Saturday, June 23, 2012

Extending the Threadbare Metaphor

I just couldn't put 'baseball' in the title of another post.  Man this is getting old.

I seriously naively thought I was actually gonna stop going on about baseball, but I really do see it as something significant in their lives right now, and, to be honest it's my party here on ihopeiwinatoaster so, baseball it is (although it really isn't).

My wife's parents (I hate the word 'in-laws,' it insinuates that the only reason you associate with them is because of some law that makes you, I like mine) invited us to a Columbus Clippers game last night and we had a great time.  The stadium, Huntington Park I think it's called, is perfect; clean and happy, bustling and cheery, the sight-lines are great and there isn't a bad seat in the place.

Ours were about six or seven rows behind the visiting team's dugout, in the game last night, The Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  It's true.  We'd had our obligatory hotdogs/brats, our drinks were in the cupholders, popcorn in hand.

The boys have gloves and we are casually chatting about shagging a foul or two and, where we are on the third base line, this is a real possibility.  The third, perhaps, inning comes around and Nick sort of notices that some kids are runnung down the aisle and trying to get the ball at the end of The IronPigs defensive inning, when they come in with the ball.  The boys don't really understand this... yet.

Enter an unforgettable teddy bear of a character in the guise of a bad-ass looking biker dude, henceforth and forever in my mind, "Harley Dude."  He has a on Harley Davidson shirt with torn off sleeves, a bandana on his head, jeans and boots and, I just shouldn't say this but I am going to, is holding what is arguably one of the ugliest babies I have ever seen in his calloused, over-sized hands.  He's is maybe my age, fifty or so, and his playful icy blue eyes are those of someone who has had a long, difficult and eventful life.  I suspect the baby is his grandson.  He is glowing with pride.

For some reason he overhears the boys discussing their hopes of getting a ball, and, being full of parental well-being (and a Bud Light or two) he engages the boys in conversation.  The writer in me wishes I'd heard and noted everything said, but, I didn't.  You see, the boys had moved over a few seats and were sort of liking the fact that it felt like they were at a game alone, so I was trying to just let them be.

Now, of course, I note the fact that they are talking to Harley Dude, I had actually looked at him as they were and his laughed lined playful eye had winked at me and I had winked back at him.  International Dad code for "everything's cool, right?"

After some explaining from Harley Dude, they know what to do.  He tells the boys that he will tell them when to go down for the ball and does, they go down and are unsuccessful, but understand how it works now.  A little later Nick gets one robbed from what I understand, and however, finally scrambles for one, stretched out on the roof of the dugout after a bit of a scuffle in a later inning.

As he comes up the aisle, he gets a high five from sincerely delighted Harley Dude, who mouths to Marci:  "I am so proud of him."  You have to realize that many of the other fans have been watching, listening, engaging and otherwise involving themselves in this little drama as it is unfolding before them and they are all visibly pleased that N got one.

So now Nick has a ball and Zack does not, Harley Dude has to go and, as he stands, I shake hands with him, give him an affectionate pat, and thank him.  He smiles, the baby smiles, the girl he is with smiles, my in-laws smile, the boys smile, hell, the whole damn section is beaming.  But, who will help them get a ball now?

Not to worry, Orange-Shirt Guy steps up.  He is a row behind Harley Dude and has seen everything.  Well, he takes the boys down to the dugout, telling them that this is how he always gets balls, and begins to shout at the IronPigs, trying to get the attention of "number seventeen."  I didn't really get it, but I could only guess that he knew someone down there, or...  I don't know.

Just as he seems about to get the attention of an IronPig, the usher comes down, smiling, and shoos them all back into their seats, the end of that attempt.  Still, there are a couple of innings left to try the Harley Dude method.

Finally, in the seventh, they go down and give it their best, shouting, jostling a little, but Blue-shirt-front-row-Dude ends up with it.  He has seen them trying and turns to Nick and asks him if it wants it, Nick hesitates and I quickly get up and rush down to explain that N already has one but his twin needs one.  Without hesitation he hands it to Zack who beams with delight.  All is well in their world.

Everyone around has been following all of this and there is a collective sigh as twin parity has been reached.  Everyone is smiling, happy, nodding at one another knowingly and generally feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

As well they should.  I felt good about the whole thing, too.  In fact, my faith in my fellow man was rekindled, my faith in decency and fairness, goodness and goodwill, and our collective ability to shine was renewed as well.

Thanks Harley Dude.  Thanks Orange-Shirt Guy.  Thanks Blue-shirt-front-row-Dude.  It was like a baseball game in Mayberry thanks to you guys.  You respected and celebrated these boys in a way that cannot be forgotten; you cherished them, you showed them community, grace and honor.

The IronPigs won, but I was watching a better game.

You know what?  We all won.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I found this in N's sketchbook:

Using my decoder ring I get:  "Pants break the sound of crying."

As you know from the post Stumpers and Befuddlers, I don't always get what's going on around here, but really, what the hell is this about?  I know the picture is related.

Is that a clam under a wave?  Is it the Earth floating in the sea of creation?  Are those Joseph's technicolor trousers?  Why does the whole thing make me sort of sad?  Is this profound or just a wickedly good non sequitur?

I am still shaking my head at this.  My best guess is that it is a yet-unfinished haiku and this is the middle line.  I hope he finishes it soon because I don't know where he is going with this one.

Curiouser and curiouser...

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Post-Father's Day Post

You know what's cool?  I put a lot of time and effort into this blog and I don't put time and effort into anything unless it matters.   When I ask myself why does this matter, the answer lies in the hope that this will become somewhat of a legacy for them, a testament to all the things they have done for me.

Good Lord, that sounds grandiose, but, I don't mean it that way.  Perhaps when they are older and see this archived or active on the web, they will be reminded that I cared, and I paid attention to them.

When I first got into the stay-at-home-dad gig I would tell people that I was "the stay-at-home-dad I never dreamed of being."  I thought that was funny then; way before I knew what I was getting into, way before I stopped telling folks I was a SAHD, way before I glimpsed the significance of the role I was now in.  The truth is I didn't know this was a role I could dream of, I pretty much thought I wouldn't have kids, but now, I can't imagine not.

I don't need a new grill or a new tractor, you don't need to surprise me with a new Martin, I don't need a new tie or Old Spice (I miss you, Dad) because, and this is importance, I get gifts everyday.  The gifts of tolerance and patience, play and spontaneity, love and admiration, joy and kindness.  I learn, through the process of teaching, the lessons I have forgotten about morality, ethics, sorrow, faith, manners, hope and the power of the truth.  All this stuff would not be so available to me, so to the forefront of my life, it it weren't for these boys.

When you talk to your children honestly and openly about this complicated mess we call life, you must consider it so clearly, present it so carefully, anticipate their responses so completely, that it brings to you a new understanding of the road we travel together.

Albert Einstein is purported to have said: 'If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.'  I always took umbrage at that but now, I think I am beginning to understand what he was getting at.

So, that is my first Father's Day post, I hope their are many more to come and, I think there will be, because I think this matters.

Oh, I owe you an image or two or more, you know I can't do this without some sort of image:

This is from Z, it appears to be a drunken, juggling clown.  It is not painted on black velvet.  (Is this how I appear to him?  Am I a clown?  Why did I get this, he's knows I'm afraid of clowns?)

And there is this from N:

Obviously, the traditional mascot of Father's Day, the squid.  He's holding a creepy, pulsing heart in his slimy tentacles and is saying "Happy Father's Day."    Oooohkay...

Inside is the message:

"Dad you are the best.  you can fics (fix) enething (anything)."  My favorite part is the broken thing, the square with the missing piece.  Sure I can 'fics' that and, hopefully, everything else that might break along the way, hopefully...

Well, I'll try my best.

From Marci's '... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat..'  Honestly, Z said this playing Wii in the living room the other night.

"I am trying very hard to avoid the boobies."

I look up hurriedly from throwing ball with Nick (whack, right in the nose).  He's wakeboarding.

"That's called a buoy, Zack, not boobie, a buoy."

And that's the last time you'll ever say that sentence...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jellyfish in Love

These are from the sketchbook N has in the car:

I think this was just before the ceremony.  Here is one from the honeymoon, ironically they are sunburnt on the beach in Australia (actually those might be the squid neighbors):

Sometimes it is this easy.  (As much of this nonsense as I've posted, and I still laugh out loud at it.)

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

Dad:  "Nick, why do you keep drawing pictures of men with two faces?"
N looks at Dad with that duh look...
N:  "Picasso."

(I know a lot of you probably see these on Marci's FB page but, as an archivist, I am just trying to get them down here as well.)

Here is the work which prompted the conversation:

If Picasso had Crayolas...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stumpers and Befuddlers

More often than not I pretty much know what I am looking at when I find a drawing or other creation on the floor or in the "done" pile.  It may be funky or psychedelic, alien or traditional, comforting or disorienting, black-and-white or neon but, I have a sense of what it is and its native narrative.

Sometimes, though, I get  what I call "Stumpers."  I have no clue on a stumper and, although I could ask, I find it funner to just be in the dark.  Take this one from Z for instance:

This could be anything from a neural view of the energy in a synapse to a anachronistic bomb combining a medieval mace and a hand-grenade (and oddly enough, a yam); a concise, to-scale drawing of the initial Big Bang to simple protozoans living in the muddy puddles of the back yard.  My heartwarming guess is... weaponry.

Here is a stumper from Nick:

Yeah, I'll wait... weird, huh?  Now I initially thought this was standard run-o-the-mill alien, perhaps related to Rocket Butt Dude.  But then, as I looked more closely, it started doing this sort of Escher-esque thing where, at one moment I saw a whole sort of winged birdish being, the next moment it was a flightless baby bee looking down on the birth of a planet and sun, there about neck-level on the bird thing.  I think it's a commentary on the Venus de Milo painting and the commonality of the Creation Myth... I have no idea what this is supposed to be.

Now I'll show you a "befuddler."  These are ones that seem to be recognizable but really, don't make any sense.  The elicit a a "what the Hell" sort of reaction:

Who and what the... ?  It is obviously a ying-yang face transplanted dude wearing a toupee; in one of his giant hands he is throwing a comet (or is it the maceyamgernade shown above?) which, judging from his super-hero shirt is his signature move.  He seems happy and comfortable with having no feet and, he scares me a clonwish sort of way.  Thanks N, I'll never see two-faced men quite the same again.

One last beffudler from The Z-man:

Oh, trails-of-tears-woeful-faced-cosmic-alien-dude why are you so sad?  Has your lovely galaxy necklace irradiated your body so only your veiled head remains?  I do know this is an alien because it was in a pile of aliens, marked "alians."

So that's what it looks like here sometimes.  Recently someone asked me how I found all the stuff I post on ihopeiwinatoaster.  Honestly and literally, I just look down.

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

"How 'bout ground versus air, I'm ground and you're air, and we fight."

This can't end well...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Yet Another Baseball Post

You may remember from the popular post "...about baseball and  boys, poetry and dreams..." that I wax sometimes poetic about baseball and you might also remember that I am a Little League baseball coach from the post Baseball Test.

Listen, I didn't know that I was such a baseball kind of guy.  Honestly, I couldn't answer a baseball trivia question to save my life nor could I explain the infield fly rule or the "suicide squeeze," nor could I tell you the Reds usual batting order (Z can) or the Reds players' numbers (N can).  The truth is I chose baseball over football, the predominant game of my youth, because I think football is getting too violent and commercial.

So, for now, we are baseball people.  The boys love to go to Reds games, actually any game will do, in fact there are both Columbus Clippers and Florence Freedom games in our future.

I sometimes think thought that the role of sports is over-emphasized, especially at the very young ages.  I may have been  was wrong, and I may have been am wrong on a lot of different levels.

Marci and I don't take a lot of pictures so I'll just have to relate these observations with good old-fashioned  words (and an occasional photo).  Anyway, here's what I've seen:

Zack is at bat:

It is kid pitch and the freak-of-nature-eight-year-old Aroldis-Chapman-gonna-be is throwing serious fastballs.  Z swings, once, twice, foul tip, strike three.  Zack is visibly disappointed, his shoulders drop and he walks out of the box defeated and heads to the dugout.  He takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders and announces to the next batter that the pitcher is "throwing heat" and you "gotta try to swing earlier."  There's the team spirit we talk about, the helpful attitude, the not crumbling at defeat, the strong spirit of the soul.  Believe me, last year he would have been upset and perhaps even cried a little, not this time.

Nick is the catcher:

It is a sweltering day and he is hot and uncomfortable in the ill-fitting, somewhat over-sized catcher's gear.  The boy at bat runs the count up until it is full, there are two outs and the batter sends one down the first base line, the first baseman rushes it and turns to throw it  to Zack who's covering first from second.  He drops it and the kid is safe.  However, the umpire, somewhat to the dismay of the crowd, calls it foul.  The batter walks back to home shaking his head where Nick meets him, hands him his bat (handle first, which I thought was cool) and says: "Good hit, it looked fair to me."  My heart absolutely popped with pride at the sportsmanship and compassion Nick showed in that awkward moment.

How do you teach this stuff?  You don't.  It comes from the game, doesn't it?  It comes from the other kids, the parents watching (when they aren't playing on their Smartphones, just put them down parents) and from the coaches.  It comes from watching the Big Leagues and kickball in the gym.  It comes from the first game of Candyland, and those made up, silly games in the backyard.  I hadn't realized how many lessons could be taught, situations addressed, characters built on the the playing fields of Loveland.

As usual, I am the one being taught, and for that I am grateful, humbled and awestruck by these boys, these future players in the same game of life we all must play.

One last image from a great Reds game we went to the other night.  The boys made it through an entire night game, the Reds won, there was singing and fireworks and Chapman's final pitch was 102 mph, really, a perfect night at the ballpark.

The whole night was great, but, here is the image that will forever stick with me from that night:

Sometimes I think they understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

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

N (In a traffic jam on the way home from the game.):   "Ahhhh, they look like evil bunnies with laser eyes."

And suddenly, all those taillights did look a little creepy...

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Rocket Butt Dude"

This guy came floating through a while ago:

He's sort of a rootin', tootin', gunslinging, happy-faced, pillbox-hat-wearing, rocket-butt-dude.  N actually made this guy and that is what he called him: "a rocket butt dude."

I don't think he is a fweelie, with their telltale wheeled feet, nor do I think he is one of those rainbow-robot-dudes, although I think they might be in the same genus.  He's new I think.

I am not sure if he has on a shirt with really poofy pink sleeves or whether those are pink eggplants strapped to his arms or if those are a part of his flying apparatus.  I am sure that those are blueberry revolvers there in his watermelon hands.  (This dude is a freak of intergalactic nature.)

That is a nice hat, nobody can argue that.

I am probably not going to be able to post with the frequency I had been able to when the boys were in school.  Honestly, I keep thinking they will be in school then realize they will have to go shopping with me, they will have to find something to do when I mow and do chores and they will have to stay out of my way when I clean (I am a bit of a whirlwindish dervish).

I am glad they are home though, seven-year-olds (and I say this about every age) are so freaking cute; little man-cubs, somewhere between Teddy Bears and baseball gloves, between Looney Tunes and Ninjago, between Teddy Grahams and nacho chips, between Christopher Robin and Geronimo Stilton, between dependence and independence.

It's got to be hard.  But, we will help them negotiate these uncertain times, help them define themselves, help them become the men I can begin to see more clearly now underneath the thin veneer of their skin, underneath where their souls pulse.

Because, sometimes, I can see the men these boys will become, and, honestly, I like what I am seein'.

Friday, June 1, 2012

School's Out for Summer

You kind of have to say that title in an Alice Cooper state of mind, if you get my drift.

N made this:

I know, I know, it looks like a stock photo but it isn't, I swear N drew this.  Oh, and by the way, that is exactly what his school looks like, faceless teacher, swirly sun, school bell, giant flowers and all.

"No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty faceless scary creepy looks."

The boys are sad to see the year come to a close.  They are mostly upset because they won't see their friends.

I am sad to see the year close as well; they really learned a lot these past months, their math and reading skills have blossomed and socially they are well-adjusted and happy.  In fact, they nailed First Grade.

Let's see how badly I can screw that up this summer.  Just kidding... I hope.

(I was going to end it there, but... I'm not going to.)

Someone recently accused me (well not actually me but "parents today," of which I am only slightly aligned because I do have kids, but I am much older than most "parents today," not that I mind, but it does change things a bit) of hypervigilance.

Now I can see sometimes where I might seem like a 'helicopter parent' in flight school, I get that.  I suppose I am a little too involved and concerned about my kids.  I guess I do keep their feelings and well-being at the forefront of my life and, perhaps, I am overly involved in their business.  Yes, I coach their teams, volunteer at their school, drive them to play-dates and, in general, try to do what I can for them.

I don't do it all because I think others can't or that I can do it better (have you seen me coach soccer, I had ten kids going the wrong way one game).  I don't do it to impress others or to brag about how great my team and kids are.  I don't do any of this stuff because I think it will make them better people or because I feel I have to.  Nope.

I do this because I love them and love is a verb.

There is an old-timey word, also a verb, that I still like to use, mind, as in "mind that rattlesnake" or "can you mind the children while I drink this bottle of scotch."  I like that it puts the responsibility of tending to something right up there in our heads; we care with our minds, we care with concern, we care with patience, with words, with actions, with intent and constancy.

So, be sure to mind your children, think of them, consider them, do for them and love them with a tangible ferocity that they will remember, always and forever.