Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Talk

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but I was definitely hoping for later.

Saturday morning I had to have 'the talk' with Mini-Me.

Five just seems too young, but he said some things that told me it was time.

I was in the kitchen baking my umpteenth sheet of Christmas cookies while the kids and Rach were playing in the living room. In the background, I had the newly released McDonald's Cardinals World Series Championship DVD playing. It was a perfect morning full of the smell of cookies baking, the memories of championship baseball, and the sounds of children playing together without whining.

That's when it happened...a highlight of Albert Pujols hitting a home run caught Mini-Me's attention.

Yes, that Albert Pujols. The Albert Pujols Mini-Me calls Uncle Albert thanks to the fantasies of his aunt. The Albert Pujols whose first pitch, first at-bat home run during Mini-Me's first baseball game at Busch Stadium ignited fireworks above the stadium AND in Mini-Me's heart. The Albert Pujols whose first eleven seasons were beyond amazing. The Albert Pujols who is now a Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim.

"Wubster! Get up! Clap! Albert just hit a home run! Albert Pujols just hit a home run, Wubster! C'mon! We have to go cheer!"

The boys jumped up and scampered in front of the television, clapping and smiling. Tears welled up in my eyes.

"Wubster, Albert hit a home run! We have to cheer for him. Look at the fireworks, Wubster! Albert hit a home run and we cheer for him, but he's not our team anymore. He's on another team now, but we can still cheer for him. Right, daddy? Wubster, we can still cheer, but the Cardinals won't have as many home runs and fireworks anymore."

My tongue stumbled over the words my brain had not yet formed. I didn't think I'd have to talk to Mini-Me about this so soon. He must have heard kids talking at school!

"Daddy, why did Albert leave?"
Oh, uh, well...maybe you should ask your mother that question.
Oh, no you don't. This is a father-son talk. This isn't my job. Mini-Me, your dad will tell you.
Well, you see, Mini-Me, when a man and a woman really, really love each other...
Doug!
Er, well then, you know how you like playing with your Lego blocks?
"Yeah..."
You like your Legos, but if someone else had a lot more Legos, including some you didn't have...
"Like the AT-AT and the Turbo Tank and the Attack Shuttle and the..."
Yeah, yeah...like those...and they wanted to give them to you, would you keep your Legos or play with theirs?
"I'd play with the AT-AT!"
Well that's what happened...Albert's going to play with their AT-AT for the next 10 years.
"Why does the man and woman really, really love each other?"
Um...want a cookie?

Okay, so it wasn't my best explanation, but the cookie worked. Hopefully it'll work just as well in a few years.

P.S. Dear NaBloPoMo...sorry I failed you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dear Poltergeist Toys,

I've checked historical records and the house wasn't built on a Native American toy burial ground. I've checked your switches and they're off. I called Egon Spangler and he couldn't find any ectoplasm.

I'm not sure how or why you've been tormenting us with your random electronic squeals, but I will say we know you're here and we don't want to play.

Don't make me call Sam and Dean Winchester.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Welcome Home

After watching the videos I recorded for them, the kiddos decided to make some of their own. Here's a sampling of what awaited my return...

video

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dear Mini-Me, Wubster, and Mickey,

I miss you guys. Even when I called and heard the screech-filled chaos reverberating throughout the background, I missed you guys.

I miss the random one-liners, the imaginative adventures, the joyful exuberance. I even miss the dinnertime drama, the sibling taunting, and the glass shattering shrieks...a little.

Mickey, I miss your snuggles.
Wubster, I miss your smile.
Mini-Me, I miss watching you paint.

Today I had the chance to chat with Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, authors/illustrators of several of the books we've enjoyed reading at bedtime. I thanked them for their contributions to our family, but mostly I talked about how much I enjoyed reading with you guys. Mini-Me, I told them you've started reading on your own and how proud of you I am. Wubster, I told them how you can spell your name and several colors. Mickey, I told them it won't be long and you'll be reading, too. I thanked them again and walked away excited to have met them and excited to read some new books with you three.

But mostly I walked away and thought about how I was going to miss reading with you tonight.

I certainly hope you've enjoyed the story-time videos I recorded before I left, but I hope you're as excited as I am to snuggle up together with a few books when I get home on Sunday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dearest Inspiration,

Some days you escape me. 

Today it seems you've sneaked out the window with your pal, Motivation.

Seated on the couch in the dark, I'll be waiting up for your return.

I won't yell or scream, send you to your room or ground you for weeks.

I'll embrace you and ask you never to leave again.

I'll put you right to work, but all the while, you'll be looking for another way out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Sirens' Song

Dear Scissors, Gum, and Permanent Markers,

Please stop...

Just stop being so tantalizing to Mini-Me.

The "fireworks" are finally fading from our kitchen table and Mini-Me's hair survived what could have been an ugly battle fairly unscathed tonight.

I'm watching you three...don't give him any more crazy ideas.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We've Reached an Impasse

Dear Stubbornness,




We're not getting anywhere anytime soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dear Pet Crate,

It's not bad parenting if they want to sleep in there, right?*

*No children actually slept in the crate after the making of this picture

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Dear Shin Guard,

Look, I know Mini-Me hasn't taken good care of you lately, leaving you strewn about in the kitchen or abandoned in the back of the van. I know you want to be tucked warmly, safely, securely into his cubby. I know because we're more alike than you realize.

Umm...no, I don't have to spend hours inside Mini-Me's sweaty socks. What's that? Oh, no, I don't suffer the abuse of five-year-old soccer players' wayward kicks. Yeah, no...you're right. We're nothing alike...'cause I know where I am. Yeah, that's right. How's that feel!?!

No...I don't feel good about that. I'm sorry. It's just that searching for you right before each game is driving me so crazy I think I can actually have conversations with you.

I know you're around the house somewhere. Probably in an incredibly obvious spot that I've looked at three-hundred times in all my searches. I know Mini-Me needs to learn to take responsibility for his belongings and he should be the one looking for you, but he has a tendency to put on his super-tunnel-vision-goggles anytime I ask him to help search...they only allow him to see (and get distracted by) what's not helpful.

I won't give up hope, shin guard. Your twin is safe in the cubby already. I know you're out there. I will find you. I will win.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This...

Dear Mini-Me and The Wubster,

I had a blast playing Star Wars with you tonight with the action figures. First and foremost, thank you for letting me be Jango Fett. He's got a cool helmet and a jet pack...I'm proud of your willingness to share. Speaking of, Mini-Me, your willingness to share Captain Rex with The Wubster impressed me as well. You guys both did a great job of sharing tonight.

As we played, I'm sure you noticed my skillfully created weaponry sounds, deftly switching from rapid-fire lasers to concussive photon blasts to booming bazookas. Don't worry, boys. One day, I'll share the secrets of these skills, but for now, just rest assured that my arsenal's got your backs when we're surrounded by droidekas!

Of course, the best part of tonight's adventure was the victory dance party. Wubster, having Captain Rex perform the Cabbage Patch topped my clone trooper Hammer Dance, but Mini-Me, you really knocked it out of the park when your clone trooper brought out the confetti canon. Our celebration was better than anything those Ewoks could ever throw!

Sleep tight tonight, we've got missions to complete tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Time to Start the Music

Dear Jim Henson,

The boys saw a preview for The Muppets tonight and were thrilled at the prospect of going to see the film. I'm thrilled at the prospect of sharing your legacy with them. The Muppet Show, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan shaped my childhood as much as Star Wars.

Thank you for sharing your passion and imagination with us!

P.S. My college friend Dave has an amazing project to count down the days to the film's release. I'm sure you'd approve!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Believing is Seeing

Dear St. Louis Cardinals,

For the majority of my childhood, my family lived in the Dallas suburbs. Once I started truly paying attention to sports I was in high school (early 90s) and the Cowboys were on the verge of a run of Super Bowl dominance, the Stars arrived to teach me about hockey, and the Rangers built a new mecca where I spent much of the Summer before college. The Texas teams were MY teams.

Despite all the cheering in and for Texas, though, I harbored a Cardinals Connection. My maternal relatives lived in the St. Louis area which meant annual visits to the Gateway City, my dad grew up in Missouri, cheering on Stan Musial, and during my 6th and 7th grade years we lived in the St. Louis suburbs.

I faintly remember early trips to Texas Rangers games in what seemed to be the all-aluminum stadium prior to The Ballpark in Arlington. In those years, I remember cheering on Nolan Ryan, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmiero, Kevin Brown, and Pudge Rodriquez. While my first major league game was probably in Texas, my clearest early memories of attending major league baseball games are of Busch Stadium and the Cardinals, of meeting Todd Worrell during a 6th grade field trip to a local hospital (his wife had just had a baby), of watching Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Tom Brunansky, and John Tudor.

When we lived in Missouri during my middle school years, I spent most of my time hanging out with Johnny and Jay, brothers who lived at the opposite end of our street. We were inseparable; spending our days playing G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., or Transformers, exploring the creek that ran alongside our street, skateboarding (for transportation more than Gleaming any Cubes), and cutting a hole in my fence to make it easier to go to Dairy Queen for Full Meal Deals and Altered Beast.

At some point in our adventures, my dad took us to Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals play. I don't recall the opponent, the snacks, the weather, or the final score, but what I'll always remember are the souvenirs. Johnny, Jay, and I each got a red and white Cardinals batting glove that day. We wore those gloves home. We wore them the next day. We wore them most of the rest of the summer. We became "The Red Glove Club."

I recently found a photo of the three of us wearing our gloves, arms around each others shoulders, legs kicking, Rockettes style. We were quite the trio. The glove itself is in storage in the basement, but every time I run across it, I can't help but smile.

As the 2011 baseball season drew to a close, I watched excitedly as the Rangers finished out another great season and I nervously peeked through my fingers to watch you claw your way back from 10.5 games out to claim the NL Wild Card spot.

I cringed after the Rangers' first game against Tampa Bay, but was relieved to see them resume form and win the series easily. Watching you play the Phillies, I was a bundle of nerves on the edge of my couch until the final out of Carpenter's Game 5 gem to claim a spot in the NLCS.

I bet my sister-in-law's Michigan-born boyfriend a case of beer that the Rangers would beat the Tigers and I whooped and hollered with each game-winning home run by Nelson Cruz.Watching you play the Brewers, I was a bundle of nerves wrapped in a blanket of anxiety on the edge of my couch until you guys trounced the Brew-crew in game 6 to claim a spot in the World Series.

As my childhood dream came true and you and the Rangers were scheduled to meet in the World Series, it clearly became a win-win situation for me. I was going to be happy no matter who won, right? With the first pitch of Game 1, though, it was obvious my loyalties are entirely with you.

Watching you play the offensive powerhouse, 1st-to-3rd prodigy, destiny-guided Rangers, I was a bundle of nerves wrapped in a blanket of anxiety surrounded by the buzz of adrenaline on the edge of my couch. The series quickly developed into the best roller coaster I've ever ridden, peaking with your epic come-from-behind win on the shoulders of David Freese in Game 6. I've never been, nor have I seen Rach, as excited as after that 11th-inning home run.

To cap off the childhood dream, your Game 6 victory meant spending a crisp, October Friday night at Game 7 of the World Series in Busch Stadium, the field where Mini-Me, The Wubster, and Mickey [TKNTD] all experienced their first baseball games. It meant experiencing history with my dad, the man who took me to my first baseball game and the man without whom there would be no "Red Glove Club". It turned out to be a glorious night, boys, and a glorious end to a dream come true.

Thank you for teaching us about perseverance, hope, and tenacity this season.

Thank you for the nerves, anxiety, and adrenaline.

Thank you for memories I'll share with my kids as we enjoy Cardinals games next year and beyond.

Thank you for being my team.

Yours truly,

D

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dear Parenthood,

Despite the craziness that comes with super-stimulated dinnertime meltdowns and hyperenergetic "diapershield" battles* and overtired bedtime breakdowns and general kid tantrums, I can't thank you enough for providing me with soundbites like this:

Wubster: "Daddy, if the fire alarm goes off, when the fire alarm goes off, we have to, we cover our ears, an' we have to leave, we, it's loud, we cover our ears, an' we have to go outside, an' the 'larms light up, an' it's loud, an' there's a fire, an' we have to line up an' go outside, an' our teachers say 'go outside', an' we cover our ears an' we go outside, an' the firemans come, an' the lights go off, an' we can't hear the 'larms outside, but the firemans can, an' they go inside, an' they fix the building, they fix the hole in the building from the fire, an' then we can go back in."

Or this:

"Wubster, if there was a guy with a gun and he was going to shoot us, I would stop him and I would kick the gun away and I would save you. I would save you, Wubster. I would save all of us, but I would really save you, Wubster, because I love you."
"Thank you for wuving me, Mini-Me."





* The boys have decided immense fun can be had carrying around packs of Mickey's diapers as shields and attacking me with them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Month of Letters

Dear November,

If you haven't noticed, I decided to use you and your NaBloPoMo (sister to NaNoWriMo) challenge to write some letters.

As you approached, I realized I hadn't been taking full advantage of my knowledge of English, Qwerty keyboards, and Internet-based publishing technology. I also hadn't properly thanked the important nouns in my life.

November...you are one of my important nouns. You mean so much to me in this moment. Heck. I'm even thankful for you.

I hope you don't mind me saying so, November, but right now...at 3:05 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, 2011...I think you're pretty special. Even when you're gloomy and damp like the past couple days.

Actually, November, I was so surprised to see you when you showed up on my doorstep the other morning. It's hard to fathom that it's been nearly a year since we last spent time together. After you didn't call me back I moved on. But, alas, time flies as time is wont to do, and we should make the most of your visit.

Just one request, November...keep your pants on this time.

Yours truly,

Doug

Monday, November 7, 2011

Running with Wild Things

Dear Mickey (TKNTD),

You're doing quite well keeping up with your brothers whether it be running, climbing, spinning, walking backwards, swinging foam-noodle light-sabers, driving 'baby cars', throwing balls, destroying Lego creations, or leaving 'stuff' strewn all about the house.

You're also quite helpful when it comes to supervising activities. Mrs. Donna raves about your helpfulness during diaper changing duties for the other kids and at home you always make sure mommy and I practice our one-armed cleaning, cooking, and living techniques. You love to be right in the middle of all that goes on and with the amount of activity in our house, there's plenty of middle for you to dive into!

Your mom and I were super impressed, although it shouldn't have been a big surprise, when you started demanding to sit on the potty like your big brothers recently. I guess we were most impressed that you actually started using it (and washing your hands after) before you were even 18-months-old. Your brothers still need to work on that!

You impress us every day with your energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. We can't wait to see what you'll do next!

Love you tons,

Dad


Sunday, November 6, 2011

GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

Dear Mini-Me,

I'm so proud of you for playing so well during your first indoor soccer game today. I asked you before the game to try your best and to work on being more aggressive, attacking the ball instead of being so polite about sharing the ball with the other team like in outdoor.

You did a fantastic job. You got right in the middle of a number of scrums. You cleared the ball when it was in your end. You weren't afraid to fight for the ball along the wall. You ran hard.

As a reward for all your effort, you even scored your first goal ever!

Your mom, Grandma Barb, and Grandpa Mike said it was fantastic...I didn't actually see you score. I was busy looking down because I couldn't believe your team had just kicked the ball into an opponents face for the third time in the game. Apparently you took the rebound off his face and, finding everyone distracted like me, buried it into the back of the net.

I hope you're as proud of yourself as we are of you.

Great job, buddy!

Love,

Dad

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ode to Exhaustion

Dear Exhaustion,

Autumnal sun rises amidst the fog,
Whispers of winter wait in the shadows.
Three children stir and then so does the dog.
The clock khhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhijjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii


Friday, November 4, 2011

Who's That Girl?

Dear Girl Next Next Door,

Mini-Me is infatuated with you. It's cool that you two have started playing. He talks about you all the time. You're two years older and, thus, are wiser in the ways of the world. You're a take-charge kind of gal...some might say, bossy.

Mini-Me likes you a lot. You like frogs a lot. How long did you say you kept the one you caught from your friend's pool? I'm sorry to hear your mom made you release it back into the wild. Yes, it is fascinating to know that it will bury itself in mud to survive the winter. No, no, I believe your mom...I don't need to go look it up on the Internet. No you can't wade in our koi pond. His name's Eddie. No, we don't take him out of the pond and hold him. Please get out of the water.

As I was saying, Mini-Me likes you a lot. You're welcome to hang out in our yard any time we're home. I just hope you're not just using him for the swing set.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Tight Knit Relationship?

Dearest Hat and Glove,

You don't know how much it means to me that we are reunited.

Hat, I thought I'd lost you forever. I was heartbroken and, yet, we'd only just met.

Glove, I didn't know you were gone until I was spiraling into despair over Hat. When I reached into Coat's pocket and found your mate, I was angry because I didn't find Hat. When I reached into Coat's other pocket and found nothing, I was angry because I didn't find Hat. Then I realized you were gone, too, and I immediately refocused on my search for Hat.

What?

You're the one who jumped out of Coat's pocket, plus you never really kept my hand warm anyway.

Hat, though? Marvelous Hat? Hat who keeps my head so toasty warm in FallWinter's crisp air? I mourned his loss. I scoured the house. I tore apart the van. I called in the National Guard. I cursed. I wept.

After minutes of searching I gave up and sat down to drown my sorrow in grading. As I pulled my stack of papers out of Backpack I caught a glimpse of a wicked smile. Hat jumped into my arms and our sweet, sweet reunion warmed my scalp.

Glove, I was okay with never seeing you again. It was quite the surprise, then, when I looked down as I dodged rain drops while dashing across the parking lot this afternoon and there you were, drenched, dark, dejected, delirious. I scooped you up and tossed  you on the floorboard of the van. You owe me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Missing Socks

Dearest Washer/Dryer Set,

All these years you've been blamed for stealing socks and you sat idly by in the dark recesses of the house, absorbing the abuse, never complaining, even though you knew you were innocent.

I'm sorry for slinging accusations.

Tonight I found two more socks in the back yard. I know you didn't put them there.

The evidence made this an open & don't touch case, what with the missing socks discovered compressed and encased in poop.

That couldn't have been you...only a Golden Retriever (or two) could be so diabolical.

If there's anything I can do to make up for this misunderstanding, please let me know.

I have some unmatched socks I'd be willing to feed you.

Much appreciation,

Doug

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Many Apblogogies

Dear Noisy Little Adventures,

It's not you, it's me.

I know I've left you alone for too long...
I know the pain has been unbearable at times...
I know my excuses will fall flat.

But you know how the kids are...

And, well, um...there's other writing, too.
It's not prettier than you...please stop crying.
It's just writing I have to do...I didn't want to.
Please believe me when I tell you the lesson planning and grading means nothing to me compared to you.

I'm sorry.

And I'm here now...if you're willing to welcome me back.
Will you let me caress your pages, again?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Budding Author

Almost a quarter of the way through Kindergarten and I'm amazed at the progress Mini-Me has made. He's known his alphabet for a while and was getting pretty good at writing his own name, but where he used to whine when we asked him to write, now he won't put down the crayons, pens, dry erase markers, or his absolute favorite, permanent markers. He's filling books and books worth of pages with his writing. In fact, he published his memoir the other day. I'm including an advanced copy of the manuscript below for your enjoyment.



He asked me how to spell 'author'...I misheard him.

Her ears aren't actually that large.
Yes, it's true...I make the kids call me "DadDaaDADDAW!"...and my knees are that large.
Note the attention to height detail in these last two.


I was incredibly impressed as I watched him put this book together. He was so proud of himself as he walked around the house reading it to Rach and I. Kindergarten's awesome!

Of course, amongst the many manuscripts I did find one journal, tucked deep in the piles of forgotten toys on our living room floor, that gave me pause. It seems he's become obsessed a la Walter Sparrow with the number 8...





 I'm sure it's just a passing phase...but just in case, I won't be letting him check into room 8 of any local hotels.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And I know that it's hard, hard, hard when you're loving it's hard...

And the leaves are brown
And they're falling down
And the summer's gone.
               -Aberfeldy

*I started this post on August 15th...I shouldn't be finishing it now since it's way past my bedtime, but I don't profess myself to be a smart man when it comes to sleep.*



I figured I'd have plenty of amusing stories to write about over the course of my first summer home alone with all three kids.

Last summer was awesome because Rach was home on maternity leave so we had lots of family bonding time and, with Mickey mostly eating, sleeping, and pooping, we were still in our man-to-man defense.

This summer it was just me and the kids...three against one on Mondays and Fridays...one-on-one Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays.

It was a beautiful plan and it worked out pretty darn well with the exception that not much got done around the house.
Having accepted that unfinished projects would remain unfinished, I figured I'd at least be swimming in blog related gold. By the end of summer I knew I'd have at least six food-related incidents, five "kids-say-the-darnedest-things" moments, four "I can't believe you just licked that!" gross-outs (The Wubster's sense of choice is apparently taste), three playground adventures gone awry, two "No! Don't stick that on the dogs!", and one sibling wrestlemania battlewound tale.

Instead it became the summer of the "I Hate YOU!"s and the "You're bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD!"s and the "Well, fine, then you're not my brother anymore!"s.

And I don't even have a brother!
Oh wait...the tantrums weren't mine...most of the time.

Mini-Me's emotional swings as he bridged the gap between preschool and high school(?) this summer were intense. For every happy moment we had together there seemed to be three breakdowns where nothing I said or did was right. I know he's five, but I'm a people pleaser. I like people to be happy with me. Thus, I struggled all summer long with doing what was right as a parent and finding the road least travelled to keep him happy.

The negativity zapped my motivation to write because I don't want to write about the negative aspects of our Noisy Little Adventures. For much of the summer that was all I could focus on, despite the immeasurable cuteness of The Wubster and Mickey (although they had their moments, too). It didn't help that bedtimes brought about the brunt of the emotional lashings...I looked forward to doing dishes to relax...look what he's done to me!

Luckily, kindergarten has started and we're all getting back into the school-year routine, which leaves much less time for tantrums. Mini-Me also seems to be handling his emotions better. He's finally taken our advice and pauses to breathe in deeply a few times when he gets upset. It's cute...until he upsets his brother on purpose and then tells The Wubster to "just breathe deeply...it'll calm you down."

It's also helpful that Mini-Me's focus isn't only on us anymore...it seems he's already smitten with a girl in his class, a girl he makes sure to refer to by first and last name, correcting us if we forget. He drew a picture for her in permanent marker (a source of a recent tantrum when I took it away to protect myself from adding any unfinished projects to my unfinished unfinished project list). At first I didn't realize the picture was for someone special, but when he got in the van Tuesday afternoon he filled me in on what had happened:
Hey, buddy, how was your day?
"Daddy, I didn't give the picture to Ava M. It's still in my backpack. I was going to give it to her, but I didn't want anyone else to see. I told her she could have it when she came over to my house."
Oh. Do you and Ava sit together?
"Ava M., daddy."
Okay. Do you sit together in class?
"No."
Do you sit together at lunch?
"No. Well, she wanted to sit with me at lunch but she didn't. She sat somewhere else."
Do you sit together in Art or Computer?
"No, daddy! We don't sit together!"
Okay, okay...I just was wondering when you guys talk. Does she play with you on the playground?
"No, daddy! Stop asking me questions!"
Fair enough.
[After five minutes of silence] "Daddy, Ava M says she likes Star Wars, too."
I didn't delve for any more information. I just let him bask in the wonderous feeling of meeting a girl who likes Star Wars, too.

Until dinner, that is, when I brought up the picture in front of Rach so she could see his reaction when talking about his new friend. The conversation was less than appreciated by Mr. Mini-Me who turned beet red while talking to his mom and sheepishly smile-screamed at me when I couldn't control my giggling over how cute he was...
"STOP LAUGHING AT ME!"
I'm not laughing AT you, bud, I'm laughing near you!
"YOU'RE LAUGHING AT ME!"
No, no, no...I'm not... [Mickey starts laughing] ...but Mickey is...
After that, we've stopped asking questions. After all, I don't have much room to talk...I was once a smitten kindergartener myself.

I hope you've all been well these past few months and that Fall's approach is treating you kindly.

May the coming months bring us many crushes and few tantrums!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy Happy Joy Joy...who's the birthday boy boy!?!

Dear Wubster,

First and foremost, I must offer you this sage advice: Save and Save Often! And then, when you think you're too good for that, bop yourself on the head and cut & paste your blog post into Word or some other program and save it there, too. Just trust me on this...and now, here's your birthday letter redux.
I don't know about you, but I was having a hard time waiting for your birthday to get here!

With all the changes over the past few months it feels like you've been three for so long already.

My impatience this year shouldn't surprise me, though. I was just as impatient three years ago as the summer ticked away, the school year growing closer and closer while I waited and waited and waited for the opportunity to meet you.

And just as my summer slipped away I finally did.

And you brightened our growing family with your vivid blue eyes and gassy grins!

And I was happy...even if I had to go back to work the day after I brought you home from the hospital.

In these three years you've grown so strong, loving, and handsome.

You're such a helper when it comes to yard work, whether it's mowing alongside your mom or I (with your bubble mower), transplanting roly-polys and worms, or harvesting veggies (and eating them immediately) from the garden.

Your laugh is infectious and that cheesy grin of yours...it drowns your face in a sea of adorability (thankfully it's no longer a gassy grin)!

I'm looking forward to all the adventures this next year will bring!

Happy Birthday, monkey!

Love,

Dad

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer of S.A.H.M.M.

Okay...so, technically, it's the Summer of S.A.H.D (Stay At Home Dad), but I was a huge Michael Keaton fan as a kid, so I'm going to go with S.A.H.M.M. (Stay At Home Mr. Mom).

I know I've slacked on posting this summer. Admitting it's the first step in finding the motivation to rewire a DeLorean and travel back to tell my younger self to go to bed earlier every night...

Well, it doesn't seem to have worked...it's late and I'm still typing.

I didn't blog much this summer because by the time my day was over and the kids were snuggling on top of their covers (they don't seem to like the bottom side of sheets) asking for me to cuddle with them, I tucked my motivation to type in next to them and trudged out to the living room to veg out.

It's been a fun summer, but a busy one. I kept all three kids home with me on Mondays and Fridays and then had individual days with each one in between. I wouldn't change a thing about this summer...I also wouldn't want to do it all year long. Props to the real S.A.H.M.s (and D.s) out there! You're amazing...but I'm ready to head back into the classroom routine.

Now...one little secret for you: This post is a victim of circumstance. I'm so out of practice blogging I forgot to verify that the Wubster Birthday Post I finished typing ten minutes ago auto saved before I hit 'Publish' and the blogger gods laughed in my face with their "Oops...that link appears to be broken" practical joke.

For those of you who might be a bit slow...it didn't.

It's gone.

It was good, too.

Epic.

Novel worthy.

Now I'm just left with the early detritus of my first draft.

It sucks, too.

Epic.

Round file worthy.

I'll just try again tomorrow...if my motivation doesn't get tucked into bed with The Wubster, that is.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Half-Decade, Mini-Me!

Five years ago, I wouldn't have spent an evening fighting a 4-ft Darth Vader.

Five years ago, I wouldn't have spent the rest of said evening attacking Lego snow troopers and destroying the Death Star.

Five years ago, I wouldn't have spent a summer morning playing video games...well, I might've, but by myself.

Five years ago, I wouldn't have spent a summer morning swinging as high as I could at a local playground.

Five years ago, I wouldn't have slaved away in the kitchen to shake-n-bake a gourmet smorgasbord of bean & cheese chip tacos (nachos, basically), baby carrots & ranch, grapes, birthday ca...er...rice krispie treats.

Five years ago, June 22nd was just the day (or second day) after the summer solstice...

Five years ago, though, I was lucky enough to stand in a hospital delivery room, accept you in my arms and welcome you into my heart.

Five years ago, you turned me into a father.

Thank you for all the adventures.

I love you!

Dad

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Many Mini Posts about Mickey (TMNTK): Chapter 3

Disney World's considered The Most Magical Place on Earth.

Nothing could have been more obvious as we perused the photos of our trip...



Yes. It looks like it's time to change Mini-Me's name to Captain Sourpuss. After we woke him up early to catch the first bus to The Magic Kingdom the kid seemed to make a conscious choice to not show he was having fun all morning long.

But, oh...scowl as he might...he was having fun. We rode Peter Pan three times, Dumbo and Buzz Lightyear twice, and pretty much everything else appropriate for younglings once.

As we waited in line for the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, I explained the premise of the show and the laugh collection process to him (we're behind on Disney movies that don't involve Woody, Buzz, or Jack Jack). He sat straight-faced through the entire show while I was doubled over in the aisle (okay...maybe it wasn't that funny, but still). 
"Daddy, I didn't want them to have any of my laughs. I didn't want to feel empty inside."
But our laughter never runs out, bud. It's something we should always share with people...well, in appropriate situations, you wouldn't want to laugh at a...nevermind, I'll explain that later. They wouldn't steal your laughter and make you feel empty, Mini-Me. When we laugh, we're expressing our happiness and sharing it with everyone around us.
"Okay, I might have laughed a little on the inside."
Luckily, after a nap and dinner at the hotel, we ventured back to the park with greatly improved moods and the magic truly began...the fireworks helped...fireworks always seem to help!







Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Many Mini Posts about Mickey (TMNTK)*: Chapter 2

So the boys weren't outwardly surprised or excited about the announcement that we'd be heading straight to the airport.

In fact, Mini-Me actually reprimanded me:

"Daddy...it's not nice to keep secrets. You shouldn't have kept this secret from me. That's not nice."
But, buddy, it wasn't a secret, really...it was a surprise. We didn't tell you because we wanted it to be a surprise!
"No, daddy, it was a secret. And you shouldn't have kept it."
Point taken. No surprise parties or Cracker Jacks for Mini-Me.

The boys did great as we worked our way through security and down the concourse to our gate. Mini-Me was especially fascinated by the boarded up windows from the Good Friday tornado,  The Wubster was fascinated by the trucks driving around the tarmac.

On the plane I fought the good fight, constantly handing over coloring books and markers...different markers...no, daddy, different markers, V.Readers, iPods, apple juices, snacks, a half-dozen "Stop kicking the chair in front of you"s, a bakers dozen "Leave the tray up...or down...just leave it!"s, and umpteen dozen, "Shhh, please stop yelling...inside voice!"s.

By the end of the two hour flight, I was exhausted. I figured the boys, happy, but loud and hyper, had exhausted the patience of those around me, but then Mini-Me looked out his window on our final approach and announced he'd seen the moon. The man behind us tried several times to see the moon for himself to no avail, and instead struck up a conversation with Mini-Me before speaking to me,
"Man, your kids sure were quiet. I didn't hear 'em the whole flight. You really got 'em trained, dontcha?!?"
Yeah, I guess I do.
"Hon, did you even hear those kids in front of us? They must'a slept through that whole flight."
"No, they were awake. You were listening to your headphones the whole time. They were real good, though."
Well, thanks.
My mind danced between pride and confusion. My super-sensitive parenty-sense led me to believe the boys were incredibly loud, disrupting the entire plane, raising alarms that very nearly brought out the F-15 escorts and, yet, no one around me radiated exasperation in our direction.

Unfortunately, I still had to maintain control, usher the boys through the airport, find the Disney Magical Express line, keep The Wubster from whipping fellow travellers with the retractable lane markers, and wait 40ish minutes for a 30ish minute bus ride 120ish minutes past the boys' bedtime.

Luckily, the bus pulled up just in time...for Mini-Me to tell me he needed to "poop...real bad."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Many Mini Posts about Mickey (TMNTK)*: Chapter 1

You've seen the commercials, right? The unsuspecting kids open the pizza box to discover their pepperoni 'n cheese has sprouted a set of iconic ears. Or the sisters sitting on the couch opening a box out of which spring balloons with a sign announcing, "We're going to Disney World!". Surprising your kids with a trip to Disney World looks exciting and adorable and perfect. Heck, watching those commercials even teases a tear or two out of my ducts...ahem...or, I mean...ummm...I'm allergic to cuteness. Yeah, that's it.

Once we decided that I'd fly down with the boys to meet Rach at her conference in Orlando so we could visit the park, my mind started mulling over potential methods of breaking the news to them. Eventually, I decided that we'd keep the trip a secret until the day of the trip when I would pick them up from preschool with Mickey Mouse balloons and have Rach on the phone to tell them that we were heading straight to the airport. They'd be thrilled! Especially after a couple days of "I miss mommy!"s

Here's how it turned out (Be forewarned...this is two minutes you may never get back!):

video



I won't wait up for a phone call from the Disney Corporation about the boys starring in their next commercial.



*The Mouse Not the Kid...as opposed to Mickey (TKNTD) who stayed home because we're smarter than we look.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Many Mini Posts About Mickey (TMNTK)*: Prologue

Way back in January...
Rach: Hey...I'm thinking about going to this conference in June in Orlando. What do you think about bringing the boys down to stay with me and we could take them to The Magic Kingdom?
Me: [Apparently forgetting my brief visit to TMK in November during my own conference in Orlando when I swore the boys were too young and I was too impatient to haul them around the park like the frazzled parents I saw] Sure! That would be fun! They'll love it!
Over the next few days I'll regale you with tales from our brief adventures...be forewarned. It's about to get REAL!**



*The Mouse Not the Kid...as opposed to Mickey (TKNTD) who stayed home because we're smarter than we look.
** REAL CRAZY...cause we look smarter than we are!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Masters of Facades

It's what you work for as a parent: "Oh, your kids are so polite and well-behaved!"

In public.

I politely nod and agree and occasionally dish out an "Aw, shucks."

When we get home, though, the boys often flip their crazy switch, unleashing a full-on emotional assault, especially on weeknights when their pent up emotions from the day gurgle out and ooze throughout the house.
"No, Mini-Me! Is mine!"
"WuuuuubSTER! I had it first!" [Grabs and squeezes brother's arm]
"Owwweee!" [Checks brother into couch]
"Mommy! Wubster hurt me!"
"NoooooOOOO! Mini-Me hurt ME!"
So, tonight, when I decided to forgo the battle over eating dinner with Mickey (TKNTD) vs. playing longer and they played calmly and politely with each other, I thought I was on to something. They played, they shared, they spoke sweetly.

Oh, my kids ARE so polite and well-behaved.
The pipe-dream burst after Mickey was in bed and we finally sat down to dinner with the boys. Well, I wouldn't call it dinner. Train wreck, maybe.

And if dinner was a train wreck, the bedtime routine was a nuclear meltdown.

I know I take the kids' behaviour personally sometimes and get overly frustrated when they don't behave the way I know they can. I know they're overtired, they haven't developed the ability to keep emotions in check, they're learning the basics of sharing and getting along with others. In the heat of the tantrums, though, my emotions are strained as well. It's one of my biggest challenges as a parent.

With an upcoming major adventure with the boys, one in which I know their physical and emotional stamina will be put to the test, I worry that we'll spend more time attempting to diffuse bickering than actually enjoying time together.

I should probably heed my own advice and just chill.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Play Well

The end of my Month of Memories is here...and thankfully, 'cause I've run out of steam. It hasn't helped that the End-of-School-Year Madness has flared up or that I also caught a case of the Here-Comes-Summer-Vacation-All-I-Want-To-Do-Is-Do-Nothings. Both afflictions can be highly contagious so you may want to stand back a little. Don't worry, though, I've been washing my hands regularly and sneezing into my elbow.

When I started planning this month-long blogstravaganza, I had three major posts in mind: soccer/little league sports, Star Wars, and LEGOs. I figured the rest would fall into place and it certainly has, nearly forcing me to forget about the LEGO post.

My parents moved from Texas to Missouri over a year ago, finally finding their retirement cottage on a wooded lot with enough space to house a variety of fruit trees and a quaint, but prosperous, garden. In the move, they hauled several boxes containing remnants of my childhood and handed them over to me as they began unpacking (a process that may never be complete). There were boxes of old trophies, Boy Scout awards, archaic video game systems, sheet music from my days as a clarinetist, my high school letter man's jacket (awarded for academic, not athletic, prowess), my 90s-era key chain collection, and plenty more. The holy grails of the move, though, came in the form of my old toys, the ones not lost to garage sales past.

My parents bought me a blue, pleather, personalized luggage set, probably in the mid 80s. The duffel bag became my action figure carrier, holding the remaining G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and other assorted toys I loved. When I found it amidst my parent's boxes, my heart skipped a beat. When I opened it a caught that familiar whiff of pleather, my heart skipped two. When I ran my hands through the flotsam and jetsam of past toy glories, I passed out. Well, not really, but it was awesome reconnecting with my toys.

The same thing happened when I found the giant Rubbermaid container of LEGO bricks. Almost. When I ran my hands through the bin they came out sticky and dirty compliments of years of storage in the Texas heat, a rogue piece of root beer barrel candy, and remnants of my sister's school diorama projects. Several bathtubs full of LEGOs later, Mini-Me and I were happily building--him following his imagination and me rebuilding the half assembled remains of past spaceships and trucks. 

As I sifted through the bin of bricks, my mind swirled with visions of past cityscapes: police stations, fire houses, mechanic's shops, castles, original structures. My childhood bed was high enough off the floor that, as long as I set architectural limitations within the city ordinances, I could slide my entire city under it for quick clean-up. Have you ever seen an entire city pulled from beneath a bed? It's a sight to behold!

Mini-Me's LEGO interests lie within the Star Wars universe, so the only buildings I've helped him make, so far, are small bases for Mandalorians or Clone Troopers. We mainly have a collection of star fighters that have taken over available shelf and table space. Unfortunately, the beds in the boys' room are too low to the ground to be able to slide the Lego creations under.

The LEGO Group's web page has the following passage in their Company Profile:
The child of the future will have plenty of things to play with. Consumer electronics is a tough competitor to traditional toys. But the LEGO Group is in no doubt that the LEGO brick will continue in the future to be relevant to children of all ages. A world of imagination and total absorption. Putting two LEGO bricks together is intuitive and delivers the spontaneous joy of creation which can be supplemented – but never replaced – by virtual experiences.
Mini-Me, and now The Wubster who's taken an interest recently, picked up the multi-colored bricks and intuitively knew what to do. I'm amazed by their designs, especially Mini-Me (who's two years additional patience is helpful in the building process). These days, I tend to prefer following instructions when building and ultimately completing a model, there's joy in that for me. But Mini-Me and The Wubster build freely, imaginatively.  They use the bricks to create what's in their mind without my adult concern for logic, aerodynamics, or function over form. Mini-Me's creations test the boundaries of physics at times, but they're all wonderful. They've inspired me to create from scratch, a process that is wholly relaxing after a tough day at work. In fact, Rachel has commented on a number of occasions when I've spent hours building after the boys are already in bed.

It's just that the sound of pushing bricks aside to hunt for that one, perfect piece...it's addictive.

Monday, May 30, 2011

¿Habla Usted En Sus Sueños?

When I was in high school, my mom told me one morning that she'd heard me talking in my sleep the previous evening.

Did I say anything interesting?
"I don't know...it was all in Spanish."

I wonder if my teacher would have given me extra credit for that had I told her?

Last night, Rach scooped Mini-Me out of our bed (the boys don't do well going to bed in the same room) to carry him to his. When she did, he began speaking in his Darth Vader voice.

I gave him extra credit for awesomeness.

It's fun to catch the kids talking in their sleep, but deciphering what they're saying is rarely successful. Of course, we might not want to know what they're saying.

Who knows what I said about my mom in Spanish...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Into the Woods

Silly Putty and Skip-Bo.

That's what I remember about camping with Mimi and Papa, my grandparents, in their motor home.

And the awesome 8-track player in the cab.

The boys and I headed out to spend part of the weekend with my parents in their RV.

Mini-Me and The Wubster love to pretend the screen door is a drive through window through which they sell assorted snacks. I asked for lobster tail.

"We don't have that, daddy, we're a Mexican restaurant."

We also didn't have any Silly Putty. Or play Skip-Bo. There was no 8-track player.

We still had a great time.

I really hope they have Silly Putty next time, though.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Place is a Zoo!

A collection of pictures taken at the zoo over the past five years.






  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Aren't You a Little Short for a Clone Trooper?


My first light saber was an inflatable 'blade' attached to a flashlight.

Mini-Me's and The Wubster's are fully retractable with nifty belt clips (but they don't light up...I win!).

When I wanted to play Star Wars and pretend to be Luke Skywalker, I tucked my pants into my knee-high socks.

When Mini-Me wants to play Star Wars and pretend to be "Jedi Clone Commander", he tucks his shirt into his chest-high pants and puts on his helmet and gloves.

The force is strong with us.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This Creek Only Goes to the Caspian Sea

In college, preparing to be a high school English teacher, I took a class called Literature for Young Adults. The professor, Chett Breed (one of my favorites), assigned a final paper (one of my favorites) in which we had to write an autobiography using a process he called "copy change" wherein we modeled our writing on the different styles of the YA novels we'd read throughout the semester.

When Mini-Me, The Wubster, and I traipsed through the common ground, following the creek that flows through it, to see the downed tree on Monday, I thought of the childhood friends and events that became Chapter 3 of my autobiography for Dr. Breed's class.

This section, a creatively remembered depiction of actual events, is stylistically modeled after Cynthia Voigt's, Homecoming.
Doug awoke early that morning. His cat, Racky, was curled up at the foot of his bed. She was still sleeping, so he just laid there even though he was anxious to call Johnny and Jay. Johnny and Jay lived down the street. They had lived on Field Avenue since they were born. Johnny was a year older, but Jay was much smarter. Jay also had darker hair than Johnny, and he was a little pudgy. Now that Doug thought about it, they didn't even seem like they were related.

At last, Racky stirred and her eyes opened. She looked at Doug, meowed, stretched, and lept off the bed in search of breakfast. Doug was hungry, too, so he decided to have something to eat and then call Johnny and Jay.

On his way to the kitchen, Doug stopped in the bathroom. Before leaving, he looked in the mirror. He peered at his tousled blond hair and smiled at his reflection. "Today's gonna be great!" His voice was anxious.

Johnny, Jay, and Doug had been planning this trek for weeks. They had played in the creek and walked along it for quite some ways, but never beyond the tunnels that pass under Clarkson Road. This time, they were going all the way.

The phone rang and Jay answered before it finished: "Hello? Is that you Doug?"

"Yeah, you guys ready?"

"We just got up. Come on down, and by then, we should be. Okay?"

Doug could hear Johnny in the background. "Hey, Jay! Guess what! I found a map."

"So? We've got tons of maps around here." Jay responded.

"No, I found one that shows the creek on it. I'll bring it and show you. Now we can keep track of where we're at."

It was after nine when they got to the creek. They slid down the steep bank and sat down on some big rocks. There wasn't much water in the creek during the summer, but there was still enough for the minnows and some other fish. They made sure they had everything they needed before heading downstream. Doug had brought his Swiss Army knife, some fishing line and a hook, and sandwiches for lunch. Johnny had the map and some other stuff in a bag he and Jay were sharing. "You carry it first! I don't want it!" Jay screamed.

Johnny turned around and said, "You're carrying it back, then. I'll just leave it behind so you better make sure you bring it back!"

"C'mon!" Doug said excitedly. "Let's get going, I want to see how far we can get."

They passed through the tunnels and began their trip. For the first hour or so, their pace was quick and they only slowed down every so often to splash each other or climb up the bank to see what was around them. Doug glanced at his watch and saw it was after Noon. "Hey, are you guys getting hungry?"

"Definitely!" Jay said. "My stomach's been growling since we passed that rock that looked like a giant turtle."

"Your stomach's always hungry," Johnny said as he jokingly poked Jay in the stomach.

"Let's find a place where we can sit and put our feet in the water while we eat," Doug said. "I brought us all some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We didn't have any chips, though. Alicia always eats them all."

"We have some sandwiches, too, and we brought Pringles!" Jay said.

"I hope you plan on sharing 'cause I've got dessert and I sure would hate to eat it all by myself," Doug jested.

"Enough, already! Let's sit down and eat. Doug, let me have one of those PB&J's!" Johnny said.

"Here you go. Now Jay, toss your chips."

Jay pretended to get sick as Doug and Johnny watched in disgust, laughing just the same. They finished their lunches while talking about how far they thought they had gone. "I think we've gone at least five miles!" Johnny proclaimed.

"There's no way. With the way the creek twists and turns, we're probably no more than two miles from home. Heck, we could probably see the library from here," Jay said as he threw pieces of bread to the fish.

"Why don't we go a little further and see if there's any good places to fish or swim. If not, then we'll head back to my house and play Nintendo," Johnny said.

"You don't want to keep going and see where the creek ends?" Doug asked.

"Naw, I really don't want to see the ocean. I've been there before, you know," Johnny boasted.

"We've never been to the ocean, stupid. And we couldn't get there by following this creek, either. Man, what are you, six?" Jay said.

"I was kidding. I know this creek only goes to the Caspian Sea," Johnny joked.

"I agree, I'm tired of walking, too. Let's find a place to swim. It's too hot to do anything else," Doug said.

They rounded the next bend in the creek bed and found exactly what they were looking for. "Wow! Now THIS is a swimming hole! Last one in's a rotten Jay!" Johnny yelled as he tore off his shirt and jumped into the water.

"I'll take that as a compliment!" Jay proclaimed as he followed Doug into the water.

After their swim, the three boys sat in the sun on the rocks and dried off. They had only known each other for a few months, but they already knew they would always be friends. They began to discuss what they were going to do the next day until Doug looked at his watch. "Oh, man! It's already four! I didn't do my chores. I'm going to be in big trouble. We better head back now!"

"Calm down, Doug. You've never done your chores on time," Jay said.

"Yeah, but last night they told me I HAD to have 'em done before they got home tonight or I'd be grounded," Doug whined.

"Well, let's go. Jay! It's your turn to carry the backpack," Johnny said.

Jay picked up his backpack and they started back towards home. They walked quickly, singing and talking, and soon reached the tunnels under Clarkson. "That didn't seem to take near as long. What time is it?" Jay asked.

"It's after six! My parents are going to kill me!"

"Don't worry, Doug, Johnny'll save you," Jay joked.

The boys crawled through the tunnels and followed the creek to where it ran just in front of Doug's house. "Here we are," Johnny stated, "you want us to go with you?"

"No, but if you don't hear from me tomorrow, check for a shallow grave in the backyard," Doug laughed.

"Hey, I had fun today. We should do it again some time," Jay said.

Doug climbed out of the creek bed and headed towards his house. He wondered what his parents were going to say. Maybe they were too tired to even notice that he hadn't done the dishes. He could only hope. He turned around and yelled back to Johnny and Jay, "See ya later! Call tonight and check on me!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You Spin Me Right Round Baby, Right Round.

"Alright, shhhh! Boys and girls...remember, single file. Okay. Now line up along the wall. Yes, that's it. Just like we practiced. Crouch down on your knees with your head next to the wall and put your hands over your necks. Good. Shhhhh. No, no. Don't worry about those sirens. That's just to tell us we should practice lining up in the hallway. It's just rain, honey. Well, yes, and thunder. Stay crouched. Of course, dear, yes there's lightning, too. But don't worry. You're safe here. Good, good. You guys are doing so good."
In first or second grade, while living in Little Rock, a line of storms moved through the area during the school day. We lined the hallways in our tornado-ready fetal positions for what, to a six- or seven-year-old, seemed like the entire day. Parents started arriving to pick their kids up early and, eventually, I too was thrilled by the sight of my mother. I'm sure I filled her ears with numerous questions on the drive home. Later that evening, (or at some other point in time as my mind might be blending memories) a tornado cut a swath of destruction through the forested area across the street from the school.

Around the same point in time (and, again, maybe the same storm system), I remember asking my parents about the thunderstorms bearing down on our house as the sirens' songs wafted through our neighborhood.
What's a tornado, daddy?
"Well, it's, basically, a super strong storm with super strong winds that can knock down trees and stuff."
How do you know when a tornado's coming?
"Usually the sky will turn green."
Oh. [runs to look out bedroom window] Hey, mommy! Daddy! You mean like that! [points out window at green clouds]
"Oh, my! In the bathtub now!"
Today, the skies were ripe for severe storms, making for a quick departure from work to begin the nerve-racking trip to pick up the kids as storms were popping up all around the area. I made it to the boys' preschool to see them wiping sleep-boogers [the great social equalizer] from their eyes as they rolled off their cots. We gathered their artistic masterpieces and rushed to pick up Mickey (TKNTD). Along the way I had to convince the boys that we should go straight inside and play in the basement, which is especially challenging for The Wubster who's first question for me each day at pick-up is, "You mow today, daddy? You need to mow?"

We made it to the basement before the rain started and as the kids played and we monitored the numerous warnings throughout the metro area, the only tornado we faced was the tornado of tantrums from overtired tykes.

My thoughts go out to everyone who hasn't been so fortunate this spring.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Toss the Mortarboard!

Two years ago, Mini-Me stood stone-faced and timid in front of the crowd of smiling parents while surrounded by his singing, dancing classmates.

Twenty-some-odd years ago I stood in front of a crowd of smiling parents timidly mouthing the words along with my singing, dancing classmates.

One year ago, Mini-Me stood stone-faced and timid in front of the crowd of smiling parents while singing along with his classmates. Oh, and while rolling his Green Lantern ring in the bottom edge of his shirt and letting it unroll and clink across the stage.

Three years ago I stood on stage in front of a crowd of semi-interested teenagers at our first Writers Week, played guitar and sang an original song.

Tonight, Mini-Me stood smiling and brave in front of a crowd of smiling parents while singing and dancing along with his classmates at his preschool graduation ceremony. He then stepped to the front of the stage and held the American Flag for the Pledge of Allegiance song. (I know!!! I can't believe it either!)

Tonight I stood proudly behind a crowd of smiling parents while tearing up over the fact that Mini-Me has grown up so much. He's progressing beyond his stage fright faster than his dad did.

I'm so proud of you, buddy! You're going to love Kindergarten!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blowin' in the Wind

It's been a wild and raucous spring weather-wise across the country. Lines of storms brought damage close to home yesterday and today.

My dad called tonight to chat about the Joplin, MO tornado that demolished a huge swath of town. He mentioned that my uncle posted some news to his Facebook page:
Nana's house apparently gone in Joplin tornado. St Johns Hospital was at West 26th and Maiden Lane and the high school was at East 20th and Wisconsin. Both were destroyed by tornado. Nana's house at 2118 Pennsylvania was right between those sites. Another part of our heritage gone.
Nana was their grandmother, my great-grandmother. She wasn't in the house, having passed before I had the chance to know her.

"Daddy, why did the tree fall down?"
The wind was really strong today.
"Was it a tornado?"
No, bud. Not a tornado. Just really strong winds.
"At school today, daddy, I looked outside and I saw the clouds moving and I told everyone it was going to rain, but it wasn't going to be a tornado. Alex and I thought the lights were going off. Did the wind blow trees down at my school, daddy?"
No, bud. Remember, we looked around as we were leaving?
"Yeah. I knew it was going to storm. We got to play outside in the morning, but in the gym this afternoon. Some days are just like that."


My parents were out on the town and I was in charge, my sister being 6.5 years my junior. All was well. I'm sure I made her a gourmet dinner, allowed her to watch her favorite shows, read her a favorite story or two, sang some songs...typical perfect big brother type stuff.

Unfortunately, a strong line of thunderstorms ruined our perfect evening, sending us, armed with every pillow we could find, into the bathtub while, outside, warning sirens tussled with the rumbling thunder in the humid night air. We huddled in the tub, the noises outside ranging from hail to torrential downpour to roaring train. Once the storm subsided, we emerged and ventured a glance outside, finding a landscape littered with the limbs of the neighborhood cottonwood trees. In that pre-everyone's-got-a-cell phone age, my parents rushed to get information about our safety as word got out about the storm damage throughout our little slice of suburban Dallas. Neighbors emerged from their homes and began working to clear debris from the roadways and yards, all of us feeling fortunate to not bear witness to greater damage.

It's the same feeling I had as the boys and I looked at the tangled mass of broken limbs that now litter a section of our common ground.
As the boys and I looked at the downed cottonwood tree I was flooded with memories of being home alone with my sister one spring Texas night.
We've survived the rounds of storms unscathed, but today, watched a gust front tear through and take down a couple cottonwood trees in our common ground, a safe enough distance from any homes. After dinner, the boys and I walked over to take a look at the damage...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bend It Like Mini-Me

Mini-Me's first soccer season is almost over. He's done really well, despite the tantrums when we announce he has to go to practice instead of playing with his Star Wars Legos. Each week he's gotten more involved on the field, despite an inherent politeness that prevents him from stealing the ball from the opposing team. He even came close to scoring a goal this past week, despite his genetic connection to a guy who spent more time on the field avoiding the ball and pretending to trip over clumps of grass so the coach would pull him from the game.

I only remember playing one season of soccer (when I was five-ish) and I'm pretty sure I despised most every minute of it. In fact, that seems to be a common theme in my experience with Little League sports.

In elementary school I played on a couple basketball teams and I might still hold the record in Texas for 'Least Likely to Need to be Defended'. The only basket I scored one season came on a trick play where the coach had me wait under the basket while my teammates in-bounded the ball from the opposite end of the court and passed it to me. I then had at least a couple opportunities before the other team made it down to defend me. Let's pretend I made the shot.

In Texas, we lived within a block of a Little League baseball complex, so the soundtrack of our summer evenings included the ding of ball off aluminum bat. I played on teams for a couple summers, but my heart was never in it. I remember always wanting to leave, always standing in right field waiting and watching for my dad to come back to pick me up.

The one aspect of those baseball games that I got excited about was that we could go to the concession stand and get a free drink afterwards. We'd 'Good Game!' the opposing team, gather our equipment, and rush to the side door of the wooden stand behind home plate at the main field. Our drink of choice? A 'suicide'...a mixture of every fountain drink available. Yeah. It doesn't sound good to me now either. I'd introduce Mini-Me to the concoction at his teams' end-of-season celebration at Dairy Queen in a couple weeks, but he doesn't like 'bubbly' drinks, so he'll just miss out on that childhood gem.

Speaking of missing out, it wasn't until college that I really took an interest in playing organized sports. Looking back now, I wish I'd been more athletically motivated as a kid and I'm trying to stay attuned to Mini-Me's enjoyment on the field. I don't want to force any of my kids into playing sports they don't enjoy (although I really hope they take an interest in my favorite sport: volleyball).

After the 'Intro' sessions Mini-Me moped through last year, I was worried he wouldn't enjoy sports at all, but this soccer season has gone really well. In a couple weeks he'll join a t-ball league (at his request), so time will tell. At least he's not fake tripping over clumps of grass.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear...

Whenever I was sick or scared or simply in need of cuddling and comforting, my mom was there to sing to me. There were probably a number of songs, but Over in the Meadow was the tried and true favorite.
Over in the meadow in the sand and the sun
Lives an old mother toadie and her little toadie one...
Thirty years later I'm singing it to my kids.

In fact, tonight, The Wubster was upset because I told him he couldn't play with my phone charger and the electrical outlet. Shocking, I know. I carried my sobbing monkey to his bed and attempted to calm him with a story to no avail. I started singing:

'Wink,' said the mother, 'Wink,' said the one,
So they winked and they blinked in the sand and the sun.
It didn't work. Neither did our version of 'Twinkle, Twinkle':
Sleepy Wubster rest your head,
Close your eyes and go to bed
If you go to sleep you'll dream
Of all the beautiful things you've seen...
Luckily, though, the cat joined us on The Wubster's bed and I coaxed her to stand on his chest.

That worked.

I wonder what he'll remember more in thirty years. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

*Light Bulb*

Have you ever had a really good idea...an idea that's so good you think to yourself, "Hey, self, there's absolutely no way you'll forget this idea. Don't worry about writing it down right now, you can just do it later once the kids are in bed."?

Yeah, me, too...which is why this post is still floating around in the ether.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

1000 Words

There's a picture floating around in my parents' photo albums of my sister (as a toddler) and I (a big, bad elementary schooler) smiling at each other in a way that says, "I like you...I do!" It's a picture that ignores the tantrums, the bickering over toys, the food fights, and the tears.

Rach took a similar picture of our kids a few days ago...


It's one of my favorites!