Daddy, Why Are You Wearing Make-up?

Daddy, Why Are You Wearing Make-up?

There is nothing like being chastised by a five year-old first thing in the morning. Barely awake, semi groggy and in need of my caffiene drip I rolled out of bed and shuffled towards the bathroom. I didn’t make it more than ten feet when I was grabbed in a bear hug by the dark haired beauty.

Five years-old and going on 30 she reached tugged on my hand and told me to bend over and kiss her good morning. I was only too happy to oblige, the girl gives great hugs and I am a sucker for her. What I didn’t expect was the reaction that came with it.

During a pick up basketball game this week I took an elbow to the head and received a black eye. Well, it is not exactly black now. At the moment it is closer to purple, blue and black. She took one look and exclaimed, “Daddy, why are you wearing makeup!”

Since I was half awake it took a moment to realize what she was looking at. I must have stared at her for a moment because she put her hands on her hips and told me that she wanted an answer. I smiled and told her that it wasn’t make up. As I explained what happened to me she shook her head and told me that she doesn’t want me to play with boys because they play too rough.

I laughed and told her that I don’t play with boys. I play with men. As I said “men” I growled and then picked her up and twirled her around. She squealed with laughter and told me to hold still. With a very serious expression on her face she kissed my eye and then told me that she doesn’t want me to play anymore.

So I thanked her for her concern and told her that I am a big boy and I can make my own decisions now. This did not go over well and she told me that I always get hurt. I shook my head and gave her a list of my injuries.

In more than 25 years of basketball I have had very few injuries. One broken ankle, one broken nose, one dislocated finger, a few jammed fingers and two black eyes. Now mind you that I broke my ankle when I was 20. I received the first black eye three years ago and the dislocated finger about 18 months ago.

As I sat there rattling off the list of injuries and ailments I started to laugh. What the hell am I doing arguing with a five-year-old about this. I love the dark haired beauty, but at five she thinks that a week is forever, telling her about injuries from twenty years ago is ridiculous.

Slowly lowering myself to one knee I thanked her for her concern and told her that I appreciated it. And then she proved that she has been listening to me. With a plain expression on her face she looked me in the eye and told me that I can ignore her, but I am not going to like the consequences of my actions.

I can’t wait until she is a teenager, life is going to become so much more fun and interesting. 😉

Are We Poor

Are We Poor

If I had a chalkboard inside my house I would have written the following three lines on it:

Are We Poor.
Are We Poor?
Are We Poor!

Then I would have taken the erasers and clapped them together and laughed while the dust went everywhere. It must be close to 25 years or so since the last time I got in trouble for that. But I don’t have a chalkboard inside my house and I really didn’t want to take the one on my porch inside.

So instead of writing those three lines and speaking with my son about the influence of punctuation on the sentence I launched into a relatively brief discussion about why I don’t care what others think and neither should he.

It seems some other child at his camp told him that he thinks that we are poor. Being a man of class and distinction I told him that when he sees this boy tomorrow he should ask him if his father still beats his mother and whether his uncle still buggers the dog.

Take a deep breath, I didn’t say any of those things. I thought about it, but not in an angry way. I grew up in a middle class home and have spent my entire life with people who were less fortunate and more affluent than we were. During my professional career I have had my ups and downs, but have had far more ups than downs. Overall I can say that we have been very fortunate.

But the advantage of being 40 is that I have all sorts of life experience to rely upon and he at 8.5 does not. So now opens a new chapter in his life, the awareness that some of his friends have more than we do.

I am pleased to say that this is a recent event. For years now he has been playing with other children whose families are very well off. There have been lots of play dates at homes that are much larger than mine and trips in cars that cost more than both of mine. It didn’t faze him, until now.

And I suspect that the reason it has is because the kids are getting a bit more aggressive and a bit nastier about some things.

Anyhoo, when he told me that this other boy said this I told him that he needs to remember three things:

1) His own sense of self esteem and self worth comes from within. It is not based upon how many friends he has or doesn’t have.

2) We make decisions about others based upon their actions.

3) Money and possessions do not make people happy. They may help, but the ultimate source comes from within. Not to mention that he needs to get used to being a middle of the pack kind of kid. In this family we are not driven by money.

So I think that he followed what I was saying and that he got it, at least I hope so. In the interim I am going to monitor what happens with him and this other boy. Just another one of those life lessons that we get to experience.

You Can’t Bully My Child Part II

You Can’t Bully My Child Part II

Part one of this post is here.

I became a father sooner than most of the guys in my circle of good friends. As a result I have often found myself being used a resource that the other guys sometimes use for consultation on parenting issues.

Most of the time they are relatively simple questions dealing with issues that we have worked through already. During the course of these conversations I have been asked if I am worried about pedophiles or rapists. I always respond by saying yes, but I am not seriously bothered by it.

It is not that I don’t think that it can happen, but that it is not as common as other issues. The bullying is an excellent example of something that happens with more frequency. And it is a great example of the pain/frustration/anguish of parenting because no matter what you do you cannot insulate your child from the world. And the great fear is that somehow your child will be harmed because you failed.

But the reality is that you cannot view life through a black and white prism of success versus failure. There may be times when it is clear that your child was hurt because you failed, but more often than not you are not going to be blame. Things happen that are beyond your control.

Still, this doesn’t lessen the pain of watching tears stream down your child’s face because they are hurt. So you have to come up with a plan and we did. It is relatively simple and now we will see if it works.

The mothers had a discussion about the situation and it was made clear to the mother of this other boy that there is an issue. She in turn had her son call mine to apologize. During the conversation my son clearly expressed why he was angry and told the other boy that this cannot continue or there will be consequences.

I told my son that if things happen again he is to tell the other boy to stop, twice. If he doesn’t listen then I told him he is to defend himself. Furthermore I told him that if he hits him I expect him not to hold back. Hit him hard and then hit him again.

You see, the bullying wasn’t limited to words. This other boy smacked my son and pinned him down. So I haven’t any problem telling him that it is ok to hit him.

I hope that it doesn’t come to that point, but there are lines and limits that you cannot cross. The physical is one of them. We’ll see what happens, hopefully this is the end of it.

Still, I am sorry to see one more piece of his innocence taken away from him. Childhood ends far too quickly, no need to rush it.

You Can’t Bully My Child

You Can’t Bully My Child

I tried to sit there impassively so that I could hear the story be told without interruption. I tried to sit there and look supportive so that he would feel comfortable telling the tale, but I am not sure that I succeeded.

Had you seen my face it likely would been contorted in a snarl, my hands pulverizing the rocks contained within them into dust. He struggled to get the words out. He struggled to tell his mother and I that another child had been bullying him. Hot tears of shame rolled down his face and I felt my stomach turn.

Anger, revulsion and sadness coursed threw me. My son, my son. Another one of life’s lessons taught before I would have chosen for him. I would have preferred that he remain innocent for a bit longer. Let him be naive for just a while longer. He is young, at 8.5 he doesn’t need to know that humans can be so cruel to each other.

But we don’t get to make those decisions. Life moves, things happen, and changes take place and you are forced to respond. And so we listened to him describe what had happened to him and my heart sunk.

As I listened I remembered being that boy. I remembered the anger and the shame of it. I remember not wanting to tell my parents and thinking that they couldn’t help me. Eventually the kid who was bullying me pushed me too far and I exploded.

Thirty years or so ago it was a different world in some ways. I used my fists and learned that they could be very influential. That ended the bullying. It didn’t solve all of my problems, but it helped fix a big one.

But it is not about me. It is not thirty years ago. Fighting is seen differently now. There is far less tolerance of it and it brings different issues. But that is not where I want this to go, not really.

More importantly, this situation is different because the bully is a friend. Another boy who my son once considered to be his best friend has been taking advantage of my son’s good nature and I am sad. I am sad because I feared that this day would come

I am sad because it just makes the situation worse. It doesn’t matter to me that the boy who did this comes from a good family or that his parents will be horrified by this. He robbed my child of a certain amount of innocence. The thief has stolen something that can never be returned.

For years I have listened to stories about him. For years I have listened to mothers and fathers tell stories about this boy was mean to other kids. I have warned my son about him, told him to be cautious. I always wondered when he would turn upon him.

But we are loyal to a fault. And my son was not just a friend, but a good friend. He tried to help this boy be better. He tried to show him how to be a better listener and student. We tried to explain to him that you can only be responsible for yourself and that you can’t change people.

And then tonight I listened as he talked about his friend and how sometimes he’ll hit him or hold him down. I listened as he told the story in between tears about how he didn’t want to tell on his friend and my broken heart was torn open again.

Even now he tries to protect his friend. Even now he tries to shelter him. Even now as his body shakes because he is crying so hard. Even now he fights for his friend and in return this boy is almost assuredly asleep.

And when he tells me that it has only been going on a short while I cringe because I know my son and I can tell it has been longer. It is only now that it has reached the point that he can no longer take it.

As I console and reassure him I cannot help but think that I want to grab this boy and show him what it means to be terrorized. Let him cry for help as I drag him by his collar. Let him cry as I use my strength to force him to dance for me.

But that won’t happen. I am 40 and he is eight. In my anger I might appreciate the idea, it would never happen. I would feel guilty immediately. It would be as wrong as his behavior. But what can and will happen is that I will impress upon his parents the urgency of the situation.

They will understand that this is unacceptable. They will see that his behavior changes immediately. They will see that he apologizes. And then they will see that their son has destroyed a friendship, likely beyond repair.

I can’t say for certain that the friendship is completely done. My son will have to make that decision, but it has been damaged to the point that it is not what it was.

In truth I am ok with that. I am still sad and angry about it all. I am disappointed that he had to learn such a hard lesson, but this is what it is. Life is filled with these moments. And as much as I want to protect and shelter him I won’t coddle him to the point that he cannot cope.

In the end we cannot always be there. Our job is to love, teach and support him so that he can be a good person who can easily navigate through the challenges that life presents. And we’ll keep doing that.

Before I go I’ll share just another thought or two. My son has been taking Krav Maga for a number of years now. Tonight as he lay in bed we talked for a few more moments about it all. In a soft voice I told him that we had a plan. I told him that we were going to speak to the parents of this other boy and that it would be taken care of.

And then I told him that sometimes need to have a back up plan. I told him that if this behavior didn’t change he needed to tell his friend to stop. And then I told him that if it didn’t, that he is entitled to defend himself. I could feel him looking me in the dark. He said, “but he is my friend” and waited for my response.

I told him that friends don’t treat their friends like this. I told him that people in general should never treat others like this. And then I told him again that if he did as I said I wouldn’t be angry. “If you have to hit him, hit him hard.”

He fell asleep a moment later.I leaned over and kissed his forehead and walked out of his room. Hours have passed since I had that conversation, but it has stayed with me. Some life lessons are harder than others. Sometimes the pain is…considerable.

Harry Potter & Haveil Havalim #226

Harry Potter & Haveil Havalim #226

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

Hello and welcome to Haveil Havalim #226, the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince edition. This is a different sort of edition for me. I hadn’t intended on doing it, but a change came up at the last minute and I found myself standing in the on deck circle.

I had several ideas for what I wanted to do with it, but it just didn’t work out that way. So my apologies because this isn’t up to my normal standards. Anyway, if I can find time I’ll update this a few times and try to give it a little more spit and polish.

And in response to some reader emails here are some links to some of the music that I listened to while constructing this. Please be advised that some of these videos are adult in nature. I didn’t have time to go searching for clean versions, so do what you will with it.

Mansions of the Lord
It Was a Very Good Year– Frank Sinatra
I Gotta Feeling– Black Eyed Peas
King Without a Crown– Matisyahu
You’re Gonna Miss This– Trace Adkins
Come Back– Moshav

If this is your first time here, welcome. You’ll find almost seven thousand posts about life, parenting, politics, Judaism and more. Links to some of my favorite posts can be found on the right hand side of the page.

And now on to our carnival:

Politics

Many people are questioning some of President Obama’s policies. You can read about some of that at The case against Obama.

Seraphic Secret reminisces about a man from his youth who would scream about and the end of the world and those who do it now in Apocalypse Now and Then.

The Muqata reports about Washington and Israeli Ambassador in Michael Oren hold his ground.

Avi Green presents DC becomes Dhimmi Comics posted at The Four Color Media Monitor.

At the Rubin Reports take a look at A brief guide to the differences between Palestinian Authority, Syrian, and Iranian Strategies toward the West.

While you are there you might be interested in reading The Obama Ideology and World Affairs Part I, II andIII.

Yaacov Lozowick has a must read piece entitled Complicated Afghanistan and Just War. Daled Amos shared Israeli Settlements: Olmert vs. Obama.

Yourish covered Obama ups the ante on “settlements”

Israel

I really enjoyed reading Nostalgia Sunday – Asimonim, maybe because I still carry one on my keychain.

Israelity also sent in the descriptive post, Tel Aviv’s Sh*t Mountain Gets A Green Light for Environmental Remediation.

And in technology news you can read Just another ghost in the Wall, a new Internet startup G.ho.st, launched last night by an Israeli entrepreneur and Palestinian software developers.

Batya said I Could Never Understand The Mentality.

Cosmic X relates a number of news stories in his post Truth Sprouts From the Land!

The Occidental Israeli discusses the Haredim and says thatTerrorism Pays. Agree or disagree? Go read it and let him know. Ask Lady Light about Civil Strife in Jerusalem: Protesting a Parking Lot.

Child Ish thinks much of it has to do with boredom.

Tel Chai Nation blogged about the impact of the Gaza war with British Antisemitism in Britain stops arms exports to Israel. Yourish covered it also in The U.K. Israeli arms embargo: Hypocrisy defined.

And let’s not forget the marriage proposal that Meryl included in Thursday Snark News.

Jewschool covered Gaza Soldier Testimonials.

Soccerdad sent over a link I had missed Breaking the Silence: More Rumor & Hearsay. Daled Amos shared Again, The Media Jumps On Questionable Report Of Israeli War Crimes (Updated)

Dave shared A Video Postcard from Hell: The Gaza War Up Close and Personal

Over at My Right Word I had to read about the Erotics of the Occupation twice because I just couldn’t believe it.

Our friend and long time blogger the Elder has The transcript of the “plot to assassinate Arafat” and the story about Hamas belief that they will acquire a WMD within 20 years. Now what nation of non Arabs who are descendants of Cyrus might say that.

Back at My Right Word there are beautiful pictures of the Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue in Jerusalem and don’t forget to read Tourism in Tuscany, Sorry, Make That Binyamin.

My friend Snoopy and co-blogger writes about the mishegahs surrounding road signs in Minister Yisrael Katz, road signs and Zionism. Eric wrote about it as well in Battle of the Signs in Israeli Cities.

In between rooting for the Bruins Ben Yehudah keeps a fine blog in which he writes about many things. One of his recent topics covered the protests, go read The Other Story: Israeli Leftist Rags And Feminazis.

At The Muqata you should read Israel’s High Court Targets Widow and Orphans of Fallen IDF War Hero.

Here is An interesting perspective on why the Palestinians keep saying no to peace deals. And then again there are posts that illuminate A senseless and irresponsible provocation.

Don’t forget to read Religion and State in Israel – July 13, 2009 (Sections 1 and 2) Ben Yehudah discusses an ad right here.

From Solomonia What Olmert Offered Abbas.


Judaism

I am not sure if there are topics that are more important than protecting children. Chabad offers Responding to Child Predators in the Jewish Community.

A good philosophical discussion can be found in the questions of Isn’t it Enough to Just Believe? – What Does Judaism Think? From Chabad we have Lightning Doesn’t Strike the Same Place Twice
Divine Providence Does!

Mother in Israel has practical tips you can use to keep your food warm and your house cool on Shabbos.

Questions, questions, questions, Is the Ran an apikores, by his own definition?
Don’t forget to read part two.

Lion of Zion brings up the question of Calling a Sinner for an Aliyah.

From the Real Shaliach we have Say it ain’t so!

Ever wonder about how Jews said Kiddush during prohibition? You might enjoy reading this next piece called Booze and Jews: Some fun American-Jewish history ephemera .

One day Donald Trump may be at a bris for his grandson, maybe. Read more at Mazel tov to the newest Jew – Ivanka Trump.

At Schvach you can read Eishes Chayil, that discusses Jewish Women. Child Ish thinks that many Orthodox Jews haven’t spent time thinking about why they believe what they believe. For more on this read Kiruv: Answering the hard questions.

From the Velveteen Rabbi This week’s Torah poem looks at the slaughter of the Midianites through the lens of the newly-released Breaking the Silence report about IDF behavior in Gaza.

The Rebbetzin’s Husband provides valuable information with How to attract people to your shul. Over at Ilana Davita there is a very interesting guest post by Shimshonit about her Judaism. Go read it.

Schvach’s post The Conflicting Demands of Life is definitely worth a read.

In The Pink has what I consider to be a ridiculous invention, a Tefillin sweater. Twenty seven years of laying Tefillin and I have never had a problem rolling up the sleeve. In fact if you buy one I want to speak with you about loaning me $50.

Prof K’s post gives food for thought. Go read The Things That Bring Us Happiness…Not

Use this link to Tweet your prayers at The Kotel. Or you can go here and ask someone to daven for you at the Kotel for 40 days.

I am a bit of a rabble rouser. Correction, I am big rabble rouser. I am often the fly in your ointment, the guy who will press your buttons. So why am I sharing this, well because I almost didn’t include a few posts from Frum Satire.

Let me be clear, I think that Hesh is a good guy and well meaning. But he intentionally writes posts that stir up a hornet’s nest. I know this because I have commented there and been assaulted by a number of the other commenters.

I mention this because I think that some of his commenters are troglodytes that wear Borsalinos and think that halacha says that you can beat a woman for not sitting in the back of the bus.

Anyway, I do not include Hesh as part of that crowd. And now that he has received a ton of press I am not going to include separate posts. You have the link to his blog. Go spend some time reading there. Not every post is controversial.
Personal

All the really cool blogs started roughly five years ago, just ask Jewlicious.

A Simple Jew is another one of the old time bloggers. He is among the first bloggers that I read and interacted with. Go take a look at “You Seem To Have Removed Yourself From Your Blog.

What happens when you are almost 30
and you have a list of things to do.

The Real Shaliach has Some important questions. Will someone please ask Mottel to move. I have been blogging here for more than five years now. 😉

The Rebbetzin’s Husband reflects upon the impact of being a parent in Changed by a decade of Parenting.

Take a look at some nice photos at I really should get a tripod.


This is the sort of problem I miss having. Go read A hard day [camp] night and Israeli teenagers – 1; Anglo parents – 0.

Apparently there is a new King of All Media. When you are through with that you can read On Tops and Tales because it is all about the people.

There is something very nice about passing on traditions. Home shuling blogged about bedtime issues.

When I read the next title I instantly thought about my post A Bad Case of Stupid Seems To Be Going Around to be clear there is no similarity other than title, which is why you should read We’re Not Immune to Stupid Just Because We’re Jewish

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of haveil havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Birthday Party Drama

Birthday Party Drama

Dear Moms of the world,

The fathers of your children and oftentimes husbands have noticed that there seems to be an inordinate amount of drama surrounding birthday parties. We don’t understand what is so hard about scheduling them and the back channel talking about who did what, where and why.

We don’t spend time worrying about throwing the best or most outlandish party. All we care about is seeing that our children have a good time. Water balloons, pinatas and silly string are good props.

Why must this be turned into a big deal. We don’t expect to get a satisfactory answer for this any more than why you have 27 pairs or shoes or need a new dress for every party we attend. What is the point and the purpose.

Now if you’ll excuse us we are off to bang ourselves in the head with a baseball bat, it is faster and more effective than the slow torture methods you engage in.

Dad Doesn’t Always Have The Answers

Dad Doesn’t Always Have The Answers

It is another Saturday night and I am up far too late. It is well after midnight and the sun will come knocking upon my door far too soon. I had every intention of going to bed at a decent hour, but good intentions don’t always manifest themselves in the way that we intend and well….I am awake.

Not just awake, but wide awake. The blood is pumping and I am not exaggerating when I say that I am ready to go hit the gym. There is no doubt that if I wanted to I could stay up all night without any effort. But that is not what I want.

What I want, what I need and what I hope for are far different. One of these days I’ll blog about that, but not right now.

Now I am trying to wind down. Now I am trying to empty my mind the million thoughts racing through it so that I can climb into bed and sleep.

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It is a very hard time. It is hard for a million different reasons. A time of change and uncertainty that is impacting not just myself but so many of my friends. A time in which we are questioning many of the things that we thought were unquestionable. A time where we worry about the decisions we make because we no longer have just ourselves to worry about.

A time where we debate what is selfish and when is it appropriate to be selfish. Again, that is a post for a later date, but I don’t believe that being selfish is always a negative thing.

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A short while ago I stood outside and stared at the sky. An enormous moon filled the sky and was occasionally decorated with fireworks. I looked up and remembered a million different Independence Days from my past. Images of picnics, barbecues and swim parties floated across my mind and all sorts of other things.

I remembered being 16 and in Jerusalem. I held my girlfriend’s hand and walked through the city talking about what they were doing back home in the states. I thought about that moment and marveled that 24 years could have passed so quickly.

There were 38 of us in that group, a bunch of teenagers who turned into doctors, scientists, lawyers and business people. Twenty four years later we are down two members, one lost to cancer and another who took his own life.

Not sure why or how I got to thinking about that, but I did. Maybe it is because during a recent trip to The Coffee Bean a friend asked if I knew what happened to a girl who went to high school with us. I told him that she died three years ago, cancer.

He looked at me and asked if I was joking and I said no, rattled off three other people that have died from cancer. Looked at him and asked if that was normal, that I should know so many people who have died at such young ages.

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Earlier I sat at a family party with my son and fielded more questions about life. He asked what I did as a boy for the 4th of July and did grandpa let me play with firecrackers. He told me a few secrets about school and asked me to tell him some secrets of my own.

We laughed and wrestled and played catch. Later on he’d ask me a few more questions and I’d flip them back at him. I’d look at him and say, “what do you think happens” or “why do you think that.” It is good for him to have to think about things, let him work on piecing it all together.

After a few minutes he looked at me and asked me to confirm that sometimes dad doesn’t have all the answers. For a moment I mulled over telling him that we always do, but opted not to. Sometimes it is worth telling a white lie to make sure that he can sleep at night, but this wasn’t one of them.

I smiled and told him that sometimes all we can do is try our best to make a good decisions and then go from there. Dark eyes peered up at me and he nodded, “that is what I think too.”
I gave him a hug and we grabbed a slice of cake.

While he ate it I looked up at that moon and wondered if anyone else was staring at it and what they might be thinking. More than that I wondered again if I was facing one of those moments where life presents a fork in the road

This time I think that I might take it…

It Caused a Fight

It Caused a Fight

Not so long ago I had to referee a fight between the children about the meaning of the word crotch. Or should I say that I explained that both boys and girls have crotches.

This led to more questions about anatomy. Ah, the innocence of children and their unflinching ability to share their observations with you, unadulterated and uncensored.

What Are You Doing In There

What Are You Doing In There

The dark haired beauty looks up at me through a mass of dark curls and giggles. She is up to something, I know it and she knows that I know it. The key question is what has she done and why are her eyes sparkling.

I won’t have to wait long for the answer. In a matter of moments she’ll be unable to contain herself and she’ll confess. I already know from experience it is unlikely to be serious because when she thinks she is in trouble she remains silent. Of course her older brother is usually happy to try and tip me off, getting the little sister in trouble remains one of the joys of being an older sibling.

Of course it goes both directions as she is more than happy to try and tweak his nose. They are typical siblings and exhibit the standard behavior of love/hate for each other. Most of the time they get along beautifully, but they have their moments. Ah, the joy of children.

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Sometimes when those moments come I find myself asking questions that many parents ask, such as why didn’t I wear 19 condoms or if I leave now can I be in Vegas before nightfall. A half second later reality sets in and I go to the second set of options.

That famous second set which consists of wondering how long I let them try to work it out before I get involved and if I get involved, how many years will I ground them for.

It is a serious thing. You have to teach them how to cope when things don’t go the way that they want. You have to help them learn how to share and negotiate their way through life. So when I wonder how long I need to wait before interceding there is an educational component to it. But there is also the question of my sanity.

How long can I listen to them kvetching at each other. And of course the joy of having a home office is that during the summer you have substantially more exposure to the joys of your life.

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Sometimes if you are me you have also adopted a strategy of heading off to the second office. You can blame this on having watched Happy Days as a kid. Fonzie always took Ritchie into the bathroom and we all know that he was the coolest guy ever, at least until he jumped the shark.

Anyhoo, there have been some occasions when I have opted to answer the call of nature during these little dust ups. And upon occasion inquiries have been made as to whether I really was busy or not as it seemed far too convenient for me to be in there at moment.

I of course have always offered to provide proof and was always turned down, until recently. That dark haired beauty decided that she wanted to see for herself. Standing outside the door, she asks me to open it so that she can see for herself. I pause for a moment and suggest that she find something else to do.

Without missing a beat she tells me that she is almost five and besides she has seen boys go to the bathroom before. So I open the door and just as I am about to tell her what I think about all that she starts laughing because she knows that she has gotten me.

Then for good measure she steps inside, sniffs the air and proclaims, “it doesn’t stink in here, you are just hiding from us.”

And people ask me why I am losing my hair.

The Wiggles Don’t Play Here Anymore

The Wiggles Don’t Play Here Anymore

The end of the school year has finally arrived and as promised my children were given instructions to go through their toys and figure out what they want to hold on to and what they can give away. The dark haired beauty put her hands on her hips and and glared at me for having the temerity to ask her to help cut down on clutter.

All it took was one a glare and a step towards her room to spur her into action. She understands that though I may be thoroughly in love with her I am in complete control of my actions. Manipulation only takes place when the old man is willing to allow it.

And as Father’s Day is around the corner it is nice to know that my glare is continuing to improve. Perhaps I’ll try it on my old man and see if it works. It will be a battle of two jedi masters. Ok, who am I kidding, those icy blues of his are more effective than mine, or maybe it is that whole kabed et evecha thing. Who knows.

Anyhoo, as the kids went through their stuff they brought it over and and built a small pile of things that they said that they were happy to give away. As I looked at the pile I saw that there was a Wiggles coloring book on the top. I imagine that I must have had a wistful smile on my face. It seems like yesterday that The Wiggles were a treasured favorite.

But those days are gone, The Wiggles do not play here anymore.

Truth is that they disappeared a long time ago. So long ago that I truly have to think about how long ago it was. Her big brother was a dyed in the wool fan of the Aussies. For a while, a long while the house was consistently filled with the sounds of their songs and or videos. Sometimes I would catch myself at work singing about Fruit Salad or the Big Red Car.

And then one day he decided that he was done with them and they dropped off of his list. But the dark haired beauty has no bigger hero than her brother so she kept up the tradition…for a while. She never did want to watch the videos the way that he did. In part that was because she found Dora, a girl, far more interesting.

Still she would play their CD and dance around to their music, but that ended too. Again, I can’t really say when. It just kind of fizzled out and faded away.

Now that she has graduated from preschool she is interested in big girl pursuits, this she has made clear.

Earlier tonight she asked me to open her nail polish so that she could make herself my beautiful princess. I smiled and told her that she is always my beautiful princess. She smiled and told me that she could be even more beautiful if I opened the bottle. And then for good measure she offered to draw me pretty pictures every day.

Lord help us all when she really figures out how to negotiate. Anyway, I bent over and kissed her forehead and told her to go brush her teeth. She started to try to negotiate again and I gave her a look and that ended it.

As she walked away I looked at her and thought about how big she has gotten and sighed. The Wiggles Don’t Play Here Anymore.

Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing

Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing

In a relatively short period of time the dark haired beauty will graduate from pre-school and one more chapter of my life will come to a close. After her there are no more children in the pre-school or waiting to enter. She is the last and in a few hours that will be it.

Just a few more hours and that girl will be a kindergartner waiting to run on the big yard and do everything that her older brother does. Truth is that she has spent all of her almost five years on this earth trying to be just like him. She has no bigger hero than him.

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As I sit here typing a thousand thoughts are going through my mind. I am listening to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Ennio Morricone. It is fantastic, one my favorite albums. This music is the inspiration for the title of this post, Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing. Although in my mind it could also be used as the name of a school, not that it matters.

It is a strange feeling this one that I have now. I couldn’t be any happier or prouder of her. This little dark haired beauty who curls up on my lap and tells me that she loves me. Dark brown eyes and long black curls dangling. She looks at me and tells me to read her a story.

Sometimes she sees that distant look in my eyes and she hugs me or holds my hand. I remember when those fingers weren’t big enough to do more than grip my index finger. Now that she is a big girl she can grab several fingers at a time, but she still wants to know if her hand will ever be as big as mine.

When she is feeling shy or nervous about meeting people she hides behind me. She tells me that she has a boyfriend and that I can’t do anything about it because they are in love. I tease her about it and tell her that I am going to punch him in the nose when I see him. She puts her hands on her hips and tells me that he knows karate.

In the days that come she’ll decide that they aren’t in love anymore and tell me that it is ok to punch him in the nose now. Watch out boys, the dark haired beauty is both mysterious and dangerous. More importantly she is studying how to manipulate us men.

Maybe they should be more afraid of her than me, who knows. 😉

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The music has taken on a more ominous tone and I can feel the tension rising. Somewhere ahead of me trouble awaits. The wind is whipping up the dust so that I have to pull my bandana up over my face, all you can see are my eyes peering out from beneath my hat. I slow my horse down but am prepared to begin riding hard for cover.

I look around and try to figure out where the attack is going to come from because it is going to come. It is not a question of will, but when. If I were them I’d wait until after sunset and use the cover of darkness to help me. But I hope that they aren’t that smart. Because I know that if they come sooner I can use the sun to my advantage.

That bright burning orb in the sky will come from behind me and force them to squint. With any luck it will give me the edge that I need. It is one on three. If I didn’t have to worry about the guns I’d feel better. If we were face to face one on three would be perfectly fine, I can handle that.

A soft rustling noise catches my attention and I turn and watch the tumbleweeds blow across the place I had been.

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Time is up. I can’t sit here and record my thoughts any longer, it is time to get ready for that graduation. In a moment I’ll stand beneath the shower and think about it all and picture a sign that says: Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing.

Joy & Sadness

Joy & Sadness

I do some of my best thinking in the shower. Those of you with children will likely appreciate that sentiment more than others. It is one of those places that offers a momentary refuge in which I can be alone and unencumbered by distractions.

Anyway, this morning I was thinking about how big my kids are getting and how exciting and overwhelming it was to become a father the first time. As the water cascaded over me I remembered a moment that I had forgotten about.

I had gone downstairs for a cup of coffee or something and was just heading back to the maternity ward when I passed a woman and a few others crying. They looked vaguely familiar and I remember thinking that I thought that I knew them from the Lamaze class.

As I walked past I heard whispers of conversation and I got the feeling that something had happened. She had been pregnant with twins and for some reason I took those whispers to mean that something had happened to one of her babies.

Now I never did get confirmation of that, it is not really something that you ask. But for a moment it really took my breath away because for the first time in my life I truly understood the joy that a child can bring and the fear that can come with being a parent.

So even though these wacky children sometimes make me want to scream, I never forget how lucky we really are. They are good kids.

Playing it Safe

Playing it Safe

You can blame a lot of things on a man turning 40. There are all of the traditional and stereotypical things going on here. The desire for a sports car, the need to feel young and vibrant etc.

I admit to feeling all of those things. But I also can say that I truly don’t feel old. Ok, so that is a contradiction to some of what I have said. I do feel the pressure of time. I do feel like there are more responsibilities and fewer chances to take a risk. All that is true.

But it doesn’t change the overall feeling inside that I really am not old. I may not look like I did at twenty. I may have some mystery aches and pains that didn’t exist, but mentally I don’t feel like an old guy.

Ask my children and they’ll tell you that their dad is a big kid. I chase them around the house ans wrestle with them. Little Jack and play handball. I challenge and win races against he and his friends all the time.

Ok, not that impressive to beat a bunch kids. But give me a break. In ten years they’ll be on the verge of entering their peak and I’ll be fifty. Got to take advantage of the opportunity to win while I can. And believe me, I am not conceding anything when I am fifty.

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Spent several hours at a school event last night. It was a dinner for the kindergarten class of 2009-10. The dark haired beauty was in rare form. Not long before we left she told me that she is a big girl and it won’t be long before she is married and has a baby in her tummy. She emphasized the tummy part by sticking her belly out at me.

I smiled and told her that she has plenty of time to learn and grow before she becomes a mommy. She told me that she is ready. So I leaned over and told her that I am ready to speak to any boy that wants to help her become a mommy. She looked at me and told me that I wasn’t going to speak to them, I am going to punch them in the nose.

Good to see that she understands the score. Truth is that little girl is going to take some little boy and turn him inside out. But just in case, I will be there. Good to know that she knows that.

Anyway, at the dinner I made a point of playing with the kids and then moseyed off to hang out with some of the fathers. We made the usual small talk about life. Batted around the idea of retirement and how if we pulled our kids out of private school we could retire earlier.

I laughed. Some of those guys are making so much money it is hard to believe that retirement is an issue that they worry about. Some of them played it safe, doctors and attorneys who moved into the family practice. I don’t fault them for it.

At times I have wondered if I didn’t make a mistake by playing it safe. There are easier paths to walk than the one that I have chosen. There are fewer bumps and bruises to be had by hiking the trail that has already been blazed. But that is not me. I like trying to Shoot the Moon. I like the razor’s edge.

The trick is be aware of where you are at. I don’t want to become the next Icarus. If it works. If I find that way to make it all happen then all is good. And if it doesn’t, well, I have a fall back plan. The hard part is that falling back could end up being a literal experience and that is where my age comes into play.

It is not that you can’t get back up, but the bruises and aches have a way of hanging on a bit longer than they did in the past. I guess that we’ll see what happens.

Danger in Kids Playground?

Danger in Kids Playground?

Well this isn’t the sort of thing that you want to read about, especially since my kids school has this stuff.

SAN FRANCISCO – The federal government is reconsidering whether sports fields and playgrounds made from ground-up tires could harm children’s health after some Environmental Protection Agency scientists raised concerns, documents show.

The EPA is concluding a limited study of air and surface samples at four fake-surface fields and playgrounds that use recycled tires — the same material used under the Obama family’s new play set at the White House.

Although the EPA for years has endorsed recycled-rubber surfaces as a means of decreasing playground injuries, its own scientists now have pointed to research suggesting potential hazards from repeated exposure to bits of shredded tire that can contain carcinogens and other chemicals, according to internal EPA documents.

http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/2009/06/danger-in-kids-playground.html#ixzz0JqQOk0Lq&D

Starry Starry Night- Van Gogh & My Son

Starry Starry Night- Van Gogh & My Son

My son, the soon to be third grader has been learning about famous artists in school. Throughout the entire school year the big guy has enjoyed teaching us about Pollock, Matisse, Warhol, Lichtenstein and a number of other famous artists.

It has been a surprise and a pleasure to see how much he enjoys talking, reading, watching and learning about art. Part of the fun has been watching the expression on his face when he recognizes that some of the things hanging on the walls here are famous. Not to mention the fun in explaining that these are not the originals hanging on these walls, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was.

Anyhoo, last night he came home and told me that there is a YouTube video about a song some guy named McLean wrote about Van Gogh. He was even more pleased when I showed him that we have Vincent on iTunes.

So together we sat down and watched the video below and he told me all that he knew about Van Gogh and asked if I though that it was sad that he only sold one painting while he was alive. A short time later I overheard him singing to himself in the shower,

Starry, Starry Night……..

Rules For Dating My Daughter

Rules For Dating My Daughter

This past weekend the mother of one of the boys in my daughter’s class told me that she loves the dark haired beauty and would be happy to have her as a daughter-in-law. Lest anyone understand, she wasn’t serious. It was a compliment for my girl.

Anyway, I looked her in the eye and explained that there are rules for dating my daughter. She laughed and asked me to tell her what they are.

I told her that any boy that wishes to date my daughter must face me in single combat. If they can defeat me than they are allowed to ask her out. I figure that for a while there won’t be any man alive who will be able to serve as a better protector than I will.

Of course she is one of the primary reasons why I work out each day. When the day arrives that the boys come looking for her hand I want to be viewed as a dangerous and imposing force. Let them wonder what lies behind the steely glare.

At least I hope that they will. If they are as dumb as I was hormones will push them into taking a chance to dance in the flames. Oy, I am so not ready for this. 😉

The Ga-Ga Master Speaks

The Ga-Ga Master Speaks

This is what you call a partially recycled post. Hard to believe that it has been three years since I first wrote I Am Still A Ga-Ga Master.

The game is tied into a family trip that is a hell of a lot of fun. This was Little Jack’s fourth time around and you could see that the years have been good to him.

The little boy isn’t quite so little anymor and has learned numerous tricks. He spent quite a bit of time trying to beat me, but only managed to do so once.

Unlike some of the fathers I don’t just let him win. I want him earn it, but that is a topic for a different post altogether.

Anyhoo, for those who missed the original post I have included it just below this.

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I recently had the opportunity to play Ga-ga for the first time in many years and was pleased to see that I am still a Ga-ga master.For those of you who are unfamilar with it here is a short description.

“Ga-ga or GaGa is a form of dodgeball that is thought to have originated in Israel. “Ga” (גע) means “hit” in Hebrew. The game is popular at Jewish, American summer camps, many of which have special ga-ga arenas or so called “pits” in which to play.

Game Play/Rules

Ga-ga is played within an octagonal enclosure when available, or in any other space that is completely enclosed by surrounding walls. The objective of the game is to eliminate your opponents by hitting a ball with either an open hand or closed fist into the region at or below his or her knees. That player is then out and must leave the playing area. A player can also be eliminated by having his or her ball caught in the air.”

Some of my favorite memories are of massive Ga-ga games in which there were just tons of people in the court. Those were fast paced and somewhat physical games but ever so much fun.I always enjoyed playing a very physical game.

I loved going after the people who would tap the ball off of the wall and try and stalk the other gameplayers across the court. I’d slide over to them and try to slap the ball away. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it led to an early demise, but no guts, no glory.

During this most recent edition of Jack’s Ga-ga experience I was able to teach my son how play and tried to teach him some of the finer points of the game. He loved it and I loved watching him play. He still needs to work on learning how to lose gracefully, but at 5.5 that is not always an easy thing to do.

He was also fortunate not to suffer a bad case of Ga-ga knuckles but if he is anything like me they are coming.

In any case, it was nice to have a chance to play with him and watch him learn to enjoy something that I have had so much fun playing.

Dad, What Is a Gas Chamber?

Dad, What Is a Gas Chamber?

“Dad, What Is a Gas Chamber” is one of the most horrific questions that I have heard in my life. He is not quite 8.5 and he wants to know what a gas chamber is and why people would murder other people.

He says that he can’t understand why people would be mean to someone else just because they look different or have different thoughts. I am more than troubled by this because I know that I have to answer his questions. I know that I have to despoil more of his innoncence and tell him that some people are just bad.

I have to tell him that in this house we teach everyone to judge a person based upon their actions and that even though it is the right way, not everyone follows it. I tell him that some people are bad and there is no good explanation for it.

Inquisitive eyes look up at me and he says that he doesn’t understand and that he thinks he might be a little afraid. I tell him not to be afraid, that most people don’t act like that. I tell him that part of why people have to have these conversations is so that we can help others prevent these things.

He smiles and tells me that he feels better because he knows that if anyone tried to hurt anyone in his family I would kill them. He knows that if anyone did anything I would get them first. He looks up at me and says that he is ok with me killing someone if they try to hurt one of us.

Now I turn away because there is a tear in my eye. I want to scream at the injustice of it all. I want to yell because it is unfair that yet one more piece of his innocence is being taken from him all too soon.

It hurts to see him learn these lessons, but he has to know. So we are very careful with these conversations to try and make them age appropriate. But kids are kids and they find out things. They listen to what is going on around them. They talk to their friends and they learn. So some things come out earlier than you’d think and you do the best you can.

I am grateful that he feels comfortable speaking to me and that I make him feel safe. I don’t tell him that a parent’s worst fear is that the monsters get to the kids first, that for whatever reason we aren’t there to protect them.

Later on I watch him sleep. He is out, the picture of bliss and harmony. I used to sleep like that. I used to just close my eyes and that was it. But not anymore. Now there is always one ear open, listening, just in case.

I am exhausted now, but I won’t be able to sleep for a while. That question haunts me, “Dad, What Is a Gas Chamber?”

Still Coping with Sick Parents

Still Coping with Sick Parents

Fifteen years ago my uncle died. He was my father’s younger and only brother. He was 49. At the time I knew that was young, but it didn’t strike me as to how very young it was. It is really now that I am about to crest the hill and turn 40 that I see it as being half a life, but is related to this somewhat tangentially.

His death marked a turning point in my relationship and understanding of my father. I see it a bit as a benchmark for when I began to truly recognize that my father was just a man and subject to the same laws and science as all men are.

It was the first time that I really saw him in a light where he wasn’t our shining knight, protector of the family. I stood back and watched as he and my grandfather hugged each other. I watched as a father and son coped with their loss and tried to make sense of it. That was really when I understood that though he was my father, there was much more to him.

And now I find myself in a different sort of position than I did back then. Now I am more than a son and a brother, but a father as well. Now I understand the responsibility of caring for a family and trying to be the rock, even when it feels like the world around you is collapsing.

A short while ago I received a telephone call from my mother and let her fill me in on my father’s latest medical procedure. It was a good call. His health is ok, pooey, pooey, but it is not what you would call stellar. The man has a lot of medical challenges. There are some serious issues there and I find myself worrying about him.

Is it fair to call him a sick parent. I don’t know that I can say that because his health is certainly better than others I know. But, it is a precarious thing as there are any number of things that could send it in the wrong direction.

Most of the time it is not a conscious worry. To the best of our knowledge there is no reason to think that we are going to suddenly lose him, but then again it is not impossible either. Given the things that have happened, that history makes it hard not to be concerned.

I haven’t got any brothers, plenty of brother-in-laws, but no brothers. So if heaven forbid something happens to him I am the last male connection to certain things.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not trying to buy sorrow early. But it is a bit surreal. I didn’t expect to really worry about my parents until they were somewhere in their eighties or nineties. Maybe that is ridiculous, maybe it is naive, but it was what I expected.

Instead I find myself sandwiched in this place where I worry about them and my family. So here I sit sharing these thoughts with whomever reads them. Here I sit thinking about how many of my friends have already lost a parent, many of them at a very young age. Here I sit with gratitude for everything, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling nervous from time to time.

It is a screwy world, but it is the only we have got so I suppose we’ll just have to make do. In the meantime I’ll share one more thought with you and that is this.

I wonder when my own children will go through this process. I wonder when I’ll cease being superman and become Clark Kent, just another ordinary Joe. I don’t really mind that all, I just hope that it doesn’t happen until they become adults. It would be nice to keep this going for a bit longer.

Hannah Montana Movie

The dark haired beauty wants to see the Hannah Montana movie as soon as possible. As a little sister she knows that she is obligated to do her best to aggravate her older brother as frequently as possible. She accomplishes this by telling him that their father, me, has agreed to take them both to go see it.

What she does not tell him is that although I have agreed that she can see the movie, I haven’t said one word about when we’ll see it. Seconds after her announcement he comes flying into my room to express his disapproval, displeasure and disappointment with this.

“Dad, you know that I hate Hannah Montana. Why would you make me see it.”

I look at him and ask him if he really thinks that I am going to take him to see the movie. Would I really waste money on a ticket for a movie I know that he won’t like.

He nods his head at me and I can see that he is lost in thought. A moment later he looks at me and says, “Dad, I think that you aren’t telling me something.”

I look at him and ask him what he means.

“Dad, girls are really annoying. They must really be good at something for you to you have put up with them as long as you have.”

I think that one day I am going to have to revisit this conversation with him, but for now we’ll let it sit.

A Very Cool Birthday Party

I stumbled onto Movies by Kids and thought that it was pretty damn cool. Here is a clip from their website about what they do.

MOVIES BY KIDS is a creative program designed for teaching young students the exciting process of movie making and animation. This unique “Hand’s On” program offers children the opportunity to conceive, write, produce and direct their own, animated movies, live action shorts and special effects segments in one of our in school, after school, summer camp programs.

Too bad that they don’t have something for the big kids like me. Wonder if they’d do something special for a 40th birthday party. Hmm….

Life Changing Decisions

Life Changing Decisions

Do you remember the old coffee pots where you got to see the coffee percolate. You know, a percolator where when the coffee grew hot enough you’d get to see it spurt up into a clear top. I used to love watching that thing. There was something cool about seeing the coffee shoot up like that.

Sometimes that is how it feels when I am trying to write. These ideas percolate inside my melon and then bam! They just shoot up. Every now and then they turn into something really cool, but most of the time they end up as fragments of thought. I suppose that if I had the time I could really follow up on them.

In this particular post I was going to go with a bit about The Phantom Tollbooth and tie it in to the theme of the posts about life changing decisions. But then I remembered that they’re making a movie out of one of my favorite books, Where The Wild Things Are.

Take a look at this clip and maybe it will help describe the thoughts in my head and why I feel like Max.

Incidentally the song in the trailer is Wake Up by Arcade Fire. Anyway, I watch that trailer and it is easy for me to relate. I feel a bit like a kid in a suit running through the woods, or sailing alone across the ocean. Don’t ask me if I am running away or to something, I haven’t quite figured that out yet.

Ok, that is not totally true, I have a pretty good idea of what is going on and where I am heading. I have a goal and I have a plan for acheiving that goal. The problem is that my plan feels a bit like the memory of a dream I had this morning. When I first woke up it was really clear, but the more time that passes the harder it is to remember the details.

Maybe it would be better to describe it as being a quest in which I load up my horse with the supplies that I think I will need and an idea of the general direction I need to go in. It is not quite the Wizard of Oz, at least as far as I know there is no Wizard or Emerald City to rely on. Even better as far as I know no wicked witch or flying monkeys to worry about either.

Thus far this has been pretty vague and that is intentional. No reason or need to get too specific about what kinds of decisions I am on the verge of making. To a certain extent they are universal. The choices that I make are going to have a very big impact on the future and that is something that I am far more conscious of now than I have ever been.

It is exciting and frightening. I am optimistic about it all. My gut tells me that it is all going to work out because I am going to make it work. I expect that along the way there are going to be the usual share of rough moments and a solid dose of the really cool ones too.

Whenever I get nervous about it I take a moment to think about all of the experiences I have had thus far. And when I consider them all I can’t help but feel good. One of the benefits of turning 40 is having accumulated a certain amount of life experience. I think that it is an advantage. I have been incredibly successful and I have failed. I have loved and been loved. I have had my heart broken more than once.

And through it all I managed to come out the other side. Because I am superstitious I’ll temper this. I’ll say that I think there are some experiences that forever change you, some positively and some negatively. I’ll say that life has proven more than once that it can smack the crap out of you in ways that you would never imagine.

But in the end, I still come back to believing that I am going to succeed. I am going to get what I set out for. One way or another.

Transitions- Passover Seder

Transitions- Passover Seder

Some of my favorite memories as a young boy are of shaving with my father. I was around five or so and had my own special razor. It was special because it didn’t have a blade in it, but I didn’t care. Dad would help me lather up and we’d share the mirror and shave together.

Eventually we’d finish and he’d help me clean off the remaining shaving cream and throw on some aftershave. Mom would always compliment me on how good I was at it, how smooth my face was.

I thought about that earlier today. We were at the hospital visiting my grandmother and mom made a comment about how thick my beard is and the lines in my forehead. She is having a harder time accepting my turning 40 than her turning 65. Or maybe it is that it is becoming harder to visualize me as the little boy I once was.

At the moment things with grandma aren’t serious and it appears that she’ll be out in time to join us for the seder. It is going to be at my house again. It is the second time that I get to run the show.

Last year it wasn’t a planned event. The folks had been spent a couple of months in Israel. My dad got sick and was briefly hospitalized and as a result when they came back to the states he had to undergo some treatment on the East Coast.

As a result the seder was moved from my parent’s home to mine. It was a big deal to me. While I had always expected that one day I would take over I hadn’t ever imagined that it would happen as it did.

This year my mother called to ask if we could do it again and of course we said yes. It is kind of funny, but I am a bit nervous about it. Last year they weren’t here to see me lead, but this year they will be. This year my father won’t be at the head of the table, I will and it will be my job to run the show.

So it occurs to me that when I think about 40 years of Pesach memories that my children are finally old enough to really remember things. They have already begun talking about last year and are asking what they are going to get to do this year.

Part of me doesn’t feel old enough to do this. Part of me says that I can’t possibly be that old and part of me is excited to take this on. Inside my mind I am mapping out what I want to do and trying to decide how I want things to run.

At the same time I have so many images running through my skull. So many memories of past sedarim. A mental scrapbook of things that once were. Great-grandparents, my great-grandparents telling their own stories. My great-grandmother saying that she was shikkered (drunk) from the grape juice. My father talking about his grandfather’s English and how he always read “herb” without the silent “H.”

Earlier today my daughter asked me to tell her who was worse, Haman or Pharoah. And then she wanted to know if they got to eat Matzah Pizza in the desert.

So many thoughts and so many things to consider. What do I want to emphasize. What is most important for the children to get out of this. Some of the adults will be less than patient, so what do I do to keep them interested.

I am struggling to keep this moving forward, so I’ll go for the default option and provide some links to past posts about the holiday.

Struggling With Pesach
Passing The Baton- Grandma is 94
Passover- The High Cholesterol Holiday
What is Your Favorite Pesach Memory?
Some Passover Musings
Passover

The Sword of Damocles

The Sword of Damocles

Do you remember the story of The Sword of Damocles because at the moment I feel a bit like the guy sitting beneath the sword. The good news is that the point on this particular blade is relatively dull.

Nonetheless it can’t be pleasant having a twenty pound weight come crashing down upon your skull, even when you have a head as hard as my own.

All of this is a fancy way of saying that I have some tough decisions ahead of me and I find myself agonizing over what path to take. I have spent a lot of time trying to analyze the options and am stuck because in some cases you just can’t predict the future.

The best that you can do is develop an educated guess and then hope that you are right. There is nothing truly insightful or profound in that, it is just how life is.

But if you have a mind that operates like my own you tend to think in very colorful and graphic terms. In this particular case I see myself canoeing down a river that winds through some exotic jungle. It is uncharted territory so I haven’t any clue as to whether I am going to stumble upon rapids leading to a thousand foot drop or a tranquil pool.

The normal sounds of the jungle surround me. I can choose to set up camp but again there is no telling if the land will be fraught with unseen peril or a peaceful oasis.

All I can do is be prepared to adapt to whatever situation I face. And that my friends is exactly what I have to do here. Make the best decision can and then deal with whatever comes afterwards.

The hardest part of this whole process is not making the decision but the anticipation surrounding it all.

And now if you’ll excuse me I need to go find a helmet so that if that sword does come crashing down I have some sort of protection.

Purim 2009

Purim 2009

One of these days I am going to get around to making a t-shirt that offers a solid explanation for the reason why Jews celebrate many of our holidays. Before I offer an explanation for the shirt let me preface it by saying that I am not the first M.O.T. to come up with this line.

In fact, I might not even be the first to come up with a T-shirt, but we’ll deal with that later. I want the shirt to read something like this:

Why Jews Celebrate Jewish Holidays
“They Tried to Kill Us!
They Lost!
Let’s Celebrate!
Let’s Eat!”
Obviously it needs to be cleaned up a bit, but you get the general idea. More importantly we’re a few days out from one of my favorite holidays, Purim.
Purim is a joyous celebration and a time in which the community really lets loose. If you spend any time tooling around the J-Blogosphere you’ll see a million posts about it. I think that I have four or five of my own that talk about the chag, which is also why I mulled over whether I had anything new or important to add to the discussion.
Anyway one of the aspects of Purim that is fun are the costumes. It is not uncommon for some people to start thinking well in advance about what/who they want to dress up as, but I am not one of them.
Don’t ask me why, but I tend not to dress up in costume. Blame it on too many years of dressing up like Goofy. But I do have fun helping the kids find an outfit. They love it and I get a lot of pleasure from watching them.
One of their favorite parts of the holiday is the traditional Purim carnival. They love playing all the games, especially the one that offers goldfish as a prize. Every year I try to avoid the damn thing and every year I end up coming home with new fish. It is not that I am against having fish as pets, rather it is that the Purim carnival goldfish generally has a lifespan of three days.
As a point of interest there is no uniform agreement on when to hold the Purim carnival. This means that some shuls will have it the week before the holiday and some will hold it the week after. In theory this shouldn’t be a big deal, but the past couple of years that kid I call “Little Jack” has always heard about a couple of them.
So the end result is that he starts grinding me to take the family to many carnivals. Now I have never been afraid to say no to the kids, but it still doesn’t stop the multiple requests to “see what is different” at each carnival.
And now if you’ll excuse me I am off to change the clocks and get some much needed shut-eye because the whole leap forward bit is similar to enforced jet lag.
If you are interested in past posts about Purim check out the links below.

The Butt Doctor

The Butt Doctor

The big guy I call “Little Jack” continues to serve as a primary source of blog fodder. At eight he is finally beginning to notice that some of his friends live in bigger houses or have more toys than he does.

Earlier today he asked me if I knew that some of the other fathers are doctors. I told him that I was and asked why he wanted to know. He told me that one of his friends said that it was better to be a doctor because they got more gold.

I laughed and told him that if he wanted to find gold all he needed to do was take a trip to Ireland to talk to a few leprechauns. He recognized the wink in my eye and told me that he was serious. I told him that I was serious and explained made a point to make sure that he understood what leprechauns were.

Then I took a moment to talk to him about what doctors do. We spent a few moments discussing it and I explained that were specialties. So he asked me to name a few of them. I told him about cardiologists, pulmonologists and surgeons.

Since he is eight he went straight for his favorite topic, anatomy and asked me if there were butt and penis doctors. I looked him straight in the eye and said that there were. He paused and then told me that he was glad that I wasn’t a butt doctor.

I told him that I agreed with him. With a serious look on his face he explained that he thought that it would literally stink and wanted to know if the butt doctors wore nose plugs.

A few minutes later he looked at me and half muttered, half whispered something about a girl’s doctor. I told him he should speak up and ask me his question. So he said that he wanted to know if girls had special doctors for their private parts. I told him that they did.

He looked at me and asked if they had to be other girls. I told him that they didn’t and he kind of screwed up his face and asked me what boy would want to stare at naked girls all day. I said Ron Jeremy and then explained that one day he might volunteer for the job.

Hang on, hang on. Before you get huffy, I didn’t say anything of the sort. I didn’t mention Ron Jeremy. And again I restrained myself from making a crack about spelunking, I rather enjoy that word. It and defenestrate just make me smile. Don’t know why, but I like them.

For those who are curious I made a point to use the proper titles for the various doctors, but something tells me that his description, the “Butt Doctor” hasn’t made its last visit to the house.

When Your World Is Collapsing- A Letter To My Children

When Your World Is Collapsing- A Letter To My Children

I drank a huge cup of coffee and am not going to find a way to sleep anytime soon so I thought that I’d write a letter to my children. I don’t intend for them to read this for many years. In fact I’ll probably revise it a number of times, but for now this is the edited for the blog version.

Dear children,

It is the middle of February 2009 and am almost 40 years old. Until this year I hadn’t really found any of my birthdays to be difficult, at least not from the perspective of feeling old. I can list a number that I found to be exciting because my age meant that I had gained new privileges or responsibilities that I wanted.

This is different. It is different because I am realizing that my expectation for what my life would be like at 40 is different from what it is now. I can’t tell you exactly what it was that I expected it to be.

When I was 13 I was certain that I was going to be a professional baseball player. I was good, among the best in little league. But for a variety of reasons it didn’t pan out. That is ok. I have no regrets there.

I am trying to remember if I had any specific dreams of what my life was going to be like. For a long time I expected that I was going to make aliyah and live in Israel, or at least spend significant time there. That hasn’t happened yet and I can’t say if it will or won’t.

My career has had its ups and downs. It is not like your grandfather’s career. I grew up with a father who had one job for 38 years. But that was what happened in his generation. Things changed and it became the exception rather than the rule for someone to have just one job. Now it is not unusual for people to have several.

Your great grandparents were born during World War I. Your grandparents were born during World War II and your parents during Vietnam. The Cold War took up the majority of our time in school. The first Gulf War hit during college.

For a while things seemed relatively calm. The Soviet Union collapsed and the stories I heard as a child about whether the US and Russia would nuke each other became more of a fairy tale.

And then 9-11 hit and life changed again.

As I sit here writing we’re a few weeks into President Obama’s first term, who knows if he’ll have a second. We’re still fighting two wars, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan. Our economy is in terrible shape and from a certain grim perspective life looks pretty damn bad.

But perspective is what is called for. One day when you are old enough I’ll fill you in on all of the details that I am leaving out of this post. I’ll tell you some things that will help you understand the who, what and whys.

Anyway, the reason that I gave the history lesson is to show that history does repeat itself, the good and the bad. And sometimes the best thing that you can do is take life one day at a time. Break up the crap into smaller bite size pieces and just do the best that you can, because that is all you can do.

And now the circle is complete. I have officially channeled my father and grandfather. That line that drove me so crazy is being passed down, but I have come to believe in it. It doesn’t mean that you cannot or should not shoot for the stars, but that you have to accept your limitations.

But the thing to remember is that accepting your own limitations doesn’t mean that you can’t use your melon to find a way to overcome the challenges that face you.

Before I wrap this up I want to leave you with some of my favorite quotes:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”- Thomas Edison

“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” – Thomas Edison

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”- Thomas Edison

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”- Teddy Roosevelt

Octuplets- An Abdication of Medical & Parental Responsibility

Octuplets- An Abdication of Medical & Parental Responsibility

 

In concept I am a big believer in giving people freedom to live their lives and do what they are going to do with the caveat that the limits are drawn when their actions hurt others. Nadya Suleman and the doctor who helped her have crossed the line.

They have abdicated moral and parental responsibility with little to no regard for the impact of their actions. Their actions are selfish and misguided and it infuriates me that the public is going to be forced to help support the moronic decisions made by all of the parties here.

The LA Times has a number of articles that document the sad state of affairs of a mother who has 14 children, no source of income and owes $50,000 in student loans. Oh and did I mention that she is already receiving money from food stamps and that three of her children are disabled.

This makes me want to tear my hair out. This article outlines a number of serious issues and her complete lack of touch with reality. I believe in social responsibility. I believe that we have an obligation to try and give people a hand up, not a hand out. But apparently she feels otherwise. We’ll get to that in a moment.

 

 

“Even before she gave birth to the octuplets Jan. 26, Suleman was receiving $490 in monthly food stamps, and three of her children were receiving federal supplemental security income because they are disabled.

 

 

Let’s review because it really does blow me away. She is an unemployed single mother of six children who is receiving almost $500 a month in food stamps and additional money from the federal government for the disabled children goes t o a doctor and undergoes IVF and then delivers eight more children.

Eight more children. Eight more children who will be in the hospital somewhere between seven to twelve weeks. According to the Times that bill will run on the low end at about $500k and could approach more than $800k, provided that there aren’t any complications.

And that doesn’t take into account the team of more than 46 medical professionals who were assembled for the delivery. But none of this matters to Suleman. She engages in some sort of mental masturbation that allows her to try and say that she is not really receiving any sort of assistance.

 

 

“I’m not living off any taxpayer money,” she said. “If I am, if it’s food stamps, it’s a temporary resource. And I was so reluctant. I very much so look forward to the day when I am not getting any kind of help with food stamps, which I believe will end when I graduate in about a year or year and a half.”

 

 

Oh ok, you’re going to collect somewhere around nine grand in food stamps, not to mention however much you receive for the disabled children. And during that time what sort of activities will you be engaged in. Are we to believe that you are going to work so that you can support your children and so that you might pay into the system. Doesn’t sound like it.

Some people might say that I am being too harsh, but this was elective. She didn’t have to have more children. She had six and don’t forget that some are disabled. Six healthy children are a lot of work, but when some of them are disabled there is more to be done. And now she has increased the load ten fold.

But we shouldn’t worry because in lollipop land everything works out.

 

 

Suleman also bristled at suggestions made by some commentators that she was being irresponsible for having so many children with no income or partner to help raise them.”No. I am not being selfish. . . . If I were just sitting down watching TV and not being as determined as I am to succeed and provide a better future for my children, I believe that would be considered to a certain degree selfish,” she said.

 

 

Great. She is determined to succeed and by gum that makes all the difference. I believe in having a “can do” attitude and that it makes a difference, but again there are limits. She doesn’t have the financial resources to take care of these children there are legitimate questions about whether she’ll have the time. Fourteen young children, eight of whom are infants. It is just wrong.

But never fear, she has a website that she is using to ask for donations.

And lest we think that I have forgotten about the doctor and clinic let’s shed some light on these mental midgets.

According to records reviewed by the Times

 

The Beverly Hills doctor whose fertility treatment led to the birth of Nadya Suleman’s octuplets – and her six previous children – has one of the worst success rates of any fertility clinic in the country, according to federal records reviewed by The Times.

In fact, Suleman’s children represent a sizable portion of the pregnancy rate at his clinic over the last several years

 

 

The Times used data from 2006. Out of 61 procedures only five resulted in pregnancies and only two of those resulted in births. So we have a mother whose completely out of touch with reality and a doctor who is seemingly inept with everyone but her.

Even better the good doctor has been involved in a number of lawsuits with past employees.

It is a perfect storm of chaos and we’re the lucky people who get to pick up the pieces. Just peachy.

Show Me Your Veins

Show Me Your Veins

It is quiet now and I am thankful for it. I need the quiet. I need a moment, strike that, I need many moments where it is quiet and I can decompress. So here I am listening to The Beatles sing While My Guitar Gently Weeps and sharing these words with you.

Should I share the anatomy lesson of the evening or talk about how Facebook is a walk through my life, both past and present. Can we talk about the future and how sometimes it seems so uncertain and yet so permanent. Perhaps we can bang the blog and see what shakes loose. Surely there are some old posts that are worth revisiting.

Or maybe we’ll just scroll through all of these topics and more and see where we end up. Are you ready?

Earlier tonight the big guy took his evening shower and regaled me with tales of his day. I got the rundown on what happened in school and what he learned. It was kind of fun listening to him lecture me on how to spell Matisse. He made sure that I understood that it is spelled differently from how it sounds. I heard about math and history and minyan. All sorts of fun stuff.

Midway through his monlogue he looked at me and said “Dad, can I see your butt?” Now, that is not the normal course of conversation, so I asked him why. He told me that he wanted to see if I had any veins in it. I assured him that my circulatory system was functional throughout my entire body, but he still pressed on.

In the midst of the conversation he turned around and bent over. He then spread his cheeks and shouted that I should look at his butt to see his veins. I thanked him for the opportunity and told him to stand up. He asked me if I was concerned about not knowing and I assured him that when he was born I conducted a head-to-toe inspection and was confident that eight years later his butt still had veins in it.

Then he asked me if Darth Vader could use the Force to remove the veins from your butt so that you would die. I can’t wait to talk about this at his Bar Mitzvah and then again at his wedding. As a matter of fact I told him that. So he asked me if his mother had veins in her butt.

I was really tempted to tell him that our bedeken was a bit different. We had the ceremonial checking of the veins, the ceremonial checking of the veins in the tuchus, known as the V.I.T. But common sense reigned surpreme and I did not say anything.

Nor did I respond to his comment about whether we have a main vein. If you don’t follow the reference don’t worry about it.

Somehow we made the jump from veins to basketball and whether I could beat Kobe in a game of one-on-one. I explained that I appreciated his faith in my ability, but confessed that I couldn’t beat him. He smiled and told me that he loved watching the Lakers beat the Cavs and the hated celtics and I told him that loved it too.

I think that I’ll save the other stuff for a different post. It is rather late here so for now I think that I will sign off. See you in the A.M.

Sex & Love- A Father Speaks

Sex & Love- A Father Speaks

Ah the joys of fatherhood are never ending. The inquisitive lad you know as Little Jack has struck again and insisted that I explain love, divorce and girls in general to him. That little rascal reminds me of the Terminator. He is relentless and unstoppable. You can divert his attention but sooner or later he will be back.

We have been over this ground on a number of occasions. Here is an incomplete list of posts that help to provide some background:

Not Quite a Recap- Let’s Talk about Body Parts
Dear Tooth Fairy
She Broke My Penis
For A Good Time Call…
A Life Without Regrets
Mr Nobody Made Me Do it
Proud and Humbled By the Four-Year-Old
Things My Four-Year-Old Has Done
A Six Year Old WondersWhere Babies Come From
Profanity- The Children Learn New Words Part Deux
Sex & Children
Great Moments In Parenting- Parts of our Body That Grow
Are You Smarter Than A Rabbi? Part I
Are You Smarter Than A Rabbi? Part II

And that is the short and incomplete list. It really doesn’t touch upon any of the stories involving the dark haired beauty, which is good. I need some time to prepare myself for the coming onslaught that she is going to unleash upon me.

As I sit here typing I am grinding my teeth, excuse me I am trying not to grind my teeth. My jaw is clenched and the muscles in my back and neck are tying new knots upon the existing ones.

Ok, I know that is a bit heavy for the normal tone of these posts. Usually they are a light hearted recollection of conversations between my children and I. But the rules of the blog dictate that I share what is really happening so that is what I am doing.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The big guy is acutely aware of the world around him and constantly exploring and asking questions about what he sees. Some of his classmates have parents that are divorced and some that are in the process of getting divorced so he is intensely interested in what this means and how it happens.

Today he asked me to try and explain to him what it means to be married and why people don’t stay married. He also asked me to try and explain why men are interested in women and in a whisper asked me to tell him about kissing.

Now the first rule of Jack’s tips for fathers is to keep your explanations short and simple. No need to answer the question of what time is it with a three hour diatribe on how to make a clock. Kind of funny coming from a man who is brevity challenged, but it is an important safety tip because everything you say opens you up for new questions.

Marriage

I really was tempted to start the discussion about marriage by sharing a clip from The Princess Bride but I managed to resist the temptation. Instead I provided him with a short description of marriage as a partnership between friends who love each other and have a desire to be together every day.

For a moment that worked for him and then he started peppering me with questions:

  • How old do you have to be to get married?
  • How long do you have to be married?
  • How many times can you get married?
  • Would you marry someone else?
  • How do you know you won’t marry someone else?
  • Do you have to kiss the girl at the wedding?

We spent a few minutes running through answers and then he told me that he never wants to get married because he doesn’t like girls. I smiled and told him that it was ok. I am not worried about it. He smiled back and told me that he is never going to change his mind because girls are far too bossy.

I let out a loud guffaw and muttered “you have no idea.” I was tempted to let loose with my impression of Al Bundy and run through a list of of cracks about women but it was too easy. And let’s face it my audience, an inquisitive eight year-old wasn’t going to appreciate it.

He still wanted to know why I laughed so told him that it was because I agreed with him, girls can be very bossy and then he said illogical and irrational too. Ok, he didn’t say that, but it would have been something if he had. Just what that something is I don’t know.

Then he got serious and asked me to tell him about kissing and why people do it. And because I have juvenile sense of humor I had to restrain myself again from making a crack about foreplay and how men would like to skip right over it. But I didn’t, because even though I have a juvenile sense of humor I have a romantic streak.

So I gave him a quick line about kissing feels good and helps to show that two people love each other and that is when he hit me with how do people stop loving each other.

It was a serious question and I had to think about it.

I paused and for a moment I thought about the great loves and heartbreaks of my life. Inside my head I remembered moments of intense passion and unfettered love. I remembered the feeling of utter joy and I remember the intense pain and loneliness of the end. I remembered that moment when you first realize that you are in love and you can’t wait to see that special person. And I remembered the soul crushing feeling of being told that it was over.

All of that feeling is far too much to pass along. He doesn’t need to know about that. I hope that one day many years from now we’ll have the sort of father/son relationship where we can discuss those things. And then I can tell him about those things. Then I can give him the background on the relationships that helped shape me, but not now.

For now I tried to explain being in love as the feeling you get when you are with your best friend. You always have fun together and you never get tired of doing things together. And then I told him that sometimes people change. Sometimes when you grow older you grow apart.

That seemed to satisfy him, at least for now. As he went back to playing with his Legos I stared at him and tried to imagine what sort of man he’ll grow into. I can almost picture him grownup, at least I can visualize the body. I can’t quite see his face or picture what his voice will sound like.

I hope that he finds the sort of love that makes him understand what it is really all about. The kind of love that makes your heart pound like a hammer on an anvil. I want him to understand that there is a fierce love that gives you incredible power and strength.

But that is a post for a different time and place.

Octuplets- Something is Wrong Here

Octuplets- Something is Wrong Here

Don’t have time for a long analysis so this will be a hit and run type post. The story about the woman who gave birth to Octuplets troubles me. The mother already had six children and now has more than doubled her brood.

The LA Times reports following.

“And look what happened. Octuplets. Dear God,” Angela Suleman said four days after her 33-year-old daughter became the second person in the U.S. ever to
give birth to eight babies at once.

Suleman stressed that her daughter “is not evil, but she is obsessed with
children. She loves children, she is very good with children, but obviously she
overdid herself.”Angela Suleman said all the children are from the same sperm donor, but she did not identify him. Her daughter is divorced, but Suleman said the ex-husband was not the father.”

My first question is what sort of income does this woman have. As a father I know first hand just how much money is required to try and support a family. Providing for 14 is going to take an enormous amount of cash.

And let’s not forget that they aren’t exactly spaced. How do you take care of 8 infants. You cannot do it by yourself, it is impossible. Even splitting the work between a mother and a father would be exceptionally taxing.

But let’s say that she is a billionaire and that money isn’t a problem. I would be very concerned with the mother’s ability to spend time with her children. She is going to be pulled in so many different directions someone is going to miss out. Someone is not going to get as much love from their mother as they deserve.

I’d like to know more about the screening process for the procedure she went under. Don’t they have responsibility here to look at each candidate and qualify them. I know that sounds bad and in theory everyone should have access to the tools and resources they need to become a parent. But the reality is that not everyone should be a parent and even the greatest parent has limits.

Someone dropped the ball on this one.

A Good Father

A Good Father

The beauty of attending a reunion like I did is that it forces you to look at your life and think about what it is that you are doing. Because when you run around a room telling people from your past about your present you have your nose pushed right into a pile of life.

I spent a chunk of time Saturday night listening to people spin tales about who they are and what they do. I am not trying to say that people were lying or embellishing the truth, but in many cases that is exactly what they did.

Some of the people that we thought of as being goofballs or least likely to succeed are incredibly successful now. And some of those we expected to be a huge succeess were not. It is not easy to look some of them in the eye and tell a story about a life that hasn’t lived up to what you wanted. It is even harder when you listen to someone shout with such exuberance about how things are better than they ever could have imagined.

Now it is no secret that the last four years have been harder for me than I would have ever expected. I have faced some challenges that I couldn’t have foreseen. I have dealt with unfair situations and circumstances and done the best that I could. Sometimes I fell down. Sometimes I simply failed.

But there were other moments when I didn’t. There were moments when I succeeded in spite of the stumbling blocks that were set before me. I’d like to say that there were more succcesses than failures, but I am not completely sure that it is so.

What I can say is that these experiences have provided a sort of hard scrabble education. I have learned things about myself that will inevitably help me. I have stood in the fire and watched the flames burn me. I know, it is bit melodramatic but it is how I feel.

It has also helped to clarify not just what I want, but what I need. And that is something that some people never quiet figure out. I can tell you what I want with a lot of detail and know that it is accurate. I can also tell you that I am working to achieve those goals and that I am doing my best to do it without wreaking havoc everywhere.

If you want to know how this applies to being a good father, well I can give you a number of explanations. I am a good father. I work hard for my family and do a lot to give the children a great life. But I can do better. I am falling short in some areas. There are some things that I can improve at and I am working on it.

I can tell you that I believe that my children are going to be able to look at my life and learn a lot from it. They’ll be able to see that I have made a lot of mistakes but that I have also made a lot of smart moves.

If all goes as I hope it will those lessons will serve them well. One of the most important lessons is how to keep going when it feels like the world is collapsing. It is something that I saw with my parents and something that I hope that I can pass along.

When it is all said and done I think that the most important part of being a good father is giving your children the tools to live a good life. If I can do that then I am fairly confident that they’ll make good choices, at least I hope so.

I won’t be defined solely by the deeds and actions of my children, but I do hope that when I am gone they have nothing but fond memories of me as having been a good father.

The Private School Dilemma Again

The Private School Dilemma Again

Just downed a big glass of V8 juice and hoped that the surge of so called healthy fluids flowing down my throat would provide enlightenment. Waiting, I am sure that any moment it is going to happen. No really, it is a far cry better than soda and I drink too much of that as it is.

Ok, at least five seconds has passed and I don’t feel any different. In an age of instant gratification do I really need to wait longer. Ok, I’ll give it five minutes. Excuse me while I go hit the john.

Still waiting for Nirvana. In the interim I did manage to make that trip to the bathroom. I listened to The Killers play Human and Yo-Yo Ma performed Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major. Unfortunately none of that solved my problem of what to do about the fricking private school dilemma.

Every year I agonize over whether to keep my kids in a school that I think is fabulous. I love it, their mother loves it and most importantly they love it. They’re thriving there and every year I have watched them grow.

They are good kids. Smart kids. They are going to learn and succeed wherever they go to school. I have no doubts about that. But that doesn’t mean that some schools are not superior. It doesn’t relieve my doubts about the local public school. I have toured it several times and while I like much of what I see it doesn’t meet my requirements.

The whole situation reminds me of the “People plan and G-d laughs” line. The big guy in the sky has been engaged in more than giggles about my life. I think that it is a belly shaking rumble, but that’s a different story.

When we purchased the house the idea was that it was going to be a place to live for two years and then we’d leverage it into a bigger house in near a good school. Thank you G-d for laughing at my plan. The housing market went ballistic and my job disappeared and the ability to move went poof.

From a financial perspective private school makes no sense whatsoever. It is a ridiculous amount of money for school. Month in, month out. Year in, year out. If I do nothing more than support the children until they are eighteen I have a guarantee of more than a decade of doing this. Reminds me of that Billy Crystal bit, I Hate When That Happens.

But I can’t look at it solely from a monetary perspective. Children aren’t commodities to be traded and or dropped when they don’t provide the ROI we’re looking for. They are getting more out of this school than they would at the local public. There are resources here that the public can’t match. There are opportunities to be exposed and taught about things that don’t exist elsewhere.

There is a parent’s organization that is devoted and active. Certainly there are public schools that have this, but my local doesn’t. I don’t believe in a school that doesn’t have strong parental involvement.

So when I take time to analyze this I see a situation that isn’t cut and dried. There is no black and white solution, no easy answer. I mean a good accident would cause the life insurance policy to kick in and they’d be covered through college, but no farther.

And before any of you get too excited I am not suicidal. At times I have a twisted sense of humor, but I haven’t any interest in dying. Besides what would the shmata queen do without me. Be pretty bored, I tell you.

Not to mention that I wouldn’t do that to the family. I am far too selfish to give them such an easy way to get rid of me. Those kids are going to have the benefit of my presence for another 90 years or so.

Nope, can’t get rid of me I am like that ugly luggage you inherited from your grandparents. A little beat up, a little worn but virtually indestructible.

I wonder if maybe another V8 might do the trick. Maybe that is the problem, maybe I just didn’t drink enough. Aww hell, might as well down a bottle of Bourbon while I am at it.

Got to run for a while.

We Leave The Toilet Seat Up

We Leave The Toilet Seat Up

Before we begin the exciting topic of what position to leave the toilet seat in let me share some of what I have been listening to this evening.

God Only Knows– The Beach Boys
My World Is Empty Without You– The Supremes ( I prefer the original- no time to search)
Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major– Bach (Played by Yo Yo Ma)
Gimme Three Steps– Lynrd Skynrd
No Leaf Clover– Metallica

Ok, let’s move on to the incredibly interesting topic of what position to leave the toilet seat in, up or down. I have to give credit for the topic to the illustrious Therapydoc. If you tool on over there you can see that she and I engaged in a bit of back and forth about whether the toilet seat should be left up or down.

Having grown up with more sisters than you can shake a stick at (I tried that once. Bad idea, my father had none of it and, well let’s say that I only did it once.) I learned that women have this funny idea that the toilet seat must always be left down so that if they decide to use the powder room it will be ready for them.

I take a different position and I hope that my fellow men will join me in overthrowing the tyranny of the toilet seat. It is time to force these dames to do as we do and learn how to look at the seat before sitting down upon it. Somewhere my mother is beginning to grimace and squirm, she has this weird knack for sensing when I am going to cause trouble.

And yes I am well aware that suggesting that we don’t have to put the seat down is a recipe for a fight. But ladies I ask you if you would consider crossing the street without looking both ways. You would not. You don’t drive with your eyes closed and you usually take a moment to check yourself out in the mirror before leaving the house.

So I ask why you who are capable of so many things claim to be incapable of determining what position the toilet seat is in. It makes no sense.

We can take this from a different position too. Every now and then we men have to respond to a need that requires sitting upon the toilet. We haven’t any problem checking the position. I have no more interest in falling into the toilet than you do.

Ok, that is about as much energy as I am willing to lend to this topic.

Kissing

Kissing

The big guy who helps run this joint has become interested in kissing. He routinely tells me that it is gross and that he never wants to do it. But every now and then he’ll approach me and ask if I like to kiss girls and why.

I tempted fate once by telling him that if he does a proper job of kissing a girl he can leave the seat up all the time and gain a maid and personal shopper. Men, learn from my experience, don’t say this thing in range of women who wear pointy shoes or have heavy purses. Those things leave a dent in the old melon.

But because I push my luck I once said that kissing is a necessary evil called foreplay. This in turn generated the question of “does that mean that I get to kiss and play with four girls at once.” I said something to the effect of it only works that way if you are Hugh Hefner.

Anyhoo I have attempted to try and explain to the young lad that kissing is an exercise that can blow your mind, but only if you are kissing the right person. Because when you have that sort of chemistry it is an organic experience that is worth doing over and over again. In fact a good kiss has been the reason why I got onto an airplane to fly untold miles to experience that again.

It was a life changing kiss that one. It was the sort of kiss that you find unsettling. It is so good that you can’t help but ask yourself it is real. And if you are like me you open your eyes in the middle and find her staring back at you. At that point in time you reach into your pocket and hand her a breath mint. Don’t forget to duck.

But on a serious note it was the kind of thing that spoke of unlimited potential. The kind of kiss that makes it clear to yourself that if you don’t pursue the situation further you will forever be known by the moniker of “Super Schmuck” because only a super schmuck would walk away from that. There are some things in life that you can dream of and experience. And some experiences that are so good they are a dream.

Before I forget today’s lucky numbers are as follows:

1 15 03 8 31 68 5 9 69

If you share that combination of numbers than you are guaranteed a chance to engage in the most incredible and amazing experience you have ever had. Sheer bliss.

I hate to walk away and leave this post half done, but I have to attend to putting a young child back to bed.

Not Quite A Recap- Let’s Talk About Bodyparts

In an attempt to escape being seen as the All Gaza, All The Time blog I am going to regal you with tales on my adventures on the high seas. You ever notice that the term is always “high seas” and never lower. Maybe the Shmata Queen is correct about short people and things getting no respect.

Before the hostilities began I had intended to work on a general recap of the blog and my life in 2008. But as the saying goes, “People plan and G-d laughs.” So here I am with a watered down version that is going to cover a bunch of different things.

Let’s begin by relating a recent conversation with my son. Earlier this week the big guy followed me into the bathroom and decided that it would be cool if we both urinated at the same time. Yes ladies, sometimes even the boys hit the bathroom in pairs.

As we stood there I made sure to remind him to pay attention and suggested that we follow the Ghostbuster’s rule and not cross streams. In the midst of this the big guy looks at me and says:

Son: So that is what my penis is going to look like when I am a grown up.
Dad: I suppose. You’ll definitely be bigger than you are now.

Son: How big will I be?
Dad: I don’t know.

Son: How big are you?
Dad: I don’t know.

Son: Can’t you tell me?
Dad: Tell you what?

Son: How big your penis is. How many inches is it?
Dad: I have never measured it.

(It is a perfectly innocent conversation, but the juvenile side of me is fighting to whip out some crazy remarks. Something along the lines of it is 3 feet long and when I don’t use it I keep it rolled up like a danish or use it as a belt. But I don’t say that and he is smarter enough to know better.)

Son: Why not? Why haven’t you measured it?
Dad: I never cared. Didn’t have a reason to. It works just fine.

Son: Do they ever get to be too big?
Dad: Too big for what? (uh oh, where is this conversation going?)

Son: When you make a baby you have to stick it in a girl’s vagina. Do they get too big or too small.
Dad: Nope. Everything works.

(Since he is only 8 I decided to try and make it simple, but at this point I just know that simple isn’t going to completely satisfy him.

Son: How big are vaginas?
Dad: Big enough to take care of things.

(At this point I am tempted to tell him that it is similar to spelunking. The doctor puts on gloves, a miner’s helmet and ties a rope around his waist before he dives in to grab the baby. But since I know that he is probably going to tell his mother and others I restrain myself.)

Son: I see your smile. Tell me for real.
Dad: Everything fits the way that G-d intended it to. Do you have any plans to try this any time soon.

Son: Gross. I don’t even want to get married.
Dad: No problem. Enjoy being eight.

That last exchange marked another moment in which I had to restrain myself from making some obnoxious remark about things. I’ll leave that particular one to your imagination.

I’ll readily admit that I was happy to end the conversation. It is not that I mind talking to him or answering questions, but sometimes they go off on these wacky tangents and I never know when they might come back. But I was happy to note that he remembered enough from the how to make a baby conversation to ask relatively appropriate questions.

So back to our recap. In some ways 2008 has been an exceptionally difficult year. There is an awful lot that has happened that has been both challenging and unpleasant. But there have been some really good things too. What it really shows me is that my life really isn’t that different than so many other people.

This past year I pounded out just under a thousand posts. Here is a quick and incomplete look back at some of what appeared here:

I am In Love 
What Benefits Do You Receive From Being President 
Holding a Grudge 
Is It Blogworthy 
Some of My Favorite Posts
Thanksgiving in Mumbai
Music and Fragments of Fiction 
I Am A Lonely Man 
Must Blogging Have a Purpose 
Dear Tooth Fairy
The Disappearing Accent 
I Talk In My Sleep 
Food For Thought 
He Put a Gun To My Head
Do You Live Your Dreams 
What Is Your Number One Tip For Building Traffic to The Blog 
Anonymous Blogging 
She Broke My Penis 
What Makes You Happy
We Still Carry The Pain of Our Past Part II
 
Daddy You Died 
The Best Break Up Songs 
What Should Children Learn in School? 
My Fourth Blogiversary- What Do I have To Say
Whether The Storm or Weather The Storm
 
How Long Do You Wait While on Hold 
Cover Songs- Part 1
For A Good Time Call…
Death Comes For Us All- When Do you Start Saying Goodbye
 
Dancing WIth My Daughter
Second Annual Link To Jack Day 
A Life Without Regrets 
Coping With Sick Parents
My Dad Has A Problem 
Penis Talk Revisited
Streets of Philadelphia
 
The Worst Album Covers- Ethel Merman Disco Mix 
Paying For Private School- Part II 
Playing With Your Webcam 
Cheeseburger Leads to 911 Call

He is Eight-Years-Old

In a few moments or so the day will officially become December 29 and I will be the father of an eight-year-old boy. Some of you will read this and smile as you recollect when your child was this age and some of you will have no frame of reference at all. But let me tell you that I am continually surprised to realize that not only am I a father, but I have a child who is not a baby any more.

Actually he hasn’t been a baby for a very long time now, but not unlike many other parents I wonder where the time went. I look at him and I see hints of the baby he used to be but more than anything else I see small hints of the teenager to come. And I suspect that I might even see a few inklings of the man that he will one day be.

I told him earlier today to take his time growing up, there is no rush. It is something that my parents often told me and a lesson that I am trying to pass along. I suppose that I am trying to absorb it myself as well. Or maybe it is just my personal struggle with aging that I am confronting.

When I think back to the time before he was born I realize that I look at it as having been a different life. I remember what life was like, but in some ways I don’t really remember anymore. What I know is that every decision that I have made for the past eight years has been tied into him, whether I was conscious of it or not.

Since he has been on Winter Break I have made an extra effort to take advantage of the time. I have tried to make sure to do more fun things with him and to let him help me with more chores around the house. It is not that I didn’t let him before, but his school work takes priority and sometimes it was necessary to do the work without him.

He has helped to repair a drawer and a gate. He has talked to me about all sorts of school stuff, including his education about Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges and Jackie Robinson. He has spent time teaching me how to do second grade math and then asked me how it was that I already knew how to do it.

I got a kick out of the look on his face when I told him that I have already been through school. “You mean that even though you didn’t have computers you learned this stuff.”

We have spent time playing on the kids new Wii, Lego Star Wars is a particular favorite. I am amazed sometimes that a movie I loved as a kid has turned into a bonding exercise.

In between we chased each other around the house, threw a football around and terrorized the girls because according to him that is what we are supposed to do. Who am I to argue with such logic.

Just before he went to sleep we spent more time telling each other secrets and I did my best to answer some of his questions. A short while ago his mother and I let him know that there is a chance that he may go to a new school next year. Thus far he has spent his entire school career in private school and is nervous about public school.

I told him not to worry about it and that everything would work out, but I have to admit that I am nervous about it too. I don’t want to have to take him out of his school, I love it. But we’ll have to see what happens.

Anyway, that is enough about the big guy now. Maybe I’ll write more about it all later.

Crossposted here.

I Hate Christmas

So the Chanukah holiday madness continues to plague my life. Ok, that is a really unfair characterization of one of my favorite holidays, but I kind of like the way that it sounds. So because I like to use this blog as both a place to vent and a chronicle of my life allow me to share more notes about the current Chanukah season.

Chanukah season comes from the mouth of the almost eight-year-old boy that lives with me. The guy I call “Little Jack” told me he hates Christmas and that Christians don’t know how to share. I look down at the big guy and say that there is no reason to hate Christmas. He replied with a large dose of almost eight-year-old boy logic and reason.

“Christians need to share the holidays with us. All we ever see are Christmas decorations and Christmas songs. Why aren’t there more Jewish things. That would be more fair.”

Being the good father I smiled in a fatherly way and said “there are a lot more Christians here and because of that there tends to be more Christmas stuff. There is really no reason to hate it.”

He grimaced at me and said that there was no reason why they couldn’t share better and that for every Christmas show there should be at least one Chanukah. I told him that I understood, but sometimes life isn’t fair and that it is still not a reason to hate the holiday.

“But dad, they are celebrating a lie. Santa Claus is a fat faker!”

I asked him why he said that and where he had heard such things. He told me that I had taught him that Santa was fake and that we didn’t believe in Christmas or Christian things.

I replied and told him that was correct and then asked him if I had ever told him that he should hate Christmas or that it was a lie. And that was where he really hit me with another solid dose of almost eight-year-old boy logic and reason.

“No, you never said any of those things. But if it is not real then it must be a lie and I hate being lied to. And I really hate being lied to when people can’t share. Why can’t they share better!”

Now I have to admit that I can see exactly how he came to his conclusions and part of me was proud of his deductive reasoning skills. However, I don’t want him running around saying these things to other people. It is not right and I made sure that I explained it to him.

I told him that it is ok for people to have other beliefs and that we didn’t care. As long as they are not forcing those beliefs upon others we don’t care. I explained that if someone told him that his beliefs were predicated upon a lie he would be angry. He asked me to repeat that line, “predicated upon a lie” and then asked me to explain what it meant. Note to self, don’t be surprised when he uses that line upon me.

We went back and forth for a few more minutes about being tolerant and why I would be intolerant of him telling other kids that Santa isn’t real and that Christmas is a lie. Eventually he told me that he understood, but he did tell me that he wants to talk to Santa. I asked why and he told me that he wants to tell him that he shouldn’t try and fool kids into believing that he is real.

So the gift I got out of this conversation is the knowledge that the big guy can be just as stubborn and singleminded of purpose as his dad.

Two days after this conversation he told me that he wants to go visit one of our elderly neighbors to help decorate her tree. I hesitated for a moment and then asked him why he’d want to help if he hated the holiday. He looked at me as if I was stupid and said, “I don’t hate it that way dad.” And then he proceeded to make me feel very proud as he told me that he thought that since our neighbor was old it would be really nice to help her decorate her tree and make her smile.

A few other notes to share. Every Chanukah we tell the children that we need to go through their old toys and find some to give away to children who don’t have any. The dark haired beauty was irritated with her older sibling and tried to show it by piling up some of his new gifts and suggesting that they would be good gifts for other kids.

As you might imagine this was not well received by the big guy. His father however has to admit to trying hard not to smile. It is hard not to when a pretty little girl in a princess dress smiles at you. Oh did I mention that she used her magic wand to give to me everything I want including “super magic.”

Not quite sure what “super magic” is, but I think that it must be pretty good. Maybe I’ll do some research upon this and report back later. That is it for now.

Crossposted here.

Chanukah 2008 Continued


You know that line about those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? Well tonight kind of made me think of that. Let me set the scene as best I can.

The year is somewhere around 1976 or ’77. Your hero (that is me) is a young schoolboy. Happy, well adjusted and glad to recite all of the Welcome Back Kotter lines with his friends, “up your nose with a rubber hose” was a personal favorite.

My family is at home. My sisters and I are involved in different activities around the house. At some point in time my middle sister and I have a disagreement about something. I can’t remember what I did, but like a good big brother I really aggravated her. She hauls off and belts me in the mouth. It doesn’t hurt, but it does knock out a loose tooth.

I am infuriated by this. Looking back I think that I was more upset by the idea that my little sister got one over on me than anything else.

Flash forward to the present. The family is at my folk’s house. It is filled with aunts, uncles and cousins. I hear my son scream and he comes marching up stairs holding his mouth. I see blood and ask what happened. He hands me a tooth and tells me that his younger cousin kicked him in the mouth and knocked out his tooth.

That younger cousin just happens to be the youngest child of the sister that knocked out my tooth. He is truly sorry and tells me repeatedly that it was an accident and it probably was.

A little bit later all if forgiven and forgotten and we go to light candles. I bask in the glow of the lights and the smiles on the faces of the kids. We finish the blessings and the kids run and sit in the living room. I look at my father and say that he should get ready to play grandpa.

We walk over and my son tells me that they are all ready to get their gifts. I look at him and say that we’re not doing gifts tonight. My niece looks at me and says, “don’t tease us Uncle Jack.” I smile and tell her that I am not.

Jaws drop and confused looks from the children are pointed towards us. My son takes the lead again and says that it is not funny, the joke is over. I assure him that tonight there are no gifts and then the heavens unleash a torrent of young voices upon us.

I quiet them down and remind them that the holiday is not only about gifts. I give them two minutes of patented parent P.R. and add a dose of guilt. And then I remind them that another reason we are not exchanging gifts is because not all of their cousins are there. Not to mention that the good news is that they will get gifts the next night.

Kids shrug their shoulders at me and grumble for a moment. I offer a free kick in the pants or punch in the nose. No one takes me up on it. They run off to play and I look at my father.

“What are you looking at,” he asks. I tell him that I want his opinion on how I did. He smiles, pats me on the shoulder and says “you’re learning.” I smile back and tell him that it is still ok for him to give me a gift that night.

He smiles and sticks out his hand. I place my hand in his, knowing what is coming.

“Congratulations.”

And the lesson here is that old family tricks never die, even those that still aren’t funny. Ok, I laughed, but that is a long story in itself. We’ll save it for a different day

Crossposted here.

Chanukah Begins Woohoo- Night One

I think that I am in a bit of a blogging rut again. I am just not happy with the quality of my posts so I keep nuking them and starting over. Every time I say something like that the Shmata Queen accuses me of trying to generate more comments to feed my ego.

I usually respond to those accusations by making fun of the burning river and reminding her that she has lived more than half of her middle aged life outside of that place. 1…2…3…DUCK!

In case you are wondering that was strictly for myself. The queen has this big black purse that your grandmother would be jealous of. I can’t believe how much junk she has in there. I think that she thinks it is sort of like Felix the Cat’s Bag of tricks.

Let me tell you, the last time she managed to hit me in the head I saw stars, they were in her eyes. Those bright eyes positively glowed. All hail the lovely queen. Ok, enough of the fake fawning and homage and back to the point of the post, it is Chanukah.

It is one of my favorite holidays. I can give you a million reasons why. I can talk about how even though it is a minor holiday in importance, it is quite significant. But it is really late and I am not in the mood to be very serious. So instead I’ll opt to say that the serious post comes later.

Right now let’s say that I like the holiday because of the memories of the past and those that we are creating now. The look on my kid’s faces is classic. Let me tell you if you really want to have fun tell your children that you are getting them socks and underwear for gifts and then really give it to them. Watch as they try to maintain their composure and be grateful.

It is a great tool to use to teach, the holiday that is. We always spend time talking about why we celebrate it and why we should be thankful for what we have. And they also get my lecture about why I hate the holiday season and the message that there is one time of year to be good.

We usually give the kids something every night, but not every one of those gifts is a major one. The formula is to try and give them each one big gift and a bunch of little ones.

More on this later.

Crossposted here.

The Duggar’s one More Time

I must admit that I have been surprised to see just how much traffic the Duggar stories generate. This post from last May is constantly being pinged by people:

The Duggar Family Revisited

Anyway, they apparently just had baby number 18:

Michelle Duggar has given birth to her 18th child.

The Arkansas supermom delivered the baby girl by Caesarean section Thursday at Mercy Medical Center in Rogers. The baby, named Jordyn-Grace Makiya Duggar, weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20 inches long.

Crossposted here.

The Search For Happiness

You can call this post The Search For Happiness. It is one of those posts in which I find myself thoroughly unsatisfied with the end result. I had 800 words or so written down but I decided that I just didn’t like it so I nuked it and started over. This is the result.

As a child I had a lot of different dreams about what I would be when I grew up. Many of them were the typical things that you might here. Professional athlete, Fireman, President, Lawyer, Doctor, Sports writer.

As time passed so did my interest in some of those dreams. I suppose that you could say that my interest in being a pro athlete never did pass, but my ability didn’t allow for that particular dream to continue. I’ll write more about this in a different post.

My interest in some of those other professions waxed and waned over the years for a variety of reasons. Some of it was due to practical reasons and some of it due to what you could call extenuating circumstances. It is fair to say that part of the personal challenge for myself and a number of my friends is the lack of burning desire to become a (fill in the blank). I’ll readily admit to feeling mild jealously to those few people I know who are doing exactly what they love.

I don’t want to live to work. I work to live. See I can rattle off all the little cliches. I don’t want a job, I want a career. But there is so much truth in those thoughts. Life is very short and I want to enjoy it with passion and with gusto. I want to wake up feeling like I am ready to attack the day. It still happens from time to time, but not with the frequency I want.

If you ask why I can give you a list of reasons and I can give you a rudimentary framework for how I am trying to change the areas that are deficient. But I would be remiss if I didn’t try and explore how I got to this place and why.

The simplest answer is that people change. I am just not who I was. Many of the things that used to be important to me are just not all that exciting or interesting to me. Many of the things that I thought that I wanted fall into the category of not necessary.

When the boys and I sit down and discuss this we all agree that life experiences are responsible for creating this change in us. It is a bit unsettling. I have always found big changes to be a bit tough. But I also know that I can’t continue along the path I am walking on without making some adjustments.

One of the guys told me that he fears that he won’t find a place where he feels truly happy and that right now all he wants is to focus upon being happy in the moment. I understand that. I have always been a bit restless and felt this sort of wanderlust. I have wondered if that is always going to prevent me from really enjoying life. But when I think about it I realize that I have a lot of really good memories and some of them are in the very recent past.

The very recent past. That gives me hope and strength. It is a reminder that I am not looking backwards and saying that the best is behind me. It means that there is no reason why the best is not yet to come.

This search for happiness is a very personal and intimate thing. For me at times it has been a struggle and I suspect that there are going to be some very tough moments ahead. But I have to do as I teach my children.

That means I need to identify the problem and try and determine what the solution is. And as I tell the children it means that before I ask for help I need to determine if I can solve it myself. Too bad it is not as simple as the challenges that they come to me with.

In the not so distant future the kids and I are going to have more discussions about how to deal with a challenge head on. I see too many of the parents of their friends creating future issues by always fixing things for their kids, but that is a separate issue altogether.

What I do know for certain is that if I want my children to succeed on their own quest for happiness I have to give them the tools to do so. One way to do so is to let them learn from their father’s experience.

And that is all I have to say about this for now.

Crossposted here.

Cheap Sunglasses

Cheap Sunglasses

“Now go out and get yourself some big black frames With the glass so dark thay won’t even know your name And the choice is up to you cause they come in two classes: Rhinestone shades or cheap sunglasses Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah”

Cheap Sunglasses- ZZ Top

Years ago I used to think that it would be great fun to get ZZ Top to play at the Chabad telethon. For that matter I still do. Some of you might be aware that the drummer’s name is beard.

I have often wanted to grow a beard like them, something really long and “Grizzly Adams” like but up to now I have never had the patience to do so. Not to mention that that the various women in my life have always complained about my attempts to do so, especially one of my grandmothers.

Sunglasses, everyone needs them. They aren’t a fashion requirement although some people see them as such. Back in the day it was a Vuarnets or a pair of Ray-Bans, the Wayfarers model in particular. In fact if you saw me during my senior year of high school I more than likely was wearing a pair just like the one in the picture. And I also admit to sometimes dressing like these guys, but more often then not I was mistaken for some Yeshiva bochur and not Jake or Elwood Blues. (I should add that
my first car was a 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger with a slant 6 engine. Not quite the Blues Mobile, but close enough for me to fantasize. But like I said it seemed that in my crowd dressing like The Blues Brothers was an invitation to ask when I had gone BT or Frum.)

For those who wonder I wanted a pair of Vuarnets, especially in junior high, but the cost was prohibitive. I never was a good enough salesman to convince my father to buy a pair for me.

Returning to the women of my life one of the things that I learned was that my girlfriends were very interested in having a say as to how I dressed and what sunglasses I wore. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a case of them saying that they wouldn’t go out with me unless I dressed a certain way. I didn’t date those girls and even had I wanted to I couldn’t have afforded them.

No, it was a simple matter of women seem to enjoy dressing their men. They never really grow out of the playing with dolls stage, it just evolves into the “it is much more fun to play with money and real clothes than to pretend” stage.

And part of the real “fun” was the difference in taste that some of them had, but that is a different story altogether.

Skipping around because that is what I like to do when I tell these rambling, ambling what is the point tales I can tell you that I did eventually purchase a pair of Vuarnets. I think that I was 20. I loved them and so did the girl who came along with me to purchase them. But the the next three women I dated hated the way that they looked on me.

I told them each that I wouldn’t part with them although I also made it clear that I would take their opinion into consideration. Maybe that was part of the consideration of why they chose to no longer date me or maybe it was my unwillingness to share my feelings other than in a dark room over a bottle of wine. I don’t really know and at this point it doesn’t really matter.

During the past decade I decided that it was pointless to spend a lot of money on sunglasses because inevitably someone would sit on them or they would be forgotten somewhere.

Through a series of tests I determined that there is a point at which cheap sunglasses are too “cheap” and just refuse to last. That point is somewhere less than $20. I am not really sure where because some manufacturers refuse to succumb to the siren song of cheap material and cheap labor and somehow manage to still produce quality goods that last.

Unfortunately I am not really sure who those guys are because the few moments of success have taken place when I purchased said glasses from the back of a van, on the boardwalk in Venice or on a streetcorner and the lack of “wrapping” has made it impossible to ID the glasses.

Throughout 2005 I relied upon a $20 pair of cheap sunglasses, only the problem is that I relied upon three pairs of them. They were all the same color/model but nonetheless I had to secure three pairs.

The first pair lasted for several months but were eaten by a ride/creature at the Magic Kingdom, I think. For all I know Goofy stole them and is busy enjoying a free pair of sunglasses.

The replacement pair survived the machinations of two young children but in a tragic even committed suicide by flinging themselves off of my head to a painful death beneath my shoe. Yes, I somehow managed to watch them fall off of my head and then stepped on them. I only wish that I had this on video because it would be worth money.

The third pair didn’t commit suicide nor were they lost, they simply didn’t have the will to survive and after a couple of months they were history.

And now I have a new pair of $20 sunglasses. With such an “auspicious” history of successful sunglass ventures I have had these blessed by a rabbi, priest, shaman and dumped into my son’s “magic water.” With any luck this pair will last more than two months.

I’ll keep you posted.

(originally posted here)

Crossposted here.

My Kids Have Never Seen The Brady Bunch

It is not a matter of any significance, but I have to admit that sometimes it is strange to realize just how many stupid pop culture references I am familiar with that my kids are clueless about. They have never seen The Brady Bunch, couldn’t tell you who the Fonz was and they don’t know what an E-Ticket ride is.

But they can quote Homer, compare and contrast Aristotle, Socrates and Plato and know that the point is moot and not mute.

Ok, it is clearly time for me to try to go to bed. Excuse me while I attempt to discover the secret to sleep. If for some reason I come back here you can blame the Shmata Queen. Illogical, unreasonable, fickle and a major pain in my ass. But for some reason I think that I’ll keep her around for at least another week.

Hey, do you think that stupid holiday season spirit thing has gotten ahold of me. I sure hope not, I prefer playing Jack Mcscrooge. It is so much more fun.

Crossposted here.

Dear Santa- Take a Memo

So you might be wondering what the Jewish kid is doing writing Santa a letter. I know that I would be, but since I am the one writing the letter I know what is coming. Ok, scratch that, I write from the hip, or is that shoot from the hip. Whatever. All I know is that I am the guy who can say and do anything. But as a side note just because I can doesn’t mean that I will.

Alright, now that we got that out of the way let’s try to dig into the meat of the matter, or in this case the meet of the matter. Santa and I have a funny relationship. A couple of years ago I was described by another blogger as being a suicidal Santa Claus. And it is true that I did wish death upon Santa not to mention that I once beat him up.

There are any number of reasons why I just don’t like the guy. Perhaps it is because I associate Santa with guys like this one, not to mention that I still hate the holiday season. So here I am Santa, forced to deal with you again. A couple of years ago I had a conversation with the big kid about you. I had thought that it was kind of a one time deal. I explain that you are fake and that would be the end of it.

Apparently I was wrong. You see I got to have this conversation again last night. It seems that the dark haired beauty and her big brother got into a long discussion about who you are. She may be four, but she really doesn’t miss a beat. She told her brother that not all Santas are fat and that means that they play tricks on kids. Her brother told her that all you Santas are fake and she got angry.

The little one put her hands on her hips and started lecturing me about grownups being mean to kids. She thinks that you are rude and inappropriate…Santa. You might think that it is strange that a four year-old would use that sort of terminology, but apparently she can be a good mimic. If nothing else she has learned the art of the female look of death accompanied by eyerolling, sighs and all sorts of hand waving.

I was ordered to make you stop being mean to kids. You aren’t allowed to fool them any longer. She wants you to go away so that kids know that their grownups are giving them gifts. I tried to explain to her that it is ok for other kids to believe in Santa and that she doesn’t have to worry about it. But apparently she has decided that among my many roles I am also the official protector of children. I was instructed to punch you in the nose, kick you in the butt and then push you out the door.

Santa, you are getting off easy because if she was familiar with eye gouging, fish hooking and the fine art of getting kicked in the crotch she would have insisted upon those as well. So dear Santa, I tried to get you off. I did my best to convince her to just let it go, but you know how women can be, especially when they are tired and hungry.

So my advice to you is to start running because if she sees you I am going to be ordered to go Muhammad Ali on your noggin.

Have a nice holiday season.

Best Regards,

Jack

Crossposted here.

I Want More Than Just a Job

Little Jack and I spend hours talking about life. He is interested in virtually everything that goes on and since I am still his hero he wants to know everything about me. I really enjoy these conversations and am taking advantage of the opportunity to have them. Time will come where he’ll stop wanting to spend all day with me.

Lately he has been very curious about what life is like in the working world. He wants to know why I spend so much time working on the computer and if I like it. For that matter everyone seems to want to know how I can spend so many hours at the computer. When adults ask me I usually just say it is how I pay the bills. It is the truth so it rolls off the tongue quite naturally.

But like so many others I am not always overly infatuated with the things that I have to do to pay the bills. There are days where it is a bit harder to get out of bed because I know what is waiting for me. There are days when I shake my head and wonder if I haven’t undergone my own Metamorphosis. I wouldn’t claim to be Gregor Samsa, I haven’t become a giant bug. But there are moments where I wonder if I am anything more than a hamster on a big wheel.

So I make sure to tell Little Jack that one of the hardest things to do is find a way to pay the bills that involves something you love. It may be among the hardest, but it is also among the most important. If you can find something that is more than just a job you have something special. Truth is that I don’t have too many friends who can say that. There are a few. I know several people who roll out of bed ready to attack the day because they love their work.

It is a pleasure seeing that. If you love what you do you are more likely to do it well consistently. That is not to say that you cannot hate your work and be good at your profession, you certainly can. But the reality is that if you love it or at least really enjoy it there is a better chance of doing things really well.

Since most of us are going to spend countless hours working to make a buck you might as well like what you are doing. We work too hard not to get some pleasure out of the grind.

Crossposted here.

I am In Love

Not that there was ever any doubt, but I am in love. Crazy, head over heels in love. She has long dark hair and dark eyes that can light up the sky or shoot laser beams at the object of her irritation. Sometimes I look at her and wonder how it is that she came into my life. Ok, I know exactly how she got here, but times I still am shocked.

There are moments where she infuriates me. She has this ability to prick the soft underbelly. When she sees my displeasure she tries to disarm me with coy little looks and a giggle that is contagious. She has been working hard for a number of years to train me. And just when I think that I have finally made it clear who the boss is she does something that totally throws me.

That is ok. I am here for the long haul. I can be like the terminator. Determined, relentless and unyielding. And that is ok, because for her I have to be. It is a requirement that I am happy to fulfill.

There is just one thing that really kills me. One day I am going to have to share her and I don’t really know if I am ever going to be ready for that. I tell myself that it is going to be ok, but still I find myself considering whether I prefer to purchase a shotgun or a .45. They’ll make a nice addition to the acres I own in the Mojave desert.

If you haven’t figured it out I am talking about my daughter. The four-year-old girl who has spent her life studying her old man. She recently told me that she is going to marry a boy in her class at school.

Let me share the tale with you. As you read it you can imagine the expression on my face.

Dad: How was school today?
Daughter: I kissed Mark.

Dad: Oh. Why’d you kiss Mark?
Daughter: I wanted to. I kissed him on his shoulder and he wiped it off.

Dad: That’s ok. Boys are like that. I’d just forget about it. We don’t need to kiss anyone right now.
Daughter: Dad, I didn’t like that he wiped it off. So I fixed it.

Dad: Uh, you did. How did you do that?
Daughter: I kissed him on the mouth. He couldn’t wipe that off.

Dad: Hey now. We go to school to learn and have fun. Not to kiss people. Remember we need to keep our hands to ourselves.
Daughter: It is ok. We’re in love.

Dad: What?
Daughter: Yep. We’re going to put a baby in my tummy. We’re in love.

Dad: Oh you are. How do you get a baby in there?
Daughter: I don’t know. Maybe G-d will put it there.

Dad: Yes, that is right. G-d will put it there, but not until you are married and about 80 years-old.
Daughter: Silly daddy. You don’t have to be 80. You can be 12 or 28 0r even a million years old.

I spent the majority of this conversation with a poker face, but if you could read my mind the unedited version would have looked something like this:

Jack’s Mind: Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! He wiped it off and she fixed it. She doesn’t miss a beat. I am going to have my hands full, not to mention the poor bastard that she decides she wants. Ok, it is fine. She is four. It is innocent. She doesn’t have a clue as to how to get pregnant. She is still innocent. Is it wrong to hire a mean 6 year-old to go rough up the four year-old boy and tell him to stay away from my daughter. Why am I worrying about this now. Because she is your freaking daughter jackass! Say, this might make great blog fodder. Ok, this is proof that you have spent too many years blogging. How can I work the Shmata Queen into this post? Ok, I’ll say something about how I am more relaxed because she is not growing up in some snow filled dying city. And that is good because I know that she’ll have an excuse to be outdoors. She is four, why can’t I just enjoy it. Ok, I am making the decision now to just relax because she is only four and there really isn’t a reason to be upset.

The 11 lines above represent about five seconds worth of thought. I didn’t freak out, but I admit that I was momentarily thrown. I also have to admit that for a moment I couldn’t help but picture my girl in a wedding dress. It was weird, but kind of nice.

A short time later the dark haired beauty and I were sitting on the couch reading a story together and I had to just smile. I love all of my children equally, but daughters are different from sons…I suppose that if I could I’d write and sing my own version of Nancy With The Laughing Face, but that is not my forte.

So I turned to the computer and decided to write this little post. One day when she is older I’ll give her a copy of these things and she’ll be able to see that her old man spent more than a couple of hours thinking about her.

****Related Links*****

Since some of you have decided to “share” my pain with others I decided that I’d take advantage of the opportunity to share some other stories about the kids and I.

For those who are concerned these are all Rated G more or less.

Blessing My Children
Father’s Love Their Daddies Too
A Sentimental Old Fool
She Broke My Penis
Dad, I Need A Phone
The World’s Strongest Penis
Penis Talk Revisited
My Penis Died
More Questions about Body Parts
Great Moments In Parenting- Parts of our Body That Grow
The Princess Speaks
Daddy You Died
My Daughter’s Favorite Book
A Big Girl Bed
Death Comes For Us All- When Do you Start Saying Goodbye
She Needs To Know About Boys
His Penis Is In The Wrong Place
Dancing With My Daughter
Are You Smarter Than A Rabbi? Part I
Are You Smarter Than A Rabbi? Part II

Crossposted here.

You Can’t Kill Batman

This is wrong. 

Batman RIP’ will see “the end of Bruce Wayne as Batman“, according to Grant Morrison.There are rumours that Batman will suffer a gruesome end when his sidekick Robin goes over to “the dark side” and destroys him in a terrible betrayal.

Batman, alter ego of Bruce Wayne a wealthy industrialist, operates in the American Gotham City.

Others speculate that Wayne may either retire from his duties or be killed by a mystery villain known as the Black Glove.

His fate will be revealed in the latest issue of DC Comic’s Batman, published on 26 November.

Either way, his demise will lead to a hunt for a replacement.

Life: Every Time I think I Have Figured It Out I Haven’t

An attorney friend of mine once told me that he thought that blogging about personal affairs could be a dangerous exercise. When I asked him to explain he said that if for some reason you were involved in a lawsuit your blog could potentially be used against you. I thanked him for his advice and told him that Shakespeare was right about lawyers. I blog for many reasons, one of which is the chance to use this place as my personal laughing place.

It is one of the ways in which I blow off steam. A harmless exercise that doesn’t involve consuming any carcinogenic, hallucinogenic or otherwise harmful substances. It is where I explore my thoughts and try to establish a framework for how to handle more challenging situations. And believe me, life is full of challenges.

It is a funny thing, life that is. Funny in a hah, hah sort of way and a damn this sucks so badly if I didn’t laugh I’d cry kind of way. It is the sort of rollercoaster that simultaneously thrills and scares you so badly you don’t always know what you feel.

Every so often I find myself in a place where I feel like I have it all figured out. Every now and then I feel like I have a handle on life. I know exactly who I am, what I want, where I am going and how to get there. And then life kicks me in the balls and while I bend over to catch my breath life grabs ahold of my underwear and yanks it up towards my shoulders.

The beauty of pushing 40 is that I have learned how to roll with these punches. Or maybe I have been kicked so many times that my boys just don’t register pain very well anymore. I prefer to believe that age has bestowed some wisdom upon me so that is how I am going to proceed.

In the summer of 2007 I encountered a situation that I found exceptionally troubling. In theory it was relatively simple, but I was so close to the subject I thought that it merited a second opinion. So I called my father and said that I was in need of fatherly advice. I explained the situation and he offered me a suggestion.

Upon hearing his suggestion I said “Dad, I need your help now. I need your ‘A’ game. Is that the best you have got.” He laughed and said yes. I paused and told him that I was afraid that he was going to say that. But I am nothing if not tenacious so I asked him what he would tell a friend to do in a similar situation.

He laughed again and told me that I was in a place in which only I could figure out what to do. I grumbled and hung up the telephone. I agreed with him, but I was still frustrated. That is the thing about life, there often are no right answers. There are a lot of wrong answers, but the right answer is harder to come by.

So I find myself doing the best that I can. I look at each situation and try to determine what makes sense. What is best for everyone involved. It is often not an easy answer. As a single person you can do whatever the hell you want, but when you have a family you have so many other responsibilities. It is like dropping a stone into a pond, there are ripples. Whatever you do is going to impact others. The hard part sometime is trying to figure out how and where to draw those lines.

Perhaps at a later date I’ll share some more thoughts about that.

Crossposted here.

I Hate Doing Dishes

Just in case you were wondering I really dislike doing dishes. It was one of my chores growing up along with taking out the trash and a host of other things. I can’t quite tell you why I dislike it so much, there really is no one reason.

On a side note over the years I have heard an interesting debate among people regarding hand washing versus the dishwasher. Proponents of both methods have claimed that their preference is the best way of cleaning.

As I understand it the arguments go like this:

Hand washing: The dishwasher misses things and leaves bits and pieces on the dishes.

Dishwasher- This is the only real method of disinfecting the dishes.

From my perspective the only reason to hand wash is because the item cannot go inside the dishwasher due to fragility or size constraints.

Either way I still don’t like doing dishes.

High School Is Over Now What?

— advertisement —

The time in between the end of high school and the beginning of college is one that many people find to be both exciting and challenging. It is a period of growth in which young people start trying to answer questions about themselves, who they are, what they believe and what they hope to become.

Sometimes the hardest question to answer is where to go to try and find the answers to these questions. It can be a challenge finding a place that doesn’t offer a one size fits all or a black and white mentality.

SIACH is a program that aims to address many of those concerns. It offers students a chance to explore, discuss and learn about Judaism, Israel and their own identification with each. And it does it from a pluralistic standpoint so that people of multiple backgrounds can find a place within.

It is located within Jerusalem in The Goldstein Youth Village, a place near and dear to my heart.

Not only does it offer students a chance to learn about themselves, it is also possible to earn college credits while doing so.

So if this sounds like it would be of interest for yourself or someone you know, take a moment to go check out their website and learn more about the program.

— advertisement —

How To Lose

The soccer season has but one more game left in it.

One more game and I regain some time that I had to allocate to coaching. For those who care that means that I won’t have to devote time during the week running practices or thinking about who should play what position. And of course it also means that one day each weekend will not be committed to coaching the game.

I’ll miss some of this. I’ll miss watching the boys develop new friendships and the skills that they have picked up because of their involvement.

If you have ever wondered how to make the Shmata Queen roll her eyes spend a few minutes trying to talk to her about sports. If you really want to make her crazy tell her that you can’t do something because you must be home to see the game. I can’t say that I don’t see her point. When you’re time is really limited it is really hard to figure out how to best allocate your attention.

But when it comes to children’s sports I have made the crazy queen admit on more than one occasion that I am right. Now if you don’t think that this is an accomplishment you have never sparred with her majesty. Fortunately I have always been skilled at making her think that she is the boss, but that is a topic for a different day.

Youth sports provide your children with a number of benefits. It takes them outdoors and away from the television, computer, XBox, whatever. It helps to teach them how to be a part of a team. Now I have to admit that I share the Shmata Queen’s distaste for group projects. More often than not the workload is not shared evenly.

But I also believe that participating in team sports helps to counter some of that. It helps to teach you how to work as a part of team and how to understand that everyone can have a valuable role to play.

And from an entirely different perspective it provides a great place to teach children how to lose. Winning is easy. Anyone can win, but losing is not so easy. Learning how to lose is a good way to learn how to deal with adversity. It is a way to help develop coping skills and that is a critical part of raising a healthy child.

As a coach and a parent I have been given the pleasure of working with children who have never lost. It hasn’t been because they are the Babe Ruth or Tiger Woods of their sport. It is because their parents have refused to let them fail. It is a real mistake. Because there comes a point in time in which mom/dad can’t protect them from life and then what happens.

Let me clarify something about my thoughts about losing. There is a balance. I don’t want the child’s ego to be crushed either. Balance, now that really is the hardest part of life, but that is a separate post altogether.

I suppose that I should take a look at a previous post I wrote called Teaching Children To Lose Gracefully and see if my feelings have changed at all.

Crossposted here.

Not The Soccer Dad

You can call me Soccer Dad. No, I am not the illustrious and far more famous Soccer Dad of the blogosphere. I am just another Joe who answered the call to action and volunteered to coach his child’s team.

For the past couple of years I have dedicated several hours each week to the grand task of coaching. And while I have enjoyed it, I must say that this year has been far more fun than years past. The easiest explanation is that the kids are finally mature enough to really play the game.

Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed this. It is a lot of fun getting out there and working with the children. But in the past it was a bit like herding cats. You’d work hard on teaching the kids what to do and when but you never really knew what would happen. The game would start and you’d watch as two or three of your young charges would see a grasshopper or a bird and lose all interest in playing.

So you’d spend a few minutes trying to encourage them to stop chasing butterflies and chase the ball instead. Sometimes you’d meet with success and sometimes it was a complete failure.

But this year has been a different story. The boys get it. They understand the game and want to play. Now the big struggle has been dealing with only one hour of practice each week. It really isn’t enough time to teach/work on all of the skills they need to be successful.

And of course there is the bonus of dealing with the parents/relatives who decide that they know how to coach better than you do. I rather think that it is similar to what some of my rabbi friends deal with when they interact with their congregants. There is always some gadfly who wants/needs to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you could do it better.

But the advantage I have over your shul rabbi is that this is not my livelihood. I remind them that we’re there to have fun and that this is the main focus. I also get to say things like “you’re going to look awfully funny with my size 12 cleat sticking out of your ass” or “I bet that being forced to swallow a soccer ball is really uncomfortable.”

You’d be surprised how fast they adjust their attitude. Matter of fact I am going to recommend that my pals in the rabbinate consider taking a similar tack. Next time the shul president provides you with unrestrained criticism take the closet siddur and smack them across the head. As they look up at you in shock you can explain that you took their words to heart and are assisting them in davening with more kavanah.

Anyhoo, I spent a chunk of time this evening preparing for the next couple of games. League rules mandate that every child get a chance to play every position. I happen to support that, at least for the younger kids. It does present a few challenges.

The big one is that you can’t maintain your strongest lineup for the entire game, at least not if you follow the rules. This is one of those rules that some coaches have a tough time with. They hate losing so they try to ignore it.

Confession: In a preseason coache’s meeting I was asked to explain my coaching philosophy. I looked the guy dead in the eye and said “sweep the leg.” He looked at me and said that he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

I told him that Miyagi and Daniel-san would be happy to explain it to him. He asked me if that was the name of a bar. I said no and told him that there was a great bar called The Cobra Kai and that he ought to try it.

And then I wandered off and muttered to myself about stupid pop culture references. Is it really almost 25 years since the movie came out. Damn, I am getting old.

Crossposted here.

Memories of a House Part One

Memories of a house sounds like the title of a book. I suppose that I should Google it and find out whether it is or not. If it is not already taken maybe I’ll grab it. Who knows.

We bought our current home in August of 2001. A little more than a month before 9-11 turned much of the world upside down. Prior to that we had been renting a condo in the city. We had lived there for a good five years or so. It was a place to live, but it never quite felt like home to me.

Located just behind the Fox Hills Mall it had been a suitable location for the time, but suitable locations are not how you want to describe the place you hang your hat. Instead of traveling south to see my friends on the Westside I now headed north. And even though I didn’t have to take the 405 it still took just as long to get there.

I resented that.

Initially the condo was great. It was bigger than the apartment that we had lived in and had some amenities that hadn’t existed in the old place. But it had all sorts of little things that I didn’t like. I suppose that part of the reason that it never really felt like home was because I never got beyond my irritation with those little details.

They may say not to sweat the small things, but it is those little details that can add and enrich your life or make it really irritating. Having to walk down three flights of stairs to do laundry wasn’t a big deal until Little Jack’s arrival necessitated a huge increase in the amount of laundry.

Did I mention the problem with the A/C and heater. It might have been the city, but the summers were still really hot and the winters relatively cold. So I often found myself unsatisfied with the temperature. And I could mention that I found myself disappointed in the selection of movies theaters, restaurants and bookstores.

That new shopping center off of Howard Hughes Parkway helped to alleviate that, but it didn’t show up until the last six months we lived there.

A couple years into life in the condo I was fed up and it became house hunting time. Problem was that that little thing they call a down payment was virtually non-existent. One income and grad school tuition made it too difficult to look seriously, at least for a while.

But perseverance and a change in employment made a huge impact and suddenly the question wasn’t whether purchasing a home would happen, but when. Once the cash flow improved and purchasing became a reality my mood changed. Hanging out at the condo was more tolerable, but only because I knew that if I could hold off about a year I’d have saved up enough to buy the house I wanted.

That plan was my first mistake, or should I say voicing it out loud. Within three months or so of mentioning it the landlord decided that he wanted to get in on the nascent housing boom and asked if we wanted to buy it.

I remember the day I took the phone call asking what I thought about owning that amazing place I had been living in. As he listed its benefits I almost choked. I couldn’t believe that he thought it was worth what he said that he wanted to sell it for, but I didn’t say anything. All I did was ask for a week to consider the options.

And then for the next week we tore out our hair trying to figure out if there was a way to buy more time. Didn’t happen. Landlord insisted on a decision and so I thanked him for the opportunity and said that we were going to pass. He said ok and made arrangements to come see the place.

The old man as I thought of him (he was probably same age as I am now) came by and walked through the entire place and said how pleased he was that it was in such good shape. He was surprised by Little Jack’s appearance, or should I say his existence. When we signed the lease the kid hadn’t even been a gleam in my eye.

Anyway, landlord looked me in the eye and told me that if I cooperated with getting it ready to sale he would be generous in allowing us to stay long enough to find a new place to live. What I didn’t know was that he was going to renege on his promise of a couple of months or that he was going to demand access several times a week for himself, handymen and realtors.

Maybe it was inevitable, but the relationship soured very quickly. I had told him that cooperation wasn’t a problem, but he needed to provide more notice than an hour. And so in short order he dropped off paperwork saying that since our lease had long since gone to month-to-month we were being evicted.

I remember reading that note, the one in which he said that we were evicted. As a brand new father I was less than pleased by this turn of events. I understood that he wanted to take advantage of the rise in real estate prices, but I wasn’t going to let him hurt my family so that he could make a buck.

So I called him and explained that as a result of this notice I was going to refuse entrance to his people. I would still allow him access so that he could see that the place was in good condition, but he was going to have to wait until we left to do any work on it.

In the next section I’ll share some more memories about this and how this led to a rush to buying a place and a thirty day escrow. More on this later.

Crossposted Here.

A New Beginning

Last night I received a half dozen telephone calls from friends and family in varying states of happiness/despair. Some were ecstatic at the results of the election and others were mortified. Around the blogosphere I noticed much of the same, a mix of euphoria and shock.

I had intended to live blog the event. I had planned on taking the time to jot down my thoughts as the results poured in, but just didn’t have the energy. I am just exhausted. So many things have been happening around me that I just didn’t have the drive to say much of anything.

Frankly I don’t feel all that different this morning. Feels a bit like I have been on a rollercoaster and I am growing tired of it. It is hard to maintain an even keel when every time you feel like you have made progress something happens and you feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you again.

It reminds me of watching Charlie Brown try to kick that football. He goes into it with good faith and everytime he does Lucy pulls it away and he finds himself flat on his back. Confession, sometimes I root for him to kick Lucy in the head.

I can just see it, “Sorry Lucy I was aiming for where I thought you’d put the ball and accidentally missed it.” And with a shrug of the shoulders and a smirk he walks off. Turnabout is fair play, isn’t it.

Anyhoo, I thought that McCain gave a great speech last night. It was very classy and heartfelt. Had that come out at the debates I think that he might have fared better, but who knows.

Yesterday my son kept referring to “Central McCain” and “Central Obama.” At first I thought that he was referring to their campaign headquarters and then I realized that he wasn’t familar with the word “senator” and was repeating what he thought that he had heard.

Just looked at the title of this post and laughed. It is pretty hokey, nothing like a nice cliche to start the day. And that is all I have to say about that.

Crossposted here.

Pieces of A Larger Puzzle

One of the joys of parenting is the challenges presented in trying to answer the 1,872,986 questions they kids ask. What happened on August 31, 1968? Why is this street called Hampshire and not Burninglog? Was there really a burning log there? Who was Jack The Ripper and why wasn’t he called Jason?

You get the point, there are just a ton of questions that come at you from every which angle. At times it is a real challenge to try and keep up with them. It is not just because sometimes you are tired and your brain hurts from being used far too much, but that many of these questions aren’t the kind that have simple answers. And even if they do have simple answers, sometimes those don’t suffice.

Since I am a boy trapped in a man’s body I haven’t completely lost the question bug. I very much enjoy learning about lots of different things and trying to figure out how pieces fit into a larger puzzle. That curiosity has served me well, but at times it has been the source of trouble as I have taken more than a couple of things apart to see how they work.

That leads into a conversation I had a number of years ago with some people about what things should really cost. It was one of those moments in which a group of people started ranting about how such and such cost far too much. Since I enjoy these discussions and am sometimes guilty of pushing the envelope I started to debate with them about pricing.

As I recall we began to talk about the cost of office chairs. One of the others said that they thought that the margins must be really big because a chair was nothing more than a frame, some fabric and wheels. I disagreed with them and asked if they had really thought about it.

If you start to break it down you find that the chair is more complex. Someone had to find the metal for the chair. They had to find a way to manufacture the frame. It could involve a mold and machining of parts. They had to find someone to supply the wheels. Sometimes the wheels were made of several parts. Someone had to find the materials for those parts. There could be a mold and machining for those parts. Someone had to find the material for the chair, be it fabric, leather or fake leather.

And of course there is packaging, shipping, storage and a number of other items that are most likely involved here as well. Not to mention the question of how these chairs were being sold. What sort of distribution chain was involved.

I find a lot of that kind of stuff to be interesting. How many different people and places are involved in the manufacturing process. In theory the computer I am using right now could be a global computer with pieces from every corner of the planet.

On a side note if you want to get into trouble tell your high school English teacher that the planet is a sphere and cannot really have four corners. They’ll love you for it.

Ok, me and the U.N. ‘puter are going to move on to the next post.

Crossposted here.

Death and Children- Sick Parents and More

Who was it who said that life doesn’t come with instructions and that children don’t come with a manual. I think that I’d like to kick them in the teeth. I should apologize now for being grumpy. I had planned on writing the story of how I knocked up the Shmata Queen and here I am talking about death and children.

It wasn’t intended. It wasn’t where I had planned to go but sometimes the blog takes you in directions other than your own choosing and this is one of those moments. So take a walk with me if you will and I’ll try to paint the picture.

Children have big ears. They listen to everything that is going on around them, but it is easy to forget. They may be playing quietly nearby or seem to be just out of earshot, but they are always listening. I learned a long time ago to try to be careful about what sort of discussion I had around them, but sometimes you get so caught up you forget. Or sometimes you think that the discussion will go right over their heads and they fool you.

I am wondering if that happened here. My daughter had a nightmare that I died. It is the second time that I am aware of that happening. Thankfully it is not a regular occurrence, but she was shaken up. I walked into her room and found her shrieking that something or someone had killed me.

So I took her into my arms and she curled up against me and I spoke to her in a soft voice and reassured her that I was fine. She cried for a moment or two and then asked me a series of questions about dying. In some ways it felt like history repeating as I had been through it with her brother.

Death- My Son Asked Me Not to Die

I asked her to try and tell me more about her dream to see if I couldn’t piece things together. She wasn’t able to tell me much other than I had died and she was scared that she’d never see me again. I kissed her forehead and told her that I loved her again and she smiled. For a moment I thought that I was through the hard part and then she started to cry. When I asked her why she was crying she told me that she was afraid of dying.

So I reminded her that she is very young and going to live a very long life. Abstract concepts like that are hard for a four-year-old so I tried to make it simple. And then she gave me a clue as to what was fueling this.

Some of her friend’s grandparents have died recently. They were sudden deaths, women in their sixties so I suspect that she may have heard the mothers talking about this. Not to mention that she may have heard a conversation about my own father’s health. Maybe she wasn’t sleeping in the car, hmm….

Anyhoo, this morning she was far more chipper and upbeat. And just when I thought that we were beyond that she asked to talk to me. It was all of two minutes before she had to leave for school and I thought that what she wanted was to hug and kiss me goodbye.

So I bent over and received a lecture. The little girl put one hand on her hip and told me that I am not allowed to die for 235 days. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she had just given me less than a year to live. And then she made me promise that if any bad guys come I teach them some respect.

That line about teach them some respect got my attention. I haven’t the foggiest idea where that came from. She watches Dora and Diego not the Godfather and Good Fellas. I am going to have to do a little investigating.

And that my friends is a quick snapshot of a recent moment here.

Crossposted here.

Friendship- Fulfillment

If you are one of the 17 long time readers you have seen various posts in which I have mentioned my friend ‘D.’ This past August marked ten years since his death. I don’t think about him everyday anymore, but I haven’t forgotten him either.

It is not unusual for me to see something that makes me think of him. It is not uncommon for me to sometimes wonder what he would be doing now had he lived. Ten years ago I was married, but hadn’t yet become a father. Ten years ago I was on a different career path. Ten years ago I was someone else.

That is kind of surreal, but it is true in many ways. So many things have happened to me that my life has been changed. The guy I used to be is how I sometimes think about it. The guy that I was has moved on to different pastures, perhaps they are better, perhaps they are worse.

‘D’ had a lock on what he wanted to with his life and who he wanted to be. I didn’t have that same fix. I had ideas. I had dreams, but there wasn’t any one thing that grabbed me with enough passion to make me say that I had found it.

Sometimes in the quiet moments of the night I sit and wonder how I got to be where I am. It is not that my life is terrible. It is not. It is not that I spend all my days moaning over the things that could have been, I don’t.

But at the same time I am very aware of the ticking of the clock and the fragility of life. I don’t expect to find myself overjoyed all day, every day. But I expect that I can be in a place where that happens more frequently. I find that my life is not giving me everything that I want. There are some holes, some empty places that need filling.

I know that I am not the only one who feels like this. My best friend has the same feeling. Other dear friends have also voiced similar sentiments. The big distinction among us is what we intend to do about this, how we go about dealing with those empty spaces.

There is no doubt that the answers are different for different people. What works for me may not work for others.

‘D’ and I used to discuss this. I suspect that he knew that his lifespan had been shortened long before the rest of us knew. To the best of my knowledge he was relatively at peace with it. I am not sure that I could have faced the end as stoically as he did.

When I think about these things relative to my children there is a lot that I want to say them. So much guidance that I want to provide. You look at your children and you want nothing but the best for them. When things are wrong you’re instantly primed for action, ready to go into battle if needed.

But the thing is that for some of the challenges that the kids face there is nothing that we can do but support them, tell them that we love them. It is very hard and uncomfortable to accept that no matter what we do sometimes they are going to get hurt. I suppose that sometimes the best that we can do is work on giving them coping skills so that when things get tough they know how to deal with it.

One of the best “skills” that I can think of is helping them learn how to be a good friend. Because if they learn how to be a good friend they will find themselves rewarded with good friends. And that is a reward worth having.

Crossposted here.

She Told Me That She is “In Hell”

The dark haired beauty is just a bit past four years-old but sometimes the words, expressions, gestures she uses make me wonder if she is really just a short teenager. Earlier this week I asked her what she thought of school and was quite surprised by her answer.

She looked up at me, dark curls cascading down her face and said “I don’t like it.” I asked her to tell me what she doesn’t like and in response received a deep sigh and a look that made it clear that dad doesn’t get it.

So I looked at her and said that I can’t help her unless she tells me what is really happening. I need specifics.

“Abba, I am in hell.”

I paused and did a bit of a double take. Did this little girl really just say she is in hell. Did my daughter really just say that.

“What do you mean you’re in hell?” She gave me another one of those looks and responded.

“Abba, you know what that means. Don’t tease me.”

I shook my head and said that I wasn’t teasing and told her that I wanted to understand. As I said this I picked her up and looked inquisitively into her eyes and asked her to explain what she meant.

“Abba, it means that I am in hell.”

I am not sure where she got that expression but she thought that it was a kind of throwaway response. Kind of like when someone asks you how you feel and you respond “fine.” We spent some more time speaking and I got a better feel for things. She still likes school, so I felt better.

You just never know what is going to come out of their mouths.

Crossposted here.

How To Protect Yourself From Zombies

The lad asked me if I could tell him the best way to protect himself from being attacked/eaten by zombies. I told him that there was a simple foolproof method, dancing. He told me that I couldn’t possibly be serious.

So I brought out the big guns and showed him proof. I suppose that it is my fault that he wants me to show him the complete choreography for the routine. This could be interesting.

You’re Too Old For Long Hair

Last week I sat down and listened to a group of women engage in a serious discussion of how old you can be before you have to cut your hair. Before we go any further let me set the scene.

It was after the fast had ended and I had secured a quiet spot in which to try and eat. What I didn’t count on was that so many other people had the same idea as me. Sometimes it is better not to be a trendsetter.

Anyway I was happily ensconced in a overstuffed chair with a cup of coffee and some great food so I had no intention or desire of moving any time soon. As I was enjoying my meal the others quietly moved into place and began their discussion. Initially it was about politics but the discussion got heated and they decided to switch topics to grandchildren.

That led to the comment by one of the women, “my daughter keeps complaining that the baby grabs her hair. I told her that it is time for her to cut it and get something more appropriate for her age.”

If I am not mistaken the mother in question is about 40. Mind you that I really had little to no interest in being a part of this discussion. I’d like to have the option of growing my hair out, but that is not really something that I am able to do. I have a natural Jewfro that I kept very short.

However due to age, children and the Shmata Queen the front of my head is growing a bit follicly challenged. One day in the future I am going to probably shave the whole thing and we’ll make like Mr. Clean. For now there is no need. The rule is that once it has become wispy than it goes. Right now it is still thick enough to run fingers through, more or less.

Anyhoo, there I was with my coffee and my dinner, comfortable and there they were, cackling… I heard all sorts of different stories about when they decided that long hair was no longer a part of their daily routine and all sorts of stories about how long it used to be.

But I never did hear why there is an age limit for having long hair. As I sat there trapped I let my mind wander. Something made me think of sitting with my grandfather and his friends at Farmer’s Market. It was back before the place was swallowed by The Grove. One of the men went off on a rant about women and told me that I should never trust a broad. He was eighty something and had been married four times.

He shared a few other pieces of advice for me that day, some of which I’ll hold on to, at least for now. I do miss those times. It was fun hanging out there. The guys used to hold court and argue about the best places to eat, what they did during the war and all sorts of other stuff.

They were some colorful characters.

Crossposted here.

Abba Was The Torah

Yom Kippur was…………great.
Yom Kippur was…………terrible.
Yom Kippur was…………long.
Yom Kippur was…………hard.
Yom Kippur was…………meaningful.

Yom Kippur was…………well I am not really sure what else to put there. I suppose that if I thought about it I could come up with a few more adjectives, but I think that I am done with Mad Libs for the moment.

I spent a good part of the day with my tallis over my head and I am sure that more than a few people figured that it was an attempt to sleep. To be clear I certainly wouldn’t try to go to sleep with a wool blanket over my head, far too hot. Really it is just an attempt to focus on davening.

Davening is not something that comes easily to me. It is something that requires a fair bit of effort, especially when I am battling hunger, thirst and a raging headache. A good friend of mine once suggested that I combat lack of focus by only davening in Orthodox shuls. The idea was that I’d find it easier to focus with more likeminded people and a mechitza.

I laughed at the idea. Been to plenty of Orthodox shuls and had no problem finding plenty of people to distract me. These three guys are talking, that guy over there keeps wandering in and out and the dude over there thinks that if he doesn’t mutter loudly G-d can’t hear him.

And let’s not get started about the mechitza. I have a very graphic and active imagination. The inability to physically see women won’t prevent me from engaging in any sort of thought about them. In short, if I don’t work hard to stay focused it is easy to get distracted.

Truth is that I prefer to daven outside, but that is a story for a different day.

Read Torah again this year. New usher gave me grief about reading, decided that he didn’t like where I was sitting and suggested that I was too far from the bima. Thanked him for his concern and told him that I started reading during the Reagan administration. This was confirmation that my headache was in full force.

Walked up to layn/lein and suddenly I hear my daughter’s voice “Go Daddy Go!” It made me smile. Smiled bigger when I heard her argue with her mother about being able to cheer for me.

Later on that day she proudly walked up to her grandparents and announced that “abba was the Torah.” Got to spend the next ten minutes trying to explain to her older sibling that she is four and he really didn’t need to correct her. He then told me that I am a person and I couldn’t be the Torah.

By that point in time my head was pounding. I was tempted to put on a Torah cover and breastplate just to prove him wrong, but I couldn’t figure out where to place the rimonim and what shoes to wear with it.

BTW, if you took that last paragraph seriously you need more sleep.

Anyhoo, I am glad that we’re in the home stretch. This time of year always makes me feel a little bit crazy.

A Letter To My Children

Every so often I like to take a moment to write a letter to my children and share a few thoughts about life and the challenges that it presents. Each time I do this I agonize over trying to come up with something insightful and profound.

I don’t know if I ever really succeed in doing that, but I do know that these letters will help them better understand their old man. I decided that I’d start today off by sharing some favorite quotes with them.

Some of my favorites can be found in Distilled Wisdom- Quotes that I Enjoy, in fact I like all of them, but for the purpose of this note I’ll grab a few to highlight.

I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for their religion –
I have shudder’d at it.
I shudder no more.
I could be martyr’d for my religion
Love is my religion
And I could die for that.
I could die for you.
~ by John Keats ~

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ by Mark Twain ~

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
~ by Ray Bradbury ~

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

~ by Teddy Roosevelt ~

Children I haven’t any clue how old you’ll be when you read this. You might be teenagers or grandparents, it is truly impossible to say. If I am the father I want to be then you will have heard these sentiments many times and you will know that they are important to me.

Specifically I want you to live a life in which you are unafraid of challenges. That doesn’t mean that I advocate being reckless or foolhardy. Use your common sense and take a moment to consider your actions. But don’t be afraid to take a chance because sometimes that is what you have to do.

The sentiment that a ship is safe in the harbor but that is not what ships are for is exactly what I am getting at. Life is a risk and it is one worth taking.

I want you to experience love. I want you to know the kind of love that makes your heart pound and your head spin. I want you to know what it means to love so much that it hurts, figuratively speaking of course.

Your old man never wants to see you get hurt, but then again I do believe in taking a chance. Sometimes the hardest thing in life is trying to figure out what the future holds. I have seen many people get it right and many people get it wrong.

There is no doubt that I have done both. It does without saying that I have made some very big mistakes and caused myself grief that I could have avoided. But the opposite is also true. Sometimes walking off the cliff was the smartest thing I could have done. Sometimes I found that I had wings and I could fly.

I realize that this sounds like some sort of tired cliche. It is hokey and it is goofy, but it is true. I have the experiences to back it up. The thing that you will see is that there isn’t any one way to live.

There are a lot of people who will try and convince you that they have discovered the secret to happiness. They’ll tell you that you are a fool for not doing as they do. Trust me, it is not always true. As you go through life you’ll find times where the smart thing to do is follow others and moments where you are better off being on your own. You’ll have to figure out the when and where.

That is it for now. All I can say is that I love you very much and that just as you learn from me, I learn from you.

Crossposted here.

Hard Questions- Death, Children & More

Before we begin here is a snapshot of what I have been listening to this evening.

Desire-Ozzy Osbourne
Crazy Train-Ozzy Osbourne
Girls, Girls, Girls– Motley Crue
Home Sweet Home– Motley Crue
Life is Beautiful-Sixx:A.M.
Bulls On Parade – Rage Against The Machine
Run To The Hills– Iron Maiden
Thunderstruck– AC/DC
Tales of Brave Ulysses– Cream
Can’t Find My Way Home– Blind Faith
Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance
Now)
-C & C Music Factory
The Power- Snap
Who’ll Stop The Rain-Creedence Clearwater Revival

When I first tried to write this post I was far too fired up to do it justice. So instead of forcing myself to sit down and write I headed out to the garage and went to work on the heavy bag. Decided not to wrap my hands and just threw on the gloves.

Started out slowly just throwing a few jabs. Circled right and circled left. Gradually began to throw combinations and developed a rhythm. As the music played I followed along and soon I found myself lost in the moment. It didn’t take long for me to start swinging from the heels. It felt good to just unload upon the bag.

I am not real big on sparring as I tend to look unkindly upon those who try to hit me, even in the not so friendly confines of the ring. From time to time to I have done it, but inevitably I find that it aggravates me. I don’t care if I wearing gloves, if we are swinging at each other my goal is to put you down because I don’t want to get hurt.

But that is all narishkeit that I throw out in advance of this post. It was a long week. At times it was really hard. I find davening to be really hard. I find myself questioning so many things that I once believed in. I find myself being forced to try and answer really tough questions and so here I am.

The big kid and I had a few more conversations about death. If you have spent any time hanging out here you know that it is has happened before. I don’t have the energy to go through the archives and give a thorough list, but I’ll grab a few:

Physically and Emotionally Exhausted- The Blogger Blogs
The People You Love Most
Death Visits Again- Cremation Story
Daddies Love Their Sons- Darth Vader & Luke Skywalker Edition
Explaining Death to Children

He asks good questions. They aren’t ridiculous, they are appropriate and I find myself working hard to give solid answers. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them.

 
1) Do they tear the flesh off of you when you die. Skeletons don’t have any skin.
2) How much does it hurt to die?
3) Are you afraid to die?
4) Will G-d kill us before Yom Kippur if we aren’t good?
5) Why do people die and why do some people live longer?
 
(BTW, I really like Burn from The Crow Soundtrack)
 
My usual strategy is to turn the question around and ask him what he thinks. It gives me a moment to try and determine what he knows and formulate an appropriate answer.
 
For example I told him that when you die your skin begins to rot and that eventually it falls off. I explained that it is not painful, but he was a little freaked out by this.
 
His second question was tough because he has learned enough to know that you don’t always die peacefully. When I asked him what he thought he told me that he thought that getting blown up or hit by a bus would really hurt. I asked him where he learned about those two options and he told me the news.
 
Note to self: the big guy reads the newspaper so not turning on the television news or radio is not so effective. Can’t say that I am totally surprised by this. In fact one of the reasons that I get the paper is because I want the children to learn to read it. I want them to do more than rely solely upon the net. I want them to read multiple news sources, but that is a discussion for a different day.
 
Anyhoo, while I really do enjoy these conversations with Little Jack they sometimes take a lot out of me. I suppose that it is because sometimes he hits me with questions that I don’t really know the answer to or am not real sure about.
 
Let’s take this a bit farther. I don’t fear death. I don’t know what happens afterwards. I think that there is an afterlife. I think that I am going to have a part of it, but I don’t really know. And I truly don’t believe that I am going to spend eternity in some sort of supernatural punishment.
 
All that being said, I just don’t fear death. I don’t really know what is going to happen and I won’t until that day arrives so I just don’t worry about it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to die. I have an awful lot to do so death would be quite inconvenient, but that is neither here nor there.
 
At the moment the big guy is nervous about dying so my concern is assuaging that concern. I don’t want him to waste energy worrying about it. So I do my best to keep him calm. It is not an ongoing conversation. It has come up every so often and usually it is tied into some other event. Since he has been learning about Yom Kippur I am sure that it triggered this current moment.
 
Kids have a built in B.S. detector and I get the feeling that he is not buying what I am trying to sell about death. He says that if he can’t see it or touch it he is not convinced that it exists. I can’t totally fault him for this either.
 
And that ties into his question about lifespans. He won’t accept simple explanations and in a way that makes me very happy. But it doesn’t necessarily help solve his dilemma about why sometimes good people die early and bad people don’t.
 
Ok, this post has gone on long enough. Time to hit something else.
 

Not All Marriages Are Meant To Last

Some posts are sad by nature and some are sad by association. I am not sure if that makes sense to anyone else, but it does to me. And since this is my blog it is my vote that counts. Anyway as I grow older and presumably gain more wisdom I get to bear witness to more life experiences.
 
Marriage, divorce, childbirth, life and death. I have seen a little bit of everything. Can’t say, or won’t say that I consider myself to be an expert on any of it. But if there is one thing that I have learned it is that we all have separate paths to walk and that there is no one right way to live life.
 
Some people have accused me of trying to take a stance of being a fence sitter. I suppose that it is nice to live in a world in which everything is black and white, good or bad, etc. I wish that it were so easy. I wish that I could divide the world up in this manner, but I just can’t.
 
It doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas in which I draw lines or that I don’t have very clear feelings about what is right or wrong, I do. But I learned a long time ago that in some areas of life it is not so easy to make these claims.
 
Denise and I have been friends for many years. We met at youth group event a thousand years ago, attended the same summer camp and have a number of friends in common. I was at her wedding as she was at mine. So it is fair to say that we have been a part of each other lives and that we have grown up together.
 
A while back she confided in me that she and her husband were having some problems with their relationship. For a while I did nothing but listen and try to absorb it all. From an outsider’s perspective you’d never guess that they were unhappy. They are good actors, but that also comes from trying to protect the children.
 
Anyway, Denise told me her story and then waited for my response. I was very cautious in how I replied. I tried to go for the safe response and suggested that she consider going to counseling with him.  She told me that she really didn’t see the point and that in her experience once the love was gone it never came back.
 
So I asked her if she wasn’t going to go to counseling why she would stay in her marriage. In response she told me that her husband was a child of divorce and that he had told her about how horribly it had affected him.
 
I didn’t say anything. She pressed me for a response and gave me the speech, “I won’t be angry, just tell me.” On a side note I hate that speech. It is no safer than the “does this make me look fat” talk.
 
Anyway, I hemmed and hawed and decided to give her my real opinion. Here is a rough outline:
 
1) I do not believe that all marriages are made to last.
2) Divorce doesn’t have to be a nightmare for you or for the children. Sometimes it can be the best thing.
3) Staying married solely for the children is not always smart.
 
Please remember that I am not a doctor, social worker or miracle man, I just play one on television.
 
On a serious note, Denise was surprised when I told her that I didn’t think that all marriages are meant to last and that I am not an advocate for staying married solely for the children.
 
I won’t rehash the entire conversation, but I’ll share this. I think that marriage is a wonderful thing that a good marriage is amazing. And I’ll say as I have many times that relationships take work. You have to take care of them or they start to suffer and bad things can happen.
 
But the thing is that sometimes even if you try to take care of them you find that you and your partner grow apart. As you age sometimes you just go in different directions. Sometimes you can bridge that gap. Sometimes that works and sometimes you find yourself so far apart that you don’t recognize the other anymore.
 
At some point you have to commit to working together to find new things in common or you have to accept that you have chosen to go a separate way. But if you do choose to take that separate path you are really sailing in uncharted waters.
 
Denise came right out and asked me if I thought that she should get divorced. I told her that I couldn’t answer that question. I am not a part of that marriage. I can’t say whether it is beyond repair or not. It is not my place.
 
All I can do is listen. I really don’t know what she’ll do. As our last conversation she was going to try and hang on until her youngest graduates high school. If I remember correctly that is around 14 or 15 years.
 
But if you ask me, it won’t last that long. Based upon what she told me I just can’t see it lasting that long. They don’t do much as a couple anymore. They’re more like roommates. She is a serious romantic. At some point in time she is going to miss that and she is going to begin to grow more irritated with him.
 
Unless something happens, I give it five years, but what do I know. I am not part of that relationship. Maybe it is better than she suggests.

Is Your Life Better Now Than….

I am troubled by the presidential election. I don’t particularly like any of the candidates very much. And it is fair to say that I really dislike Palin. The more I see the more distasteful she becomes. Her inclusion on the McCain ticket just makes me shake my head.

It makes me want to grab John and ask him when he lost touch with reality. If you stop and listen for a moment you’ll notice that about one third of the 17 long term readers are gasping for air in disbelief as they never thought that they’d hear me say anything like that. Another third are cheering wildly, so much so that I can ask for all sorts of interesting favors. And then the third and fourth thirds….

Gotcha Shmata Queen, you can calm down now, I know that there aren’t four thirds in a whole. But don’t forget that I figured out a long time ago how to stuff a hole full of all sorts of really fun stuff, but I digress.

If you’ll pardon me for the stupid inside humor we’ll move on to the meat of the post. In a recent discussion with my son I spent a chunk of time trying to explain how to make an informed decision about who to vote for and why.  Since he is only in second grade I tried to make it a very basic explanation.

I told him that when we evaluate the performance of our leaders we need to ask ourselves if our lives are better now than they were four years ago. Now to be clear when he gets older we’ll go into greater depth about how some events have a genesis that preceded the administration. But that is too much for him right now, he doesn’t need to know how to build a watch, just how to tell the time.

But as long as you are asking I have to say that I can’t say unequivocally that my life is better now than it was four years ago, or even eight years ago. In truth it is a hard question to answer because there are a number of factors that can sway it in either direction.

Since it is almost midnight I’ll take the path of least resistance and say that it is not as good as it was. From a financial standpoint it is far more challenging. My income has taken a dramatic hit and every month is a struggle. Ok, I can’t really go this route without adding a couple of comments.

My income is down from what it was, but even if it had stayed the same it would be harder. Now I have children in private school, back then I did not. My expenses have increased so if I am going to conduct a real analysis I should probably take that into consideration.

Back then I didn’t own a home, but I do now. And even though it has taken a hit,it is still worth more than when I purchased it. So I suppose that you could call that a mitigating factor.

From a career standpoint things have changed somewhat. I have taken on a couple of ventures that conceivably could yield exceptional rewards. So in theory if they pan out I’ll turn around and view this timeframe quite differently.

So where does that place this question of whether life is better now than it was. Good question. My gut response is that life is challenging no matter what is going on. If you quadrupled my income some things would become very easy, but I’d still have some serious concerns about what is going on.

I guess that what I am saying is that even though I feel like things are good, from a global perspective I am less optimistic and less confident. I am not a rah-rah kind of guy. I don’t care if the world likes us or hates us. But I do care about having confidence in our leadership and right now I just don’t.

So the answer is that I felt better when Clinton left office than I do right now.

Crossposted here.

A Tale of Two Widowers

This is the sort of post that I struggle to write. I struggle because I have a story to tell and I want to convey the message in a particular way but I am not quite sure how to do it. It is a story of life and death, of the power and pain of love.

It is moments like this where I wish that I could write music because such a tale deserves an appropriate soundtrack. A full orchestra that could impart the highs and lows of this story because I am not quite sure that I can do it justice. Since that is just not possible I am going to do my best to fumble my way through this. All I can do try my best to catch the Silver man, so here we go.

Just a few short hours ago I was at a holiday dinner with my family. The table was covered in with a beautiful linen table cloth and adorned with china and silver. Several assortments of flowers were spread out throughout the table. And of course there were lots of guests surrounding the table.

Now I could tell you about the peals of laughter emanating from children like silver bells or I could share the sounds of my grandparents and relatives discussing the election and the rabbi’s sermon. It wouldn’t be hard because those are probably things that you can relate to.

But then I might miss out on sharing a tale of two widowers. Two men who lost their wives roughly a year ago. Two men who sat at the table and enjoyed the meal, but whose eyes and words revealed the depth of the pain of loss.

It seems unfair that I can’t tell you their individual stories because it is. It is unfair because they lost the light in their candle long before they ever expected to see them go dark. It is unfair because it is unfair. Sometimes evil people live much longer lives than good people. It is unfair because life is unfair.

And it bothers me that I have to teach my children that no matter what we do life will never be fair. It bothers me that I have to teach my children about death and that no matter what they or anyone else does, they will experience death. One day the people they love the most will be gone and all they will have left will be memories.

But I’ll do my best to teach my children to seek the positive side of all this. If the loss doesn’t hurt than there is a problem. I have often thought that to a certain extent you can expect the loss to be as painful as the love was joyful.

I spoke with both of these men at different times this evening and I spoke with both of these men during shiva calls. And part of what struck me is how deeply they loved their wives and how their losses wounded them.

At separate moments they both made a point of telling me to make sure that I truly live my life because the person I love most could unexpectedly be taken from me. It is a theft like no other. I can’t say that I truly understand what they are going through, but I can say that I am convinced that the hardest pain to deal with is mental pain.

You can always find a way to get around the physical pain, but mental pain is a harder nut to crack. How do you turn off your memory. How do you forget and would you really want to.

So I find myself lost in thought about the words that they shared with me and how to apply them to my life. I don’t want to wake up and say that I failed to live my dreams because I failed to try. It is one thing to have tried and failed and another to have never done so.

I can find a way to live with the failure of having tried and been unsuccessful, but I don’t think that I can live with never having tried. Someday is a great way to put off the future, but someday doesn’t always come.

And so I find myself pondering the new year with similar thoughts and questions to those I had last year. If I have any sort of resolution it is to make a greater effort to live my dreams and to do the things that I need to do to have a happier and more meaningful life because you really don’t know when it might all come crashing down upon you.

Crossposted here.

Private School Woes

It is a hair shy of 90 degrees outside, unless you are working inside your garage as I am. In that case you can add another 12 degrees or so. In any case I have chosen to take a short break from decluttering so that I can come and share a thought or two.

Not unlike so many others my children are enrolled in private school. Each year I look at my bank accounts and I wonder how long I can keep this up for. Each year I say that I am going to spend more time exploring options for a less expensive option and each year I somehow manage to keep them in the school.

If it sounds like a bundle of contradictory gobbledy-gook that is because it is. If you ask me to create a list of what I consider to be the most important elements of raising my children it is going to be simple and look something like this:

1) Health
2) Education
3) Love
4) Character

It should be noted that this is intentionally a simple list that could easily be expanded and elaborated upon. But for the purpose of this post it will suffice as currently constructed.

I am a product of public schools. I believe that a public school education is important and that when done right is exceptionally valuable. But the obvious problem for me is that my local public school isn’t up to snuff. It just isn’t good enough.

And there really aren’t a lot of good alternatives. It is not real easy to get your child into anything other than their home school, and even if you can the process is a pain. The private schools require a non-refundable deposit to secure a space. That deposit is required months in advance of when you find out if your child will be admitted to a public school that is not their local school.

In case it is not obvious the reason I titled this private school woes is purely financial in nature. The tuition is a big nut to crack. It is painful and requires making numerous concessions. The fact that education is so important makes it less painful, but it still doesn’t serve as a cure all.

Remove that tuition and we have money for many other things that are also important. Remove that tuition and I can probably retire between five and ten years earlier than the current projection of 186 years of age.

So when I listen to our candidates talk about their plans for the future I listen carefully. Not only am I gravely concerned about the economy, healthcare and foreign policy, but I wonder where education fits into the mix. Because I don’t hear enough about it.

I don’t hear the politicians screaming that our public schools do not have enough resources or do not use their resources well enough to make sure that our kids are the best educated in the world.

I stopped believing that race was a real factor in holding people back a solid 20 years ago. But socioeconomic status, that I believe is a problem. If you are poor you are screwed out of many things. If you are poor you have a harder time getting a good education.

And that education is the tool that you will use to elevate yourself and climb out of the muck.

Better public schools serve the greater good. A better educated populace is good for everyone. Not to mention that if parents like myself weren’t forced to spend a significant amount of money on education we could spread some of that dough into other places, helping the economy in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the school my children attend. They are receiving an excellent education and I am thrilled. But every now and then I like to dream that there is a chance that I am going to be able to retire when I am still of sound mind and body.

Crossposted here.

When I Grow Up

(Playing in the background Child of The Moon– The Rolling Stones)

My son once asked me how long it took me to decide what I wanted to be when I grow up. I smiled and told him that I’d give him an answer once I grew up. The expression on his face made it clear that I had provided him with the wrong answer.

That little guy hitched up his pants and wagged a finger in my face. “Dad, I am serious.” I smiled and told him that I was serious too. In some ways I feel very much like a big kid, except that I can’t quite squeeze into Toughskins anymore.
Do they still make Toughskins. Does anyone else remember them. They were jeans that we’d buy at Sears. They were tough, but not quite durable enough to prevent me from tearing holes in the knees. Eventually mom would have to sew a patch or two on them. I never cared all that much. As long as I could run and play I was happy.
(Playing in the background Molossus– Batman Begins)
Some of my friends were lucky enough to grow up and know exactly what they wanted to be. Their dream was to be a surgeon, an astronaut, a reporter etc. So from the time we were little they worked hard to develop a plan that would enable them to do whatever it is they wanted to be.
As for me, well I have a lot of dreams. There are a lot of things that I’d like to do. Some of them are moving from the realm of possibility into impossibility.
(Playing in the background How Bad Do You Want It– Tim McGraw)
I was a decent baseball player. Good fielder. Had a strong arm, back in the day I threw out a couple of guys at the plate…all the way from left field. And I could hit. Lord, I could whack that ball. But things happened and I ended up not playing high school ball. Instead of roaming the outfield I found myself spending my days in the water.
You wouldn’t call me Michael Phelps, but that is only because my name is Jack. 😉
But seriously, the thing is that for years I could take solace in knowing that I was still young enough to play ball. Maybe I wasn’t good enough, or maybe I was. In some respects it didn’t matter because I was still young enough to get out there and play pro ball.
(Playing in the background Sloop John B– The Beach Boys)
Now I find that fiction to be a bit harder to maintain. I am getting to be a bit long in the tooth to be a pro athlete. So maybe I’ll have to accept that this is one of those dreams that may not materialize into reality.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not something that I am going to celebrate either. I suppose that it brings about a question of what other dreams I had and whether I have tried to follow them.
(Playing in the background Nobody’s Fault But Mine– Led Zeppelin)
It is fair to say that I have had many dreams and that I have followed some of them to their logical conclusion and others, well I haven’t managed to make them happen. There are a number of reasons why but I am not going to spend time discussing those here.  Not to mention that it is still clearly possible to fulfill some of them.
BTW, the background music reflects what has been playing on the good old iTunes shuffle. It should also explain why some of these songs may seem out of place. 
(Playing in the background What is Love– Haddaway)
I wouldn’t call this song a favorite, but I like it because it reminds me of some good times from college. It is one of those goofy club type tunes that we’d play at parties at the fraternity house.  Those parties were a hell of a lot of fun. At best I am a fair dancer. Slow dancing, two stepping, these are things that I am quite capable of.
But once the “dance” music hits I’d rather be standing on the side. I always feel self conscious and like I am a bit off the beat. The nice thing about the fraternity was that the dance floor was always packed so tightly that you couldn’t really do much more than sort of sway back and forth. It was perfect camoflauge for a guy like me. 
I am tempted to share more. I have this great story about this special woman I met. Black hair, dark eyes and a body that…Well, if I am ever going to convince Gil that he needs to particpate in Haveil Havalim I’ll have to change my tack.
Back to the part of living my dreams, or should I say trying to live my dreams.
(Playing in the background I am, I Said– Neil Diamond)
There was a long time where I thought that I’d find my future life living in Israel. Sometimes I wake up and wonder how I am still living here in L.A. Don’t get me wrong, I love L.A. It will always be home, but there is a part of me that wonders. There is a piece of me that never left Jerusalem.
I sometimes suspect that the emptiness I sometimes feel is tied directly into a couple of areas, one of which is the love I feel for the land and the unresolved feelings. I may still move there one day, but I won’t have the life that I thought I might.
And there is nothing to say that it is not ok. I might come up with another compromise. I might own a home there and here. I might continue to straddle both places, who knows.
(Playing in the background Chariots of Fire– Vangelis)
This is getting rather long so I suppose that I should begin to wrap it up. As I spoke to my son about what I wanted to be when I grow up I tried to make it clear that some dreams are dreams, but some can be reality.
Call it what you want, but I like to think that I am on the verge of hitting my stride. I like to think that I am just now reaching a point where I can really attain those things. I have some very real dreams.  If I close my eyes I can see them in all their glorious detail. I see the potential. I see the risk and I see the reward.
For now I’ll keep these dreams for myself to enjoy and to worry about. For now, me and old Bobbo will be the keeper of the secret. But one day in the not so distant future…

Indoor Rock Climbing- Or Yikes, The Ground is Awfully Far Away

This afternoon Little Jack and I headed out to do a little indoor rock climbing. If you are not familiar with it you can click here and enjoy a virtual tour of the joint.

I climbed the wall in the canyon area and learned that I am not 20 years-old anymore. Before you start guffawing about how this must mean I am out of shape let me clarify that I clambered up the wall like a monkey. Moving up that wall wasn’t hard, what was hard was looking down.

In my youth I spent all sorts of time climbing up trees, buildings, mountains and all sorts of odds and ends. I was fearless about it. If I decided to go up, well that was what I did. I went up and down and never stopped to consider the consequences of my actions.

Apparently in my old age the fear gene has begun to function. I haven’t any problem saying that when I made the mistake of looking down I suddenly began to wonder what it would feel like to fall from that height. Now mind you I was in a harness and was belayed.

However, I didn’t totally trust the rope to hold my weight. Intellectually I knew that it would be fine. There wasn’t any reason to be concerned that it was going to break. But thirty feet up I wondered if it really would, or what would happen if the guy down below somehow lost his grip.

Suffice it to say that it did a good job of scaring me. However, it didn’t scare me enough. I want to do this again. I want to do it a bunch of times so that I gain complete confidence in the equipment. Once I have that I am going to want to scramble up the walls again and again.

Side note. Little Jack watches me put on the harness and then starts to giggle. I ask him what is so funny and he points at my crotch. I look down and he is snickering about how it must be squeezing my nuts. I smile and tell him that it must be great to be almost eight.

He looks at me and asks me why my voice sounds normal. I ask him why he asks and he tells me that everyone knows that if your nuts are squeezed your voice changes. I explain that this is not really true. He seems disappointed.

I remind him that some of this conversation is better left for us to discuss in a private setting. He tells the woman standing next to us that she needs to move because his father needs to talk about how the harness is squeezing his nuts.

Is it any wonder that I am losing my hair.

Later on he and I are driving home and he decides to ask me to explain exactly what they do, the nuts that is. He can’t say it enough. He and his friends are at that age where body parts and bodily functions are the height of hysteria.

I mull over an appropriate response to his question and am about to answer when he hits me with a new question. When you are making a baby, do your nuts go in as well. Great Googly Moogly, that is a loaded question.

Now, the big guy and I have discussed this on a couple of occasions so I had kind of expected that for the time being this sort of thing was handled. But the question was there so I opted for the standard, “what do you think” reply. Which was far better than making a crack about tying stick to your, well if you know the rest of the joke you can just keep it to yourself.

Anyhoo, there was a long pause and I steeled myself for some sort of off the wall comment. As the silence grew longer I looked into the rear view mirror and noticed that he had fallen asleep. Ah, the pleasures of the mighty 101 freeway and it is gentle caress.

Saved by the snore, so to speak. Although if he stays true to form I’ll get a chance to answer the question a bit later this week. In the meantime I am going to wrap this tale up so that I can get a bit of shut eye.

See you in the A.M.

When Bloggers Lunch- A Child Asks about Adult Friends

In the early days of my blogging career I fiercely guarded my anonymity. Blogging was nothing more than a therapeutic outlet and I had no interest in compromising my ability to write whatever I wanted without regard for being questioned and quizzed about it.

I can’t remember when, but at some point in time I eased up on wearing the mask and slowly began to develop friendships with a few bloggers. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. You know, once people find out that you have revealed your identity to some and not to others hard feelings can arise.

While I have never spent a lot of time worrying about whether people like me or not, I have tried not to be a jerk just for the sake of being a jerk.

I suppose that you could say that the genesis of this post comes from two places. Today I had a very pleasant lunch with a friend. And that lunch was one of the topics of conversation between my son and I today.

School started last week. The night before he headed off to second grade I reminded him that not only was he going to learn amazing things he had the opportunity to make some amazing friends. It is a conversation that he and I have had virtually every year since he started school.

Anyhoo, today he asked me about my lunch with my friend. The questions were pretty basic. What did we eat? Did we play any games? How do we know each other?

It made for an interesting discussion. Since the lad is a hair shy of eight I didn’t spend any time trying to explain why it is harder outside of school to make friends. Don’t get me wrong, it is not impossible, but when you are married there is only so much time. And that time gets chewed up into smaller and smaller pieces, especially once the kids arrive.

That reminds me, I have been meaning to write a post about the friends that we make because of our children. When the kids get involved in school and extracurricular activities you invariably begin to meet other parents, especially when your children become friends with other kids.

The hard part is that sometimes the parents of these children make it really difficult for you to want to help your children foster these new friendships. That is one of those things that I never thought about pre-children. It just never occurred to me that I would think that Little Sammy’s father was an ignorant fool or a pompous ass.

Sammy could be the greatest kid in the world but if it meant hanging out with Wolfie I was going to have to call in reinforcements. Or if nothing else pour the guy a stiff drink and hope that he passed out.

Ok, somewhere along the way this post drifted off target so I think that I’ll just wrap it up here. When bloggers lunch, better be careful what you say and what you eat because it just might end up serving as blog fodder.

The Soccer Coach

Alongside the return of school is the return of the soccer season and the resumption of my position as a coach. Yes, I am a soccer coach who is responsible for helping to teach, mold and shape young men.

Each week we gather for a short practice in which we discuss the proper way to play soccer. First we laugh at all of the crazy foreigners who have a fit of apoplexy at any comment that does not praise soccer. During the laughter we imitate and mock their funny antics and accents.

Once this is completed we spend several moments practicing how to be a soccer hooligan. This includes teaching the lads how to pound a beer, set fire to automobiles, loot, pillage and run wild.

Eventually we tire of this and spend the next few moments discussing why the NFL is a superior sport and the reasons why it is called Football. Not to mention the time spent educating the kids about how to hold a proper tailgate party.

Ok, so maybe we don’t do any of the above. Maybe, just maybe we spend time talking about the value of playing as a team and learning how many can be stronger than one. Maybe just maybe they get to listen to me speak about the main reason we play, to have fun.

They are only eight years-old.

Later on in the week we’ll play a real game and see if anyone remembers what they learned in practice. With any luck they’ll stay involved in the game and have a good time. They might even have fun.

Of course I’ll have an encounter or two with a parent who thinks that they know how to do it better. I’ll tell them to “put up or shut up,” there is always space for them to coach next season. At least one time during the season the discussion will move from civility into promises of physical contact.

Those discussions are always great. I really enjoy telling a father that he should ask his son to come watch me kick his sorry butt up and down the field. They may even learn how to tear a man’s arm off at the shoulder and the proper technique for using the severed arm as a club.

But then again we just might avoid this discussion. It is always possible that the parents listened to my instructions that at eight-years-old all I am interested in is that the kids have fun. They’ll learn how to play and they’ll get an education about teamwork, but this is not the place in which they’ll earn a scholarship. No scouts are watching. The MLS isn’t going to come calling.

If all goes well the team will win more games than it loses, the kids will learn a thing or two and make a new friend. We shall see what happens.

For now we’ll watch and if anyone asks, you can call me coach.

Dear Tooth Fairy Part II

Part one can be found here.

So I have confirmed that the boy is serious about having a sitdown with the fairy. A short time ago I found that he had set up an elaborate trap that he planned to use to capture the fairy. I wish that I could show you a picture, but it wouldn’t make sense to you.

In fact the only reason it made sense to me was that one time when I was playing with him he built the trap with me to capture the “monster.” So having seen the trap before I knew exactly what i was and why it was there.

It made me smile. The kid has the same one track mind that I do. Once he decides to do something you need to get with the program or get out of the way. Anyway, the trap got me thinking about what the fairy looks like.

You can blame this upon Disney, but I always imagined the fairy as having the ability to fly. Assuming that my image of the fake fairy is accurate the trap won’t work. It is located on the floor so the fairy will just fly over it.

But, I can’t say that my son’s idea of the fairy matches my own. So I need to confer with the lad and ask. The whole thing makes me chuckle. I am trying to help improve his trap to catch the fake fairy. But then again maybe he figures that this trap will prove that it is one or both of his parents.

After all, if you can’t fly you’ll probably get tripped up in the trap and voila, the fairy is caught. Something tells me that he has watched Scooby Doo one time too many.

Dear Tooth Fairy

Late last night the big guy lost another tooth, giving him a grin that makes him look a bit like Leon Spinks. So he followed the proper procedure for disposing of said teeth. He went to the kitchen and placed the tooth in a plastic bag and then placed it beneath his pillow.

Shortly thereafter the “tooth fairy” took the tooth and replaced it with a little cash.

In the morning he woke up and was pleased to discover that his personal fortune had grown. And then for reasons only understood by little boys he decided that he wants all of his teeth back. I asked him why and didn’t really get a response.

“Dad, we need to send a letter to the tooth fairy asking for my teeth back,” he said. A moment later he told me that he wasn’t entirely sure that the tooth fairy was real. “I think that it might be you or mom, but since I haven’t seen you do it I am not sure.

He then explained that he intends to skip school so that he can sleep all day. The goal is to be able to stay up all night so that he might confront the tooth fairy and force him/her to return his teeth.

I told him that school was far more important than finding the fairy, but he insisted otherwise. I suppose that we are going to find out whether this is really about the fairy and his “missing” teeth or just a ploy to avoid starting school again.

Time will tell.

The Last Hurrah of Summer

I can’t believe that summer has come and gone. Here we are just one day out from the start of school. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised as I have heard a steady stream of mothers beg for school to start, each of them claiming exhaustion as a result of trying to entertain/educate children.

As part of the grand summer sendoff we spent the majority of the day at Universal Studios. It was exceptionally fun watching the children experience it. Little Jack kept asking me to tell him what it was like when I was his age. It wasn’t all that hard, I don’t think that I have been there in close to 30 years.

Although the more I think about it the more I realize it had to be a bit less. I remember going to the Hulk show and the whole Battlestar Galatica area. That probably means that I made it there at least once during the early ’80s.

Anyhoo, the day was action packed. My folks had the pleasure of watching all of their grandchildren attempt to turn the park into their own private playground. Throughout the day Uncle Jack had the burden, er pleasure of carrying children on his shoulders. There are a number of moments that stand out, such as my nephew burying his face in my shoulder when he became scared during the earthquake section of the tour.

He lives out of town so I don’t get to see him all that often. I didn’t want him to be scared, but was pleased that he felt comfortable asking me to protect him.

There was also the moment with my niece. A man cut in front of her in line but she was unwilling to accept it. So she told him that Uncle Jack threw a trashcan a mile and could throw him too. Needless to say the man feared that she was telling the truth and moved out of the way, or maybe he just realized that he had been a jerk, who knows.

The trashcan reference came from Saturday night. Went to my folks house for dinner. Midway through the evening a fuse blew so I went outside to fix it. I was accompanied on my journey by a small dog and a gaggle of small children. Somehow as I stepped outside they managed to get underneath my feet and I came perilously close to falling down stairs and breaking my neck.

I slammed into the trashcan and took out my ire by pushing it out of my way. It was empty, so moving it wasn’t particularly hard. But the children all thought that it was very heavy. If they remember this over time I expect that it will become a part of family legend.

All told it was a fine day punctuated by moments of laughter and tears. And now less than a hour or so since our return home I am in need of some Advil or something along those lines. I have the feeling that the carting around of children may manifest itself in the form of a very sore back.

But maybe not.

Later on I’ll have to write about how the end of summer always makes me sad. Summer is my favorite time of year, without exception.

I Have Too Much Stuff

Old Traveling Jack managed to hit the road for a quick weekend getaway. It was short and sweet and had I the desire I could write a dozen posts about what happened. Yes, I said a dozen and I could do it with my eyes shut.

The thing is that I just don’t have that same feeling about blogging like I used to. Questions about anonymity plague me, oops almost said plaque me. Fortunately I brush my teeth so that the plaque monster doesn’t totally control my mouth. Or as far as the blog goes maybe I should say that sometimes it pays to check your writing.

Elsewise you write foolish things like the point is mute when you meant to say moot. But I digress.

Before we get any farther let me address anonymity. If you want to know more about some of my thoughts there you can read:

Anonymous Blogging Blogging About Blogging
Life Has Its Moments

Anyhoo, because it was a short trip I made a point of packing quite lightly. I took, one backpack, pair of shorts, pair of Crocs, running shoes, bathing suit, couple of shirts, socks, underpants and toiletries.

Simple, effective and to the point.

When I got home it took no time to unload, unpack and a hell of a lot of time to unwind. Now I won’t bore you with all the reasons why it took so long to unwind, but I will share this.

There is too much stuff in this house. Too many books, too many CDs, DVDs, toys and assorted odds and ends. Now mind you it is not like the stuff is everywhere. There aren’t really piles and piles of things. But there is enough for me to feel like it is on the verge of becoming unmanageable.

Over the past few years we have made an effort to cull out the unnecessary things, to give away things we don’t need. And for the most part I feel like we have been successful. Yet, things have a way of creeping up.

Birthdays for the children always create a new influx of toys as do grandparents and handmedowns from cousins and friends.

And then within the last few years are the items that have come via family inheritance. Treasured heirlooms get passed down. They are not necessarily things we want or need, but they hold a sentimental role and they aren’t given away.

So every few months there is a general inventory taken and we do our best to expell the unwanted, unneeded and unnecessary.

Sometimes I get the urge to become the poster boy of minamilism, Mr. Minamalist. Do I really need all that I have. Do I really need all these things or could I just let them go.

One of these days I just might have to find out.

My Daughter & Dating

During a recent conversation with my daughter she asked me why people call me different names. She may be only four, but she is a keen observer of the world around her. Here is a short recap. It is not quite verbatim, but it is close enough.

Daughter: Daddy, why do people call you different names?
Dad: What do you mean?

Daughter: Why do some people call you Jack and others call you Mr. Jack?
Dad: That is because we have different relationships with people. Some people know me better than others do, so they feel more comfortable using a more familiar name.

Daughter: Ok.
Dad: We’re teaching you how to do this too. You’ll call some of the people you know by their name and others will be a more formal version, like Mrs. Loren or Mr. Saltzman.

Daughter: But how will I know who to do this with.
Dad: Mom and I will help you figure it out. Don’t worry about it, we’ll help you teach your friends what to call us too.

Daughter: What should my friends call you?
Dad: Well, if they’re boys they can call me “Death.”

Daughter: Death? Daddy, your name isn’t death.
Dad: Just wait a few years and you’ll understand.

Daughter: But why should the boys call you “Death.”
Dad: Well, I suppose that I can come up with another name.

Daughter: Like what?
Dad: Hmm? How about “Their worst nightmare.” Or maybe “Mr. Castration.”

Daughter: (Giggling) You’re so silly.
Dad: I am not silly, I just love you.

Daughter: I love you too daddy.
Dad: Good, now come give your dad a hug.

Dad, I Need A Phone

It is official, karma is trying to kick me in the ass with a size twelve boot. That little dark haired beauty of mine is determined to make me lose all of my hair. I could provide you with a list of 17 different things she has done recently, but that my cause my cerebral cortex to implode.

And while that does sound vaguely attractive I think that for now I’ll do what I can to maintain it. Instead I’ll share bits and pieces of recent events and perhaps that will suffice.

Let’s dive right in and hit the conversation of this morning in which she asked me to buy her a cellphone.

Daughter: Daddy, I want a phone
Me: You have a toy phone.

Daughter: No, I want a real phone.
Me: Why do you need one?

Daughter: To talk to my friends.
Me: Can you pretend to talk to them?

Daughter: Sometimes, I can. But that gets boring.
Me: What do you want to talk to them about?

Daughter: Princesses, and girl stuff.
Me: What is girl stuff?

Daughter: I can’t tell you.
Me: Why not?

Daughter: Because you are not a girl.
Me: What if I talk like this (said in a falsetto).

Daughter: Silly daddy.
Me: That’s me.

Daughter: Can I have money?
Me: Why?

Daughter: So I can buy a phone.
Me: Who do you want to speak with?

Daughter: Sammy, Olivia, Talia, David and Max.
Me: I thought that you want to talk to your friends. David and Max are boys.

Daughter: I know that.
Me: Oh, how do you know that.

Daughter: I saw David’s penis.
Me: When did you see it and why?

Daughter: At David’s swim party. His mommy helped him change into his bathing suit.
Me: What were you doing in his room?

Daughter: I wasn’t in his room.
Me: Where were you?

Daughter: At the pool silly daddy. ( Did I mention that she giggles when she says that.)
Me: His mommy let him change at the pool.

Daughter: He doesn’t look like you.
Me: Oh really.

Daughter: No, he doesn’t have hair all over his body like you do.
Me: I suppose not.

Daughter: Girls get hair.
Me: Yes, girls get a lot of hair. You have beautiful hair, it is long and curly.

Daughter: Silly daddy. Girls get hair in their crotch. I saw mommy’s.
Me: You’re right. One day it will happen to you, but that is a long, long time from now.

Daughter: Do you brush your hair?
Me: Yes, I brush my hair.

Daughter: I have only seen your brush the hair on your head. What about your other hair?
Me: Want to play Candyland?

Daughter: Mommy says you have to brush all of your hair. If you don’t it is going to get tangled. Want me to get your hairbrush. If you brush it now I’ll sing a song to make you happy.
Me: I think that I am ok.

Right about now Robby the Robot should be yelling “Danger Will Robinson! Danger Will Robinson!

Daughter: What about the phone?
Me: Are we still talking about that. The answer is that you don’t need a phone. Your four years-old.

Daughter: I don’t want a big one, just a little one.
Me: No, four year-old girls do not need a real phone.

Daughter: Olivia’s mommy broke her phone. If I had a phone, then mommy could borrow mine.
Me: Mommy’s phone works.

Daughter: But she might break it.
Me: I think that I have to go get some milk.

Daughter: Mommy already bought some.
Me: Ok, then I’ll get a challah.

Daughter: Mommy got one of those too.
Me: Ok, I need to get some air.

Daughter: I see you breathing.
Me: &$U*$#$*$*^$

Daughter: Daddy, where are you going?
Me: The desert or the mountains or an island. Oy.

The World’s Strongest Penis

My children provide a never ending source of blog fodder. The questions they ask, the stories they tell and the things that they do provide a steady pipeline of material. The hard part is that some of these stories seem to repeat themselves over and over, with just a slight variation on how they are told/come about.

This next story comes courtesy of the lad that the good people call “Little Jack.”

He recently told me that he is the smartest boy in the house. When I asked why he explained that I don’t go to school and that I have an “old brain.” Anyway, the conversation meandered about and eventually led to our standard question and answer time. The “Q&A” session is something that we do on a regular basis. It gives him a chance to ask me to answer the burning questions on his mind and it provides me with a chance to try and pick his brain about his day.

The conversation about The World’s Strongest Penis began as a discussion about how to use public urinals. That is a conversation that we have had a number of times. In a different post I’ll have to rant and rave about how some women tried to teach him and the other boys to pee. It may sound ridiculous, but there is a reason for my irritation.

For now let’s talk about how some of the boys at camp have helped educate him about all sorts of stuff, including new and exciting vocabulary words.

Son: Dad, Jake says that his mom told him that the penis is a man’s strongest muscle.
Me: His mom and dad don’t live together, do they.

Son: No, how’d did you know that?
Me: Just a hunch. What else did Jake say?

Son: He said that his dad had the most powerful penis in the world. I said that he was wrong and that you do.
Me: (Mental note to self: Add note to resume, “most powerful penis in the world.) Oh you did. I appreciate that, but you don’t need to tell people that. It is a private thing.

Son: Ok, I’ll tell him that you don’t want to talk about your penis.
Me: That’s ok. You don’t need to tell him. In fact it is probably better that you don’t discuss it.

Son: Why, are you embarrassed about your penis?
Me: No, I am perfectly happy with it. It works just the way it is supposed to. Remember when we talked about a broken penis. Everything is fine, it is just not something that we discuss with others.

Son: What about the doctor? Can we talk to the doctor about our penis?
Me: Yes, the doctor is fine.

Son: How about a policeman? Can we talk to the policeman?
Me: Only if you need to file a missing penis report. (Sometimes I just can’t help myself.)

Son: Can people steal your penis? (you can’t imagine the look of horror on his face.)
Me: No, I just exaggerating. No one can steal your penis. It is attached just like your arm or leg.

Son: But if you have an accident you can cut off your arm or your leg. What if you had an accident and you cut off your penis.
Me: Might be kind of hard to pee. I don’t think that you have to worry about that one.

Son: You can’t cut off Superman’s penis unless you have Kryptonite.
Me: I have never thought about it, but I suppose you’re right.

Son: And Iron Man is safe. You can’t cut off an iron penis.
Me: Actually Iron Man is a guy who wear a special suit. Outside of his armor he is vulnerable.

Son: He better not take off his suit, someone might cut his penis off.
Me: He is a comic book hero, that kind of stuff never happens to them. Do you have any more questions?

Son: How strong is your penis?
Me: I don’t know. It is not like your arms or legs. It doesn’t have to be strong to do its job.

Son: Why did Jake’s mom say that it is a strong muscle?
Me: I don’t know.

Son: That doesn’t make sense.
Me: You’re going to find that life is full of things that don’t make sense. Has Jake’s mom said anything else?

You’ll have to stay tuned for the rest of the conversation. In the meantime if you’re interested in posts that are somewhat related you’re welcome to read the stuff below.

Penis Talk Revisited
My Penis Died
More Questions about Body Parts
Great Moments In Parenting- Parts of our Body That Grow

What Makes You Happy

Today was a day filled with a number of highs and lows. It was the day in which we threw a birthday party for my daughter. She was so excited. All morning long she bounced off of the walls asking if it was time for her party.

I looked down into a pair of dark piercing eyes and promised that I would let her know when it was time to leave. She put a hand on her hip and admonished me not to be late. “Don’t get stuck on the computer, the telephone or doing push ups.”

(Side note: Her comment shows that I am doing a good job of being dedicated to my exercise program. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

I promised that I wouldn’t and set about to take care of a couple of chores. Soon enough the party girl was in her party dress and we were off. In a short time the guests arrived and four year-olds briefly took over the world. At least some of them did, there were several that never showed.

It irked me. I don’t care or expect every kid to show up. Don’t need to have a million kids to make my children feel loved. But I expect the courtesy of an R.S.V.P or a telephone call to say that you can’t make it.

Her big brother surprised me by noticing that some of these kids hadn’t made it. He made me smile because he was upset. When I asked why he told me that he was afraid that his sister’s feelings would be hurt. I told him that he was a good big brother and that we need to focus on the important things.

That led to a discussion of what makes you happy. It seems to me like a bunch of his friends don’t really know what makes them happy. They expect their parents to take care of everything. They can’t play by themselves because without mom or dad they don’t know what to do.

Inside this house that dog don’t hunt. I can’t tolerate raising children to be incapable of taking care of themselves. It is important and necessary to let them fail a time or two so that they learn how to deal with it at an early age. If you don’t teach them how to cope the day will come when they will find themselves in hell.

The question of what makes you happy is one that I periodically ask myself. Every now and then I consider where I am heading and try to make sure that it corresponds with what makes me happy. Life is too short, too fragile and too hard not to. I try not to live in the past or focus on regrets.

But sometimes I find myself thinking about the road I didn’t take. Sometimes I think back to that January day in Jerusalem. It is pouring rain and I am soaked, but I don’t care. I am walking aimlessly through the city, but it doesn’t matter. I have made the decision to go back to the states long enough to pack up my stuff and move back.

It didn’t happen, for a whole host of reasons. It is bootless to cry about it. Can’t say exactly what would have happened, but I have my ideas. I like to think that destiny brought me back. I like to think that something bigger is behind this, but I don’t really know.

If you are wondering I didn’t get into the deeper end with my son, but I did speak with him about how life doesn’t always go the direction you think or want it to and why it is important to figure out what makes you happy.

Because if you know what makes you happy than you can act upon it. There are moments when it is cool to be spontaneous and to let the current take you where it will. But there are also times for action. I told him that when he gets older he’ll understand some of this better and that there will be moments when it will pay to be bold.

Perhaps I’ll share more on this later.

Happy Birthday To The Dark Haired Beauty

The midnight hour approaches and I am wide awake. Today we celebrated the dark haired beauty’s fourth birthday. And like so many other parents I can’t help but wonder how she got to be this age.

Really, it was just yesterday that she was in utero and we were wondering who would come to greet us. At this time four years ago she had been in the world for all of 20 minutes or so. I remember staring at her, counting her fingers and toes, confirming that everything was right with her.

One of the first things that I noticed was a ton of dark curly hair on her head. I remember smiling as I realized that if nothing else we shared the same hair color.

So here I am four years later, the proud dad of a girl that continuously amazes me. She was born with a mind of her own and has never been shy about showing it. She hasn’t any problem telling you what she wants.

Last night she told me that she wanted to play with me and I of course said sure. I got to be the baby. She made me lie down on the couch and then covered me with a blanket. For the next half hour or so she alternated between telling me stories, patting my back and singing songs.

And did I mention that she tried to do my hair. For some reason she is determined to try and give me a pony tail. It makes me laugh. I wore a flat top for close to 25 years and then when it got a bit thin for that kept it cropped pretty short.

In spite of this the girl still tried to coax my hair into a clip and then some sort of rubber band thing, but to no avail. Her own hair is filled with the sort of curls that make women stop and stare in admiration. It falls to the middle of her shoulders, unless it is wet in which case it hits her middle back.

I told her that if she loaned me some hair I’d be happy to let her put it up for me. She said sure, as long as it didn’t mean cutting it and then instructed me not to cut my hair for at least ten years. I asked her why she said ten and she told me that by then it would be long enough to give me a pony.

Per her request we took her out to her favorite restaurant for dinner. It was a great meal, at least I very much enjoyed it. She on the other hand decided to wear it. Ok, she didn’t want to, but was graced with the gift of vomit covered clothing. Upon our arrival home we cleaned her up and put her to bed.

She then decided that we didn’t have enough laundry to do and covered her bed twice in the remnants of dinner. Once again I cleaned her up, but this time I took her in my arms and let her rest her head on my shoulder. For a good half hour or so we sat on the couch and I told her stories until she finally passed out.

And now I can see her lying in her bed. She is asleep and hopefully will remain that way for the rest of the night. She sleeps the way I used to. Once she goes down she is out for the count. It is a deep, restful sleep that I can’t seem to copy.

I find it relaxing to watch her sleep. I sit her wondering what she’ll look like when she is older and wonder what she’ll be like as a teen and an adult. Don’t get me wrong, I want her to stay a child for as long as possible. Adult life comes far too quickly.

Oh, did I mention that I am having her brother trained in various disciplines of death. When the young suitors come the big boy and I will be ready for them. I know how those boys think, I used to be one. Do I really have to let her date. Oy, I can’t think about this right now.

Anyhoo, the dear girl has gotten short shrift in this blog as it feels like I have spent far more time writing about her brother. So as part of my penance here are some links to some past posts about her.

The Princess Speaks
Daddy You Died
My Daughter’s Favorite Book
A Big Girl Bed
Death Comes For Us All- When Do you Start Saying Goodbye
She Needs To Know About Boys
Penis Talk Revisited
His Penis Is In The Wrong Place
Dancing WIth My Daughter

How To Deal With a Bully

In light of recent events I thought that it was worth reposting this.

My son and I sat down and had a discussion about how to deal with bullies. It is one of the sad facts of life, bullies exist and they thrive at all ages.

You would think or perhaps hope that with age and maturity they would grow up and give up their bullying ways, but that is just not the case. Since he is just short of five we had a very simplistic discussion about what to do about a bully.

It is rather late and I don’t have time to recount our discussion in its entirety here so instead I will try and sum it up and give some insight as to what I may say in the future.

The bully uses fear as a tool. It is a weapon that he/she employs to try and coerce you into doing what they want. Often the best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them and let them know that you will not tolerate their behavior and that no matter what they try you will not back down.

In the schoolyards of my youth bullies were dealt with and dispatched with fists. You didn’t want to fight, but if you were forced into it you did what you had to do and you made sure that the bully understood that they had no power over you.

Unfortunately there are some misguided fools who fail to recognize their own failings and foibles. They will continue to fight and growl long after it has been proven that they have no teeth.

So the question becomes one of whether you give them any recognition. Sometimes you can just ignore their meaningless drivel because it is clear they operate from a place of fear and insecurity. They are so frightened and uncomfortable in their own skin that there is nothing that you can do to them that is worse than leaving them to sulk by themselves in a corner.

As I mentioned earlier this is a little sophisticated for a young child so I tried to do what I could to boil it down, but I was only partially successful. So I gave in and read part of one of my favorite Churchill speeches because it says so much. It sends a very meaningful message. Here is a link to the speech and my favorite excerpt.

“we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender,”

Speech before Commons
(June 4, 1940)

Pokemon- The Confession

Within the last six months my son has turned into a Pokemon fanatic. I should clarify that it is the card game that he and his pals have gotten into.

The big guy loves the game and wants to play it regularly, with me. Ok, I love to play games with him, most games, that is. I am having trouble getting into Pokemon. In fact, I just don’t like it.

That is not to say that I dislike it, but it is not high on my list. I keep trying to get into it, I want to. I really want to, but…

Sorry Little Jack, it is just not for me. The good news is that we have a million other things that we do like to do together.

Birthday Party Politics

It is hard to believe that it is time to plan and execute another birthday party for the dark haired beauty that calls me daddy. That little girl works overtime on perfecting new and improved ways to try and manipulate me into doing her bidding.

Fortunately I grew up in a houseful of more sisters than you can shake a stick at so I am endowed with mighty resistance power, except when she climbs into my lap and starts kissing my face and telling me she loves me. That is the kryptonite to my mighty resistance power, fortunately I always have a backup plan. I’d tell you what it is but the little girl might read this and use that knowledge against me.

So the time comes to make arrangements for her party and I find out from her mother that there are five kids in her class that have birthdays in July. Not just that, but before school ended some of these moms decided to try and negotiate when the parties would take place. To quote one, “we don’t want to create conflict by having the parties on the same day.”

My thought was “hell yes we do.” That is the perfect way to cut down on the number of crazy kids running amok, but alas I was overruled on this. Not that I cared that much one way or another. If the mothers feel the need to discuss this, so be it.

And so they assembled the mommy diplomatic corps to engage in the heavy and intense negotiations of determining when the parties would take place. Apparently this was a painless and easy experience which is kind of disappointing. Had there been finger pointing and shouting I could have written a much more interesting post.

In fact I offered to send an email out that said:

Dear Parents,

Your child is an ugly monkey who has no friends, is disruptive in class and in dire need of a remedial potty training.

Not to mention that the parenting skills exhibited by you and your spouse resemble those of the Bonobo monkeys which leads me to believe that you spent the months preceding childbirth watching countless episodes of National Geographic and the Crocodile Hunter.

That is great if you are raising real animals, but relatively useless for humans. Thankfully school is over and we won’t be forced to pretend to like you or be nice to you and Cheetah. Your party sucks and you need a life.

Kind regards,

The Jacks

As you can imagine the above email is fictional and was never written. In fact this whole post just might be fiction, or maybe not. And now if you’ll excuse me it is time to club baby seals and praise the wonderful spawn of my loins.

All hail The Shmata Queen for escaping cleveland.

She Broke My Penis

“Dad, She Broke My Penis,” said the boy. Now there is a line that most men never want to hear. It evokes all sorts of painful and uncomfortable imagery, not to mention that this joint will show up in all sorts of weird Google searches now.

“Dad, She Broke My Penis.” Don’t ask me why I had to repeat that line. It is sort of like an accident on the freeway. You don’t really want to look at it, but as you cruise on by you find yourself rubber necking the bloody mess.

Lines like that one are part of the joy of being a parent. Besides, as the parent equipped with the same anatomy the responsibility of dealing with this fell into my lap. That is ok, I don’t really mind. Mom gets to deal with bodily fluids of all types, especially those labeled projectile.

It was early evening when the big boy told me about his newest injury. There was a tug on the arm and then the earnest expression that accompanied with the tale of how this incident took place.

For a moment I was tempted to go Joe Friday on him and conduct a thorough investigation. If only he would have asked me while I was working on the computer. I could have easily played the theme to Dragnet.

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Jimmy: Officer, I’d like to report a broken penis.
Timmy: A broken penis?

Jimmy: Yes, a broken penis.
Timmy: Tell me when was the penis broken?

Jimmy: It was broken during Pokemon.
Timmy: Pokemon? Did you encourage someone to assault said penis.?

Jimmy: No, I was playing Pokemon and my sister kicked me in the penis.
Timmy: She kicked you in the penis? Was it dead on or a glancing blow.

Jimmy: She didn’t look at it, She kicked it.
Timmy: Can you describe the girl that kicked it?

Jimmy: She has the same last name as us and she tried to bite me too.
Timmy: Poor Me Too. However did he escape.

Jimmy: No one is named Me Too.
Timmy: I should hope not. That would be a terrible thing for parents to do.

Jimmy: Can you help me fix my penis?
Timmy: What exactly is wrong with it?

Ok, none of that Dragnet bit took place, but if it had I am pretty sure that it would have been close to what I wrote. Anyway, the information is pretty close to that which was exchanged between the lad and I.

I of course began a thorough investigation as to the genesis of this incident. The last thing I need is a “broken penis epidemic,” although it would make good blog fodder.

Since I grew up with more sisters than you shake a stick at I was well familiar with the attempt by the boy to garner more sympathy and in turn cause more trouble for his sister. I have to admit that I thought that I had filled my parent’s ears with every line one could come up with, but accusations of “breaking a penis” never crossed my lips.

The boy has a certain style and imagination. I like that. But I am the father and I can’t have disorder in the ranks so I never let on that I appreciated his attempt. I did make a point to confirm that there are several ways to prove that your penis works just fine. Needless to say that this made for great conversation and should have been videotaped for posterity. You just know that one day his wife and kids would want to see this momentous occasion memorialized.

But because I love him dearly I would never tape such a conversation. Although I must admit that there was an inkling to do so because you never know when a teenage boy might need extra incentive to behave.

So how was your Saturday?

What Should Children Learn in School?

Sometimes I spend the quiet moments of my life lost in thought about questions that I anticipate being asked by my children. Lying awake in bed I stare at the ceiling and think about what they find important and interesting and try to come up with an appropriate response.

An appropriate response, now there is the trick. I could use the fallback “because I said so” or defer to the “why do you think” trick and leave it at that. In fact, I sometimes think that time before I drift off to sleep might be better suited for dreams about me and her on that deserted beach, but that is a post for a different time. 😉

The truth is that I have come to really enjoy these exercises. Some of these questions deal with topics that I haven’t really considered in years and years. What might have worked for the 15-year-old boy I was doesn’t always work for the guy I am today. And so in the quiet of the night I find myself mulling over all sorts of stuff.

Lately I have been focusing on how to answer questions about school. All sorts of different topics are floating around inside my skull:

1) Why are book reports important?
2) Why should you know the names of the capitals of every state?
3) What purpose is there in knowing how to work with parabolas and hyperbolas?
4) Why should people read Shakespeare or any of the classics?

I wonder how many people can really come up with reasonable answers.

All of this talk begs the question of what sort of curriculum do I want for my children. If I had complete control what would I want included? Are there things that I would exclude? What is my bottom line? What is really important?

I can come up with general list, but just how specific can I get. I think that I might sit down and work it all out.

Report Cards

I just finished reading my son’s final report card and I can’t stop smiling at what was a glowing review. His school provides a comprehensive breakdown in which they offer a grade for various skills. Those marks were outstanding, but they aren’t what made me smile.

The thing that did it for me was the one page writeup his teachers provided about him. In short they said that he is a mensch, that he is a boy of great character and that is what makes me happy. Sure, it helps that he received excellent grades for his academic performance, but I really am more concerned about the intangibles.

Academics are important. It is critical that he masters the skills that they pass along there. Math, science, English etc, they play a huge role. But I never doubted his ability, biased or not I know that he is smart enough to handle the work.

But it is the character issues that I am most concerned about. The ability to interact with others is more than just icing on the cake. Those are the skills that enable you to do more than just float through life.

Sure it is important to have all of the academic tools. One day he’ll join the workforce and those academic skills will help ensure that he does his work well. But it is the social skills that will make the difference. The ability to know when to speak your mind and when to hold your tongue. The ability to work independently is important, but so is knowing how to be a team player.

Because in reality skill is not necessarily as important as luck or who you know. We all know of people who are in positions that they don’t really deserve, but because people like them they make it work.

As far as the big kid goes, I am thrilled that he has a handle on both sides. Life can be rough, so you need to have as many resources as you can muster.

The Princess Speaks

Here is an exchange my daughter and I had last night.

Daughter: I want to watch Dora.
Me: Don’t you want to watch the game with me?

Daughter: No. I want to see Boots and Dora.
Me: We’ll have to do that later, the Lakers are coming on now.

Daughter: I am the princess and I make the rules.
Me: I am the king and this is my castle.

Daughter: Who tells the king what to do?
Me: Everyone.

Daughter: Everyone? But does the king have to listen?
Me: Nope, he is the king and he makes the rules.

Daughter: Ok daddy. I’ll watch the game with you.
Me: Thanks sweetheart.

Daddy You Died

I enjoy listening to my children interact with each other. It is great fun to watch them play and to listen to them talk. Their conversations fascinate me. I can’t help but smile as I watch Little Jack expound upon the meaning of life to his little sister. Right now he is her biggest hero. She watches his every move and tries hard to be just like him.

About 3.5 years ago the big boy asked me not to die. As a relatively new father it was a powerful moment for me. Not that I am so much more experienced now, but I feel like I have a decent handle on things.

Over the weekend I woke up to the sound of my daughter shrieking in fear. I raced over to her bed and found her sobbing. She threw her arms around me and told me that she had dreamt that I had died. I picked her up and carried her into my living room. There in the dark I reassured her that I had not died and did my best to calm her down.

The power of dad worked and in a relatively short time she was peacefully sleeping in my arms. I waited a few moments and carried her back to bed. Moments later I crawled into my bed and tried to fall asleep. Can’t say how long it took, I just know that it took a few minutes.

My dreams were troubled and that made my sleep less than peaceful. I woke up because I heard myself yell. I don’t always remember my dreams, but I remember large parts of what had woken me.

I had contracted a terminal illness and was going to die. Can’t tell you what it was and I don’t think that it matters. I haven’t wasted time on trying to figure out why I had that dream. It could be because I know so many peers who have died an early death. Or it could be because I have a 20 something year old cousin with a brain tumor and a dear friend with a rare form of cancer.

Chances are that they are going to die. Chances are that they are going to die far too young and it bothers me.

Sometimes I find myself thinking about what I would do if I were in that position. Sometimes I find myself taking a really hard look at my life and asking if I am really doing the things that make me happy. Am I fulfilled and if not, what do I need to do to make that happen.

Where do you draw the lines. How do you take care of your family and still take care of yourself. What are you entitled to. How selfish are you allowed to be.

Life is about balance. We do our best to take care of our families. We do our best to give our children every advantage, but at some point we have to remember to do for ourselves as well.

There are some really hard decisions. There are some really painful moments that school just doesn’t prepare you for. At the end of the day we shrug our shoulders and hope that we have done our best.

One day I will find out that death is closer than ever. All I am trying to do is see that I have lived a life that was a little bit more.

Why Do People Kill Each Other

Earlier today my son asked me to explain to him what war is like and why people kill each other. It is a hell of a question and one that he has asked before. I am not a soldier. I haven’t been to war.

I have been in a number of hairy situations. I have seen the after effects of a bombing and have been in the E.R. when they have brought in shooting victims. I have been in a number of fist fights, been hit with brooms, rocks and a chain, but never shot. Not that I am complaining, I am not.

I can’t say that I believe that you have to be a vet to explain why people go to war either. I can offer descriptions of what war is like based upon things I have read or heard, but fortunately do not have any first hand experience. The closest thing I have got is what I have seen in films.

If push comes to shove I’ll tell you that I believe that sometimes you have to fight and that there are wars that are necessary. I am not a peacenik, by any means. But when it comes to discussing this with the kids I am cautious.

Today is the 64th anniversary of D-Day. I wrote a post that covered some of the history in more detail than here. If you are interested you can find it here. We are indebted to those men.

Anyway, be it coincidence or otherwise today is the day that he hammered me with questions about war and why people kill each other. He is all of 7.5 so I wrestled with how much to tell him, how sophisticated I should be in my response.

He has lost so much of his innocence about the world. He knows that bad people sometimes do things to children and that not every marriage lasts. He knows that some people steal and that life doesn’t always have a happy ending. So providing him with some information is not going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back either.

I did my best to explain that sometimes people just can’t get along and that sometimes they fight in a way that isn’t nice. I told him that I thought that war should be a last resort and that you should try and avoid it.

But I also told him that if you have to fight to defend yourself you have an obligation to do so in a manner that takes care of the situation, short term band aids are a poor solution.

He nodded his head and told me that he thought he understood. He explained that one of his classmates parents had split up. I asked him what he meant and he gave me a perfectly suitable description of a couple who have divorced.

I nodded my head and asked him to continue. He explained that Tommy’s parents couldn’t get along any more and that they had decided to live in different houses. And then he told me that Tommy said that he was much happier because his folks didn’t fight anymore, that they were friends now.

Just as I thought I had skated by and managed to avoid spending the evening discussing war he came back to it. He wanted to know how his grandfathers had managed not to be killed. I reassured him that going to war wasn’t a death sentence, but that you really didn’t want to have to go unless you had to.

He sighed and told me that he was happy to hear that. And then he asked me to promise that I wouldn’t get killed fighting a war either. I smiled and told him that they didn’t like making guys my age soldiers.

Confession: I have no interest in being a soldier, but I hated saying “guys my age” as if we are all that old. We’re not. Compared to so many others I am just a babe in the woods.

Oy, I don’t like 39 all that much. Sure it is better than the alternative, but…

A Different Sort of Childhood

While I was traversing the fine state of Texas I took a moment to give G a shout to try and catch up. I met the old man on the first day of kindergarten, way back in the fuzzy days of 1974.

Every now and then big, tall and lanky and I pull out the old photos and thank the powers that be that we weren’t responsible for the incredibly ugly clothes that represent the ’70s. Gosh, some of the crap that our parents made us wear is beyond hideous. Can’t wait to see what happens when the children get a hold of those photos. I am ready to take a bit of abuse.

Anyway, the bastage didn’t bother to pick up the phone. This means one of two things.

1) Those exceptionally old ears can’t hear the soft ring of a cellphone.
2) The parents of the new woman were busy interrogating him.

On a side note he and I always refer to each other in the loving manner which you have just read. I don’t know when it started, but it is just how we do it.

All of this brings me to the point of the post in which I expound upon how different childhood is for my children. I could rail on about technology, but that is not the big distinction.

The biggest change is that when I was a kid we played outside all year round. During the school year you came home changed and then ran outside. If you listened to your mom you usually heard a reminder to be home by dinner time, but you still went on your merry little way.

In my neighborhood we were outside and running around at a very young age. Older siblings usually kept half an eye upon you. That didn’t mean that you couldn’t get into a heap of trouble, you could. And typically those same older siblings helped encourage you to do the very thing that got you into hot water.

But things are different now. With the proliferation of news about pedophiles, rapists, murderers and bad guys in general parents are hesitant to let their children run around without careful supervision.

It used to be that mom was happy to do her chores indoors and give the occasional look out the window. Not anymore. Parents want to be outside with their kids where they can keep a close eye on things.

I really do not believe that things are worse now than when I was young. IMO the difference is the amount of information. With all the stories about the terrible things that happen to children it is hard let your kids do anything that you can’t see.

And with our busy lives it can be really hard to work all day, come home and find time to let the kids run around outside, especially during the shorter days of the year.

FWIW, in my neighborhood I do see a lot of kids playing outside, but they tend to be older than my children. So maybe it is something that will happen, just at a later age than when I began. But something tells me that even if it does happen it will be with more reservations from the parents than when we were young.

The end of the innocence is not limited to the youth.