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FAMILY, FRIENDS (permalink) 05.25.2012
if only we could go to the pool after the smores party instead of before.
bella handed these out to her friends. so did alex. even anthony handed some out. and i'm sure marty slid one or two to her friends. i figured if they can invite folks so can i. so if your people know where my people stay, you're invited to our humble and sometimes excitingly dangerous (via little flaming balls of fire -- very game of thrones) smores fest.

and if you do come, you'll note i never touch the things. regardless of your math skills, i promise you can't compute how far out of bounds something that sticky is for me.

KIDS (permalink) 05.24.2012
this life is more than just a read through - chillipeppers "can't stop"
i suited up to bike the park on a beautiful sunday afternoon. as i stepped onto the porch, bella asked if she could go. while i needed a hard ride only a fool would turn down such a request from an eleven year old daughter. so i waited for bella to throw on her helmet, slip into some crocks and wheel her bike to the front. we were off.

on the tail end of our eight mile ride, we ran into a stretch of fine gravel, more like silt really. when we first hit this new surface (most of our route was a paved track) bella's tires slid as she pedaled through sharp turns. i began to caution her about biking on this type of terrain but stopped myself from saying anything. i'm trying to talk less and let my kids experience more first-hand. this new troy is probably shocking to any who know me fairly well. but those who know me well should also know there is always a new troy in the works. less than ninety seconds after biting my tongue bella turned into a corner hard and both tires slid out from beneath her. i pulled up next to her and asked if she was ok. she said she was. i commented that this silty stuff can be slippery to bike tires. she said she saw that. we stood her up. her knee had a small cut. i squirted some water on it and asked if she was ok. she was. we pushed on.

that night while dining on the front porch, i recounted the moment to the family, adding that i considered cautioning bella about the peril but decided to let her find this out on her own. i was mildly prepared to get some pushback in the "thanks a lot" variety but got none. i'd say the kids, bella and alex at least, not only understood but appreciated the looser hand.

we went on to talk about how mom and i would have to sit back in the future when the kids entered new waters and how some things have to be learned and not advised, especially in the world of dating. marty and i knew we'd have to just smile and let them watch the tires slide out first hand. when they said that was kinda sucky, i agreed but also assured them we'd be here to squirt water on their scrapes when it was done.

KIDS (permalink) 05.23.2012
like silly putty in their hands
alex is our consumer. when we travel and he sees commercial television, he has no defense for the highly fabricated and stylized advertisements that interrupt his shows (and that bella used to think were mini-skits so the shows actors could huddle and think what they should do next in their story). he watches with an open mouth miniature motorized cars make dramatic slow motion jumps over little plastic barrels. or he flashes an astonished face as kites easily do repeated loop-de-loops with a minor flick of a child's wrist. or sits mystified as a junior magician shows how to make an invisible worm writhe and wiggle (using hidden strings). after studiously taking in the presentation alex always says the same thing when it's done, "ohhh, dad/mom did you see that? i totally want one of those" to which marty and i always look away from our book or magazine long enough to reply "yeah it looked pretty cool".

the other day alex appeared at my desk and said he knew what he wanted for christmas. i turned in my chair, ready to listen, accustomed to such visits. ready for anything i told him to shoot. he said with an easy confidence that next christmas he really wanted a messenger falcon.

ok. so maybe i wasn't ready for anything.

QUOTES (permalink) 05.22.2012
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
don't walk

WIFE (permalink) 05.17.2012
marty love-fest part 3 (baya)

what strikes me about the kids' gifts to marty this year is that they came without any sort of prompting. i never said "remember to do something for your mother" or "remember tomorrow is mother's day". this was all done on their own accord. fact is, i didn't even know they had done anything until i saw it unfold as marty did. and even with anthony i knew he had done something but he kept it secret until the gave it to her in bed that morning. most cool.

WIFE (permalink) 05.16.2012
marty love-fest part 2 (aleo)
birthday parties at our house have a ritual called the birthday spoiler. when kids aren't looking the birthday spoiler takes and hides their party gear (pinata, games, cake) but leaves clues as to where the items got to. the kids have to solve the clues to find their stuff for the party to continue. this year alex used this tactic on marty.

dear marty,
hi. i know you haven't heard of me. i am the mother's day stealer. i hid alex's mother's day gifts. you might find alex's mother's day gifts. but since i am nice, i will give you a clue. it is in a room where you go poop.

i tricked you. but i will make sure you don't find it. here is another clue. it is somewhere where you send email.

you found it. next year i will hide it even harder.

WIFE (permalink) 05.15.2012
marty love-fest part 1 (anfer)
the teachers at anthony's pre-school had the kids make these books. they also had them make (not pictured) a small fabric pillow to be hung on a door knob that reads "do not disturb". while cute, i fear the frilly token may not be honored as one might hope.

FILM (permalink) 05.11.2012
deliciously insidious
marty and the kids were out of town for the weekend. a co-worker asked what i was going to do. i said i wasn't sure but might take in a movie. he mentioned this one he thought i might like called tree of life. he said he didn't know much about it other than it was about a generation or two of fathers and had brad pitt and sean penn in it. i held up my hand, told him i was sold and he shouldn't say anything else. i've hit that age where i'm actually open and interested in hearing what older, more experienced folks have to say about things, especially when it comes to parenting.

the movie was playing in my favorite theater which is about a ten minute walk from my house. i arrived well on time, got some corn and a drink and settled into an out of the way seat. being saturday night and a talked about film the small theater filled in quickly. then the movie started. twenty minutes in i feared i'd made a tragic choice. i looked to my right. there was an older couple pinning my in (i had a wall to my left). i studied the couple. it looked like it would take them seven minutes to stand up if i tried to pass. there were people in the rows in front of and behind me so i was stuck there as well. i glanced back to the screen. it confirmed how screwed i was. it turns out i wasn't alone in my sentiment. when the credits finally rolled, a woman a few rows behind me exclaimed "thank god" in a most relieved tone.

since escaping that dark auditorium, my sense for the film has changed, dramatically. it has changed so remarkably that now, now i think it may be one of the best films i've ever seen. like ever. this re-consideration began as soon as my walk home from the theater. and since then, some five months later, images and thoughts from the film continue to roll through the projector in my head with great regularity. and the thoughts and emotions i'm left with are not just whimsical remembrances--they are powerful and moving. in hindsight i would call it an extraordinary work. and when the writing and directing and editing is done, is the resultant experience not the fundamental point of the medium, especially in this "entertain me" commanding society.

i won't tell you why or how this film proved so meaningful for me, unless you come and ask, but will say if you do give it a go, you need to give yourself to it. commit the ninety minutes. and i mean really commit. no checking your mail or answering the phone or watching some today and some tomorrow. you need to let it wash over you in one sitting. that's what was intended and the only way it will work. i think knowing that beforehand would have helped me as going in blind does not work so well in this instance.

and if you don't trust my sense (which would be quite wise) roger ebert just added it to his top ten films of all time (essay here) which is what reminded me to share my experience with this moving picture.

LIFE, WIFE (permalink) 05.10.2012
how could you doubt me, after all these years.
to the question of do i have the note mentioned in yesterday's post? of course i have the note. it even includes a greasy spot from the food.

regarding my penmenship, while it's never great, it's really quite un-great at six in the morning when i'm trying to be quick and sneaky.

and in case you want to read the backside too.

LIFE (permalink) 05.09.2012
topsy-turvy - part 2
in all the hubbub i never finished our topsy-turvey tale. i left off with me having knee surgery (see topsy turvey part 1 for the detail). so i had my surgery on a tuesday and everything went fine and well. prior to the procedure i asked what to expect recovery wise. i was told i would walk in and i would walk out. i took that to mean it would be like nothing at all had happened and that my life would resume as soon as the anesthesia wore off. with this understanding, i told my office i'd be be out tuesday and back on wednesday. the first sign this was not the case was the prescription for 60 vicodans they handed marty on our way out the door.

in addition to the prescription there was the direction to keep the knee perpetually iced and elevated for the next 72 hours. while the week was shot to three kinds of hell, on the good side of all this dour news, marty and i discovered downton abbey. while laid up and bored in bed, i trolled the netflix hallways looking for anything of interest. something took me towards downton abbey. i watched the first five minutes of it and hit pause. i called for marty and said she should plan on having lunch with me in bed as i had a show for us to watch. so we sat in bed, my knee wrapped in ice and atop four pillows, eating sandwiches and discovering a 1912 english village while our children were at school. possibly our most quaint and romantic workday afternoon since our college days (and certainly our most peaceful moment in recent weeks).

i gingerly returned to work on friday to begin the dig out. it went slow but steady. at three in the afternoon marty called. she said the principal from the high school she used to teach at called. a teacher had taken ill and they needed someone to fill in for three weeks ... (pause) ... starting monday. after another pregnant pause i noted that by her calling me at work and positing the question, she was expressing interest. yes. after a third pause in the conversation, i said i supported whatever she wished and said we could talk about it further that night.

before children, marty taught for nine years (at this same school that was calling now). marty then took off nine years. returning to teaching is something that has definitely been on her thoughts especially now that our youngest, anthony, is slated for full day kindergarten next year. but next year is the earliest we'd ever thought about her return and would have, in an ideal world, preferred two years to give marty one year to breathe and collect herself before returning to the fray.

marty was interested on several levels which i'm sure i'd botch if i tried to represent them so won't. suffice it to say marty's brain was above an idle with the notion of challenging her mind beyond innovating on what went in her kid's lunchbags or reading a new goosebumps book to her five year old. i get this need. fully. when i returned home that evening and saw how lively her eyes were, i made three points. i asked that she didn't start monday because the still-broken fridge was scheduled for repair on monday. i asked that she not let this sudden jump back into a professional routine, taint her notions of returning for real because she wasn't giving herself a chance to re-enter work life with a proper amount of time to plan and prepare, professionally or mentally. and i said, i could handle the kids in the morning but she had to find places for them, especially anthony, when they got out of school. within twelve hours she returned the call saying she would do it. fortunately, because of paperwork she couldn't start on monday anyway so the fridge got repaired (thank gawd!!! as post-knee surgery is not the time you want to be without a working ice-maker).

her first morning of work she left at 6:00 am. i woke up early to make her breakfast. as she ate i confessed this was only a "first day back to work after nine years off" treatment and she shouldn't expect it everyday. i also made her a lunch and stole a little note in there in case she was getting treated poorly by the day or the kids. then she left. after a short bit of quiet, i started prodding kids out of beds.

the kids knew my getting them ready was going to be different. marty is definitely far more accommodating that i am. she is known for making them pancakes, kraft macaroni and cheese, or even crazy time-consuming waffles. when they ask me for such things, i look at them as if i didn't understand the questions, which in some regards is true. in the early days, they'd repeat the question and i'd tell them to go get a muffin and yogurt. now they don't even repeat the question. they just look at my face and head to the muffin tin all on their own. progress! and, if i'm known for anything in the morning it is when i am ready and they are not i stand in the foyer and yell, "you're putting me behind schedule Dufresne. don't make me come up there and thump you." rabid fans of shawshank redemption might recognize this loose translation of one of my favorite lines from the film. my kids obviously have no idea what i'm talking about or who this Dufresne cat is, but they get the gist that i'm getting irritated and they best up the pace.

i wasn't too intimidated about getting the kids off to school. this is something i usually do on wednesdays so i have a sense for what is involved. but there was one variable i failed to consider. every time i've taken the kids to school on my wednesdays, marty was there, in the house and part of the morning. we'd really not gone through the drill without her. the problem stemmed from anthony's morning ritual, which goes like this. when anthony wakes up you will often here a stretch and a yawn. this gets followed by hearing the creaks of the slats in his upper bunk as he moves to the ladder. once down, you hear a quick patter of feet, and might see a flash in the hall, as he quick steps it to the bathroom. urination. more patters—this time to marty's side of the bed. then you hear one word in a very business like tone: cuddle. with this marty's arm raises the covers like batman might swoosh his cape and anthony lithely slides into the warmth of her space and the covers drop, engulfing him. this is followed by three to ten minutes of silence which is broken, always, by the same question: is it a computer morning. computer mornings are weekend mornings where the kids get a few hours of computer to start the day.

on the first day marty was away anthony woke, he went to the bathroom, then the empty bed, then came and found me.

where's mom?

at work. remember she's going to be working for a few weeks.

but what about my cuddle?

oh. i can do your cuddles while mom's away.

but you don't know how.

i'm sure they won't be as good but maybe you can teach me.

now i'm doing nuthin'! and i'm not going to school!

with this declaration anthony turned and ran back to his room, climbed his ladder and cried for the next ninety minutes. although to say he cried at the news is like saying i was merely disappointed when i re-injured my knee. what he really did was screamed for a full hour and a half that we wanted his mommy. bella, alex and i quietly ate breakfast to this upstairs tirade. as i told bella and alex to suit up to go, alex asked me what i was going to do about anthony. i answered honestly that i didn't know.

i climbed the stairs and entered his room. he repeated his missive that he wasn't going to school. i told him he had to. it was the only choice. no one was going to be home. he said he didn't care. i said i wished i could leave him but i just couldn't. it wasn't safe. he pleadingly said he'd lock the door and not answer it, no matter what. i told him i wished that was enough but it wasn't. he was just too young and he had to go to school. when he said no again i had to pull out the big gun, the one thing for which anthony seems to have no defense: 1-2-3. immediately after i said the single word "one" anthony yelled, "okay stupid head, i'm coming." and he did. he immediately came down the ladder descended the stairs, headed toward the kitchen but i stopped him saying he missed breakfast and now there was no time. without protest he sat down and i put his shoes on. he put his coat and backpack on and headed towards the car without breakfast and still in pajamas.

he sulked on the way to bella and alex's school. he sulked after their drop off and on the way to his school. when we pulled up he got out of the car still fully under protest and began a slow walk into the building. just as we started i saw anthony's best friend grady get out of his car. i called hello to him and when he saw us he yelled a gigantic, arms-in-the-air, ANTHONY!!! he then charged towards us and ripped his coat open showing a large scooby doo shirt. he said his mom let him get one just like the one he gave anthony for his birthday. astonished anthony unzipped his coat to show his scooby shirt and the boys happily marched into school arm-in-arm.

that proved to be the turning point for anthony and i had no more problems after that. in my second week i was heard to say things like "did you get your milk out of the freezer and put it in your lunchbag" and "don't put your shoes there because you won't remember them in the morning." which is really good news because after marty did her three week stint filling in, the school offered her the job, full-time, starting next year ... (pause) ... and, she accepted.

QUOTES (permalink) 05.08.2012
name, rank, and ssn please.
we got a report from anthony's teachers that while walking down the hall he bumped into a girl with his shoulder. after the girl reported this to the teachers they called anthony over an asked him about it. first he said he didn't remember it happening. they challenged this saying it just happened and he must remember it. his demeanor stiffened and he said to the three teachers,
look, all i have to remember is my name and my password. that's it.
the teachers told us they didn't proceed after that because they were trying to stifle their laughter and couldn't press him further. before the circle broke anthony added that maybe he was blinking (and in his retelling he began blinking wildly) and maybe he didn't see the girl given his blinking attack and maybe he accidentally, gently, sorta, kinda bumped into her.

i don't know if i'm more excited or anxious to hear what these stories sound like when he's sixteen instead of five.

VIDEO, LIFE (permalink) 05.04.2012
more support for the importance of failure
circumstance recently led me to j.k. rowlings 2008 commencement address at harvard. for me, her twenty minute speech surpassed the combined value of all her potter books. mostly because she's pro-failure, something i'm quite ravenous about as of late. my favorite line, of many:
some failure in life is inevitable. it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default.
next, we just need to figure out how to move this message down from post-college to pre-kindergarten.

also, as i had to remind bella as she shoulder-hacked me crafting this post, the real meat of failure is not in failing itself, but in the building of tools needed to climb out of life's many divots, holes, ditches, cliffs and canyons. so maybe perseverance is the better term. less ambiguous is the fact that the landscape is treacherous and circumstance requires us to travel large swaths of it in the dark.

SPORTS (permalink) 05.03.2012
you just got faced!
whenever bella hears me talking to anyone about swimming, she sidles up next to me and waits for a break in the conversation. when one comes she proudly announces that she can swim faster than her dad. then realizing she has cast me in an embarrassing light, she softens the blow by confessing, "but there's a reason. you see, i'm a sprinter and he's a lengther."

HEALTH (permalink) 05.02.2012
a relative recently experienced a cardiac event which resulted in a stint being installed near his heart and an honest talking to from a doctor about his lifestyle. at rehab, he asked about success rates for this particular procedure and recovery. the candid answer: over half the people who sat in his chair with his diagnosis were dead within a year. in the subsequent weeks he quit smoking, dramatically changed his diet (losing 25 pounds in less than two months), and exercised with a religious dedication. marty asked how hard it was to make so many lifestyle changes at once, he replied that it wasn't hard at all. in fact every decision proved quite simple, "if i eat pizza, i die. if i don't exercise, i die. if i do any of the things i did before, i die. so no it's not hard. it's not hard at all. it's most easy."

PERSONAL (permalink) 05.01.2012
mean-muggin' starts in the morning with your wardrobe selections.
many years back i had a failed standoff with a guy whose dog took a dump in my yard while i read on the porch. that tale of woe may be revisited here. last weekend the universe presented me with the chance to redeem that day's poor showing. i was sitting on the front porch eating breakfast. a tall fella came down the walk with a large black lab. when they got to my yard the dog pulled up and started excitedly sniffing the grass (perhaps it is time to stop anthony from whizzing in the yard, or at least limit him to the backyard). i scanned the guy's hand and pocket for a plastic bag. i saw none. i began steeling myself for the moment and what i would say should the cur suddenly back up, clench his haunches and begin the deed.

i sized the fellow up further. as i said he was tall. he was also unshaven, wearing jeans, a dark shirt and a baseball cap that had a camouflage pattern on its front. i glanced down at myself. i was wearing a pair of express jeans that had been cut-off to capri length. i had a purple shirt on that read u-city unicorns 1. the shirt also had a silhouette of a unicorn. i studied the horned horse hoping it was at least lunging at a foe in a menacing manner. no matter how i turned or squinted the unicorn couldn't be described as doing anything but prancing, and exuberantly so. i looked back at the guy. he was looking at me. i slightly raised my small bowl of yogurt, granola and strawberries in the form of a morning greeting. he nodded very slightly, tugged on the dog's leash and they proceeded on their walk before the dog could test these two men. thus, i'm putting this standoff under the WIN column—even if it is a caliber of win like the other team didn't have enough kids to play or reported to the wrong field.

1 bella's softball team is called the u-city unicorns. i am the coach. we had a game the morning the above story took place. when bella saw me before the first game wearing the shirt, she stopped me in the hallway and asked, with all the vinegar you might detect in a junior high hallway, what i was doing ...

what? what do you mean?

the shirt.

yeah. what about it?

why are you wearing it?

because we have a game.

but you're not playing.

yeah. but i am the coach.

i don't know dad. i'm not feeling it.

granted, had i not been wearing a child's shirt with a gay horse on it, i would have been wearing light blue lacoste polo. in the end, i'm not sure how much ground this would have gained me with a guy wearing a hat purchased at Bass Pro.

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