Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanks for sharing

"Who's next to give thanks?" Someone asks as the silver flatware clang against white china plates and wine glasses chime in sequence with the water glasses. Its Thanksgiving dinner and while we all celebrate the festival of eating, we go around the table to give each person a chance to give thanks for various reasons. We usually spend Thanksgiving in Florida with my wife's family, as they live farther away than my family, and it's also a good time to break away from school and work. For my son, he looks forward once again spending quality vacation time with his cousin.

From the first morning of vacation the activity schedule is laid out. Tennis lessons at 9:30am, swimming or Wii playing until lunch, and golf in the afternoon. Free time until dinner, then general goofing around until bed. Next morning it starts all over again, and the boys enjoy every bit of it because they get to spend the time together. My wife's parents live in a community with a tennis center, a clubhouse and a golf course, and it becomes the boy's camp grounds. They know every inch of the community, all the clubhouse staff and instructors, and all the restaurant staff wait on them hand and foot. Now that the boys are a older, schoolwork does infringe on their vacation time, but they work on it together which makes it fun. In the past, evenings after dinner were filled with dance shows and songs, nowadays powerpoint reports and presentations are becoming more of the norm, a sign the boys are growing up, though they still look forward to "feets". "Feets" is the bedtime routine in which their grandmother kisses their feet goodnight. To this day I do not know who enjoys "feets" more, their grandmother or the kids, maybe its equally soothing.

As we go around the table, people are thankful for their health, for loved ones present, or unable to attend, and other grateful blessings. Its now my son's turn to announce his thankful moments. After thanking sports, playing sports and all other things sporty, he thanks his family and lastly his cousin, for being his brother. 

Happy Thanksgiving 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One Mile

"Come, on, just a little further and we are done!" I huff and puff as my son and I round the small path surrounding the golf course. We are in the home stretch of a quick morning run. My son, lumbering along, laboring with sweat pouring in his eyes is not a happy camper. He does not want to hear me preach about how it will be easier the more he runs, or how his body can take it. It is only day two of this running thing and we are focusing on the task at hand, making it to the end of this street. "You can do it, you can do it, we are almost there!" I shout to let him know I am by his side, and step by step we will finish. I cross the imaginary finish line and a split second later my son joins me. I hold up my hands for a double high-five which he slowly reciprocates, and we walk back to the house. "We just did a mile, how does it feel?" I quietly say. "Go-od, go-od" my son replies as his breathing begins to level out.

Tomorrow, day three. No far reaching goals, a day at a time, a mile at a time. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Bowl

"Make sure you are home well before dinner is ready please." My mom hollers from the kitchen as I run out the door, down the two flights of stairs and push through the front door of my apartment building. My friends are gathered in front, tossing the football back and forth to each other. It is overcast and a little rainy this Thanksgiving morning, perfect weather for the game. As we walk to the park, a few more kids from our housing project join us, prepared for battle with the rival complex positioned directly across the street. I am wearing two t-shirts, grey sweatpants, and a blue hoodie sweatshirt with my white canvas sneakers, the standard athletic attire for kids in 1979. We cross the street, up the sidewalk path, and stop at the top of the hill,  looking down towards the enemy field. The other team is already there, receivers running patterns as their quarterback rockets the ball into their hands. We look at each other, then march down the other side of the hill, one by one squeezing thought the hole on the fence and enter the field, set for the Annual Pomonok vs. Electchester Thanksgiving game.

The history of this game goes back to the 1950's when the two complexes were first completed. There are no complex presidents, no board members, and no representatives attending the game. There are no referees, no chalk lines, and no time keepers present. No one is wearing pads, helmets or uniforms, just a bunch of kids and a ball, playing no rules tackle football.

The game starts like every other game, with arguments on both sides; was it a catch or not; out of bounds or in bounds, each team vying for leverage. The morning turns to afternoon as the game goes on for hours, some kids leaving for holiday travel and new arrivals taking their place, but I keep playing, moving from running back to receiver to defensive positions.

My team (Pomonok) is up by three points when Electchester is driving down the field. I am playing on defense, calling out coverage, "I got the kid in the red jersey, you get the kid in the blue sweatpants." The quarterback yells "Hike" and all receivers take off towards the end zone. "Three Mississippi, four Mississippi, the counter yells, then squeals "Baall!" I am running alongside red jersey when I spot the ball gliding out of the sky and in my direction. I try to time my jump as red jersey veers to make the catch. I stay right with him and just as I see the laces spiraling closer I leap up as we both stretch out our arms to meet the ball at the exact same time. Our bodies crash into each other and we hit the ground, the ball rolling away.

Red jersey jumps up screaming "Pass interference, pass interference!" Everyone on the field runs over to argue for their team. I lay on the ground dazed from the hit, my leg is stinging from the collision. The argument goes on for about fifteen minutes when someone asks about the time. "Its 3:30pm." A little kid in a brown  down vest and a yellow hat replies. All of a sudden kids are scattering all over the field, looking for their coats, gloves and hats and scurry their way home for Thanksgiving dinner. I am still on the floor and realize I need to get home as well. I make my way to my feet and start to walk, but my hip is not cooperating. It feels hot and very sore. A few of my friends help me limp home and I gingerly make my way back up the two flight of stairs and enter my apartment. I swing the door open and it hits the table, forgetting it will be extended for the big dinner and thus leaving the front door to only open a quarter of the way. The silverware clangs ans one water glass spills over, resulting in a snap from my mom. "You are late, now go clean yourself up!" I limp into my room, carefully take off my muddy clothes and wait my turn for the bathroom to be free (one bathroom in a family of six results in prolonged bathroom wait time). As I shower, I study my now multicolored swollen leg and I can only think of one thought, I cannot wait until next year and the next Thanksgiving game.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving game memory? Send me you story for a chance to win a prize from Clorox, sponsors of the Clorox Toilet Bowl. Follow them on Facebook at

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Dad Central Consulting on behalf of Clorox and received a gift code, toilet wand and football to thank me for taking the time to participate.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010


My son's school has a long tradition of being involved in charitable endeavors. Every week collections for clothing, old sneakers, food and various other items are being held for different causes. Although most of the students are fortunate to have many privileges and opportunities they are frequently reminded that many other kids their age do not. Over the summer, a select group of high schoolers visited the JBFC School in Tanzania and brought the people food, medical and educational supplies. It was on this trip that my son's school adopted their sister school, The Mary and Joseph School. The students documented the experience by taking pictures and created a PowerPoint presentation which they showed to the school upon their return. 

Earlier this month the fifth grade class raised money for their sister school by completing laps around the school track. The more laps each student did the more money they raised. Each of the five fifth grade classes raised money by soliciting parents, relatives and friends to donate either by lap or in a lump sum. Each class elected a chairperson to organize the flyers, collect the checks, and lead the class in the first lap. Our son breathlessly informed us he was elected as class representative to the Lap-A-Thon. He took his job very seriously and was very proud to collect and hand-in all the checks at the end of the collection period. 

My son comes from a long line of social activists. My wife has proudly passed her family legacy down to him by engaging him early on in humanitarian and peace efforts. However, this was the first time he participated in a charitable activity on his own, so it seemed extra special and important. Donation collections went smoothly leading up to the day of the event. Each Class wore their "Spirit Day" t-shirts as they lapped around the track in a group (my son's class is in green). As the fifth grade ran or walked the track, some of their other classmates played games in the middle of the field. 

The fifth grade class raised over $2,100 dollars for supplies and repairs to the school's facilities. My son personally raised $90. The head coordinator, a fifth grade teacher, praised our son's efforts by saying "He has been both a responsible and enthusiastic representative for his class!" Showing compassion towards people in need is one thing, but taking action is what counts. The fifth grade class, lead by my son, gets an A-plus.
For more information go to the following website:
The Janada L. Batchelor Foundation for Children

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Smart Music

The baritone horn, or simply baritone, is a member of the brass instrument family.[1] The baritone horn is a cylindrical bore instrument like the trumpet and trombone.[2] A baritone horn uses a large mouthpiece much like those of a trombone or euphonium. It is pitched in B, one octave below the B trumpet. In the UK the baritone is frequently found in brass bands. The baritone horn is also a common instrument in high school and college bands, as older baritones are often in schools' inventories. However, these are gradually being replaced by intermediate-level euphoniums.

My son has been playing the Baritone in school since last year. Even though he enjoys playing it was like pulling teeth to get him to practice. When he first brought home the instrument, my wife and I adapted a light approach to practicing. My feeling was, with the workload already on the kid, I did not want to pressure him into blowing the mini-tuba until he was blue in the face, that and the fact I did not know how to instruct and critique his practice, was it good, bad, did he hit the note of not?

This year his school invested in an amazing software package called Smart Music. Students download the software and look up their classes and music. The teacher then loads in their assignments, practice schedule and can even comment on their progress. The kids click on their weekly assignments, find the sheet music and play along to the timing bar. Students can actually see where their mistakes are, can immediately run through the piece again and instantly mark their improvement. 

This program has not only made my son practice more, he enjoys the challenge of raising his score, like a video game. This program puts a whole new twist on the traditional practice routine. As a parent, I can sit there with him, learn the assignments, and experience the learning process, as well as drum out the beats as he plays along. Doing homework, making music and having fun, in perfect rhythm.

Smart Music- tell your school...

PS:I did not receive any compensation from Smart Music, I just think the product is great!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Won to One

The team forms a semi-circle around the water drenched and choked up head coach. "All you kids should be proud of yourselves..." Coach exclaims over the cheering and clapping of the players standing around him. "...The first win is the best win and you showed your toughness and willingness to fight hard all year and it finally came together so congratulations to all of you!" 

Last game on the schedule proved to be the shining moment for the team as they got its first win and on that note, made it a successful season. The team struggled through new players, new coaches, league politics and key injuries but every practice they stood on that field, never dishearten by their record, and learned to play as a team. "In all my years associated with the organization..." another coach tells me, "This is the best group of kids I have ever been around, always willing to give it their all, support each other and have fun." 

As the team leaves the field they are greeted by their parents, applauding and slapping the players on the shoulder pads, excited themselves for the win as they are also part of the team, getting their kids to practice on time every day and spending hours driving and sitting in the stands cheering the kids towards this victory. 

Congratulations Blue Devils, 1 and 7 never felt so sweet.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Father Factor: The Thankful Campaign: Thankful for the Journey

This post come from the National Fatherhood Initiative:

(NFI), founded in 1994, works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI’s national public service advertising campaign promoting father involvement has generated television, radio, print, Internet, and outdoor advertising valued at over $500 million. Through its resource center, FatherSOURCE™, NFI offers a wide range of innovative resources to assist fathers and organizations interested in reaching and supporting fathers. Check out for more information!

Today, NFI is launching The Thankful Campaign to celebrate fathers and families. We're asking daddy bloggers, prominent fathers, and everyday dads to share what they're thankful for and how they're raising grateful kids.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Touchdown Game

"Are you hurt or are you injured?" This question is heard a lot on the sidelines of football games. It's hard sometimes for kids to tell the difference in a game with as much physical play as football. A kid bangs a finger, you wrap it in tape and they are good to go. A player comes off the field limping after a tackle, more tape and back on the field. All players want to get their reps, and kids especially have a hard time describing the pain in order to make a decision whether to play of not. My son is no different, he would not want to give up any playing time because of a stinger, a bang or bruise. So when he started limping and wincing about his ankle Saturday evening that was a cause for concern. Saturday, after a two hour practice, my son and I came home, had lunch, and hit the school field for more football. 

Our routine usually starts the same every time, first we just throw the football back and forth to each other, to warm up. Phase two involves running pass routes, like crossing patterns and side line toe catches. We take turns, one is quarterback and one is receiver then we switch off (though I end up as quarterback for most of the time). 

Phase three is what my son is waiting for, The Touchdown Game. The game starts like this, one person lines up as the ball carrier on the five yard line and the other is the defender, positioned at the one yard line. The carrier needs to pass the defender and score the touchdown and the defender needs to stop him or cause a fumble. If the ball comes loose, then the real fun happens as both players bounce and crawl over each other in order to secure the fumble. Now you would think that I have an advantage of being bigger and stronger but as the father I understand that I do not want to hurt my son. My son, on the other hand, is just enjoying the physical contact and is not concerned with hurting me, which usually results with me limping home at the end of play. 

After about fifteen minutes of The Touchdown Game, my son adds a new wrinkle to the competition. Added to the rules was the "Safety" component. This add-on allows the defender to be more aggressive as he can not only prevent the touchdown, but by pushing back the runner, can record a safety. Now the game became sort of a reverse tug-o-war as the runner is pressing forward to score and the defender is pushing back to register the safety, all this while keeping the ball from popping loose. The new Touchdown Game is a big success as we bang together, knock each other down and roll around for the ball all while constant laughing is heard. During one play, the ball seems to pop loose right away and we both yell "FUMBLE!" I dive for the ball and my son falls on top of me and twists off. It was that point that my son said his ankle turned a little. We sat on the turf for about fifteen minutes resting before we stood up and agreed that we better stop that game and go back to pass routes for a while. 

We take a few turns running routes when a bunch of my son's friends show up at the field. He runs over and they start up a game, playing four on four. I take a seat on the sidelines and watch, resting from all the contact. They play for an hour when one by one, the kids need to head home. My son and I round the corner and enter our driveway when he starts to show a limp. After subjecting him to walking the supermarket aisles later, his limp is more pronounced. My son says to me, "My ankle is really hurting now, like a tight string is running up the back." The next morning is game day, the last home game of the season. He walks out of his bedroom and thumps down on the couch. "My ankle still feels the same, I do not think I can play." I feel bad that we played so hard the day before and that he will miss the game. "I'm sorry your ankle is hurting and I should have not let us play the Touchdown Game." "Don't worry, I had a great time!" he replies. I tell my son that the important lesson here is that he recognized his pain enough to shut himself down and not endure further damage. My son might be injured, but his spirit is not hurt.

**Update- no ligament damage but doctor recommends rest as to not cause a tear or worse. He is in a soft boot.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tales from the Flash Card

Front Side: Where are the United States and Canada located?
Flip Side: In North America

Front Side: What do the climate zones in Canada and the U.S. range from?
Flip Side: Climate zones in the U.S. and Canada range from desert climate to polar climate.

Front Side: Do the U.S. and Canada have mountain ranges?
Flip Side: The United States and Canada have many mountain ranges.

Front Side: Do the Great Lakes provide transportation and industry?
Flip Side: Bodies of water such as the Great Lakes provide transportation and support industry.

Front Side: Are you ready for your test tomorrow?
Flip Side: I hope so...

Front Side: Be confident, after all you are the side with the answers...
Flip Side: That's because you ask the right questions...

-This re-enactment was taken from flash cards covering my son's Social Studies test tomorrow. Flash cards played themselves...

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Great Candy Barter

Halloween comes around at the perfect time of year. It lets kids blow off the pressures involved with the beginning of the school year and just enjoy themselves. For my family it has become a tradition to drive into the Manhattan and see all our old friends from the neighborhood and spend Halloween with them. It also allows our son to see his old pals and catch up. The kids and the parents meet at the Halloween carnival, the kids run around and play games while the parents gather together and update each other since the last time. The kids start with a core group of three; my son, and another boy and a girl, all close friends since they were infants. Those kids meet up with other friends and before you know it the group is five to six kids. Since the kids are in the Fifth grade, its easier for them to run around without much supervision and more relaxing on the parents. "Oh so-in-so got so big" and "The kids are growing up so fast." are some of the comments you hear as the kids make an appearance between fun stations. After the carnival, we head up 18th Street and visit a few scary brownstones then to our friend's apartment for drinks, food and trick or treating. The group seems to be larger than in the past and appears unbalanced, consisting of three boys and six girls, but without a doubt, all great friends.

After a couple of haunted houses and racing from floor to floor gathering mounds of neatly wrapped nuggets, we enter our friend's apartment for some soup, sandwiches and drinks. The kids on the other hand have a tradition of their own, it's now time for the Great Candy Barter. In a single file line, the kids head into the bedroom to stake their position on the floor and prepare to trade. In the past, some of the kids prepare for weeks, strategizing on the two-for-one options and taste testing candy in order to make good choices. The parents remain in the outer rooms, chatting and drinking, enjoying a chance to be adults. Once the trading session is over, the kids usually play games, put on a dance show or some other silly skit. This year seems a little different as the kids are preteens and the chatter is more about school, fads and other trends. At one point all the parents noticed that the door was closed, prompting me to ask "Should that door be closed?" Most of the parents gave me an innocent "What do you mean, they are only ten?", but the door was immediately opened and no fun was lost. "There will be plenty of time for worrying about closed doors later" one mother said jokingly, but the kids did not skip a beat, giggling, playing games, trading candy, and enjoying another Halloween.

As the night came to a close, the parents said their goodbyes and the kids lined up by the bathroom. The parents are wondering what is going on when it hits us, they are each weighing their bags on the scale to figure out who has the most candy. Kids will be kids...