Thursday, March 31, 2011


In the quest for new basketball sneakers, my son is using a three prong campaign.

The Funds- I got home the other night and my wife and son are sitting on the rug creating little mounds of quarters, dimes nickels and pennies. After it is all sorted my son starts counting and scribbling down figures to total up later. Upon tallying the final figures, my son exclaims that the $80.35 is almost enough for the sneakers.

The Will- "Do you think I can sell my old basketball sneakers on Craigslist?" my son asks his Mom. My wife being a successful craigslist seller likes the thought. 

The Want- "What are you watching on the computer?" I ask, expecting the answer to be a sports highlight or funny video. I turn to look and it is promotional clips about the sneakers, the features and how they make you play better. "They are so cool and they will help me during the basketball clinic"

I am staying strong...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

All Star Desperation

The buzzer sounds and the final game of the season is over. After securing the win, the team hands out high fives to the other team, then each other. It was time now for all four teams to gather on the floor in front of the Athletic Director. The director thanks the parents, the volunteer coaches and referees, then the kids for a great season. After the clapping by the attendees, each coach says a few words about each player while handing them their trophy. The kids are all chatting to each other when the Director once again speaks. He is about to announce the twelve players selected to the All- Star team. One by one the named players rise and stand in a line. As the last player was named, I look at my son, still sitting on the floor, a little less celebratory now than five minutes before. The ceremony is over and the players make their way to their families, my son remains seating, sweaty, bruised, and icing a swollen thumb. My wife and I greet him as he finally makes his way to his feet. "Are you upset about not getting selected?" I say as I hand him a water bottle. He nods slowly. "Why don't you ask the director about being a substitute." My wife suggests. I walk over with my son to speak to the Director. 

I thank the Director for a great season and tell him we will be here next week for the All- Star game to cheer and enjoy the festivities. Then my son asks, "If someone can't play next week, can I play instead?" The Director takes a moment, then says "Maybe... we'll see if anyone is unable; are you upset you did not make the team?" My son nods again. "Well, it was very tough to leave anyone out, you certainly deserve a spot but there are many good players and I can only select twelve." The he adds, "I would not let this get to your head, do not bottle it in or beat yourself up, use this moment to drive you, and as motivation to improve your game, you have great abilities and grit, and if you keep at it, you will be a great-great player." I mention that he is taking the Director's skills clinic starting in a couple of weeks. The Director replies, "Well that is great, you are already thinking in the right direction." My son lets out an inspired smile and thanks the coach. As most of the families exit the gym, my son runs over to the big blue equipment bag and takes out a slightly dirty ball with NCAA in big black block letters stamped on the side. "Do you want to leave, the older teams is going to start soon." I ask. "I just want to shoot for a bit." he replies. My wife and I take a seat along the court and watch desperation turn to motivation.  
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Balance out

Balance -noun
1. a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.
2. something used to produce equilibrium; counterpoise.
3. mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgement, etc.
      Work time vs. Family time
Family time vs. Personal time
Gym vs. Home
Homework vs. Sleep
Money vs. Free time
Salad vs. Sandwich
Good job vs. Easy job
Typing vs. Writing
Sleep vs. Sleep
Multiplication vs. Division
Snow vs. Rain
City vs. Suburb
New vs. Used
Morning vs. Evening
TV vs. Computer
Wii vs. Ipod Touch
Child vs. Wife
Science vs. Social Studies
Long term vs. Short term
Family vs. Family
Push vs. Pull
Weight vs. Scale
Medicine vs. No Medicine
Chaos vs. Calm

To get things into balance, sometimes you need to throw it out of balance, and in the end its all equals out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One word says it all

"If there is something you really want to achieve, I will do everything in my power to help you achieve it." I have said this to my son on numerous occasions. Today I fell I could not live up to those words.

Most of my son's friends play lacrosse for the local club. It is not run by the school but it bears the school name and colors. Three years ago when we first heard about the Lacrosse Club, we encouraged our son to play. We were new to the town and thought it would be a great way to engage with kids outside of school. I registered him right away, paying the high membership fees without blinking. Upon receiving the list of required equipment, my wife and I were a bit shocked. Lacrosse is not like soccer or basketball, sports my son had been playing, where the equipment consists of a good pair of sneakers. Lacrosse equipment consists of a stick, shoulder pads, chest protector, elbow pads, gloves, shin guards, and of course a helmet. We found a place in Long Island that sells used equipment and one Saturday morning we drove out there to check it out. An hour later we walked out with about $200 dollars worth of pre-worn gear. We were ready.

The first day of practice was a bit of a frenzy. We walk over to the field and gaze upon about one hundred kids running around with sticks chasing the little hard rubber ball. My son was generally excited and joined the action. The coaches were all volunteers and did their best to show the kids a few moves, but overall it was a quite unorganized. The next week half the volunteer coaches were there, coaching a few of the most experienced kids and very little instruction for the others. My son seemed uninspired. The third week, we spent half the session trying to find his assigned team, only to find out it no longer existed and he had to find room on another team. Overall the club was a big disappointing and in the end we were left with a pile of used gear and out the $200 dollars membership fee.

This spring, my son has been hinting to me that he wanted to give the Lacrosse Club another try. When I asked him why, he said that all his friends play and he thought it would be fun. I did not want to disappoint him but it was hard to justify spending the almost $500 dollars again just for him to be with his friends. I pushed it off and deflected a response, thinking he was not that interested, but the hinting kept coming. I went on the website to find more information, when it would start, the practice schedule, anything to either give me cause it would be different or opening a window towards affordability. After spending time going through the website and finding none of my questions answered, I hit the phone. I called homes and spoke to the parents, who either answered my concerns or directed me to people who might. The biggest concern of mine was while speaking to parents many indicated their frustration with getting information, a steady schedule, and amount of money the league costs. 

Even after all the concerns with the Club, I really want him to play, but its also my job as a parent to make the correct choices, even if it is a tough one. I am always telling me son to not be afraid to talk to me about the things he wants to do, and he rarely asks for something. I think of my own childhood, my parents struggling to make the insurmountable ends meet, and not wanting to ask for things in fear of disappointment. I never wanted my own kids to know that feeling of denial, but the reality is parents are constantly weighting spending options, assessing situations individually, and sometimes still need to make tough choices. 

Tonights conversation in the car with my son was mostly one sided, me explaining that lacrosse will have to wait, the reasons why and alternatives, like flag football, basketball or the county lacrosse team, all clubs that are very affordable and efficiently run. The only drawback with my position is his friends do not play for those leagues. 

After laying out the facts and my thoughts, my son takes a moment to think about it and gives me a one word response, "ok...." 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Double Technical

The car was silent as I drive north on the New York State Thruway and pass under the George Washington Bridge. It has been silent since we dropped our friends off at their apartment on 20th Street and First Ave. I keep glancing over at my son, hand tucked under chin and slumped down in the passenger seat. A giant frown engulfs his whole face. It has been an up and down day emotionally. 

The day started like any typical Sunday morning when my son rose from his bed with anticipation of a great day. It was one of those days kids build up in their heads so high that sometimes it can be too towering. The morning was occupied with Sportscenter, then a stint on the Wii, then a heaping bowl of cereal. All morning my son is trying to speed up the time until we need to leave for the City. My son gets dressed for his big 3pm basketball game and I remind him to grab another shirt to change into when we visit Madison Square Garden to cheer the Knicks as they take on the Pacers. I was able to secure four seats and we invited a friend and his mom to join us. After a quick trip to Target and sell a bicycle we put on Craigslist, we had money in our pocket and were on our way into the city. As we drove my son sang along with songs on the radio and we chattered about basketball, sneakers and his scores on NBA Elite while we ate turkey sandwiches. A quick swing by my office to pick up the tickets and a stack of food coupons and we are back in the car, cruising down Park Ave towards 14th street. I find my usual spot right off First Ave and we walk towards the gym.

I take a seat on the edge of the court while my son greets his friend, the one joining us for the Knicks game. They are both grinning ear to ear as they tell the Basketball Director about going to the Garden, which he responds in a straight face asking "where's my ticket?". Both kids silent, but then the Directors cracks a smile and replies "Have a great time!" 

After warm ups, the game is about to start. Quickly the team is down by five when the coach calls time out. The defense is lax and the players are not calling out who they are guarding. My son is really focused and playing good man to man D and early on gets a couple of steals and rebounds. His friend is also playing well, hitting a few layups and the team offensively is getting good looks. But even with my son playing monster defense, the other team is fast and is shooting at a very high percentage. Five turns into nine as the first half buzzer sounds. The second half starts out like the first, the other team is fast up the court and getting good looks at the basket. My son grabs another rebound and pounds his body through the crowd and passes to his friend who lays up the ball for two, but their team cannot seem to get any closer than five as the second half buzzer sounds and the game is over. Even as passionate as the boys can get after a loss, the thought of now heading over to the Garden to see the Knicks could not bring them down. They tease the Director one last time before hitting the staircase and out into the street towards the car. I drive the fifteen blocks while the kids change their shirts and sneakers in the car and park on 27th Street between Sixth and Seventh, a few blocks away from the world's most famous arena. 

We enter the Garden concourse, both kids pointing at the giant pictures of the players that line the entrance. I snap a few pictures of the boys as they take turns proudly wearing the Cat in the Hat style Knicks hat my son brought with him. I already pre-warned my son regarding souvenirs but both boys can't help themselves upon seeing the swag laid out on tables and pinned to back drops as the pass through the doors towards the turnstiles. I explain again to my son how overpriced things are here and proclaim Models sells the same stuff for half the price as we scurry past. We are on the verge of altitude sickness as we ascend escalator after escalator until we reach the upper most section of the Garden. At last we reach our seats in section 418 row C, and sit down, the two boys together, the friend's mom and me. Down hill here we come.

I go down two levels and get online for pizza at the food court. My orders are to get three pizzas, two nachos, two popcorns, a couple of hot dogs, four drinks. I am waiting for the pizzas as I construct my carrying apparatus made up of two big trays, and three cardboard drink holders. After getting all the food, I take the escalator back up the two flights while people clear a path for me like I was carrying a tray of cacti. The kids are eating their nachos when it is time to stand for the national anthem. As we stand, the friend balances his nachos on the arm of the empty seat next to him. A minute into the song I hear a faint crash sound and look over as I see both boys in a tizzy. As the anthem was playing, the full box of nachos tips over, spraying chips everywhere and plastering the seat with a bucket of melted sticky cheese. Just as the friend cleared the seat of nachos and used his hand to scrape the hot cheese from the seat, two young adults enter the aisle, excuse themselves past us and stop at the seats marked 9 and 10, 9 being the cheesy one. Quickly the mom takes her son out of the section to clean off. The new arrivals seemed unfazed by the crunchy floor and cheesy smell and sat down, none the wiser. After the flashy introductions of the players, the mom and friend rejoin us just in time for the tip off. 

I sensed early on that the game was not going to be an easy one. It only took a few minutes into the game for the Knicks to be down by ten. It reminded me of my son's game I watched only a few hours earlier. Ten turned into thirteen then into fifteen, the Knicks struggling for shots, playing little defense and the Pacers shooting a high percentage. The boys tried their hardest to rally their team but the Knicks did not respond with much enthusiasm. During the middle of the third quarter, I though I would try to cheer up the boys with ice cream and announce I would make another trip to the concession stand, where upon my son makes this prediction, "By the time you get back, the Knicks will probably be down by twenty". As I return holding three Hagen Daz bars, my son is frowning and pointing at the scoreboard. "I told you so.." he mumbles as I hand him a bar. The boys eat in silence as their team is falling farther behind and time is short. With ten minutes to go I watch my son descend deeper and deeper into a funk. The anticipation of the great day has washed away and the realization of the weekend being over has left him worn out and frayed at the edges. I ask him a few times if he is ok, which creates more tension in his voice. I lean into the mom and whisper, "Lets start to make our way out." She agrees and we tell the boys its time to go. We are walking towards the escalator when the grumblings of a visit to the gift shop start to rear its ugly head. I look at the mom and kind of motion the universal parent sign for "ignore, ignore, ignore" and I think she got the hint because we hit the now stationary escalator like the place was on fire. The walk back to the car was a slow and chilly one as while the mom was trying her best to not end the day on a total downer, I knew better than to attempt light chatter and lame jokes. Though it was a clear night, there were dark clouds over us. 

Happy to see the car still in one piece on the dark lonely street, we pile in and make our way across town. We say our goodbyes at the drop off point and I proceed onto the on ramp of the FDR. I ask my son if he enjoyed the day with his friend (not mentioning anything regarding basketball) and he musters up a few grunts and groans. I then ask him what is bothering him (big mistake) which brings the whimpering reply, "I don't want to go to school tomorrow...". "Well.." I say, "...It's ok to be sore and grumpy about it tonight, you had a frustrating day, get it all out of your system now and tomorrow you will feel better." Silence fills the air for most of the trip back. I try one last time to break the silence by putting on the radio, turn to Sirius Sports, and ask my son if he wants to hear who got seeded where for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where upon he whines "I don't care."

I park the car and grab the stuff from the trunk. My son gets out and lumbers towards our apartment, shoulders down and hands buried in his pockets. It's 9:30 pm and the lost of the hour due to daylight savings time is not helping matters. I unlock the door and we take our shoes off and hang up our jackets. My son takes a quick shower, brushes his teeth, get in his pajamas and falls into bed. I give him a hug goodnight and turn off the light.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Snips, Snails and Tails

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That's what little boys are made of !"
What are little girls made of?
"Sugar and spice and all things nice
That's what little girls are made of!"

Why do boys react adversely to
 the word shower? When it finally dawns on my son that sugar and spice does not mix well with dirt and sweat, a shower will be very beneficial, now please take some soap to your face...

Sunday, March 6, 2011


For people living in New York City, you need to learn very quickly how to maneuver yourself around town to get errands done. Everyone has their system, walk, train to train, automobile, any numbers of ways. Some people use the bike basket to carry groceries, or cab it home, it all depends on coordinating your first errand, the direction of your second, then when you are finished, how to get home. It can feel like you are stuck in a giant maze, plotting away, hoping you do not hit a roadblock along the way.  I noticed a man today outside of the Container Store, clearly excited regarding his home improvement purchases which consisted of an unassembled bookshelf, a file cabinet and a desk lamp. I watched him position those oversized shaped boxes every which way to maximize balance, weight and visibility onto a small blue shopping cart. Finally he gave up, placed the lamp at the bottom of the cart, balancing the tall, long box containing the bookcase on top of the cart, and proceeded to push the cart with one hand while dragging the file cabinet along the concrete sidewalk using a make shift handle he punched into the side of the box. Oh did I mention it was raining?     

Today we had a bunch of events to do in the city so after a quick run to Target, then picking up my wife at the local gym, we drove into Manhattan. When we lived in the city, we always had a system to get around. If we had a bunch of local chores, we used the circle method, if they were across town we used the linear method, and if they were all over the place, we used the car. Since we are regularly visiting the city, our current method is what we call Last at-First Stop, which means we look to park where ever our last stop will be so we can just get into the car and drive home. Today's events included a birthday party, a basketball game, then a visit with friends. The rain posed logistical problems because that involves limited walking. The party (west side mid 40's) was a drop off, meaning we did not need to stay, which left us two hours to run sub-errands (errands within errands), then head over to basketball (east side, mid teens). So the first plot point was the party. Using the standard drive by, I drive to the entrance of the party spot, slide into a illegal spot long enough for my wife and son to hop out for the drop off. I then make my way around the block just slow enough so when I return to the drop point, my wife is standing in front again. We drive south and find a lovely spot, two cars in off the corner on 18th and Sixth. We browse some shops and grab a bite to eat, hit the Trader Joes to stock some dry goods and head back to the car for the after party pickup. I wanted to get a chance to say hello to the party hosts, so when arriving back at the party, I squeeze back into another illegal spot, quickly jump out as my wife slides from the passenger seat to behind the wheel. I run upstairs, greet the parents, wish the birthday girl a Happy Birthday and gather my son and a friend for the ride downtown. Communication is key, so I phone my wife that we are on the move and select a rendezvous point. With the craziness of Times Square, an impromptu protest rally and the rain, our best point was two blocks down heading east. Me and the two boys hoof it the two blocks, turn the corner and reach the double parked car in minimal time. 

Having experience in the next neighborhood usually causes little stress in the parking department, but the pouring rain creates a glitch. The best course of action is using the drop off then parking method, a common method when kids are involved. I drive down 2nd Ave. and turn east onto 14th Street, stopping in front of the Y. The three passengers hop out and I pull away, past the first intersection and turn right at the second. Turning right once again I am now driving back towards the Y, but just a block lower. I find another perfect spot, this time one car off the corner, just past 1st Ave. I press the button on the key, flashing the lights and locking the doors at the same time, and jog the one block to the Y. 

The kids are upset about losing the game, but are excited when we are invited back to the apartment for some appetizers and catch up time. The rain had increased, so I suggest getting the car and driving the four blocks to the apartment. I jog back the one block to the car, and drive once again through the intersection, turning right at the second, then turn right once again, back towards the Y, in essence going full circle. I stop in front of the Y and my wife, the two boys and now the boy's mother skip through puddles and hop in the car.

The windshield wipers are on top speed as I pull over as close to the path up to the apartment and press the hazards button set in the middle of the dashboard. The two boys and two moms get out of the car and run up towards the front door. I watch them until they are out of sight, depress the hazard button, put the car in drive and proceed to find my third parking spot of the day. It only takes me going one block and an illegal u-turn to land the car in a perfect spot. I open the hatch, pull out the oversized golf umbrella, close the hatch, lock the doors and make my way towards the apartment building. Last at-Last stop is the appropriate method and the perfect ending on this rainy Sunday. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Letter to a friend

My son's writing assignment for school was not about colonial times, or what he did over winter break or a report on his favorite sport. The assignment was to write a letter to a friend about the dangers of drinking. How does an eleven year old know the perils of underage drinking? Well it appears kids today are exposed to news stories involving their favorite sport icons or movie stars constantly popping up on television under scandalous headlines and hangover faces. As pre-teens, they see everything and comprehend more than we realize. Internet videos going viral allow kids to follow every trend on a global scale and parents need to get up to speed before they are left in the dust. Whether parents think their kids are oblivious to the images that surround them daily is debatable, but to ignore the issue is senseless.

Here is the letter:

Dear Friend,

I heard you were drinking alcohol and I was shocked because you are only 16, which means that you are under aged, the legal drinking age is 21 just so you know. I know that alcohol is bad because it hurts your body, you could get in trouble with the law, and lastly you could mess up your dreams to be a sports star. If you have a test in the coming week, drinking will affect the test. It takes 30 days to be yourself again after being drunk. Next time if someone offers you a drink, I would say no by telling him or her the symptoms of drinking could become very insidious (spelling word) to many people's lives, especially yours. Hopefully your parents worry and care about you going to parties and will never send you to a party that has alcohol. Good luck.

Regardless of the grade, the meaning is in the message.