Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"That Game"

It's pretty simple really, here's all you need:

And some relatively open space in a basement:

A nice obstacle of tired furniture is optional, a giant pile of luggage or empty boxes works nicely as well:

You also need two energetic and wild-hearted nearly-nine-year-olds, and a silly, silly father who thinks childhood is the dreamland where hope is nurtured and, uh, sneakers - oh, and on the advice of my legal department, helmets.  Yes, yes we wear "helmets" when we do this...

So, briefly, I'll sketch the rules for you.  I stand on the "ABC" rug - which is mine and mine alone, a boy is not allowed on it - and arbitrarily wing, throw, fake throw, lob, toss, this ball at the boys.

You are absolutely correct in your astute observation that this is a baby's Winnie the Pooh football, and yes we did get it when the boys were indeed babies.  It's a stalwart toy.  We also have it's matching, as in cover torn off, Tigger basketball which we sometimes use when Winnie loses himself, which he is wont to do.  The balls, both, are a perfect balance of heft and face-smashable softness.

So, I throw the ball, they try to catch it and whoever gets it turns and tries run to my workbench - on top of which sit saws and hammers and a couple of guitars and, oddly the fallen down remnants of a model shed I made once, heavy stuff, breakable stuff - and tag it before  the other guy tags you with both hands, you know the drill - which is also on the workbench.  If the ball handler gets tagged out he then shoots the Pooh-Tigger ball towards the laundry basket.  The opposing player may not technically, like, actively, try to block the shot although he may "dance like an Egyptian" as a distraction.  The basket is placed there towards the right of the workbench, in front of a cabinet on which sit most of the nails and bolts and washers and hardware I own and above that are some rickety shelves on which sit the rest of the nails and bolts and washers and hardware I own, but, it's mostly nails, up high, right, out of reach - it's a farther fall. Two points are awarded for a bench tag and a basket gets one.

We don't really keep score, it's sort of like practicing really hard for nothing.

The majority of the game is played on what we never call the "pitch" which is the area right in front of my desk, this desk.  You know, where the scanner and the desktop and the WiFi thingee and the fioptic television router jobbie and my precious vintage desk lamp that I bought new over thirty years ago and... I should really rethink this.  They sometimes double back and dive or jump or fake or crash across the tired furniture, perhaps flinging a pillow as they go - which, after some discussion is legal, but just one per play - in front of the slightly top-heavy television cabinet.  Remember, we are wearing our "helmets."

That is basic rundown of "That Game" as Nick calls it.  Zack likes the more accurate "The Game" and inexplicably I call it "Basement Ball" but we all agree we should have called it "Bob," but it's too late for that now.

Now, since we live here in the Ohio Valley, we of course do play the rarely used variation which is if you happen to find this ball and hit someone in the face with, you win and the game is done..  It's usually in my pocket.

Think "Golden Snitch."

The games boys play.

As you know by now, I always find there is more to a story, more that needs to be told.  It is of course, not the rest of the story, for that is what makes this such a curious adventure, the rest of the stories I try to tell you are still to be told, depending or where and when they land.

When I was a freshman in college, some girls toilet-papered our hall in the dorm we lived in, the details of their motivation is a story for another time.  After the not unprovoked incident, we were cleaning up the paper and were attempting to ball it all up.  It smashed down fantastically but kept growing when we released it.  Some Mark-on-the-spot grabbed a roll of masking tape and wrapped a few straps around it and it remained compressed.  We repeated this process and the "Puh Ball" was created.  You could stand right in front of someone and throw the Puh Ball right at them  and the thing just went Puh right into your face and didn't hurt a bit.  It was silly and important and, it had the exact same "perfect balance of heft and face-smashable softness" as the Pooh Ball.

It's a silly little detail at the corner of a story, but, every time I pick up that ball downstairs I recall the endless games and stupid challenges we made up for that masking taped ball of toilet paper and I remember being a boy.

When I was in junior high I attended a former high school, as in early twentieth century state-of-the-art high school, I went there in the seventies, nearly a half-century later.  It had lost its luster.  But the halls were still wide and the ceilings high and, being a boy, it gave you a sense of room and freedom, growing boys need that.  It was fun, and forbidden, to throw paper wads at each other in the hallways between classes, there was even a balcony from which you could bean your buddy from out of no where, or Mr. Smith, depending on your accuracy.  The aerodynamics of a wadded up sheet of ruled notebook paper make it drag hopelessly and only really go a few dozen feet with any accuracy.  A wily young science teacher, a boy himself in retrospect, suggested putting some "Scotch" tape a round the ball, suggesting this would decrease the drag and increase long range accuracy.  He was right.  "Scotch balls" were born and the battles were epic, forbidden yet tolerated, exactly what boys love.

A while back, I found our boys sitting at opposite ends of the hallway each with a paper towel tube in his hand, smacking something back and forth quickly, rhythmically.  It came my way and landed at my feet.  It was a Scotch Ball, ruled paper, wrapped in scotch tape, classic, essential.

My good friend Kirby (the names are changed around here, or are they?) called it "Crateball," but I always preferred "Mud Ball."  We invented it the summer of our senior year of college, or thereabouts, and it involved a patio, a deflated football, a milk-crate and mud and a wall.  It could only be played in the rain and we were obsessed with playing it.  Our girlfriends at the time thought we were mad, like loony tunes crazy.  I can't remember the details of the rules, there was an elaborate scoring system, and you had to win by two, like exactly two, so you had to let the other guy catch up to win.  I can't for the life of me remember why there needed to be mud.

The games boys play.

I seen this all my life, being a boy and all.  Wherever two or more of us are gathered a stupid game will be contrived.  I've seen four trained chefs spend twenty minutes, shooting grapes from a case, yes case, over a stainless steel table into a trash can twenty feet away... and cleaned up after them.  I've seen grown men sit around a fire throwing a stick over it for an unsuspected guy to find through the smoke and flames.  I once tossed a lighter back a forth in a dorm room counting the consecutive catches until we couldn't count the number fast enough to keep up with the pace of the throws, somewhere over a thousand, I'd guess.

Kick-the-Can, Red Rover, innumerable variations of tag, races, wrestling.  Football, baseball, soccer, basketball.  Curling, ping-pong, washers, cornhole, horseshoes, Jarts, log-rolling.  All.

The games boys play.

It is many things, this drive to make up silly contests and games.  It is both competition and belonging, both tribal and individual, daring and safe, dangerous and courageous, boyhood and manhood.  It is a deep need.

The games boys play - the games boys concoct and devise - come from the wildness that is in us.  The one wildness we are born with.  It is perhaps just a continuation of one game begun long, long ago.

And no one really knows the score anymore.

I have repeatedly asked the boys why they like "The Game" and the seem to have no answer other than that they just like it.  So tonight, we'll go play, for an hour or so, or until the "Stinker Ball of Doom" comes out of my pocket.  And we'll talk about school a bit, and girls a little, maybe sports or their friends, but, mostly, we'll talk about the last play, maybe re-run it so you can remember the angle was just so, or a hand was on his back or that didn't count or nice shot or are you alright?  All of which is the way boys talk about life and love and fear and hope... sort of, well, sideways.

The boys call what we used to call "two-hand touch" "double touch" and sometimes "zombie touch."  Double touch... that is so much cooler than what we called it.  Damn kids.

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

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

I can never keep up with mythology...

Thanks for watching the boys play and walking down memory road with me for a while, it's nice to have company.  Oh, just leave your "helmet" on the porch, you might need it again.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Baily and Bear-Bear

One-thousand words, already...  I better keep this brief.

I'll be honest here, I do not know which way to go with this.  Is this image a story to break your heart and jerk your tears?  Is it a silly story of forbidden love?  Is it the absolute essence of the childhood of a thin boy with golden hair and wicked deep dimples?  Is it the story of a chair, a burgundy chair, a spinning chair, a chair central to the memories embedding in the minds of two little boys growing up too fast in too sad world?

It's none of those things and all of those things.

That's Baily there on the left, the, uh, cat-looking one.  She loves Zack.  That's Bear-Bear, the bearish one.  Zack loves Bear-Bear.  And this, all this, is simply a gift for him.

I hope you weep with joy when you see this, someday, Zacky.  I know I will.

I love you, him, now, always.

And Nick, if you're listening.  Listen, all these words, all that is behind them, all that they might become, is for you.  You'll need them someday, I can't explain why right now, but, you know now, don't you?

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

"I'm riding on a yeti."

As God is my witness, we do not know what a yeti is, I think it's Starwarian, but, that's all I got...

Thanks for stopping by, you didn't have to, I was just leaving a note for Zack.  You'll be back around, right?  Oh, I almost forgot, Marci took this photo, and when she showed it to me, I knew I had to show him.  I am very grateful she did.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Comedy Is Easy, Balance Is Hard

I usually get started here with a clear concept of what I am wanting to say.  And then I lose my way.  So, I wanted to say this:

I am deeply in love with my sons.  I love being a father.  My wife gave this all to me.

Now to meander...

In Art Class at school they have been exploring the medium of watercolors from what I gather.  They looked at some famous paintings and then had at it themselves with this assignment.  The only reason I have any idea what the assignment was is that I saw a large display, like thirty or more, of these under a drippily painted - you know like that drippy letter font used for 'wet paint' signs - placard reading, "Colorful Vehicles."  Yes, inspiring that, dontchathink?  Colorful vehicles, seriously, well, here's what Zack conjured:

COSI is science museum in Columbus that provides a highly acclaimed traveling, interactive science presentation to schools all over Ohio.

It's a pretty cool looking truck and yes, yes that is a smoking beaker up there in front.  I think it's the power source for the whole thing.  Very green.  In all honesty, the use of watercolors is outstanding and they inked over their lines after they painted, excellent affect.

Nick... well, Nick did this:

Moon Car v1.28.  Of course that's the earth there in the background, and a comet, and a starry night to rival even van Gogh.  Of course I love it and it again shows how his mind so often frames things in the form of a story, the "narrative imperative" I call it.  You can use it, I'm cool with that.

Just yesterday Nick was finishing his homework and practically yelped when he stuck his hand in his pocket and remembered this:

A turtle and some fishes in an underwater seascape sketched - in color - on a four by three inch scrap of paper.

"Dad, I've got to do something with this."

About forty minutes later he'd finished this:

There is no real way to explain this need to think and play and imagine so creatively.  I've mentioned before that I think it is innate and we, the adults, are the lamentable ones for forgetting that.

I moved the couch downstairs to clean and this was underneath:

It's hard to explain, even for me, and I have a lot more information than you do.  Suffice to say, Harry Potter was an influence and Zack fancies himself "prefect" material.  And he love/hates Professor Snape.  It's funny, I know he made this upstairs and then brought it down here.  I am pretty sure it was a pretend game that had to do with their "dorms" and "a new house at Hogwarts."  That's all I overheard.

Again that creative native notion I was referring to earlier, when I called it the "narrative imperative" but "creative native" is good, too.  I'm just coining shit right and left here, ain't I?

It is an honor to be privy to the creative hearts of our children.

There is one last thing, something I should save for another day, something more important than I may make it out to be.  I am a SaHD.  I don't talk much about it.  I considered becoming an advocate and a voice for the movement - and it really is a movement - but that's just not where I wanted to hang my blogging hat.  However, there is one aspect of it that does need to be mentioned, an aspect that I need to be reminded of and that is this: Because my wife works hard I get the opportunity to be the dad I never knew, never imagined, never dreamed I could be.

That is fact.

Thanks, Marci.

It is hard to balance what is in our hearts, isn't it?  I never know whether to be dreamy and loving or silly and off-center, or just plain honest when I write here, for you, for the boys, for the future, the now.  It's difficult to keep it interesting and fresh and keep it all in perspective.  Overall, though, I try to focus on what you might want to see someday, boys, and balance it with what you, right now you, might enjoy seeing, well, now...

It's complicated.

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

Z: "Oh no! There are wild boars invading!"

N: "I don't know if I should laugh or run."

Tough call...

Thanks for staying around today.  I wish I knew more about what you wanted from this place, but, then I'd have more to try and balance.  Oh well.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lists of Lasts, Messing With Zack, Chicken Note

Lasts are more difficult than firsts because you know the firsts are coming.  You know, your walking your talking, your tripping and cussing, first teeth and holidays and all of it.  All the memories we make and expect.  But... lasts seems sudden, unexpected, bittersweet and ever so final.

I can barely carry Nick anymore but I don't remember the last time I held him, toddler style.

Zack could never get a hoodie off, he'd somehow get comically stuck.  He can now, and I don't remember the last time we laughed together as we struggled to get it over his head.

Both boys shower all on their own now, hair, body, underarms (I still scrub a back or two, truth be told) all clean with no cajoling or prompting.  I don't remember the last time I washed them off or rinsed their hair.

Last diaper, last soothie, last bottle, last crawl down the hall, last kiddie pool, last burping, last turn the light brighter, last jump in a puddle, last... God, why am I tearing up?

You get the point, the list of lasts is heartrendingly long.  Important accomplishments checked off a giant spreadsheet.  Done and forgotten.  Forgotten until the smell of baby powder washes over you at church or in a store and you realize, heart cracking a bit, that there isn't even any in the house anymore.

Had I known a year ago that last years' Valentine cards were to be the final ones they'd make in school, I probably would have laminated them, and put them in the firebox.  I did scan them and put them in this post.  Would you go take a look at that post?  Please.  It's short I promise and the bulk of this post is sort of dependent on you taking a quick look at that one.  I'll wait...


You probably noticed, beyond the cuteness of the cards, that Marci and I had made some "Things we love about..." lists for each boy.  Last year we gave them to them as they got of the bus, they went inside and read them.  The first thing Zack said was, "Can you do this every year for us, Dad."

"Yes," I promised.  The very thought of some lasts seem unbearable.  As God is my witness, I will do this for them until my last breath is drawn.  And then I promise I'll have twenty more for the rest of their lives ready... laminated, in the firebox.


So, my sentimental and tardy Valentine's Day bit is done so I will just let you get...


Right, I almost forgot, that's why this is so poorly titled today, it's really a mnemonic device cleverly disguised as a lame post title.

Sometimes I am so tempted to mess with the boys.  I wanted to tell them one color wrong, like red for blue, or something, when they were little because I thought it would have long-lasting comedic impact.  Suggesting the impact might be more emotional and, well, damaging, Marci nixed that idea.

I am still tempted, but, I don't.  Except when I do.

The boys are building their recently purchased LEGO sets in the dining room, I am trying to play a little guitar but end up basically playing half a song and then stopping to look for a dropped or missing piece which is damnably difficult holding a guitar.  Giving up, I decide to put in CD.  I deliberate a while, and choose a greatest hits Police album we like, which is damnably difficult holding a guitar.

I put my guitar away downstairs and come back up and Zack asks:  "Dad, what's he mean "that book by nab-a-cough in that last song."  I push a couple of LEGO pieces off the table and, guitarless, pick them up with ease.  Distraction successful.

"How about some Koolaid, guys?  We haven't had any since last Summer," I say to further distance my self from creepy teachers and worse, Russian Lit.

I am blundering about, distracted myself by the shocking number of inappropriate songs that even my boys hear, and, as I pour the sugar into the pitcher, I spill it down the side and pretty much all over the place.  I get the lid on and turn on the hot water.  I begin to rinse the sugar and blue stuff - Raspberry Lemonade as I recall - off of the sides of the plastic jug thing we use for making drinks that, uh, need making, and, since the whole thing needs to be shaken, I begin to do that as I rinse it off under the running water.  With me?

Well, Zack walks in, watches for a sec, and says:  "What on earth are you doing?"  (Someone has said that to him before I suspect.)

I can't say if it was the tone in his voice, his cute little curious face or just my affinity for off-center humor, but I answered:

"If you shake Koolaid under hot running water it mixes better and tastes extra good.  It's science"

Of course now I have to decide whether to extend this fib as the years go on.  I probably will.  It'll be worth it when, someday, I see his son shaking a pitcher of Futureaid under a stream of hot water and see Zack look me in the eyes and wink, saying, "It makes it sweeter, Grampa."

"Yes, science," I'll say.

("Chicken Note" what does that even mean?)

Oh, I know...  Sometimes I write something down for Marci to put on her "things from the backseat" thing intending to give it to her so she can post it so I can use it here.  It's a convoluted process.  Maybe I should just do this instead.

A note from Bill's pocket that he was supposed to give Marci so she could put on her FB page thingee so he could steal it for this blog:

It is fun to say.  Let's all say it together - "They took credit for the chicken..."  Very satisfying sentence, I think.  I could see why we've always wanted to say that ...

Thanks for coming to see us here today.  Oh, and thanks again for looking at that other post (last time, I promise).  I appreciate that.

Say, uh, since you're still around can I ask you something, is this a Valentine?

It came home from school Thursday.  Didn't St Valentine slay a dragon or something before he met a horrible death?  Yes, this is a traditional Valentine's Day dragon-electrified-alien-lizard-o-love.  Right?  Hey, I better get out the laminator.

Now, where's that firebox...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Today is my Dad's birthday, he would have been eighty-two.  I don't often talk about my Dad, I'm not sure why.  That's not the truth, I know why - I don't know how to.  It's too much, too deep, too soulful, too sorrowful, too raw.  I could begin, but, where would I stop... how would I begin?  I am ashamed realizing that, and selfish, and wrong.

My Mom wrote these kind and loving words in memory of her husband, my father:

A special tribute to Roger Peebles 2-12-32 to 1-6-96 

He was truly the most compassionate, kind, non judgmental person I have ever known. He actually subscribed to the idea of "if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all." He seldom said anything negative about anyone or anything. If he did it had been thought through and was said only at home or with close friends. If he didn't agree with you, he didn't tell you you were wrong, he asked probing questions to get you to think it through. This can be very frustrating to opinionated people and probably did not gain him the respect he should have had but that was Roger. 

He had goals in his life and they did not include being rich or famous. I think he reached most of them without alienating too many people. He was taken way too soon. His sons still needed him as a mentor as they passed milestones in their lives. And, his less kind wife, needs his guidance when her opinions are not popular nor thought through.

 He still had a daughter in law, grandsons, and the beginnings of another generation to meet.

Why are the good taken early?  I don't know and if you think you do, please don't tell me because i probably have already heard and rejected your ideas. For 6+ months he was in a care facility alone and didn't know us. No one could understand how he could hang on. I was told it was going to happen that day but if I was to get home I should leave because it was snowing and 12+ inches were expected. As I was leaving I kissed him and told him I thought it was time and we would try to get along without him. They called to say he was gone before I got home. 

We all miss and need him every day of our lives. 

So happy 82nd anniversary of your birth Roger where ever you are.

It is my every hope that someday I will be cherished and honored and loved and admired half as much as this - or even a fraction of it.  My only hope is that I if I remember the man who showed me love perhaps that love will shine back to others.

Mom also included some photos of Dad (the captions are hers):

With his dog Junior.

With his first gun.

With his girlfriend (Mom) in 1950.

Our wedding 1952.

With his first child in 1955.

In his office in Henderson NV my favorite

Christmas 1964 Steubenviille, OH.
40th birthday.
Vacation trip back home to Sacaton AZ
With his 2 favorite things a cigarette and a glass of Scotch.

November 1992 our 40th anniversary

Christmas leftovers

 Mom always includes this one.  Yes, yes it was the seventies... why do you ask?

Thanks for this, Mom.

And thank you for stopping by today.  Think today of your own father, think of the gift of mothers, think of love, think of someone... anyone.  It only hurts at first...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Narrative Imperative

I've tried this before and gotten away with it - I'll just pretend that you all didn't notice that I haven't been around for over a week.  In my defense there is some sort of collective writer's block plaguing the blogging community - true story.  So, moving on...

I haven't been poking around the boys' book-bags much recently, well, that's inaccurate, actually I poke around in them daily, I just haven't been archiving them here as much.  When I began writing this stuff, I used quite a bit of of the inane and insane nonsense that comes home from school.  Now, I know some of the people who read this are teachers (as in the boys actual teachers, like, right now, reading, shit, this...) and educators and I, in no way, want to imply that I have a problem with the assignments or the integrity of the curricula.

Cool, I think that went well.  I managed that with a voice of sincerity, right?

Here's some recent stuff from a six page packet you may recall called "Animals in Winter," mine was mimeographed, but otherwise you know the one.  We can start with a page from Zack's:

I think he has certainly fulfilled the parameters of the assignment.  He seems to have grasped the concept and all that.  He went a little above and beyond I think.  Below is a closeup of the bear hibernating, there on the, uh, "hibernate" side:

Yes indeed, the bear does have a stuffed bear and is, inexplicably, wearing an eye patch.

And on the other side, the "migrate" side, there is small flock of birds flying  amidst the skyscrapers and clouds.  Skyscrapers drawn in impossibly perfect perspective and, well below, a small man yells:

Nick took a more smartassy  humorous approach to the same worksheet:

Yes, well, the cloven-hooved-longtailed-pugnose-cat-bear is saying, "All of the sudden i'm tierd (tired)?!"  That's funny.  And, in anticipation of the next panel, the bird - cat-bird, actually - is saying "I'm out."  No doubt the same one muttering "Are we there yet?"

I should just go ahead and wrap this up, time is short and shorts are time and all that, but, I'm not going to.

When I started this today I was pleased that I found a couple of similar things in each of their respective bags.  Parity is imperative when you are a parent of twins, so, I was good with that.  And then I noticed something else, something else imperative.

Both boys, it seemed to me, defaulted to storytelling mode.  They chose to not just show the acts of hibernation and migration, but to tell a little story, a story I am sure that is much bigger than the one represented on paper.

I am just sure Zack could tell me why the bear has an eye patch, the name of the teddy-bear, and the story behind the lovely tasseled pillow he lays his head on.  He most likely imagined himself a bird flying through the clouds as he simultaneously looked up in wonder calling out a greeting to himself as he flew across the autumn sky.

And Nicky's little bear-thing suddenly realizing he's tired, worn out, ready to rest?  Yes, I am sure there is a beautiful story explaining his hooves and his luxurious striped tail, and his bemused happy look.  The little bird character, already so well-rounded, clearly a little smart aleck, I am sure his story is long and heroic, bittersweet and tragicomic.

Is it really all that?  You know, I think so.  I think we are born to tell stories.  We tell them in different ways, find our voices, all that, but I think it is as innate in us as a search for God or brewing, this narrative imperative.

I am the stories I tell, they are the stories they will tell, we are the stories that have been told.

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

M: "I don't know how your dad is so hard on stuff."

N: "Yea, that is just how he rolls."

Yes, yes it is.  Nick's got my back...

As always I appreciate you coming around and staying a while.  Since you are still here, and since I am out of words, you should go check out the guys at Just a Dad 247. It's a wonderful new blog, fresh and invigorating.  They said some very nice things about this blog and I am very appreciative.