Friday, July 15, 2011

Garage sales and T-Ball tales

Nothing like a month off from blogging to clear the mind.  Where has the time gone?  Goodness, I guess we've been busy.  This morning I thought, I should really write a blog entry, it's been a good week or two...", and sign in to see that it's actually been 32 days.   Oopsie!  So much for regaling you with a summer play-by-play. 

We've finished T-Ball for the summer (more about that later), and are now in the heart of summer;  those precious few weeks in the middle where Old School feels like a distant memory in the rearview mirror and New School has yet to break the upcoming horizon.  It's the time of year that feels like it couldn't get here fast enough and yet will end too soon.

So what have we done to get ourselves to this point?

At the Boy's insistence, we hosted a garage sale the last weekend of June.  His ingenious idea was to sell all of his old toys in order to get new toys.  I tried in vain to explain to him the economic principals of depreciation and inflation, but he would have none of it.  I finally relented, and we held a two day sale.  Mom and Dad got rid of lots of stuff, which was good.  Before the sale started, I handed the Boy an empty box, and requested that he bring it downstairs to his playroom and fill it with toys he'd like to sell.  After a half hour of concentrated deliberation, here is what he came back upstairs with:

I realize it's hard to see what's in the box, so I've conveniently compiled a complete inventory:

1.  Slinky, broken (1)
2.  Bead track, small (1)

That's it.  A half hour's work.  I asked him what he was planning on buying with all his money that he was almost certain to rake in.  Completely ignoring my obvious sarcasm, he proceeded to list off about 400 dollars worth of Legos, a new bike, and "something nice for mom, a necklace maybe".  Perhaps they teach realism in Kindergarten.  Or basic math? 

After the sale, the most impressive use of time was definitely Grammy and Grandpa Camp.  Which was pretty much the most amazing thing ever.  The Fam and I packed the gills of the AstroVan and headed to Crosslake where the Duluth cousins and aunties and uncles and grands were waiting.  After spending 3 wonderful days hanging out with everyone (all 11 of us), the middle generation went home, leaving the Boy and his cousins to the care of their elders, my parents. 

For five days!!!!  Five days without mom and dad, 3 hours away from home!  It.  Was.  Glorious

And I'm sure he had fun too. 

That was the week of the 4th.  Since his return, he has mostly disappeared each day into NeighborBoy's house or backyard.   Every Boy needs a NeighborBoy; one that sees eye to eye and likes the same things.  They have matching Big Wheels and matching Helmets and never seem to tire of each other's company or bicker, which is pretty impressive for 5 year olds.  If they ever move away, we might just follow them.

And T-ball twice a week, culminating this past Wednesday with a "game", all kids adorned in matching T-shirts. 

So glad T-ball is over. 

Not because he's horrible at it (which he is), or because the ice cream truck drove through the parking lot every single practice tormenting the players (which it did), or because a couple of the other kids thought the object of the game was to steal the bat and cut in line (which they did).  I'm glad it's over because the "coaches" really never did anything about any of these issues.  Didn't help the Boy get better (he wasn't loud and rowdy and therefore got no attention), didn't stop the hogs from stealing the bats.   Basically they had no personality, and by all appearances, had no interest in being T-ball coaches. 

Not that I could do better, mind you.  But I didn't sign up to do it for that very reason.  I realize they were just a couple of college girls, probably making 6 bucks an hour, but it would have been nice to have at least some level of enthusiasm, even if forced.  Oh well.   

And so, on we go!  Further into the summer - supposed to be ridiculously hot and humid this week.  Not looking forward to that.  But still enjoying the summer for what it is - endless days of no calendars, no schedules, no bosses (and no money as a result).

It won't be long before we begin prepping for kindergarten, and also for the arrival of The Girl (tm), expected the last week of September.  (have I mentioned that here yet?  Can't remember, but the Boy is having a sister, much to our surprise and growing excitement).  That's a whole 'nuther entry.  Or perhaps a whole 'nuther blog?   The Girl (tm).   Hmm. 

Off to play, have a great day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

T-ball begins!

I can definitely tell that summer is in full swing.  Although only 10 days since the last day of school, it already seems like a distant memory, routine wise, to get up and hustle the Boy into presentable clothes and shuttle him through rush-hour traffic over to Roseville. 

With the Breadwinner's job winding down for the summer, and with me gainfully unemployed, we are simply - home.  All the time.  Home home home.  And loving every minute of it.

Our day usually begins with the sound of the Boy climbing the stairs from his basement lair and crawling into bed between us, whispering Good Morning.  Not a bad start.  At least, not a bad start when it's 8:30 or 9:00 instead of 5:30 or 6:00.   We slowly exit to the kitchen to share an unpaced breakfast followed by morning news and a cartoon or two.  Our biggest decision to make before Noon is whether or not we're going to get dressed for the day or stay in Jammies. 

Not a bad gig.

The Boy's afternoons have mostly been filled with the highly entertaining and conveniently located NeighborBoy - in and out of both houses, both sandboxes, and up and down both driveways on the bikes. 

Hours of uninterrupted fun.  And I'm sure he's having a good time as well.  (ba-dum-ching!) 

In fact, he's over there right now, allowing me enough time to jot down a few thoughts here.  For three people with no obligatory attendance required anywhere, we've sure been busy!  Swimming lessons have drawn to a close, he made it through all of them (and loved it toward the end, go figure).  Now, the T-Ball lessons have begun.  Yesterday evening was the first.

If you've never seen the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm, I recommend it.  Towards the end of the film, when Chevy and his wife decide they want to move away from the crazy small town they've grown to hate after moving there from the big city, they bribe all the horrible neighbors and townsfolk to act extra kind and normal, and well, Norman Rockwellian.  That manufactured, artificial old-fashioned Americana wholesomeness is what they use to trick someone into buying their house so they can leave. 

I experienced the real version yesterday at the local ballpark.  Teams playing on every field.  Perfect temperature and humidity level.  Giant playground full of happy children.  Families picnicking on the green grass with genuine checkerboard blankets.  Grandparents holding hands; soccer games and volleyball games and footballs flying around.  Every inch of Commons Park in use, but nothing crowded.  Nothing fake.  Real people.

And as iconic as it gets for an American summer in the suburbs:  T-Ball practice.  Those of you that have parented a child through T-Ball do not need me to explain how ridiculously ridiculous it is to watch 4-6 year olds attempt to catch a baseball-like object with a baseball mitt.  It just doesn't happen, other than phenoms like the one I know named Isaac.  And when these (normal) kids throw the ball - goodness.  The arm is willing, hurling the ball forward, only to see the ball betray the hand's grip at the last minute and fling itself sideways against all laws of physics. 

The Boy loved it, although completely incompetent.  He's at least ignorant of his incompetence.  I won't tell him.  Just lots of high-fives and try-agains from me, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, but the Funny Farm scene wasn't done.  Just as practice was starting, the local Senior Brass Band arrived for a practice session/impromptu concert in preparation for the upcoming Town Parade.  Not even kidding.  Couldn't make it up.  For all of T-Ball practice, we were serenaded from across the field with "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "Marine's Hymn" and "You're a Grand Ol' Flag" and "My Country Tis of Thee" and "Beauty and the Beast theme song".   Yeah, the last one surprised me too. 


Anywho, at the end of this first day of practice, the very proud team of newfound pre-K friends got to each submit an idea (if they wanted to) for their team name.  Of course, the Boy would find a way to make it awkward.  His pronouncement, in a loud enough voice to be heard over the band, was "The White Twins". 

Yes, folks.  He wanted his team to be called the White Twins.  This very multi-ethnic group of 8 children, of which the Boy was one of 3 white kids. 

His T-Ball instructor stared at me. 

I was of course able to very quickly explain the root of his seemingly inappropriate suggestion - you see, the Minnesota Twins wear white jerseys on weekends.  The Boy, slowly getting more interested in baseball but not understanding the game very well, asked me one time "Which team do you want to win dad?" while it was on TV.  I said, "The team wearing white.  They're the Twins.  We like the Twins." 

The White Twins. 

The Boy's team is named the Diamonds, the only other suggestion offered, after a not-so-close vote.

And admit it, you have the Beauty and the Beast song stuck in your head too.  Heh.   "Tale as old as tiiime..."

Friday, June 3, 2011

So it begins...

Summer, that is. 

Earlier this morning the Boy shipped off for his last day of pre-school, a thundery and sticky morning that, once the clouds break, is expected to be a scorcher.  Very appropriate weather to kick-off his vacation season before Kindergarten swings into action in September. 

Last night, Mom and I, along with the full Quartet of Grandparents, watched him graduate in full pomp - the white cap and gown, hair freshly cut, the "dressy pants" underneath. (which took 10 minutes of coaxing to get him changed out of his Army shorts).

And there they were, sixteen jittery 5.5 year olds singing lovely little songs (most with obligatory hand motions) and informing their captive audience what they will be when they grow up.  And considering the circumstances, they did fantastic - a true testament to the amazing teachers.  You see, the whole time, these mature and discerning youngins were within eyesight of a cookie buffet.  There were Paparazzi levels of flashbulbs snapping and video cameras rolling from every corner, and a multi-generational audience beaming from ear to ear at their every twitch and stutter.  But there they stood, hardly ever playing with the cap tassels, nobody wiping boogers on their neighbors or giving random shout outs to their respective families.  (you've all heard the "that's my dad!!!" or "I see grandma!!!" during a Christmas concert, right?)

I'm not sure how the teachers and staff pulled that off, but I want in on the secret.

Really, I shouldn't be surprised though.  From the beginning - when his primary teacher actually came out to our house to meet the Boy two years ago so he would recognize someone on his first day - to today's end, we've been nothing short of amazed at the adults that - on purpose! - spend their entire day surrounded by walking and babbling germ factories.  And love it.  And smile at every child, every morning, regardless of that child's escapades the day before.  Constantly having their personal space invaded by impromptu (and food-encrusted) hugs, sore necks and backs from walking with eyes cast down toward their miniature audience, always stooping to hear the whispered voices or separate the boys before things get serious.  Blessed with the gifts of Short Memory and Second Chance and Quick Smile, all with a gymnast's dexterity.  Wowsers.  I'm not sure how much any of them get paid, but I'm positive it should be more. 

And the Boy.  Ah, this Boy of mine.  At age 3, "visiting" his school for the first time, lip trembling at the noise 20+  kids make when in a room together - more kids than he had ever seen at once.  Such a little guy, still wearing the "I might not remember to stop playing and go potty" underwear.  Barely speaking above a whisper.   And now - confident.  Bold.  Active and smart.  Brave, and excited for Kindergarten.  What a transformation, one that I'm positive couldn't have happened without the gentle, reliable, constant and positive prodding of this group of caring adults. 

So, for this group, the ones that are able to convince 5 year olds that standing still and staying quiet is actually a good idea once and a while, and for the last 2 years have helped the Boy grow into a fine young man, some shout outs from a thankful parent are necessary.

First there's Sandy L, who for what seemed like the entire first year, was the name we used to coax our fearful little 3.5 year old into the van.  "Hurry up, we can't be late, Sandy's waiting for you!"  In the Boy's eyes, she was the safe zone, the comfortable and caring eyes and voice.  If nothing else was right in his school world, Sandy was right.

For the second year, with confidence starting to build, it was all about Marcia.  She was, after all, the one with the food.  "Hurry up, we can't be late, Marcia's waiting for you!", and into the van he'd go, wondering which two cereals he'd get to choose from that morning. 

And no matter who greeted him in the morning - Sandi H or Midge or Ericka or Bev or Adam or a student teacher, it was always a smile and always a greeting by name, and a genuine pleasure in seeing the Boy again.  And throughout the day, simple kindness - naptime with Holly and music with Sonja included, and the same each afternoon at good-bye, sometimes by the same person from earlier that morning, somehow still smiling. 

All wonderful people. Saints.  Ah, but there's one more.  Last but most certainly not least,  what would this Boy be without his Carrie?  Other than Mom and I and maybe a handful of relatives, I don't know that any other adult "gets" our Boy like Carrie does.  She totally knows him and adores his quirky little mind.  That isn't something they teach in Early Childhood education classes, it's just who Carrie is, and we could not have been more fortunate to have her as his primary teacher.  I'm going to miss the notes detailing his daily achievements and/or adventures.  And I'll miss the conferences where we share a group laugh over the peculiar ways the Boy views his world.  Just the thought that someone else delights in him is flat out astounding.  She has definitely set a very high bar for his upcoming teachers and has wildly exceeded even our most unrealistic expectations. 

And so, now summer begins.  I'm sure we'll figure out together, this Boy and I, how to fill our days.  And I'm sure I'll be filling the blogosphere with details of our adventures.   And next fall when Kindergarten starts, I know it will be fine and fun, with a whole new set of memories and things to love and good teachers and new friends. 

But for today, the last day, a huge shout out THANK YOU to everyone at NWC CDC.  You will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A whirlwind of activity

I realized this morning that I hadn't written an entry here in a couple of weeks.  Time is flying by; it's amazing how busy we've been, and even more amazing how normal and un-write-about-it-worthy (is there a word for that?) the activities have all been.  Just.  Normal.  Life.

Of course, "normal" is a subjective term.  Everything with the Boy is defined by adventure.  Like watching him run a race or throw a frisbee.  He has the same level of coordination and muscle command as a Muppet, sans muppeteer.  I've literally seen him fall over while just standing somewhere.  No movement.  Simply Thump.

And I suppose it isn't normal that our property, amongst others, was hit by a tornado on Sunday. 

Not like super mega North Minneapolis-Tuscaloosa-Joplin HIT hit.  Just grazed.  But getting grazed by a tornado is, in my humble opinion, about as fun as getting grazed by a Great White shark.  Nice to meet you, nature.  Please swim away now.

I admit I've always been a storm junkie - watching the radar with giddy anticipation, hoping for Big Thunder, and historically I've been visibly disappointed when a storm drifts north or south of us.  (truthfully, it's because my house could use new siding and I don't have any money other than my insurance policy to pay for it).  When the sirens do blare for Anoka County, you could usually find me standing in the backyard watching for some good spinning action in the clouds.  I've sent pictures to local news stations even.  So dorky.

But no more.  At least for a spell while my memory fades, I'll be joining the saner members of society in our collective basements and storm shelters. 

I did take some pictures.  Here's one: 

The super annoying thing was that my vehicles were blocked in my garage, meaning I couldn't go drive around the neighborhood to see how everyone else fared, which is pretty much my super most favorite thing to do after a storm.  Grumble grumble.

In Boy news, he has just over a week to go before pre-school graduation and ensuing summer vacation.  He really has no concept of this, even though we've tried to explain what "graduation" means and even though he has visited his new Kindergarten for next fall.  I imagine him realizing sometime in August that he hasn't been to school in a while and asking when he's going back.  We'll deal with the "never again" conversation then, I guess.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The best part of spring

I don't remember if I've mentioned this on this particular blog or not, but I have to say that my favorite thing about spring isn't the warming weather, or greening trees, or blooming gardens or thunderstorms or end of school or start of Twins baseball (although that one's a close second). 

By far, my most favorite part of spring is seeing, popping up in ditches along busy intersections and stapled to heavily acupunctured utility poles, the first of the garage sale signs. 

Oh, how I love garage sales.  Estate sales.  Rummage sales.  Yard sales.  Call them what you want, I heart them, in an unhealthy way.  I've been known to kill an entire sunny Thursday driving slowly through residential neighborhoods as if on mountain switchbacks.

Admittedly, it's a bizarre spring custom.  The whole premise, really.  Take everything out of your house or shed that you no longer want, and, instead of throwing it away like a normal person, affixing 10¢ and 3/$1.00 stickers to it and leaving it out on your driveway for your neighbors to sift through.  Even if someone actually buys something, you've only earned a buck or two for your efforts.  Crazy persons do this.  And, bonus, now all your neighbors know that you, a crazy person, once collected Beanie Babies or ceramic M&M characters.  On one hand, you no longer collect them (hence the sale), but apparently you still hold an entirely too high opinion of them with prices that would make Trump blush and labels like Vintidge collectables (sic) and you brake it you buy it

And don't get me started about last spring's extremely elderly couple in a modest Roseville rambler pawning off an enormous lifetime collection of "vintidge" Penthouse magazines.  That's why we have recycle bins, folks. (And if you're wondering, I didn't buy anything, but in fact left quickly and silently, refusing to make eye contact lest I burst out laughing, wondering who's idea it was to finally sell them - his or hers?)

Yesterday, the Boy and I hit up some garage sales in the NE suburbs of Fridley, Blaine and Coon Rapids.  

I'll start by saying that I'm pretty sure I'm not one of those crazy dads that is trying to live his life vicariously through his Boy.  I wanted to play baseball forever; I honestly won't care if he hates it after he tries T-ball this summer.  I love swimming, he hates it.  No mind.  We'll find things he likes. 

However, I admit I was nervous bringing him to garage sales.  This is the One Thing that I want him to love as much as me.  But what if he refuses to get out of the car?  What if he doesn't even get the premise?  What if he's done after one house?  Oh, the humanity....

Thankfully, he's a chip off the old block sale (ba-dum-dum-ching).  He couldn't get enough, running up each driveway to search for the toy section.  Chatting up the old ladies (he calls them "grandfriends" thanks to pre-school).  Toward the end, after seeing how things work, he was even bold enough to ask questions like How much do you want for this? and  do you know if all the pieces are here? 

I. could. not. be. happier. 

I actually had to coax him back home after I had my fill (and it was getting close to rush hour traffic).  He selected a new puzzle, a really cool marble race thingie (click on it to see it) and a toy truck, all total under 5 bucks, and was hungry for more.

Luckily, he was also hungry for food, so we worked our way home to enjoy our treasures over dinner. 

There is a strong likelihood that this will become our regular Thursday activity.  Take that, sports lessons.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Another adventurous weekend has come to an end.  With the Boy's school closed for the extended Easter weekend, we made the most of our time together, culminating in a camping trip on Monday night.  The Boy had never been camping before, and with the weather a balmy and sunny mid-60s, he and I decided last minute that it would be the perfect day to give it a go.

So, we made our plans.  We began by making a list of everything we'd need to survive the adventure.  My list included the tent, two flashlights, sleeping bags and extra blankets.  His list consisted of marshmallows. 

We were set! 

After our lists were complete, we packed up and loaded our gear and eventually set out on our hike toward the campsite.  We trekked together for a good jaunt, ending up at the far western edge of (drumroll) the backyard.  Whew! 

The Boy picked out a good flat spot under the stars and near the marshmallow cooking pit.  After staking down the tent (and returning to home-base for other necessary supplies including the DVD player, games, books, and Cheetos), we cooked up some hot dogs and sugary confections.  Camp-on-the-Highway was open for business!  Our nutritious meal digesting, we spent the wee hours of the late evening playing Chutes and Ladders, watching movies and eating junk food until drifting off to sleep around 10:30.  Or at least he did some drifting.

Being ever the victim of Murphy and his Law, Monday night was also the night that the neighbors to the south (and invited guests) decided to open up their backyard gazebo- and sand volleyball pit - for the first time this year and have a raucous party.  Until 2 in the morning.  On a Monday night.  Do these people not have jobs?  Of all the...not that the Boy heard any of it, though.  Only those of us with 35 year old backs trying to sleep on the hard ground took notice. 

And, it wouldn't be camping without an overnight rain storm.  Literally 5 minutes after I heard the last of the rowdy neighbors stumble toward their house to sleep off all that they had imbibed, thinking that I could finally get some shut-eye, the wind began to howl and the rain began its plunking and spattering against the tent fabric. 


When we awoke the next morning (and by "awoke" I mean he awoke, I was still just laying there watching it get slightly lighter outside, sigh)- with the temperature hovering around the freezing point and the tent doing a below-average job of keeping the rain out - we made a break for homebase, abandoning our water-absorbent gear to the mercy of the elements. 

Overall, we had an outstanding fun time - definitely something he'll remember.  He was extremely proud of himself for staying outside for the whole night and wants to do it again.  Which is Excellent.  My favorite part?  Walking the 50 or so feet back to the house and taking a hot shower and getting the coffee pot going. 

Ah, camping. 

I confess that the neighbors were lucky it was still raining at 7:00 am when we headed indoors.  While lying there listening to them clank beer bottles around and play midnight volleyball under their bleeping floodlight with music blaring, I was secretly plotting revenge from the other side of the fence.  Amongst my sinisterly less-than-appropriate fantasies involving a chainsaw and/or gasoline and matches to burn down their gazebo, I had settled on doing some spring yard work with my extremely loud leaf-blower near their bedroom windows.  Had it only stopped raining. 

So, here's some pictures of the past few days, starting with a couple of obligatory Easter shots.  I hope your weekend was equally memorable!

The Boy had a wonderful Easter with his cousins in Northfield on Sunday.  Definitely one of the highlights for the adventurous lot was discovering the storm drain in Grandma's backyard and all of its inherent echo-iness.

It's universal for 5 year olds that during an Egg Hunt you are required to stop after each find and take inventory.  And then eat inventory.

Before the camping trip on Monday, the Boy decided he wanted to eat at the driveway-drive-thru.  I'm not to proud to flip pretend burgers and serve them out the living room window...would you like fries with that? 

And on to camping!  Here's to you, oh mighty campfire!  Thank you for your ability to melt things.

And here's the finished set-up.  I'd like to believe we were perched on a cliff side, deep into the heart of the northwoods.  Here we are,  just off the trail, after a long day backpacking our gear and rations in.  Please ignore the evidence to the contrary, namely the woodpile.....the well manicured lawn....the chain link fence with highway views....the orange power cord entering the tent....nothing to see here....

Definitely my kind of camping.  We're really roughing it here -  I mean, seriously - look how small that screen is!  We can hardly see it! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

So, it snowed last night.  Silly Minnesota.  About 2 inches of the white stuff flocked the trees overnight, and now with the mid-morning wind picking up and warming the air, it looks like Snowmageddon, with giant white clumps leaving their tree roosts and hurling themselves toward the unsuspecting ground. 

Snowbombs.  Awesome.

The Boy was equally unhappy with the weather this morning.  His exact comment as he climbed the stairs from his basement domain and caught a glimpse of the trees and yard:  "What?  No-ooo.  No no no.  This can NOT be happening again.  (one second pause, then turn to face kitchen) Can I have strawberries for breakfast or are those a dessert?"

And so the snow plops to the ground, melting on contact with anything previously sun-warmed.  It's supposed to rain in the next few hours/overnight.  Winter's last gasp.  It will all be over soon, and while the winter every year seems to drag on forever while in the middle of it, really it did go by fast on reflection. 

Speaking of fast, The Boy is nearing the end of Year Two of his pre-school.  How is that even possible?  It wasn't that long ago that we brought our trembling little 3 year old to the school for a visit, his tiny body fighting back tears brought on just by sitting on the floor with these strange new faces for "morning meeting", and me and the missus just standing there shell-shocked about how old he was getting.  Now, he's a 5+ year old, his confidence and courage booming, (sometimes to an aggravating fault) and we're drawing the pre-school chapter to a close in only a few short weeks. 

And I suppose that'll be good.  Let one school build him up, and then ship him off to a new one to rejoin the trembling newcomers.  I know we'll look back at this transition - and then the next from Kindergartner to grade-schooler, and then the next....and wonder at how fast things seem to move, like April snow plopping from the trees.  His mom's family has a tradition of singing "Sunrise, Sunset" to each other at milestones like this, I can hear them now...

The Boy finished his strawberries and begrudgingly put on his winter coat and hat, lamenting that he "was just wearing shorts and flip flops last week!".  He seemed to know that this new snow didn't stand a chance against the looming summer, announcing that he wasn't even going to bother making a snowman at school because it would melt before he got it finished. 

He's so right.

Monday, April 11, 2011

File under Drown, Attempt Not To

For a significant portion of my early grade school years, my family lived up over the hills of Duluth in a rural area called Pike Lake, cleverly named as such because, well, there was a lake in the middle of it.  Called Pike.  Genius, that.  We didn't live on the lake - no, no.  That was reserved (in my elementary eyes) for the uber-rich and uber-lucky, like professional hockey players and Italians that sold frozen pizzas.  Seriously.

And both Grandmas and Grandpas.  The nice thing about having both Grandmas and Grandpas living on the lake's northside, besides being able to tell all my friends that both my Grandmas and Grandpas lived on the lake's northside, was that I had free access to the beaches pretty much every day of every summer that wasn't a thunderstorm.  I remember when I learned how to swim, around the Boy's age.

I didn't have much choice in the matter.  When you "grow up on the lake", you learn how to swim in the following series of steps: 
Step One:  Get in the water.  And do it quickly, because your cousins, including some of the younger ones, already did, and you don't want to look Chicken.
Step Two:  Don't drown.
That's it.  Congratulations, you're a swimmer!  No instructors.  No lifeguards or Life Vests or Kickboards or Lane Dividers.  You just jump in.  Sink or swim.  (Or more literally - sink and then swim).  

Honestly, not until I was an adult, having moved to the safely-lit suburbs of an Urban Cultural Center, did I discover that people actually paid other people to teach them how to swim.  In chlorine!  With strangers!  And you had to shower first!  With strangers!  In a locker room!


So, anyway, the Boy, being an Urbanly Cultured lad, had his first "swimming lesson" back on Saturday.  A "rite of passage", my wife calls it.  An exercise to be labelled and filed under Drown, Attempt Not To.

And I will say, he composed himself very well, given the situation.  First, I'll start by saying he absolutely loves the water; has a blast whenever he goes "swimming" with his cousins in the Shoreview pool or his cousins in Duluth.  He even loves the Log Flume at the MegaSuperHugeAndUnnecessaryMall in Bloomington.  But even at his young age of (as he calls it) "halfway past five", I saw that he could sense just how unnatural and contrived a "swimming lesson" can be.  He was very unhappy about the whole experience, this Boy that loves water, and I'm just hoping we aren't ruining future visits to water parks for him. 

And I'll say in his defense, while sitting just beyond the Splash Zone,  the whole environment bordered on surreal.  I would've hated it too.

Where to begin.  Hmm.  Oh, how about the instructor?  I have never - NEVER - heard a voice like hers.  The closest comparison I can think of is Alvin - of chipmunk fame - after sucking the life out of a helium balloon.   I imagined dogs in the neighborhood barking at the wind, picking out phrases of hers that were beyond human capacity to actually hear.  It was all vowels, the consonants completely lost, tied up in knots in the back of her tightly pinched larynx.  Maybe that helps the kids focus or something. 

Like when they hear helium-Alvin say:  "o-HAY!  Nah ley's AH foh AHN ow ACKS!!!" (translation:  OK, now let's all float on our backs!), the students are so intensely focused on NOT allowing their ear drums to burst that they forget to splash each other in the eyes for a moment.  Excellent teaching strategy, I suppose, to keep the kids' fingers in their ears.

And add to that, the parent next to me.  Poor guy.  I'll start by saying that he's probably a good guy.  Pays his Taxes.  Drives the Speed Limit.  And definitely a Dedicated Dad.  He's here, after all, sacrificing his Saturday morning watching his boy or girl Not Drown.  But the book he's reading to pass the time?  I kid you not - it's called How to Read a Book.


How to Read a Book?  A book called HOW to READ a BOOK?  The irony-meter in my head had mercury busting through the top like a cartoon.  So.  Many.  Jokes. 

Like I wonder if they have an audio version?  With a bonus disc called "How to Listen to a Narrator"?

Or, Did he know to start on the left and move his eyes toward the right?  I'll bet there's a helpful navigation on the last page that says "If you are reading this, and you haven't read anything else to this point, you've started in the wrong place.  Please close this book, flip it over, and then re-open it again from the other side."

Or those helpful hand diagrams near the top of the first few pages that illustrate how to grab the corner, and in a gentle sweeping motion, pull Page One to the left, thereby uncovering Page Two?  Ha ha!!!

I have more.

But I won't.  Go there.

Back to swimming.  The Boy survived (both in the physical Not Drown sense, and in the emotional I Need to Get Through This Somehow Without a Complete Nuclear Meltdown into a Nervous Puddle of Brain Mush Like I'm Sure Will Also Occur the First Time I Want to Ask a Girl on a Date or Ask Dad for the Car Keys or Have to Give a Speech in 3rd Grade About Squirrel Habitats or President Eisenhower or Why I Love Minnesota sense), and did all of his proper kicking and back-floating and get-face-wetting. 

Once he was away from all the other kids, safely with Dad on the way to the locker room to reclaim his civilian clothes, he lost his composure, melting into sorrow about how NOT fun that was.  I couldn't help but agree.  After re-dressing, (I won't even START to describe the anxiety I felt, returning for the first time in 20 years to a boys' locker room), we soothed his nerves with a surprise trip to get ice cream.

Sigh.  Only 5 more weeks to go.  I'm going to need some Dairy Queen coupons if you have any.

Oh, and the guy was actually highlighting things!  I can hardly stand it!  Must! Make! Fun! Of!

Heh.  Highlighting must have been in Chapter One of the book, titled "How to Look Serious When Reading".  I imagine there exists a  paragraph that kindly warns purchasers that reading an ironic book in public could lead to ridicule from strangers.  It continues:  
"Therefore, we strongly recommend that if you are reading a book called How To Read a Book, in a public place, that you carefully color with (the attached) bright yellow marker.  This is called Collegiate Highlighting.  To achieve the desired effect of Not Looking Like a Complete Imbecile, be sure to highlight whole sentences, starting with the first sentence of each new paragraph you encounter and also anything that's printed really dark.  This is called bolding. (highlight this)  We recommend you also have a pencil handy to write small incoherent notes to yourself in the narrow white space to the left and right of the big clumps of words.  These are called margins. (highlight this)..." 

OK, I'll stop.  Just too easy. 

Have a great Monday everyone!  Don't drown.  Or at least attempt not to.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This is the Big One!

So, as many of you kind readers know, I've been a stay-at-home dad since last September.  Of course, that's just my ego-protective way of saying "unemployed", but still, it's been a grand adventure waiting for the Next Big Thing. 

And today I get to announce, with my wife's reluctant permission, the Next Big Thing for our family.  Yesterday, I was offered a position at a start-up company.  The pay is decent, not great.  The benefits are shady, but they are at least...existent.  

The only drawback is that the position is located just outside Anchorage, Alaska.

So, with excited hearts and a healthy dose of concern, we are packing up the family and heading North!  I truly believe it is Murphy's law that is driving us up the Alaskan Highway, what with all my complaining about the cold and snow.  Thankfully, we'll have housing paid for us - a small place, one bedroom and a kitchenette in the cabin.  Our nearest neighbor for this little adventure in the mountains, I've been told, is about 20 miles to the south. 

We leave mid-May after they have the road cleared.  We have a whirlwind of things to do before then - sell or rent the house and cars (the only road into our place requires an ATV or Jeep), get a Jeep, and arrange for storage and/or sell off all our furniture in order to downsize into the 350 sq ft cabin. 

Oh, and my wife is having triplets we just found out at our ultrasound appointment last Tuesday. 

Oh, and it's April First, which makes me realize I've got lots of packing to do! 

Or not. :-)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Strong-arm parenting is so 1950s

Look how strong I am, Dad!

I learned a while ago that this particular sentence warrants immediate attention.  Regardless of the tie-score- and-under-a-minute-to-play of one's March Madness bracket busting game.  Regardless of the food burning on the stove.  Or phone ringing or bathroom beckoning.  If you here this sentence, as the Parent of a 5-year old Boy, you pay attention. 

This particular time, yesterday, the Boy had managed to lift a wooden end table and was holding it upside-down over his head.  Standing on the couch.  His biceps were quivering.

Wow, that's pretty strong, I said in as even a tone as I could muster while very nonchalantly RACING over to him to save him from imminent blood-letting.  I took the table from his hands, much to his chagrin. 

I wanted to put it down myself, he harrumphed. 

Sorry, Boy, it was too big, it would've crashed.

No it wouldn't.

You don't know that.  You don't know that it wouldn't have crashed.

Yes I do know it.  I know everything.


Everything!  You don't have to tell me anything else ever again!  I know everything!

And with this proclamation, we've apparently entered the teenage years.  He knows everything now, my job is done!  I'd always heard that you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten, which he doesn't start until fall. 

He's so advanced. 

Stomping from the room, he also added I'll worry about me, you worry about you.  For one incredibly tempting moment, I thought about saying "see ya in a couple hours then" and leaving in the van.

I didn't.

Speaking of stomping, I still don't have my car back from the mechanic yet.  Two weeks ago today I dropped that blessed car off to fix an electrical problem.  A week ago today, I wrote that I thought it would be done, and then the mechanic called to say it was done.  Before I could leave my house to walk there and pick it up, they'd called again to let me know they couldn't get it started.  Again.  Three (or more) attempted solutions later, they still cannot figure out what's causing it to short out.  Other than being a 17 year old Oldsmobile, I don't know what it could be either, so there it sits. 

If I was strong enough to lift it over my head, I'd drop it in a ravine.