Sunday, April 29, 2012




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

Dad:  "Nick, five pieces of candy is too many."

N:  "How many pieces did Zack have?"

Dad:  "He only had three, he's a reasonable boy."

N (matter-of-factly):  "I'm not."

I've mentioned before that I am in trouble.  Now I am just scared...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Boy Party

Recently, I have been getting away from my original intent with this blog.  That's fine, I just don't particularly want it to be just about how I see parenting and the like.  On the other hand, when I think of this whole thing as a sort of archive for my sons as they get older, I feel perfectly validated in throwing out some thoughts about being a parent.

That being said lets see what I've got... ooh, this is good:

This is Z's planner for the month of March.  Mind you he did a lot more than this but, he got some good things down, like Dabby's (that's me, see "Dabby Peedles" for more on that) birthday and Mommy's right after.  The first day of Spring is dutifully noted as is "St. Patric's Day," both safe public school Celebration Days, not Holidays, although St. Paddy's leans a little Green (and I don't mean save-the-planet green), if you get my drift.

I see there that the "Boy Party" was moved from Tuesday to Monday, or was an overnight party planned.  The last week there is Spring Break and, God love him, he is planning to go to the "fish fri" on Friday, what a nice boy.

They did have that above-mentioned Boy Party for their birthday, just them and four other boys and it went very well.  It was their first party, sort-of, here, with just their friends.  They liked showing their stuff to their friends, showing off the back yard, making pizza with their pals, and, in general just being boys.

I like boy parties.  Boys are like that.  We like to stand around and talk with our buddies, just us, no girls, no strangers, just us and our posse, it was true when I was a kid and it is shall always be true.  I, personally, have spent endless hours leaning against a truck or watching a fire or playing Euchre or guitar with my friends and, frankly, I miss that.

Maybe I should get a Boy Party on my calender.  Soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baseball Test

A funny thing just happened.  I was working on a draft for a future post and, wishing only to work on the text, I just used the temporary title, 'baseball test.'

Of course what came to mind as I looked at it was, "Oh, man, I'd fail one of those."

"Say, isn't he a Little League Baseball coach?"  I can hear you thinking.

Here's the truth; I am, but I am not a very good one.


Just the other day we were working on bunting.  Hell, I thought you just stuck your bat sorta sideways and bopped the ball a little ways.  Turns out there is more to it.  Turns out there is a whole technique to it with much written and videotaped about it.  Who knew?

At another practice we were working on sliding.  Same deal, I thought you just stuck a leg out, went flying and slid.  Again tomes are written on it and everyone has a different technique.

Don't get me started on batting position and stance, or, God help me, how to pitch.

I am often not positive where the play is when runners are on the corners, or whether there is a force out at home.

Teaching catching alludes me, fortunately most of the boys are good at it.

Here's another truth; that's not what I am here for.

I am here to look them in their eyes as I kneel down in front of them to show them how to hold the bat as I imagine they are supposed to, twisting their small, dirty hands into the right place and telling them to do the best they can and to watch their fingers.

I am here to tell them to slide into the dirt and tell them to get dirty and have fun.  I am here to joke with them when they start their slide five feet too early and grind to a dusty stop a leg's-length away from the base, a puzzled, amused look on their face.

I am here to throw them good pitches in coach-pitch, encouraging them after every swing, telling them to wait for their pitch, wait for their opportunity.  I am here too dive dramatically to the ground as a line drive heads right for me, coming up laughing and wondering how that particular boy got the heat on that pitch.

I am here to give every kid, not just the kid with the natural talent, every kid, who has the notion he can pitch the chance to try it out, from the mound, with me calling anything close a strike.

I am here to show them that everyone can fail, anyone can not know where the play is, to teach them that any action is better than nothing, and, on my team, you try, you win.

I am here to be positive and affirming, and expect the same of them.  I stopped practice just last night when one of my quietest boys, screamed out a spontaneous cheer when one of the biggest guys popped one into the outfield, to thank him and tell the team that's what we are here for.  I shook my head with pride the other day when one of the better boys (and he knows it) switched squads mid-scrimmage to even up the sides, even though it meant he'd get one less at bat.  "That's okay, coach.  I don't mind."  He wouldn't have done that at our first few practices.

I guess I could spend my late hours researching the skills I am not so familiar with, watching the endless You-Tube videos on pitching and sliding techniques and reading books on strategies and affective rosters.

Or, I could spend my time considering the exact words that will encourage and inspire each individual kid, not necessarily to be a better batter or first baseman, pitcher or shortstop, but to be a better boy.

I will happily keep myself up at night thinking of ways to respect these boys, these too-soon-to-be-men, in the way they deserve to be respected; with love.  Through our hearts and then outward to our gloves and cleats, we'll learn baseball together, from the inside out.

I am not a good baseball coach but, I know what boys need.  That's what I am here for, them.

Go ahead gimme the test...

(In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I am only the Assistant Coach, the Head Coach knows stuff.  Honest.)

One more picture just for variety:

The first baseball picture I could find with both of them in it.

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

"There are no more giants in the world because God threw them in the trash... that's why He is really good."

Well, it makes my top ten list of why God is good, trashed giants...

For more of my thoughts on baseball and such check out one of ihopiwinatoaster's more popular posts   "...about baseball and boys, poetry and dreams..." from late last year.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Earth Day Post

I have never had nor been to an Earth Day party.  I really don't understand the "holiday."

Six-year-olds get it though:

Let me briefly explain the process; in the Fall dig a hole trench, deep and true, in the baked earth of southwestern Ohio, wait until Spring and let the rain fill it up, and then, this is the fun part, add to the deep, mud puddle all sorts of organic material from the yard; weeds, mulch, pine cones, Ivy leaves (non-poisonous), anything flowering is good for color, pine needles are an excellent thickener, and, stir, preferably by hand.  This odoriferous bracken is called "Pig Stew."  There is, sadly, no pork in it.

The boys know about Earth Day, it's sort of on the "safe list" of holidays in public schools, but, this all happened the Fall and Spring before they were indoctrinated.

I think we humans can't help celebrate the earth, we just need to let the little boys lead us.

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

 (amidst giggling and laughter)
 "Oh, Nicky," (sigh)  "I love you."
"Well, Zacky, I love you, too."
(our work here is done.)

I love that they have nicknames for each other...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cubist Campfire

In the interest of parity, which is paramount around these parts (think cookies, applesauce, bikes, skittles, pencils, paints, drawing, clothes, and anything else impossible to make exactly even), I was looking around in what I call "the keeper file," a bin of potential blog-fodder I keep close, for something colorful from Z.  I was profoundly rewarded:

I'll wait... just take a moment.

I know.  Somewhat Wyeth (Andrew)-like in gesture, a modern abstract pallet (I love the way the colors in the sun mimic the colors of the campfire, the purple woven into the blue of the evening sky) a sort of big-sky-western feel in scope.  And the oddly Cubist logs of the fire, what of them?

All that aside, and without my tongue in my cheek for a moment, what I love about this drawing is it's profound mood.  It is positively bucolic.  I mean, who wouldn't want to be sitting in that westward facing lawn chair, hotdog on stick,  under that purple-blue sky?  It slaps all the senses; I can smell and hear the fire, I can taste the hotdog, I can see the colors, I can feel the heat from both sources, I am alive in this place.

And what else is going on?  Here's is what I think:  Whoever drew this is a happy person.

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

Z:  "We know how to get down, Daddy."

Yeah, well, until forty-five seconds ago you didn't know how to get up...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flabbergabitty (or Flabergation)

I am so often in a state of flabbergation at these guys, here is a perfect example of why:

(Right there in the middle of all that is written "Invagun."  Invasion as it should be spelled, with a g-u-n.)

I best start with the text that N had handily attached:

Of course out comes the handy-dandy kid-to-parent decoder ring, some of his misspellings are perfect, but I won't include them all:

"The Attack.  One day the earth was getting invaded (invatid) by aliens.  The sun was having a fight (fite) with Saturn.  A comet (comit) is coming.  A man is on the comet trying to steer it.  Mars is crashing into the sun.  Saturn said 'I win,' the battle wasn't over..."

"Saturn was melting.  The sun said, 'I win.'  'No you don't.'  They started a fight while (wall) the earth was getting invaded.  All the planets rushed (rast) over to help the earth.  'The planets win,' said the guy."

Yeah, I totally see that in the photo-like realism of the multicolored crayon drawing. And who is "The Guy" there who called the winner in the end, the universal umpire, the celestial referee?

I have to say that my flabbergabitty doesn't end at the the things these guys make, sometimes it is in what they do.

The other day Z was playing the MarioKart Wii and I asked him a question.  Mind you he is on Rainbow Road, arguably one of the hardest venues on the Mario circuit, he is battling hard with Koopa Troopa for third place, with an eye on Wario in first, he is dodging a bomb and, he gives me a very long answer involving the project they did in Art and, oddly enough, Arthur.  So just as he is in the middle of this, he crashes on a banana, spins out, mid-Art story, and someone flies by him on the track.  He stops the story and says, "curse you, Baby Wario" then continues on to win the race and sum up the Arthur/Art story.

Dude, I can't make it around that particular track, slowly, with no one else on the track without falling to my doom, and don't ask me to tell you a story while I am attempting it.  Come on, dude, give me a break.

(Yeah, the Air Force Academy called to say they are holding him a seat in flight school.)

To stand in slack-jawed awe at your children's accomplishments, skills and desires is to stand simply gobsmacked by the enormity of human potential.  Humanity rides on these children and, through their abilities, you begin to see that they sense that, they smell the future, they know they must get better, find their skills, lean forward and live full-out.

Either that or seven-year-olds are very strange little creatures.

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


'Cause that's how we roll around here...

Friday, April 13, 2012


For some reason Marci and I find the differences between our boys fascinating.  Case in point, same assignment, way different results.

Yeah, even I laughed just now when I saw them side by side.  This has been going on for years.  In the post Twin's Towers, I showed how different their building styles were and I think in "...about baseball and boys, poetry and dreams..." you can also see their divergent drawing styles.

I guess the conclusion here is that nature trumps nurture, but, there is something else here as well, something important.  I have to remember to treat them differently, respect the individuals they are and know (truly know, not just say I know) what makes them so.

You know what's funny, from the above you would think that N was the scatterbrained one and Z the precise one, actually, not so much.  Truth be told, Z can be a real air-head at times, in fact, we call him "the professor" sometimes, and N's thoughts are usually very precise and on the mark.  I guess you just never know.

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

N:  "I know where scorpions come from."
Z:  "Where?"
N:  "Indianapolis."

Believe me, around here, misinformation abounds...

I have never added or changed a post (except for grammatical errors and the like)  but Marci thought of another good example of the boys differences.  We used this as a Christmas card one year:

So there you have, two boys... two individuals.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Masked Marauder

Sometimes it's just this easy:

Don't mess with him, that paper dagger will tear you up.  You can see the look  in his eye there can't you, those crazy, mad eyes.  In fact, I am not sure that is my son, no, definitely not...

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

"Goodbye, New Jersey!  Hello, Washington!"
(Uhm, boys, we're driving home from Kroger.)

I think I need to get out some maps...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Yesterday I mentioned a scrimmage game.  Here's the report from Z:

"Today we had a skrimage (which is precisely how 'scrimmage' should be spelled) game.  I (it) was a tie.  I caught lots of balls.  It was fun!"

It's all true; we had the game, it was indeed a tie, which is great no one lost, Z did 'cot' a lot of balls... in fact he dropped back out of shortstop and snagged one over his shoulder, man, he looked... oh, sorry.  And. it was fun, with an exclamation point.

There are two diverse points I want to make today, the first is simple: kids tell the truth.  I think we are born to tell the truth, it is our default.  My boys are terrible at lying and usually only try kiddingly.  Sometimes they try to sneak stuff into their book-bags to take to school, baseball cards, a Ninjago guy, a drawing for a girl.  I don't really know why they try to sneak, I know the teacher doesn't care, so, I figure if they want to risk losing what they take in, or, suffer the ridicule when it's something I didn't have the chance to suggest otherwise, like the green turtle bath tub toy that N took some ribbing for, then  take it in.  No need to sneak it into the backpack if...

You know what, I lied.  I know damn good and well why they do it:  It's fun to sneak stuff.  Hell, half the reason I smoked cigarettes as long as I did was because I got a little thrill when I went off and sneaked one.  Little thrills now, big thrills later.

I'm in trouble, aren't I?

My second point is more a bit of advice I guess.  Always make sure there are writing utensils and paper and notebooks and markers and post-its and flip books and colored pencils and crayons and anything else you can think of.  You will be rewarded, given you take the time to look, with an insight into your kid's mind.  They will write the facts, their make-believe heroes will right the wrongs, they will draw their dreams, they will animate and orchestrate their hopes.  They will tell you their truths.

I admire my boys, truly.  I am, and I've mentioned this before but is worth repeating, flabbergasted at how well they negotiate this plane on which we live.  I mean, really, life is pretty weird and it is impossible to figure out, believe me I'm still trying, but every morning they happily get out of bed, dance into the morning and seem to shout:  Bring it on!

Hell, yeah, with an exclamation point.

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

Z:  "Show me your best purr."

N 'purrs'

Z:  "That doesn't sound like a purr... that sounds like a fart."

I just don't know why I find that so amusing...

Monday, April 9, 2012


I found this as I was dumping out the trash from a closet purge Saturday:

Some quick twists of my patented parent-to-kid decoder ring yields:  "When I get older I will be able to read."

I really don't know which way to go on this.  The obvious response, and the reason I snagged it out of the trash, is that it is very funny.  I mean, well, if you couldn't read you really couldn't write this now could you?

My second response is, why does it have a piece of tape on it?  Is this is a reminder?  As though N taped it up on his mirror as a motivational, positive thought.  People like me and someday I will be able to read.  Wait, I can, I can, I can read!  It worked!

Finally, I can't help but think about one other thing.  Another thing I've forgotten, something I just don't seem to be as capable of anymore,  looking forward with hopeful anticipation.  I forget to dream.  I so often look forward afraid and uncomfortable.  I know I wasn't always like this but today... not so much.

As always, my boys remind me how to live a better life, dream a better dream, secure a happier tomorrow.

So, tonight's baseball scrimmage will be great.  Friday's party will be fine.  Camping this summer will be memorable.  School placement next year will be perfect.

When I get older, I will be able to...

What will you be able to do?

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

N (as a blizzard of maple tree helicopters falls down on him):  "Oh, Daddy, it's so... perfect."

Perfect use of the word perfect...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Purplest

Yesterday I went on and on about the similarities between N and I and how I found that a bit distressing, and more than a little odd.

It is Birthday Week here for the boys so I thought I should talk about Z a little more.

I get these often from Z, and, in a way, that is all you need to know.  Here is another picture that tells our story:

(Yes that is a knife in my hand, ignore that, really, forget about it.)  You see, that is how we often are, he and I, close.  He cuddles most mornings with me, watches TV in my lap, gives me numerous hugs before bed, and likes to run his hands through my beard when we talk.  He likes to contradict me, he forces my hand sometimes, he knows the words to all the songs I sing and I know he loves me.  And, as a parent, that means everything.

There is a great children's book by Barbara M. Joosse titled I Love You the Purplest in which a mother tells one son she loves him the reddest when he asks who she loves the most, the other boy she tells she loves him the bluest.  Together she loves them the purplest.

Well, that's the way it is with kids, you love them all, but you love them differently.  One you might love from the soul, without even beginning to understand it.  The other you might love from your head, loving their character and personality.  One child exasperates you, but, behind that, your love for them shows because you only want the best for them.  We love them all from the heart though, with that eternal love we all came with, the one we so easily forget we have.

I love Z with a love that is inexplicable, transcendent, and pure.

I love that the other day I found him, supposedly getting his jammies on, with the pj pants on, a different shirt was on his body, you know, a playshirt, and the jammie top was in his hand.  He wore a very perplexed grin because it just dawned on him what he had done.  I asked him what he was doing and he said, with a giggle in his throat, "I don't know."

I love that he likes rules, and math.

I love that he dances with joy spontaneously and frequently.

I secretly love that he stands up eating, I don't know why, but it seems so damn cute to me.  It should infuriate me.

I love that he sings along with the television show theme songs.  Hey Word Girl is tricky.

I love that he loves me so.

So, I guess that these last couple of posts haven't been too witty or clever.  I trust this sentimental slop hasn't chased you away for good.  I'd like to think someday the boys might see these posts, these confessions of mine, and rest easier.  Perhaps they will better understand the ultimate love story that is the parent child relationship.  Perhaps they will find some useful truth about my truly unconditional love for them in these words.

Perhaps they will understand I will love them the purplest, "always and forever."

(You disregarded the knife, right?  Totally forgot about it, okay?  Thanks.)

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

Zack:  "Gimme an E!"
Nick:  "E!"
Zack:  "Gimme a B!"
Nick:  "B"
Zack:  "Gimme an E!"
Nick:  "E!"
Zack:  "Gimme an S!
Nick:  "S!"
Zack:  "What's it spell?"
Nick:  "I don't know ..."
Zack:  "Me either ..."

I shouted "Ebes," it's a river somewhere, I think...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


In a post called Hairbrainage, The Early Years I said "The nuts never fall far from the tree do they?"  I see more and more proof of that all the time, especially with N.

In the backseat of the truck, amongst the pretzel crumbs and juice boxes and candy wrappers and pages torn from the Magnifikids and workbooks, dry erase boards and markers, the boys have little sketch books to draw in or write stories.

For several days, on short trips, I noticed N working in his with intense concentration, I could tell because children actually have a concentration gauge, in their mouth, their tongues.  You remember right?  I still do it, when I use scissors.  Anyway, he finally deigned to show me it:

It's pretty cool, isn't it?  It took him a long time but, he stuck with his vision and finished up.

When I worked in high-end restaurants, every night we have a pre-shift meeting.  I would guess every line of work has the meeting where you need to look like you are paying attention, even if you don't care.  So, for years I just doodled in my little pad in my waiter book.  Even though all the other waiters knew what I was doing, the management always assumed I was taking meticulous notes on the special and the wine deals.  Whatever...

Years ago, probably eight or so, I left a place and was cleaning out my book.  I saw some of the doodles, and, for reasons I didn't know at the time but which have become delightfully obvious here, I saved a couple, here's one.

Yeah.  I don't care who you are, you have got to find that a little weird, eerie even.

I think the funniest thing anyone can do, besides saying the word "poop," is to put something on his head, anything, there is no way to fail.  I happen to have invented the twelve-pack-carton-hat in the early eighties in Athens, Ohio.  (You know what I am talking about, just open up one end and shove it on your head.  Hilarious.)

Here's another good example:

Haha.  That's funny.  Here's one from N:

Four hats!  Brilliant, comic genius.

So, here's the thing.  I suspect Nick thinks a lot like I do, has many of the same thought patterns and sensibilities as I.  Cool.  I guess I am forearmed, but should I tell him how things might get?  Should I forewarn him?

Should I tell him that pretty girls and sunsets will make him cry?

Should I tell him that waiting will infuriate him?

Should I warn him about the sudden joy that will engulf him when he meets his wife, or sings with a friend, or sees his own children, or watches squirrels chasing each other in the backyard of his youth.

Will he be clumsy with scissors and knives?  Should he know that string-trimmers will vex him all the days of his life?

Will he suffer loneliness and  feel misunderstood?  Should I tell him it will pass and he will better know joy and love having suffered them?

That bacon will make him weep and the taste of deep fried anything is perfect?

On the other hand, he already knows stuff that I won't have to teach.

He will sense justice and act to protect it.

He will know love is a verb, that action is the only way to love, or live.

He will innately understand beauty and art and words and food.

He will believe in God yet wonder if God believes in him.  Always.

Happiness will come slowly, quietly and will always be tinged with melancholy.

I know him now, so well, so painfully well.  I know my heart will break with his a thousand times.  I know I will laugh at his jokes and antics a million times.  I know it will be hard, I know that.

But, I know this journey we are all on, mine, his, yours, is always worth it.

I think I'll tell him that today.

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

During a very involved improv with rocket ships and ground controls:

"Don't blast off in to space yet!  I need to poop!"

So that's what all those NASA delays were...