Thursday, June 27, 2013

"It Used To Be a Maraca ..." (or Nine-Thirty)

I feel so often that I should try to broaden my readership, when, in truth, I should remember to narrow it.  I feel the need to apologize; I've gotten off track, again, and I will, again.

I want to be liked, but, when I change the way I am for you to like me, I usually regret it.

So let's try to get back on track.


There's a keeper box around here, and another staging area for potential keepers and, finally, there are archives waiting to self-combust under my bed and in the closet.  Oh and various piles on my desk; I'm not really sure where those go.  It's a convoluted process.

When the boys came home from school with rented wheelbarrows full of papers and stories and paintings and laminated birthday books and more pencils and markers then we sent them with, we didn't really have the patience desire time to organize it all.  Mostly because each piece had to be explained, not once but twice, remembered, not once but twice and judged as to its keeper potentiality - a ten hour process in and of itself, twice.

However I did glean some really great stuff, like these horse pictures from N:

I've seen horses "in love" and that's not how I recall it.  Don't horses have longer tails and seem a little less happy than these guys.  I think they are neutered unicorns.

This is not a horse, but it was mixed in with the horse "pichers":

I believe it's a member of the Transylvanian Olympic ski-jumping team, or, uh, something else skeletal deathy in nature.

I found this interesting math equation:

I still don't know if that one's right or not.  He seemed sure it was.

There is one more thing I'd like to add today.  I think the boys have been missing school a little bit so they decided to have a school for their stuffed animals, well, only a select few - you know how elite these things can be.  They figured out a plan and what they should do, and, there's a schedule:

Check out the nine-thirty slot, "learning to love."

Our work here is done.

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

“It used to be a maraca ... now I want it to be a spaceship."

Yep ...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guarding Innocence

I don't really do many reviews or the like around here, a lot of really great bloggers do, but, I don't, mostly because I don't really like to do that sort of thing and, uh, well ... no one has asked me.  However, we watched a movie tonight that was pretty good, spectacular, really, Rise of The Guardians.

I get a lot of grief from a younger generation of bloggers on my position about Star Wars and the endless supply of movies and merchandise it has spawned, because I think my kids are too young to see them.  In fact I was included in this white paper on Dorkdaddy on the right age to expose your kids to these movies.  I voted never, and I had a lot of snarky and flip reasons why.  You can take a look if you want, I'll wait...

Tonight though, as we watched this movie, I blundered upon what I would guess was the real reason I don't want my kids to watch jacked-up overly- amped movies like the trilogy and so many others:  What the hell are the going to expect later?  I mean if they see these highly engaging, boisterous, crazy funny, clever and cloyingly didactic spectacles as EIGHT-YEAR-OLDS, what on earth is going to satisfy them as teenagers, let alone adults?

I mean, really, I didn't have anywhere to go but up from reruns of Petticoat Junction and Gilligan's Island, both excellent and exciting (read sexy) shows but hardly "epic," as Zack described tonight's movie.  Speed Racer had nothing on that super-charged sleigh Santa was rocking in Rise, and Bambi seems mundane in comparison to dancing penguins and talking Zebras.

So often, when I mention - and subsequently am made to defend - the position that I think a lot of movies kids see today are way beyond them, visually, contextually and, frankly, metaphorically, I am made to feel like some under-mediaed Luddite who wandered out of Norman Rockwell's studio and was hit with a turnip truck.  I ain't.  I get it - these movies are exciting and creative and, well, epic.  They fire us up and get us very excited and anxious and ... a kid doesn't need that.


A kid needs to learn storytelling from Aurthur, before he can take on the complex moral ambiguity that is paramount to the plot - which is believing in Santa and The Tooth Fairy and Mr. Sandman and Jack (whateverhappenedtohim) Frost so hard so the evil Bogeyman won't take all the light and joy and wonder and happiness away from the children of the world.  Hell, Nick just wants everyone to be happy and sincerely hopes George wins the chess match.

A kid needs to dream of becoming a fireman or a veterinarian or dream of having their own restaurant before he can aspire to Defender of The Universe.

He's got to understand the dangers of a house fire and lightning before he can begin to understand the fiction that is an exploding man-made planet (I am such a loser, the DeathStar, is it?) or flying fortresses that fall, assuredly killing everyone.

He's got to cope with Old Yeller's death or Aunt Bee's little drinking problem before he can handle who Luke's Father is/was.

A boy needs heroes and hopes, dreams and love, pain and humility, humor and failure all explained to him very carefully.  Plopping a kid in front of a sixty inch plasma TV and showing him movies that you loved as a teen or young adult, hoping to "pass it on" to him does not serve that child well.

Folks tell me times have changed, that kids are exposed to so much more so much earlier, that they can handle it.  The internet and mass-media have changed how much stuff we see and, mathematically, because a lot of kids watch a gazillion minutes a week of it, they are ready for these things a lot younger.

Yeah, I agree, times have changed but, the heart of a little child hasn't.  It isn't their fault times have changed, it isn't their fault we forget to let them be little, naive, joyful and free.

I know this position will annoy some folks, and, that's fine.  I also know that some folks know exactly what I am saying.  The folks who feel that guarding innocence is more valuable than passing a few hours and checking off a movie, or seven, off of some foisted-upon them childhood bucket list.  I know that people long for less violence and more decency, fewer explosions and more hugs, not for themselves, but for their kids.


Speaking of Mayberry innocence, we went to a Columbus Clippers game the other night, we had a lot of fun, as much fun as we had last year.  On the car ride home, after the boys read for a while and looked out the windows and chatted, they had a little improv between their stuffed bears, Bear-Bear and Barry.  I didn't catch most of it, I was driving and listening to classic Country thinking how odd it was that I knew all the words to all the songs, and I don't really multi-task, but, when we got home and had everything put away, the little dudes made these:

The Beartown Claws played last night, minor league team, but they do have their own "platypus limo."

Zack also made this, the cryptographers are still working on it; they think it's significant:

As I walked by the dining room table, where so much of this nonsense foments, Nick held up this piece of paper:

It says the same thing on the other side:

He thought that was really funny.

It's weird here.

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

Z: “When I level up, I get the carrier.”
N: “When I level up, I get the chicken.
You know, the gun chicken.
He has guns on his wings ...
... and on his beak.
The gun chicken.”

(Why do I feel there is a theme song coming?)

The gun chicken, dumbass...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Post Father's Day Post

(I wonder if I titled last Father's Day post that?  No, I did not, I put a 'The' before it.)

I usually try to write about a holiday or celebration after the fact, mostly because I am using this forum to help make memories for the boys, and, uh... me.

Here's the thing, I've got a couple of cute, fun, adorable crafts from the boys I want to show you, but, first I want to try to explain something.  I am a Midwesterner and we don't really like to speak on emotions 'round these parts, but - I think Father's Day is a very difficult day for a lot of men.

It's not just emotional for current fathers, watching with memories so close to our minds, mixing our childhoods with our children's, watching our kids through our father's eyes.

It's not just hard for an at-home-dad like me - to whom the whole notion seems absurd when you realize, as you look at Mother's Day cards, that they'd be more appropriate for you - who must suffer the media stereotyping and bumbling dads mythology so sometimes searingly, heartbreakingly thrust at us.

It's not just painful to men who aren't dads, aren't even considering it, or men who had deadbeat dads or no dads at all, or for men who are still forming, all wondering what is happening, why this journey?

I am struggling with the words today.  In a way that's a good thing, it means I am struggling with an idea, with an emotion, with myself.

Simply put:  Father's Day expects to much of us.  It's a needy, Hallmark holiday, unnecessary and difficult.  Do we celebrate our own fathering or reflect on our fathers?  It's sort of hard to do both, the first so joyful and sacred, the second melancholy and inviolable.

For me, I absorb the joy of my own fathering every day, it's easy and I make a point of noticing their smiles and freckles and breaks and burgeoning dreams at every opportunity.  I notice them daily.  Also, I remember my own father in a very deep way, I rely on his foundation for my own faith and, hopefully, integrity, in a way that forgoes time, not in some heady philosophical way, it just exists in an out-of-time plane along with hopes and dreams and demons and sadness.

For me - and I mean this - if the above is true, and I think it is for a lot of men, every day is Father's Day.


So, I got breakfast in bed, toast and fruit and eggs even, and I got a funny card from Marci, and a couple of homemade cards from the boys:

 This one is from Zack, I just love the "hammer in a heart" logo, and I do "do much work."  I love you, too, Zacky.

Nick had a little more time but he made a fatal design error; he wanted a pop-up guy inside and he wanted a cutout for the cover.  Mom rescued him with a piece of a ziplock baggie to line the heart.  His poem, heartfelt and accurate: "You love Meat,/ Meat loves you,/ you love me, too!" me, too, meat too.  Ha!  Great stuff.  I love you, too Nick.  (All of this he created with his right hand and arm in a cast up past his elbow.)

I am not sure where he got this little photo of me, I haven't been to a Renaissance Fair in a number of years.

It's definitely me.

I got these nifty coupons good for stuff.  I'm gonna use the "giting money" one soon.  I am not sure who's going to cut the grass if I use that one.  One is good for "loving" and one simply for "LOVe".  I think I'll keep those for now

So, that's how I feel about the whole thing and what I got.  Thanks for coming around.

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

"I ripped it out so we wouldn't hurt it."

... huh?

 It's boy logic, we can't fathom their depths ...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Technology Postponed

Sometimes, late at night, when I am squinting at our very old school tube TV - it's flat-screen! - trying to make out the inning on the fuzzy little corner scoreboard as the sound periodically fades in and out inexplicably, sometimes, well, a lot, I truly wish I had a quaking-ass, high-as-hell-def, surround sound, blue-the-fuck-tooth capable television.

Sometimes, when I am at one of Zack's games, I wish I had a smartphone replete with weather apps and games and all that shit so I wouldn't have to actually pay attention to the never-ending final innings which are customarily a walkfest.  I could take cute photos and instagram them and post them on Facebook and look important all the while.

Sometimes, when I see a child advocate soothing a child about to get an IV with an iPad, talking and laughing about a silly pratfall on Phineas and Ferb as scary stuff goes on all around, alarms sounding and people asking questions as they urgently scurry in and out, I see how important and to what good that technology can be and can lead, and think, yeah, I'd like one of those.

Sometimes, when I see an ad for a car computer on wheels with twelve cup holders and as many DVD screens I really think I deserve that, imagining the possibilities and peaces of mind that it could offer on all the trips to and from stuff we take around here.

Sometimes it sort of pisses me off that I don't have all that stuff, but ...

We don't need a shrine to the television gods and, we already spend enough time worshiping at the makeshift altar we already have now.  It would seem invasive and unnatural to us and we'd probably stare until we turned to stone or get too close and melt our innocent wings.

We don't need another phone around here, I'd just cuss at it because I couldn't work it and I'd be tempted to check the Internet or, God Forbid, Twitter, escaping the boys when I was supposed to be enjoying the boys playing, playing with the boys or, in general, just being a boy.  With such a wondrous contraption at my fingertips I'd forget that I was already doing something more wondrous, more amazing, more fulfilling, more important than any hand held marvel could ever conjure up.

We don't need another reason to look down around here.  I can't imagine the heartbreak that is seeing a room full of family all looking down, isolated in a flock of angry birds or mesmerized by mining digital blocks, grunting monosyllabic answers to loving questions and heartfelt requests.

We don't need a motorized movie theater to get us around.  We don't need to see that movie we've seen a dozen times before, perhaps we'll just read the book we haven't read, or notice the golden dome on a new church, dangling from a crane, shimmering against the blue Ohio sky.

If we had a new TV would we still have family game nights and evenings after dinner enjoying a fire or drawing around the table, laughing and singing and joking?  Would we still have dance parties?  Would we still create and goof and play outside and inside with absolutely no agenda or score.

If I had a new smartphone would we still play hangman and tick-tack-toe on an old calendar page from Mom's purse as we nervously await the doctor or the dentist?  Would we still stand, holding hands, looking out at the western sky, wondering if that beautiful, purple thunderhead was coming our way or would miss us?

If we all had cutting edge tablets, would we still take a walk around the neighborhood or go for an evening swim or use the dictionary marveling at all the tasty new words we find on our way to finding out if 'sporange' is really a word or not?

If we had a new car, would we miss the smell and familiarity of the old truck?  Would we miss having to have a kid walk around the car to physically 'roll' up a window and the ensuing discussion about the way things were and why we 'dial' a phone and talk wistfully of long ago days and how things were when "you were a kid"?

If we had all I think we should, would we make this?

Yep, a scale drawing, on two pages, of our happy home with great details like "stares to basmint," a "kichen" and "gestroom" and a sort of small "grage" and plenty of "clost" space.  Not bad for a right handed kid with a broken right arm.

Or this?

The second floor is in red, the third is in green, no blue, the first is green, wait ... we only have two floors, whose house is this?

Would we still dream and hope and care and stare out into the cold December rain as it streaks across the window hoping it will turn to snow?

Would we still celebrate innocence and marvel at what we don't know, shaking our heads in disbelief at a book about the human body as the intricate, unbelievable systems reveal themselves to us in pages piling up upon each other?

Would we invent a game in the basement that's "okay to play with a cast because it's just kicking" and, after an hour of that, spend another hour making these?

It's the "Denvill  Nashenill Colleg" Daggers against those rascally Pennsylvana Ducks (formally the "Origami Ducks" but they changed it to just Ducks a few years back, it's a Liberal Arts school).

It's a complicated sport, not extreme, but gaining popularity.

My point is that I don't think I'd have the great stuff I document here if we'd have introduced a bunch of newfangled technologies at an early age.  Honestly, it takes a little more work, a little more time and a lot more attention to go all Mayberry like we do, but, it works for us.

So, I'll suffer the blurry scoreboard and the old truck and the text only phone and the limping laptop for one reason:  I want to extend their childhood as long as I can.  It's a messed up, confusing, sad and crazy world out there, but here, right now, it's alright.  Why, I ask, would I want to take that away from them?

Oh, and if I had all the stuff I thought we wanted would I ever hear a sentence from the backseat like like:

"Well, they don't call you The Cheetah for nothing."

No, no they don't ...


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dramaticky Post Postponed

Yeah, I was going to get all deep and dramatic today.  It's that 'time' thing I got going on, you might remember, my fear of time and how I don't have enough and what I have I fritter away on this stupid blog and on Facebook and cleaning and cooking and sleeping.  Yeah, that ...

I was going to reflect on what I did here last year at the end of first grade and link you to this or that post and generally go on and on about my problems and how I question my talents, both as a parent and a memoirist/diarist/bloggist.

As you know I like to include an image here so I went up to the "keeper box," remembering that they brought something home yesterday.  Now, mind you, I was going to lament a little my time here this summer.  Full time dadding is sort of time-consuming and, well, I won't have time to post much.  And, I have been enjoying writing deeper and longer posts, which takes time.  And, what with Nick's broken arm and Zack's somewhat argumentative ways these days, I feel I will have to keep a close watch on them and keep them busy.  I was going to show these images as proof that school was indeed out and that I had a reason for not keeping up here.

I found what I was looking for and glanced at it hoping it would reinforce my serious self-serving sentimental slop.

And then?  I laughed.  Out loud.  Twice.  Here's why:

It's the cover of a little booklet full of quotes from the boys' class.

That's not why I laughed, "the studints are grate" is why I laughed.  It's so perfect.  You know Nick's spelling is weak, and that's being kind, but, well ... it's so cute, and naive, and happy.

This is Zack's offering:

I think, I know, he is a happy kid.

So, I'll worry about the rest of it all later.  I should be glad that I still find this all funny and adorable and sweet and decent.

I should be glad I don't have a sick kid, I only have a kid with a broken arm, which will mend.

I should be glad I have a safe home, a loving family and a scanner.

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

"Hey, that's MY rainbow!"

Well, it looks a lot like mine ...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tough Summer Break

Some of you may have noticed that, periodically,  I have trouble getting things started around here.  Often I can't decide what tone to take or which thing to begin with - happy or serious - or which picture I'll use or, well, you get it.

Today it's a no-brainer:

Yeah, that's Nick' wrist. Broken, two bones just above his wrist.

I wonder what you'd write about now, whoever you are, whenever you are?

Would you write about, oh, say, medical technologies?  All about the instant x-rays now available hospital- and network-wide.  When I was a kid I got an x-ray once, waited like two hours for it to be developed and then was told by a pretty pissed off tech that I had moved and that we'd have to start again.  Would you tell how the casts have changed so drastically, although the resetting of a displaced couple of bones hasn't changed much since, well, the Middle Ages?  So many colors of casts available, two if you'd like.  How soon he'll be in a waterproof cast, as oxymoronic as that might seem to anyone over fifty.

Maybe you would write, cleverly holding in your own pain, about how you knew the wrist was broken.  How it wasn't a question of whether to go to the hospital but to which hospital.  Would you mention the "S" shape his wrist was in and how you physically wince every time it flashes through your memory?  Would you mention the guilt boiling over inside you because you are the one who told them they could play on the shed and who leaned the palette up against the shed wall so carelessly, recklessly, stupidly?

Would you focus on the twin brother, his bravery and his empathy and his goodness as he thought to get a couple of stuffed animals to Nick for the ride from one hospital to the next?  His plea for "Bear-Bear" as you rode to the hospital in the first place and how it hurt you nearly as much as his brother's broken wrist. You might go on and on about the twinship they have, the love they so take for granted, the love we all so long for from siblings but don't always get.  You could describe the stuffed animal improvs they are having in their beds before bedtime since the accident, recently an aardvark with a broken snout speaking with a kindly buffalo doctor  as she explained procedures with simple care and decisiveness.  The tender sweetness of the dialogue which brought tears to your eyes, would you mention that?

Or, you might make a reference to time and jokingly say you didn't have time to finish this and then perhaps lament your lack of time to do the things you want to do and that the summer is coming and you may not continue posting and then... an image of a little boy who wouldn't wake up in the emergency room might hit you, a fear never before experienced, and you'd realize how petty and non-sensical are your worries and your wants compared to a black and orange cast and no bike rides.

On the up side, you might remember that even the boy-in-the-cast mentioned that it could have been a lot worse because he "almost busted my head on the fire pit, too."  You would, perhaps, show this picture and wait for the laugh, to cut the tension and stop the tears as they run down your face onto the desk below you:

You might spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to go on from here.  Would you, maybe, vamp a bit about how irritated he was because people kept asking if it was for the Cincinnati Bengals, a team he has seen maybe four minutes playing in his entire life?  How his dear mother made him a Loveland "L" to go on it?  Would you banter a little about how he doesn't like to tell the story of the shed and the fall and all that?  How it is not clear exactly what happened out there, out of sight, behind the shed.  Would you mention how much that scares you?  Would you distract from that painful thought by mentioning the playful, wry look he gets on his face as he points to the "I Fell."

Would you speak of the human spirit, bravery, the mysteries of anatomy and pain and stress and humor?  Would you marvel at the kindness of strangers, caring doctors, loving grandparents, child care specialists and surgeons eager, willing and courageous enough to pull and bend and sweat to put a little boys arm bones back into the right place?

Would you have the moral fortitude to recall the faces of the parents in the waiting rooms and hallways of the E.R?  Ashen, sick children; stunned parents holding infants, scared and anxiously awaiting "the news" as some happy Disney show droned on.  Or would you choose to try and forget that side irony and go on with your own story, silently remembering that your heart said a prayer for them as you looked them in the eye and smiled?

You might write of many other things as well, but, what will I right about?

Broken hearts.

Broken hopes.

Broken dreams.

You see, although I think we all tell our kids that life isn't fair and that bad stuff happens, we forget that we are going to be the ones who have to explain it when it does.

It seems daily that Nick realizes yet another thing he won't be able to do and it breaks his heart, again.  Of course this all happened Memorial Day and, just two days later, he said to me, "Oh, Dad, I'd had such hopes for this summer."

And my heart broke.  I can't make this not be.  I can't make an accident "unhappen" as he once suggested.  I'd take the broken arm, what parent wouldn't?  I will do everything I can to hasten his healing but, he has to wait.  He can't draw pictures.  He can't jump.  He can't climb.  He can't ride.  He can't run.

In his mind, he can't be a kid.

We all know this is coming, we parents and makers of men; we all know they will suffer the unfairnesses that life so brutally and arbitrarily throws our way.  We get that.  However, watching an eight year-old boy work through it in his head is very difficult.  The other night he was watching something in my lap and his little face got all scrunched up and he sobbed a little and I asked him what was wrong.

"I can't even kick a ball."

I cried with him, cursing God and the unfairness of it all.  I held his face against mine as our tears fell together and I tried to protect him, but... I couldn't.

Send a 'hope' up for Nick, any way you like.

Thanks, oh and ... 

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

"This smells of turmoil."

It does indeed ...