brief sense of what it must be like in their heads.  For example, I notice the angle is often up, the way they go through life.  There's another bit of advice I would give, kneel or bend down to talk to your children, any kid really, it means a lot to them.

They make a new generation of kid's cameras that are a little more sophisticated and also make short videos.  That might have been pretty cool for N and Z, but somewhere, deep inside me, I suspect it may have led to some serious dumbfu**ery, you know, of the jumping off the shed variety, so I am sort of glad that we didn't get those.  Although it would be nice to capture their voices, the tone and timbre of their own natural speech.

I guess, even though there are pictures of each other and themselves in their shots, it is the subjects they choose to capture that seem to really color the self portrait they are in the midst of painting for themselves.  As parents we get to watch our children build themselves, sure we add water and nutrients, but, it is their minds that are reaching out and weaving within, their minds deciding where to conclude, what to love, where to put themselves, where to hang their portrait to dry when they are finished.  It is an amazing and beautiful  process to watch if you just try to remember to look at them self-creating.  I find that watching them change and grow makes me want to as well, why should they have all that fun growing up as I sit idly by and watch?  I choose to grow with them.

Marci and I always say we are jealous of the boys reading a favorite book of ours for the first time, or a favorite symphony or movie.  But watching them do those things for the first time is priceless.  In a song I wrote for the boys when they were very young I said:  "I'll watch you watch the setting moon."  I guess I sensed, even then, that although I know how beautiful a setting moon can be, the more intense beauty is in the face of the child seeing it for the first time.

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

"Wanna play whack the lemon?"

Yes, yes I do... 

(You can hear the whole song by clicking on "A song for my boys on YouTube" on your right up there, I'm pointing as though that would help.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Steve of the Desert

I do not know what they are thinking sometimes.  In this case I don't know if I don't have enough information or if there is just too much here:

I am stymied, I simply don't know where to start.

Here's what I think.  This is Steve, out for a walk on the desert near the shores of the ancient Nile river.

Why does he have a Mohawk?  All ancient civilazations had a form of this haircut, further proof of alien visitation in the early days of man's development.

Why does Steve have patches on his knees?  His sportcoat was at the cleaners.

Why don't his hands match and is one of them a claw?  Yes, The Claw People actually built the pyramids and, of course, The Sphinx, as you are well aware from that World Civ class freshman year of college.

Why is Steve dancing?  His feet are very hot, look at the one actually on the ground, clearly flames are leaping up from his toes.  Which explains the look of agony and shocked dismay on his face.

Is he wearing glasses?  Why yes, yes he is.

On the other hand maybe Steve is a bird.  I never get Modern Art.

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

Nick:  "...the machine that is inside me, that makes me grow, is fueled by Dust and Fire."  (Caps intentional)

Zack responds:  "Honeycrisps are the best apples, EVER!"

Always, and this is important, respond to a non sequitur, with another non sequitur...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Baseball Catastrophe"

If I followed this blog and saw this I would accuse me of making this one up, especially knowing my propensity toward fiction.  I did not.

I have seen thousands of comics strips far less funny than this one.  As God is my witness, I do not know how Z managed to spell catastrophe right, but he did.  It's a couple guys throwing a little ball.  I love how it takes four frames for the ball to make it from one dude to the other, talk about building the suspense.  And then, bam right in the neck, which everyone knows can quickly remove one's head.  "Ow," he says.  Sort of nonchalant for a guy losing his head, I'd say.

"Plop," the classic sound of a severed head hitting the ground.  Note that he is still smiling.

"Help."  A statement, still smiling.  I am not sure who that is who comes to the rescue, the head-replacer, I can only assume, I don't think it's the one who threw the ball.  The head-replacer has a somewhat unforgettable hairdo.

And, everything is good in the end.  It's far funnier than absolutely any Family Circus I have ever seen.  (I just like to pick on Family Circus, arguably the worst comic ever.)

Again, I have to assure you that this is real and not made-up.  I also hope you can see why I have to do this, sometimes it's just too damned easy.

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

"I have 2,836,471 points.  You have zero.  I win."

 There will, of course, be a recount...

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Little Ones

Yes, I said the little one, these are the things I find in their little ring notebooks, the three below I literally picked up off the floor and, just before I wadded them up, in the interest of this blog, I took a look at them:

I blew it up pretty big here so you could get the full affect.  I don't know what that is on the left there; a sea-faring vessel presumably designed by Jules Verne, a sailor (you can tell by his hat), what is obviously a skull and crossbones on the mast, a smiley sun and the ever present spider all sailing in to the red, winter sun, ...on a red sea.  A shark swims low in the water.  Oh, and I think that is an anachronistic Mayan fertility symbol there on top of the mast.  That's just weird.

In the middle there is The Vampire Duck of Doom (under dreidels I think).

And finally there is a round red man barfing.  He is armless as well.

In N's defense here, I think these are a couple years old now.

I often wonder what I am doing here in the ether of the web.  I suppose I'd like to think something will come of it.  I'd like to think it's helping me concentrate on shorter bursts of writing (I tend toward long fiction).  I would also like to think I am doing this because I want there to be a bit of a record of some of this stuff.  I was thinking about all that today and, out of nowhere, the thought hit me that I would do anything to have this kind of record from my own father.  Perhaps that is how I should think of this.  It's personal now.

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

"I did that very goodly."

Why yes, yes you did...

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Anyone up for a game of RISK?

I think it's a closeup of somewhere around the Great Lakes, the U.P. maybe?

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

"Never feed a potato to an octopus."

It was later explained that you'd need seven more potatoes to feed an octopus.  I'll wait while you process that...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Simple Gifts

This is from about a year ago, around Thanksgiving:

I wonder how many people know this song?  I would think most do.  Now, how many people have actually thought about this song?  I have.

"'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free."  Simple and free, both, together; it's human nature.

"'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be."  One of my favorite words, ought, you know what you should be doing, come on down with the rest of us and do it.

This is, of course a Shaker song, a religious lot those Shakers, and yet the "place just right" in this song is "in the valley of love and delight."  Not some lofty heaven, not a threatened hell, no, right here, a place you know, a place familiar.

"When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shant be ashamed."  It took N to help me remember what this was about:  humility.  He likes to make little choreographed moves to the songs we sing and he did a simple bend at the waist and shook he head at "ashamed."  No, we should not be ashamed to bow to our loved ones and bend to our God, and yet we sometimes are.

The last line always gets me.  Remember the "merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily" in Row Your Boat from the 'Inexplicable Instruction and Flow Charts' post I did in late November.  This goes those four merrilies two less, and is better.  Think about it, "To turn, turn will be our delight, 'til by turning, turning we come 'round right."  Notice how the two "turns" are repeated in the "turning" part of the stanza.  Just turn a couple times, be delighted and come 'round right

"Come 'round right" is exactly what I ought to strive for everyday, especially with these boys.

The whole video kind of falls apart there in the end but, that's just the way we roll around here.

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

"You don't know everything.  Only God knows everything.  He has a VERY BIG brain."

Theology school, here we come...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"xes & hols"

Yet another baffler here:

I love that the backwards "e" is labeled with an "E."  And that's the sky there at the top and that mysterious item is the sun.  I have no idea what the thing with the "xes" and "hols" is.  The whole thing is very well labeled, it seems everything you might need to know is right there, except, of course, what the hell this is.

I am constantly amazed at how much of this stuff there is.  (I keep looking at that to see if I can figure what it is, I got nothing.)  Just as Z has tried to work on the theory of everything, I find myself considering one unifying concept of fathering.  You probably noticed that I said 'fathering' rather than 'parenting, that's because I see it as gender specific.  I suppose that makes me, in some eyes, a sexist.  I don't feel like one.

If there is one unifying concept for me I would say it was what I previously mentioned, to cherish, about which I have always felt pretty confidant.  Today it doesn't seem enough.  I need to go deeper because what I am thinking about today isn't what I give them; it is what they find within themselves.  Do I mean self-esteem?  Perhaps.  Do I mean the love of self?  Yes...  but  there's more here though, what gets all these things through to them, what makes all of this sensenical, if you will?

I think it is trust.  Some part of them has been led to believe, or inherently believes, that they can trust themselves, that their decisions matter, and what they think matters.  This trust gives them courage and that courage matures and enlightens them.  I sometimes can't imagine how odd and stressful life must be for a nearly seven- year-old; how often they must step up and do things they are not inclined to do, how often they must take a leap of trust, the trust that is within them.

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

 “Your butt is the middle of your body.  And that is good, because if it were on the top, you would have to stick your head in a toilet to poop."

Thanks for playing "Where's Your Butt?"...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Non-Math Curriculum

I have done a few math posts here but there is a lot of information in our house on any of a number of scholarly pursuits.  I am pretty sure these are galleys from some of the textbooks they are working on:

This is from their science series called 'Backyard Bugs.'  As you can see it is an exquisitely rendered, near-photo quality drawing of a spider.  Not just any spider, a two-toed, creepy-smiled, round one.  With eight carefully and perfectly  proportioned legs.  Audubon move over, I mean look at that attention to detail, the movement in those dancing toes, the nearly human-like face, amazing.  It looks like it may jump off the page right into your face.  N outdid himself this time.

And this from what these days they probably call The Historylanguageculturalandotherstuff Arts curricula:

I will use the previously mentioned decoder ring here for you, Z's printing can be a little difficult to follow:

"The Big Cities"

A castle presumably in England.

The first panel reads:  "Most of the world's oldest towns and villages were built by rivers (okay).  Some of these are now capital cities (that's a very salient observation, I think).  A very big one is the Eiffel Tower (right, sorta)."

Next panel:  "A small place is Antarctica or the North Pole (well, I missed that transition, but... and isn't it the South Pole?).  People live in igoos (sic) there.  Igloos are made of ice and snow."

Well, I think that concludes the lessons for today.  Your 'learning points' (I kid you not, they use that in first grade) today are:  Eiffel Tower is the capital of France, in "ant are tucka" the people live in "igoos" and all the spiders are happy.


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

"Want a dead Ladybug?"

"It's alive"

Pause.  "Oh...  Hi Little Lady Bug!"

Always ready to adapt...

Sunday, January 1, 2012


"Whatchagotthere?"  I asked of Z as he went walking by with a rolled up piece of paper in his hand.

"This" was his earnest response:

"Uh, little dude," (I call them 'little dude' sometimes) "What exactly is it?"

"Oh, it's one of those angelthingees.?"  He answered, using his patented single-arched-eyebrow move.  "You know, that one from that book..."

No, I have to admit, I do not know what he is talking about.  What book?  I mean she looks like some Viking goddess saint rising up over Valhalla to direct our prayers to Mary, I think.  Is that a breast plate she's sporting there?  Are her wings on upside down?  And why are her arms so large and, well, furry-looking?  Is she wearing a tunic?

I don't think I'd put so much thought into it if he hadn't seemed to think I should know what he was talking about.  I was at a party last night and one of my old college buddies said that he no longer used nouns because he can't seem to remember them anymore, an affliction I seem to be suffering from as well.  He said he grunts and points or uses those 'watchamacallit' words we all spew out assuming everyone else will simply fill in the word we are no longer capable of remembering.

With these guys, they often don't know what the actual word is, or, on a deeper level, what the thing they are feeling is called.  I feel sorry for them sometimes; feeling jealousy and not knowing  what it is, or sadness, or betrayal, or any of those complex emotions we deal with so often with such casualness.  Sometimes it helps me to remember that the complications of life are not so bad sometimes because I know what they are all called.

You know what's funny?  I know a lot of very smart and clever people and one of them is going to tell me exactly what the 'angelthingee' is and I know I'll say, "Oh, that one from that book!"

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

(After Bill taught them how to peel a Cutie tangerine)

"Daddy, show us something else."
"Like what?"
"Everything!  We need to learn this stuff!"

Yeah, I might be busy for a few years here...