Monday, April 21, 2014

Like Father, Like Son

Last night, we had family movie night again, watching the 2003 Disney movie, "Brother Bear." If you didn't see it, mild spoilers ahead. The movie takes place in Inuit Canada or Alaska.

The premise of the movie: due to the actions of the little brother, the oldest brother gets killed fighting a bear (which is the totem of the little brother). The little brother seeks vengeance and kills the bear, which angers the spirits who turn him into a bear. He embarks on a quest to regain his humanity, accompanied by a mouthy cub and two moose, who are played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, reprising the Mackensie Brothers of Saturday Night Live fame.

The ending, as you would expect in a coming-of-age story like this, is touching and strikes an emotional chord with any of us who have lost family members (or, as The Boy has lately, thought about the concept of death). Here's what was illuminating to me: The Boy actually had tears in his eyes at the end of the movie!

My big softie of a son. He takes after me, and I take after my grandfather Hank, who would cry at the drop of a hat. It wasn't a family gathering if Pop-pop wasn't crying at some point. I'm the same way - just an emotional ball of mush. My wife is not that sensitive person - she doesn't see it. That's okay - two sensitive people like that probably shouldn't be raising three boys like we are.

It's nice to know that one of them takes after me, though.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

How To Irritate a 6-Year Old

Start a race at the corner of Love and Philander (no sh*t, our cross street) with The Boy on his bike and you running. He gets a lead - much, much faster without training wheels - and, while he takes the street, cut between two houses to get to the park entrance first. Then say that you won the race even while cheating. It will drive him insane.

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Location:Commercial St,Pittsburgh,United States

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Darn kids.

Me: "What happened to my coffee?"

The Boy: "I don't know. It wasn't my turn to watch it."

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Moment of Perfection

I'm sitting in the park. It's 73 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze. Little Bear is running around with a similarly aged boy, just shouting because they are young and able to shout. The Boy is riding his bike around the park, and The Baby is climbing and playing. Every fifteen steps or so, The Baby stops to pull up his pants, having inherited his brothers' lack of behind.

In short, this is a brief moment of absolute perfection.

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Location:Whipple St,Pittsburgh,United States

Saturday, March 8, 2014

From Wednesday

A couple of nights ago, we were just finishing up getting the boys through the bath, brush teeth, calm down rituals, when The Baby (who had moved himself into his bed for stories), started crying, "Daddy! Want Daddy!" Considering that he usually wants nothing to do with me around bedtime, I've evolved a ritual of reading a story in Little Bear's bed then asking him about his day; then reading a story in The Boy's bed then asking him about his day. Instead, The Wife and I tagged each other and switched. The Baby wanted to read "There's No Such Thing As A Dragon," then watch the "Get Healthy Now Show" (requested as "Watch Get Healthy Show!") to go to sleep. He participated in the story reading, then laid his head on my chest and was asleep before the first muppets started dancing. (Yes, I watched the remainder of the show, knowing he was asleep. Don't judge me.) The Wife came in to let me know that things 1 and 2 were asleep as well, then she went downstairs to work and I went directly to bed. It was a rough weekend. I shouldn't say rough. It was chorus retreat weekend, and it was an awesome weekend of music, companionship, fellowship, and song. Our coach, Paula, was as amazing as ever, and we worked the chorus hard all night Friday, all day on Saturday, and all morning on Sunday. It's tricky because, as director, I'm "on" all weekend - on my feet, on duty, always listening, always watching, always learning. It's very challenging to keep your brain open to new ideas and new concepts for that stretch of time, and I'm not used to being on my feet that much. So, by the time Sunday afternoon came along, I was pretty well whipped. Not to mention, but the boys and The Wife had a weekend-long sleepover at Grandma's house, thanks to The Wife and The Boy performing at his school talent show, The Wife coming for the Saturday of retreat, and her teaching at Sunday school. So, it was a wonderful weekend. Just rough on the body. I don't like being away from my family. I know that I >should< sleep better - no little feet kicking me while I sleep, no household sounds and beds creaking and such. I just don't sleep well away from the family. I miss my wife, and I miss the little people that share our bed. There's something about tiny little bodies cuddled up close: they're warm and comforting. It's too quiet without them. (Little Bear snores.) So, a couple of nights away rarely leaves me particularly well rested, especially when those nights away revolve around staying up late. The Boy's talent show performance went quite well. He performed "Perpetual Motion," with The Wife on piano, from the Suzuki violin book. It was a cute show; they had pairs of fifth graders who served as the MCs, and there was a nice mix of kids playing various instruments, singing with recordings, dancing, and other assorted human tricks. He made a nice impression, and the 5th graders who announced him were very complimentary. I like his school an awful lot - not quite as much as he does. "Daddy, do you know what I love more than you? My school." Okay, Boy, that's fine. I hope it keeps up. He was accepted into the gifted program in the district - not a shock, particularly since several of his classmates had told me (when I was there a few weeks ago) that the smartest kid in class was The Boy. Also, not a shock because the genetic apple doesn't fall far from the genetic tree; there's intelligent people on both sides there. I just know how quickly and thoroughly this broken educational system can suck the life out of school - when you tell teachers repeatedly that they're incompetent and uninspiring, and when you remove resources from the classroom with such regularity, and when you have your entirely curriculum centered around performance on a standardized test that doesn't measure what it's supposed to measure.... well, a kid like The Boy, who does more faster than his fellow students, can get lost in the shuffle. For now, though, he's happy. I know 2 & 3 are happy, because the preschool is a great place for them, and their teachers love them. I do worry about Little Bear, though, for next year; he's a really sensitive kid who wants nothing more than to make the authority figures happy. He's the kind of kid that can get shattered by a careless teacher.

Friday, February 28, 2014

From Tuesday

This week is an amazingly busy week: quartet coaching Monday, chorus rehearsal Tuesday, quartet coaching Wednesday, The Wife's quartet on Thursday, my chorus retreat on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then I start training for my new position at work (a promotion of responsibility, if not of salary) on Monday morning. So, of course, this is the perfect time for the congestion / throat cold that's been going around the house to hit me.

I made it through Monday and Tuesday without too much effort - only gargling with salt water (and, on one memorable and accidental occasion, pepper water), drinking gallons of hot herbal tea, and drugging myself within reason. Tonight will be a little harder, as I'm having some trouble speaking right now. I'll make it - singing is actual easier on the voice than speaking, if you're doing it correctly - but it's not as enjoyable as it otherwise would be. The good news is, it'll buy me a little sympathy from the coach and let her beat on one of the other guys in the quartet.

Yeah, right. As if. That's what I get for bringing a friend to coach.

Last year, I was sick during retreat, also. I think it's the stress of the approaching weekend: it's SO important, and I really, really want to make a good impression on our coach. Making things even more challenging: The Wife is singing with the chorus this year for contest, and I really want to impress her, as well. She doesn't see me direct from the performer's perspective often, and I want to make her proud. Or, at least, to embarrass her less than I usually do.

The retreat is a few hours on Friday night, about 8-10 hours on Saturday, and 3 more hours on Sunday morning of intensive work on our two contest pieces. We're bring in a coach from Colorado for the third straight year, and she's dynamic: a music educator by profession, and the exact sort of warm, bubbly, touchy-feely, hugable person that my chorus loves. Frankly, that's the sort that I love nowadays, too. It's held in a local Catholic school / center southeast of town, and we'll stay overnight for the weekend. There's a nice party and social event on Saturday night, which is pretty awesome. The ladies do a funny sketch - last year, because we'd been working on the Ode To Joy from Sister Act II, they dressed like nuns and cavorted around.

My chorus is really, really fun and really, really cute. I'm a lucky director.


Little Bear was up and down for quite some time last night with congestion and coughing. I have a feeling that he's going to be our asthmatic kid; The Boy has, thusfar, blissfully avoided any of my breathing issues. (Good thing; he's had enough on his plate.) The poor Little Bear is prone to coughing and wheezing on occasion, and we have an albuterol inhaler around the house for him.


The Baby's response to "What did you dream about last night?" upon first awakening: "Elephants and Batman." I guess he's having normal little boy dreams - animals and playing and flying and super heroes and stuff - but it's really funny how he's responded to the morning ritual. Elephants and Batman, indeed.


The last two mornings, The Boy has woken up with me. I slept a bit later - I'm still having some forearm issues, so I'm running in the mornings instead of lifting - so he likes to come downstairs and watch cartoons while I exercise. It's been nice, because then we have breakfast together; the other two children sleep later. I don't get a lot of one-on-one time with any of the kids, so having some time for a nice, leisurely breakfast conversation is worth its weight in gold. We don't talk about anything worldshaking or of any more importance than the normal days that we've had.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Scarlet Letter

Monday night, when I got home from my front row rehearsal (the dancing part of the chorus), the older boys were awake. I tagged out Mom and finished her story, then did my usual chatting and snuggling with the boys. I did what I usually do: what was the best thing that happened to you today, who did you play with, that sort of thing. Little Bear stood up. "Daddy, I've got to get you something. I have something for you." The Wife intercepted him, he explained urgently that he needed to go downstairs to get something, and she followed him downstairs. A few minutes later, they came back up. "Daddy, I have a red 'S' for you [for Superman]," he said, and The Wife said, "Give it to him in the morning." So, they went (eventually) to sleep.

The next morning went as per usual: I got up and exercised, had breakfast, and went upstairs. Most of the family was still asleep, and Little Bear woke up as I finished my shower. He said, "Wait, Daddy! Don't go yet!" He ran downstairs and came back up with a set of alphabet stickers. True enough, they were red. He took off one of the "S" stickers and put it on my chest. "S is for Superdaddy. You get super powers when the 'S' is there. It'll keep you safe!"

I kept the S on my shirt all day, and - true enough - it kept me safe.


Three times over the past week, The Baby has been in his own bed at 5:15AM when I head downstairs. Once, I've been able to intercept him waking up, shuttling him to snuggles with Mommy. I will note that, on two of those three occasions, the only child in our bed was my oldest son. One glorious, glorious night, there were no children in our bed at all. That was a nice, refreshing change, although the bed was not quite as warm as when tiny little people are snuggled up.

I am really, authentically okay with The Boy jumping in bed with us. He needs extra snuggles. I know that he'll eventually grow out of it, and I don't really look forward to those days. I enjoy snuggles.


At school on Monday, they were making "necklaces" of 100 Fruit Loops. The kids were encouraged to make a pattern and repeat it until they got to 100. He was trying to figure out, at one point, how many fruit loops he had on the line. He determined that there were 6 fruit loops in the pattern; then he counted the number of patterns, counted by six that many times, and came up with the answer of 30. Not bad, for a kindergartener, to figure out how to multiply by 6.

One of The Boy's friends was asked who the smartest kid in school was - he responded, "The Boy!" That was nice to hear. The genetic stock ain't bad, so he should have a few brains in his head, you know?

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