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KIDS (permalink) 06.29.2012
i've always enjoyed the meatheads more than the meatbacks anyway
bella and i sat in chairs in the shade reading at our community pool. while there, a muscly guy showed up. he looked nearly like one of the guys you'd see in competition or on the cover of a magazine. covertly, bella leaned towards me saying, "check him out." after checking him out, she asked why i didn't look more like him. i commented that i wasn't sure we were the same species. then more seriously, i added that anyone who decides to look like that must make a life commitment to the goal, and i prefer eating dinner with my family. mildly surprised, bella asked why i wouldn't eat dinner anymore. i explained i would, i just wouldn't with her and mom and the boys. i asked her to guess where i'd be while they all ate. in a sober tone she replied the gym. right. i went on to explain that any extreme life achievement comes at the cost of other life experiences and given her, bella's, many proclivities, abilities and opportunities, these were choices she will have to one day face.

after a moment of quiet, i explained she got dealt a father who chased not a body, wealth or fame, but balance. with a grin i added that when you were handed looks as dashing as mine, it would be unfair to pile muscles on top of them. she grinned back and with that both our heads returned to the words in our books building the one muscle in our bodies that doesn't show well at the pool.

KIDS (permalink) 06.28.2012
alex's explanation may shed some light on part of the problem
upon walking into the kitchen, i found alex washing something in the sink and anthony standing on a stool, naked except for a lightweight coat. alex, completely exasperated, turned to me and said:

this young boy can't stop touching his penis.

between the frustration and the use of 'this young boy' aleo could have passed for an over-fifty elementary recess attendant who had just drug the reputed school miscreant to the office for the third time in one week. i calmly told anthony to stop touching his penis in the kitchen and went about my way. as i left the space i heard alex say:

yeah, the only time you can do that is when you're sick.

hmmm. when i was young i watched price is right when i was sick. but, perhaps that's what all those showcase showdown girls were about.

PHOTO (permalink) 06.27.2012
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
JUNE 2012

KIDS (permalink) 06.26.2012
imagine grady's mother's surprise
upon arriving at anthony's school (before summer break) the mother of anthony's best friend, grady, called for us to wait up. after reaching us, grady and anthony exchanged morning "heys". then grady's mom reminded her son about something. to this, grady began digging around his backpack. after finding the item he handed it to anthony who offered his upright palm. grady dropped alex's small swiss army knife into anthony's hand and said, "i can't keep this anthony". after i apologized to the mom who moved on, i knelt down and asked anthony to explain why his friend had alexander's new swiss army knife. anthony looked at me guiltily. grady's family moved on. i knelt next to anthony to begin discussing what just happened. part of the exchange:

now what will make me happy anthony is you telling me the truth about the knife.

ok. i will tell you the truth but it will sound like it's not the truth.

ok. i know you'll tell me the truth because that is what will make me happy.

i was at school and got a package. it said it was from alex and to anthony and in it was the knife.

i think we can collectively applaud anthony's intuition that that his answer may sound a bit askew. after a touch of work i learned alexander made some trespass upon anthony, making anthony quite perturbed. it retaliation, anthony snuck alex's new swiss army knife from its nail on aleo's bunk, stuffed it into his pants pocket and gave it to grady at school telling grady he could keep it forever and ever. when grady looked in his palm asking "for real", anthony replied, "yes for real".

PHOTO (permalink) 06.22.2012
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
MAY 2012 (belated)

PERSONAL (permalink) 06.20.2012
blissfully bored
i failed to detail a facet of last weekend's bookguy-troy trip. given the amount of distance we had to cover, we weren't quite sure exactly when we'd arrive in albuquerque. we knew it would be sometime sunday but couldn't know precisely when. to be safe, we booked the return ticket for monday (a direct flight departing at noon). saturday's drive had a few bumps in the form of a late start (i had to run anthony to the doctor before we could leave) and car drama (the check engine light came on due to a loose gas cap) and some highway shutdowns (which led to a detour through some picturesque farm country). hoping to hedge for further mishaps, we set out early on day three. this pro-activeness delivered us to our destination in the early afternoon, allowing bookguy to drop me off at the airport and finish the last few hours of his drive in a sane hour.

after getting lunch (an extraoridnary lunch), we drove to the airport and looked for a nice/new looking hotel for me to spend the day and night in before my monday flight. after passing a few we pulled into a holiday inn express. unlike the standard holiday inns, these are reliably clean. given the early hour and sun-cooking day, i asked the counter girl if there were any outdoor pools nearby. she said there were not any in walking distance. i said i'd make do and took the $100 room she had offered. after paying and getting my key, bookguy and i exchanged a back-clapping hug and he continued on.

i went to the room which proved nice as expected. i took a twenty minute nap on the king sized bed. upon waking, i grabbed my bag and set out to find a spot in the shade with a view of the mountains to read my book from. as i climbed the hill away from hotel the two o'clock sun already had me sweating. i stopped to survey the land looking which way to go. in my scan a large blue umbrella caught my eye. i walked towards it and found the hotel just next to the one i checked into had a beautiful small outdoor pool that was totally unoccupied. i glowered at the holiday inn, miffed the clerk i just spoke with wasn't conscientious enough to tell me that if i wanted a pool, the place next door had one. i decided it wasn't in the cards and continued my walk up the hill. as i looked about i saw nothing but dry, brown desert. then two drops of sweat rolled down my cheek. i wiped my forehead. it was drenched.

i turned around, walked into the lobby of the pool hotel and asked how much for a room. $100. i slid my id and credit card across the counter and said i'd take it. after getting my key, i walked back to the holiday inn, grabbed the few items i left there. i opened the door of my new room (a three room suite!!! with a kitchen!!! and an outdoor pool!!!—for the same price!!!), changed into my trunks, grabbed my swim goggles (preparedness!) and book, and happily made for the pool. i enjoyed being the sole patron of this oasis for the next four hours. being a recreational pool, it could not shoulder any lap swimming, but it had a perfect design for me to practice flip turns. so for the next four hours, i enjoyed the feel of royalty under a deep blue, western sky dappled with the occasional extra-white, billowy cloud. my routine? i'd read a chapter of my book - the girl who played with fire - and then slip into the cool water and practice executing flip-turns for ten minutes or so. chapter. flip-turns. chapter. flip-turns. chapter. flip-turns. in this whole time i saw three people pass by the pool. none entered. adam levine may not have it this good.

then at seven i checked in with my family, had a green salsa sushi roll in downtown albequerque (the hotel would even shuttle me to and from town if needed!!!) followed by a movie (prometheus which was disappointingly disappointing). i then returned to my room, sacked out. i woke early, more reading, then a short shuttle ride to the small airport for a quick pass through security, allowing for more reading, and capped by an on-time, direct flight home, which yes, allowed for more reading. the final page count for the twenty four hours bested three hundred pages. it's been awhile since i've made that kind of milage in a book in a single day—granted, bella would not be impressed.

i'm not sure if i've ever said it on this site, but many who know me well know that one of my persistent life goals is to experience guilt-free boredom every now and again. for me, it is part of the human experience and one we don't get to taste nearly enough given our self-inflicted lifestyles. i can say that the twenty-four hours i spent in albequerque new mexico following a two day drive with an immensely great friend stood as one of the most blissfully boring stretches i can remember experiencing in the last twenty years. recuperative, therapeutic, and lovely beyond description.

oh, and name of the uber hotel which provided services and comfort beyond all expectation: homewood suites. it's astonishing that those two rooms, sitting side by side cost the same. the homewood people need to kick their PR people in the ass because what they have to offer stomps the heck out of their neighbor but there's no way for a passer-by to discern this great disparity.

FRIEND, PERSONAL (permalink) 06.19.2012
bookguy passed through town on his way from north carolina to new mexico. he called a week before the trip to ask if i'd like to keep him company on the trek's second and third days. those that have been hangin' around here for awhile may remember the time bookguy had to drive from cleveland to st. louis and i flew to cleveland the morning he left, he picked me up at the airport, and we pulled onto the highway and drove straight back to saint louis. in that i still had strong and fond memories of the cleveland excursion, and with marty's blessing, i quickly signed on the dotted line.

bookguy arrived friday night. he and marty caught up some (while i snuck off to bed). we woke saturday morn, hopped in his just purchased Subaru outback and headed west. in that we missed our last two ski trips, one due to a biking accident he had and the next due to my re-injuring my knee playing tennis, we were down some focused quality time. additionally, we've each had some heavy life events in the last few years so the need to talk went beyond simple guy time goofiness. the two day drive, free of email and phones and chores (and wives and children) proved magical. then, similar to the last outing, one leg of the trip involved an airport. this time i got dropped at the airport in albuquerque, new mexico (after an extraordinary meal at the frontier inn) to catch my return flight home.

after i got back home i had an email waiting for me. bookguy reported the last few hours of his trip ran smoothly and the kids (and surely the wife) were thankful to have him back. lastly he thanked me for sacrificing a weekend to keep him company. i replied that the time was both enjoyable and memorable and it's hard to ask more than that from a couple of days.

p.s. the cleveland trip happened almost ten years ago to the day. life is awesome.

LIFE (permalink) 06.18.2012
i did say i collected them, remember.
i've been sittin' on this one for a few weeks. a past student shared it with me before it exploded. it you haven't watched it yet, it's juicy good, like a just right porterhouse.

WIFE (permalink) 06.15.2012
how we roll, like out of control.
the latest and greatest marty quote.
i've got burning muffins.
i won't ruin the fun of letting your imagination run with that one. enjoy your weekend. i'll betcha mine will be more memorable than yours ... more on that next week.

FAMILY (permalink) 06.14.2012
i never realized how un-anthony-proof a church really is
we took the boys to a catholic church service on sunday. bella didn't go because she was camping with friends. family friends were playing the bells and we wanted to go see and support them. we chose to stay for the whole service as to not be disrespectful. when it comes to church-going, our kids have only been to weddings and funerals so a service was new territory. keeping anthony still and quiet proved most challenging but he made it through the hour plus event. as we walked out afterward, marty told the kids that some families did this every week. anthony gave a flat two-word response "that's sad". marty went on to talk about how she was one of those kids growing up and that she sometimes wondered if she was making the right choice for her kids by not taking them to church. alex in an equally flat, conversational tone said, "you don't have to worry about us mom. we'll be fine." i couldn't have defended the suddenly tenuous position any better than the two boys did.

LIFE (permalink) 06.13.2012
an oddish thing i collect
a few people named two of this year's commencement addresses as the best, or most inspirational at least. the first, by cartoonist mike peters, happened where i work, the second, by author neil gaiman, took place at an art school in Philadelphia. as someone who dabbles in presentations (and is a commencement speech junkie) i was struck by how stupendously different the two approaches were. peters started out in such a meandering fashion you wondered if he prepared anything. gaiman's talk was so dense the first thing i did after watching it was find a transcript and re-read it marking it up with my symbols and notes like it were an academic text.

while i enjoyed both, gaiman's was rich with insight. in example:
People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.
that has to be one of the most cogent insights into the professional world ever made. and i know the guy writes for a living but the compact, precise articulation of his concept is breathtaking in a literary and observational sense. if i ever met that guy, the question i would ask him is how he came upon that insight. did it bleed out over months or did it appear in a flash while showering or exercising. furthermore, gaiman demonstrates how life experience blows the doors off most other forms of learning and how the art of introspection is the prism that allows you to understand what unfolds around us. spectacular.

FAMILY (permalink) 06.12.2012
disappearing kid magic trick.
one of the family's to come of marty's smores party had four kids. all boys. their children's ages perfectly align with our kids except they have an extra one, a three year old, on the end. with four kids eleven and under in your care, you can imagine how little uninterrupted social time they had to talk with others. all evening their kids ran up interrupting their conversations in need of help with a toy, a thirst, or an injustice. as the night wound down and the father gave the five minute warning, the children disappeared from view and never returned (excepting the three year old who was asleep on the mother's lap). after ten minutes time and conversation the man said, "wow. i haven't seen any of my kids since i told them we would be leaving soon. this is kind of nice. in the future i think i'll give the five minute warning ten minutes after showing up."

his discovery reminds me of the advice my father in law, pappa ken, gave me after we had kids: "you just gotta be smarter than your kids." i know i've mentioned this wisdom before, but i think of it often. surprisingly often. on paper it sounds trivial enough. in practice it is most slippery.

KIDS, SPORTS (permalink) 06.08.2012
it's possible i wouldn't do well in the majors.
i coached bella's softball team this year. i've helped coach many of the kids' teams but have never been the head coach. and yes, being the main guy is different, different in all of those stereotypical ways. in the end it was a fabulous experience, largely due to the group of girls who signed up. i know this is the universe being kind to me.

i believe i was a rather unorthodox coach. at the first practice we sat in a circle and played a name game i've used in teaching for more than twenty years (i'm horribly name challenged). i then explained to the girls that what was important to me was not how many games we won or lost but how much improvement each girl saw, individually, in themselves. so yes, i wanted them to be competitive but not with the other teams, with themselves. and that i didn't want our esteem to come from how we did against the other teams that signed up but instead from how much effort and focus we applied as individuals and as a group.

this was tested partway into the season after we won our first game and the girls were jumping up and down chanting, "we won! we won! we won!". after shaking hands with the other team, i called the girls over to the side away from everyone, had them sit down and told them, "ladies. we signed up to play a game called softball, not a game called win. every week we've come out here, win or lose, we've gotten to play softball. because we get to do every week what we signed up to do, you should show the excitement you showed today after every game, win or lose." during my talk the girls stared at me blankly. after my talk they all resumed their celebration, albeit more quietly when i was in earshot.

we had our final game of the season last weekend. the girls spirit was light and playful. after the game (a game we lost in the bottom of the final inning) they came and said they made up a cheer and asked if they could sing it. i said of course. so they huddled up and in unison cheered:

U-City Unicorns number one.
We just wanna have some fun.
We don't care if we-e win,
We just want to wear a grin.

as i stood and took this in, one word played through my head, "wow".

then we went for year-end ice cream.

KIDS, FILM (permalink) 06.07.2012
a better review could not have be had.
during alex's dad day this year, i planned for one of his events to be a movie. the day before i glanced at the movie listings and saw the film Pirates. every time we'd seen previews for this one made by the chicken run people, alex chuckled and tittered throughout so i knew he'd be glad to see it. after go-karting i looked for nearby theaters and showtimes on my iphone. i found there were no late afternoon or evening showings of that film (i even looked in neighboring cities - no dice). as i scrolled up and down the listings looking for a replacement alex, peering over my shoulder, told me to stop.

what's that one?

that's the avengers.

oh! can we go to that? morgan saw it and said it is awesome.

well, i'm afraid it may be a little old for you. and you haven't seen some of the earlier films that led up to this.

well morgan saw it. and you can tell me about the other films.

i could but the problem is i haven't seen all the earlier films either.

that's ok. i bet it will still be good.

what if you get freaked out?

just blood freaks me out and i can close my eyes if there is blood.

ok, i guess we can try it. if you get freaked out, we'll just leave.

part of the reason i was so easily sold on taking my nine year old to a pg-13 film was, well, because i had been trying to see it on a six day break from work and hadn't fit it in. and this was the last day of my break. so now i'm sure you're seeing why it was the right and mature choice. the other good side to deciding to see it were there were lots of showtimes to choose from. this allowed us to go out to dinner (lions choice) and look up the characters of the film while we ate. it even allowed us to sneak in our book store visit (where he gets a $20 credit for books) beforehand.

as for how the experience went, halfway through the movie, alex leaned over towards me and whispered, without taking his eyes of the screen, "dad. this movie is really good ... and there's no blood." win-win.

QUOTES, WIFE (permalink) 06.06.2012
if you're not laughing routinely, you're not listening hard enough
"i had to ride my bike home with a stapler in my underwear."

marty's response to the question of how her day went.

there's a saying that kids say the funniest/darnedest things. there should be another saying that says kids make parents say the funniest/darnedest things.

KIDS, HYGIENE (permalink) 06.05.2012
after anthony, who is five, goes poop he loudly calls from the bathroom "i'm done" and waits for someone to come and wipe him. if someone doesn't respond soon enough he calls, more loudly, "i said i'm done!". whenever i am home and hear this cry i try to be the one to respond since marty has certainly wiped enough ass that's not her own in the last eleven years i figure any soiled cheeks i can take off her hands is deserved and appreciated. last week when i pushed the door open and walked in anthony groaned. i asked what was wrong.

i'm bored of you wiping me.

bored of me? you should be bored of mom.

but mom does it better.


ANTHONY (exasperated)
dad. i've been bored of you wiping me since after the first time you did it.

well. i do apologize that you find my company while cleansing your feces smeared buttocks so unappealing. how insensitive of me to not be more engaging during the wondrous opportunity you are affording me. please accept my most humble apology.

if you're thinking a child who is five should be wiping his own ass, i'm of the school of thought that no one should be left to that task until they think a job poorly done is a problem. anyone who doesn't mind a less than perfect outcome, in my eyes, is not ready for the task. and yes, i do appreciate that under this definition we all know people in their thirties who, technically, should still be wiped be a parent.

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