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The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Samurai's Heart

by Walt Mussell

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Interruptions

My older son was sick recently.

Granted, as I wrote in a recent post, most of my family was sick. However, it kept my 12-year old out of school for two days until he could be fever-free for 24 hours. He made it back into school on Friday, a day on which he had three tests. He missed lectures, though it was mostly review. He had his books at home, knew what was coming, and studied the best he could.

The results: one A, one B, and one C.

Normally, a “C” would be a signal for hand-wringing at home. We’re determined that our kids make A’s. If not A’s, we tell them we’ll be happy if they do their best. However, we’ve come to realize that we can expect A’s out of our older son. It wasn’t always so. When he was first diagnosed with his language/speech delays, we wondered how he would do in school as he got older. His challenges make it difficult for him to learn, but he has learned how to overcome his difficulties.

But as I said, he can get A’s. In elementary school, my older son once got a B in Art. My wife contacted the teacher to find out what had happened. It turned out that he’d misbehaved twice and had cost himself a letter grade. My wife thanked the teacher for his time and apologized if she seemed overly aggressive about the situation. The teacher’s response was that he wished more parents took grades in Art seriously.

So, we chose to let him take three tests on his first day back, instead of asking for additional time. And when the teachers e-mailed us the grades over the weekend, we told our son what they were and told him not to worry when he got them. We were proud he’d done well, in spite of being sick. We wanted him to move on and just keep up with his class.

The truth is, he deals with interruptions all the time. Our son is pulled from his classes several times a week for speech and language lessons. He misses a number of lectures and is always catching up. His personal goal is to get out of speech. He hates being taken out of class. He hates feeling different. Having to leave makes him different in front of his classmates.

We wish he could get out speech, too. And we hope for the day that he is ready.

I don’t know if we seem harsh or overly concerned with his grades. We just know he can do well and expect it out of him. And then, sometimes, we tell him it’s the best that he could do on a given day and that he needs to move on.

So, we moved on to next week, to CRCT prep, and trying to maintain focus, and keep him ready.

Until the next interruption.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pets

“Wanna lick?”

My wife laughed at my younger son’s choice of words as he held my uncle’s dachshund snugly in his hands. At various times the little dog would turn his head and lick my son’s face. The smile that it provoked was huge and he wanted to share the love

“No thanks, my wife said.

My son left from there, his arms clutching his new best friend as he turned around and carried the dog to other attendees at the party. I know he enjoyed the moment. However brief it was going to be.

My kids love animals. They always welcome a chance to play dogs and cats, if they can. Our neighbor’s cat, Freaky, often makes it to our yard where he finds both my kids anxious to give him attention. The kids would do anything to have a pet of their own.

But they can’t. My wife is allergic to pet hair.

The allergy isn’t as bad as it could be. She can handle pets for a little while with no problem, but it can’t be ongoing.

The previous owners of our house had pets. For some people with pet allergies, that would have disqualified it. The previous owners cleaned. We had professionals come in and clean after that. And over the next few months, as we found more and more hidden locations of pet hair, we managed to get the place acceptable. Good filters got rid of more. Eventually, it was okay.

Yes, I know. I can hear the cries. We could get one of those hairless breeds. And my wife could probably deal with it. However, we’re fearful of how our kids will handle it.

A pet can be a 15-year commitment. My kids both say that they’ll take care of one. I know they will, for a while. They will be there to play with it and run with it. But at times, they’ll won’t be there at all.

So, we tell our kids to enjoy these chances when they can play with animals. We tell them they can even make money if they offer to look after pets when neighbors are away.

You hear some adults say that they don’t like kids or like kids for a short time and then want to give them back. The little amount of time satisfies their desires for kids. We worry about the same thing for our kids regarding pets. We fear that there interest will wane if they have a pet at the house.

So when we see our kids with pets, we know that they’re having fun. My younger son didn’t want to play basketball with his other cousins. He just wanted to take play with my uncle’s dog. Hopefully, he’s got it out of his system…until the next time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Taking a Day Off

This weekend, my Dad's family is getting together to celebrate my Grandmother's 90th birthday. My grandmother, Rita Mussell, has nine kids, 17 grandkids, and 7 great-grandkids. Most everyone will make it. It's gonna be a blast.

See you next week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One of THOSE Weekends

I considered bagging it today on posting.

It was a rough weekend. The snow was fun, especially as we don’t get much of it in the Atlanta area, and my boys like to take advantage of it when they can. The last snowfall yielded little in the way of excitement. Last weekend brought a good time.

But a Friday night snowball fight, in which I discovered my aim was so bad that I kept throwing snowballs over my kids’ head, heralded not the plans we’d envisioned. Somewhere late in the evening, my older son woke to stomach pains. He spent what felt like an hour or so losing it at both ends while my wife and I mulled over what could have happened. Food poisoning? The timing was right. But it didn’t make sense. No one else in the house was sick. My wife had been sick earlier in the week and became convinced that she’d passed it on to him.

Whatever it was, the big guy felt better the next morning. Not enough to go out and play, but still well enough to eat and sit up. My younger son, on the other hand, saw what he relished. More opportunity for snow. More opportunity for sliding down the hill in our back yard. More opportunity for a good time. And he took in every bit of it. By the afternoon, he was joined by his older brother who felt much better. They built snowmen in the back yard, using them for target practice and later as football tackling dummies. My wife also felt well enough to try and do some things around the house.

When Saturday evening came, I noticed that my younger son’s temp was slightly elevated, though he felt only a little malaise. My wife was also tired and I worried for her as well. On Sunday morning, the little guy’s temp was down, but something was still wrong. My wife also woke up and felt like she didn’t want to move. I suggested both stay home, while I took my older son to church. He was definitely back to normal, as evidenced by him jumping out of bed after I told mentioned we could stop for a blueberry bagel if he got ready early.

Sunday passed with my wife sick and my little guy out of it. Late Sunday night, my younger son woke up mimicking the same symptoms my older son had shown on Friday…and the same results. My wife, who had recovered some, took care of him while I tried to get some sleep so I could be ready for work.

So what does that have to do with anything. Well, as you may have noticed, one person in the house avoided the bug.

Until now.

This morning, I woke up feeling like crap. I know it’s only a matter of time before I get what felled them.

But, like most maniacs (writers), I had to write something, as not doing so would make me sicker.

Ever have one of those weekends?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Need Some Help

Normally, I write about my kids. Today, I’m going in the other direction. I’m going to write about my grandmother.

My grandmother is turning ninety. It’s a fantastic number. The family will be gathering soon to celebrate this milestone occasion. It will be a long weekend party and I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

My favorite grandmother story for the longest time has dealt with my grandfather. Apparently, my grandmother met my grandfather when she was in her late teens. He had a date with someone else, but was so smitten with my grandmother that he broke his date to go out with her. Grandma apparently felt the same way about Grandpa. She often talked about handsome he was in his Army uniform back when she first met him.

Recently, my grandmother revealed a memorable story about my dad. My grandfather served in Europe late in WWII and afterwards. He was gone for a couple of years. My grandmother tried to think of something special to welcome my grandfather home.

My dad apparently suggested getting a baby brother or sister.

I remember visiting my grandparents when I was a kid. Grandma would fix me oatmeal for breakfast and I would try to help her with the puzzles in the newspaper. I rarely ate oatmeal at home, but always did at Grandma’s. For some reason, it just tasted better.

Most of have stories like that, I know.

And, as I said above, my grandmother is turning ninety. And here’s where I need the help.

My aunts and uncles want to put a sign in the yard announcing the event. Hallmark has a few choice slogans for younger ages. “Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty” and “Ain’t it nifty, you’re turning fifty.”

However, we don’t have anything for my grandmother’s age.

One of my uncles jokingly suggested, “Kiss her hiney, she’s turning ninety.” However, we know that isn't going to work.

So, anybody got any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's In A Number?

With two and a half hours remaining before kick-off of the Super Bowl, I took my eight-year old to a batting cage for his first official practice of the spring season. Practice had originally been scheduled for the ball field , but rain and soggy conditions had necessitated the move inside.

With an hour on my hands, I looked for an empty spot at the tables outside the cages. Other parents of the Mill Creek Pee Wee AA Yankees were already assembled. I’d met only one of them before, meaning I had a whole new group to get to know. It’s always fun, sitting with the other parents and watching the kids, because you now have a common bond of cheering for the same team.

The topic of the conversation, oddly, was football, but not the kind you would expect. Yes, their was the Super Bowl, but little league football registration is in late March. As my 8-year old son wants to play football, I spent most of the time learning the details of what to expect.

However, I was momentarily brought back to baseball by a situation I didn’t expect. One of the team Moms was confirming with kids and parents the sizes of jerseys and pants. For jersey numbers, she’d gone to the line and asked each kid. When I saw number 14 next to my son’s name, I questioned it.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “When we registered him, he wanted to be #11, after Kenshin Kawakami, the Braves Japanese pitcher.
The woman glanced back at her paper. “Well, I went through the line. That’s what he said.”

I got up from my spot on the bench and headed over to where my son was waiting his turn to enter the cage. I knelt down, so I could look him in the eye.

“I need to ask you something. What number do you want be again?”
“Fourteen,” he said, nodding.
“Are you sure? You told me before you wanted to be #11. Don’t you want to be Kawakami?”
My little guy shook his head. “Naah, I wanna be #14.”
“OK. Who’s #14?”
My son didn’t answer, so I pressed him again. “You can tell me. Who’s #14?”
He hesitated and then finally answered. “Nobody.”
“Nobody? You don’t want a number of another player?”
He looked at me and said, “No, Dad, I just want to be myself for a change.”

I had to admit. It was the best reason I’d ever heard of for choosing a number.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Shooting for the Moon

My second grader has a month-long project for school. He has to go out each night and look for the moon, check its phase, and record it on his chart. He remembers the assignment each night, though he remembers it late. Still, he gets excited about making a mark on his worksheet.

However, we’re on Day Four of the assignment and we’ve run into a snag we didn’t expect. We haven’t seen the moon.

I went out with him on the first night of the assignment and walked around the house. Nothing. I first thought it was a new moon (and thought what a stupid day to start the assignment), but then I went on-line and checked. Full moon expected.

Just with the thick clouds we couldn’t see it. I looked in the distance and could see one section of the clouds was much lighter, I knew the moon was there. But, it didn’t help. My little guy just wrote cloudy on his paper, hid a mournful look, and went to bed. Night two was pretty much the same. More thick clouds, but no moon, which produced a sad little boy.

On the third night, we were greeted with stars. I was ecstatic and knew my second grader would be, too. We went out to get our first glimpse of the “cold hearted orb that rules the night,” as the Moody Blues say.

Still nothing.

The main street in our neighborhood rolls up and down. Some houses are elevated. Others not. Our house is in low spot. We couldn’t see the moon. It was too low in the sky and not in our field of vision. My son wrote “too low in the sky.”

While at work on Day Four, I resolved to take the little guy on a drive. I was determined he would see the moon. The rain and clouds had other ideas. He wrote “cloudy” again on his sheet.

With 26 days to go, I know we will eventually have nights where he can see the moon. However, if this continues. I know he won’t get the full benefit of the exercise. I could show him on computer, but would that help?

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Passing On the Nerd Gene

One of my favorite movies, admittedly, is Revenge of the Nerds. In it, a fraternity of geeks takes on a fraternity of jocks for campus superiority. The nerds are battling for respect while the jocks are fighting to keep the “beautiful people” running things. At the end of the movie, the Nerds defeat the jocks in a campus competition and take over the Greek system. The jocks respond to their loss by trashing the nerds frat house. The movie ends at a pep rally, where one of the nerds is given a microphone. The head nerd gives a roaring speech about how many people might have themselves been thought of as a nerd at one time, inviting those who were to come down off the stands and join them, “No one will really be safe until nerd persecution ends.”

The one thing that always got to my friends and I during that last scene is when the entire band comes down off the stands and joins the nerds.

Why did this bother me?

Well, as you may have guessed, I and most of the friends I hung out with, were in the band. (“No, not the band,” we screamed.)

So, it was with great joy recently that I attended my sixth grade son’s first band concert. It was a wonderful evening with lots of proud parents. My son, who loves practicing on his clarinet, couldn’t get rid of his smile. He was having a good time.

After the concert, we took pictures of him and his best friend, a nice kid in the percussion section. It reminded me of me. I was in the drum section during my band years and my best friend played clarinet.

I don’t know if my son will do all of the things with band that I did. In high school, I played in marching band, jazz band, and a local orchestra. (Yes, I even went to band camp).

I hope he continues to enjoy it.

And I can relax, knowing I have successfully passed on my nerd gene to the next generation.