Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hands in the air

"Substitutions!!!" The coach yells from the sideline. The whistle is blown and play stops. After a brief conference the two teams walk to the middle of the court, ready for the final four minutes of play. My view of the game is near the foul line of the opposing team, as my allegiance is with the team in dark red jerseys, my son's team. The ball is inbounded by the blue team and Blue 8 quickly brings the ball to the top of the key. Blue 6 curls around the right side and runs into the brick wall of Red 7. Blue 6 decides to make the pass anyway and in a catch and shoot, Blue 6 brings the ball up for the attempt but as the ball leaves his fingers, Red 7 is off his feet to tip the ball away and is grabbed by Red 5. The transition begins as Red team sprints in the other direction, led my Red 7. The pass is on the run, sharp and fluid right into Red 7's hands. The defense closes fast as Red 7 catches, corrals the ball and stops on a dime. Swarmed by three defenders, Red 7 muscles breathing room, lifts the ball and shoots. The ball is spinning on the way up, taps the rim and falls through the net. High fives down the court as Red Team is back on defense, ready to dig in. 

The seconds count down to zero and the game comes to an end. Celebration for Red team, playing as a team and putting it all together for win one. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sun and Moon

Golf Clinic. 
Tennis Lessons. 
Italian night. 
Afternoon swims. 
Shorts. Warm.
Winter Break

As for me 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Year 3

"Are you One? Are you Two? Are you Three!" Happy Birthday! Today was my nephew's birthday party. I love the three year old birthday. Birthday number three is one of the all time best.  Its really the first time they know what a birthday means, and its the first memorable party. The kids are wildly excited and bright eyed when they see their theme cake, a superhero, or a favorite disney character with all the matching decorations. The party is one of the last few that involve inviting all of the relatives, soon after the parties are dominated by school friends and planned activities. You start to separate the family into its own event simply to allow the relatives face time with the birthday child. Kids do not mind, it just keeps the birthday going. Having gone through eleven birthdays with my son some years are breakthroughs, some are turning points but all should be filled with great celebration.  That is what birthdays are for.

Happy Birthday to my three year old nephew.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


"How was school today?" I look at my son stab his food with the fork and place it in his mouth. Silence. "What specials did you have today?" I look at my son, head down, still eating. Quietly one word successfully gets through the vocal cords and out of his mouth between swallows. "Gym". "What kind of games do you play?" I ask. He has his head down, stabbing, chewing and scooping like he is all alone. "Hello?? What do you play in gym?" I ask again directly. More stabbing, scooping, chewing but no words. "What is the matter are you not talking!?" "Can you hear me, what did you do in..."  Abruptly he blusters out "I am trying to tell you!!" Angrily I bark, "You know what, now I don't want to know!!" With that exchange, the dinner conversation comes to an end. 

He slumps down in his chair, one hand holding up his head, still stabbing, scooping and chewing, just a bit slower than before. I slump also, irritated with him but very annoyed at myself. The rest of the meal is very quiet, as my wife sits between us, eggshells underfoot. After we finish, my son stands up and walks to get his homework sheet from his room. I sit for a minute, thinking about the exchange and also walk to his room. We meet in the darkened hallway and I place my hands on his shoulders. "I am sorry I snapped, it was uncalled for." He looks up at me and gives me a small hug. We walk back into the dining room and as I help clear the table and cleanup, he sits down and quietly writes his homework assignment. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

54-40 or Fight!

"What is The Battle of San Jacinto?" I ask my son as we go over his study guide for an upcoming test. This period in the school year the class is covering the Westward Movement in American History 1760-1860. I do not remember many of the details during this time period, as I really have not studied this period since I was in school. Living in one of the thirteen colonies, there is enough content between the Revolutionary War and World War II to fill every museum in the area, so when revisiting these events I am getting a better understanding of 18th Century America. At first glance it was a very adventurous and brave time for America, but reading deeper, I have to admit, we appear to be very unforgiving and downright hostile. Almost every significant accomplishment is riddled with back door deals, outright land grabs or as a last resort, a simple beat down. How do I explain the slogan "54-40 or Fight" and at the same time explain that bullying is wrong, fighting is bad or war is never the answer. 

To help my son remember all of these important nation building events, I equalize them with a safe zone topic, sports. "Who is Stephen Austin?" I ask as we lay in bed with the study pamphlet. "He helped Texas gain its independence." My son answers. "And how will you remember?" I say. Without skipping a beat, "Miles Austin (same last name) plays for the Dallas Cowboys." 

Some other major players during the Great Expansion: 
Oregon Trail (Nike Country) 
Seminoles (Florida State University) 
The Alamo (San Antonio Spurs)
War with Mexico (Wrestler Rey Mysterio) 
The East/Atlantic (NY Giants, Mets, the Big East) 
The West/Pacific (LA Lakers, San Diego Chargers and the Pac Ten) 
First Railroad built- Baltimore, Maryland (Baltimore Ravens)

We will review the information up to test day, making assimilations to sports and other friendly terms to keep the details in order. Next up, the Civil War, maybe by then the NCAA Basketball Tournament will be in full swing and Braketology will be useful.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Climate Change

After weeks of the worst winter weather, the last few days seem somewhat pleasant. Bright skies when looking through your bedroom window can give you the impression of warmer days. The body feels toasty roaming around the heated apartment but turns frigid when that first blast of the wind chill hits you.
I can feel the issue brewing this morning as I see my son sitting on his knees, backwards on the couch, staring out the window. After breakfast, I tell my son to get dressed, its an early school day because of music class and we are pressed for time. I am sitting at my desk using my computer to scan any last minute emails and news, as well as sync my ipod when I turn to see my son walk out of his room, stop and stand, nervously swinging his arms up and letting them fall, smacking the sides of his legs. "What's the matter, is everything ok?" I ask. "I'm fine." he replies. "Why aren't you dressed yet?" I sternly ask. He stops swinging his arms, turns and walks back to his room. After a few minutes past, I eject my ipod and glance at my watch. "It's time to leave..." I holler loud enough to fill the whole apartment. I hear footsteps nearing the living room as my son reappears. He is wearing a black dryfit Adidas t-shirt and not to my amazement, blue nylon gym shorts. "Oh no, sorry, you are not wearing shorts." I say in a matter of fact tone of voice. "Auugh, it's not even cold outside." my son wines back. I go to my computer to check the temperature. "It's 22 degrees outside!" I state. "But I will only be outside for five minutes..." Is his counter. My son even tries the "But everyone is wearing shorts!" I commend his argument on the inside, but keep to a parent view on the outside when I say, "You are not wearing shorts when its 22 degrees, the rule is when above 40 it's ok, but not at 22, now quickly change, we will be late." My son lumbers back to his room and after a few bangs of dresser drawers quickly opening and closing, re-re-appears in black nylon sweat pants. 

We finally leave the house and quietly walk the block to school. I manage to get a hug goodbye and hold the door open as he enters the school. I continue holding the door while a few more kids rush in from out of the cold when I turn to look back at my son taking off his jacket. It was then that I notice a little hint of blue nylon peeking out from the top of the sweat pants. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Home School

"I finished all of my editing!" My son jumps up from the table to announce. I give him a nod of approval and turn back to my own assignment. We are both sitting at the table doing homework, for him an everyday occurrence, for me getting back into the swing of it. I am in the middle of setting up excel columns when my son breaks out his math workbook to review decimals. I am posting transactions to the general ledger when he goes to type up this week's writers entry. I am putting the finishing touches on my trial balance as my son saves his document and gets ready for bed. As he is putting on his pajamas and I save my file, my wife wants us to listen to her classroom lesson plan. We are sitting in my son's room, my wife showing her presentation and my son engaged in the content. I listen and think about all the work we accomplished. 

We did good work tonight....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parents Across America

Parents Across America (PAA) is a grassroots organization that connects parents and activists from across the U.S. to share ideas and work together on improving our nation’s public schools. It was founded by a group of activist parents who recognized the need to collaborate for positive change, rather than remain solely entrenched in separate battles in our local communities. Since the top-down forces that are imposing their will on our schools have become national in scope, we need to be as well.
Up to now, the parent perspective has been almost entirely missing in the policy proposals put forward by the U.S. Department of Education and those running many school districts across the nation.  To this day, many of the practices and proposals they favor are neither based on solid research nor supported by most parents.
In contrast, we advocate for proven, progressive measures such as reducing class size and increasing parent involvement, and oppose corporate-style efforts to privatize our schools.
PAA is committed to bringing the voice of public school par ents – and common sense – to local, state, and national education debates. Check out what we believe works – and what doesn’t work — in education.
Then  join us, as we fight for better schools!
Our children, our schools, our voices.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Opposite result

"You have a very busy weekend so you need to go to bed early tonight." Whenever I start out the evening with that statement, what usually happens is the exact opposite. Shower delays, drinks of water, extra goofing around and the ever present toilet break results in hitting the pillow at least a half an hour later than planned. 

Finally my son gets back into bed (after forgetting his retainer, which involves getting out of bed, getting his retainer, stopping to look in the mirror, hearing a noise, going to investigate the noise, picking up something on the floor, dropping that something back on the floor, taking a quick Nerf basketball shot, and attempting to hit me with a pillow), I say "Now try to sleep a little later in the morning, its Saturday, no reason to get up early." 

I give him a final hug and make my way out of the room, and close the door. I stop to realize that the "early to bed" statement backfires on the "early to rise" statement as well.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Early Dismissal

I hang up the phone and sink back into bed. Its 5:30 am and the principal called to tell parents the school will have an early dismissal today because of the pending storm. Now that my wife is student teaching, I will have to decide to either let him walk home by himself and be alone until my wife arrives or stay home. After a stressful few minutes, the choice was simple.

I have always been a "company man". For years I always wanted to be the first one in and the last one to leave. I like being viewed as dependable and consistent in regards to working. Before I was married, it would be nothing for me to work ten, eleven or even twelve hours a day, day after day, week after week. When I got married I tried to shorten my days, but it was not easy to switch off easily. When my son was born, I realized it was important for me to keep in mind that work life is not my whole life. 

My son wakes up and I inform him of his early day, and even though he sighs about not having the whole day off, he is happy for the short day. He sits and eats breakfast while I shower and get dressed. After breakfast, he lumbers into his room to get dressed while I now check the weather and look out the window, "Another snowy day..." I grumble to myself. 

At 8:10am I say "It's time to leave, lets go." My son packs his backpack and I grab my keys and we both get our coats on. As I get my boots on, my son is zipping up his jacket and adjusts his fleece hat. While walking to school, I discuss with my son what he needs to do when as soon as he gets home, do today's homework, finish up the project due later in the week and read. "I am going to finish my book today and you will lose your bet!" he declares as he reminds me of the friendly wager I proposed over the weekend about finishing the book before winter break. 

We arrive at the school doors and I put my hand on his shoulder. "Have a good day, and have fun..." I say. "I will" he replies. I open the door and as he enters the lobby I yell back,"...And don't forget, you get out early and I will be here to pick you up."  He looks back and says "Ok, see ya" 

As I walk home my blackberry beeps, work has a question. I type back, "I will log in and check it out in a few minutes , I am working from home today."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Show notes

The line snakes through the double doors closest to the auditorium, stretches past the main foyer and ends at the lobby front door. We time our arrival to the line perfectly, resulting in us happily standing about thirty people back from the front. With the two performances spaced out, day one at 1:00pm and the next at 4:00pm, there is plenty of room for friends and family to catch either one of the school's performance of Alice in Wonderland. The long line is filled with chatter and anticipation finally ready to see day one of the finished production, a production that ended up being cut from a nine day schedule to seven after a few days of snowy weather. Suddenly the line perks up and begins move into the auditorium, people quickly finding their seating preferences, scan the playbill and do a last minute check that phones are off and cameras are on.

I flip open my camera as the lights go dim. I know my son is mostly in the first half, but I do not know when the first appearance of Tweedldee and Tweedledum will hit the stage. My son is the latter of the twin characters, with his friend playing the other Tweedle. The play starts, Alice whining and fidgety about her boring life, until everything she knows it turned upside down as she descends down the rabbit hole. The stage is filled with kids singing the catchy songs and swaying to the rehearsed steps, while the audience is gushing about their future stage stars. As quickly as the white rabbit dashes across the stage fretting over lateness, Alice is questioning which direction to take. Suddenly out of the side stage, Tweedledee and Tweedledum bobble out, banter about their sense of direction and hurl a few quick insults at each other. I am grinning like the cheshire cat seeing my son effortlessly recite his lines and confidently work the stage. A couple of fun songs and later Alice needs another nudging, which calls for another appearance of the Tweedles. First Dum proclaims, "He went that-a-way..." then Dee retorts "No he went that-a-way...", ending with another round of parting shots at each other as they waddle off the stage. 

At their third appearance on stage, I finally realize I have a camera in my hand and proceed to snap a few photos of Tweedledum, mostly of his side and his back as I try not to stand up and run around the auditorium like paparazzi seeking the best side of an actor climbing out the window of some rehab facility. I remain calm knowing that I have two performances to capture the essence of the Tweedles. 

The last number involves the full cast and reprises the signature song, which gets the audience cheering and clapping to close the show. The lights go on and we all make our way to the lobby and wait for our little thespians get out of their costumes and back into street clothes. My wife and I are chatting when I see our son step through the doors, t-shirt, black shorts and big red circles on each cheek. Everyone gives him a great hug, proud of his accomplishment and his performance, he quietly thanks everyone for coming, As we stand outside the auditorium, someone asks which way is the exit, we look at each other and exclaim..."You go that-a-way!"