Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Very Belated Birthday Post

My precious seven-year-old Little Dog,
I usually post these right around the time you age up, but this year, as you well know, has been a bit of an ass-kicker.  I'm running behind because this year I never seem to stop running.

I am sick of saying that I can't believe you are a year older already, but honestly I can't.  When you were decorating the Christmas tree in December I remember being struck by how tall you were and each day I watch your beautiful face continue on its transformation from adorable chubby baby face to handsome big kid. Only when you are asleep do you still resemble the infant I brought home seven years ago, and it is all I can to to see that sleeping face and not lean over to immediately kiss your cheek.

We've had our share of challenges this year as your worries continue to hijack that sweet kid spirit at times when you feel stressed or overwhelmed, but we keep working our way down the path to finding a lasting solution.  It hasn't been easy for you, or for us, but I sincerely believe that this year will end on a much happier, calmer note than it began.  Just hold my hand and keep moving forward with me, sweetie.

And even with the challenges you continue to grow and amaze.  Your vocabulary continues to flourish, you seem to collect words the way Big Dog collects Bey Blades or Pokemon cards.  You cherish them, polish them and use them expertly.  It is a love I recognize in myself as well as in your grandma and I couldn't be more proud. 

While you are loathe to show it, you can read and do math, but you'd rather not.  Your love is video games.  Skylanders to be precise.  I think you love the possibility of the characters as much as the game, but you do immerse yourself in that world. 

You have an great sense of humor that constantly catches me off guard.  You turn phrases in ways that make me giggle and frequently post your observations or retorts in my Facebook status.  In fact, you have gained quite a reputation in my social circle as a smart and funny guy with a sharp wit and a keen eye.  My pride in you shines through as I write or talk about you every day.

Through the year we are going try to work through some problems for you, and I imagine at times it will be tough for all of us.  We may cry, we may argue, we may wallow in our frustration, but at the heart of it all please know I love you more than you could ever imagine.  As we grow together I promise I will try to offset the aggravation with joy, balance the struggle with fun and naturally fill in the bumps with chocolate.

I love you, Little Dog. You are your own original creation.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Big Nine

So Big Dog,  you've turned nine.  Each year I am once again surprised how quickly the birthday comes up again and each year I look at you with pride in what a great kid I'm raising.  You are sweet and smart, kind and funny.  I couldn't be more proud.

In the past year you've continued to become a big kid, less dependent on us for security, more comfortable in your own skin.  You have surrounded yourself with a nice group of friends and I'm proud that they are really nice kids that seem to build each other up.  Your closest friend has a big influence on you and you talk about him so much it is like he is another member of our family.  At the same time, you have maintained a closeness with your best buddy from kindergarten that makes me smile since this is a time where boys often stop being close friends with girls.

At times you struggle with big emotions, frustration and a temper that is more than a little familiar to me.  We have started down the path of the battles of the wills at times too.  I though I had a few more years before I dealt with this on a regular basis, but the teenager in you seems to be peeking through more and more.

This year you've continued with your Bey Blade obsession and we've added Skylanders to the mix.  Both of these are very social for you, Bey Blades with your friends at school and Sklyanders with your brother.  Legos are still a lot of fun, but you tend more toward the kits than freely building.

At school you still love math and you tend toward reading non-fiction more than stories that interest your peers.  You have a great teacher again this year and he thinks the world of you.  You still look forward to school, though recently stomach aches in the mornings make me wonder if this is likely to change over the course of the year.

While you've played soccer this year both at camp and in the youth league, you seem to be tiring of it.  I wonder if you'll play again next year or what new interest will fill you time.  You still love to play but getting you to games or practice is becoming more of a challenge as you have other things you'd like to have fill your time.

Big Dog, you are amazing.  I see so much of myself in you and at the same time you are completely your own person.  I still remember the tiny newborn you were when I first held you in my arms and I can't believe that was a full 9 years ago.  I look forward to seeing what each new year brings.  I love you more than I could ever have imagined.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Scenes from a Starbucks

"It's too bad you're a girl," Little Dog said after we'd placed our order at the counter.
"Really?  Why's that.  I'm pretty happy being a girl," I replied.
"Well, because you're not lucky enough to be a boy.  Boys can do everything.  Girls can't.  Too bad you don't get to be a boy."
From his tone, I could tell he wasn't really feeling sorry for me, he was trying to lord his supposed gender superiority over me.  I'm not sure where he gets this from, but I find it obnoxious if not entirely age appropriate.
"Girls can do pretty much everything boys can do, you know," I reminded him. "In fact, we can do some things boys can never do!"
"No you can't!" he protested, then overcome by curiosity he just had to ask, "Like what?"
"I can make a baby.  In fact, I made you!" I said, "Boys can't do that."
"Nope, she's right," the man behind the counter agree, grinning at this whole exchange.
Little Dog looked up at me, eyes wide.  Then he collapsed.  His back against the espresso counter, he slid down to a seated position as he howled, "Don't mock me." Then his eyes filled with tears and he cried, big fat very real tears.  And I felt terrible despite having only told him the truth.
"Sweetie, come on now.  You're amazing," he silently let me move him away from the counter where I could try again to cheer him.
"You know," I said "Girls aren't better than boys because we can do special things.  Boys and girls each bring something special to the party.  There are things boys can do that girls can't."
"Really?" he asked, his voice brightening only slightly.
"Yes.  I promise."
"Like what?" he asked.
"Well, boys can pee standing up.  Girls can't do that." I offered, thinking this might strike the right tone for this little boy.
"Really?" he said, his cloud immediately lifting.
"Yep.  I mean, we could, but we'd mostly end up peeing all over our feet.  No aim."
"But it's so easy!" he said, eyes clear and sparkling again, that smugness of his earlier line of talk returning.  And then, as if on cue, "It's so sad you're not a boy.  Boys can do everything!"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not exactly according to plan

Today I went on a field trip with Big Dog's class.  He's been complaining that I spend a lot of time with Little Dog's class and not much time with his class.  And if I was seeing things from his perspective, he'd be absolutely right, so I needed to fix that.  Today's field trip was a half day trip to the Seattle Tilth to learn about gardening.  Not far from work, not a full day and on a day where my schedule was pretty easily rearranged, it sounded just about perfect.  I dropped the boys off at school in the morning, went to work for a few hours, then headed over the the school to meet up with the class.

With several other parent chaperons and a teacher, who I believe is among the finest teachers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting (he's truly amazing!) we managed to herd 23 eight-year-olds from school, to the bus stop, on and off of the Seattle Metro bus and into the playground near the Good Shepherd Center where the Seattle Tilth is located.  Upon our arrival, the kids were told to find a seat at the picnic tables and eat their lunches after which they would have a little time to play before heading to our class.  They had barely cracked into their lunches when a man approached the group and asked us to please collect up our lunches and follow him.  To the adults he mentioned that he was the principal of the Meridian school, a private school in the same center as the Seattle Tilth, and that the school was currently under lockdown at the request of the Seattle police.  He asked us to come with him quickly to the gym where our group would be safe and would be able to observe the lockdown as guests of their school.

The children packed up with amazing speed despite having no idea (or anxiety because they had no details) about what was going on.  We ushered them into the gym in an orderly line and we locked the doors behind us.  We settled in to finish our lunches and as we waited the principal asked for a few of the adults to come into the hallway so he could explain the situation without upsetting the children.  If you were in Seattle today, you probably already know what happened.  A man entered a local cafe and opened fire, killing two people on the scene and injuring three more.  He then fled, still armed, into the neighborhood, which was not terribly far from where we were standing.  The public schools in the area were all on lockdown, the police were conducting a door to door search of the area, and we were here in the gym of a private school waiting for more information.

I don't know if you've even been through a lock down or even a lockdown drill, I sure hadn't.  In a lockdown, you just sit quietly and wait with the doors locked, windows closed and a furious anxiety raging through all of the adults.  You can't play, you can't make noise, you can't even talk.  You just wait.  Quietly.  Until they tell you that you can stop.  The kids managed it exceptionally well.  Someone brought in books for them to read and others played silent games of Rock, Scissors, Paper while the parents all sat, focused on their smartphones either texting our spouses about our safety or constantly hitting reload trying to get new details from the outside that would help us feel safer.  I don't know about the other parents, but whenever someone knocked on the door, I jumped.  I couldn't help but obsess over what would happen if someone did get into the school, how would I keep my child safe and how would Dave and Little Dog handle the situation if something did happen.  I looked for things that we could hide behind and considered the safety of our position relative to the windows should shots be fired from outside.  And I waited. Needless to say, the waiting was excruciating.

After a while, someone from the Seattle Tilth came to into the gym and started a very quiet introduction to the gardening program to help pass the waiting time.  The children were all exceptionally well focused  and gave polite but enthusiastic answers to his questions.  A few minutes into the presentation, we were given the all clear.  The police had lifted the lockdown in this area and we were able to resume our regular schedule.  The children, who had all behaved so well, were allowed to have 10 minutes on the playground and then we all learned a bit about gardening and worms.

The shooter was found much later in an entirely different neighborhood, the dead were identified and the life for the rest of Seattle went on.  I'm still shaking.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

If Wishes Were Horses

"It's too bad kids can't have drivers licenses," Little Dog says in the back seat as we drive from his after school program to pick Big Dog up from his after school program.
"Yeah, it's a tragedy," I say thinking of just what kind of insurance that would require and the rather terrifying idea of Little Dog piloting a vehicle.
"I wish I had a horse," he says abruptly.
"A horse?" I ask, pretty sure I've misunderstood.
"A horse," he says firmly.
"You want to ride a horse?  We could do that sometime," I say.
"I'd ride it to school."
"Well, I'm pretty sure we don't have enough space for a horse in our yard, but it's a nice idea," I say.
"We should check.  I'd like to ride a horse to school.  I could do it every day."
"Well there would be things we'd need to think about other than just the space, which I'm pretty sure we don't have.  What would the horse do while you were in school?" I ask.
"Poop. It would probably poop."
"Yeah," I say, "And that's not all."
"It would have to wait.  But it could also poop," he says, more sure this time.
"Don't you think it would get bored?  It would just have to stand there and wait for you all day.  Wouldn't it want to do something else?" I ask.
"It could poop," he says again, obviously something he's quite committed to.  Then after a pause, "Would it want to run around in circles?  It could probably do that too."
"I think it might be in the way.  I'm not sure your school would be too happy about having a horse just hanging around."
"You're right.  Probably because of all of the poop," he says as though he's figured it out.  Again he is quiet.  "It's too bad kids can't have drivers licenses."
Uh yeah.  Sure it is.  But apart from the obvious drawbacks, we'd also miss out on quality conversations like these.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This morning I spent an hour in Little Dog's classroom as a guest for "Show and Share"  the modern, more inclusive version of "Show and Tell."  This month, Little Dog's class assignment was to tell the story of how they got the children got their names.  Children were allowed to bring a parent to tell the story if they wanted, and Little Dog did.  He is not much of a public speaker apparently.  The idea of retelling the story himself made him anxious, and since I also dislike speaking in front of groups of my peers, I agreed to come help him out.

Show and Share is run a bit like the Donahue show (yes, I'm dating myself).  A speaker is introduced, they tell their story and then they are peppered with questions from the students in the class.  Apart from the running of the microphone to questioning audience members (the speaker keeps the microphone in this class) and the maturity level of the program content,  this could be a rehashing of Phil's better days.

When the time came, I was handed the wireless mic, I explained the origin of his name and why Mr. Dog and I opted for a name that was not very common.  I told the class a little bit about the person he is named after and why he was important to us.  The class listened quietly while Little Dog beamed with pride.

After the "showing"part of the exercise, we moved on to the "sharing."  This is where the kids get to raise their hands and ask questions about the presentation.  Little Dog took the mic and called on his classmates one by one, passing the mic back to me after calling on each name and taking it back once I had answered.
"Did you fight over the names?" asked one little girl who seemed at least a little disappointed when I said we did not.
"What is his middle and last name?" another child asked, and I answered.
"What is his brother's middle name?" yet another child asked.
"Do you like his name?" another boy asked, as though I had been forced to name him against my better judgement.

As we worked our way through the sea of little hands raised patiently to ask questions, we hit more than one who forgot what they were going to ask.  Some of the kids were prepared, asking sensible questions, others were not.  We got many duplicate questions and a few who asked things that I'd explained when I told the original story or had just been answered.  In fact, several of the kids seemed to ask questions just to hear themselves speak.  As I looked around the room, I realized that in many ways, this was much like the meetings I attend all day at work.  I guess schools really are preparing kids for the modern workplace.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pressing Pause

Ferris Bueller had it right.  "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  Yep, that just about sums things up.  I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, and if you are looking for a post chock full of novel insights into parenting and life, feel free to abandon this one right now.  I won't be offended.

The thing is that my life has been cruising right along lately.  Especially the past few months, I've been so worried about everything that might go wrong, or needs to be dealt with or prepared for, I've more or less stopped thinking about what is.  I focus on getting through things, look forward to the end of a phase or wait for the next month to bring something new.  I worry about all of the little issues that crop up, blow them out of proportion and fail to recognize the important things that are dropping along the wayside.  Maybe it's that I turned 40 this year, maybe it's that my job can be as overwhelming as I let it be if I have no stops in place.  Or maybe it's that all of us are doing too much in too little time which becomes a pretty addictive rush if you never take a break to put things back in the proper proportions.

Over the past few weeks I've been confronted with a number of events that have made me stop and reevaluate.  A friend's child facing life changing surgery, the death of a friend's beloved family pet, the illness of another,  a coworker's child with a mystery illness and another young and vibrant life cut short by a particularly aggressive form of cancer.  Add to that friends worrying out the complex details of relationship, aging and careers.  All of this keeps coming in on what feels like unrelenting waves. It is enough to stun me into a bit of introspection.

And guess what, when put into perspective, my life is really freakin' good.  My kids are healthy and smart, even if they are a bit challenging at times (wonder where they get that from?).  My marriage is strong, if at times somewhat neglected. I have a family that is loving and not at all dysfunctional, who give me endless support and no judgement.  My friendships are enduring and energizing, even if we all admit that distance can increase the need for scheduled check ins.  Even my career is solid and I mostly love my job despite feeling the need to force a bit of new growth. Yes, I deal with speed bumps from time to time, but like all speed bumps they are disruptive but temporary.  And if I heed them, they might even make me take time to slow down and look around once in a while, which is actually a good thing since I'd really hate to miss it.
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