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Dec 1 15

Where I check in with some random

by John
The Family with Santa
  • I ran the Harrisburg Marathon
    • I fared a good bit better than I did during my last marathon. I came in nowhere close to the 4 hours in which I was hoping to finish, but I felt good about my effort. Basically, I started out really strong, and was feeling great. I don’t know if it was the rapidly increasing temperatures (it never got “hot” or, really, even “warm,” but the race started really, really cold and it was quite pleasant by the time I finished) or the fact that I wasn’t really training to run 26.2 miles, but the wheels started to fall of, for me, right around mile 18, where a cramp started to form in the back of my right hamstring. I tried to ignore it, until about mile 20, when I stopped to actually stretch it. But when I stopped? Cramps formed in my lower back, shin, and foot. So I started to walk . . . and that worked. For about a 5k (miles 20-23) I walked while trying to ease through these annoying cramps. Around mile marker 23, some people I was chatting with at the very start of the race started running past me, the cramp in my hamstring started to abate, and I ran with them to the finish.
    • 2015 Harrisburg Marathon Finish

    • During the Garden Spot Village Marathon, I was angry with myself & the world. This time? I wasn’t super happy with my time (4:17), but I didn’t feel angry. I’m very glad to have replaced the last marathon memory with this one.
    • The course this year was different, and the ending in “Downtown Harrisburg” was really nice — but having to walk about a half-a-mile back to my car afterwards was not a fun walk. Heck, my sister was enjoying a beer with some friends at the finish and invited me to share a brew with her. Only that would have meant: walking back to my car for my wallet/id, walking back downtown. Um, yeah, I didn’t make it.
    • I’ve often told myself that I’m “retiring the distance,” but despite walking a good bit, I feel MUCH better about my performance here. I may try “pulling another marathon out of my ass” some time.
  • It’s so rare for Leila to be able to laud something physical over CJ – but the fact that he’s a boy’s boy1 is difficult to ignore. The other week, we were visiting my brother-in-law in New York City. Strangely enough, a five year old & a six year old wake up before a 28 year old musician living in the city. To kill some time, we took the kids to a park in Brooklyn. There was a climbing wall at the park. Leila? No problems climbing up & over the wall. CJ? Well, the kid propel himself on monkey bars like nobody else, so I don’t think it’s a lack of upper body strength for him. But, perhaps it’s a lack of coordination or (more likely) confidence, but he just couldn’t manage his sister’s feat. So The La, well, she’ll randomly go up to passers-by and inform them that she’s “more better at climbing rock climbing than her brother.”
  • We have entered “The Elf on the Shelf” area of the year — Bo2. I’m happy to announce that I have not yet failed in moving him (I’ve actually placed a reminder on my phone, every morning, set to go off just as I return from walking the dog), but I’m concerned about repeating places and/or dealing with the kids waking before 5:30am.
  • Last Sunday was a strange Sunday, in that most regular members of the church choir had announced that they wouldn’t be in church. So, the choir director called off the choir. And, if there is no choir, there is no organ. As I am the organist, I did not need to be at church. We had tickets to “Marvel Universe Live” (a stage show with superheroes & explosions) in the afternoon, at Hershey Park. But, after breakfast (which only partially got rid of my morning crankiness) & some holiday shopping, we decided to take advantage of our season passes at Hershey Park & visit the park. And wouldn’t you know that Santa was there. And, sometimes, at the spur of the moment, you end up with a fun family pic :)
  • Every now & then, I feel bad for Luna, the new kitten, when Benji just picks her up by a limb or her head. But, as soon as I start to feel bad for her, I hear a puppy yelp and see that she has firmly affixed herself, via claws & teeth, to his face. If he tries to ignore her, she will try to tackle him, despite the fact that he’s about ten times her size. So, I guess she kind of likes being carried around.
  • Cuddling Pets

  • When they’re not actively wrasslin’, the pets are actually the best of friends. And I’m left wondering just what goes through their minds – are they aware that they’re difference species?
  • While I remain “on target” with my diet & exercise plan (every weekend, I plan out & prepare my lunches for the week; every morning, I pack lunches for myself, my wife, and my son; every morning, I walk Benji and do something within the realm of strength training — based on the day, how I’m feeling, and what’s planned for the day that something might vary in intensity, but there is something every day), I am truly concerned about my desire to drink a shitton (1.337 shittonnes) of wine or tackle all-you-can-eat-buffet when either opportunity presents itself.
  • The symphony with which I’ve been playing just played our Masterworks concert – Mahler’s First. We really performed well. The rehearsal following the concert, though? Well, sight-reading music is always hairy . . . but it was downright painful.
  • I need to find more time for audiobooks — the list of stuff that I want to listen through is growing far faster than the list of items to which I’m actually listening (at present, the Millenium Trilogy before tackling The Girl in the Spider Web while I’m alone, and The Autobiography of Santa Claus when I’m with the kids.

1 We all know that the fact that “he’s a boy” really doesn’t amount to much, and makes no difference to me. But the truth of the matter is that CJ is a very stereotypical boy, and Leila is a very stereotypical girl. When playing in a group, CJ is likely to want to pick up swords & mock sword-fight and/or just run around and create a ruckus. Leila is quite likely to recommend that everyone “play tea party.” Because of this, CJ tends to best his sister in any physical contest.
2 When we first pulled out the Elf on the Shelf, the only word/sound/saying that The La would make was “Bo.” When we showed her the doll, she pointed, excitedly, and said “Bo!” So, Bo is his name.
Nov 25 15

Where I play my wife’s birthday game

by John
Me & Duffy, Enjoying Chinese Food

All year, Duffy has been writing an acrostic for those most-meaningful to her, on their birthday. And, as today is her birthday, I figure it’s only fair to play along.

Ubiquitous (as any good mother tends to be)

Happy birthday, dear. I love you.

Nov 4 15

Where I look back over your last year

by John
School Pic

You can count to one-hundred . . . though sometimes you get tripped up somewhere between 13 & 17. And you’re right, it should be “tenty-one, tenty-two, tenty-three, tenty-four, tenty-five, tenty-six, tenty-seven, tenty-eight, tenty-nine.” Alas, the English language has a whole bunch of stuff that will never make sense to anyone.

I’m not sure if I enjoy your love of cuddles more than you enjoy being cuddled. But, either way, it’s something of which I hope you never outgrow.

Benji Cuddles

You enjoy your sweets.

Blue Lips

Two Pieces of Cake


Lightsaber Buckethead


Goofy at the Restaurant


Vampire Teeth

And you were even goofy when you graduated preschool.

Preschool Graduation

You enjoy your Legos.
Lego Knight

You’re still not too old for facepaint – then again, neither is your dad.

Face Paint

Video games are a priority for you, but you make the most out of any time to play.

Playing in the Corn Bin

You actually understand how to play soccer, though there are times you forget which goal you’re supposed to be attacking. And the “no hands” rule stymies the best of us, from time to time.


You lost three teeth.

Lost Tooth

You got a new cat.


Your dad made you take lots of selfies with him

Selfie with Daddy - Looking Dapper

Selfie with Daddy - Halloween

Selfie with Daddy - What Is Bedtime?

Selfie With Daddy - Alpaca Shearing

Selfie With Daddy - Organ

You progressed three belts in Tang Soo Do and show a continued urge to “do better.” Random breaks to meditate have turned to random breaks to do push-ups. I’m not sure what brought about either, but they crack me up.

Yellow Belt

You’re quick to point out that we don’t only need to go to the beach only once a year . . . believe me, kid, your dad is trying to figure out how to spend more time there.

Family at the Beach 2015

You started school. Your favorite class appears to be PE.

At School

First Day of School

You’re growing up so fast. I love you.

Kindergarten Pro

Nov 3 15

Where I inspect humility

by John

I don’t think it’s a surprise to any of you that I take Tang Soo Do with both of my children. As an adult, I stand in a strange place in class — I’m certainly a student, I don’t know everything I need to know, but I’m an adult, and a parent at that, and I stand in the area between “student” and “instructor” most days. This causes fairly significant issues when we need an instructor to judge a sparring competition, and one of my children happen to be one of the sparring participants. I *like* to think that I remain impartial . . . but, well, I fear that I’m too hesitant to ever award a point to one of my children, in an effort to not appear biased, which isn’t quite fair to my own children. Though, honestly, they could stand to learn “life isn’t always fair” lesson.

At the end of class, all kids receive a sticker, if warranted, as a point toward one of the seven tenets of Tang Soo Do (Integrity, Concentration, Perseverance, Respect & Obedience, Self-Control, Humility, Indomitable Spirit). If a child collects five stickers for a particular tenet, they get a colored stripe on their belt. When they collect all seven stripes, they get a badge to attach to their uniform — it’s a great system for motivating children to “keep their brain in class” all class. Of all of the tenets, however, humility is the one I, myself, perhaps have the hardest time with.

Within the world of my kids and karate class, humility means “I understand I didn’t do this thing as well as I could, didn’t argue when someone who knows more than me offered suggestions, and then tried to incorporate said suggestions the next time I attempted that thing.”

But, within my world, well, I’ve been questioning my own humility from time to time.

It probably isn’t surprise to any of you that I’m not super happy with my job situation as of late. I mean, it’s a paycheck, and it’s not the worst job situation I’ve ever faced . . . but I have a hard time picturing me doing what I’m doing for the next few years. And that has me thinking of what I might be happier doing. Maybe this is just the start of a mid-life crisis, or maybe this is just a long bout of insomnia eroding my brain into radical ideas of “making things better” but I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what I enjoy doing more than I’m doing now.

I think I’m good enough on the bass, and perhaps even on the piano, to call myself a “musician.”

I think I’m fairly adept at making readers feel the emotion I’m attempting to portray, and I think I’m pretty good at getting a story into words . . . so maybe I can call myself a “writer.”

When I sit at the piano, I can develop the notes into patterns and then add harmonies . . . lyrics, well, they’re a bit harder for me, but when you take the previous two, I think I can call myself a “songwriter.”

I’ve put a *lot* of work into my body. For as busy as I am, I think I am uniquely qualified to assist parents who are looking to make themselves more fit — to the point where I could call myself a “trainer.”

There is something that keeps me from doing all of that, though . . . and it’s the whole “need to sell myself” when I’ve actually moved to that reality. If I want to be a musician? I need to go out & get myself opportunities to play. If I want to call myself a writer or a songwriter, I need to actually have *complete works* and then I need to find people who want to publish said works. If I want to call myself a trainer, well, I need to finalize plans & then go out & find clients who are willing to pay me to work with them.

And, well, doing that is the antonym of “humble.”

Now, you’ll have to excuse me as I go off on a tangent — I recently changed my 401k investment strategy. After hearing a series of stories on management fees of mutual funds, looking over what investment options I have available to me, and wanting to follow an “invest in what I use” strategy, I’ve ditched my mutual funds and invested, heavily, in boxes of cheap red wine companies with which I’m familiar, I understand, and frequent. It just so happens that most of these companies offer a quarterly dividend . . . and there is a very real part of me that says “I should build up enough wealth to arrange for monthly dividend checks from companies Alpha through Omega, and live a life of leisure.”

Yeah, I know, it’s that “build up enough wealth” that’s the tricky part there.

The thing is — if I were living a life of leisure, what would I be doing?

I would be a musician. I’d be playing in the pit for whatever community theatre or high school musical would have me. I’d be writing songs. I’d be writing & telling stories. I’d be working out even more than I am now. I’d be helping friends with their diet & exercise programs. I’d be cooking more. I’d spend more time gardening. Heck, maybe I’d even be sleeping!

And I think I’d be exceptionally good at all of those things. Well, maybe not sleeping.

All this is to say, I think I need to redefine “humble” to myself . . . one can still be humble if one believes in one’s abilities. It just means that I’m willing to hear that what I’m doing could be better, and then work to make it so.

Over the next few months, I think I’m going to try to carve out more time for my creative pursuits, somehow, and see if there might be any way to go from wanting something different to attaining something different.

Oct 5 15

Where nostalgia leads to ice cream and apples and childhood memories

by John

There is something about this time of the year, and I just love it. The air is getting colder, but it’s not yet “cold.” Many a morning, I’ll find myself wanting to lie in the bed, blankets curled tight around me, living in that area between “asleep” and “dozing,” as a cool, crisp breeze comes from an open window1.

This past weekend, we went to the Bloomsburg Fair, and had a wonderful time. As we were leaving, Duffy noted a stand from the Creamery — the ice cream shop from her alma mater, Penn State. We stopped & she got a little ice cream2. There was a look of pure elation when my wife took her first bite. I asked her “that good?”

She responded that, if she’s being honest, the ice cream from a local-to-us ice cream shop is, likely, better. But there’s something “fundamentally good” in the nostalgia from something resoundingly familiar.

Then, the next day, I felt the same, when winesap apples were on sale at my local grocery store.

It’s really a shame that the moments that are best etched in our minds require a level of tragedy. I can tell you any number of details about the day of the Challenger disaster, the Columbia disaster, 9/11 . . . the list goes on. But, the details of my high school or college graduation? My twenty-first birthday? They’re just “happy, nondescript” memories3.

My parents are divorced . . . but, unlike most who might share the “divorced parent” saga, my parents divorced when I was 22 years old. My formative years were well behind me . . . yeah, there were times that sucked, thinking back as a family, but there were great times, too.

As the weather turned from summer to fall, every year, we’d head out apple picking. And every year, we’d pick winesap apples, specifically to be baked into pies (my dad never baked much, but he had a knack for making wonderful apple pies).

I remember, going apple picking and gorging on apples as we went about (I’m still not sure of the legality of this, but, speaking to operators of farms, at present, it appears that it’s anticipated that people pick & eat apples as they go about, that such actions are built into the cost they’re charging, so as long as you’re actually purchasing apples, all is good). I remember countless jokes of “they should weigh us beforehand and afterward.”

The details of these days reside, not etched like those of a tragedy, but exist more like a watercolor — each stroke, simply, implying what’s there. The edges are fuzzy, the details are hazy — but the overall feel is unmistakable. Not every day was good, but the good times did exist. Thinking on this makes me sad for those who look at their childhoods where there were always two families. Or, if they remember “a single family,” the good times were far too few to stand out. Not every day in my own childhood was good — but the good memories are certainly present.

So, back to food, because, well, food is my favorite. We’re at the time of year where apples reign – and honeycrisp apples have become “all the rage” these days; if I’m honest with myself, I find the taste of a honeycrisp superior to any other kind of apple (which is interesting, in that it appears that honeycrisps were almost entirely tossed as a “hybrid experimentation that didn’t yield anything useful”). But, as I enjoy a winesap — there’s the crisp, sweet yet tart taste, and there are the floods of memories of happy, crisp afternoons as a happy family. A silly apple brings me back to happy youthful memories.

And now I need to figure out when to head apple picking with my brood.

1 I should note that this is an actual impossibility, if Benji figures out that you’re awake, he’ll pester you until you’re taking him for a walk . . . though walks in this current weather ain’t so bad, either.
2 I’m still focusing on “minimal refined flour/sugar” when it comes to my diet, and, while it was a “fun, family weekend” where I’d have loosened the reins, just a bit, I chose to spend my “throw away calories” on wine & beer.
3 Fine, the day my son was born — I can recall that with equal clarity, but, as it’s a fact that goes against my argument, I’m choosing to ignore it.
Sep 28 15

Where I think back on the past 1000 days

by John

We all know I can’t go too long without talking about diet & exercise . . . and, with today marking 1000 consecutive days on My Fitness Pal, I really thought I’d give an update to thoughts & stuff from what I’m doing, how I’m approaching life, and what I’m doing in a constant battle to better my physical self.

  • I commonly get asked “what is your secret,” and I always answer “diet & exercise,” which nobody likes to hear. But I think I need to change the answer – what has worked is that I’ve been consistent. I’ve been remarkably consistent. My workouts have become, in a word, boring. On weekdays, I walk Benji then fit in small sets of pulls, pushes, and leg stuff around getting the family ready (dressing the kids, packing lunches, etc) for the day. Every week, I change up something, but it’s all quite mundane – it started as pull-ups, push-ups, and lunges. Then I added kettlebell swings (because there was a kettlebell right there). Then I added goblet squats. Then I added push-presses at the end of the goblet squats. Then I changed up my hand position during the push-ups. Then I increased the kettlebell weight from 25 to 35 pounds (the heaviest I own). Then I started carrying the kettlebell as I did the lunges. Then I put a dumbbell in each hand as I did the lunges. Then I started holding my body at the apex of the pull-up and pulling myself from shoulder to shoulder. Then I added a set of chin-ups after I finish the goblet-squats to push-presses.
  • The true secret is diet. I’ve been reading a ton about “fad diets.” How so many people try this, or that, and it works . . . . then they put the weight back on. Diet is a word that has two distinct definitions — the first is “a restriction of food to promote weight and/or fat loss.” That’s not what I’m talking about — the trick is the broader definition of “the entirety of what someone eats”. People re-gain weight after Atkins, or Whole 30, or whatever because they go right back to their pre-temporary diet lifestyle. I’ve made sacrifices to the way I live my life . . . but nothing I’ve done is temporary – truly minimal amounts of refined ingredients (including flour & especially sugar). It means more cooking & less eating out or “just heating something up.” But, that also means that I’m eating healthier & saving money.
  • I miss sandwiches, I can’t deny that. But I can eat a loaf of bread, or a half dozen bagels, & feel no less satiated when I’m done. It’s just the way my body works, and always has. When I eat, I eat to address hunger, meaning I leave out those things which don’t make me less hungry, and I enjoy the results.
  • I log every bite of food. I log every sip of drink. I used to log every moment of exercise . . . but that was during a time when I was carving out huge portions of my day dedicated to workouts. These days, I’m fitting stuff in, wherever/whenever I can find a spare moment or two, and because of that, I’ve just stopped trying to list what I’m doing. It’s easier that way.
  • When I would work out a lot more than I do now, I used that as an excuse to, essentially, eat whatever & however much I wanted. Running 4-5 days a week, for up to an hour (sometimes two) a day resulted in the left — now? I run, maybe, once a week, or every other week, or once a month . . . if I feel like it.

    Before / After while Running

Sep 18 15

Where I’m a bit random on a Friday

by John

Work has been especially odd lately . . . I’m blaming myself for most of the bad stuff — basically, someone will come to me & ask “how long would it take to build a web app which can do this or that,” and I’ll give an answer. My problem is that, while I always put thought into said estimate, the estimate assumes that I’m doing the development, myself (and I know my strengths & weaknesses QUITE well), and that I’m working on ONLY that task. What I don’t think is that the person, to whom I gave the estimate, will expect me or my team to actually start work on it . . . and, whoever happens to be asking for the estimate assumes that my development hours are interchangeable with any given development resource, and that I, and my team, are just sitting around, waiting for an assignment.

Because I’ve been so . . . boggled, lately, here is a pile of random…

  • I just read Mandy’s missive about women being invisible after a certain age and I was reminded of how my kids are tattle-tales. While I’ve never trusted myself to sneak alcohol into a movie theatre (something I’ve thought about, often, but just haven’t managed to actually pull-off), the last time I took my kids to a movie, I was alone with the kids (don’t remember where Duffy was, but it was just me & the kids. We stopped by the grocery store to pay $1/box of candy, rather than the same stuff for $5/box at the theatre.

    Anyway, I was buying the tickets, and Leila started demanding to hold her candy, which was in a pocket of my cargo shorts1, the whole time, the cashier “pretending” not to hear the whines from my daughter about the mild-mannered father-of-two being all rebel-ish by sneaking in snacks & stuff to a movie.

  • We just got a new kitten — her name is Luna Ginny. She & Benji seem to get along fabulously. Also? She’s INCREDIBLY patient with the kids — Leila has been dragging her all about the house, holding her close, singing to her, basically doing all of the stereotypically-cute things that you’d anticipate a five year old girl doing with a kitten . . . and the kitten puts up with it, all. I hope that lasts.
  • I have a pressing need to write about Snickelfritz. But haven’t been able to get myself emotionally-ready to do so.
  • CJ has lost a front tooth. He’s in kindergarten. And I swear, every morning2, he feels, at least, a pound heavier than he was the previous day. This is bullshit that needs to stop.
  • I ran a 5k last Friday and a half marathon last Saturday. The weather was beautiful & the supporting cast who put the run together were fabulous. I met Christopher McDougall, who wrote Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greates Race the World Has Never Seen, which may be the single greatest influencer in why I’m as addicted to exhausting myself as I am. I haven’t been running much lately — but, these runs proved to me that I’m successfully keeping myself in shape, and I’m able to pull a half-marathon out of my ass, if I should happen to need to do so.
  • My “to listen to” list of Audiobooks is growing faster than I can listen. This ain’t a half bad problem to have, though.
  • I’m 10 days away from hitting 1000 consecutive days of tracking every bite of food & every sip of drink that I’ve put into my body on My Fitness Pal.
  • I really, really want a kayak.

1 This listicle is bullshit. Cargo shorts allow dads to be dads.
2 Call me an enabler or what-have-you, but I throw clothes on the kids every morning, rather than try to wake them and make them get dressed, themselves — simply, in the mornings, “doing it myself” means less frustration, and therefore, a far saner pre-coffee dad. However, because of this, it’s far from uncommon for me to have to carry one, or both children, while still asleep, from the bed to the car.
Sep 9 15

Where I wonder just what is running through my dog’s mind

by John

Tuesdays are crazy days for me. As with every morning, I start at 5 by walking Benji, then deal with a choreographed routine mixing in a workout alongside: getting the kids dressed, making coffee, preparing lunches for the family, and ensuring said family gets out of the door. Once those essentials are out of the way, I head to work…only to leave the office a little early in order to take my kids to karate, where we practice until I ensure they (the kids) are with a responsible adult as I head to band practice. From band practice, I head home & “call it a night.”

Yesterday, as is often the case, the schedule precluded me from stopping at home between karate & band practice, so my “dinner” was, essentially, beer as my band worked on our set (knowing this is a possibility, every Tuesday, I intentionally bring more than my normal amount of food for lunch, as I know some of you stalk look over the details of most everything I post online). Now, I should mention, here in central Pennsylvania, temperatures have been a bit hot lately. Yesterday, I left work & the thermometer in my truck read 97° (309 Kelvin or 1.337 shittonnes of hot). During karate, we’re working on our sparring, which means a lot of jumping around and kicking and punching and wearing sparring gear (pads on fists, shins, and feet, a chest protector, and a padded helmet).

Karate was, in a word, sweaty.

After kick-kick-kicking and punch-punch-punching, we (I, and the two kids) changed at the Karate school and I dropped them off before speeding off to practice. Band was, truly, fun. We have a gig coming up at the end of the month & we’re trying out some new stuff for said gig, and things are really working well for all of it. But, if any of you have seen me play, you’ll notice that I don’t, well, I don’t stand still when I play. It had been a long work day. Karate with the kids was fun, but left me drenched. And I continued to sweat through two hours of band practice.

I got home & had some work to do. I went upstairs, took off my pants, sat down on my bed, plugged in my laptop, and programmed away. As I programmed, Benji simply licked my legs . . . when I had enough of him, I’d try to close his mouth & he’d stop for a minute or two, and then he’d go right back to things. Dogs are weird.

Sometime between 11 and midnight, I decided that I had accomplished everything that I might accomplish before the end of the night, shut down my laptop, brushed my teeth, and put the covers over me.

Normally, this is Benji’s cue to abandon his post at the foot of the bed and come up for some hardcore puppy snuggles. Last night, however, I lied down & the silly dog hopped off of the bed, returning just a moment later. Into my hand, he placed something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I took this mystery item over to my bedside table, used my phone as a flashlight & found it to be a wrapped, fun-sized Snickers bar.

I’m thinking there are finite number of trains of thought from my dog:

  1. I picked this up and then forgot why I had it and I love you so I gave it to you.
  2. The kids like these things so I thought you might like one.
  3. Will you please unwrap this? I really like the inside but I don’t like the outside.
  4. My diagnostics from the thorough saliva tests I administered earlier concluded that you need to put on weight. Please eat this.
Aug 14 15

Where, for better or for worse, my kids mimic me

by John

I can still remember the night. I was in bed, watching TV with the whole family, drinking a glass of wine. With the wine in my hand, I got up out of bed and one of the dogs decided that, just then, was the right time to hop off of the bed. To not step on him, I shuffled my feet, and in so doing, the wine went EVERYWHERE.

I let out a very loud “dammit.”

Leila looked up at me and shouted “dammit” with a giggle.

Most any parent knows that “getting a child to eat” can be a battle in itself . . . and, when I’m home alone, the “stop for dinner” doesn’t always happen. Because I’m a shitty parent often preoccupied with a billion things. So, I’ll make the kids something simple and make myself something far more . . . John-friendly. The kids will eat quickly & go back to whatever they were doing while my food cooks . . . and then I sit down to enjoy it. Because I love food.

Anyway, CJ loves video games — so he’ll often wrap up eating whatever I made him and then head back to whatever game he might be playing. As much as he loves playing video games, though, he REALLY loves playing video games in a social context. So I’m used to hearing “Dad, will you play this game with me?”

My common refrain, at these moments, is “sure, once I’m done with dinner.”

CJ accepts this. But will then ask, every 30 seconds or so, if I’m done with my dinner. After a few of these, I’ll commonly respond with “does it look like I’m done eating?”

Well, now, CJ will respond with “does it look like I’m done?” when asked if he’s finished a meal. Or a snack. Or a drink. It drives me crazy – and I only have myself to blame.

Do you remember the movie The Truth About Cats & Dogs? I, honestly, don’t remember too much about it – but I do remember Uma Thurman’s character talking about ordering a bagel . . . she doesn’t eat the bagel, but she loves ordering it. I was thinking about this, the other day, when driving, with my kids, to visit family. See, I keep candy in my car, but I’m incredibly strict on my diet, myself, so I buy candy . . . and then never eat it. It’s for the kids. And to “buy” a quiet, drama-free road trip, I’ll fully admit to being a shitty father to bribing my kids with said candy.

At the start of this road trip, I heard “daddy, can I have something to eat?” which is a common refrain at the start of any trip in which I’m driving. I mentioned the plethora of foodstuffs that I had, including candy and crackers and cookies . . . but The La asked for an apple. “Apples are healthy and I want to eat healthy.”

In the bathtub, there is a bar which can be used to help a grown-up person get out of the tub. On those days where I drink myself into oblivion while playing with suds I throw myself in the tub after a marathon, I use this bar, to get out of the tub, myself.

Well, the other day, CJ put both of his hands above his head and then grabbed the bar. And then attempted to pull himself up.

I just looked at him quizzingly.

“I’m doing exercises like you, dad!”

See, early in the mornings, on the weekends, my “I’ll play video games with you” response isn’t “after I’m done eating” but “when I’m done with my exercises.” So he’ll eagerly watch me do my exercises: pull-ups, push-ups, lunges, kettlebell swings, and goblet squats, just waiting for me to blow up aliens with him.

Now, when he shows up in my basement, he’ll ask me to lift him to the pull-up bar. He can’t actually get himself to doing a pull-up (heck, it took me over 35 years to be able to manage to do a single one), but he’s trying. And he wants it — determination in a kid is a wonderful thing.

Later that same night, the La asks “Dad, can you show us your muscles?” so I turned about with a dual-bicep flex. “How do you get muscles?”

“Well, you need to exercise.”

“What kind of exercises?”

“Well, daddy does a lot of push-ups.”

“Can you show me?”

And we spent the next 20 minutes trying to get my kids to do push-ups with proper form.

Jul 31 15

Where I pontificate global standards of “not belonging”

by John

I was chatting with someone the other day about children & “how they fit in.” While my son is no longer a preschooler1, during every preschool parent/teacher meeting, while there may have been some things that we needed to focus on at home, the predominant news I received was “your kids are kind, and are well-liked by their classmates.”

I’m the first to admit that I view the future with rose-colored glasses . . . and the past always with an air of skepticism. I assume everything will turn out ok — but after it’s done, I beat myself up over anything that wasn’t “perfect”, and I’ve always done this2. So, it’s possible that I’m thinking back to my formative years with memories that have been “overly influenced” by Sadness and I was actually more popular than I remember . . . but I never quite felt that I fit in. Hearing this news about my kids, well, I was left wondering if my kids might grow up feeling that they will, in fact, “fit in” through school3.

Then I thought about it some more — and I think there is more to the story for all of us — though, I believe we are loathe to talk about much of it. So I’m declaring the following public truths:

  1. Everyone has a nagging fear that, no matter what group/circle/clique they’re in, the rest of the group/circle/clique is only “putting up with them” because the alternative would be more difficult for them.
  2. Everyone believes people talk behind their back.
  3. Everyone is self-conscious about their art (including music/movie/book/etc) preferences. I happen to be listening to the Audiobook of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, and I believe this is actually, simply, a different issue than it used to be. It used to be that liking anything “nerdy” or “not cool” made you “nerdy” or “not cool.” Now, it really seems that enjoying anything “in the mainstream” is what’s avoided — U2 may be the greatest band in the history of music4, yet people were scrambling over themselves in removing a free album delivered to their iPhones. We won’t talk about the seemingly universal hatred of Nickelback.
  4. Nobody likes their body. While there may be varying levels of “it’s a work in progress,” I have a hard time believing that there isn’t a single soul who would Klosterman’s 12th Question without, at least, giving the matter some serious thought.
  5. Everybody always fears that they’re a fraud, no matter how great they are at something. It’s easy to forget that, as you practice, you get better at something — things that you find easy to do today, well, at one time, they were really fucking hard for you to do. Every time I play bass (be it with a band, or in the pit for a musical, or in a symphony), something will come up where I’ll start thinking about the fact that I don’t play as fancy a part as someone playing another instrument . . . and, if I screw up, even the tiniest amount (so that I’m the only one would could possibly know), I’m just waiting for the world to collapse around me “Hey John, you’re playing the easiest instrument in this group and you can’t even get that right). The thing is, I’m not playing the easiest instrument — yes, the violin player might be playing faster, but that’s a different instrument — there are things that I’m doing that the violin player, without practice, cannot do. In the heat of the moment, though, it’s easy to forget this.

I know, with the first one . . . that’s a biggie for me. I’m constantly convinced that everyone in my life simply “puts up with me” because it’s a lot easier to do that than to deal with the fall out of trying to arrange for me to not be in their life. I know this is stupid and asinine and whatever . . . but it’s the truth. I actually think it’s part of why I keep myself so busy — because, if I’m just “sitting around,” part of me wonders why I’m not hanging out or doing something with friends5, and I fixate on that.

Or, maybe I’m just crazy.

Anyway – what did I miss? Or is the Cheshire cat wrong?

1 That my son is “a kindergartner” causes more emotional harm to me than anything I may be mentioning in this post.
2 We can talk about the fact that “perfect” is something that happens to be fully unattainable – but, well, that’s speaking rationally as we look at a blog post . . . it’s entirely a different story when you’re thinking, emotionally, on past events.
3 Part of me also wonders how much all of this “fitting in” is an introvert/extrovert fight — my inclination is to be extroverted . . . yet, there are times that “that’s it, I’ve had enough” and I just want to sit by myself for a few decades hours. And I feel guilty about that — time is a precious resource, why “waste” it by being by myself. In my daughter, I’m seeing a little of this developing — there are times that she claims “she needs to be alone.” Now, part of it, I think, is that she “wants to be alone” because she wants to watch what she wants to watch on a television or her iPad or whatever device happens to be serving as a replacement parents as I get drunk be her focus at the moment — but part of me also wonders if it’s heredity, and the electronics just so happen to be how she needs to “lose herself in the moment,” something I find myself doing by meditating these days – but, in years past, it was in masturbating playing video games — even today, I shy away from the “massive online worlds” when I play a video game, and, almost solely, play games where it’s “just me vs the computer”.
4 And this is a Beatles fan saying this.
5 The reason, of course, would be because I didn’t call any friends to make plans . . . but, when one is feeling sorry for oneself, well, one feels sorry for oneself.