Monday, December 24, 2012

The Littlest Actor


Every family has a story that keeps on giving, one that will be retold for the rest of their days. This is ours. And while I have run it on previous Christmases, I hope you won't mind if I run it again. It occurred a few years ago, when we lived in Oregon. May you Christmas worship time be memorable to you.

Every Christmas Eve, my wife and I take our sons to the children’s service at our church. The service includes a kids’ pageant and our boys seem to pay closer attention than they do during the typical church service. Also, we feel that attending Mass on Christmas Eve provides a wonderful way to begin the holiday. After the service is over, we go out to dinner to the one place open on Christmas Eve, a Chinese restaurant.

While my wife and I believe every family Christmas is special, we cannot conceive that any will be more memorable than this one. It was to be a big night as our older son, Andrew, was finally old enough to participate in the Christmas pageant. He enjoyed two rehearsals and getting into costume, admirably playing the role of a shepherd.

Because church seating at Christmas is limited and we wanted to take pictures, we arrived almost an hour early to get a seat up front.We knew it would be difficult to keep our pre-school age son, Christopher, seated for the long service and the time before it. Therefore, my wife saved our seats while I played with Christopher and kept him entertained. When it was close to time, I corralled him and took him to our seats; he sat on my wife’s lap and anxiously looked for his older brother and the start of the show.

Just before the beginning of the pageant, the stuffy air in the crowded church became a little more unbearable than usual. As there were several babies in the immediate vicinity, my wife and I both thought one of them must have needed changing. Catching the odor, Christopher said aloud, “What’s that smell?” He turned around, looked at his Mom, and said, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!”

We did our best to quiet him down, while the people around us were suppressing their laughter. He continued on, repeating the words, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!” Eventually, Christopher quieted down and the pageant began.

After Mass ended, we walked to the car, buckled the kids in, and drove away. On the way to the Chinese restaurant, my wife and I discussed the incident. She realized that the words Christopher used in church were the same ones she had used with him during his potty training. Also, we were convinced one of the babies close to us during the service must have had a poopy diaper or probably just passed gas. We chuckled about it.

However, our little guy provided the last laugh. Overhearing the discussion, Christopher, with the smile that only a young child can produce, piped up with one more comment, “Oh, in church? That was me.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twain of Thought





I helped my 10-year old study for his history test over the weekend. It was big test, the end of the semester. It was to be open book, so my son thought it would be easy. His logic was wrong, as my wife and I explained to him. “‘Open book’ doesn’t mean you can look up every answer,” we told him. “You won’t have time. You still need to know most of the answers without the book, checking only when you’re unsure.” Despite his protests, he worked with me all weekend. When he came home yesterday, he was happy and said he’d done well on his test.

During his studies over the weekend, one of the items he had trouble remembering was the identity of Mark Twain.

When I first asked him about it, he stared back at me. “Who?”

“Mark Twain. He’s a famous author. He wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

“What’s that?”

I expressed shock at that point. I quizzed him further. Nothing. Given how mischievous my son is, I would have thought he’d have heard of Tom Sawyer, indentifying with him almost as easily as the first time he’d watched Ferris Bueller. No recognition.

A quick poll of my friends on Facebook revealed that it may be too early for Tom Sawyer. My son was only in fifth grade. Several of my friends suggested that my son wouldn’t see Tom Sawyer until middle school. Some said high school. Still, I was surprised that he hadn’t heard of Twain.

I plan to rectify that. I downloaded Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to my e-Reader. He’s already started on the first one. I plan to read it with him a bit over the holidays…as I wonder what else he may be missing in his education.

Readers, how about you? I’ve always found myself surprised at the amount of things my kids are studying at a younger age than I did. It’s why I count myself more surprised when I hear of things that aren’t there. Do you feel the same way?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas, only bigger



above picture from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

In summer, I wrote a story about a crepe myrtle that was blocking my son’s fastball. I trimmed the tree to get rid of low branches, a fix that would last for two weeks before I had to do it again.



However, more important than the son’s pitching was when my wife realized that the branches were scratching her car. She said we needed to take action and began researching the best way to prune a tree. Her research indicated December was the best time to cut away branches, allowing the tree to come back more healthy in the following spring. Last Saturday, we began cutting.

I think we overdid it.


After two hours last Saturday afternoon, our crepe myrtle resembled the Christmas tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The poor tree looked sad, stripped of its myriad branches. We may have killed it.
 
Then again, we may have made it stronger for the future.

I hope it’s the latter.

How about you? Did your decorating ever kill the outdoors? Did we do the right thing for the tree?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Being There






For both my kids, their fall seasons are now officially over. My younger son’s ended when his football team lost in the first round of rec league playoffs. For my older son, who is in marching band, his season ended last Friday when Mill Creek lost to North Cobb in the quarterfinals of the high school football playoffs. We offered my younger son the opportunity to play basketball; He declined. My older son still has Boy Scouts, but that doesn’t occupy his time the way marching band does.

Essentially, both boys are taking a rest, at least as far as a rest can be taken. They are focused on their school work, exams, and chilling a bit before baseball sign-ups in January.

As a parent, I’m enjoying the rest, too. For a brief time, we don’t have to be somewhere every night and can enjoy family meals together at a proper time, as opposed to eating early and piling them in the car. The break is welcome. 

For at least a month, we have the holidays. Prior to Thanksgiving, we went to the Great Wolf Lodge and then spent Thanksgiving with my parents. For Christmas and New Year’s, we will see family again. In the interim, we have the holiday rush with decorating, parties, etc.

But I’m enjoying it.

I spent most of the fall watching my kids enjoy their activities. I was there for them, in the stands and at the beginning and end of practice. Still, I was watching them.

For the next month or so, I stop watching my kids do things and instead do things with them. That’s the best part of the holidays.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Driving Dad Crazy





This afternoon, while I was driving on Peachtree Industrial, I reached a point where the road forks, with two lanes going right and another two lanes going left. As I was about to continue along in one of the lanes going right, a moron driving a pick-up in the far right lane realized he/she was going the wrong way.  This person, without signaling, cut across all lanes, including a short drive on the grass between the two tines of the fork.

I heaved a sigh. Thankfully, I was far enough away that I could put on my brakes in time.

And then part of me realized that my older son is fifteen.

When my son rides with me and is in the front passenger seat, I often point out things that he needs to think about. He’s still a long way from getting behind the wheel. He hasn’t even taken driver’s education yet. Still, it’s in the back of my mind, approaching like a freight train sliding on grease.

My wife and I have talked about what restrictions we’ll set on him. We plan on making him keep his permit. We’re already having discussions with his younger brother, who we know will try to irritate his older brother, regardless of the situation. We know we will set limitations on where he can drive as well as to the vehicle. We’re thinking a mini-tank on wheels.

Will it be enough?

My older sister discovered the shoulder of a road (and beyond) within two days of getting her license. It snowed on the day I got my license. I was thankful that I remembered my lessons on skidding when I hit that ice patch.

When your kids start driving, what restrictions do you put on them? I’d appreciate a few suggestions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Turkey Day to Remember





“Dad, are you coming to my school for Thanksgiving dinner on Friday?”

My 10-year old’s eyes held hope as he asked the question. I had already told him yes twice on the subject. His mother had also told him I was coming. Still, he wanted reassurance and he was going to ask the question again and again until the moment I showed up.

“Yes, I’ll be there.”

“Good, bring money. You’ll need to pay for your meal.”

My son went back to what he was doing, content for now. I wonder if he knew what I was thinking.

That he was in fifth grade and that this Friday would be my last chance to visit his school for a turkey day. They don’t have turkey days in middle school. As a parent, I know I mark milestones as they happen. However, when I can mark them in advance, it makes me more determined to be there on those days. There are no more kids after him.

My older son, a high school freshman, is already showing signs of his independence. We went to the Georgia Dome recently to watch his high school marching band perform in a competition. Though it was all day program, we only stayed for the morning session. Before we left, my wife went over to see him and make sure he had enough money to buy himself dinner. She came back a few minutes later.

“You didn’t need to go down there,” I said.

She gave a half smile. “Well, I didn’t want him to go hungry tonight.”

“Didn’t you see his hand gestures waving you off?”

“Yes.”

“Didn’t you see that he was sitting between two cute blonde girls?”

My wife ignored me after that, which 1% of the time means I’m right and the other 99% of the time means that I’m in trouble. (It’s so rare that I’m part of the 1%.) However, at least she accepted our son telling her that he was fine.

And so, with Friday approaching, I look forward to my last turkey day with my younger son. It’s come too soon.

So how about you? Do you feel differently as you watch milestones approach vs. not seeing them until they happen? What are your favorite moments?

Special thanks to all the blog visitors from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). My blog traffic has more than doubled since the beginning of ACFW’s First Impressions writing contest. I’m enjoying serving as coordinator for the Young Adult/Children’s category.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't Touch Our Quarterback




My 10-year old’s football season ended recently. After a 6-2 fall, they made the playoffs but lost in the first round. It was his third season of great memories and he’s already excited about next fall. 

However, there is one bad memory from his first season that he’ll never forget. During his first season, when my son was playing defense in an away game, a referee walked up to him and uttered the following words: “Don’t touch our quarterback.” To my son, the intent of the referee’s comments was clear. The ref favored the other team.

I thought about this incident recently as I was discussing the election with my older son. My 15-year old son has a language disability. Because of this, he has difficulty understanding abstract concepts and often asks me about them. With the election in the news, my son asked me about “media bias.”

I started with the football example above. The media are like referees calling an athletic event. There are two teams, the Democrats and Republicans. The referees are supposed to be fair. However, most people who choose news media for their career tend to support Democrats over Republicans. Because of this, many of them tend to write the news so it helps Democrats and hurts Republicans.

As an example, I reminded my son of the 2nd presidential debate. As I told my son, CNN’s Candy Crowley criticized Governor Romney’s comments on Libya during the debate. Later, after the debate, Crowley admitted that Romney got it right.

“Shouldn’t the apology be good,” my son asked.
“Think about it,” I said. “How would you feel if someone lied about you in front of your class and then admitted later just to you that he/she was wrong?”
He agreed that it wouldn’t be good.
“That’s what Crowley did,” I said. “She lied about Governor Romney in front of millions of people and then corrected himself in front of a much smaller group. “Everyone heard her criticize Romney. Few heard her apology.” (Click here to see Crowley admit she got it wrong.)

I told him that something similar happened on a recent episode of an NBC Sunday news show called Meet the Press (October 28). On MTP, the guests debated the trustworthiness of presidential candidates and criticizing Governor Romney. When one guest brought up the Administration’s recent stories about Libya as an example of President Obama’s lack of trustworthiness, MTP’s moderator, David Gregory, shut the guest down, saying that they would talk about it later. The subject never came up again. (Click here for the transcript.)

My older son gave his opinion on these examples, saying it wasn’t fair. I told him I agreed, but also told him the truth: nothing could be done. Most news media tend to be support Democrats.  Unfortunately, like the referee that told my younger son, “Don’t touch our quarterback,” media types like Crowley and Gregory use their positions to convey their belief: “Don’t touch our President.”

It’s interesting to note that on Sunday evening, CBS’s 60 Minutes released a clip they edited from an interview they did with President Obama a few weeks ago. (Click here.) The clip supports the position Governor Romney made in the 2nd debate. Media bias explains why they hid it. Why it was released now suggests one thing. The next abstract concept I may have to explain to my teenager is CYA. 

The blogger contacted both Meet the Press, State of the Union (Crowley’s show), and 60 Minutes, but received no response prior to publication.

Clipart from www.primoclipart.com 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Love A Good Premise





One of the things that easily draws me into a book is a good premise. What draws me through it is how that premise plays out. One of the most common premises is that of the romance between the rich guy and the woman who has dedicated her life to those less fortunate. When done well, it works, and it tells a good story.

However, in the story, Season of Joy, by my good friend, Virginia Carmichael, this premise is taken to a new and enjoyable finish with role reversal and a cast of secondary characters that makes you look again at the kindness of the people around you. Set in Denver, and told so well you can feel the snowy air and smell the turkey, Season of Joy makes you want to help people, discovering that in truly helping other we learn about ourselves. The back cover blurb is below.

As the holiday season approaches, wealthy CEO Calista Sheffield wants to give instead of receive. So she volunteers at a downtown Denver shelter, never expecting that her own scarred heart will be filled with hope and healing. The mission’s director, Grant Monohan, has devoted his life to helping those in need. But his harrowing past—makes him wary of Calista. Unless she shares her painful history, he’ll never believe they can have a future. But a future with Grant at the shelter is the only Christmas gift Calista truly wants.

It may be odd to think of Christmas with Halloween only a day away. (Some department stores did break out the Christmas stuff in September.) However, this book is due out on November 1, and can be ordered here at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It will put you in the mood for the season. You can even download a sample to your Nook or a Kindle or read it on-line. Enjoy…and Merry Happy Halloween Christmas.


Prayers and good wishes to my family and friends in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. May Sandy pass you by without incident.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One More Step To Go





My son became a Life Scout last night.

For those of you unfamiliar with scouting, Life Scout is the rank just below Eagle Scout. The rank order is Scout -> Tenderfoot -> Second Class -> First Class -> Star -> Life -> Eagle. In the history of scouting, just over 2% of Boy Scouts have become Eagle Scouts.

I’m proud of how far my son has gotten. He’s wanted to be an Eagle Scout ever since he became a Boy Scout. He started years ago, mapping out his course. Now he has only one step left and has a little over two years left to achieve that final step. Once he turns 18, he’ll age out of Scouting. He has to earn his Eagle rank before then. He has two more merit badges to acquire. That will be the easy part. He has an Eagle project to complete. That will be the hard part.

My son is now a freshman in high school. His homework amount has increased dramatically from middle school. He’s also in marching band and that takes a great deal of commitment. There are several other Life Scouts in his troop that are sophomores in high school. They’ve told him to get working on his project as soon as can. He’ll have less and less time as he gets older. Those sophomores are already feeling the challenge of finishing their projects.

As I was driving my son home from his scout meeting, I congratulated him on earning his latest rank. Then, I asked him if he’d given any thought to his project. He said he’d work on it beginning next week.

For now, he just wanted to enjoy it and get some sleep.

I have no doubt he’ll make it.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fair and Foul Language





As a parent, one thing I do not like hearing from my kids is the use of any foul language. When I hear it, I reprimand them immediately. However, I had an unexpected reaction to my older son’s use of an impolite word last week.

A week ago, I was engaging in the usual back-and-forth driving with kids’ activities. My older son had marching band practice that ended at 6:00 p.m. My younger son had football practice that started at 6:00 p.m. The two practices are about a mile apart. So, my plan was to drop off my younger son at football practice, watch him until practice starts, and then head to marching band practice. This schedule works as marching band often finishes late. However, that night, my cell phone rang with my older son, sounding a little frantic and wondering where I was. I told him I was on my way and would be their shortly.

When I picked him up, I looked at him and said, “You finished early today.”

My son nodded. “Yeah, and I didn’t know where the (bleep) you were.”

I immediately corrected him, saying that he shouldn’t use that language. He apologized. Still, part of me had to smile.

As I’ve mentioned in the post before, my older son has a severe speech delay. He’s a smart kid, but he speaks English like it’s a second language. Grammar is a constant challenge for him. And though I reprimanded him for the language he used, part of me was happy. To use the curse where it sounds like natural English takes an extra grammatical step. He’d done it right.

I admit it’s the oddest reason to be smile.

But when you have a kid with special challenges, you sometimes find happiness in the unique milestones.
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quarter End


It's quarter end at my office and I'm focused on the office. Have a great day. I'll be back next week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fear of Flying -- Once a Year



Tuesday a week ago was September 11th. Given the importance of the day, I felt like writing a memorial post. However, one thing kept me from doing so.

I had to board a plane.

For the second time in the last 11 years, I had to fly on September 11th. I shouldn’t be afraid. I know it’s probably a stupid fear. Airports likely lock down more on September 11th than any other day of the year, making it a safer day to fly than most. Still, I didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want to mention it to my wife and kids. Didn’t want them to know that I was nervous about it. Didn’t want to create unnecessary worry. And things were fine. My flight was full. The airport was full, too. It took me a long time to find a parking space as well as a long time to get through security. I held my breath when I boarded at the Atlanta airport and breathed a sigh of relief when I got to my hotel in Tampa.

Like I said, it’s an irrational fear. I was in more danger when I drove myself to and from the Atlanta airport than I was on the plane.

Yet the only thing I cared about was getting home to my wife and kids—the one place in the world where I feel more safe than anywhere else.


Does it bother you when you fly? Would it bother you more to fly on September 11th?



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sleeping the Sleep of the Guilty





I overslept last Friday.

I didn't mean to. I'd set my alarm. I’d planned to get up, but as I stared through a groggy haze, I couldn't push myself out of bed. Then my front door beeped and I realized what was happening.

I was about to miss seeing off my teenage son for school.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago--how my son leaves for school early in the morning. I started getting up early with him as I don’t want him to go off to school alone in the dark. I know he's a big boy. I know he's capable. But I'm his dad. I promised him I'd be up.

And when that beep went off, I realized I'd broken my promise.

I called out his name to wait for a second, grabbed some shorts and a t-shirt, and rushed downstairs. He was putting on his shoes. He had just stepped outside to see if he could hear the bus coming. It comes early sometimes. I'd made it, I guessed, with a few seconds to spare. I didn't feel happy about it, but it felt like a reprieve, a second chance to do right.

He came home from school that afternoon and I told him to rest. His high school had an away game that day and he had to go as part of the marching band. I needed to have him to the school to catch the bus to the game.

Some time around 11:00 p.m., I showed up at the high school to pick him up. The bus rolled in later. He couldn't leave right away as he had to help the band unpack and put his own stuff away. Finally, we could leave. We got home just before midnight. I'd had a long day, but his had been longer. I'd been there at both ends of his day but still felt like I'd failed.

I know this won't be the first time I oversleep. I'm getting older and I just can't keep up. However, I need to get to bed earlier, so I can make both ends of his day and everything in between.

Because I'm his dad.

Clipart from www.clipartpal.com


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How Can You Kill A Second Half?



 
How can you kill a second half?
How can you stop a boy from adding six?
How can you stop a kid from scoring?
What makes a team slow down?
(Sung to the tune “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees)

Football season has begun for my 10-year old. They’ve played two games so far, winning both. They won last weekend by a score of 32 – 0. However, there’s just one thing. At halftime, the score was 32 – 0.

My son’s football league has a rule that prohibits outscoring a team by more than 32 points and will fine teams that do $150. Unfortunately, a lopsided score happens sometimes. There are nearly 40 teams in the league and some are much stronger than others. When they square off, the score looks bad. The rule is in place to prevent embarrassment.

After watching last weekend, I wonder if the alternative isn’t worse. Everything went right for my son’s team early. When an interception that was run back for a touchdown put them up 32-0, the team was stuck. From there, it got interesting. The coaches told the kids not to score. They also told them to occasionally fumble, to run out of bounds despite a clear lane to the end zone, and even asked the refs to call phantom holding penalties, all in the name of sportsmanship. By the end, they’d preserved the 32 – 0 final.

However, some time during the game, I began thinking about the other team. It was obvious the kids were messing up on purpose. I wondered how this made the other team feel. One of the parents mentioned they were going to write a letter to the league. My response was that I doubted it would do any good.

How do you think the other team felt watching the second half? And what do you think about the rule?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is a Tree More Beautiful Than a Fastball?



We have a crepe myrtle in our front yard. The blooms add a nice touch of color in the spring and summer. However, there’s a problem with it. Some of its branches overhang our driveway.  For most people, this would likely mean that the branches could scratch one’s car twice a day. However, for us it’s a different problem.

The branches impede my son’s fastball.

With a hill for a backyard, the driveway is the only place my closer-in-training can practice his pitching. Football season has started and baseball won’t crank up again until next February. However, every day that my son doesn’t have football practice becomes a day for pitching practice. And not a week goes by where we don’t have to trim the tree. Every time it rains, the branches hang lower. We cut, pitch, cut and pitch again.

My wife worries every time we take the cutters, saying that I give little thought to the tree’s appearance. However, the issue has never been about appearance so much as clearing a path. I do my best to trim only blooms that are past their prime, leaving the ones that have room to grow. I have to do my best. The tree will continue to grow. So will my son.

As for the tree, does anyone have a better idea?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Lesson of the Honey Badger


Picture from LSU Sportsnet website
Like any football fan, my 10-year old has certain players he loves to watch, players that are not part of his favorite team but still make the game exciting. One of those players was Tyrann Mathieu, known to college football fans everywhere as the Honey Badger.

Up until a week ago, Tyrann Mathieu played for LSU. A Heisman finalist last season, he was an incredible defensive player. (Click here to see his bio from LSU’s website.) This fall, he could have led LSU to a national championship, but he was kicked off the team for breaking the rules.

I told my 10-year old what happened and it upset him. What did Honey Badger do he asked? I told him I didn’t know but asked my son if he understood what it meant. Rules matter and they apply to even the best.

As my son watches college football and wishes he could watch Mathieu play, I hope the lesson sinks in a little more.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Night Bus




I set the alarm for early. I didn’t need to. Knowing that my son had to catch a bus at 6:10 a.m. for his first day of high school made me anxious and I woke up anyway.

As I sloughed downstairs toward the coffee machine, I thought over my son's upcoming busy day. He has six classes before going to lunch. There’s one class after lunch and then school’s over. He could catch the bus after that, but he has marching band practice, which begins an hour after school ends. He will spend this hour studying before getting a good workout and then going home.

So, with darkness prevalent outside, I poured myself a cup of coffee and enjoyed a bowl of mini-wheats while he chowed down on frosted flakes. I soon realized my wife, who equates rising in the darkness to pigs flying, was up as well. She wanted to say goodbye before he left, too.
My older son before he leaves for school.
My wife took pictures to mark the day. Then, I walked him to his bus stop. We were the first to arrive, but another kid showed up a minute later. At that point, I knew he would want me to leave. So, I said goodbye and avoided every instinct in me that wanted to give him a hug.

As I reached the front steps of my house, the bus entered our subdivision. The bus drove to the back and then turned around, passing our house, and then stopped at the place where I’d left my son. It was hard to tell in the darkness, but it looked as if ten kids got on the bus.

The engine noise rose and then faded away as the bus left our neighborhood. My wife sighed as it did. “That sound used to wake me in the morning,” she said. “Hard to believe my son is now on that bus.” They grow so fast.

I took a shower and got ready for work, packing my briefcase and fixing my lunch. As I was about to leave, I heard the sound of small footsteps as my ten-year old sloughed downstairs, headed for the fridge and some orange juice.

He had come down to say goodbye.

He didn’t want me to leave without getting a hug.

My younger son before he leaves for school.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sleeping the Sleep of Little Angels



My wife and I bought a loveseat for our bedroom a few months ago. We can use it when we watch TV as it’s very comfortable. Unfortunately, it’s too small to sleep on for those days I find myself in the doghouse.

However, one individual in our house doesn’t have the problem with the loveseat length that I do. My 10-year old thinks the length is perfect for him.

It used to be that our 10-year old would come to our room in the middle of the night during thunderstorms, lugging his blanket along with a pillow and a sheet, and sack out on the floor. However, with the love seat, he now skips the floor and goes straight to the comfy cushions.

Every night.

I try to get him to sleep in his own room. I tuck him in and hug him good night, telling him that he needs to spend the night in his own bed. Every night he promises to stay there.

Then, some time in the middle of the night, my wife and I will be awakened by the grinding of teeth. We look over at the couch and there our son is, sleeping away. Either my wife or I will then get up and nudge the little guy so that he stops grinding his teeth.  We could try to get him to go back to his own bed, but at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, both my wife and I are too tired to push the issue.

My wife says he’ll grow out of it eventually. I know he will. At some point, sleeping in the same room as your parents loses meaning for a kid. I hope that day comes soon.

But when it does, I know I’ll miss it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Losing Sleep




Two Thursdays ago, with a knee injury that gave me no respite, I finally headed to see a local orthopedist to have it looked at. The diagnosis was that I would need a cortisone shot. I was told the shot would make my knee tender and that I would need to ice it over the weekend.

I wasn’t looking forward to being sidelined and spending much of the weekend on the couch, but I found a pleasant surprise when I got home. I had received a copy of Keli Gwyn’s A Bride Opens Shopin El Dorado, California. A blurb from the book is below.

Widow Elenora Watkins heads to California with her nine-year-old daughter, Tildy, eager to become a partner in a mercantile. When the mulish owner withdraws his offer because she’s a woman, she opens her own shop. She’s determined to prove herself capable of running a successful business without the help of anyone—including her controlling father, her seemingly distant heavenly Father, and one Miles Rutledge.

Widower Miles Rutledge is not about to get involved with another willful woman like his late wife, especially when she’s his competition. But the beautiful Elenora may be too hard to resist. When another man appears out to claim Elenora’s heart, Miles searches for a way to win her back. . .while putting her out of business.

Meanwhile, Maude Rutledge, Miles’s meddling mother, longs to see her son make a good match. And Tildy is just as bent on gaining a loving papa.

The battle of wills begins, but can anyone win when the competition is more than they bargained for?
I like to say the book held my attention, but that would be understating it. I love the short quick scenes in the book, as the action moves back and forth, keeping me turning the page. I tried to keep reading that first night, but sleep eventually won sometime around 1:00 a.m. When I woke up briefly at 4:00 a.m., I grabbed the book and devoured two more chapters before going back to bed.
I eventually finished the book early Saturday morning, waking up early to read the last few chapters just so I could go back to bed.

My wife would tell you that I don’t sleep much. Still, for this book, I lost quite a bit of the little sleep I get. I can’t think of any higher praise than that.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Of Good Hugs and Bad Knees




My 10-year old loves a good hug.

When he gives someone a hug, he wraps them up and doesn’t let go, hanging on those people until he has to be separated from them. With me, it has added oomph.  When he hugs me, he treats me as if I have the football and he’s on defense. He gets a running start and slams into me, as if he’s trying to take me to the ground. It’s a struggle to keep standing sometimes. I admit, though, that it’s fun.

However, a few weeks ago, I twisted my knee and have been hobbling ever since.  Given the pain, I was convinced I knew what it was, a partial tear of a ligament in my left knee. That may be an odd self-diagnosis, but I did tear a ligament in my knee twenty years ago. I remember the way the pain felt back then. The pain I have now feels the same. Twenty years ago, I rehabbed my knee by wearing a brace and getting a lot of physical therapy. After trying and failing to rehab it on my own, I finally went to see a doctor. The doctor agreed with my diagnosis, believing that I aggravated whatever I did twenty years ago. He referred me to a specialist and I made an appointment. Now all I can do is limp and wait.

My 10-year old though, didn’t realize the pain I was in until a few days ago. Getting a good running start with his football tackle hug one morning before I went to work, he smashed into me. I reacted to steady myself, applying major torque to my knee, and making a bad problem worse. He saw the pain on my face and wondered what happened. He felt sad. I explained that it wasn’t his fault and told him not to worry but asked that he take it easy on me for a while. He has since cut back on the tackles, but he still tries to hug me every morning. He hangs on a little, and then lets go.

With any luck, the damage to my knee is minor. Maybe I just need to stay off it for a while and use a brace. I have been putting ice packs on it a lot to deal with the pain, but I know ice alone won’t do the trick. Whatever the fix, I hope it’s quick.

Because my 10-year old is growing up.

And as he gets older, he may not want to hug me at all for a while. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Man Can Cook


My wife took our kids to the beach this week. They left Father’s Day morning, so we celebrated Father’s Day on Saturday. They caravanned with my younger sister and her kids. My brother-in-law, like me, has to work and couldn’t get away either.

Before she left, my wife prepared dinners for me and stuck them in the freezer, letting me know that she’d taken care of the week and suggested I should go out to eat a couple of nights. This is nothing new. She’s done it before. There have been times before when my family had to go on vacation without me. It’s a fact of life and fact of work, and one that keeps the bills paid.

However, there was something a little different about this trip.

It’s the first time I can remember that I didn’t take at least a tad bit of offense at my wife’s preparations for making sure I would eat well in the evenings.

My wife does the cooking at our house and she’s better at it than I am. However, it’s not like I can’t cook.  There have been times when I handled the cooking for myself and the kids. I also was on my own for a few years before I got married and I survived.

So, on previous trips, when my wife did all the prep work for me, I would get a little bit miffed. I took her preparations as implying that I was helpless without her. And while it may be true, it’s still a lot to take. I know I can cook.

The truth is, so does my wife.

When she prepares meals for me, she doesn’t do it to imply that I can’t cook. She does it as she knows that I work hard every day and she wants to make dinner as easy as possible for me when I get home.

It’s not a sign of concern,

It’s a show of love.

Man can learn to cook. I’ve proved that.

However, more important is that Man Can Learn.

Honey, I can’t wait to see you and the boys when you return. I love you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Black Rubber Pellets a Harbinger of Fall


My back seat is dotted with little black rubber pellets.

This event first happened two years ago when my younger son started playing football. The local park where they played nearly half of the games has turf made from recycled tires (similar to the baseball field of the Tampa Bay Rays). Little pieces break off and get into kids clothes and shoes. The pieces end up in the car and in front of the door where my son removes his cleats.

We didn’t have to deal with the black pellets much during my son’s first season. He practiced at a local middle school, so we only saw the pellets the few times that he played games at the local park. However, last season he went to pre-season “strength and agility” camp, held at the park, and then practiced at the park through the football season. Every day, there were more and more pellets in my car.

I tried to clean the pellets out of the car. It made it better for a while. However, by mid season, I felt like I'd thrown out the equivalent of a tire. What was worse was that they all over the garage. Once, when my mother visited, she saw the pellets and got alarmed. She thought we had mice. She relaxed after I told her what it really was, a sign that football is on the schedule. After the season was over, I took the car to a car wash and vacuumed as much as I could, at least before the vacuum valves got stopped up.

Well, with the end of school and the start of June, Strength and Agility Camp have begun. The camp is being held at the park. And my car is, as I said above, dotted with black pellets.

A sign that football season is on its way.

A sign that hours of practice and team building with parents is on its way.

And a sign that the game that I watch live on Saturday is more important than any game I will watch on TV.

It may be June, but the excitement of fall is building.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eagle Time


My teenager wants to be an Eagle Scout.

He came to Scouting later than most boys. He didn’t participate in Scouts when we lived in Oregon. When he first heard about Scouts here in Georgia, he was already at the age of a Webelo, the last step before shifting to Boy Scouts.  

Still, he joined and has had a lot of fun with it. He’s been on camping trips, visited many places, learned a lot, and attended summer camp. This summer will be his third year of summer camp. Something inside me, though, tells me it will be his last year.

At this time, he’s currently a Star Scout. He’s completing his six-month leadership requirement that he needs to reach the rank of Life Scout, one step below Eagle. After he completes his leadership requirement, he’ll go through a Board of Review and then hopefully earn his Life badge. This should happen sometime in July. After that, only the Eagle Scout rank remains.  

To obtain Eagle, he will need another six-month leadership position, service hours, completion of certain merit badges (almost done already). What worries him, though, is the requirement of an Eagle service project.

The service project will take a lot of time and planning, time that he will have little of pretty soon. He starts high school in the fall and is getting involved with marching band. Because he has marching band camp within a couple of weeks of returning from scout camp, the majority of my son’s free time will disappear. Also, the marching band is planning a trip to Europe his sophomore year. He needs to start raising money now.

When he’s not in the band, he will be doing baseball. He won’t be trying out for the school team, as he doesn’t want to spend the season on the bench. Instead, he’ll play rec ball where he gets three at-bats per game and gets rotated between the outfield and second base. He has two spring seasons of rec ball left before he’ll age out of what’s organized locally. He gave up fall baseball last year because he had too much going on already. Nothing, though, will eclipse his last two seasons of spring ball.

Then there’s the little matter of studying.

My son knows he needs to maintain his grades in order to enjoy extracurricular activities. He’s always been studious. On the last day of school, he came home, plopped into a chair, and began his summer reading selection.

Yet, he still wants to be an Eagle.

My wife asked me how important the Eagle was. I responded it was important enough to put on college applications and resumes. It’s a recognized example of dedication and commitment. A friend of mine warned me that making Eagle requires a huge commitment during the middle school years as high school boys get obsessed with “the fumes,” such as car fumes and perfumes, in high school. Many give up on their Eagle dreams for lack of time. My son, too, may find before he turns eighteen (the age at which he must leave Boy Scouts), that he juggling too much and has to cut things.

Hopefully, he won’t have to leave Boy Scouts before he climbs this last step.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

To Do


Sometimes, I sit in front of my computer and wonder what I’m going to post on my blog. If I write something and do a poor job of it, my wife will look at me and say “you mailed it in.”

Hopefully, I’ve never really “mailed it in,” but there are times when a column hits me well before the day I write and then sometimes where I look at something I prepared for a post and totally scrap it at the last minute and compose something new.

Sometimes, though, I’m just at a loss for words.

Last week was one of those times.

It’s not that was looking for something to write. It’s that I didn’t know what to say.

Last Wednesday was the last day of school. We have just over two months before school starts again. And something in me realized that that one of my kids will be in high school and one of my kids will begin his last year of elementary school. It feels like both of them are moving to a point where they won’t be kids anymore.

The summer is already packed. My younger son, looking forward to football in the fall, is scheduled for football/agility camp this summer to get him into shape before the fall. He’ll be busy. My older son will have both band camp and boy scout camp this summer.  He’ll be busy, too. We’ve squeezed in a beach trip for one point in the summer where it’s available. My kids won’t lack for activities.

But will I find that I lack for time. They are getting busier as they get older. My time with them has shrunk and will continue to do so. Am I taking advantage of what time I have to spend with them?

I hope so.

Because as they get older, I’m more cognizant of the scant time I have left.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Goodbye to My Favorite Author


I like to read.

It’s a common thing among people who write for a hobby. Writers enjoy reading. Because of this, writers have favorite authors, people whose books we’ve read over and over. People whose new books we buy when they come out. I’ve reread Tolkien’s The Hobbit a number of times and am currently introducing my sons to it (in advance of seeing the movie). I love the works of Barry Eisler, Haywood Smith, Karen White, Dianna Love, and Debby Giusti.    

However, when I heard last week that Maurice Sendak had died, I realized that my most favorite author was gone. Sendak’s works were around when I was a kid, but I don’t remember reading them back then or even hearing of them. I missed out on a lot.

When my older son was born, I got my second chance.

My older son developed like all other kids for the first eighteen months. After that, he went into a shell. We had trouble getting him to talk at all. We tried numerous therapies to bring it out of him. We also increased the amount of reading we did with him.

We use to take him to bookstores. Any book he showed the least bit of interest in, we purchased it. Still, we didn’t get the reaction we hoped for.

Then we discovered Where the Wild Things Are.

My son smiled with delight each night as more than once the monsters “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth.” Then, when the time arrived, my son jumped up and yelled, “Let the wild rumpus start.”

We would dance around the room, pretending to have a party. Then we’d come to stop and finish the story.

We had a lot of wild rumpuses in those days. A lot of happy times. When the movie came out, I took him and his younger brother. But the story on the screen didn’t quite live up to the book.

Because of this story, my wife and I bought other Sendak books to read to my son, books such as In the Night Kitchen and The Nutshell Library. My son loved them all. He could repeat them with me as we read.

I’ll always be grateful to Mr. Sendak for his creations.

I owe him a lot.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Sendak, from one of your biggest fans.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Finer Things




My 10-year old has a knack for appreciating the finer things when it comes to food.

Sometimes, though, I wish he’d be like every other kid.

I recently returned from a business trip to Rio. I didn’t want to go crazy with the souvenirs, but I did pick up a few things: Brazilian coffee, a popular brand of flip-flops, and rocks from southern Brazil that supposedly have the power to help children study.

I also bought chocolate.

A popular Brazilian confectioner, Kopenhagen, makes delicious chocolate. I picked up a box that was high quality and somewhat expensive. If I offered it to the kids, I figured they might view it like a truffle. If they didn’t like the taste, then my wife and I would be happy to finish it off. Or we might save it for later. The pieces were so big that eating one at a single sitting amounts to a calorie bomb that would make Krispy Kreme look light by comparison.

On my first night home, Saturday, I pulled out one of the large chocolate treats, telling my 10-year old that he and I could split it as we watched our family night movie. He took one bite and then had trouble sharing it after that. I told him that he must have liked it.

He said it was “okay.”

I should have listened to my instincts. On Sunday night, we found him with chocolate wrappers in hand, remnants of the chocolate treat dotting his fingers as most of the treat was already on the way to his stomach.

He’d finished the box.

I’d like to say that this was the first time something like this had happened, but we’ve seen it before. Four years ago we took a trip to Japan to visit family and friends. While sightseeing on the northern coast, we found an upscale sushi restaurant. My wife figured that we could get the kids soup and rice, a typical Japanese staple that they ate often, and that she and I would enjoy sushi.

And then my son asked, “Mom, what’s that pink stuff?”

“It’s raw fish,” she answered, hoping that would be enough to kill any interest.

“Can I try it?” he asked.

Leave it to my younger son to discover that he likes sushi in an expensive restaurant.

It’ll likely be a long time before I have a chance to return to Brazil. However, when I go, I’ll be sure to pick up some more chocolate.

Thankfully, neither my wife nor I eat caviar.